Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quote of the day

"Most blogs are a waste of time; at best of interest to close friends and family, at worst vanity-driven ego sops full of posts by the same half-dozen people plus a couple of trolls." - Jody Kline


Monday, September 29, 2008

Big Pedant

Oh, and one more thing. Today a lecturer told us that patients with kidney stones are "invariably" men. And then he told us that a quarter of them are women.

Obviously he was using the word "invariably" in some kind of specialized medical way to mean "variably". Right?

Sourdough report

I sliced my first ever sourdough loaf this afternoon after spending from 7:30 am to 5 pm at uni. I was pretty zonked out by that stage so I was expecting the worst but guess what? Against all expectation, the sourdough bread worked! Repeat: it WORKED!!

It was pretty dense but not inedibly so. There were identifiable pockets of gas in the parenchyma of the loaf, but not so airy as to be emphysematous. It had a nice sour taste which was noticeable but not overwhelming.

I toasted it lightly and we ate it with butter and honey accompanied by a cup of tea. Yummo! Best of all were the words of praise from my Smaller Half: "You made bread - just like Jesus!"

Since this blog is not titled "Prone to sourdough" I won't bore you with further bready adventures after this. Unless my secret plan for adding pumpkin seeds works out. That would be exciting!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Let them eat cake

This is my first ever loaf of home-made sourdough. It looks good! It smells great! And it is the size of a golf ball and weighs as much as a pony!

Well - not quite, but it certainly is very dense. You know how when you pick something up that is heavier than you expect it to be, your mind momentarily asks itself if perhaps you're in the vicinity of a black hole and the gravitational tidal forces are about to tear you apart and you get a sudden surge of adrenaline? That happened to me with this bread.

There seems to have been some kind of hitch in the rising process. After it rose overnight and I pounded it back down again it failed to rise again today. Instead it just oozed out sideways, losing the charming loaf shape that I had carefully crafted. I had even slashed the top in a quaint checkerboard pattern. You may be able to see this faintly in the picture, but it is pretty smoothed out by now.

I was heartbroken that it didn't rise properly but I decided to chuck it in the oven and try it out anyway. Much to my surprise it roughly doubled in size during the baking process, so I suppose I did something right. If, at this point, you are laughing at my total baking naivety, please understand: this is the first loaf of bread of any type I have ever made. I once made scones under my mother's supervision. I haven't even ever made a cake that isn't out of a box. Although I am quite good at friands - the recipe does claim that they are "idiot-proof" and I still managed to stuff them up once.

Anyway, the loaf is cooling on a reinforced support platform. We plan to bust it open later tonight and attempt to eat it with butter and honey. Such excitement!

Three things

1. I just made my first batch of sourdough from Brett. It's going to rise overnight (I hope).

2. This morning I found 5 dead bees on the floor of the study and on my desk. Is this some kind of creepy omen? Or perhaps a message of good fortune from the gods? Any theories?

3. While listening to the Johnny Cash song Folsom Prison Blues I thought I heard him sing "I shot a man in renal just to watch him die". I think my brain is obsessed with the current block at uni: renal. Of course the (fictional) man was actually shot in Reno. I may the first person to ever report this particular mondegreen. What an achievement.

Thanks for your attendance.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vote you scurvy dogs!

In case you didn't notice, there's a new poll to the right of your screen. Vote now, or accept the consequences of an arbitrary allocation to a new genus.

Don't say you weren't warned.


We had an interesting lecture today on the legalities (or otherwise) of abortion. I learned that medical practitioners have the right to refuse to provide abortions on the grounds that they are conscientious objecters (and I learned how to spell "conscientious"). I asked if this was true for any other medical procedure. Turns out - yes! According to our lecturer, doctors can conscientiously object to providing any medical service.

Now - this just strikes me a bizarre. Professionalism is (and I quote my lecturer directly here) "putting your patient's interests ahead of your own". It seems to me that professionalism requires that doctors put aside any and all of their own personal views when treating patients.

Obviously it's not that simple as doctors are not robots or Vulcans or merchant bankers or other such soulless automatons. Nevertheless, the general principle seems valid. In a more practical sense, doctors should be able to either provide the service requested or provide it indirectly by referring onward in a sensible way. Refusing outright to be involved at all strikes me as being extremely unprofessional given that the profession itself presumably provides education to its members on how to perform the procedure.

