Friday, December 26, 2014

The Usual Post-Christmas Blahs

Take a good look. You will not see many more "tinsel teeth" pictures of me. Actually, I don't think I have the full set on yet in this picture..

The flu came and went quickly as type B influenza comes and goes thanks to a timely presciption of Tamiflu, but I'm still not exactly bounding with energy to make great changes in the world. For now, I'm spending a whole lot of time in my room. Fortunately for me, my room at home is a thoroughly un-depressing place. I only have to crawl five steps from my bed to be at the seat of my Kawai grand piano just in the unlikely event that I'm inspired to play something. Right now I'm so energy-depleted that a visit out of the grave from J.S. Bach himself probably couldn't make me play a note.

I need my aunt to redecorate a bit more in my space at school to give it a similar feel. It's asking too much for her to make it identical to my room at home, and it's already much nicer than a dorm room, but it still needs something. What that something is, I'm not quite certain. I usually leave it to my aunt to figure out these sorts of things.

It seems that some of my readers have missed out on the lovely Semonski sistrts, AKA Seamonsters. from post-Lennon Sisters Lawrence welk reruns. tune in to PBS somewhere around 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday night if you're feeling especially masochistic. i must warn you that you may never be the same.

My friend Alyssa is supposed to be here by now. I hope she isn't caught in traffic. She's traveling with me to Utah next week to take part in the alleged winter frivolity. Most of my frivolity will probably involve Guinness. It's too damned coled to frolic in the snow, although I may take a few runs down on both ski and snowboards, and if there's snow in the neighborhood, we may take advantage of it to use the snowmobiles. Otherwise, it's just me, my favorite weight-gaining beverage, and anyone who chooses to join me.

The latest word is that my braces may be coming off in February. I'm rather excited about this.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Judge and I

the judge looking particularly distinguished

Months ago a wrote a preamble to my tribute to Judge Alex, yet real life got in the way of writing the actual tribute. I'll give it a try now, though I fear my efforts will be a bit lame.

Judge Alex came into my life at a time when I was nearly fifteen and heavily into the throes of adolescent rebellion even if I wasn't physically there yet. I used up an insane amount of the family TV's DVR space so that I wouldn't miss a single episode of his TV program. On the rare occasion that something went wrong and the day's episode didn't get recorded, I would go into a tirade.

I was eventually allowed to have a Twitter account. Soon thereafter, I discovered that Judge Alex had one as well. I doubted the authenticity of his contributions to the account, but still I read his every word, and responded at a rate that I felt he wouldn't consider overly pesky or obnoxious. As far as I could tell, he ignored my tweets, though he later said that he read and continues to read all tweets but just didn't and still doesn't have the time to respond to all of them. That's certainly understandable.

The first clue I received that Judge Alex had noticed my existence was when I announced that I would be on hiatus until final quarter grades were released because one of my A's had a minus behind it on my mid-quarter progress report. It was a teacher I did not like, and my goal had been to score the lowest possible A I could possibly earn so that it would cause the instructor great pain to give me the A.  He got even by putting a minus after the A even though on official grades, minuses and pluses could not be entered. It was really a dirty trick on the instructor's part, because he knew my parents would overreact and take away privileges, but I own my part in the debacle, as I should not have cut it so close. For what it's worth, I aced the course at quarter and semester and had the highest score in the class.

Anyway, I knew about the minus after the A before grades were entered into the computer, so I announced to Judge Alex via Twitter that I would be absent from Twitter for awhile untile either my parents grew brains or until new grades were posted. He responded with, "We'll miss you, Alexis." That was all it took. It was the cyber-equivalent to feeding a stray cat. Everyone knows that once you feed a stray cat, it never goes away. I was hooked on Judge Alex for better or for worse.

Judge Alex got me through many difficult times. A few in particular stand out. My father and I were fighting over whether or not I needed to get a flu shot. My dad wanted me to have it. I, of course wanted no part of anything that involved sticking a needle into my skin. I solicited the judge's opinion as to whether or not a fifteen-year-old (I think I was saying I was sixteen at the time; I have a habit of lying about my age to make myself seem older) should have the right to make his or her own decision concerning medical matters such as flu shots.  The judge gave the classic noncommital answer that it depends on the situation and the maturity of the kid, and that it should be on a case-by-case basis.  My father ended up taking mattters into his own hands by sneaking into my bedroom at 5:00 a.m. and injecting me with the dreaded serum. I'm pretty sure I woke up the entire neighborhood with my tantrum. To top it off, I got a really nasty case of the flu that turned into pneumonia that year. So much for parental wisdom. The judge was kind enough to commiserate with me after the fact.

