Friday, March 31, 2006

August 18th

I am approximately 60 days from graduation. My class at South Side of Town College ends late in April, with the final in the first week of May, and graduation at North Side of Town College is right around my birthday, the first week of June.

It's a bittersweet thing. It will be great to have gone through my self-described big, transformative year, especially if my GPA looks good. (Which it will, because I'm focused and capable now in ways I wasn't in undergrad.) It will be double-plus-great to be back in a "normal" relationship with Teslagrl, without the pesky distance. But it'll be sad, too. I'll miss my classmates, and certain of the undergrads I've bonded with.

Plus, I'll need to get on that GRE thing, and keep up with the application process I'll be starting even before I'm done here. It's going to be a whole new kind of tough, high-stakes mission. More on the line than ever before; less time to get it all to work out; closer to what I'll be doing for the rest of my life. Heavy stuff.

But it'll all be okay, because mid-August, Snakes On A Plane is coming out. I will make sure that I'm not supposed to be working that night; I'll clear my calendar of all else. I and everyone I know (or at least those who recognize the purity and joy surrounding this movie's release) will be in a cineplex, watching Samuel L. Jackson taser a snake in the face.

It doesn't have to be a good movie. It's already perfect. It's snakes, on a plane. You dig?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Overlooked and Under-Appreciated

No, I'm not referring to myself. I get a fair bit of appreciation from my peers and professors, actually. Sure, it's rarely of the simple eyebrows-up, dude, I'm impressed variety; what I get is more frequently of the head-shaking, I'm being understanding of your specialness right now variety; or the you sure have guts, kid, but why do you have to make it so tough on yourself? variety.

...And of course, to the latter I can only respond with a shrug and a look that says, because I'm a good cop, dammit, and this city has seen enough compromise! Now are you going to take away my badge, or should I get back to doing my job? And then, after a tense five-second staring contest, I stride back out into the squadroom while the Chief slumps in his chair and knocks back a slug of Pepto-Bismol. Maybe he yells after me about how someday (I'm) going to stick my neck out so far not even (he) can stop the axe, and maybe not.

No, wait. Was that me? Hm. Anyway, I'm not under-appreciated, really. But at least 100 movies are. The Online Film Critics' Society has compiled a list; these are, one is given to understand, the Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990's.

Thanks to Girl D for making me aware of this -- I learned the phrase "Cheese Sandwich Blog" from Diablo C earlier today, and if there's a phrase or a vocab word for I read this on someone else's blog and thought it was so cool I just nakedly stole it to recycle for my own purposes, then this would be a shining example of that.

(If there isn't already a word, I'd like to nominate "yoink!," for reasons that are obvious to Simpsons fans.)

Things that impress me about this list include, of course, how many of the 100 I have seen (31, which I assume to mean I'm approximately 31% cooler than the hypothetical person or people who could have made it through the 90's easily without seeing any of these films). Also the fact that it includes movies I've championed in movie-nerd discussions before. If the Interweb is for nothing else, it's for hollow validation from random strangers! Plus, the vast majority of the list is films I have been intending to see for... well, I guess the aughts are over half done with, so six to 16 years, with a median of 11. (Yeah, I took Stats and liked it.)

I know you're dying to know some of my faves when it comes to movies. I'm technically a playwright (in much the same way people are "technically a virgin"). You're especially dying to know if you've ever asked me, and received that weaselly answer of mine, which requires a genre or a time period to even get close and -- okay, nobody really cares that much. Suffice to say, the OFCS gets my appreciation for including, among others, such films as...

16) That Thing You Do
18) Sneakers
19) Zero Effect
21) Truly, Madly, Deeply
32) Defending Your Life
34) Bringing Out the Dead
39) Beautiful Girls
42) Richard III
45) My Neighbor Totoro
59) Joe Versus the Volcano
63) Croupier
74) Flirting With Disaster

Whoa. And that's just the ones I was really excited about. Who wants to argue? Who wants to agree? Who's got something that shoulda been on that list?

I Saw Dead People

The exhibition was coolio, as anticipated. Plus the bus was cushy and coachy. More on that whole deal later, when I'm not talking about movies again.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The poop on poop

Some days, I'm a little bewildered. I wonder if I'm actually making the most of this singular year of transformative coolness, squeezing all the juice from my borrowed return to college. And then there are days like today.

I just got out of a 90-minute lecture on the lower parts of the digestive system; we basically talked about poop the whole time. People with nursing, rad tech, and ER experience pretended to contribute relevant information while actually one-upping one another in the grossness contest. It was awesome.

