Saturday, October 31, 2009


My desk still isn't looking any better either...


By the way, I was pleased to see that Tangeria handily topped the recent poll for imaginary things.  It got 8 votes, while the next best was the number seblen with 3 votes.  Seblen is deservedly the silver medal winner, but Tangeria undoubtedly carried the day due to the fact that I've written about it before.

For those of you who came late, get more information about Tangeria here:
and here:

I still get about 5 people each month landing on this blog after searching for "fictional country names".  It's clearly a field with great unmet demand.

You're disorganized - I'm creative

Fascinatingly enough, I am taking a break from tidying my desk.  This is not as trivial as it sounds.  Currently, apart from the laptop that I am typing this on, every other surface of my desk is covered by an average of 15 cm of crap.  Not literal crap, fortunately, but metaphorical crap.  Metaphorical crap such as: 5 golf balls, a Matchbox 1969 Karmann Gia convertible, rules for World In Flames, rules for Space Hulk, 10 or so CDs ranging from Something For Kate to Willie Nelson, Yoda, two different rulers marked with ECG info, a bunch of pens that don't work but are being kept just in case they change their minds, my passport, my old passport, a stack of fuel receipts for the whole year that I keep meaning to do something scientific with, a plastic golf ball, some disposable tweezers, the notes from the six different blocks I've studied this year (all mixed in together), about 30 pieces of unopened mail (at least 10 of which are probably demands for money from outraged utility or credit companies), old shopping lists, phone rechargers, coffee cups, things I've ripped out of the newspaper for some long-forgotten reason and God knows what else.

I was tidying my desk because I was doing my tax and realized that amidst all the crap there were probably important financial documents that I needed to find.  Sadly, I haven't found them yet.

I'm really starting to wish I hadn't had three cups of coffee in an effort to snap myself out of that post-lunch slump.  I think I've been thrust well out of the slump, past energy, past euphoria, past agitation, and into the panic attack.  Clearly three cups of coffee alone shouldn't do this to me.  It's the coffee plus the tax plus the desk plus the looming realization that I really need to pull my finger out and do some preparation for my exams at some stage.

And world peace.  I'm very worried about the lack of world peace.  Why can't we all just get along?

I don't understand why my desk isn't getting any tidier - I've been typing this now for 10 minutes and nothing has changed.  If the Desk Fairy doesn't show his face soon, someone's going to get machine-gunned.  BRAAAAAKKKK!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Your time starts now...

I like to imagine that I'm a minor celebrity.  Not a big celebrity like Hugh Grant.  Everyone knows big celebrities are all unbearably egotistical despite not really deserving any of what they have.  In fact the written Chinese word for "celebrity" is a combination of their words for "thief" and "fortune"*.  I'm only annoyingly egotistical, ergo I think minor celebrity status suits me fine.  Minor celebrities don't typically get asked for autographs on the street like Boonie, but there will be a certain subculture who will recognise the minor celebrity and say to their friends, "Hey, isn't that ...?"  I'm pretty sure I might actually be a minor celebrity because today when I sat down at a table in the cafeteria with some of my Esteemed Colleagues, they knew my name and everything!

Anyway, one of the things that minor celebrities do is answer fixed format interview questions, like the one that appears every week in the weekend magazine of the Sydney Morning Herald.  I always enjoy reading it so I've decided that since I too am a minor celebrity I should have a go at answering the questions.  Some of the questions are a bit gammy in my opinion, but the ethics of shameless plagiarisation forbid me from leaving them out.  It's all about the principle you see.  Anyway, let's get this show on the road...

Med school celebrity and blogging superstar

My earliest memory is ... hitting the snooze button on my alarm.
At school I ... was probably an insufferable twerp.  I must have been able to run real fast because I only remember getting into three fights.
My first relationship was ... misguided, but I have some happy memories nevertheless.
I don't like talking about ... people's exam marks - thank the Whirley-bird we don't get them in this course.
My most treasured possession is ... Yoda - he gets me through all my exams.
My mother and father always told me ... to stop crying by the time they counted to three or they'd really give me something to cry about.
In the movie of my life, I'd be played by ... the offspring of the crazed mating of Ryan Gosling and Ed Norton.  The mating itself would not be part of the film.
I wish I had ... learned to play the guitar in Bolivia from a toothless old man called Jesus in return for a bag of oranges.
I wish I hadn't ... started playing Bejewelled Blitz on Facebook.
My most humiliating moment was ... losing my underpants down my trouser leg and onto the floor whilst on work experience.
I was happiest when ... I was at my own wedding.
My guiltiest pleasure is ... cheese.  Especially cheese that I stole from the hand of a hungry elderly widow.  So guilty.  So delicious.
My last meal would be ... difficult to stomach if I knew that it was really my last meal.  So it'd have to be blended up into a smoothie or I think I'd spew.
I'm very bad at ... not making smart-arse remarks in conversation.  It's almost like a form of Tourette's.
When I was a child I wanted to ... spend all my time drawing space-ship battles.  Not much has changed.
If I could change one moment of my life it would be ... accepting that invitation to the year 10 formal then backing out the next day.  I should have just refused up front.  It was so dishonourable of me.
It's not fashionable but I love ... Dolly Parton's bluegrass.
If I could live anywhere, I'd choose ... New York.  But it would have to be a two-storey apartment with south-facing windows, lofted ceilings and a gas oven.  Otherwise no deal.
My worst trait is ... egotism.
My best trait is ... awesomeness!
My greatest fear is ... dementia.  No wait, dementia with a laser strapped to its head.
If only I could ... swim better than a jellyfish.
The hardest thing I've ever done was ... quit my PhD after 2 years.
I relax by ... releasing acetylcholine from preganglionic synaptic terminals, stimulating post-ganglionic parasympathetic fibres that terminate on effector organs.  Ahhh...
What I don't find amusing is ... almost anything that football players do.
I'm always being asked ... for directions on the street.

