Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taxing times

Just finished doing my taxes. That was tedious in the extreme. One of my Esteemed Colleagues reminded me today that I could have gotten it done for free by a local accounting firm that sponsors the medical students society. I came up with some pathetic excuse, but the truth is:
  1. I am very manly, and real men do their own taxes without help,
  2. I am hopelessly disorganized, and most of the work involves rummaging around our store-room looking for old letters and financial statements, and
  3. I forgot.
Now that I am no longer a government employee, I think it's fair to say that taxes are way too high, public servants are just a bunch of shiny-bummed fat-cats who are leeches on the public purse, and the sooner Kevin Rudd takes a hatchet to every gubberment department that starts with "Department of ...", the better. Chop chop!

Remember how I recently swore that for my next set of exams I would do the work as I went along rather than leave it all to the end? Well that's how I'm going to do my taxes next year. I'm going to put everything in a box as I go, and on D-day I'll dump it all on someone else's desk and tell them to do it for me for nuthin'.

And I will laugh like this: "muahahahaHAH!!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Marx and mangoes

When I was a kid, I read a great book called My Friend Mr Leakey. It was full of stories about the author's good friend (Mr Leakey) who was a magician living in London. They had all sorts of interesting encounters.

I can remember very little of the book apart from the name, the illustrations, and a piece of advice within it - namely that mangoes should always be eaten in the bath so that the mess is manageable. On many occasions since I have advised people to do so, although to be honest I have never done so myself since I shower rather than bathe, and as such I have nowhere to put the mango but in the soap dish, which seems unhygienic at best and stomach turning at worst.

I have just now returned from so advising one of my Esteemed Colleagues, who was lamenting the messiness of mangoes in his own blog. In so doing, it occurred to me to google(tm) the name of the book to see what I could find out about it.

As it turns out, My Friend Mr Leakey was written in the 30's by JBS Haldane. I looked him up and discovered that he was one of the great geneticists of the 20th century, as well as a devoted Marxist for much of his life. In fact, it was he who, when asked what might be inferred about the mind of God from the study of nature, replied that God clearly had "an inordinate fondness for beetles". As a result of such smart-arsed remarks, he was a bitter enemy of the devoutly Christian CS Lewis, whose book The Screwtape Letters I just finished reading. What a strange coincidence.

JBS Haldane was apparently also able to blow tobacco smoke out of his ears because of the residual holes in his eardrums caused by him accidentally rupturing them during his experiments with a hyperbaric chamber. A most accomplished man.

(Those of you in the biological sciences may have heard of the Haldane effect - describing how the deoxygenation of blood increases its ability to transport carbon dioxide. This was discovered by JBS Haldane's father.)

As a result, I've spent the last hour not doing my embryology learning issues. I think what I have learned is much more interesting though, wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tim Winton no dud

I wish to publicly apologize to Tim Winton for privately vilifying him for years. I was sent a copy of his book Breath by my Aged Mother and now that I have gotten around to reading it, I am really enjoying it. This guy can write!

Somehow I have been labouring under the impression that Tim Winton is a dud. Some kind of Bryce Courtenay clone whose work should appear only in extracts in The Women's Weekly. I don't know why as I have never read any of his books before. I suspect that my innate suspicion of popularity is to blame here. His books were so popular, even amongst people who I knew were not normally avid readers, that I assumed that they must be garbage.

Tim, I am sorry. And I also apologize to anyone who has previously tried to get me to read a Tim Winton book and has had to listen to me ignorantly pooh-pooh their taste in books. How you refrained from punching me in the nose I have no idea.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Modern life

Was making chilli con carne for tea tonight. Well into the swing of things. Opened up fridge door to get meat out. No meat. Hmm.

Open freezer door to look for meat. No meat. What?

Look again in fridge. Look again in freezer. Look again in fridge. Look really really hard in fridge. Even move the butter around and look behind it. And under the parsley too. No meat.

Think for a while.

Go to shopping basket in laundry. Meat in bottom of basket. Since Saturday. When it was 37 degrees.

Drive to shops to buy more meat.


If you've never been to Adelaide before, you're missing out! Here, the bus tickets have inspirational sayings printed on them.

You know how exciting it is when you walk past a church and there's a big sign out front saying something like, "The most important vitamin for Christians: B1". Well in Adelaide it's like that every time you buy a bus ticket. Except multiplied by three because that's how many pithy little sayings you get on each tiny little ticket.