Plus, there's a class trip to NYC on Sunday, to see the Bodies exhibition at South Street Seaport. Cool: I'll see dead people. Not cool: getting up at 5:30am on Sunday in order to make a 7:45 departure on a three-hour bus tour. But still.

It's a med-nerd extravaganza ovah heah!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I feel your pain

Over at Ah, Yes, the Fake Doc continues to impress me with a possibly-still-kinda-drunk post about interviewing "standardized patients." These are, in a nutshell, actors hired to play the part of patients, so medical trainees can hone their skillz with history-taking and exams (although not even the med schools that are literally off-Broadway actually have the students do much by way of examining; the actor/patient gets a little card with various results and outcomes listed). I had enough to say in response that I'm copying myself here.

1) I just read something in (an admittedly last-year-ish) JAMA about how lame standardized patient "encounters" are. I think the jist of it was, "wow, these suck, but I guess they're slightly above totally useless." I'm paraphrasing.

2) Speaking as a dude with a Theatre Arts degree, who is now heading into the medical-education meat grinder, my first day with a standardized patient is going to be the BEST DAY EVER.

Pt: "I, um, have this chest pain. It feels like--"

Me: "Bullshit. I didn't believe that for a second. What objective are you supposed to be playing? Are you trying to bring that weak-ass Uta Hagen crap in here? Are you? Huh? Oh, does this bother you? Criticism of your lousy technique? You want to cry? Yeah? Well, imagine that irritation you're feeling toward me is coming from your chest... Okay. Now do it again."

Ahhh, I miss undergrad sometimes.

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable

Here's what I've been on about lately. Watch; learn; discover; discuss.

Microbiology is cool. My girlfriend is, of course, just the coolest. But watching Dave Letterman complimenting my bud Diablo on her "entertaining... informative... insighful... very funny" book is this week's whole new brand of cool. It'll bend your brain to see it: holy crap, there's someone I know on Letterman. And as a real guest, too, not for some bullshit "random guest" reason like because she built a ten-foot lunar Lander out of cardboard tampon applicators. Which she totally would, under the right circumstances.

I guess one reason this subject gets me so jazzed is that, now that I'm on my path to a real, grown-up life, I can hope for a certain brand of coolness and satisfaction, maybe even a careful and respectful kind of celebrity. But if I'm to ever become a rock star, it'll have to be within a context that I don't get to choose. It'll be with modifiers and specificity, or else it'll be utterly underground. Which is actually sort of bitchin', but still. As I recall, Dave trotted out the team who took care of him during his bypass operation. That was awesome. But he didn't banter a whole lot with them, and I don't think they spoke at any length.

Note please: I'm not feeling regretful here. Nor am I suggesting regular folks like me can't achieve. One of my oldest and dearest friends spent a year writing for A Prairie Home Companion. I myself spent a season with the coolest acting company in a town full of great theatres, and I road-tripped to see one of my own little one-acts performed in a festival. I know no fewer than four people who write better screenplays than 80% of what's in cinemas now. It's just that, y'know, I have massive loan debt and the best job in the world out there, someplace ahead... on something of a rigid, circumscribed road. It's great, only now I really, really can't chuck it all and join the circus. (Well, in fact, I just did that last summer, so what I mean is, I can't do it again.)

So if I'm a little ebullient, a wee bit pumped up about the latest and, we shall see, perhaps biggest of these successes-by-association, maybe there's an element of melancholy too. Let's say I write essays like Atul Gawande, only snarkier. Or I join up with some damn medical drama on TV for a while. Would I have patients who would think it's cool, and not inappropriate, if some little part of their story gets woven into fiction? Would I ever have patients again?

'Course, there's always the pseudonymous blogger-turned "real" writer thing. I hear that can work, sometimes. I'd just have to stick to magazine interviews with no photos. Hey, Scrubs: call me! (Hey, Grey's Anatomy: DON'T call me!)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Heal myself? Ha!

Yes, it's usually a bad idea, but it was so obvious in this case that I have self-diagnosed: I've got me some of that March Madness.

Why, Syracuse, why?

While I'm at it, I've diagnosed my iPod, as well. It's true, there's nothing like a good history to explain symptoms that would otherwise be mysterious and vague. But the presentation is exactly the same as it was the last time the Pod crapped out on me, except this time I'm armed with the knowledge of what the problem was last time.