* I made that up.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Making time

People sometimes say to me, "How do you find time to write a blog?"

It's an interesting question but the answer is fairly lengthy so I decided to write this entry explaining how I work this miracle, so that in future I can just refer them to this URL.

First, I'd like to point out that I have never ever found time.  I found $40 once in Brisbane but then my friends made me buy everyone pizza for dinner.  I find paperclips frequently.  But I've never found any time that has been carelessly misplaced by its owner.  So if you're thinking of relying on finding more time to help you get through your busy schedule - don't!

When I tell people this, they look at me funny and explain that they really meant "making time", not "finding time".  Then they look at me funny again and explain that they're not really talking about making new time, they're metaphorically talking about making better use of the time they already have.  Now, I'm all in favour of making wiser use of time, though personally it's something I struggle with.  But it's a myth that you can't make new time.  I make time all the ... well, all the time.  Here's how.

There are two main techniques for creating time.  The hammer method, and the screwdriver method.

The hammer method for creating time relies on recreating the conditions that existed at the start of the universe.  As that smart guy explained in "A Brief History of Time", before the Big Bang there was no space-time.  It was only when an infinitely dense singularity manifested itself that space-time formed, unfurled, and POW! - plenty of time created right there.  Billions of years of it in fact. 

Now most of us don't need billions of years.  Even I don't procrastinate that badly.  Let's just say we need an extra week.  It's estimated that the universe is about 13 billion years old, the observable part of it contains about 10^80 atoms (that's a 1 with 80 zeroes after it), and the Jack Russell Terrier was bred from the Fox Terrier.  Some simple arithmetic tells me that I just need (whirr, click, bing!) about 100 grams of carbon to create an extra week of it.  Something like a lump of coal should do.

What you do is simply compress the lump of coal until it is infinitely dense.  An easy way to do this would be by hitting it with a hammer, whence comes the name of the method.  Be careful though - it will make a big bang!  (ha ha ha)  But seriously, you'll have to hit it very hard, so put some newspaper under the coal or you'll damage your table.  Once you've created this new universe, simply enter it and enjoy the extra week that you have created at your leisure.

The screwdriver method is more elegant, but trickier to execute.  The theory behind it is this: imagine a plane that can be described using two coordinates, x and y.  An arrow in the direction of x can be converted into an arrow in the direction of y by turning it 90 degrees anticlockwise.  The axis of rotation is in the 3rd dimension, z.

Similarly, the space-time continuum is a four-dimensional space defined by 3 space coordinates x,y,z and time, t.  To make time, you simply take a piece of space of the appropriate length and rotate it about an axis in the 5th dimension to convert the space into time.  The speed of light, c, is 10^8 metres per second.  Therefore space converts into time at a rate of 10,000 km for every second.  So to create a week of extra time you simply need a piece of space 60x60x24x7x10,000, or roughly 6 billion km long.  Give it a twist, and the week is yours!  Note: don't do this with a piece of space that someone is using, or they'll get very angry at you.  Also, you should do this outside unless your house is very large.

So that's how I make time to write this blog.  I hope this has been helpful to you and that you will now have all the time you need to do whatever you want.  But be warned, use this power for good, not evil...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Have a go

I have a great affection for people who persist in doing things badly.  I don't mean people who deliberately do things badly, like how some people ridicule other people's fan-fic by writing deliberately absurb piss-takes on it - that's just mean.  I mean people who aren't very good at things but keep doing it because they love it and they don't particularly care what some other judgemental people might think.  It's a great virtue in my book.

I like to see people paint drab watercolours and get it all wrong.
I like to see fat people at the gym trying out new classes.
I like to see unco people play sport.
I like to see old people dance.
I like to see middle aged people stab away at the piano keys.

When I was younger I also liked those things, but I liked them because it made me feel (falsely) superior to them, because (I convinced myself that) I could do better (if only I tried).  As a result, I didn't do anything except the stuff that I could do well.  Which meant that I missed out on a lot of opportunities to try new things.

Now that I am old and wise, I like these things because they remind me that I'm not so good as I think I am, so I might as well just enjoy life for what it is.  It's a whole lot better, let me tell you.

The reason I've been thinking about this stuff is because I was pretty hopeless at medicine today and I needed to reassure myself that it was okay.  It was my second day on the wards and I rocked up at some ungodly hour (does God get up at a particular time?  Does he like daylight savings too? Who's in charge when he's asleep?) and the RMO started firing questions at me that I was forced to parry and stall so feebly that it was humiliating.

So what causes seizures?

Well ... lots of things cause seizures.  ... Like ... drugs!

What drugs?

Um... the ones that mess up your neurotransmitters and ... that's all.

Hmm, okay.  What else?

Metabolic things.


... I don't know.

What makes a cell fire?

Electrolytes!  If your electrolytes are wrong then the membrane potential will be wrong.

Which electrolytes?

... Gatorade?

Go and stand in the corner.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Twilight fan-fic

Bella dashed ahead of Edward so he could barely see her through the woods in the moonlight.  He could easily have caught her in an instant with his sooper-dooper vampire speed but with his hunter's instincts he knew that the pursuit was more enjoyable than the chase.  For a moment his mind wandered, thinking back on the first day he met her.  She seemed so clumsy and foolish then, but now she was all he could think about.

