Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do not try to play the system

Copyright Antony Green 2010
The heading of this post is the advice given to me and my Esteemed Colleagues by our Fine University administration when they were telling us how the Big Computer would automagically process our preferences for the rotations we go on next year.  I am sure that every year some small number of people do not follow this advice, choosing instead to rely on convoluted logic and/or game theory to justify selecting rotations they don't really want but believe they won't be allocated in order to secure other placements that they just know they need to get or their careers will be destroyed in utero.  But by and large, medical students are sensible level-headed types who would never try to play the system when this much is at stake.

Not so the Australian public.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald, which you can read by placing your computer's cursor over THESE CAPITAL LETTERS using the pointing device with which it is equipped and depressing the selection button once, says that in a poll taken of voters since the election, 13% of them would have voted differently if they had known what the outcome of the election would be.  I have a message for those voters:


It's a difficult concept to get your head around, I know, but voting is an expression of your preferred outcome.  If enough people vote for something, it will happen.  There is no point voting for something that you don't want in order to "send a message".  Somewhat astonishingly, 1 vote out of 15 million sends no message at all, while 2 million votes out of 15 million changes the result.  If you want to send a message, write a postcard.  Sure, it'll cost you maybe a buck fifty.  But at least it won't put us all in the situation we're in now, where Bob Katter is the most powerful man in the country and Bill HendersonHeffernan* is trying to influence the formation of government by making prank phone calls in silly voices.

*okay I admit it.  I'm a moron.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The shape of things to come

Everyone in my class has been waiting for our allocations for next year to come out.  Well, almost everyone.  Some people were not successfully allocated a full program from their desired preferences by the Big Computer so they had to meet with an actual human being and select something by hand.  Initially I was scathing and contemptuous of them, laughing "Ha ha ha!" in their faces and convinced that somehow they had brought this doom upon themselves by their unclean living and idolatrous ways.  But it turns out that they got to look at what their programs for next year were before the rest of us, so they've been laughing contemptuously in our faces and other such objectionable behaviour.  Those jerks.

But today the school released our programs on provisional bail.  Here's what I'll be up to in my eight 6-week rotations next year:
  1. Elective.  Elective?  Oh my god.  I had assumed that this would be later in the year and that I would have time to organise something incredibly exotic so as to prompt jealousy and envy amongst my Esteemed Colleagues, yet easy enough that I can be bone idle.  How can I possibly tee up something between now and then?  Any suggestions?
  2. Anaesthetics.  Yay!  I was really hoping to get this because anaesthetists tell lots of funny stories because most of the time they don't have much to do.  And although they have to hang around surgeons a lot, they aren't actually under the surgeon's control.  So there!
  3. Renal.  This would be the All-Bran choice.  I'm doing it because I know it's good for me.
  4. Chronic pain.  This will be useful coming straight after Renal, because I imagine that Renal is going to be pretty painful for me.  I suspect that at the end of this block I will either love it or hate it.  Actually, probably by the end of the first week.
  5. Paediatrics.  This is one of my two electives.  I'm pretty excited about this one because apparently there's a fish-tank on the ward!
  6. Holiday block.  This is where I try to recover my wits.  Ommmmm...
  7. Emergency psychiatry.  By all accounts an interesting place to be.  Fingers crossed!
  8. Otolaryngology.  We have to do a surgery choice, and I never met an ENT I didn't like.  Seriously, if I was to do something foolish like get interested in surgery, ENT would be it.  There's lots of interesting stuff jammed into the head.
It's pretty bizarre to look at now that it's done.  It doesn't seem to bear much relation to what I've spent the last two and three-quarter years doing.  Still, I'm sure that I'll figure it out as I go along.  It seems to have worked just fine so far.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You are wrong because I said so

Yesterday I gave a talk on endometriosis to my tutorial group because I was required to do so, but also because I am wise and inspirational and my Esteemed Colleagues always clamour for more like adorable little magpie hatchlings being doled out worms by a caring parent.  But the specialist who was marking us did not share their boundless enthusiasm.

Gruff specialist
You were incorrect when you said in your definition that endometriosis occurs outside the uterus.  It can also occur in the muscular wall of the uterus.