Funny story about that. My Pod had been a champ, a faithful companion... until last fall a month or two past the warranty date. Then it started skipping in much the way a CD player with a dirty laser lens would. This developed into an amusing game where it would play the first few seconds of a song, then flip ahead to the next. The end stage of this malady was just flipping through songs without actually playing any of them. I'd watch the display and wonder if the ectoplasm of a disapproving ghost was hitting "next" and growing more frustrated at my lame taste in music.

I wondered if the copy-protection cops were on to me -- had I downloaded files that self-destructed? But no, stuff from my own CDs did the same. I fretted about file types. I tried converting, only to find that some files would rewrite fine and others would crap out partway through. I wiped the whole thing (nooooo!) and re-imported from CDs... in Apple Lossless format. Which was fine, since instead of 2200 songs, now I had 140, and room to spare.

I took the thing to Albany, and since they were unable to get the Pod to "mount" just as I had been unable to at home, they couldn't apply their magic touch to it. Then upon questioning, they admitted their idea of magic was the same iPod updater program I already had. They suggested I buy a new Pod. Some "geniuses." Their bag of tricks wouldn't hold so much as one of the crack rocks they was smokin', I thought to myself, as I stalked out of the store.

But then I went home for break, and added a little more ammo to my "New York is cool and all, but Albany/Troy is basically Dubuque" attitude. A guy at one of the stores in the Minneapolis area listened to the useless spinning of the hard drive, observed the freaky-deaky display behavior, and took the Pod to the back. He came out with the thing working perfectly, explaining that there's a cable that sometimes comes loose; without the connection to its own hard drive, the Pod can't make anything work.

So now, I'm convinced that carrying the Pod back and forth to the car, etc. in New England winter conditions has caused the connector to expand and contract to the point where now, it's out again. And here's your O. Henryish twist to the story: back in Albany last week, to pick up the woman* at the airport, I signed in, sauntered up to the Genius Bar when it was my turn, and helpfully suggested that they go in the back and open 'er up. I said that if they did, they could expect to find a loose cable connector. They shocked me by reporting -- are you ready for this?

"Oh. No, we don't open them up. We can't, actually. Against company policy."

So, to the crazy Genius somewhere in the TC metro area who made things so right: you, sir, are not the one who's out of order. They're out of order. The whole damn system is out of order!

And now I just need to find out if Albany is merely genius-free, lacking in some core skills no matter what the name tags say, or actually FOS. (That's a medical term.)

* who is totally awesome

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


From Teslagrl:

"I think you have more posts referencing (Diablo) than me, the gf. I think you must rectify!"

Too right. But when you're working on becoming a medical person and can't really talk too much about the interesting and amusing episodes which comprise that process, then you go for more of the pop culture stuff the readers can get a little more involved with (hi, reader/s!). I mean, here's a partial list of cool stuff I can't really get into:

I can't describe patient encounters. At least not until some more time passes, and the details get better-obscured by simply not mentioning when they took place.

I live, and shadow, in a small town. Sure, I tend to scramble the identifying details when I talk about patients, but I can't do it right until I've seen hundreds of people who fit every one of the phenotypes I might describe. In trying to protect the identity of the burly dairy farmer, I might wind up describing the bratty teenager instead, and if they're both among the last 400 people I saw, then so what if the story as told has them switching maladies (or dialogue)? Nope, better to say nothing about anyone. Sorry. It'll have to come down years later as "oh yeah, this one time, I saw somebody who..."

I can't talk in too much detail about school. There are of course the frustrations and triumphs of any situation where you're locked into a path (maybe a little less locked in, in my case, but still) which lasts a year and involves a core of 12 people. Again, these stories will be great, eventually. For now I need to do this thing. Plus the process of writing my essays and think "competitively" has me paranoid enough to believe that musings and clever turns of phrase out here in piecemeal form could be picked up by another kid headed where I am. I want this blog to be of use to people in the future... just not too much use, and not in my app cycle.

I probably should make at least a weak attempt at anonymity. I have nothing to hide, and in fact I plan to follow in the footsteps of good medical writers. But again, for now, while I'm preparing to be evaluated and scrutinized, as well as having to just function well, it seems smart to compartmentalize the writing and the schooling. I promise I'll wear a t-shirt reading 'Febrifuge' once I'm safely in school. I'll wear it on the day I lead a tour for prospective newbies, or if I'm giving an inservice at my hospital to students. Someday I might gain the underground celebrity I'd be so good at. But for now, to paraphrase Douglas Adams: hey, I'm just this guy, you know?

