Saturday, October 25, 2014

Enforced Frivolity




My academic advisor has confiscated my textbooks and readng materials for the weekend. I'm not sure he had any technical right to have done so, and if I really wanted to make a point, I could just study using my brother's books and materials, but I'm going along with it. Sometimes you can win a battle but lose a war, and that is the sort of thing I'm trying to avoid.

I called my mom to complain to her about the situation. She said that someone in a position to know obviously thinks I've studied enough for now, and the odds that there's some sort of conspiracy against me to allow others to catch or pass me are somewhere between slim and none. 

This weekend I was supposed to be traveling south to witness the birth of my Godchild, but that has been postponed, so unless the mother-to-be goes into labor early, I won't be going there until next Thursday afternoon. I've been told not to take any textbooks on the trip. I'll fudge a bit and take a couple, but I will not spend an inordinate amount of time studying.

Tomorrow two third-year students are taking me to the city to a couple of high level piano showrooms. I'll play Steinways and Bosendorfers, among other makes of piano. I have neither the means, the need, nor the intention of purchasing a new piano tomorrow, but the salespeople don't know that. I'll just play the pricy instruments for fun. Initially they'll be hesitant to allow me to touch their precious pianos, and they will inspect my hands for cleanliness before I'm allowed to touch said instruments, but once I play through sixteen bars of any given work, they'll relax and allow me my pick of the instruments in the showrooms. 

I may even try out a few violins if we make it to an upper-end violin store while we're in the city. Violin salessmen are even more finicky about allowing instruments to be played, as someone who didn't know what she was doing really could damage a violin. Furthermore, they won't allow me to tune the violins myself, and the salespeople seldom tune them precisely enough for  my sensitive ear, but c'est la vie. I'll have to make the best of their tuning jobs. Perhaps they'll at least get out electronic tuners, which are better than the insufficiently honed ears of the salespeople.

On Sunday someone else is taking me to see a movie. I have no idea what the movie will be. I don't really care. I have a tough time sitting through movies, but if I eat a lot of popcorn I'll be OK. Curiously enough, I can sit through live shows, and musicals in particular, just fine, but I don't enjoy watching movies in theaters. I'd much rather just wait until somthing comes out on DVD so that I can get up and walk outide if the movie scares, bores, or annoys me. Once I saw Cape Fear in a setting where I couldn't walk out, and I still have bad dreams about it. 

This entire setup makes me feel a bit like an unpopular child whose mother has to pay other children to play with her, but there's not a hell of a lot I can do about it. My academic advisor wields tremendous power over my future at the school. I'll just enjoy playing the outrageously expensive pianos and pretend that they actually belong to me. 

Perhaps I should suggest to my advisor that what really relieves my stress is test-driving incredibly expensive cars. With the way people drive in San Francisco, however, chances are that someone would crash into me, and insurance companies are capricious about assigning fault. Sometimes they've been known to determine a driver to be 25% to blame merely for being in the place where the collision occurred. It can be fought in court, but who has time for that? Still, it would be a hoot to test-drive a Ferrari.

They can take my textbooks and reading material away from me, but no one can keep me from dreaming about the content, which I will most certainly do whether I want to or not.  Have you ever had a really involved dream about white blood cells? You haven't actually lived until you've dreamed that your body is being overtaken by white blood cells. I suppose it comes with the territory of being the daughter of an oncologist and hematologist. It's embedded in my DNA.



Friday, October 24, 2014

TEN PLUS THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VENTURING OFF TO MEDICAL SCHOOL OR TO IN 'N OUT BURGER



Note: I'm writing this from the perspective of a medical school student, as that's what I am right now, but much of what I write pertains to those who are studying for or working at any career, however humble or highly esteemed. Many of you are further  in your educations or careers than I am. Please chime in with your own additions in the comments section. I'm interested in what you have to add.

There are actually a whole lot more than ten things you need to know before taking such a monumental step, but I don't have all night to write, nor do you have all night to read. Beyond that, I certainly don't know everything it is that either you or I need to know to in order succeed in medical school or even in working at In 'N Out Burger, so we'll condense this list to ten or so bullet points and call it good. The omitted items most likely will not either get you killed or thrown out of medical school or In 'N Out Burger. If I'm wrong and one of these things  does happen to you, I offer my sincerest apologies in advance, but that's the extent of what I offer. Don't even think about suing  me or having your survivors do so in the event that something I've neglected to mention results in your untimely death. I can offer my sincerest sympathy, but if you pursue any litigation, about the best you would ever do would be to get my cat in a settlement, and you'd have to fight my brother in court even to get the cat.