A doctor who refused to give analgesics because of a personal belief that suffering ennobles the human spirit and gives dignity would be deregistered and would be unable to practise except in regional New South Wales or perhaps Queensland. Why is it that more "mainstream" personal beliefs are somehow exempt from considering their patient's interests and wishes and are permitted to withhold treatment?

When you sign up for a life of doctoring you should be aware that sometimes you're going to have to act contrary to your own personal sense of what's right. Tough luck. Lawyers defend clients they believe are guilty because our system of justice requires them to play that role. Public servants implement government policies that they believe are wrong because they know it is part of living in our type of democratic society.

It's called professionalism.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Urine it for life

Today was interesting. Today was the first time I have ever taken a good sniff of someone else's urine.

Sure, on a frosty winter's day when the men's room gets crowded one sometimes wonders at the hygiene implications of it all as the steam comes billowing up off the stainless steel like a cross between a toilet and a sauna. But it's more of a crowd situation - you wouldn't normally chirp up to single out a specimen with a comment like, "Excuse me sir, no not you, the gentleman to the left of you - perhaps you should check your blood sugars. Your urine is rather fruity."

But today in a prac we were presented with small phials of urine from different people which we were able to pass around, take a good sniff of, and compare notes on colour, clarity and smell. It was rather like a wine tasting. In fact the urine from the person with keto-acidosis smelt a lot like dodgy chardonnay.

I was surprised that the third urine sample was very small. Perhaps the donor was suffering from reduced kidney output? No, as it turns out, someone in the previous group had accidentally spilled it all over his jeans. Try explaining that on the bus home. "I didn't wet my pants, this is someone else's urine." I reckon you'd be able to clear the whole back seat for yourself with that line.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Panic stations!

Today I hit the wall. In an attempt to overcompensate for my recent slackness, I downloaded waaaay too much detailed technical info on the condition of the week: Acute Tubular Necrosis. Then I sat down and attempted to get through it all at 8 am this morning before my 10:30 am clinical skills tute (summary: poke someone in the gut and they'll scream if it hurts).

When I started to get overwhelmed I tried to read faster. Then I tried to read only every second sentence, then only every second sentence in every second paragraph, then I tried skipping pages, and it ended up making about as much sense as if I had skipped every second letter.

I caught up with my Smaller Half at lunch time and the first thing she said to me was, "What happened to you?" - presumably because I looked like someone had hit me over the head with a textbook and told me to beg for more like I meant it.

The whole thing put me in a foul mood and I became convinced I was going to fail. Then I turned up to my afternoon tute and was reassured that it's going to be okay. Mechanisms, mechanisms, mechanisms. I can do mechanisms, one by one, and put the pieces together. And I can do it in time for my exams in three weeks. No, really I can.

Inhaaaaale. Exhaaaaale.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mayor of Chumpsbridge

What kind of moron rear-ends someone who is stopped at traffic lights? Perhaps the same kind of moron who then drives off without stopping to assess the damage.

But I got your license number, loser.

Our car was not seriously damaged. A small plastic panel underneath the license-plate illumination lamp was knocked loose and has vanished. It's not something I would have given a moment's thought to under normal circumstances. But because this prize twerp didn't even bother to pull over afterwards, I am feeling vengeful. I intend to make sure that they pay for it.

And if I ever see your big fat ugly troop-mobile again I'll be leaving a rude note on your windscreen too...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Meet Brett

I have a new friend. His name is Brett. He was born on Friday, but only really perked up today. He will move into my fridge tonight. Every week I plan to cut him in half and feed him a cup of flour. The half I remove will be turned into bread. Mwahahah!!! I feel like an evil giant from a fairy-tale.

But the truth is more prosaic. I'm trying to make sourdough bread.

Here's a picture of Brett.

He's my "starter". He's made of a cup of flour and a cup of water, left sitting in a jar on the bench until he gets frothy from the bacteria and yeasts growing inside him. I didn't add any yeast, he's just growing on the yeasts that somehow found their way into that jar, either floating on the air or else already dried up in the flour. Ditto for the bacteria.

I like the idea that, in theory, this blob of frothy batter that I call Brett could live in my fridge for the rest of my life, providing me with sourdough bread every week or so.

Good night Brett! It's going to be a bog day for you tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why do I try so hard?

I thought that I had come so far in my mission to ensure that my lecturers do not mis-use mathematical terminology. I was wrong. Today was a slap in the face. Like ashes in my mouth. It was like inhaling rather too much mandarin-peel-vapour, rather than the intended refreshing spritz.

