Thursday, April 30, 2009

Big cheese goes cold turkey on hot chips

Happy birthday Willie! 76 today.

To celebrate, we drove down the coast to the next town to partake of the Super Schnitzel night at the pub with a couple of friends. I ordered the Mexicana schnitzel. It consists of a plate of chips with a doubled over schnitzel the size of my face on top, with a bowl of nachos emptied over that. Apparently that is what they eat all the time in Mexico.

It was incredibly large, to the point of being actually sickening. I'd eaten 95% of it and was about to announce that I was done, when one of my dining companions remarked that my lack of persistence reflected poorly on my masculinity. So I forced the rest of it down. And hey, I did feel pretty manly for doing so. Unfortunately the waitress then brought out the surprise mudcake that my dining companion had brought along to help celebrate Willie's birthday. Man - what a setup!

Anyway, that's all by way of an introduction to the main thrust of this post, which is that I felt so sick on the way home that I announced that I was going to give up eating chips. Let's face it, if I hadn't had to eat all those hot chips after already eating the nachos and the schnitzel I would have probably been able to eat more of the mudcake.

Giving up eating hot chips is my way of saying "Thanks" to Willie Nelson on his birthday for all his great music, and ensuring that I'll be around to enjoy it for many years to come.

Happy birthday Willie!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I have nothing for you today, loyal readers, and nobody to blame but myself

Today is just one of those days where I embark on writing up an idea, get several paragraph into it, then slowly delete the sentences one by one until I have nothing left. Then I do it all over again. Several times.

I guess that means I really have nothing to write about. Which is annoying for you because you have to read this tripe. I guess you don't have to. But you are, aren't you? It's also annoying for me because I have twitchy fingers.

Can anybody suggest some themes? And leave the Red Hot Chili Peppers out of it, if you don't mind.

Monday, April 27, 2009


We just had one of those "Intro to X" lectures, where X is whatever we happen to be studying at the moment. Sometimes these lectures are really useful because the lecturer somehow manages to sum up everything useful about the whole discipline into a one hour presentation. That's what the Intro to the Gastrointestinal Tract (a.k.a. GIT) was like - as it turns out, basically all GIT consists of is asking people how often they go to the toilet. (NB: I may be seriously mistaken on this. Fingers crossed for exam results!)

However, this lecture was not like that. This lecture, "Intro to Psychiatry", was just lots of lists of the sorts of things that we'll be looking at at some later date, without actually conveying any useful information to us. As such, I let my mind wander through distant golden fields for most of the hour.

I was brought back to reality though by a fascinating slide which was comparing public vs private psychiatric practice. It consisted of these two lists:

  • Low income
  • Lower functioning
  • Cannabis and amphetamine
  • Low prevalence disorders

  • High income
  • Higher functioning
  • Alcohol
  • High prevalence disorders

The startling thing is that initially I was unsure whether the slide was referring to the patients or the doctors.

Actually, I'm still not 100% certain...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A-tissue! A-tissue!

As you may know, our Not-So-Secret Cat is one of the lights of my life. She's so cute. She curls up in my lap and falls asleep while I'm studying. And if she isn't doing that she's leaping from my desk to my shoulders and perching beside my head like some kind of pirate accessory - arrr! Or she's waking me up in the middle of the night by tapping me on the nose so she can crawl under the doona. Or she's vomiting in the bed while I'm away at uni so we don't discover it until bedtime that night. Awesome!

It was one of the vomit episodes that had us a bit concerned this weekend because surrounding the vomit were tiny little flecks of blood. I did a quick abdominal examination on her but found no signs of note, but I didn't find that very reassuring even though she marked me very highly for empathy.

On closer inspection, we found a scattering of tiny, tiny little black flecks across the bed, like little half-rings a millimetre across. I called my veteran veterinarian sister to ask if it might be some type of worm, but she said it sounded like flea excreta. She told me that the best way to check would be to put some on a damp tissue and see if red pigment leached out of it, showing that it was made of digested blood. Gross! But kind of cool too.

So I did, and I saw that just as she said, the black flecks stained the tissue red. So the tiny flecks of blood around the vomit were from flea poop. I'm just so happy that this happened in my bed. But hang on - this means we have fleas! Oh noes!