#1 No matter where you choose to live while in medical school or working at In 'N Out Burger, be sure that the place has a dishwasher. Even if you're forced to live in your car, get a dishwasher. Manufacturers still supposedly make those portable things that hook up to faucets and drain wherever you choose to drain them. They're not  as good as the real thing, but they're better than the continual fighting over the washing of dishes that wil be inevitable without a dishwasher. You don't want to waste your precious time either washing dishes by hand or arguing with your roommate (if you're unlucky enough to have one) about whose turn it is to do dishes. My twin brother and I would surely be divorced (or whatever it's called when a brother and sister formally dissolve their familial relationship) were it not for our dishwasher. We have a really powerful industrial washer that doesn't even require us to rinse the dishes before placing them in the washer, and they come out perfectly clean. Our dishwasher has an automatic garbage disposal built into it. My brother didn't believe it, so he stuck a frozen pizza [completely frozen; he didn't even bother to thaw the frozen pizza] on the top rack of the dishwasher, and put dishes on the bottom rack. Surely enough, the frozen pizza was completely obliterated and the dishes on the bottom rack were spotless.

#2 If you're really smart, try to act a little less intelligent than you are (or think you are) in class and elsewhere, at least around your peers. It's OK to allow your professors and advisors know that you're not a moron. Don't, however, do your best Arnold Horshak imitation by wildly waving your hand in the air a fraction of a second after a question has been asked without allowing anyone else a chance to respond. Save your brilliance for tests, where it really matters. Furthermore, keep in mind that some professors love the sound of their own voices far more than they appreciate class participation in lecture/discussions. Do, however, take copious notes in these professors' classes, and parrot back what they have said verbatim when it's time for tests. Such professors do not always give credit for paraphrasing, even if it's a perfect paraphrase of what they have said. Memorize key points. They're easy to discern, as the professor repeats them, often writes them, and praises anyone in class who parrots them.  You will be rewarded with stellar grades when others who know the material at least as well as you do are left with mediocre grades and wondering what they could possibly have done wrong. You probably won't have many professors of this ilk, but you're practically guaranteed one or two. I've already had one.

If you're not particularly cerebral, try to memorize a few apropos words or phrases that will allow you to appear more intelligent than you actually are. If you're only marginally qualified for admission to medical school -- perhaps you're what's known as a legacy admission, or maybe you did well in undergrad course work but just barely scraped by on your MCAT -- it is essential that you get into a good study group. No one in a good study group wants you [except for comic relief purposes if you happen to be really funny or for culinary purposes if you happen to be able to cook] included in the group if they must waste essential time explaining the very basics to you. Once you're in, however, you're in. If you can fake intelligence or at least a lack of total stupidity, even for a short time, you''ll probably be OK. Still, memorize a few profound phrases just as added insurance while you're honing your cooking skills or comedic flair. Watch House, M.D. for lines if you can't think of any on your own.

#3 Try to postpone serious dating for at least the first quarter, and especially don't date anyone in your study group in the first quarter. Chances are it won't last, and it may not end amicably.  One or the other of you may need to find a new study group. Unless you're the smarter of the two or can cook or are genuinely funny, you'll probably be the one who needs to move on. It's not as easy to get into a new study groups as it sounds. Keep your zipper zipped. Subscribe to Playboy or Penthouse if you must. Date someone from another cohort, perhaps, or better still, from another program. I've heard that pharmacology students make very good dating partners [who have easy access to prophylactics], and if it doesn't work out, you will not be voted out of your study group.

#4 Don't date the sons or daughters of professors in your program during your first year no matter how hot the son or daughter may be and no matter how much he or she may seem to desire you. There are fish in the sea who have no connection to those who directly control your destiny. If your hormones are going bat-shit crazy, find those unconnected hot people. Refer to sentences #6 and #7 of Point #3 if necessary.

#5 In regard to any sex life you may choose to have, use protection of the safest variety. Dual or triple methods would not be considered overkill. As prospective medical school students, you  should not require a diagram or other visual demonstration for the purpose of explaining the need for prophylactics. Still, I will leave you with two buzzwords, which will, I hope, serve as adequate buzzkill in the event that you are in an amorous situation and you do not have adequate protection on hand: 1) Herpes -- the gift that keeps on giving; 2) Conception! Consider that you are about as fertile as you'll ever be; do you really wish to derail your medical school career before you've done your first proctological exam (perhaps this is a poor exemplar; if anything would cause you to intentionally tank your medical career before it has even properly begun, it might be the possibility of your first proctological exam) because you cannot afford both medical school and supporting a new life? Furthermore, every child deserves to be wanted and eagery anticipated. Anything less is unfair to the child. End of sermon.

