Friday, February 27, 2009

Et tu, Ranga?

My day started well. We're being visited for the weekend by my Aged Mother, so I took her off to a nearby town and we had a coffee before walking up and down the beach for an hour. Then we met up with my Smaller Half for lunch before I set off for uni, as I had a liver microscopy prac to attend.

Unfortunately, that's when my car chose to betray me. It overheated soon after I left town, the temperature gauge swinging wildly around as I pulled off the road every few kilometres to let it cool down. I turned for home and searched around for a spanner-monkey to fix it. Once I got it to a mechanic, he told me he'd just fixed another car of the same model and year as mine for the same problem and that I shouldn't drive it over the weekend until he could look at it on Monday, or it might explode and scatter my limbs across the countryside.

Curses. No liver prac for me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

If you have upper right quadrant abdominal pain while you're above the Arctic circle you need to read this post

Today I was swarmed by unruly mobs of angry medical students. They demanded that I retract my allegations that they have heads like roosters. After several rounds of being told to kiss Boron's Medical Physiology like I meant it or get a punch in the face, and then getting punched in the face anyway, I came to realize that I had grossly defamed them.

I'd like to make it clear that the incidence of cockheadism is lower in the medical student population than in society at large. Furthermore, they are handsome, charming, generous to the young and the elderly, and care for library books like they were their own and seldom cut pictures out of them.

I would also like to apologize for the eskimo language in the last few posts. Sorry. And by "eskimo", I'm referring to the usage in the novel "Cheaper By The Dozen", which bears no resemblance to the terrible film of the same name that I have not seen except for the fact that there are twelve children in each in which "eskimo" means language which is crass or coarse.

Speaking of eskimo, (hey, nice segue) did you know that eating a diet high in fat (for example, whale blubber) can give you gallstones? And did you know that you can treat those gallstones by supplementing your total bile acid pool to redissolve those stones? And did you know that you can do that by drinking bile? And did you know that ursodeoxycholic acid is a component of bile which is especially effective at dissolving gallstones? And finally, did you know that ursodeoxycholic acid is particularly abundant in the bile of polar bears? And who has the best access to polar bear bile in the world? (Apart from polar bears?)


Some day, knowing that might save someone's life.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's not me, it's you

Having my Smaller Half studying medicine at the same time as me is ... interesting. Sometimes, to be honest, it's a real pain in the whatsit, especially when we're both stressed and no-one wants to make the pancakes and sing the special pancake song because exams are looming. But one of the real advantages is that she really understands what I'm going through because 12 months ago, she was me (but smaller and more beautiful).

This was demonstrated to me tonight in the most poignant way I could imagine. I had just finished my regular rant to her in which I got stuck into some serious character assassination of my current nemesis in my course. (It's important to always have a nemesis - someone who dogs your every step, salivating at the thought of your downfall. If you haven't got a nemesis, you might find yourself taking responsibility for your unpleasant circumstances, and who knows what might happen then.) Naturally, although I took great pains to be even-handed in describing the vicissitudes and tribulations wrought on me by this twerp, my Smaller Half came to agree with me that my foe's qualities were not merely galling, but actually deficient.

Then a thoughtful look stole across her eye and she said, "I don't know what it is about medicine that attracts these cockheads."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Big red car

Today was an exciting day for me and for my car Ranga. Today Ranga's clock ticked over to 100,000 kms. I noticed that he was up to 99,997 so I drove around the block twice in order to see the change happen. It was probably the greatest moment of my life so far.

The difference between the photo above and the photo below is about 10 metres. That's why the trip meter hasn't changed.

I'm going to treat him to a day spa and full service, followed by an all-you-can-eat petrol buffet.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Want want

Isn't it funny how you can want to want something, without actually wanting the thing itself? Or maybe that's nonsense and my brain is just a bit worn out right now...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pet peeve

"I don't know the effects of Lyme disease on chimpanzees, but I will say that it's deceiving to think that if any animal is, quote-unquote, well-behaved around humans that means there is no risk involved to humans for potential outbursts of behaviour," she said.
I don't know the effects of Lyme disease on chimpanzees either, but I do know that whoever said that sentence above needs to get their head examined (in my unqualified opinion). By saying:
she is actually quoting nothing at all, except for that hyphen. And why would you quote a hyphen?