I really don't know how the cat got fleas. She never has any contact with other animals at all, she's like the boy in the bubble (not the baby with the baboon heart). Maybe there were eggs in the carpet, lying in wait for us, like the alien facehugger eggs in the alien spacecraft in that film: "Alien".

Anyway, turns out it's easy to treat. Or it would be if our cat didn't have a pathological hatred of taking tablets. I've written before about how hard it is to get her to swallow anything larger than a hydrogen atom so I won't repeat the details here, apart from noting that anticonvulsants may be useful in the future, for both me and the cat.

The tablets are pretty crazy stuff. Basically, they work by turning the cat's blood into acid, so that when the fleas bite her, they scream "It burns! It burns, my precious!" and stagger around randomly in pain before desperately trying to abandon the cat like rats abandoning a sinking ship. There is, of course, great poetic justice in this, since it was fleas carried on rats abandoning sinking ships that spread the Black Death in Europe in 1066 or perhaps one of those other famous years like 1939 or 1812.

Anyway, the fleas are so blinded by pain that it's simple to pick them off the cat's fur and crush them mercilessly between your fingers. Muahahahah! I can see how a certain sort of person might really get off on that kind of thing. Maybe I'll go down to the RSPCA next weekend and see if I can't get me some more of these fleas.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A song

What happened to you?
When you couldn't ignore the line
That got marked across your life
What did you do?

Did you get angry?
Did you get scared?
No I didn't think so
You were just getting some air.
And you were moving right along.

They were asking about you,
How were you going to cope?
And was there any hope?
They thought they knew.

They thought you'd falter.
They thought you'd fail.
But I knew better.
You were just setting sail.
You were moving right along.
Moving right along.

Where did you go?
What did you do?
When it all just changed so fast,
And the ground just came right out from under you?

Did it get you down
The things they said?
Well they've got nothing better to do,
And anyway there's another morning,
There's another day.
With a little time my friend
You know that you can get yourself
Back on your way.

And you'll be moving right along.
Moving right along.

- Paul Dempsey

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Most unpleasant emotion

Poll results are in! Apparently loneliness is by far the most unpleasant emotion, defeating the runner-up anger by 6 to 2. A couple of sympathy votes for embarrassment and fear rounded things out. Sadness and disgust were universally sneered at.

Again, the results surprised me. I expected more than zero votes for sadness. Maybe I should have given examples. I didn't mean sadness like when you drop your ice-cream. I meant the gut-wrenching sadness that crushes your heart into a piece of coal inside your chest and your whole body feels hollow. Sorry, I should have specified that.

Disgust was a bit of a dud wasn't it? I suppose that since more than a few of the readers of this blog are medical students, I should have expected disgust to not get much attention. I think we're all still desperately trying to steel our nerves against the bizarre and horrible things we see every day at uni. We can't afford to admit such a weakness as disgust. What if someone found out?

But I was most shocked at the winner. Loneliness?? Come on, toughen up people. Get a pen pal or something.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fourier transforms - more than meets the eye!

My plan to be fascinated by everything is progressing well, my young apprentice. Four hours of lectures this morning back to back actually turned out to be quite interesting. I didn't start daydreaming at all, nor did I have to buy any items of dubious nutritional value to get me through it.

There was a lecture on braaaaaain anatomy, another on how pain and other sensation yoick their way up your spinal cord and into the brain (fact: pain does the big switcheroo and travels up the other side of the spinal cord to other sensations), a lecture on epilepsy including a simulated grand mal seizure sans bladder emptying by the lecturer, and a lecture all about pain which included a free bonus supersize upgrade to an ideological rant from the lecturer comparing euthanasia to Nazi death camps. That last bit was a shame because it marred an otherwise really interesting lecture. I was going to argue the point with him but meh, it was lunchtime.

There were a couple of moments of even greater excitement though. During the lecture on epilepsy, shortly after being told of the hallucinatory states that can be induced by focal epilepsy, I heard a disembodied voice call out, "Testing testing! Testing testing!" I thought that perhaps I was experiencing a Visitation, but it turns out that everyone else could hear it too. I think someone in the next lecture theatre over had their radio mic on the wrong channel.