It's like a fortune cookie but without the horrible cookie bit.

Here are some of the life-improving messages I have found on my bus tickets recently:
  • To know one's ignorance is part of knowledge. (Definitely relevant to my recent exams, where I demonstrated mastery of the ignorance.)
  • You'll never get rid of a bad temper by losing it. (Because your mum wrote your name on the label.)
  • Every ending is a new beginning. (Confirmation of the Oscillating Universe cosmology theory?)
  • Insert this way. (Always a good rule to follow.)
  • Nothing makes people go into debt like trying to keep up with people who already are. (Adelaide Metro foresees the subprime mortgage crisis years in advance.)
If you've read anything profound on a bus ticket, fortune cookie, or church billboard, I'd like to hear about it!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A bit of commitment please

My feet hurt. And tomorrow I'm going to be hobbling around like an old man.

I played basketball today for the first time in at least 10 years. I had heaps of fun and didn't even throw up too many airballs. Speaking of throwing up, I am spectacularly unfit. I didn't actually hurl but if I had played for much longer I might have. I've done it before and it's not pleasant.

The first time was when I was in high school trying out for a representative basketball team. We'd played all our matches for the day and I didn't think I'd played that well so I went off and bought a litre of ginger ale and drank it all in about 5 minutes. Then it turned out that I got selected into the "possibles and probables" match so I had to play again.

I was pretty uncomfortable but somehow managed to play well enough to be chosen. Then I went outside and chundered up all that ginger ale that had been sloshing around inside me during the game. Yuk.

The second time was at uni when I was running in the 800 metres at a collegiate carnival. I got the time of my race wrong and had just finished eating my second plate of veal parmigiana when someone told me my race was about to start. I ran about a kilometre to the track, got there just in time, and took off!

I led for the whole first lap. I had visions of breaking records and going to the olympics. Then with about 200m to go my legs turned to jelly and everyone ran past me and I finished last. As I staggered across the line I barfed up all that veal parmigiana. Ew.

So never let anyone tell you that sport isn't character building. Dean Jones made a double century in India and was immediately hospitalized for severe dehydration. If there more players like him (or me!) in the current Australian team we wouldn't be 0-1 down with two to play.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

You just keep me hanging on

Good day today. Funny how when you slip out from under the burden you've been carrying, at first you don't notice that the weight isn't there. Or you do, but it doesn't feel right. You start to miss it in a funny way. Freedom feels confining.

I mentioned this to my Smaller Half today over breakfast. I compared myself not unfavourably to Nelson Mandela, and remarked that when he obtained his freedom at last he probably didn't really know what to do with himself either. My Smaller Half paused, realized that I was only half-joking, and curled her lip at me. She observed that apparently Nelson Mandela did know what to do with himself because he subsequently became President of South Africa. I thought this was a bit unfair since I only finished my exams yesterday and I'm not even a South African citizen.

The first true pleasure of today was in wasting it. I can't account for the hours at all because I spent the day deliberately not looking at my watch.

The second true pleasure of today was walking halfway from Glenelg to Brighton at super-low tide with my Smaller Half this evening. The beach was surprisingly empty. There were a few families there and the obligatory dog walkers. It was warm, not a breath of wind. The sea was flat as, bro. It was very peaceful.

The third true pleasure was returning to Chips, the hamburger joint on Jetty Rd, Glenelg, that one of my Esteemed Colleagues introduced me to just yesterday. I took my Smaller Half back there tonight and we bought burgers and chips and sat on the wall watching the tide turn and the sun set. These burgers are seriously awesome. To the max! They put onion jam inside them and mayo and fried eggs and bacon and cheese and all that good stuff that gives other people heart disease.

The guy that works there has some attitude though. He doesn't look at you when you order, he just stares off at an angle looking bored. And he wanders slowly around the shop taking aaaages to make you your food. As if he's some kind of new wave subversive burger artist and he can't believe that these bourgeois customers keep coming in for food. It's worth it though. They are the best burgers I've eaten since the truck stop at Holbrook.

Perhaps even better.

Life is good.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008



I just got back from the post-exam celebratory drinks at some scuzzy Adelaide pub. It was so flipping loud in there that I might as well have put my head in a sack, got everyone to kick it, then eaten some sandpaper to rough up my vocal cords.