#6 Don't wear pink scrubs on official premises. When you're on duty in a hospital, you'll be expected to wear hospital-issue surgical scrubs, which, for the most part, do not come in pink. At labs and in class, however, your attire is more or less up to you. Pink scrubs are cute, and some of us look our very best in pink, but it's bothersome for our peers and for our superiors to take us seriously while we're dressed in pink scrubs. I own two pairs of them. I wear them to bed, to study in, and to walk the dog when she is visiting, but I wouldn't dream of showing up on school or hospital premises in them. Youthful-appearing females have a colossal strike against them in the field of medicine under optimal circumstances. Wearing pink scrubs only serves to increase the magnitude of the strike. Males who wear pink scrubs to class or to labs place themselves under an entirely different stigma, so it wouldn't be recommended that male medical students wear pink scrubs, either, even if they're availble in the right size.

#7 Choose your roommate(s) wisely. I had very little choice in my roommate. My parents purchased a three-bedroom condo (the third bedroom is for my parents when they visit or for friends of ours on the odd chance that they have time to visit when we actually also have the time for them to visit) partly as an investment and partly for my brother and me to share while we attend medical school since it worked out that we enrolled at the same medical school. It was my choice to share the condo with my brother or to find another place of residence at my own expense. With the cost of rentals in this area, it wasn't a difficult choice for me. My brother has even less in the way of financial resources than I do, so it was an even easier choice for him than it was for me. My brother and I have had sixteen years to learn to coexist peacefully before going away to our respective undergraduate colleges, plus an additional seven or eight months in utero to work things out. By now we've learned well enough to  coexist more or less peacefully, not that there's never the occasional disagreement. My brother has no issue with leaving dishes in a sink overnight. He'll do them eventually, but not necessarily on the night he uses them. This bothers me. I can initiate Armageddon over the dishes in the sink, or I can stick them in the dishwasher myself, which is what I choose to do. In return, I ask my brother to carry out the trash whenever it's full, which he does without complaining, at least in part because if I were ever assaulted at night on my way to the trash bin, there would be utter hell to pay when my parents learned of it.

Most roommates, however, do not have that luxury. A friend may seem like a compatible roommate until the person is actually occupying one's living quarters. Some say the solution to this is not to live with friends. What's the alternative? Living with perfect strangers or with mortal enemies? That seems hardly ideal. The best solution is to try to find a person whose lifestyle doesn't sharply contrast with own's own. Party animals aren't compatible with compulsive studiers. Neat freaks don't match well with slobs. 

Commercial services will try to help roommates make successful matches. The problem lying herein is that not everyone fills out questionnaires honestly, nor sees himself or herself as others do even if he or she endeavors to complete the questionnaire honestly. My proposed solution would be initially to sign the shortest-term contract possible, as in the length of one quarter if such a lease is available, and to tough it out for that quarter even if the match is made in hell. By midway through a quarter, a medical school student or an In 'N Out Burger employee should have met enough other students or employees that he or she should be able to make arrangements for a suitable roommate. 

One thing to keep in mind is that if a person has consistent difficulties with roommates, the problem may not lie entirely in the choice of roommates. Sometimes one must look in the mirror for both the cause and the solution. Additionally, with the sheer value of the loans most students  incur to finance medical school or other professional educations, adding just a bit more to the final total in order to afford one's own apartment without a roommate may be the most practical solution for a person who needs his or her space and values his or her privacy. It's difficult to put a price on one's sanity.

#8 If one has a roommate or roommates, do not bring in or take in a pet without mutual consent. Ideally, the pet should be adopted together even if it causes custody issues in the long run. If one roommate adopts a dog or brings it from home, and the dog then chews up another roommate's shoes or laptop, a conflict will arise. The dog owner may consider that the shoe or laptop owner should have kept his shoes or his laptop in his bedroom with the door closed. The roommate may consider that as a payer of rent, he has the right to leave his shoes in the hallway outside his door or his laptop on the coffee table in the common area. If the dog is community property, such an issue is moot. 

Further issues arise when a dog creates damage for which the property owner or property management company expects to be compensated. It would seem a no-brainer that the dog owner would bear the brunt of responsibility, but one would be surprised at the number of Judge Judy or Judge Alex (may his show rest in peace; I miss him more than words can express) cases where the dog owner denies responsibility for the damage, as though the roommate and not the dog peed all over the wall or the carpet. 