Here's the situation - the Learned Professor was discussing the kidney. (Ever notice that medicine is like hunting? Everything happens only singularly. You never see zebras, you only see zebra. And doctors never discuss kidneys, only the kidney.)

More specifically, he was discussing the effects of plasma concentration of aldosterone and potassium on tubular secretion of potassium. He showed us a graph, showing how each one has an independent effect. Then, in what I thought was my moment of triumph, he correctly characterized the combination of the two as "additive".

O frabjous day! I was so happy.

But then Defeat was snatched from the jaws of Victory. In his very next breath, the Learned Professor described this additive combination as "synergistic". What!?? Synergy occurs when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, not equal to them.

For example: take an ordinary med student like me, add the boring old internet, and what is the result? The magic of Prone To Reverie - synergizing you up since 2008.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I was reading something
on the internet when I
realized that I had mistaken
it for poetry
when it was really
just prose
with very short line lengths.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fascias and Fistulas

I'm really enjoying the anatomy class I'm taking. The thing I like most about it is that there are a lot of really strange sounding names for things in the body. I love unusual words. I sometimes repeat them over and over to myself or incorporate them into little tunes or ditties that I can hum. I suppose it helps me remember them.

Something that struck me today when we were going over the upper limb (which I like to call the "arm"), is that many of the best names have an almost Tolkien-ish vibe to them. I was sitting in class imagining little bits of dialogue from overwrought fantasy novels using those words.

Like this:

Bow down before the Mighty Thenar Eminence, worthless dog!

Or this:

Behold! The lost city of Olecranon, glittering like a diamond in the desert sun!

Or even:

My sword is forged of pure Acromion - I will smite you down unless you yield!

I was thinking that this was probably a pretty weird thing to do, but when I came home and told my Smaller Half, she completely agreed with me. Ain't she cool?

Coincidence? You decide...

Now this is just getting incestuous. Today's Irregular Webcomic is a pisstake on xkcd. (There are links to both sites on the right side of this page in case you have no idea what the relevance of this is...)

Sunday, September 14, 2008


When I was in my late teens and early twenties, my favourite band was The Simpletons. I found out about them because my father decided to take us to see Willie Nelson play at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in 1994. For some strange reason, The Simpletons were his first support act. They were completely out of place there and to be honest I didn't know what to make of them.

However, my future brother-in-law had the good judgement to buy a copy of their EP Smother. When he opened it up there were two discs inside, one on top of the other. So he gave me one as a birthday present. That disc was soon my favourite, eclipsing Guns 'n' Roses, Queen, even Willie Nelson!

They released several more EPs over the next few years, as well as a couple of albums. The best of their albums for me was Matter. I must have listened to it a squillion times. It kept me company through some dark days. (Unfortunately, as so often happens to the discs you listen to the most, most of my Simpletons collection is now badly scratched and scratched discs make my stereo system jump like a Frenchman from Maine.)

I saw the band play live a few more times, including the time they played a Thursday gig somewhere in East Brisbane (I think) which is the only time in my life I have ever had to have a sickie due to a hangover. At least I came away with the band's signatures on a souvenir T-shirt - thanks guys! Of course, I wore the shirt so much that it disintegrated and is now long gone.

This evening I'd been listening to Matter again (scratches and all) for the first time in years, and I thought I'd check out the interwebs to see what I could find out about what the band members have been up to. And I got a nasty shock. I found out that their singer Shane (or Cheyne) Gelagin died suddenly in 2003. He was probably only a few years older than me. The guy was an awesome songwriter.

Shane himself wrote and sang, in the song Postcard, "It's better to become candlewax than to burn on". Long gone T-shirts. Scratched discs. Dead young men. It all seems sad and futile in hindsight. But I'm glad it happened once rather than not at all.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Am I emo?

In a fit of boredom, I headed to quizilla.com and filled in an online quiz called "Are you a wanna be emo?". I was pretty sure beforehand that I was in fact not a wannabe emo, but hey - stranger things have happened at sea. (I did this quiz while on land.)

I was really hoping that the quiz wouldn't just come back with a yes or no answer. I really needed some more detailed feedback and guidance. So I carefully considered my answers to their equally thoughtful questions on fashion, colour preference, self-harm, poetry, eyeliner, age, and with my heart in my throat, I clicked the submit button.

My destiny was mere seconds away. Was I a wannabe emo? Maybe I was already an emo and didn't know it! I did like that song "Black Parade", but mostly because of the Queen-like guitar work - Queen don't seem very emo.