Another time in particular in which I sought the judge's assistance was a situation that sounded as though it was a plot line in a really bad sitcom -- the kind that runs for six episodes before the ratings are so low that it disappears from the airwaves forever, never to be seen or heard of again.  A highly cognitively challenged but quite attractive cheerleader had asked my brother to the prom. The prom in our high school was not typically a girl-ask-boy thing, but I'm not putting the cheerleader down for bucking tradition in that regard, and I see nothing wrong with the idea that a girl asked a boy to the prom. It wasn't even my issue that this cheerleader in particular invited my brother, brain-dead though she may have been. The issue, which concerned my parents far more than I, was that A) this girl was known for giving freely of sexual favors, and B) the word on the street, which reached my mother through the faculty gossip grapevine, was that this promiscuous cheerleader intended to use prom night as a means to gain access to my brother's seed, so to speak. She felt that with her looks and  Matthew's brains (intelligence is relative; to this bimbo, Matthew seemed like a bona fide Rhodes scholar) and looks, the two of them could have produced a perfect physical and mental specimen. In short, the plan was for her to seduce my brother and bear his child.

Any sane parents on the planet would have told their son he needed to find another prom date, but the bimbo cheerleader was from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, and my parents did not wish to be perceived as snobs. Their solution was that Matthew and his date would double date with me and my escort. While this seemed a perfect solution to my parents, my brother and I were having conniption fits over it. I offered all sorts of alternatives including offering to buy a pack of condoms for Matthew at my own expense, or having my dad give Matthew chemical castration pills for a week under the guise that they were anti-acne meds, which he would have gobbled down as though they were Skittles. Finally, in sheer desperation, I pled with Judge Alex to reason with my parents and to try to explain to them that brothers and sisters simply do not double date to a prom unless they live somewhere deep in the Ozarks or Appalachia. The judge's response was something to the effect of, "I feel your pain, Alexis, but this is really your parents' call to make."  Even though he didn't intercede on my behalf, it was comforting that he even read what I wrote and took the time to respond.

As it turned out in my soap opera-like existence, weeks before the prom, I had a freak hurdling accident with multiple broken bones including a compound tibia-fibula fracture, and was wheelchair-bound at prom time.  My proposed date, not wanting to be seen at the prom with a gimp, unceremoniously canceled our date in a cafeteria full of students, not including me.  My brother got even with the jerk by having his baseball teammate through a ball  at the non-date's bac during a situation drill in baseball whe the creep was running in the wrong lane. My best friend and her date doubled with my brother and the bimbo, and my brother's seed didn't get close enough to bimbo's intended target to even do a quick tango, much less to conceive the perfect physical and mental specimen.

Judge Alex became my personal Ann Landers or Dear Abby, sometimes offering advice and sometimes not, because he couldn't possibly respond to everything. He helped me through the hardships of developing later than my peers, of getting braces at a late age, and of going off to medical school before I was quite sure I was ready to leave the nest. He did all of tis without ever undermining anything my parents said. As a result, my dad is also now a fan. I think my Dad was more upset that I when "Judge Alex" the TV show was canceled.

I suppose at times what I really wanted was to run away to Florida and to be adopted by the Ferrers because they would have been such cool parents as opposed to the oppressive mother and father to whom I was born. I know now about the grass always seeming to be greener elsewhere, and that a 
person needs to be careful about what he or she wishes, and all those other cliches. My suspicion is that the Ferrers probably wouldn't have been any less pushovers as parents than my own parents were, but no one could have told me that back then.

Once when I was feeling somewhat ignored by the judge and  commiserated to Jaci, a friend I met through the judge, that I had been relegated to persona non grata status as far as the judge was concerned, Jaci mentioned it to him and he asked for my cell phone number and actually called me. Even had the rest of the year been a disaster, which it wasn't as I passed my senior violin recital with highest honors graduated from university at the age of 19 with technically a triple major and was accepted into my first-choice medical school, the personal phone call from Judge Ferrer alone would have salvaged the year. 