Furthermore, a typical dog needs more attention than a medical school student or even an In 'N Out Burger employee can usually provide.  I would have loved to have brought our family dog to medical school with me had my parents been willing to part with her, but it would not have been fair to her because of the outrageous hours away from the condo that my brother and I put in on a regular basis. Cats, hamsters, and goldfish make much more appropriate pets for medical school students, and even cats need most of a med school student's time and attention when he or she is home.

Likewise, be considerate and do not abuse the privilege of having overnight guests. The Golden Rule applies here.

#9 Always lock the door to your living quarters whether you are inside or outside of it, and always have your key on you. The more you break into your own residence because you've forgotten your key, the easier it is for someone else to break in.  University areas -- particular grad student resident areas -- are prime targets for theft as well as for violent crimes including rape. Crime can happen even with locked doors, but most criminals will move onto an easier-to-access residence if their initial target is securely locked. I'm fortunate enough to live in a gated community where we know our neighbors and look out for each other, but we still keep our doors locked and our alarm set. Fences can be scaled, and security personnel are not always as vigilant as they should be.

#10 Don't lend out your textbooks. You may never see them again unless you take the lendee to small claims court, and by the time your case comes to court, the quarter will be over and you will have received s much poorer grades than you would have if you'd had access to your textbooks. The person who is asking to borrow your textbook could have borrowed enough $$$ to purchase his or own textbook but perhaps chose not to, most likely because he or she is a habitual freeloader. Sometimes legitimate emergencies arise. Someone's textbooks may have been stolen. In such a case, accompany the victim to a copy center that doesn't pay close attention to the photocopying of copyrighted material, or help the person to scan pages into his or her computer, but DON'T LET YOUR TEXTBOOK OUT OF YOUR POSSESSION. The same applies to software. Even if the person is honest, whatever caused his or her text materials to disappear could cause the same thing to happen to yours. 

**BONUS ITEM** Budget for food. If your institute of higher education or In 'N Out Burger is in the same community where your parents live, this point is entirely academic. As long as you have sufficient gas to reach your parents' home, their pantry and refirgerator are your pantry and refrigerator, and their food is your food, and you need not worry about the source of your next meal. Unless your parents are eventually to be on a fixed income (and maybe even then, as some parents, including mine, would be   willing to starve themselves in order to see that their children eat well), this remains true as long as parents are alive and not living in nursing homes. Cruel as it may sound, many nursing homes and extended care facilities have been known to frown upon adult children showing up at odd hours to raid the institutions' refrigerators and pantries.

If, on the other hand, you attend school or work at an In 'N Out Burger further than two hours from your parents' home, this next point applies directly to you. However your money comes in  (quarterly for loans or the G.I. bill, monthly from your parents, yearly from scholarships, bi-weekly from employment, or otherwise), decide what portion of your income is to be devoted to food. Go to a decent grocery store  (not 7-11or its equivalent) and stock up on the staples you need that are non-perishable (rice, pasta, etc.).
Purchase the perishables that you are certain you will use before they expire. Look for good sales on fresh fruit and veggies, and supplement with frozen fruit or veggies, which are more expensive than the canned items, but also more nutritious and tastier as well. Exception: beans of various types. They can be used in many recipes and are much easier and quicker to use than dry beans.  Limit your purchases of convenience foods. They're more expensive than are the baisc staples that you use to prepare your own meals and are filled with artificial ingredients that are not particularly beneficial to your overall health, but having just a few on hand can be a good thing. 

You'll almost certainly need to devote a portion of your income to such things as toilet paper, facial tissues, cleaning supplies, personal care items, and so forth. As unfair as it seems, these items, which magically appeared when you lived with Mom and Dad, now come at a price to you even though you derive relatively little personal satisfaction either from the purchase or the use of them. It's one of the many sad realities of being an adult. 

Plan carefully for fast food expenditures, and try hard not to overspend your budget unless you're one of the lucky few among us who happens to be rolling in cash. There will be times when you'll want to have pizza or some other restaurant food with a study group or simply because you feel like having it. Budget for it so that you won't be using your rent money to pay for these special meals, and then come up short when the rent rolls around.

Occasionally you'll come across a peer who is legitimately hungry. The person may simply have budgeted poorly, or the person may be less fortunate financially than you are. Regardless, if you are in a position to offer assistance, do so. You don't have to  take the person out for a steak dinner if you cannot afford to do so, which most of us cannot,  but scramble a few eggs for the person, prepare oatmeal for him or her, make a hamburger if you have the ingredients on hand, or give the person something. Don't let one of your peers starve. It happens.They don't usually starve to death (although such has happened), but studnets and young workers do go hungry to the point of bona fide illness. It doesn't cost much to share a can of beans, a package of ramen noodles,  a frozen burrito heated up,  a few eggs, or a sandwich and a glass of milk. Your help will not be forgotten, and the person may someday be in a position to help you, although that's not the reason you're helping the person. How a person treats another person who is in no position to reciprocate is a true sign of character. If we plan to become doctors, lawyers, quality IN 'N Out Burger employees, or other professionals, character is something that we should strive to develop. 