This is what came up:

U HATE emo!

result image

no point in talking to u. exept to say, FUCK U BITCH! U SUUUUUUCCK!!!! DUMBASS JOCK HOE!

So it seems I'm not emo at all. I can deal with that. But did they have to show me a picture of a pink sports car, just to rub it in? Now I feel so eighties.

Oh the humanity.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Why is it that listening to sad music makes me sad, but listening to happy music does not make me happy?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


For my eighteenth birthday I was given a set of runes that purported to be useful for foretelling the future. I scoffed at the notion, of course, since although I am a determinist through and through, the problems of chaotic systems on the macro level and the Heisenberg effect at the quantum level mean that prediction of the future is not feasible.

Nevertheless, being a good engineer, I read the user manual thoroughly, and came across an interesting idea. The idea behind the runes was not that they predicted the future at all! Just like the I Ching, the runes claimed only to draw the user's attention to certain aspects of their own life. In a way, it's a kind of guided introspection more than anything else.

This really appealed to me, and for a while I tried using the runes on a regular basis to get a deeper insight into life. I soon fell out of the habit though, since they are a bit clunky to use and I had other things on my mind at that age.

But I did learn the habit of keeping an eye out for things "out there" in the world that may shed light on what was going on "in here" inside my head. That's why the Italo Calvino quote above jumped out of the page at me. Hmm, re-reading the previous sentences makes me sound a bit nutty. Just think of it as me having a conversation with the world.

Hello world! I am in a bad mood today...

Oh look! A frog!

Wow! That's awesome! I wonder if frogs ever feel down?
I wonder what kind of things they think about to cheer themselves up?

It's a process of keeping a sense of perspective I suppose. You just have to be receptive to things that come your way. Anyhoo, this is all just a long preamble to what I wanted to post.

Yesterday after seeing someone off at the airport I went to the ticket machine to pay for my parking. The ticket machine screen said, in large letters on the screen, "CHANGE IS POSSIBLE".

And I thought that was very uplifting.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bye bye Kurt Vonnegut quote

It's time for a small change here at Prone To Reverie. I'm going to retire the quote that has been the sub-heading of each page since day one. Why? Sheer caprice I suppose. However, so its important role in getting me to start this blog is not forgotten, I shall record it here in this post for me to reflect on in the future.

"When a man becomes a writer, I think he takes on a sacred obligation to produce beauty and enlightenment and truth at top speed." - Kurt Vonnegut

Ungracious loser

It's Show Time here in Adelaide! I live close to the showgrounds, so the quiet nights are punctuated with loud music, screams, and fireworks. It's all very exciting!

It reminds me of being a kid, when it was show time in the town where I grew up. Every year I would go on rides if I dared (I was scared of The Hurricane for a long time, mostly because of the strange whooshing bangs it made when it moved), dodgem cars, watch the Bridgestone Precision Driving Team, watch the fireworks, play on those machines where you drop a ball in the clown's mouth and win prizes (I soooo loved those things), eat a dagwood dog, and I would go with Dad to look at the agricultural exhibitions even though I found it boring.

There was always a Lego building category in the exhibition too. I remember it clearly because it was so lame. I was the best Lego designer/builder in the world I think. I could easily build much better stuff than the junk that won the prizes year after year in the show. One year the winner had just made the kit straight out of the box, no originality at all! Obviously the judges were incompetent fools!

So every year I would vow to enter the next year and sweep the prize pool. But a year is a long time when you're a kid (not like now. These summer days go slow, but the years - they fly by) and of course I would have forgotten all about the Lego category until I entered the hall and saw the Lego, sandwiched between the model airplanes and the tea-cakes. And then I would realize once more that I had forgotten to enter, and some other idiot had won undue recognition for his mediocre skills. Nooooooooo!!!

It's just like the Reader's Digest Sweepstakes, and the Oscars, and the Nobel Prize. Always getting won by the only moron who remembered to enter. Those punks!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Let's talk about my thermos

The issue of the day is whether or not carrying a thermos full of a hot drink makes the bearer nerdy. I bring it up because I've started doing it. Not all the time, mind you. I'm way too urbane and sophisticated, as I would have repeatedly told you if you spend much time with me. But twice a week, when I have afternoon tutorials, I take in a thermos of piping hot green tea to give me that extra vim and vigour that I need. Sometimes I feel a little self-conscious about it. I worry that my Esteemed Colleagues may be mistaking me for a nerd. I'm not! (Those people I sit next to in class though - whooh!)