The second moment was only exciting for me though - the epilepsy guy started talking about Fourier transforms! My honours project and several years of postgraduate research used Fourier transforms (and other more arcane tools) extensively, so I listened attentively, hoping to catch the lecturer in a mis-statement, enabling me to ask a "clarifying" question, correct him and thus display my intellectual mojo so that my Esteemed Colleagues might Esteem me back a little. But he didn't say anything wrong so I couldn't. Oh, I suppose I could have pointed out that his so-called Fourier transform was actually a discrete Fourier transform since it wasn't defined on a continuous aperiodic time series.

But let's face it - I would have looked like a dick if I'd said that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

First day back

First day back at school today. No idea if I passed the last lot of exams yet. I'm just pretending that they never happened, because every time I accidentally think about them I feel nauseous.

Current block is all about the mind, and its principle organ - the braaaaaain. (You have to say it like that or the zombies will realize you aren't one of them)

I have decided, in advance, to be fascinated by everything I come across. This will make it much easier to work hard and remember stuff, so as to avoid a debacle like that last set of exams that I'm not thinking about yet have already mentioned twice in three paragraphs.

It's working so far. I spent the afternoon in the library reading about the spinal cord and the braaaaaain. And it is indeed fascinating. Incredibly confusing and obscure, but fascinating.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Words like soup

Quote of the day:
"Extraverts' language is thin and poor, but profuse, so that although what they want to say may be very slight, at least when they have finished they have said what they set out to say. [...] the thought of an introvert, even if expanded into a book, would not be fully expressed..." - Esther Harding

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Writers bloc

Strangely enough, now that I have all the time in the world I find myself unable to think of anything to write about. It seems the basic premise of this blog is that studying medicine involves jamming so much stuff into my brain that all the hitherto suppressed nonsense just oozes out into this suitable receptacle.

Here's a picture of the results of the last poll to preserve it for posterity, since I am too lazy to type it up.I was kind of surprised that 2 people voted who had never met me. Hello people! How did you even find this page? It was also interesting to me that most people had talked to me quite recently considering how few people I actually hold conversations with. (I don't really consider "hey!" a conversation.)

Finally, there's a new poll up to your right. Vote now and find inner peace.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hierarchies of nerds

I play wargames. It's a pretty nerdy pastime. But it could be worse - I could be into model trains.

There's a model train shop nearby that I wander into from time to time. I really like stores that are full of really specialized equipment for hobbies that I'm not interested in. Quilting shops are pretty cool - I like all the little freaky tools that I have no idea what to do with. Fishing shops are also interesting.

While I was in the model train shop I got to chatting with the proprieter. He was a really nice guy. Somehow we ended up talking about a bloke he knows who builds model tanks. The model-train-shop owner was bagging out the model-tank-builder for being so nerdy. Apparently (he scoffed) the guy has several hundred model tanks that he has built. I wondered aloud where you would keep several hundred model tanks, and the shop guy said that they're probably all in his bedroom since he still lives with his mother.

I then expressed my amazement that there would even be several hundred different model tanks available to buy. The shop guy explained that there aren't, the tank guy just buys lots of the same kit and builds and paints them slightly differently to represent the various theatres of combat and years of operation that the tank had been used for. He had to do this, the shop guy explained, because he wasn't interested in any old tanks, only the tanks used by the USA in Western Europe in World War II. And the model-train-shop guy laughed at just how nerdy the tank guy was, shaking his head in amazement.

I wonder who the tank guy thinks is nerdy? Maybe stamp collectors...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cause and effect

Okay, more today on my theory of cause and effect, as first publicly expounded by me yesterday. I know that lots of people are really intrigued - so intrigued that I have received no comments about it as everyone waits in respectful silence. So here goes.

My theory is this: cause and effect are generally interchangeable. Sure, you end up with things back-to-front. But wasn't it Søren Kierkegaard, the famous Swedish furniture designer, who said, "Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forward"? I think he may have been onto something there. The very point of my revolutionary method is to comprehend the hidden forces shaping our lives, to gaze up from the stage and see the puppet strings.

I realize that this probably sounds either confusing or implausible so I'm going to attempt to explain what I mean by providing examples.

In a blatant attempt at self-promotion which I shall pass off as me having the courage to expose my own ramblings to the searing light of Truth, I have gathered (with the assistance of the good people at Google) some examples of when I have used the word "because" in my own writing here in this very blog. So let's see what Truths are uncovered when we swap around what comes before "because" (the effect) with what comes after "because" (the cause).