We were all crammed into a tiny room by the bar. In an adjacent tiny room a DJ played deafeningly loud "music" (I'm a grumpy old man, I'm entitled to use quotation marks like that) which he seemed to be scratching together at random. From time to time, just to make sure we were listening, he'd get this screeching feedback going that made your bowels turn to water. Happy days.

At this point, I'd like to send a big shout-out to my Esteemed Colleague whose feelings were deeply hurt by not being mentioned yet in this blog. Hi there Esteemed Colleague! How's your wheeze?

As befits the day of my renal exam, I got severely dehydrated this afternoon. Because I knew there would be questions about urination on the exam this morning, I deliberately didn't drink anything beforehand so as to avoid the insidious power of suggestion during the exam. Unfortunately, the only fluid I had for the rest of the day was two cups of coffee and a couple of schooners, topped off with a huge salty burger and chips. By the time I got home this afternoon I was practically peeing stock cubes I was so dry.

Hmm, I shouldn't type tired. I haven't planned this post very well. I started at the end, then went back to the beginning, and now I'm stuck in the middle with nowhere to go. Any advice on how to resolve this compositional dilemma?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One to go

Respiratory systems done. Phew!

It was an exam from Bizarro-Land though. There were only four questions on it.

One question was on something we covered in one tute for about 10 minutes. So that was fun.

Another question was all about what muscles you use to breathe. Hopefully I got the full 1o marks for "diaphragm". About a mark per letter seems fair.

There was a question about predicting all sorts of fancy-pants science things like pH, partial pressures of oxygen and CO2 and haemoglobin saturation for some poor woman who had diabetes and let her blood sugar get too low and OD'd on heroin before smashing her car and choking on the exhaust fumes in the smoking wreck! I just wrote PROGNOSIS NEGATIVE!

And the final question was, for some strange reason, nothing to do with respiratory systems at all. It was about some theoretical model for caring for chronically ill patients which we apparently had a lecture about at some stage. Whoops!

Seems to me that the primary goal of the course co-ordinator (who in the Olden Days we would have called a lecturer, except that this one doesn't lecture. At least not that I saw) was to minimize his marking burden. Kudos to him, I say, as long as my exam burden is minimized too (ie: I hope I don't fail and have to sit a sup.)

I got to the exam a little late and most of the seats were taken, so an invigilator directed me to a free seat. Which was right underneath the asthma poster that I mentioned in my previous post. And there was nothing about asthma on the exam.

This country is stuffed!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Cardio exam is all done with! Hooray!

It was an okay exam. There were a few questions which I had seen before but decided not to look at in detail because I thought to myself, "no way, that'll never come up". Whoops!

On the plus side, there were a few questions that I did guess might be in there even though they hadn't been examined before, so I should do pretty well in those.

Onwards to the next one: the respiratory system! I fear this exam because it is only an hour long. This means that it'll be a pretty busy hour, and if things start to go pear-shaped it could be unpleasant.

Amusingly, the only poster on the wall of the exam room is a health promotion poster titled, "Managing your asthma". I think it has a whole lot of different drugs on it and when to use them. I wonder if they will think to remove it before tomorrow morning? There could be a rush for the left side of the room.

First Australians

If you haven't been watching First Australians on SBS (8.30 pm Sundays and Tuesdays), do yourself a favour and tune in. It is an incredible series all about how the Aboriginal nations of Australia have been repeatedly screwed over by the white settlers.

One of the many strengths of the show is that they get the opinions of a wide variety of expert historians, some Aboriginal, some white. There's a broad range of responses mostly concerning the character and motivations of some of the major historical figures. It's really interesting to see the same person described as incredibly selfish and manipulative by one historian, then as wonderfully altruistic and honorable by another. The uncertainty and debate is what's great about history, but you seldom see it shown on TV. Yet despite the uncertainties, the terrible facts speak for themselves.

I was surprised to find that I knew almost nothing about Aboriginal history. I had thought I was well-informed and well-educated yet almost all of this story is new to me. By comparison, because of books like Dee Brown's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, I have a much better sense of the native American experience of invasion and conquest. However, the sense I am getting from this series is that unfortunately many of the themes are the same. Disease, murder, lies, broken promises, prejudice, denial of autonomy, genocide. It's a tragic story.

One of the historians on the show (whose name escapes me) has an understandably angry and hostile air which sometimes makes for uncomfortable viewing. She maintains that the reason that this history is not taught in Australian schools is because Australians could not face up to the truth and would prefer to lie about history instead.