But that would be adenomyosis which is a different thing.

Gruff specialist
Adenomyosis is just a type of endometriosis.

But this is what it says in my primary source: "Endometriosis is defined as the presence of endometrial glands and stroma outside the endometrial cavity and uterine musculature".

Gruff specialist
You must understand that the people who write these things do so because they have nothing better to do.

Whereas the true authorities are so busy that they are able to drive out to Woop-Woop and spend all day falling asleep during student presentations and eating our cheese.  Aaaah, I see.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One of those days

You know how when you wake up in the middle of the night to realize that your cat has had a little problem with its bowel control and you've been lying in the flavoursome results, you lie there for a while thinking, "I'm so tired I'm not sure it's worthwhile dealing with this right now.  Maybe I should just go back to sleep."

Today is one of those days.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bar fight

The resemblance is uncanny.
Tonight at the gym I had a new experience - I fell to the floor and was trapped under my weights bar.  Now I'm not boasting that I was like one of those Olympic weightlifters that you can see on youtube dropping several hundred kilos on their own heads and pile-driving themselves through the floor.  No, my bar had only ten kilos on it.  To make matters worse I was up in the front row of a class and I was the only man in a room full of women, so as you can imagine my masculine pride was dented worse than my body.

Some people go to the gym in order to build themselves up to lift the heaviest weights they can.  Several of my classmates are into this kind of pursuit and they seem to be able to lift the weight of ten large hams above their heads one-handed whereas I am flat-out lifting a ham sandwich to my mouth.  Which is why, when my Smaller Half came home today and said, "Let's go to the gym!", I moaned and groaned but ultimately said okay.  I really would benefit from some exercise.

When we got to the gym, I was dragged into what I call a Girls' Class.  It has some name like SexyThighs or Buns 'n' Abs or BoobFunk and it involves using small weights and doing endless repetitions while your ears bleed from the 80's remixes being blasted at you so loud that you can see the shockwaves.  It's kind of fun.

But because I am a man I feel compelled to use heavier weights than the strongest woman in the class despite the fact that they are clearly fitter and stronger than me.  My rationale is that not only am I chock full of testosterone, I also have an extremely large head so I should be quite strong already.  Of course, after five minutes of doing squats and lunges with this bar across my shoulders something bad happened.  The instructor went, "Up and two and down and two and pump and two and three and four", and I went, "Up, and two, and down, and aaaaargh!"  My legs didn't work any more and I fell to the ground.

To my surprise, nobody rushed to my aid.  The instructor and my Smaller Half both raised their eyebrows and made little "oooh" noises while I flopped around on the floor, but that was it.  Perhaps they are getting used to sweaty red-faced men crashing to the ground in their classes.  It's a jungle out there.  Watch out for the Amazons.

[p.s. World-wide hot beverage poll now up - vote or we'll be hung!]

Monday, August 23, 2010


So tell me, how's your diet?  Do you get much variety of foods?

Well no. I get terrible diarrhoea so I mostly eat just fruit and yoghurt.

And does that help?

No, I think it makes it worse.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Try to act surprised

"I don't want to give anything away, but I wouldn't worry about needing to know that by the end of the year" - Visiting surgeon who doesn't want to give anything away about the exam, when asked what we needed to know about tubes and drains.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" was written using my wikipedia browsing history with all the boring medical stuff taken out

A kind of magic, air burst, almond, anti-aircraft warfare
Antikythera mechanism, Archie meets the Punisher, Art Spiegelman.
Asahi Breweries, Attila the Hun, Babe Ruth, backpack.
Baikal seal, banjo, Baron Haden-Guest.

Be Here To Love Me, Beer style, Beta Bartok, Bela Fleck
Bela Lugosi, Bethnal Green tube station, bezoar.
Bill Oddie, bocce, bogan, Bogdanov affair.
Brass razoo, Bunfight At The O.K. Tea Rooms.

We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire, no we didn't light it but we tried to fight it.

Byzantine fault tolerance, Australian English, fictional martial arts
Mechanical computers, theory of computation.
Unsolved problems in mathematics, Chet Atkins, cilice
Civilization (video game), Clancy Brown, Cluedo.