My friend Knotty wrote about how you can pay a specified amount and Merrill Osmond will call a person and talk the person of a ledge of a tall building or some such thing. I didn't need to be talked off the top of a multi-story building or anything of that sort, but just the same, I'd rather have a call from Judge Alex, even if I'd had to pay for it, than one from Merrill Osmond, and the call from Judge Alex didn't cost me a cent.

The judge even told me to keep his phone number and not to do anything stupid like publish it on the Internet but to call him if I ever really needed to talk. I haven't abused the privilege, but if the time comes when the course load becomes overwhelming and I feel like climbing to the top of a tower and ending it all, or even thinking of quitting med school, I'll probably call him first before resorting to drastic measures.

Some of the judge's followers may feel competitive in regard to his attention, but I don't. Some of my closest Internet allies -- paarticularly Jaci and Becca -- are people i met through the judge. I think I may even have met Marianne through the judge. Through my friend Knotty, I was introduced to the judge's wife's brother, who responded to one of my posts.

I'm still physically very much in the thick of adolescence -- if I were a male, my voice would be cracking all over the place  -- but mentally and emotionally, I'm an adult.  The first time you either cut into a cadaver or deal with a seizing patient until more competent help arrives because you're the only person there,  you  either grow up or get out.  I chose to grow up. 

Adolescence was painful in many ways, and I had a few curve balls thrown at me that no girl should have to face. Still, that which does not kill you truly does make you stronger. I'm not certain I could have withstood all the hurdles, both literal and metaphorical, were it not for the attention of Judge Alex. I am forever in debt to him for his kindness when I needed it most.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty I'm Free at last!" (with apologies to the Reverend dr. Martin Luther King)

The fat lady done belted out "Merce Dilette Amiche" andleft the stage. This quarter is kaput.

I survived my finals. At the risk of sounding boastful, I passed them with rainbow array of dancing and flying colors. Everyone in both of my study groups -- I consider Matthew's study group mine as well since they study at my condo often when I'm present, and i usually join them -- also did relatively well. I was especially proud of my brother, who scored at the very least in the top third in each of his classes. Rankings don't count here, but they really do count if you read between the lines. Someone is keeping track.

It isn't officially announced to the rest of the group when someone fails to make the cut, but my best guess is that bimbo with a big mouth who thinks my boobs are too small didn't make it. I'm making this prognostication based on her reaction after each final. The again, maybe her grandmother died or something of that sort happened to her. Time will tell, but it's really not my problem.

I caught Type B influenza, but didn't stzrt with the symptoms until during my very last final. I was going to say my final final, but to have done s would have seemed a bit redundant. I got on Tami-flu right away, which seems to have shortened the duration.

Because I was feeling quite yucky, Jared took the train here to drive me home in my car. I could have ridden with my brother except that would have left me without  car for the duration of my vacation. Rafael showed up to say good-bye as Jared arrived to pick me up. That wasn't awkward[irony font]. 

I smoothed things over pretty well, explaining how Jared had my name tatooed on his arm to avoid serving a mission. Rafael has cousins who are LDS, so he could totally relate, and said he would have done the same thinf if he'd been in Jared's position.

It's almost too bad they don't live closer to one another, because I believe I just set up a bromance between the only two guys on the face of the Earth who will go out with me. Perhaps we should arrange a triple date of some sort. Jaci if you're reading this, don't  tell me that it's called a menage a trois; I"m not that srt of girl. 
(For the record, I've never yet agreed to an exclusive relationship with anyone. Also for the record, I'm reaonsably certain they're both straight, whihch matters only on th sense that I'm dating them and do't want to be sonme guy's beard.)

Anyway, Tamiflu seems very definitely to shorten symptoms. I was down for the count fr four days, but now I'm just a little weak, and I have the luxury of restingas long as I want in my cozy bed.

In addition to being sick, another reason i didn't go home last weekend was that my parents were hosting their friends, the Ratzlaffs. Weird though they mat be it's not that I could't have possibly tolerated their presence, but Baby Boy Ratzlaff would have been stivk sleeping on a sofa had I been there. He had to sleep in a girly-girl room,  but the bed was far more confortable than a sofa would have been.