This sing by Gordon Lightfoot speaks of the importance of being charitable to the degree that one can be.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Changes in Plans for Me and for Others



I was supposed to depart via charter flight for the central coast of California in order to be present for the birth of my Godchild. Alas, plans have changed, as they frequently do whre the births of babies are concerned. Jillian's blood oxygen levels have improved since she's been allowed out of bed. it had been anticipated that the increase in activity would place greater demands on her diminished oxygen supply, but the reverse has happened; increased activity has made it easier for her to breathe.

D-Day is now October 31, although there's no guarantee that the baby will wait until then. I've been told to  have my bags packed, which they already are, and to be ready to leave with five minutes' notice. If it's in the middle of the night, Jillian's brother Tim will call me and will pick me up five minutes later to drive to the airport. I'll probably travel in my pjs if the call comes after I'm in bed. Tim lives in the same complex as I do. If the call comes during the day, my suitcase will be in my car. I'm packing lightly anyway since I have clothing and toothbrushes at home. I could get by without packing anything. my brother has convinced me to leave my kitty at the condo. The guy who hates cats has fallen in love with mine.

If nothing happens between now and then, Timmy and I will leave Thursday at 3:30 p.m. I'll return on the following Wednesday. I can afford to miss four days of class, or so my advisor and professors say. I hope they're not playing a dirty trick on me so that others can catch up. We have no official class rankings for the first six quarters, but we all know what the unofficial rankings are. Two others (both Asians, one male and one female, not that anyone is keeping track of such things) are even with me. The three of us have decided that we're a coalition rather than a competition, and we try to impress the faculty by appearing to be helpful to our more struggling classmates. We actually are helpful to some degree, but not quite so helpful as we try to appear to be. It's a game, and a very cutthroat one at that, but there's still room to be benevolent. Furthermore, blood is thicker than water. I'll do anything to help Matthew.

One girl in our cohort packed up in the dead of night and left. Even her friends don't know exactly what the problem was. She had friends -- I don't know of anyone who actively disliked her --, and she wasn't failing miserably, although I believe she failed one exam. One girl who knew her better than most said she was somewhat accustomed to prom queen status, and no one around here cares much about such things. Also, the friend said she had taken the bare minimum of course requirements for premed admissions, so she may not have been totally accustomed to the academic demands of medical school, not to mention the time constraints.  If it's really not what she wants, I'm glad she figured it out before investing even more time and money in a medical education. I wish she had just been up front about it and said goodbye to everyone, but she may have been embarrassed to do so. In any event, I wish her well.  Everyone around here is acting as though she committed suicide. She didn't. She just chose to turn her life in a different direction. If she was able to get into medical school, she should have many other good options available to her.

Matthew and I are the youngest students in our cohort, but there is a second-year student in the program who is only six months older than we are.  I believe he's doing the five-year program, though, so we'll all graduate at the same time if he sricks with the extended program. Matthew has been encouraged to consider the five-year program because of his young age and because his entry qualifications weren't exactly blowing everyone else out of the water, but so far he's in the top half of the cohort (in the nonexistent rankings) so his advisor isn't bugging him about it quite so much. There's always time in future quarters to lighten his load and to take a longer path to get through the program, but there's no reason if he's passing with ease.

Anyway, my vacation has been delayed, but the important thing is that I will get the vacation. Delaying gratification isn't necessarily one of my favorite things, but I'm learning to live with ilie about.

P.S. So far, Judge Alex is wrong. No one has asked me out or even flirted with me. My behind-my-back nickname is "Jailbait" even though I'm just over a month away from 20.

Edited to correct my age. I lie about my age so frequently because I hate admiting how young I am (although my appearance does nothing to make my lies believable) that I sometimes forget my real age.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Brief Respite from the Daily Grind

This isn't what I'm likely to see in the delivery I'll witness, as the baby will be about six weeks early and is projected to weigh in at around five pounds at the time of  his birth.

This more closely resmbles what I am likely to observe.

Because I've done well on all the tests given thus far at my medical school and haven't yet missed a class session, and because the experience would be beneficial to my medical education, I have been granted permission from all my professors as well as from my dean to miss however many classes I must miss this week in order to be present for the surgical delivery of my pseudoant's child. If labor doesn't commence before Friday, the baby will be taken by c-section early Friday morning. Pseudoaunt's brother is being transported by charter flight to the city where the baby will be born. I'll tag along. 