I think that on this point she is mistaken, although perhaps the truth is worse. I think that the real reason this history isn't taught in schools (at least not in my day) is because all this violence and crime and genocide is simply considered to be unimportant, of no impact, not worth knowing about because it happened to "those people over there", not "us".

This is terrible because not only does it deny the basic humanity of the victims, but it hides from us an awful truth - that by perpetrating and perpetuating these crimes our society has something monstrous at its heart. That's a lesson that we are fools to ignore.

I've watched three episodes so far and it has had such an impact on me and my Smaller Half that I decided to contact one of the show's interviewees, Bruce Pascoe. If you've seen the show, Bruce is the guy with the white hair and long beard who in my opinion has the most interesting things to say out of all of them.

I emailed him telling him how amazed I was and thanking him for his input to the show. He emailed me back today, saying:
"Good on you [PTR]. I'm glad you enjoyed the show. Please help us change the outlook of australia. This is a great country and we can be a great nation... with the application of intelligence and compassion. Bruce"
If you've missed the episodes so far, you can watch them online at the SBS website.

Do it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New quote

"I am trying to read in the succession of things presented to me every day the world's intentions towards me, and I grope my way, knowing that there can exist no dictionary that can translate into words the burden of obscure allusions that lurks in these things." - Italo Calvino

Sorry Mr Calvino, but I'm retiring your quote. As much as I like what you're saying, it's just not punchy enough for a hip, modern blog like this. I'm bringing in something from the 21st century.

Do you like sport? Do you like mathematics? Do you like sport and mathematics? Then why not come and see my collection on the Isle of Man!

Alternatively, read Moneyball by Michael Lewis. It's the gripping, unputdownable story of how nerds revolutionized the running of modern baseball teams by applying hard analytical models to player performance and dispelled generations of accumulated folk-wisdom on who the best players were and how the game should be played.

I picked it up on Friday and ended up reading the whole book that day instead of studying. I can't recommend it highly enough!


I haven't posted since Thursday - whoops! No wonder world financial markets are collapsing. There are probably rumours circulating like wildfire that I am dead or have had my fingers broken, and as a result shares has plunged. Millions of readers left stranded! Turmoil on-line as content gap leaves geeks reeling!

It's been a funny few days. Ever since my prac exam I've had real difficulties studying. I think I've become accustomed to having my exams all back-to-back, so my brain woke up on Friday and announced that it was going to have a long weekend.

Well, the joke is you, brain, because tomorrow I am going to ride you around the exam room like a motorbike! And I'm going to do the same thing on Tuesday and Wednesday too!

I'm going to work harder next semester, I promise.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How to win at exams

Prac exam done. I'm pleased that's over because now I can concentrate on the scary exams next week. It's nice to think that I've already earned a good chunk of marks towards passing. If anything goes haywire in the exams next week (for example, I blow a fuse and wipe out) I think an adequate showing in the prac exam is kind of like a gesture of goodwill from me to the lecturers, so they won't really be able to fail me.

Isn't it funny the little lies we tell ourselves, just like that one, so that we don't freak out too much?

Anyway, a lot of people have been saying to me recently, "PTR, you're my role model. What tips can you give me?", to which I reply, "Sorry kiddo, fashion isn't a game for the faint-hearted. If you don't have the guts to step out on that catwalk on your own then you don't deserve your own line of designer underwear."

And then they say, "Actually I was thinking not so much about fashion as about the way you seem so calm before exams." And I say, "That's because I don't drink or smoke or kiss girls, just like Snoopy". And that seems to satisfy them because they stop asking me questions after that.