I woulsn't have minded hanging out with BabyBoy (whose actual name is Michael, but he didn't receive that name or any other  until kindergarten registration time, because school officilas refused to register him as "Baby  Boy"), but Matthew was home, and Matthew took him places to make the weekend more bearble forthe poor kid. Here's the link to the blog devoted to the Ratzlaff family.
This explains more clearly than I could ever say again just why it was that I spent the weekend up north evn though i've been paroled from school for a few weeks.

Peace out, whatever the hell that means.

This video might almost be amusing if chances were not that the food supply for the entire family -- or perhaps a fate even worse -- would likely happen to any one of these children who made the slightest error. I did find the head bobbing quite a trip, though.  It's too bad Lawrence welk s no longer around. He could've made stars of these North Korean children. They would either have fit in well with the Semonski Sisters, or perhaps they could have replaced them.

Here are the lovely Semonski sistters at their loveliest. Seriously, Lawrence could have walked into any Mormon ward across the U.S.  and found a group of  sisters of the same number or larger who could have sung better than these seamonster did.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The salvation army, complete psychotic episodes, cadavers, and other aspects of med school finals

Once again i should probably be either sleeping or studying, but I've studied practically until my face is turning purple, and going to sleep isn't as easy as it sounds. Once this ordeal is completely finished, I'll have a nice long pseudo-hibernation, much like that of a bear. (Bears don't experience technical hibernation, you probably know. Their core temperatures don't drop,and they wake from time to time during the winter months.)

This isn't exactly my first round of finals. Some of my classes last only half the quarter. I took the final exams for three of my classes weeks ago. I've completed "Cells to Tissues" (more interesting than it sounds,and more complex than one would expect an introductory course to be), "Molecular Foundations," and "Biochemistry."   Since biochem was one of my majors, it came the most easily to me, although medical school biochemistry doesn't begin to compare even to the graduate level biochemistry course, which I took.  Still, a really solid foundation is an asset when the real thing comes along.

Even though we've theoretically had "finals" earlier, and they were the last exams of those courses, they actually seemed more like midterms compared to now. The finals I'm now experiencing seem very much like the real thing.

Last week I took my independent practicum-like final on the "Standardized Patient" portion of my "Practice of Medicine" course. Because I feel that I nailed it, after the fact it seems almost as though it was fun, although I probably was sweating blood from every pore throughout the exam. The school brings in actors to simulate patients,and you have to deal with them. There's a limit to how far we need to go in diagnosing them, as we haven't gotten that heavily into the curriculum to be expected to know whether or not it's lupus. What we're graded on is our interpretation of the patient's vital stats, our ordering of the right initial tests, and our overall treatment of the patient. 

If nothing else, I learned that I could portray a patient reasonably convincingly and pick up a few quick bucks that way if med school ceased to be an option for me. With my medical history, I'd be a natural as a portrayer of a patient. Becca, you, too, would be great at this. Mrs. Ferrer, wife of Judge alex, would also probably be quite good at this, not that she's in dire need of earning whatever pittance itis that the university pays.  i suspect that most of the patients we treated were starving actors from either ACT or Berkeley Rep.

i've completed my :developmental biology" final as well as my "Practice of Medicine" final. Tomorrow is"Genetics."  I'm almost (but not quite) looking forward to that one because i found the course fascinating. Then there's one more on Thursday, and it's a wrap.

The more intelligent of my two semi-tormentors (I use the term "semi" because I never really let them get to me all that much0 cried during and after one final,and the less bright knockout of the two hasn't made it through any final yet without breaking down.  in the case of the former, I don't really know what it means. in the case of the latter, with my not particularly charitable nature, i'd love to think it could meanI'll soon be seeing the very last of her. I'm not lighting candles or rubbing the bellies of Buddha statues with the hope that she'll flunk out, but neither will I shed any tears if she does not make the cut.

Once this whole fiasco of a quarter is kaput, I'm going to take a nice long nap. Then "Rafael" and I are going out for a movie. On Friday, assuming it's not raining,  I'm traveling to SF and taking my violin and going either to Union Square or maybe to the SF side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'll play Christmas songs and Irish jigs. I have not been able to play my violin nearly enough this quarter. If there's a Salvation Army bell ringer, I'll position myself near him or her. If not, I'll open my violin case and accept donations, and drop them into the nearest Salvation Army kettle I can find. Chances are that either people will contribute because of my music or will pay me to stop playing. 