If only she knew the so-called magic of "so-called" she could have extricated herself from this grammatical cesspool.

(By the way, you may be getting the impression that I'm totally obsessed with thinking about grammar and strange words and such things. You'd be right.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

You deserve better

Am I the only one who can't see anything on the blog homepage? If I click on the entry title on the right it comes up but the banner page is giving me a big fat nuthin'.

Dern it! I've been hornswoggled!

Are these things going to hatch and eat my face?

Whilst strolling on the beach in my Sunday best I espied a veritable flotilla of fibrous balls washed up at the high tide mark.

The largest one in the picture above is the size of an orange, or perhaps a smallish grapefruit or a very large apple or even a whole punnet of strawberries. It was firm to the touch, light and dry. It was formed from what resembled horse-hair, and embedded in the surface was some kind of dried vegetable matter akin to the flower of Geraldton Wax but brown and flaky.

Most of them were perfectly round, but some of the smaller ones were eccentric or ovate. There was a stretch of about 100 metres of beach about a metre wide with these things scattered across it, roughly 10 per square metre.

From their appearance they resembled gigantic fur-balls with perfect symmetry. I have no idea what they are. Perhaps a cargo ship carrying horses sunk and the horses were eaten by giant squid which regurgitated the indigestible components in spherical form.

Any better ideas?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lock it in Eddie!

I'm feeling heaps better than I did when I made my last pathetic sad-sack post on Friday night. Why? Well, partly because I am now filthy rich!

I found out about a website which tells you how much your own website is worth. So I plugged in and it told me that my blog is worth ...

... wait for it ...


Read the full report by clicking here. I have no idea what any of those subscores mean (although having a popularity of zero point zero zero seems bad rather than great) so don't ask. However, if you have $5,000,000 and would like to buy my blog from me, just let me know.

Meanwhile, screw learning issues for tomorrow's tute - I'm going shopping...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Phone home

The end of week 2 has arrived. It's been a downward trajectory for me today. During the drive home I start thinking a bit too much about stuff and it kind of got me down.

I feel like ET. A lost little alien surrounded by hostility and strangeness. Sure, I have a few friends to shield me from the scary people but in the end I'm just waiting for my spaceship to hear my call and come to pick me up and take me home.

Things are a bit better now though. I spent the evening eating a giant schitzel in a pub in a nearby town. We had good company and I was able to pour my heart out to my Smaller Half on the drive home. I'm a lucky fella.

I am gonna make through this year if it kills me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

People of Earth, your attention please!

You know the pre-sliced cheese that is sold for making sandwiches with? Yesterday I noticed that the slices are almost exactly the same size as a sheet of toilet paper.

Coincidence or conspiracy?

You decide.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I looked at the wrong week of my timetable last night so here I am at uni and I don't have a class for a whole 'nother hour. When I mentioned it to one of my Esteemed Colleagues he told me, "Mate, that's such a first year mistake to make". O the shame. (I like to use "O" instead of "Oh" like that because it looks really Biblical. Like me.)

Anyway, in my past life as a Man With A Job, I presented papers at a bunch of different conferences. About half of them were academic research conferences, and the other half were professional conferences. I noticed that the types of questions people asked at the two types of conferences were completely different.

At professional conferences people ask the speaker to clarify things for them or to comment on what the speaker's future plans are. This seems to be motivated by the fact that they are trying to get something done.

In contrast, at academic conferences people ask questions about topics the speaker hasn't mentioned at all but that the questioneer (a typo that deserves to be a neologism) clearly has the desire to parade around in front of the audience as something that they know all about. In this way it's actually more of a statement than a question. This seems to be motivated by the fact that academics are trying to show each up as numbskulls so the question is directed as much at the other audience members as the to the speaker.

Since I'm holding forth about questions, someone asked a question yesterday in the middle of a lecture about the enteric nervous system. The question was (roughly): "Are those nerves the so-called C-type non-myelinated fibres?" This question made me think two things:
  1. Am I in the wrong room?
  2. The phrase "so-called" is an odd one to use in this context.
A major use of "so-called" is to indicate that you think that the person doing the "so-calling" is full of crap. For example, the leftist co-operative ABC news here in Australia made a point of referring to "George Bush's so-called War On Terror", especially after March 2003. A closely related use is as a kind of oral quotation marks to indicate sarcasm. For example: "Prone To Reverie is chock full of so-called entertainment". Closely related again is attaching the phrase to information that you think is wrong or bad in some way and want to flag as such, for example: "Adelaide, the so-called Paris of the South".