But for those of you who need them, here are PTR's Study Tips For Poise And Style!
  • Shave every second day, at about 11am. Don't shave every day, it's a waste of razor-blades and being smooth-skinned isn't hot right now. Don't leave it too long though because then you'll start feeling like a slob. And slobs don't win. 11am is the best time to shave because it fills in that awkward gap between breakfast and lunch when you might be tempted to open a book and scare yourself. Don't furrow that brow!
  • Study the curriculum in reverse order. While this will confuse you and waste plenty of time, it creates the impression of vast knowledge and implacable power when you casually mention something from the final week of semester while everyone else is struggling over week 3. Who knows, maybe by the time the exam comes you will get to the second last week of semester!
  • Eat meat pies and drink flavoured milk for lunch. You deserve it! And in case you have to get a job as a bricklayer you'll fit right in, so that's one less thing to worry about.
  • Breathe circularly, as if playing the didgeridoo. It's a well-known fact that people who are cool and calm exhale slowly and steadily, so do it for minutes on end to show people just how calm you are. You may need to carry and use a small harmonica if they aren't noticing.
  • Spend heaps of time on social networking sites like FaceBook. Make sure you leave an identifiable trace of activity, preferably spread evenly throughout the day. I try to post a message to someone every 17 minutes between the hours of 5:45am and 12:30am. The messages should indirectly show how unconcerned about things you are and how much spare time you have. For example, rather than saying, "I am freaking out!!!!", say something like, "Wasn't the third US Presidential debate a fascinating indictment of modern democracy?"
  • Arrive late to your exam. Nothing says, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" like being late.
  • Conversely, it's vitally important to overdress. People who dress casually will be momentarily stunned by your sartorial splendour. They'll wonder how you found time to starch your spats while they wasted their time learning about adenylylyl cyclase or whatever.
  • Hire a special car for the day so that people notice how laid back you are. A pink stretch humvee is good. If the car park isn't visible from the exam venue, consider crashing your pink stretch humvee through the wall of the exam room.
Well, that's just a few of my tips to keeping your poise in this tricky exam period. Good luck.

Adios, amigos! Yeeee-ha!

Milestone on the road to nowhere

I'm about to head off to my prac exam. In the next 3 hours I'll have to dissect a heart, take a patient's medical history, identify various weird anatomical things, and maybe even multiply some numbers together or something. Fingers crossed.

And we've passed 1000 page views as of noon today. Excitement!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Do not pass "Go".

I realized last night that I had stopped trying to learn new things and had entered the final phase of the study cycle: damage control.

I realized this because I was looking at some drug info and noticed that lots of drugs, for example the antibiotic gentamicin, are nephrotoxic. That is, they give your kidneys a good hard pounding and that can be enough to stop your kidneys working.

This is a useful thing to know. But rather than continue on and try to learn more useful things, my reaction was to immediately pick up some past exams and try to figure out exactly how many different types of question I might be able to avoid answering simply by writing down, "gentamicin nephrotoxicity". This is damage control at its finest.

Gentamicin nephrotoxicity appeals to me for several reasons:
  1. Each word is polysyllabic and hence sounds very learned.
  2. The mechanism is either poorly understood or outrageously complex, hence I don't have to bother to try to remember anything.
  3. Lots of people take antibiotics, so it's broadly applicable.
  4. By singling out a particular drug it gives the illusion that I have carefully considered this specific scenario rather than used a blanket Get Out Of Jail Free card.
The other thing I've been doing as part of my damage control is spending lots of time praying to the Exam Gods that I get asked questions about stuff I know and understand (for example: physics, the Napoleonic wars, vintage sci-fi) rather than stuff I don't (for example: the content of lectures).

If I had spent half the time studying that I have spent worrying, I wouldn't have had to spend half the time worrying that I have.

Monday, October 13, 2008


There is a controversy boiling over regarding the imaginary nation of Tangeria and its national anthem. A recent commenter asserts that the anthem of Tangeria should be something more tangential than Led Zeppelin's "Tangerine", even with my proposed new lyrics.

However, if you go to Wikipedia's list of national anthems you'll see that most countries do have non-tangential anthems. In fact, some are downright eponymous. For example, Djibouti ("Djibouti"), American Samoa ("Amerika Samoa"), and most notably Eritrea ("Eritrea, Eritrea, Eritrea").

I'll award a near miss to Canada ("O Canada"). Maybe that's a typo.

It's reassuring to know that with their new anthem, people in Tangeria will be shakin' djibouti on the dance floor well into the future.

No plan C

"Yea, Lord we greet thee, born this happy morn." There are no atheists in foxholes, right?

I got up this morning thinking to myself, gee - my exams start next Monday. That doesn't seem to leave me much time. So I sat myself down and wrote up a timetable for my study. I'll spare you the details, but the salient point is that I have about 3 hours to revise each week of the semester just gone.

I found that so frightening that I immediately jumped on FaceBook and played some Scrabble and sent people some messages and then came here to write this. Ayayayay!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fictional country name

Meanwhile, if I ever write a spy novel, the evil adversary country will be called Tangeria. It sounds like a country doesn't it? Perhaps that's where tangerines come from.

In praise of weeds

Gardening is great! More specifically, my garden is great! That's because it has weeds in it that are taller than me!