So, I'll talk about my experiences with the process of school and applications. I'll talk about issues in medicine, like all the other med-bloggers. I'll talk about stuff I've seen and heard when it's safe. I'll talk about movies, music, books, the Web. And also, more about T-girl and our adventures, sure. Though I bet she wants some editorial control...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Critical Care

You know what's weird? When you read a book written by someone you know.

And no, it's not because of the naughty language and the adult situations. Shee-oot, I knew about all that from the first time I met Jon and Diablo, the skinny white Oprah, queen of all media. Heck, we've had lengthy discussions at our little suburban All-Drunken Round Table about deviant sex among Muppets, and cutting out half the White Album. We've drawn some cartoons on napkins that on reflection I really hope we did not leave behind. No, it's weird because for a long time it was a project, the kind of thing you ask about, and then on Xmas morning the thing's a damn book.

But you know what's weirder? Trying to be a critic, and explain in writing why you liked it so much. And consequently having to admit that you're essentially biased as all hell. So I'm going to wuss out on my intended 250-word review, and just summarize: books ain't blogs; this is a fine example of an important evolutionary step; it's a damn fine read; and as always, Diablo rules. There just happens to be a small dead-tree corner of the ruleage now, and yay for that.

That's the short version. If you're looking for the short version, off with you, then. The rest is expansion.

A couple weeks ago, I was procrastinating some work by doing some other work: I was attempting to write clearly about "Candy Girl," hoping to provide something more substantial to my karaoke bud than just props and congrats. I mean, I do fully intend to drink the booze and fall off the stripper pole in the refurbished basement of the Cody-Cave, once I return home this summer. I wanted to give back, y'know? Anyway, my housemate the poet surprised me when he said he does that too; it's good writing practice to play critic. I'll have to keep doing it, but I'm recusing myself from this one. It just can't come together, because I'm not objective. However, I got some nice little runs bult up there, and I'm loath to just trash them. So here are a few of the better crit-niblets for ya:

...a book is simply not a blog. I'd take that idea farther, and say that both the strengths and weaknesses of Cody's book derive from this fresh stylistic angle; events that are most vivid and engaging in the book are those that are related in the loose, chatty, candid, snarky, insightful manner that is her key strength in the blog. Her writing persona is juvenile, horny, and hopes to shock -- adolescent, in a word -- but it's also quietly wise and disarmingly insightful.

(...blah blah literati, coffee, deep chairs, retail, yadda yadda, selling not books or writing but the experience of reading...)

...but the blogger's advantage turns against her at times. Being unwilling to submit to the traditional book-to-reader dynamic, with its implications of authority and passivity -- or hoping to rise above it -- can backfire. When things in this particular blog-turned-book don't work, it's largely because the same looseness and immediacy that gives Diablo's blog its chatty intimacy can defy or undermine a compelling narrative sweep, and in the place we're trained to expect a narrator to be, we find there's more or less a reporter instead.

Then again, we play along far too willingly with memiors that are surely edited with the ruthlessness and artifice of season's worth of reality TV. So good on Cody for just telling her damn story, and risking a titillating topic becoming a day job. Good on her for doing this project for her own reasons, and not just to entertain or elicit some response from us. That's quite possibly the point, anyway.

Yeah, well, so I'm no NYT Sunday Magazine. But I'm ready to adopt the proper Pussketeer attitude and declare reviews of "the book" to be, like, so February already. So now that we're all Codyfied, I'll end here. Back to medical crap soon, most likely.

IN: Email exchanges with DC, which lead to a picture of Hobbes peeing on something, for a change

OUT: lurking at MNspeak, feeling pride because you ain't made it 'til you have haters

FIVE MINUTES AGO: mentioning casually that "...oh yeah? Cool. I know that author. So what did your internship boss at the publisher think of it?"

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Go. Read. Enjoy. This is the blog of my Friday night homie and sometime Everly Brother, Jon Hunt.

Jon talks more than I do, which is fine because he's smarter and has more to say. Me, I'm just killin' time here, between Genetics and Microbiology. I have very few stories that would earn strong response from anyone, and most of the time I need to keep those to myself anyhow.

Jon's one of those guys that makes guys like me feel better, because one, it must be possible after all to make it all hang together; two, the crap we go through can eventually lead to very good places; and C, I guess maybe we're not so unalike as we've sometimes been lead to believe.

This place is about what it's like to chuck your cubicle job and go back to school; it's about what it's like to gradually become a medical person, while hoping to retain a shred of coolness and personality. Jon, by my reckoning anyhow, is largely about not having to do that. His cool side stays cool and his hot side stays hot, without a lot of outwardly visible effort. I guess his blog might be about that too; time will tell.