As you can see, it's a handy little phrase to use. But I'm still struggling to figure out what the questioneer intended to convey by referring to "so-called C-type non-myelinated fibres", unless perhaps he has some kind of intellectual dispute with the text-book writers or the lecturer.

Any ideas? I'm interested in your so-called opinions.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Peptic ulcers

I've been learning about peptic ulcers this week. It's been a pretty dull first PBL case in my opinion but on the other hand having a gentle welcome back to uni has been a relief.

Interestingly, the aetiology of peptic ulcers has recently undergone a radical rethink. It was previously thought that most peptic ulcers were due to infection by Helicobacter pylori, but a team of Australian researchers (of which I am a prominent member) has just shown that peptic ulcers are often caused by the stress induced by turning up to tutorials about peptic ulcers without having done any preparation at all.

Treatment options are limited to masking the source of the stress, and include:
  • nodding the head and saying, "Mmmm, yes" whenever anyone else says anything sciency,
  • seizing the whiteboard markers and concentrating on scribing,
  • telling long and complicated anecdotes about your travels in Africa, art history, a friend you knew once who may have had a similar condition or maybe not,
  • eating non-stop so as to be unable to communicate,
  • flipping back and forth in your notes for something else so as to give the illusion of looking through a vast body of work in search of the relevant detail,
  • asking tangential questions about things that you do understand so as to derail the discussion.
It has been theoretically shown that a preventive course of treatment consisting of actually doing some damn homework could eradicate this scourge of the medical student world. However, a small pilot program was terminated after unresolvable difficulties with patient compliance.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Apparently I have no social skills

Ha! I just finished doing a (fairly long) online questionnaire which purports to tell you which medical field you should end up working in. You have to grade yourself on a five-point scale for how much you agree with statements like, "I tend to be a good listener", and "I would like to drive a Porsche". Find the test here.

I was a bit surprised by the results. My top 10 were:
  1. Radiology
  2. Allergy & immunology
  3. Nuclear medicine
  4. General internal medicine
  5. Dermatology
  6. Neurosurgery
  7. Infectious diseases
  8. Pathology
  9. Psychiatry
  10. Preventive medicine
It kind of made me laugh to see radiology there at the top of the list. As you can probably tell from my last post, I'm in a kind of bad mood at the moment, so I suspect that I scored highly on the "Hatred For All Living Beings" scale when I did this test.

Nuclear medicine sounds cool - I could be like Doc Samson.

I was shocked to see neurosurgery there - I have zero interest in any type of surgery. In fact, all the rest of the surgeries are waaaay down the bottom end of my results list. As far as I can tell, neurosurgeons are all lunatics - am I really like that?

And dermatology?? Where the heck did that come from? I don't recall any questions about liking to wear enormous diamonds.

The things that I like the sound of, for example general practice, neurology, psychiatry, are nowhere to be found. Oh, psych is down there at number 9. I suppose that's some kind of encouragement, to be only mildly unsuitable for my chosen profession. At least it actually gave me an answer - I was half fearing a trap door would open in the floor and I would fall into the shark tank. That's what usually happens.

Just get on with it you lazy git

Well, here we are, nearing the end of the first week back at uni after a couple of months away. It's been pretty up and down for me.

This time last week I was really looking forward to coming back. I felt like my brain was getting flabby and I needed something to work it out on. Tuesday was great - we had an anatomy lecture and prac and a pathology prac too. That stuff always gets me interested.

But then yesterday I was the complete opposite - I had the whole day free to work and ended up wasting it. I don't mean wasting it in the sense of not doing anything: one of my Secrets For Graceful Living is that it's okay to goof off, as long as I've made a conscious decision to do that. But yesterday I wasted because I meant to work, but never quite got started.