We hadn't weeded it for about a year, because all summer we were in a terrible drought and weeds didn't grow. Then it rained all winter, and spring has been mostly sunny but with rain every now and then to really get the weeds revved up.

We kept looking at it and saying things like, "We really should weed the garden this weekend". This kind of comment is right up there with "I'll work harder next semester", and "I'm never going to eat so much ever again" in the Self-Delusion Stakes.

So of course, the weeds grew up higher than my head.

We finally decided to attack it. So far we've filled up one wheelie bin and 4 wheelie-bin-sized plastic bags. We're about two-thirds done.

The reason I think it's great is that it has given me a great de-stressing activity which I can do daily to blow off steam and tension that builds up while studying. When all you're doing is pulling up weeds your mind goes pretty blank. It just mosies along and stops to admire the finer things in life like grubs, dirt, beetles, and more dirt, rather than the less fine things such as ... oh, exams, say.

And the great thing about the weeds being head high is that you have a real sense of achievement as you go because you're liberating whole cubic metres of garden from tyranny.

So if you have exams coming up soon, try my patented de-stressing technique: a year before, stop weeding your garden. It does take some foresight, or good luck, but it's well worth the effort.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I was fascinated by the results of the latest poll on how you think of clouds. Three people, including myself, indicated that they see clouds as ice-cream castles. No-one saw clouds as bows and flows of angel hair, or feather canyons everywhere. Is this perhaps a reflection of the prevailing westerlies here in Adelaide in spring? Moreover, in a startling rejection of the poetic school of meteorology, four voters chose "None of the above".

I wonder if perhaps they think that clouds only block the sun and rain and snow on everyone. Let's face it, there are times when I thought that there were so many things I could have done but clouds got in my way. Perhaps people might care to add a comment indicating their own view of clouds.

We all know there are two sides to clouds. In the end what you recall is their illusions and you have to admit that maybe you don't know clouds as well as you thought you did.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Whine and cheese

Sometimes I really look forward to getting up in the morning. Today I am really looking forward to going to bed.

I'm trying to count my blessings, I really am. I know that I am lucky to even have this opportunity to be able to study medicine, I know that I am in excellent health and I am only temporarily sick in the most minor possible way, I know that my upcoming exams are passable and that realistically I will be fine as long as I work hard, I know, I know, I know. I know.

I'm just a bit fed up with this crap today, that's all.

Do you know which word I have used most in this post? "I". As such, I diagnose myself as being a selfish little brat.


Damn you Rolf Harris!

I'm exhausted! For some reason, the last couple of nights I have had real trouble getting to sleep. I haven't been tossing and turning, just lying there with the same two or three thoughts running around my head. Typically, these thoughts will be:

1. A song. Usually at least 10 years old. Usually one I don't like. Last night it was the ballad "Wild Colonial Boy", as sung by Rolf Harris.

2. A medical fact that I failed to learn during the day. Last night I spent what seemed like hours speculating on what the pressure might be in the pulmonary trunk during diastole, like this: 10? No, 15. No! 12. No, it must be 8. No! 12 is right. No, it's 30. ... and so forth.

3. An obsessive fixation on a trivial detail of a book I read when I was a child or a game of chess I may or may not once have played.

It's a real bunch of laughs let me tell you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fingers crossed

I reckon I'm going to be fine in these exams. As long as they ask the right questions.

The problem I am having is that my hyper-distractable state of mind, my curious and wandering intellect, and my propensity to use wikipedia for study purposes are all combining synergistically to ensure that I am seldom learning anything that is actually relevant to my course.

On the off chance that any of my lecturers are reading this, here is a sample of some of the types of question that I will be able to answer.

1. Which endangered animal is immune to effect of ouabain, used for poisoning arrows in some parts of Africa?
A. The panda
B. The galapagos tortoise
C. The orange roughy
D. The bilby

2. Expansion of the lungs is best described by analogy to the military campaigns of which ancient leader?
A. Spartacus
B. Hadrian
C. Pachacutec
D. Julius Caesar

3. Removal of what organ results in the regrowth of the thymus?
A. Testes
B. Parathyroid glands
C. Prostate
D. Gall bladder

Get the idea? Bizarre + useless = good. Relevant + useful = bad. Please please please Mr Doctor-Man, write some exam questions like this. I may not pass even then, but at least I'll have an interesting hour or two.

Answers: 1.B 2.D 3.A (Kudos to J. and L. who alerted me to questions 2 & 3.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Let the study commence

I've got exams in just over two weeks. Actually, one of those exams is in 12 days, since it has been thoughtfully placed right in the middle of swotvac. Fantastic.