All of a sudden Edward realized that he couldn't see Bella anymore!  "Oh no!", he thought, "What if she has been ambushed by that other bad vampire James, or that werewolf Jacob, or that ninja-pirate-monkey Rex?"  But then he breathed a sigh of relief as he entered a little clearing and saw Bella sitting there on the soft mossy ground waiting for him.  Her chest heaved as she gasped for breath, not because she was puffed, but because Edward was so breathtakingly beautiful in his gracefulness that she had a short attack of dyspnoea.

"Oh Edward!", she said, "I know that you do not want to drink my blood because you think it is wrong."  Edward nodded, knowing that he had lived for more than a hundred years on black pudding.  "But now, when we are to be married so soon, perhaps you should have a taste of my vital essence so it will bind us together in love and so on and so forth."

"Okay", said Edward.  Bella bared the flesh of her neck and arched her back.

"Please relax your neck and turn slightly to the left", said Edward.  The pulsation of her internal jugular vein was clearly visible as it ran deep to the sternocleidomastoid muscle and beneath her clavicle.  Edward paused to savour the moment - then he bit down.  His teeth sliced through her so delicately, light as a lover's touch, and she felt an exquisite pain that sent ice through her muscles and fire down her spine.  She felt like she was both melting and burning up.

Edward had to wrench himself away from her neck and her blood before taking too much and putting them both in peril.  He rolled his tongue around his mouth, feeling the blood richly coat his teeth and gums.  "Strange...", he thought.

Bella looked deep into his eyes and saw him hesitate.  "What is it?", she cried, "Is something wrong?"

"Well, yes", said Edward, "The taste of your blood, I can tell..."

"What?  What?", begged Bella.

"Your blood tastes rich and thick.  Delicious.  But ... too thick.  I can tell by the taste that you have an inherited coagulopathy."

"Huh?", said Bella, taken aback that their passionate encounter seemed to be getting a little wierd even for them.

"It's called Factor V Leiden disorder.  Basically, factor V that forms part of the clotting cascade in your blood is unable to be cleaved and degraded by protein C due to a single nucleotide polymorphism that results in a change of one amino acid in factor V." explained Edward, romantically.

"ZOMG, I'm a monster!" wailed Bella.

"Not at all", Edward sternly reassured her.  "About 5% of white North Americans have this mutation.  Most of the time it has no effect on you at all, though it does predispose you to developing deep vein thrombosis.  If you were to go on the pill or go through menopause or take up smoking or have a prolonged period of immobility (for example during a long-distance plane trip or following surgery), it's much more likely that you'd get a DVT and possibly have a pulmonary embolism, which could be life-threatening."

"Wow - how did you learn so much about blood?" marvelled Bella.

"I'm a vampire", said Edward, and chuckled his vampiric chuckle.

"I love you so much", gushed Bella.

"Me too", agreed Edward, and they held hands and looked at the stars and talked about how beautiful they were.


Again, not much to report.  I've begun the final 4-week block before the last exams of 2nd year.  I'll be spending them on on two two-week attachments to wards at the hospital while we also get various clinical skills tutes flung at us.

Today we learned some stuff about eyes.  Namely, how to shine lights into them, how to test people who can't read good, and a little mini-lecture about "the red eye" and some info about various ophthalmological (a difficult word to say, let alone type) potentially life-threatening problems.  The red eye stuff was interesting.  When I hear the phrase, "red eye", some part of my brain leaps to The Lord Of The Rings and imagines Sauron's eye of flame in his tower at Barad-Dur.  My guess is that Sauron had a subconjunctival haemorrhage.  Maybe Elendil poked him in the eye.

Anyway, that's enough prancing elf-speak.

I went up to the ward that will be my home for the next two weeks and met the interns who will shepherd me around.  They were really nice and friendly.  They even gave me a chocolate!  The only downside is I have to be there at 8 am for ward rounds, which means I'll be either getting up really early or driving really fast.  Actually, the other downside is that apparently I am supposed to have some kind of basic competence in history taking and examinations.  However, I have a cunning plan.  I will head off the requirement for competence by appearing to be a dolt.  I reckon it'll work like a charm.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Insects, the League of Nations, goats, socks and coins

Not much to report from me, sorry.  Friday was kind of fun, in that it became apparent that nothing much I was exposed to was going to be assessable.  Oh sure, it's possible that jamming steel prongs up people's noses is an expected competency, but I don't think it'll make or break me to be honest.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

First up we had a lecture from some kind of arthropod.  No wait - he didn't look like he had an exoskeleton, he must have been an orthopod.  The lecture was pretty light.  The only things I really took in were that the humerus is "not a happy bone and is full of black ingratitude" (I don't know what that means but it made me laugh) and a useful three-point grading scale applicable to most medical or surgical situations.
  1. "Oh yeah."
  2. "Oh no."
  3. "Oh shit!"
The afternoon was some clinical stuff from the ENT guys.  Now I'm not that keen on entomology but as it turns out none of this was about insects either!  The first station was run by President Woodrow Wilson.  I think it was supposed to be about the neck but he spent almost all the time talking on his phone to his wife so we really only got the various triangles of the neck (again) and a reminder of how to examine the lymph nodes.