I had a great day today because three good things happened.
Three good things happened because I had a great day today.
How about that? In the first sentence, I am like a fish tossed around in a stormy ocean, helpless to control my destiny. In the second sentence, I am like Poseidon himself, shaping the seas at my whim. Note that the same stuff happened either way, it's just that I'm choosing to see myself as responsible for it. What a boost to a flagging ego! To think that Barack Obama was elected President of the USA thanks to me! But that's just democracy is all about, right? And this kind of democracy, that lets a Australian elect a US President of his choice, sounds a whole lot better to me than the previous sort of democracy where we left it up to the Americans.

"JBS Haldane was apparently also able to blow tobacco smoke out of his ears because of the residual holes in his eardrums caused by him accidentally rupturing them during his experiments with a hyperbaric chamber."
This one's a little long and complex by virtue of it having two becauses in it so I'll paraphrase it:
JBS Haldane experimented with a hyperbaric chamber because he had holes in his eardrums because he could blow tobacco smoke out of them.
Now that's much more plausible. This guy, who can blow smoke out of his ears, does it so much at parties that his eardrums burst, leading him to experiment with hyperbaric chambers to accelerate the wound healing process. He probably switched the story round the other way to make himself sound cooler. Coh! Typical bloody Marxist!

I will get zero marks, because it's patently untrue.
It's patently untrue because I will get zero marks.
This is really great stuff. To replace a bland statement reflecting the worthlessness of untrue information in exams, we have an interesting insight into the nature of study and how the ultimate arbitrator of veracity in the academic context is the person who marks the exams! They have the power over truth and falsehood at their command. We students realize this and are able to extrapolate backwards to tailor our learning to pander to their executive privilege, thus cementing in place as "fact" that which was initially purely arbitrary.

I didn't put my hand up and wipe it from my head because I was too afraid to find out what it was.
I was too afraid to find out what it was because I didn't put my hand up and wipe it from my head
Now we see that consciousness follows action, rather than preceding it. I simply did not wish to wipe the stuff from my head. My ego, desperately needing to justify its existence, hastily "explains" this by claiming that I was too afraid to find out what it was. I can see your game plainly now, ego, and I won't be playing it any more.

I could go on and on, but I think these simple examples will suffice. As you can see, there's a new world of fun and profit at your disposal once you master this basic technique. Strip back the curtain of reality today and live a fully empowered and enlightened life!

Don't all rush to thank me at once. The only reason I wrote this is because it's Saturday night and I'm bored shitless. Or to put it another way, it's Saturday night and I'm bored shitless because I wrote this. Hmmm....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tiny sounds

People keep asking me what I'm doing with my time off. What have I done so far? What am I doing next week? I need to come up with a good answer because the truth is that I'm going to be just hanging around listening to tiny sounds.

Tiny sounds are the sounds that are there all around us but we never notice them or care about them because we're too busy. You can tell that you're relaxed because you start to notice the tiny sounds around you. I think most of us are familiar with that phenomenon. But my revolutionary theory goes further - I've turned things on their heads and shaken them up. My theory is that by deliberately noticing the tiny sounds you can induce a state of blissful relaxation. (This is a specific application of my more general theory that cause and effect are in fact usually interchangeable, but more of that another time.)

I noticed a great tiny sound just this afternoon. I was putting some cold hot cross buns under the griller to convert them into hot hot cross buns using the magic of thermal energy. I'd put down a sheet of alfoil on the griller tray and turned on the griller, and as I turned away to get the cold HCBs I heard a faint little squeaking noise, as if there were cartoon mice in the cupboard singing a little lullaby to their cartoon mouse baby. A little investigation revealed that the tiny sound was coming from the serrated edge of the alfoil rubbing on the edge of the griller tray as the hot air from the griller gently blew across the foil and moved it up and down. Awesome stuff!

Tiny sounds like that pull you out of yourself and induce a state of serene calm. It makes me want to tool around in a fleet of Rolls Royces like an Indian guru. But it's not just about hearing them and then just digging them for the rest of the day. Hearing the tiny sounds gets you prepared for really listening to the big sounds, the ones that carry the really important messages.

In my case, the big sounds came in the form of Lionel Richie's Greatest Hits that I'm spinning up on my boombox right now. Let me tell you, hearing that alfoil squeak under my hot cross buns has really got me into a good place to hear Lionel preach it.