If labor begins but progresses mildly with no distress to either the mother or the baby, the surgical team will hold off until we arrive before beginning the surgery. They don't actually care whether or not I make it on time, but pseudoaunt would like for her brother to be there when her baby is born.

My only requirement is that I write up a brief synopsis  -- more or less what the actual surgeon would dictate for the chart and for the insurance carrier. I can do that in five minutes. My only requirement as far as the medical team is concerned is that I stay out of the way and keep my mouth shut. If the baby is born in one of the surgical suites with a viewing area from above overlooking it, I'll be up there, as I do not need to take up space in the O.R. if I can observe from a distance.

Pseudoaunt's brother has time off for something like nine days, so I'll have to find alternative transportation back, but my mom said she will drive me.  I would like to take my kitty with me, but my brother says she should stay because she's not all that used to us yet, and transporting her to another home wwould confuse her. He just wants the cat there with him. His rationale is entirely bullshit. Regardless, I'll probably let him keep the kitty there with him.

   Whether the baby is born tomorrow morning or Friday morning, I'll return on Sunday. I haven't been home since August, but I'm not exactly dying to get there. I have the same W model of Westin bed in the condo that I have at home. My surroundings at the condo are quite comfortable. I'll bring textbooks with me, so I'll study regardless of where I am. I just want to see the baby. I'm not overly eager to see his birth; that's just my rationale for being allowed to leave. I just want to see the baby.

   I am to be his Godmother. I've never been a Godparent before. I'm not sure when his parents will have him baptized, but I'll have to be present for the ceremony.

   Incidentally, I scored 100% on my GI block exam. It helps that I've had almost everything possible go wrong with my own GI block at one time or another, which gave me considerable prior knowledge. My brother scored 90%, which was in the top third of the class, not that anyone is keeping track, as we have no official class rankings until 5th quarter.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'm a fungus; you're a protozoa: 1st-quarter med school and studying

Beware the nannycam, which may be found in the moost innocuous of places.


I have a major exam this week. It's my GI block exam. I wouldn't say that I'm confident going into the exam, but I'm freaking out less than many of those around me. I've been overstudying -- certainly not in all courses, but in the tough ones at least -- since high school, so it's not a new concept to me. I've long since  mastered what some of my peers are just now starting to learn.

Because I don't actually have anything resembling a social life, I've taken up babysitting two nights a week. It doesn't go too late, as it's always either for a neighbor, professor, resident, or fellow med student. None of these people retain party animal status if they ever had it. I  only babysit Monday through Thursday, and I accept the first two jobs that are offered. I don't take money. The professors have a hard time with this, as they desire my services because I'm good, not because i'm free, but every time one of them insists on giving me money, I drop a receipt in the mail to show them they've donated it. They need the tax write-off for charitable contributions more than I do. I tell them just to make sure there is good food for me to eat, or, in one case, good juice for me to drink.

Last week when I was babysitting, my brother and his study group wanted to come over to the professor's house where I was sitting so that I could study with them. It was nice  that they wanted me even if only for my brain and not for my sparkling personality. They've figured out that I have a knack for predicting what will be on exams.  Regardless, I could not let them into anyone's house without permission from the owners even if the children were already asleep, and I would not bother the couple on their night out to seek permission. I compromised and skyped with them for forty-five minutes since the children didn't need anything except someone to listen in and ensure that they were OK. One reason I'm a highly-sought-after sitter  (my main attraction for med students and residents is that I don't charge, but that's not an issue for professors) is that I do everything by the book and don't break any rules.  Children are probably safer with me than they are with their own parents.

I've found that doctors have bizarre quirks when it comes to their children. One doctor won't let his children eat anything while thep parents are not home. They can drink, but he's paranoid about choking. He has his wife feed the kids dinner before they leave, and then tells everyone that no one is to eat. He doesn't even want me eating. The wife leaves all sorts of things for the children and me to drink, but no one eats anything. One time the older child got really hungry. I gave her milk because that was the best I could do for her. When her parents got home, she immediately got out of bed and begged for food, which they let her have because they were home. The child is in half-day kindergarten this year, but  she'll go to all-day school next year unless they decide to homeschool. I wonder how they will cope with the idea of their child eating solid food out of their presence. Perhaps they'll send her to school with an all-liquid lunch.