The second station was looking at the larynx or, as I like to call it, the larnyx, because that way it sounds like some kind of exotic goat.  This was quite interesting.  The larnyx is a bit like a little sock puppet in your neck.  You can use it to make all sorts of noises like, "aaaah", "aaaaaaaah", "aaaaaaaaah", and "hyachhh", just like an exotic goat.  The "hyachhh" noise is the sound of a giant blob of white mucus leaping out of the larnyx and out of the video screen like those old movies of trains coming towards the screen that made people panic and run out of cinemas.  I didn't run out of the consulting room, but I did decide at that point that ENT was not for me.

The third station was not really a station.  They must have miscalculated how many people there were, or maybe someone didn't turn up.  We just sat in the waiting area and one of the entomologists banged on about ear syringing and nosebleeds.  It was probably useful info but I couldn't pay attention because he was sitting too close to me for my liking and kept making eye contact with me and I started to hyperventilate.

The fourth station was also not that detailed.  We looked into each others ears with otoscopes (Latin for "ear-looker").  It's obligatory to make jokes like, "Congratulations, you have a brain!" so we did that and the consultant said we'd fit in just fine.  The best part of this station was the giant tendon hammer that we noticed on a trolley.  The head of it was the size of a saucer.  I don't know why an entomologist would need such a big tendon hammer unless he was testing the reflexes of a pony, and why would he do that?  It's not an insect, right?  Or is it????

The fifth station was where we got to bang tuning forks on our elbows until we were able to play Mozart's Verdankt sei es dem Glanz (German for "Thank you for them glands"), which is a traditional song to be sung while examing the lymph nodes of the neck.  You can also use it to diagnose conductive or sensorineural hearing loss.  The procedure is to play the song on the tuning forks, and if the patient remains in the room, they probably have conductive or sensorineural hearing loss.

The sixth and final station was the aforementioned jamming of steel prongs up each other's noses.  There's no real skill to this - when I was a kid I jammed my Older Brother's whole coin collection up my nose. In fact, it is so easy that they force you to hold the prongs in your left hand in this bizarre way that really hurts your fingers.  Thus, they can spend years training you to do it and also charge people lots of money.  Plus I think if you pull any money out of someone else's nose it's yours to keep.

So that was my Friday at uni learning to be a doctor.  I'm pretty sure that 5 days a week of this for four years straight is going to make me an awesome doctor.  Or a raving madman.  Either way, I'll be able to wear some pretty colourful socks, and isn't that why we're all here?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sell me more crap

A while ago I posted something about the strange Facebook ad with the neo-Nazi guy trying to get me excited about my abs.  Ever since then I've been paying more attention to the ads that turn up on Facebook, especially since someone told me that they are generated by big databases that analyze my browsing habits.  If so, I'm a bit concerned, because I've been getting some pretty wacky ads.

The other day I got a "Rate This Hottie" ad, featuring bizarre photoshopped pictures of pneumatic blondes.  Simultaneously, I was urged to join a gay mens social networking site.

Today, the ads seem a little more relevant.  I've got some kind of snoring remedy (snoring: check!) as well as some kind of unspecified method of male hair removal (hairy: check!) and fluffy toys made to look like infectious agents (med geek: check!).  Oh, and an ad for me to advertise on Facebook.  Maybe I should make up some up some stupid product like a special piggy-bank-smashing hammer or something and direct the links to my blog.

I reckon if I ever won the lottery I would institite a policy of buying everything that was advertised to me on the internet.  Some of it is truly bizarre, but it would be a lot of fun opening those boxes when they arrived! 

Two humorous stories about death

When we stroll down to the local hotel that makes good coffee we like to sit out the front overlooking the sea.  It's very sea-nic - haha, just a small joke there to get us all warmed up. 

The hotel actually overlooks the greens of the town bowling club which are right next to the sea.  The thing that struck me recently is that the companies that have chosen to put up advertisements on the low brick walls enclosing the greens seem to have a very definite target market in mind - old people.  And fair enough too, since the vast majority of the people I see bowling there would be of retirement age or older.  But the strange thing is that the ads almost seem to have been placed in chronological order along the wall so that they tell a little retirement story.

First comes the ad for the real estate agent.  (Buy a holiday home!)  Next comes the ad for the removal company.  (Move down here for good!)  Finally there is the ad for the funeral home.  (Drop dead on the bowling green!)  It all seems a bit blunt for my liking.

Speaking of funeral homes, it was drawn to my attention recently that in a lot of small towns the ambulance service is run by volunteers, and apparently in one town nearby the ambulance volunteer is the guy who runs the funeral home.  While I think there are obvious efficiencies to be gained by this arrangement, I do find the clear conflict of interest a bit unnerving.  What if he got tempted to convert some of his volunteer ambulance clients into paying funeral clients?  All it would take is a bit of dawdling on the way to hospital.

I'm not pointing the finger, you understand.  I'm just saying it's kind of strange.  I'd rather have an ambulance driver who had some kind of vested interest in me staying alive, like a barber or something.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Life is hard, like a diamond

The universe conspired to make me late to uni today.  Here's what it did:
  • One o'clock (pm) start.  The freeway closes at 12.30 pm.  It was always going to be tight.
  • In the car I was listening to the triple CD All Time Greatest Hits Of The 30's (which isn't really "All Time" now is it?) with hits such as "On The Good Ship Lollipop" with Shirley Temple, "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" with Paul Robeson, "Night and Day" with Fred Astaire, and I could go on for 57 more tracks because songs were short back then, but the point of it is that I realized after a while that I was driving at 80 instead of 100 because those classic toe-tappers made me think I was old.
  • Hitting every single traffic light in Morphett Vale, which is a lovely place to whizz past on the freeway but not so fun to negotiate at lunch time when all the bogans are trying to get their utes to McDonalds.
  • Those other (non-medical) uni students are back and had taken all the spots in our car-park so I had to trudge an extra 200 metres or so.
  • And I know you're going to tell me that I should have just left home earlier, and so to you I present the final fact of my case that the universe conspired against me: my watch stopped.
Okay, my whinge is over.  Back to work, people.  This ice-cream isn't going to lick itself!