Freedom, no more lies! We can save this world if we try!

Oh yeah!


I'm feeling almost human again.

You know when you've done really intense exercise, how your body aches and groans for the next few days? (If you're under thirty, you'll learn ... you'll learn!) That's how my mind feels. It feels like one of those little sponge dinosaurs that grows into something the size of your hand when you dip it into the bath. It's slowly re-assuming the old familiar shape.

Drove home yesterday afternoon after the prac exam. Was pretty wiped out so I excused myself from the impromptu hour-long run up the beach, and slept for that hour instead. Time well spent. Woke up with severe pillow-face just in time to listen to that excellent album of bluegrass covers of Franz Ferdinand that an Esteemed Colleague lent me, before going out and eating an enormous pizza for dinner. Yum yum yum. So salty.

I completely bludged today. Nothing to report. Except that it really IS better on holidays.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Endocrine exam review

Someone suggested to me that I review today's exam in haiku form. So here it is:

exam this morning
writing on hypothyroid
tired, cold, confused

Monday, April 6, 2009

John the Baptist

I hate it when, the night before your exam, you are reviewing your lecture notes and you find something written in your own handwriting that is patently ridiculous. In my endocrine notes I just found the sentence:

"Growth hormone is like John the Baptist".
Now I didn't make that up, I remember the lecturer saying it, and I remember me writing it down because I thought it was very clever.

But what on earth does it mean??

Gastroenterologist - a review

This morning I attended the debut of a bold new opera, Gastroenterologist (2009), by Australian composer F. Linders. It is of note that this most recent work of Linders is hardly original. It is strongly derivative of his previous works including Gastroenterologist (2002), Gastroenterologist (2005), and the notoriously difficult Gastroenterologist (2008). After reviewing and comparing so many similar works in the past week, I eagerly look forward to moving on to something new.

The production was well attended, with all seats occupied as far I could see. However, it was disappointing to see the same old faces in the audience as always. Surely a new work such as this could be expected to appeal to newcomers? Compared to last year's groundbreaking Human Homeostasis which was attended almost solely by novices, this opera was surely lacking in accessibility. I suspect that today's show may be the first and the last, unless a special performance is put on later in the year for those who missed today's.

The libretto is ambitious. Written in English, it is nevertheless almost incomprehensible, favouring a polysyllabic and numeric vocabulary which even this reviewer found daunting. Scoring it must have been hell.

Structurally, the opera is divided into two acts. The first act is a simple detective story, revolving around the trials and tribulations of a young woman, Simone Milligan, who has been suffering with malaise, wasting and diarrhoea for several months. The first scene is substantially devoted to exploring her mysterious symptoms and hearing her lamentations over her upcoming exams. It seems likely that Linders included this detail of the exams as a superficial appeal to the expected audience, perhaps thinking that this would endear her to us. However, apart from this thin detail, little else is shown to us of Simone. What of her family history? What of her diet? Was she in pain? What was the consistency of her stool? I was left with so many questions.

The second scene largely dispenses with Simone, and focuses instead on the Doctor. He spends the entirety of the scene brooding ghoulishly over a sample of Simone's blood. He inspects it with such intensity that we await a revelation. What clues can he extract from this vital spirit? Yet all the Doctor can manage is some mumbles and a bleating gasp. He gives two possible diagnoses and pleads for the assistance of the eponymous Gastroenterologist as the lights go down.

The only other significant character is the Gastroenterologist himself, who is presumed to be able to solve all of Simone's problems, if only he would see her. He is frequently referred to by the Doctor, yet we spend a lot of time waiting for him in vain. In the third scene, when he is about to arrive, Simone is rushed to surgery and operated upon, and the Gastroenterologist is never seen. The paternalistic Gastroenterologist can be seen in many roles: as a father, as Messiah, as a Godot-esque absence on the stage, and this ambiguity is the most successful part of the production. The contrast of his presumed (yet never manifested) power versus the ineffectual rambling of the Doctor is worth pondering.

In the second act, the characters are dispensed with in favour of an ensemble cast. Rather than sing in chorus, they group themselves in fives and each group sings in turn. This was the part of the opera that had me guessing. The melodic lines were frequently overly complex, even contradictory, and the overall effect was overwhelming and incoherent, with little if any connection, apart from the thematic, to the first act.