A resident doctor for whom I babysat would't allow me to use any heat source in her absence. She had dinner prepared for me and for the two-year-old when I got there, but told me not to heat up anything for the child or even for myself while she was gone. She wouldn't even allow me to use the microwave in her absence. She popped my popcorn for me before se left. She had plenty of snacks that didn't need heating, but absolutely nothing could be heated. I'm not sure if she thought the child or I might get burned, or if she was worried that I would, in my incompetence, torch the place.

This one's slightly less weird, but the wife of another doctor put butcher paper over windows where the blinds don't quite meet the edges of the windows in the living room and kitchen  so that no prospective intruder would peek through any cracks and see that the child was alone with a teenaged babysitter. They live in a gated community in an otherwise nice neighborhood, and their house is alarmed. They say they've never had an intruder before. I suppose they're just paranoid. The professor offered to pay my brother if he would come with me. If I sit for them again, I'll ask Matthew if he wants to come along and make a few bucks by being a bodyguard while he studies. They have really good food for sitters, so Matthew will probably accept. I think it's a bit of overkill, but to each his own.

I operate under the assumption that every house in which I sit has a nanny cam and conduct myself accordingly. So far I've been asked back at pretty much every place I've sat (again, it's a slightly low threshold since I charge nothing), so they must not be unhappy with what they've seen in their nanny cams. One mother wanted to fire her child's piano teacher and hire me to teach the child. I have a degree in piano performance, but I had to draw the line no matter who the lady's husband is. I can part with a few hours a week for babysitting but I cannot cammit to a regular weekly  piano-teaching gig. If I needed the money, I might feel different, but I don't need the money.

One of my professors offered me a 4-week paying gig for next summer. It doesn't pay all that well, but it's job experience that i could probably use.  He works for one month as a summer camp physician, and he's allowed to bring his own assistant. the camp is on the east coast. The camp will pay for my flights. I'll  ave a private room when I'm not on call overnight with sick campers. The main benfit is the "job experience" and the future reference that I'll be able to use. Face it: the job itself sucks, but one must suck certain things up in order to ensure a secure future. It's in June.. I'll have three weeks off before and seven weeks afterward, so I'll have sufficient time to be a vegetable. My primary reservation to accepting the position is that, because it's in a summer camp setting, the kids will probably be forced to sing that godawful song about "I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills, boom de ada," etc.  I hate that song with a vengeance,. Just thinking about it practically causes me to break out in hives.

the world's worst camp song



Monday, October 6, 2014

I Dream of Mitt

                                                                           
In this picture, Mitt looks psychotic enough to actually perpetrate the actions that took place in my dream.

I went to sleep at 11:15 last night, which is unusually early for me. Unfortunately, a long night of sleep was not to be. I woke up a few minutes ago from a strange dream about Mitt Romney. In the dreaam, Mitt came to my medical school for some undisclosed reason. He ended up holding the entire cohort of Quarter 1 students hostage with a syringe full of what he said was blood saturated with the ebola virus.

Mitt told the students that he could inject everyone, or that the group could select a single candidate to be the recipient of the entire syringe full of ebola-contaminated blood. Anyone who has read more than one or two of my blogs is very likely aware of my rather intense persecution complex. Of course my classmates unanimously elected me to be injected with the ebola-drenched blood in my dream.

I was not going to be Mitt's willing victim, however, and a chase ensued, initially between just mitt and me, but eventually involving the entire cohort. I hid inside a refrigerated drawer in the anatomy lab, keeping thee drawer open just enough so that i wouldn't suffocate. it was my hope that mitt wouldn't notice that the drawer was open ever so slightly. He didn't notice at first. He opened numerous drawers in the lab, revealing numerous cadavers, i could see him through the opening as he knjected each cadaver he saw.

I couldn't deduce why he was injecting bodies that were already dead, but eventually it occurred to me that whern Mitt finally found and injected me, the syringe would not only contain the ebola virus but the germs of almost every cadaver in the lab. I knew I must act.

When Mitt stepped near a walk-in freezer opening, I sprang from my drawer, opened the walk-in freezer door, and pushed Mitt inside. He couldn't get out. Then my classmates  found me in the anatomy lab. I smiled at them and asked that someone call the authorities. My classmates had no interest in doing so. They wanted to deliver me to Mitt.

I tried to explain to the dullards that Mitt was no longer a threat, and that their earlier vote to sacrifice me for their own well being was moot since Mitt was, in essence, captured, but no one saw any logic in their reasoning.  Another chase pursued. I locked myself into an empty office and was in the process of  climbing out an upstairs window into a tree when I woke up. At least i wasn't acting out my dream this time and did not wake up to find myself actually crawling out a window of the condominium.