Monday, October 19, 2009


As a means of promoting my blog (Prone To Reverie - you're reading it right now) I have been wearing a little orange badge with a "P" on it.  Next year, I will switch it for a badge with an "R" on it.  And so on. Some time around 2022 I'm expecting a big spike in my page hits when people figure it out.

Sitting in class today, I was stitching up a pig's trotter for what seems like the millionth time this year when the instructor came over and said to me, "In what sense are you a P-plater?" (explanatory note: drivers on their provisional license, ie: the one after your learner's permit but not a full open license, have to display a large red "P" on their car.  Hence: "P-plater")

I had no idea what she was talking about, of course, since I am notoriously obtuse, so I said, "whaaa?", and she gestured at my badge and I was going to be funny by saying, "I'm a big fan of P-ness" but then realized that it really wasn't appropriate so I just went, "aaaahmm.." and she got bored and wandered off, leaving me wishing I had thought of a less rude joke but also wondering what she meant when she asked me that in the first place.  Here's some of the possibilities I thought of:
  • She was insulting me for being an old fossil by implying that I am so old that there's no way I could be on my P-plates.
  • She was complimenting me on being so fair and youthful like a budding flower by implying that I must still be on my learner's.
  • She was complimenting my suturing skills by implying that it was so great that I must be on my full license by now.
  • She was insulting my suturing skills by implying that it was so crap that I must still be on my learner's permit.
See the general problem?  Because P-plates have something worse and something better, I wasn't sure what she was really getting at.  This is the great danger of bantering with someone using the median case.  You should always pick an extreme point of view so that people understand what the hell you're talking about.

Unless I missed the point entirely.  Which is always on the cards, frankly, since I daydream a fair bit.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I missed the mathematics class at the start of year 12 when they did imaginary numbers.  When I turned up next time I had no idea what was going on.  "i is the square root of -1??  What the hell are you talking about?"  With a bit of catch-up work I was happy with the idea though, and of course i turned out to be incredibly useful throughout the electrical engineering degree that I never actually used (though they called it j).

Here are some useful new proposals for imaginary things:

The imaginary colour lupp. Lupp is the colour which, when mixed in equal proportions with white, makes black.

The imaginary word chamej.  Chamej is the word for the word which is spelled "K-L-A-B-B-Y" forwards and "M-O-M-I-O" sideways.

The imaginary emotion hruffaby.  Hruffaby is the emotion elicited when you realize that you are about to suffer an attack of retrograde amnesia.  It is more easily observed than experienced.

The imaginary country Tangeria.  Tangeria is the only former Russian republic that borders both Spain and Uganda.  Its flag is a red star on a lupp background and its principal export is principles.

The imaginary number seblen.  Seblen is usually less than four, and can be divided into two equal halves: nine and twelve.

It would be nice if you could provide feedback on how useful these words have been in your day-to-day life.  I reckon I'll probably get about seblen comments about this post.  And that will make me feel pretty darned hruffaby.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Memories of BG

I remember that he liked a big glass of red wine. 

I remember that he brought in stout and champagne to make us Black Velvets in the last session of the respiratory block that he tutored me for.  He'd been in and out of hospital the whole time so we'd hardly seen him, but he lobbed into the final tute determined to make amends.

I remember that he ate cheese in preposterous proportions.  It made me sad to watch him because it made me think of my father.  It also made me happy because that was good cheese so why hold back? 

I remember meeting him for the first time, one day in the central markets the year before I started med school.  My Smaller Half had recently finished his cardiovascular block, and so when we saw him walk by as we sat at the Russian stall eating our dumplings and our pork and cabbage rolls, she called out to him and he came over for a chat.  We invited him to join us to eat, and to our surprise he did.  We mentioned that I had applied to get into medicine, but he wasn't really interested.  He wanted to talk politics as the federal election was looming.  It turns out he was a raging Leftie, so we sat for an hour over brunch gleefully forecasting Howard's downfall and stoking each others' outrage about the sins of the past.

I remember the informal viva exam at the end of the anatomy subject he taught last year, when he patiently coaxed me into remembering the course and location of the subclavian vein despite my best efforts to forget. 

I remember him teaching us the muscles of the abdomen and hips, and relating them to the various cuts of beef. 

I remember discussing his health problems with him last year.  He told me about the balloon pump catheter that they used to keep him alive after his first heart attack and drew some pressure/time curves on the whiteboard to explain it to me.  He took off his shirt to show our tute group the dobutamine infusion pump on his hip and how the tubes snaked up his shoulder and plugged into his arm.  He casually mentioned that it was a last resort of sorts.  It seemed like a teaching opportunity to him.

I remember wondering why he continued to come into uni and teach us lazy, ungrateful students.  I remember realizing that I might be lazy, but I wasn't ungrateful. 

I remember watching his ups and downs over the months, scrying his face for a sign of how he was going.  Despite his openness about his health, I didn't want to ask, didn't want to pry.  I wish I had.  I wish I had showed him that I cared.