You know the routine I am sure. "I'll start work at 9". "I'll start work at 10". "I'll just read one more chapter of this schlocky sci-fi novel". "I'll just eat some second breakfast". "I'll start after lunch". "I really need a snooze now". "I'll start at 3". "3.30". "I'd better start thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner". "Better pop out to the supermarket". "Ooh, my Smaller Half is home, let's eat some cake". "Let's go for a walk". "It's dinner time". "No, no, let me wash the dishes". "I just have to make some friands for the tutorial tomorrow". "Oops - bedtime".

My Aged Mother always says, "There's no such thing as "can't", only "won't". Yoda said much the same thing. Yesterday was not so much a case of "I can't get started" as a case of "I won't get started". I think the little homunculus upstairs had planned it all from the beginning. And really, that's fine. I just wish he would tell me so I could have done something interesting instead.

Still, I'm making progress. Usually after a day like that I would be extremely tired and grumpy and unpleasant to be around. But yesterday I was able to be a bit more Zen about it. I just thought, "well that's the way it went", and concentrated on trying to deal with some of the other reasons I might be unpleasant to be around.

Aaaah - the pain that can be told is but half a pain. (I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that in Aristotle's "War of the Worlds".)


In the future, everybody will have flying cars. But you won't be allowed to fly just anywhere, because there could be bad accidents. So there will be established routes, just like there are for airlines today. The really big ones will be like today's expressways. But we won't have to build any new infrastructure since there's really nothing there. So they won't be expressways, they'll be impliedways.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I'm getting pretty sick of reading and hearing the clever observation that the insides of your intestines are actually external to your body because the human body is topologically equivalent to a doughnut (or a coffee cup). We know this by now. Just stop.

But it got me thinking: the fact that we have two nostrils as well as a mouth means that the human body is actually equivalent to a coffee cup with three handles. So there.

And don't get me started on the nasolacrimal ducts.

Monday, February 2, 2009

First day back

As you alert readers may have already noticed, today was my first day back. It was a day full of surprises.

The first surprise was when I opened my backpack in the morning to put in my lunch and discovered a mummified apple at the bottom, there since November last year. To my relief it wasn't mouldy or soft at all. It was just a little shrivelled and dried. Hopefully there has been no curse placed on me for violating the Mummy Apple's tomb. I have no desire to be a modern-day Howard Carter.

The next surprise should not really have been a surprise. I've been telling myself all holidays that I should try to make some new friends this year, because my old friends are real duds. Haha - just joking. If any of my friends are reading this, you're both very special to me. Anyway, my big attempt to make new friends culminated in me sitting with my old friends, having lunch with my old friends, turning down an invitation to have a beer with some potential new friends, and generally being an insular curmudgeon. Bugger.

Finally, in class our lecturer picked arbitrary people from the audience and asked them to estimate the total volume of stool they pass each day, the number of times they pass gas on average, and other such questions. To be honest I was disappointed at the rather sedate responses. I'm not claiming I could have done any better - I have a raging case of l'esprit de l'escalier. But let this be a warning to anyone out there in first year at my Fine University: you've got a year to think up some snappy answers to some fairly personal questions. Don't let me down.

Actually, when I said I had a day full of surprises, what I really meant was a day full of a surprise and another thing which wasn't a surprise and also an anticlimax. But that seemed less dramatic so I just ran with the surprise thing.

Joke of the year

As you know from the ongoing War On Innumeracy, I am a maths nerd (or, as they say in the US, a "math nerd"). I have a friend who is also a maths nerd. We had a conversation the other day which I thought was not only incredibly nerdy, but also very funny. If you aren't nerdy enough to understand it, I'll explain it at the end.
Friend (serious)
I don't know how my mum cooks for (say) 20 people. I'm flustered enough cooking for 4.

PTR (smart-arse)
The secret to cooking for 20 is to cook for 19 people and dish up slightly smaller serves. In fact this works for all N>1.

Friend (seizing the moment)
Ah, so that's what an induction cooktop is.

Joke's over folks. You see, induction can refer to a mathematical proof whereby it is shown that if a statement is true for N, then it is also true for N+1, and thus since it is true for some known value of N, it is therefore true for all greater values. And an induction cooktop uses the mystical power of electromagnetism to create eddy currents within a metallic pot which heats it to cooking temperatures.

Pretty funny, huh?