It was only made intelligible by choosing to listen to only one performer at a time, but the availability of multiple appealing choices meant that this was hard to do quickly and decisively. I confess that at times my choice was arbitrary and that this definitely impinged on my enjoyment of the production. In the end I left early, and noted that many others did the same.

In summary, Gastroenterologist was a tedious production that asked far too much of its audience. It was overly academic and intellectual and offered little for any save the most avid fan of the composer's previous work. I, for one, would not care to repeat the experience.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Kiss me, Hardy

I hope you don't mind me mixing my military metaphors, but tomorrow is D-day. My exam on the gastrointestinal system starts at 0900 hrs. It will go for 90 minutes, plus whatever time is taken up by reading time and collecting the minicase papers halfway through. So with luck, I'll be out of there by 11 o'clock and I will never ever have to think about digestion again ever ever until I become a doctor and most of my patients present with diarrhoea.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I find it very difficult to sit at a desk all day and study. It's heaps of fun for the first hour because the cat sits on my lap and I play with her, and I check my email and read various other blogs and online forumae and write stupid stuff on facebook and drink the tea I made and eat a little snack as an anticipatory reward for all the hard work I'm going to do next semester when I stop procrastinating. But after that it just gets tedious. So I go check those blogs again.

You may have gotten the impression that I approach my studies in a flippant and dismissive way. That's because I'm a boy-genius writer who has cleverly created that facade for your passing entertainment. In reality I am a tortured, talentless hack who agonizes constantly at the time I am frittering away and the opportunities I am squandering. It gets especially bad around exam time because The Fear makes me extremely susceptible to finding other interests apart from medicine to occupy my time with and divert my attention away from the pain of the approaching cataclysm.

The latest internet fad I have thrown myself into is One Hundred Pushups! It's an exercise program designed to increase your strength so that after 6 weeks you'll be able to do 100 pushups in a row. Sounds mental eh?! Sounds totally implausible eh?!

Here's what I like about it:
  • You only do it for 10 minutes a day, three days a week. This seriously limits the amount of time that I waste by doing it. (The time that I am wasting by writing about it here is obviously considered in a separate account.)
  • It gives me a sense of making progress. Often with study, the more you learn the more you realize there's a lot you don't understand so you feel like you're going backwards. After doing pushups I do not torture myself with the thought of all the pushups I didn't do. Some simple, straightforward, positive feedback is a nice thing to have at the moment.
  • I will actually get something out of this, as opposed to most of the other things I do which are totally pointless. In the short term I will get hypoxic euphoria, in the long term I will be totally buff. To the max!
  • It's strengthening my marriage. My Smaller Half is also embarking on this great triceps adventure. Otherwise I think I'd get slack and skip days. Soon we'll start applying walnut-coloured fake tan, wearing tiny swimsuits, and entering bodybuilding competitions. I can hardly wait!
  • For ten minutes a day, three days a week, I don't have to think. In fact, the less I think, the better I do. It's kind of like living in Queensland!
Anyway, that's pretty much it for today from me. I've been reasonably diligent today and have kind of got to the point where my panic concerning the gastrointestinal exam on Monday is exceeding my terror concerning the endocrine exam on Tuesday, so I think I'll switch books.

Pump it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kidneys, Nazis, giraffes!

Once again it's time for me to give you all some advice on how to pass your exams. I am well qualified to give such advice since I always pass my exams. Well, except for that Circuit Theory class back in 1993 which I crashed and burned in. But to be fair I was up against it from the start. The lecturers were biased against me purely because of my lack of knowledge and because I didn't hand in any of the assignments.

So here's how you do it:

Get plenty of sleep. Not in the exam itself though, I mean beforehand. Sleep is essential for your brain to file information into your long term memory, which is why we have dreams like the one I had where my tooth was the size of my fist and was filtering my blood like a kidney. That one was really useful. On the other hand, if it's the night before the exam, long term memory is not required so you're better off smoking some crack and staying up all night. Let me know how that works for you. Injecting adrenaline straight into your heart is also helpful, especially if someone is trying to kill you with nerve gas.

Get plenty of exercise. Again, not so much in the exam, although it is possible to run in the spot while sitting down, or to do some triceps lifts off your chair. This can actually help to calm you down and has the beneficial side effect of distracting the people around you. But you should be exercising every day just to burn off toxic metabolites and allow disinhibiation of the catecholamine residues that would otherwise antagonize your mesonephros. Plus it'll help you sleep better, which as I've already explained is good for you.