Paranormal prophylaxis

As you may have gathered from my previous post, ghosts scare me silly.  When I was a kid, my Older Brother had a book in his room called Monsters, Ghosts and UFOs.  I used to sneak into his room, take the book from his cupboard, read it, then put it back again without him suspecting, because if he caught me in his room he would do something unpleasant to me like The Typewriter or The Tickle Torture or perhaps simply punch me in the arm if he was feeling uninspired.

The UFO section was awesome, but it wasn't scary, so I didn't dwell on it.  The monster section was also awesome, but only had a few scary things in it, such as the picture of the werewolf with the blood dripping from his claws and mouth.  The rest of the monsters were mythical beasts and so forth which weren't scary.  The ghost section, however, was terrifying.

Among the highlights were: the photograph of the church altar which when developed showed a nine-foot-tall cowled monk that couldn't be seen with the naked eye, the disembodied hand that strangled the poor girl in the hall in the dark, the stones in New Guinea which suck out your soul if your shadow falls upon them and the poltergeist stories where furniture moved around and stones were flung at the house.

Because of these stories, I developed an unhealthy sense of paranoia about the supernatural.  As a way of protecting myself I came up with defensive measures which I used in common threatening scenarios.  They were very successful, as proved by the fact that I am here talking to you today.  If you are scared of ghosts, try these out:
  1. Never make eye contact with yourself in a mirror.  If you do, and then eye contact is broken by the reflection, you'll be in some serious doo-doo.
  2. In fact, try to avoid mirrors in general.  They create two problems.  First, what if you see someone in the mirror but when you turn around they aren't there?  Second, what if you don't see someone in the mirror but when you turn around there they are?  Big problem.
  3. Never reach your hand into a dark room and grope around for a light-switch.   Someone will grab your arm for sure.
  4. Don't stand too close the edge of a bed.  Someone will reach out from underneath and grab your ankle.
  5. Don't look out windows in the dark.  You may see some glowing eyes, plus there is the whole reflection problem again.  Plus, never look out of a second story window in the dark.  There may be a wizened old man hovering  outside in mid-air staring back at you.  And his eyes might glow too.
  6. Never appear frightened.  Once you look frightened, it's open season and you're the prey.  You should appear completely nonchalant for as long as you can.  Once your nerve breaks you need to run as fast as you possibly can.  Don't look back.
  7. Always open the toilet door before flushing the toilet.  When they hear the toilet flush they'll know where you are so you'll need to run like hell.
  8. Always cover your face completely when you sleep.  If you start to overheat it is acceptable to make a small tunnel to breath through but you should never look out this tunnel in case something is looking back at you.  Similarly, never let any of your limbs casually dangle from beneath the bedclothes.
  9. Doors should be kept closed so they can't eerily swing open "in the breeze".
  10. When passing through doors, they should be flung violently open so you can tell if anything is behind them, including malicious and unsympathetic siblings.
  11. If you have to get up in the night to go to the loo, it's best to keep your eyes half shut.  Not only will this make it less likely that you'll see the ghostly floating ladies in the hall, it also means that your eyes will adjust faster when you turn off the toilet light when you're done so you'll avoid running headlong into a wall and stunning yourself.
  12. If possible, always be accompanied by an animal.  Cats will hiss at empty chairs that ghosts are sitting in. Dogs will bark at doors that ghosts are hiding behind.  Then they'll run away and leave you in the lurch, but at least you've been warned.  (Fish and birds are not so useful but if you're desperate...) 
  13. Finally, never accept a challenge to spend the night locked in the haunted room at the top of the belfry in the old MacGillicuddy place in the middle of the woods.  This one never came up actually, but it's best to be prepared.
Any tips from readers on how to avoid dire supernatural horrors?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Since I won't be sleeping for the next month I guess now is a good time to start studying

It's a dark and stormy night.  My Smaller Half was away for the evening.  An email arrived.  Ding!  Better read it.  Oh look, the medical student's society is hosting a free movie night to preview this exciting new film.  How wonderful.  Look, there's a link to the trailer.  Click! 

Oh.  OH!  It's a horror movie.  The worst sort of horror movie.  I can deal with people being chopped up by crazed red-headed stepchildren puppet zombies.  I can't deal with ghost films.  At all.  After I saw Sixth Sense I had to walk around my house with my back to the wall to make sure they weren't sneaking up behind me.  This movie looks really scary.

So I end up having the following email exchange with the sadistic official from the student club who sent out the notification and is clearly trying to ruin my life.

Jesus - I watched that trailer and it scared the shit out of me.  There's no way I'm watching the whole thing without a critical care unit and a psych referral.

Sadistic Official
Just thought I'd offer something different - a chilled evening for you and your loved ones away from study.
P.S. I was too freaked to watch the trailer.

If you too would like to incur years of expensive therapy, watch the trailer at this site:
The Hippety-Hoppity Bunny Goes To Morning Tea (trailer)

Monday, October 12, 2009


Had a prac today on how to place a urinary catheter.  For those unfamiliar with such devices, it's basically a tube which is inserted into the urethra and up to the bladder to help empty the bladder if the person can't empty it reliably themselves or if urinary output needs to be carefully monitored, for example if urine futures are booming on Wall St.

It seems heaps easier than I had envisaged, which no doubt means that it will be the bane of my life when I am an intern and can't get it right.  Of course, we were practising on models, and I don't mean clothes-horses.  I mean plastic and rubber simulacra of people's urinary bits.  In a way that actually made it harder since the models were fairly rigid and unyielding, whereas apparently real people are soft to the touch and altogether more squishy.