I tried going back to sleep, but any additional sleep beyond the two-and-one-half hours I already got seems to be a lost cause.  At least my cat was kind enough to ask to be let out of my brother's room, where she has taken to spending her nights, so that I do not have to sit out  the remainder of this night alone.

He doesn't look all that stable in this pic, either.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Are we alone in the universe? Probably not.



It seems to me that most of the people I've ever known ior have seen or heard on TV who claim to have witnessed extraterrestrial visitations to the Earth are not on exactly the same wavelength as most of the rest of us. A relative of a relative of a relative is heavily involved in the organization MUFON, which stands for "Mutual UFO Network."  The guy who shares mutual familial links with me is highly educated and intelligent, but he's not a person with whom I have enough commonality for the two of us even to carry on a comfortable five-minute conversation or to share a cab without awkwardness. I've only gotten his take on the matter third-hand, but the word is that  he seriously believes that the aliens are among us everywhere, posing as Earthlings until they're poised to make a move.

My skepticism concerning most UFO sightings notwithstanding, I  doubt that we, the occupants of Earth, are the only planet-inhabiting beings in the universe.  I have nothing on which to base my suspicions other than conventional logic. With all the uncharted galaxies out there, what are the sheer odds of Earth being the only significantly life-supporting planet?

As to the nature of the inhabitants of other planets, I haven't a clue. If we're all created by the same God, chances are that we would be somewhat similar, but if we're created by different forces. who knows what the beings might be like?  The fact that they apparently  haven't shown up and made their presence clearly known and haven't yet conquered us would lend credence to the idea that they're not leaps and bounds beyond us, but that, too, is highly speculative. Maybe they've seen the disgusting mess we've made of our planet and want no part of us. Then again, perhaps they're just waiting for a time we're distracted -- Super Bowl Sunday or World War III, maybe -- to pounce upon us and claim our planet as their own and to turn us into prisoners or slaves. Or maybe a few of these other ciclizations are so busy fighting it out between eaach other that they haven't even noticed earth yet.

Even if we're all created by the same God, perhaps there are noticeable differences. Maybe we Earthlings are not as perfect in design as we think. We might possibly have been one of God's earlier experimentations. Mormons have backed away from it, but they used to teach, "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become."  Before Gordon W. Hinckley uttered his famous "I don't know that we teach that" disclaimer about the previously quoted tenet in a nationally televised interview, I believe the oft-quoted maxim was essentially considered doctrine. 

One of my LDS uncles by marriage who is an MD (not Uncle Michael; he's my biological uncle, but he's also much lower-key about his religion than are the other practicing Mormons in the family) used to say that if he ever achieved godhood, he was going to place the nose above the mouth of the bodies he created so that people were less likely to have food fall back into their tracheas and consequently choke. It's conceivable, however unlikely,  that God could have thought of the same thing as my uncle, and a younger planet might be populated by a horde of beings with their mouths right in the middles of their faces. Leave it to one of my relatives to think he has a better plan for how to make people than God does. 


If such is the case and there is another planet filled with people whose mouths are above their noses, I hope they don't invade Earth.  I can't imagine the nightmares I would have after seeing them. I'm not much of an artist, but just for the hell of it, I drew the most realistic face I could render with its nose below its mouth. I really should have left well enough alone, as I'm having trouble getting the image out of my head. I wish I had never drawn it. I'm afraid to google the concept because a more realistic portrayal might genuinely traumatize me. Who knows if the more evolved species' eyes would even retain the same location as they occupy in humans as we know them to be, although it would seem that having the eyes located near the highest point of a body would be a survival advantage? Perhaps God figured this out as well and eliminated foreheads for the inhabitants of one of his later planet projects. I'm giving myself a serious case of the willies.

Will we find them first, or will they find us first? Conventioal logic would dictate that the more advanced civilzation will travel to  discover the less advanced populace. What are the chances of the inhabitants of Earth being the most advanced cilizartion anywhere? Not all that great, the answer would seem to be. I suppose we can hope that there are other more exciting planets far closer to the most advanced civilzations, so that we can escape notice for now.

If the inhabitants of another planet present themselves here, I'm not at all optimistic about the outcome. We have so much difficulty getting along with each other as it is even with just one species running things here. How could we possibly get along with extraterrestrial visitors even if they didn't have their faces all  screwed up by a God who thought as my uncle does and decided to make improvements upon the human face?  The only consolation for me is that I'm not going to live forever. I can always hope that no one shows up from some exotic location in the universe until I've made my final exit.


Why would I even automatically assume that extraterrestrials would have two eyes?