This week I was good. I actually worked quite hard. For me.

This is because my Smaller Half had to start at thoroughly ungodly times such 7:30 (in the morning!), while on many days I had my whole morning free. So in fit of uncharacteristic discipline I got up early, drove her in to uni, and plonked myself in the library and did some work.

That's how I discovered that the library doesn't open until 8:30. No problem, I thought, I'll just grab a coffee and sit in one of the tute rooms until then. That's how I discovered that the cafeteria doesn't open until 8:00.

I was deeply shocked.

But on the bright side, it motivated me to work really hard this week, because I am going to pass my exams, graduate from medicine, work as a doctor and climb to top of my profession so that one day I can be in charge of running that fine Medical Institution. And when I do, I will make them get to work early and open the cafeteria at a civilized time, like 7:29 am.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I love a mystery!

Today we had a couple of pathology lectures from a guy who looks like Kevin Rudd with a beard. Eerie.

As I have mentioned before, I like the way pathologists speak. This guy is extra great because not only does he used all the crazy pathology words, but he drops little teasers into his lectures. For example, he'll say things like this:
"Renal cell carcinoma also occurs in the rare, but fascinating, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome."
Does he tell us anything else about it? No. He blithely sails on to the next topic. We were left knowing absolutely nothing about this condition except that it:
  1. is rare,
  2. is fascinating,
  3. has a strange name.
It reminds me of the fantasy and sci-fi writing of Jack Vance. His books frequently introduce strange, almost frivolous-sounding terms, such as toince, deodand, or gaun, and don't bother to provide any detail beyond describing the character's own reactions. So you learn that deodands are dangerous and cunning, but little else.

So when I find out about some heretofore unknown condition, with a name that evokes images of giant airships, and I learn only that it is rare and fascinating, my imagination runs wild!

Which is a shame because it turns out that von Hippel-Lindau disease is quite awful.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dental hygiene makes rodeo clowns tough!

I like mnemonics. I can still remember the mnemonic for the main sequence stars from high school physics: Oh be a fine girl kiss me now = O, B, A, F, G, K, M, N. For some reason this is still in my brain despite the fact that I have never used this information in any practical way.

On Monday my Smaller Half told me a great mnemonic for remembering the bones of the wrist. So long to pinkie, here comes the thumb = Scaphoid, lunate, triquetrium, pisiform, hamate, capitate, trapezoid, trapezium. They are listed as the proximal four then the distal four, lateral to medial and medial to lateral, respectively. Awesome! I'm sure that some day I'll win a lot of money on a game show by knowing that. Like that nut on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire who knew all the kings and queens of England since day dot with some crazy mnemonic.

Since I have a huge amount of study to do, I spent this morning making up some mnemonics of my own instead. Here are some of them:

To remember the symptoms of anaemia:
Why's this pale person falling down? = Weakness, tiredness, pallor, postural dizziness, fatigue, dyspnoea.

To remember the family history risk factors for kidney disease:
Dad's gout has produced renal calculi = Diabetes, gout, hypertension, polycystic kidneys, renal disease, calculi.

To remember the personal history risk factors for non-ischaemic heart disease:
Dental hygiene makes rodeo clowns tough! = Dental work recently, heart disease, murmurs, rheumatic fever, congenital heart disease, thyroid disease.

To remember the personal history risk factors for respiratory disease:
Ask patient to raise his shoulders = Asthma, pneumonia, tuberculosis, respiratory illness, HIV/AIDS, sleep apnoea

Looking back on them now some of them seem pretty ridiculous, but they really have helped me to remember these lists without leaving things out. I suppose the bogosity of them helps the images to stick in the mind. In fact, I may have to axe the more sensible ones and make them far more foolish. More rodeo clowns I say!

Election results

At the close of counting, the Fish was pronounced the animal that most people would like to be (4 votes). Filling in the position of vice-Fish will be the Pig (2 votes). And the deputy vice-Fish is the Mule (1 vote).

Exit polling revealed that the Fish was the preferred candidate primarily because of the perceived lifestyle advantages of most aquatic vertebrates. This was in marked contrast to voter perception of the alternative choices, both domesticated ungulates, as being required to either work excessively hard (Mule) or wallow in their own faeces (Pig). Interestingly, supporters of the Pig quoted this same factor as a positive.