It's a strange experience, poking a rubber tube up someone's wazoo and feeding in more and more.  Especially on men.  Men have really long urethras.  I was starting to worry that I was going to run out of catheter, but I got there in the end.  I was also concerned when the urine did not start to flow, but apparently siphoning by mouth is right out.  They have little syringes for that.

The (disturbingly young looking) RMO who was instructing me in the fine art of catheter placement on the male station (I had already perfected the art of placing a catheter in females) almost made me laugh out loud.  I was waiting to take my turn so I got to watch the guy before me do it and figure out some dos and don'ts.  The RMO looked at me and said, "You're going to smash this aren't you?"  I'm pretty sure that he was being encouraging, but all I could think of was the idea of smashing the catheter in, which is not a good mental image at all.

Back in old days I suppose med students learned this stuff either by practising on each other, or by being unleashed on a ward full of demented old people.  Either way, I'm glad that we've moved on.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


So once more Australia is the laughing stock of the world.  To be more specific, I'm referring to the already infamous blackface sketch imitating the Jackson 5 on the Hey Hey It's Saturday reunion.

Lots has been written about it, which I won't reprise here.  However, here are my observations:
  1. Good on Harry Connick Jr for stating his objections up front.  That's hard to do and I admire someone who stands up for what they believe in.
  2. Even if HCJr did once imitate a black preacher (and I haven't seen it), that has no bearing on whether the HHIS sketch was racist. 
  3. Even if HCJr did once imitate a black preacher (and I haven't seen it), that was then - this is now.  Perhaps that was why he felt compelled to speak out - who knows?  There's a big difference between hypocrisy and someone changing their mind or opinions as time passes.  And even hypocrits are right 50% of the time.
  4. I think the sketch was racist.  However, it was the best sort of racism - the sort that is loud and public and initiates debate.  Silent racism is much worse - the type that gets emailed around as jokes or revealed only in selected company where people won't "take it the wrong way".  No one learns anything from that.
  5. "It really wasn't intended to be anything to do with racism at all" is not an apology - it's an excuse.  Try taking responsibility for something you twits.
Here's an experiment for you to try: go to and type in these words:

why are Australians so

and see what suggestions google has for what you're going to type in next. 

Think about it.  (Think think about it)


So Barack Obama won the Nobel Prize in the category of Peace.  That's pretty strange.  Much as I admire his achievements and find him personally likeable too, what has he actually done to deserve it?  Simply being 300% smarter than the previous guy in his job doesn't really cut the mustard as far as I'm concerned.  Effectively, he's been given the Nobel simply for doing his job competently.

Have we forgotten that he's the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military force ever to exist on this planet?  Maybe if he sent them all home to retrain as masseurs I think a Peace gong would be in order.  But "business as usual" isn't really the kind of citation that most of us were expecting of a Nobel laureate.

So who should have won?  According to one of my (as usual) anonymous commenters, me.  (Link.)

Sushi Golf - healing the world since 2009.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


The latest great injustice to be levied on me is that I (oh, and the other 3 trillion people in my year at uni) had to write a "portfolio" to submit to my school-allocated mentor, who will then read it, shake his head, then have a chat to me about it while trying to hide his amusement and/or disgust, and then we'll throw the whole thing in the bin until next year when we'll do it all over again.  Apparently it's for my own good.

The first thing that annoyed me about it was (as you have probably already guessed) that it's called a "portfolio".  To me, a portfolio is a collection of artistic works, like etchings or bad monologues (like this blog).  At a stretch you might call what I banged out tonight for uni artistic, but I don't think a single object can ever constitute a collection.  I suppose that if the object is truly unique it might just qualify, like, "Hey Jeff, have you seen my collection of the Holy Grail?  It's sweet as!" - but my portfolio is probably not a case of that calibre.

The second thing that annoyed me was that we had to write a thousand words.  There seemed to be a lot of grief around uni about that being a lot, but to me a thousand words is not much.  As you may gather from this blog I can spew this stuff out day after day with very little effort or frontal lobe activity whatsoever.  So tonight I got to 900 words before I'd even started to rant and rave properly.  It was quite hard to focus and not put lots of stupid jokes into my portfolio.

The one good thing about it was that I was able to rant and rave a bit.  Hard as it may be to believe, I do actually self-censor a fair bit in this blog.  I do try really hard not to write awful things about other people here because a) they might read it one day and hunt me down, and b) I am a child of a universe no less than the trees and stars, and it's bad karma to hang shit on people all the time.

The "portfolio", however, was a golden opportunity to unleash some of my pent-up hatred for various things that drive me wild from time to time.  Actually, it's really not that bad.  It's just that sometimes I get a little piqued by things because I am highly strung, like all artistes.  It was nice to be quite specific and precise about such moments and to then to mail it off to a complete stranger who is obligated to read it.  Maybe I should get a psychiatrist.  Or at least a biographer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dreams of greatness

Throughout history, great men of the arts and sciences have been inspired by their dreams.

Friedrich August KekulĂ© von Stradonitz dreamed of a snake biting its own tail and upon waking conceived of the structure of the benzene ring.  Robert Louis Stevenson imagined The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in a fevered dream.  Paul McCartney woke early in the morning with the melody for Yesterday fully formed in his head.  The Hindu goddess Namagiri would appear in the dreams of Srinivasa Ramanujan and reveal mathematical theorems to him by writing them in blood (yet never appeared as his co-author).

Last night I shared in this bounty.

I dreamed of a golf course where the players used sushi and lightly fried seafood instead of golf balls.  Wandering the course and interacting with the players were people dressed as members of the late French aristocracy.  For example, at the first hole you had to carefully chip some tuna from the floor up onto a plate on a table, where Marie Antoinette would delicately eat it.