Superficially, carrying around a thermos may appear nerdy. It makes my backpack significantly heavier, so I have to lean even further forward, potentiating my somewhat nerd-like appearance. It is probably not as cool as dashing to the kerb for a quick macchiato, giving instead the appearance that my lunch has been packed by my mother. And it seems to display an embarrassing investment of effort and expenditure on hardware in order to save $2 on coffee each day. Such tightwad behaviour is pretty nerdy.

Furthermore, noted cool people such as Snoop Dogg do not pour their bizzles some hot tea in the middle of the afternoon. Angelina Jolie does not carry a thermos tucked under her bizarre, otherworldly upper lip. Thakoon Panichgul, to pluck a name from the aether, does not (to the best of my knowledge) use any type of insulated drinks container.

However, I prefer to think of it this way. If I cared about your opinion of me so much, concerning such a trivial issue, that I changed my behaviour to conform, that would not be cool at all! That would show that I was weak-willed, desperate for approval, and lacking in any sense of my own individuality and worth! Instead, I note your disdain, and move on. I transcend fashion, take flight, and soar above the smog of judgement, to make my own way through this confusing world of beverages - beverages that are not only hot, but cold, and sometimes even carbonated.

How can I be trusted as a doctor if I can't even be true to myself? Carry your thermos, my friends. Let us sup the tea of the gods together! But be careful, it's hot.

That's cool!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I'm changing the world!

Despite the morose tone of my previous post (two posts in one evening? I'm clearly putting off my Learning Issues!) I am feeling quite chirpy. Why? Because I'm Making A Difference.

You may remember that I was previously outraged at my lecturers mis-use of mathemathical terminology. Well, the message is getting through to them! Today in class the Learned Professor was describing the effect of smoking and asbestos together when considering their carcinogenic effect. And how did he characterize it? He said it was "multiplicative".

Please, please - no more applause. I did it for the children.

Empowered and informed member of society

I'm feeling confused. I've noticed that a lot of the time I have strong opinions about things. These opinions seem to leap from no-where into my mind fully formed, rather than as a result of some kind of reasoning process. So when I am forced to actually think about them I get all tied up in knots.

For example, there was an article in a local paper about one of the nearby private hospitals which is outsourcing its maternal care to one of the local big fancy hotels. Once the new mums (do you feel like Ray Martin when you use the word "mums") have been given the okay by the doctors at the hospital, they spend their final two nights at the hotel under the care of an on-site midwife and nurse, rather than chilling at the hospital. My first reaction to this was to be outraged that health insurance would pay for this and express contempt for the whole thing.

On further (somewhat relentless) questioning by my Smaller Half, my reaction doesn't seem to make sense. For example, it's probably cheaper than staying in the hospital, otherwise the insurance company wouldn't pay for it. So my "This is a wasteful indulgence!" reaction is wrong (relatively speaking). Likewise, it's clearing out beds in the hospital which means more people can get treatment.

I was shocked that the mothers are ferried to the hospital in BMWs. But again, they're cheaper to buy and run than ambulances, so maybe it's a good idea. So I tried the angle that health insurance should only get used for "serious" problems. This opens up a whole big can of worms that I'd rather not get into - suffice it to say that if you bought the insurance, you can have the service, and vice versa. It has no impact on me at all if that's not the sort of thing I want to shell out money for.

So while my initial reaction was that the whole thing was a huge wank and was just a bunch of rich people flaunting their money over the rest of us, the fact that it's happening at all means that some very clever people have figured out how to make people happy and save money and use the hospital more efficiently at the same time. And for some reason that angers me.

I think it's because I have an underlying assumption that rich people are all arseholes and that capitalism is evil. And "rich people" are defined as "anyone who has more than me". Meanwhile my condemnation of capitalism has done nothing to prevent me from trying to use the stock market to fund my retirement. Sigh. It's depressing how inconsistent my own actions are with my judgement of other people's actions.

It's no wonder that so many people turn into such jerks eventually. It's tiring trying to figure out how to play fairly. In the end maybe it's easier and more fun to just play the game to win. Come to think of it, isn't that kind of what the new Batman film is about? You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain. I bet Batman would have some great ideas on post-natal care. Although he is pretty much your arch-capitalist isn't he? Maybe it would just be insurance all the way for him.

Random Wikipedia Link - use the power of coincidence to solve your dilemmas today!