Eat plenty of hot chips with gravy. Delicious!

Learn some technical jargon so that your answers are buzzword compliant. Look back at the penultimate sentence in the advice about exercise. You were probably pretty impressed by how smart I sounded, right? And if you were marking my exam paper, you'd say "Wow! This guy must have, like, three PhDs in physiomology. Top marks for him!" But here's the secret - it's all a bluff. I just totally made up that stuff. Here are some terms that sound really impressive but no-one actually knows what they mean, so they are perfect for playing this kind of bullshit bingo: tyrosine kinase, cytochrome P450, pregnenenenolone, syncytiotrophoblast, artery of Drummond, prophase II, spleen.

Dress in layers. I learned this one from bushwalkers. The idea is that if you get too hot you can just peel off the outer layer of clothes, and if a bushfire comes through you can put extra clothes on to protect yourself from the radiant heat. Initially you'll feel hot because you'll be all amped up and your sympathetic nervous system will be making you all jumpy. But an hour into the exam you'll feel much colder because you'll have had a stroke from smoking all that crack the night before and the thermoregulatory centre of your brain will be necrosing, so you'll want to have a jacket to put on or you'll be uncomfortable.

Go to the toilet immediately before the exam. Squeeze really hard. It will force extra blood up to your brain and make you smarter. That's why Einstein had crazy-hair. And how smart was he? (As a corollary, try not become sexually aroused during the exam. As a corollary to that corollary, try to avoid sitting with me in your line of sight.)

If you're having trouble remembering stuff, make up some awesome mnemonics. I've posted on this topic before, so I'll just give a brief example. Yesterday I was having trouble remembering that the three layers of the adrenal cortex are the zona glomerulosa, zona fasciculata, and zona reticularis. So I thought to myself: the glomerulosa produces aldosterone which acts on the kidneys which have glomeruli in them, the fasciculata sounds like fascists and no-one's ever going to forget the fascists, and the most common giraffe subspecies in Kenya is the reticulated giraffe. So instead of having to remember those long and complicated terms from other languages, I now just have to remember "kidneys, Nazis, giraffes". It's so easy!

Finally, hedge your bets. Begin every answer with the phrase, "It has been proposed that..." Even if you write something which is completely wrong they have to give you marks for it, because what you've written is correct in the meta-environment of the exam itself. To illustrate, if I write "It has been proposed that the pancreas produces hydrochloric acid to digest the adjacent spleen", a shallow thinker may simply contradict me and claim that I am wrong. However, it has indeed been proposed by myself in that very sentence! How do you like them beans?

Well, those are the secrets of my success. If you have any other tips feel free to pass them on to fellow readers in the comments block below. But don't circulate this information too widely, if we all pass someone will get suspicious.

Good luck to you all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Maybe I'll be a bananaologist

I hate that feeling you get when you study really hard but then can't remember anything you just "learned". I went to town on the adrenal glands and the thyroid today, but guess what was the only thing I could really remember while driving home?
Bananas contain significant levels of noradrenaline.
I really need to find a way to mention that in my exam next Tuesday.

An oldy but a goldy

Oh, and your fly's undone.


Chess does not make good TV

We watched The West Wing tonight on DVD. Towards the end of season 3. It's a great show, but tonight's episode really annoyed me for two reasons.

First, the entire episode was structured around this conceit that the President is a gun chess player and that's what makes him so awesome at being President. He had two simultaneous games going with staffers while also dealing with a military crisis in the South China Sea. Yeah right. He kept saying hackneyed things like, "Look at the whole board, Sam", and "You've got checkmate in twelve moves!" Being good at chess doesn't make you good at anything except chess. Ask Deep Blue.

Second, in one of the games, his opponent (Toby) started with a pawn move and the President said, "Ah, the Evans gambit!". No, it's a pawn move. Now, I have been known to say things like that at the start of games to try to distract my opponent. But lo and behold, a few moves later, Toby actually did play the Evans gambit. It was really obvious that the scriptwriters just looked up the board position and didn't realize which move was the gambit - they thought it started right from the first move.

Sorry to yap on about chess, it just really annoyed me that such a good program could be so lame for once...