I think this kind of thing has a lot of potential.  Who's interested?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A la recherche du feet perdu

This evening I was exhausted.  We had some seriously dull lectures today at uni.  I appreciate the time and effort that the busy doctors put in to prepare these classes... no wait, I don't, because they are incredibly dull.  One guy made me really angry because he kept peppering us with questions and then complaining when no-one answered them.  But his questions were either incomprehensible or totally ambiguous.  It was impossible to answer them!  Meanwhile he was swinging this big old stick around like a 19th century schoolmistress.  I didn't want to get involved so I shut down my cortex and couldn't wake it up again.

Anyway, that was completely tangential.  I was exhausted.  I knew that if I went to the gym I would feel better but I really just wanted to lie down and sleep.  Fortunately, years earlier I had had the great foresight to marry my Smaller Half who, amongst her many virtues (but by no means chiefly), is adept at getting me off my lazy arse and off to the gym.

I whined and moaned on the way there in order to secure a firm 30-minute cap on our attendence.  That went right out the window immediately on our arrival when the instructor from the punchy-kicky class came downstairs and started press-ganging people into doing it since only one person had volunteered. 

I actually haven't done the class since I wrote about it in July so I didn't have my Pirate Ninja costume on hand, which was tragic.  What was on hand was the stench from those gloves.  Both hands.  About 10 minutes in, when I and they were all warmed up, I started to notice the pong.  At first I thought it was the other guy in the class, but then I realized it was coming from my gloves.

Back in the old days when I was a penniless student in Brisbane with poor personal hygiene and a liking for vigorous exercise, I used to remove my shoes in my maths lectures as a practical joke.  My feet smelled so bad that my friends would hold their breath and give me dead-arms to force me to put my shoes back on.  Ever since I realized that it wasn't exactly a chick-puller to have feet like that I've been careful to change my socks weekly, so those days are long gone.  Until now.  Those boxing gloves I carelessly selected from the Big Box Of Tinea reeked.  REEKED.  It was like corked wine poured through an old sock into a durian that an orangutan had been getting up close and personal with last week.

I was so paranoid that somebody (not least my Smaller Half) would think that it was me that smelled that bad that I found myself walking around during the halftime break saying, "Boy these gloves stink!  Whoo!  No sir, not me - the gloves!  The gloves, I say!"  In hindsight I think I would have been better off just changing gloves rather than attempting to manage the PR issue.  Remember the autopsy scene in Silence Of The Lambs, where they put something like Tiger Balm under their nostrils?  Next time, I'm right there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Faded curtains

So did anybody else stuff up the start of daylight savings?  I always do, without fail.  This time I was lying in bed enjoying an extended snooze-in when the guy I was supposed to be meeting at noon for an afternoon of Sunday wargaming called and asked me where I was.  The best bit about daylight savings starting/ending is that moment when you make the transition from thinking "You're an idiot", to thinking "I'm an idiot".  It's like feeling the hemispheres of your brain swap places.

I like it so much that it's become kind of a tradition that I have no idea what's going on when it comes to dates and times.  Apparently it's a long weekend this weekend so I don't have to go to uni tomorrow.   I found this out on Thursday when one of my Esteemed Colleagues made a passing remark about how great it was going to be to have a four-day weekend.  "Ha ha ha", I said, "Er, what?"  Turns out we had Friday off and Monday too!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Product placement

I'm excited! 

Today while battling through the long-weekend crowds at the supermarket I found these corn holders:

We had ones like this when I was a kid.  You jam one into each end of an ear of corn and use them hold it when it's hot and buttery.  I wasn't much of a fan of corn when I was young but I liked using these things.  See how they look like tiny ears of corn?  How awesome is that?  And you can imagine how once they are in, they kind of look like little ear-shaped ears on the ear of corn.  It's ideas like this that made China the great nation it is today.

Sadly, I didn't have any corn in the fridge to show you them in action.  But you can use them for a lot more than just corn.  You can use them for apples:

You can use them for lemons:

You can use them for carrots:

You can use them for pieces of cheese if you don't slice it too thinly:

You can even use it for sticks of celery, with or without peanut butter:

Go out and buy some now.  Your life will never be the same.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Since I spend a lot of time gazing blankly out of windows, I find myself staring at plants a lot.  Staring at people just freaks them out, and plants are more diverse as well.  I like the way plants will grow just about anywhere, or at least try to.  Halfway up a cliff, there's a little sapling straining to stay upright.  There on the window sill of the 17th floor, it's a tuft of grass growing in the dust.

In a documentary I saw once about the rainforest the narrator said that the canopy is so thick that there isn't enough light getting through to ground level to allow any of the sapings to grow.  It's not until a big old tree dies and topples that the rest of the trees get a chance.  Whichever one gets the most light grows the fastest and eclipses the others, dooming them while it takes its place amongst the gods.

Desert plants used to baffle me.  Why oh why did they live in the desert where life is so tough?  And why would you grow on the rocky crest of a hill when you could grow in the valleys where the soil is richer and the water trickles down to you every morning?  Seems like plants were generally making some pretty poor life-choices.

It wasn't until much later that it occured to me that plants don't choose where they take root.  They get scattered as seeds and don't get much choice in where they land.  They just have to make do with their lot in life.  Some of them live in the desert and that's just the way it is.  They probably haven't even heard of the jungle.  And if you did move them there, even just for a holiday, they'd die.

Plants, huh?.  Maybe they're the smart ones.