Perhaps I'll even find the time to organize a flash mob of some sort.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Finals Are Upon Us

i wouldn't begin to compare myself to Alexis Bledel in the looks department, but the sentiment remains.

It's finals week here in The Land of Medical School. One final is history. I have three more to go. As of some time midafternoon on Thursday, this quarter, along with final exams, will join the annals of my history.

One could argue that the very last thing in the world I should be doing right now is blogging. /if I 've done all the studying I can do, I probably should be sleeping. Sometimes, howevr, sleep eludes all of us. i do have two highly reliable alarm clocks, one of which is not dependent upon electricity, along with a brother sleeping in the room across the hall, who never oversleeps and has to take the same final exam tomorrow morning that I have to take.

All of this studying causes me to wonder about the capacity of the human brain, or at least about the capacity of my brain. is there a limit to the amount of information that can be stored in the human brain before it either explodes, implodes, or simply leaks out previously acquired knowledge? i know medical school is doable because too many people before me have done it, but can I do it?  I don't really think it's the cognitive aspect of studying, learning, and memorizing as much as the psychological impact of wondering just how many more facts one can memorize before one strips off his or her clothing, paints himself or herself some neon glow-in-the-dark color, and runs around his or her neighborhood nude and barefoot in the cold (at least there's no snow here) , all the while screaming obscenities.

One would think Matthew might be more of a candidate than I for doing something totally crazy simply because learning and memorizing don't come quite as easily to him as they do to me. alas, such is not the case. Matthew has the better disposition [if not the cognitive ability] of the two of us both to be a medical student and to be a physician or surgeon. Matthew studies long and hard, and then is able to put his books down and say, "Enough is enough. if I pass, great. If I don't, this probably wasn't meant to be."

I, on the other hand, think another half hour of studying will always accomplish a bit more. I never know when to say when. I'll  likely outscore Matthew on every exam we'll take, but since there are no class rankings at this juncture of our med school careers, at what cost as long as he passes, as I'm reasonably confident he will? 

Who will bew the better doctor of the two of us. That's a wash.  If we choose our specialties wisely, we'll both be good at what we do. I can see Matthew walking away from the job at the end of a day or a shift concluding that he did the best he could while he was there, and going on to enjoy his time off. 

I, on the other hand, am a bit more obsessive, as is my father. I can see myself waking up in the middle of the night and thinking of some additional test that should be run, and ging in to a lab to run it myself right then rather than waiting until a sensible hour, because I wouldn't be able to sleep, anyway. My father has the luxury of having underlings to call to run the tests, which is a privilege i will not have for quite some time. I will, in fact, for a few years be one of his flunkies unless I change my mind regarding specialties. Still, my father is so anal that he sometimes leaves the house in the wee hours to run the tests himself.

Is this any way to live one's life? I'm not sure my father would be happy with any other life. i'm not entirely sure about myself. My father has a wife. I'll likely someday have children and a husband. Even if he's a really good husband, though, he still won't be a wife. With changing times and the crossing of lines in terms of gender roles, there's still a big distinction between a husband and a wife.

Fortunately for me, I still have roughly four years before I must make a final decision regarding specialization. And even then, the decision is never totally final. People change specialization and even entire careers all the time.  Nothing would stop me from doing the same were I to find myself unhappy in a particular branch of medicine.That's assuming I make it through med school without painting my nude body a glow-inthe-dark neon color and running around my neighborhood screaming because I simply cannot take any more facts into my brain.

Late Thursday afternoon cannot arrive soon enough for me.

Thank you all for the birthday greetings. I appreciate the thought. As for the non-milestone/milestone birthday, I've had better and I've had worse, so I can't complain all that much. I don't feel any diferent at 20 than I felt a just over week ago at s.19.

I hadn't really considered it as such, but it was a milestone birthday, I suppose, in the sense that I'm no longer in my teen years. My adolescence may have been less traumatic and painful than those of others, but just the same, I don't mind having passed that hurdle and moved on to my 20's.

Listening to Matthew's groupies sing "Happy Birthday" to him in every class did little to lighten my mood, but I've survived worse. Life goes on if one is lucky.