Collatz conjecture, continued fraction, Cydonia
Daylight Robbery On The Orient Express, Deepak Chopra.
Deities & Demigods, Delphi method, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions
Dewclaw, Dr. Nim, Dragon Magazine.

We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire, no we didn't light it but we tried to fight it.

Dry beer, duco, Dumaresq, Ecky Thump
Ernest Hemingway, Erol Otus, F. Lee Bailey
Fatal Vision, Flight Of The Conchords, For Whom The Bell Tolls
Four Exponentials Conjecture, Francisco Jiminez de Cisneros

Freeciv, Galatia, Game Designer's Workshop.
Generalized Star Height Problem, giant isopod.
Gleemax, Godwin's Law, Graeme Garden, Gram
Greg Wilton, Hellfire Club, Highlander, hops

We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire, no we didn't light it but we tried to fight it.

Hunnic Empire, Iliad, Ilium, Indian summer
inertia, International bitterness units scale
Jamie Lee Curtis, Jamming, Jeff Easley
John Wilkes, Joseph Stalin, juggler sequence.

Julia Gillard, Julius Erving, Kerrison predictor
kilogram, Kolokol-1, Ksawery Tartakower
Kung Fu Kapers, ladrang, landrace, Larry Bird
Larry Elmore, Leon Trotsky, Lonely Runner conjecture

We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire, no we didn't light it but we tried to fight it.

Lou Bega, maize, malt, Mambo no. 5, Midnight
Moneyball, Monkey Island, Moscow hostage crisis chemical agent.
Moving sofa problem, murder, NBA draft lottery
Nick Sherry, nixtamalization, numbers station, offshore radio.

On-base percentage, Opus Dei, ormolu, Oumou Sangare
pale lager, Panzer Kunst, Patrick Ewing, phalanx.
Phase transition, pilsener, pirate radio, Redwing shoes
Robert Bork, Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, rort, Rush

We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire, no we didn't light it but we tried to fight it.

Rounding, Sacks spiral, sailing, Sam Sheppard
Sangre de Cristo mountains, SAT, Seignorage.
Scrip, send 'er down Hughie!, Shanghai International Circuit
Shays' Rebellion, shrapnel shell,slugging percentage, smoking concert.

SnarfQuest, Spetznaz, super-perfect numbers,
Table-maker's dilemma, , The Greatest American Hero.
The Goodies, The New York Times, The Spanish Inquisition.
The Susie, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Timur, Tony Blackburn,

Townes Van Zandt, Transylvania, Traveller (role playing game),
Truck system, Ulaid, United States one hundred-dollar bill,
Velarization, Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water, Vladimir Lenin,
Webbed belts, Yang-Mills existence and mass gap, I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE!

We didn't start the fire, but when we are gone it will still burn on and on and on and on...

Monday, August 16, 2010

This one's made for you

I usually don't tell stories here that show me in my best light.  Running a blog for the purposes of inflating one's reputation seems pretty sad.  But I have to tell you this story because, while it does make me look good, it makes someone else look even better and I hope that it might lift your spirits a bit.

In short, last week was a shitter.  I'd been struck down by a persistent case of gastro, I'd been really tired most of the time, and I'd had to give a presentation during the week that was not only pointless but also extremely badly done by me so I'd been uncharacteristically stressed by it.  Yes - by comparison with people who are having a genuine Bad Time (tm), my week was fine, but we all have our our troubles, right?  Anyway, by Friday I'd had enough, so when I got to the clinic and found an envelope on my desk with my name written on it, I assumed it had in it something I didn't want to see in my (then) present state of mind.  Perhaps a bill.  Perhaps a bunch of biochem test results for me to interpret.  Perhaps an invitation to dine with Barnaby Joyce.  Who knows?  I didn't want to risk opening it until it was time to go home and I could fling it to the floor in disgust and storm out in a huff.

So I sat alone in my office, hunched over my desk, feeling cold and sorry for myself as I pondered what fresh insult from the universe might be lurking in that envelope.  Eventually I heard the theme song from M*A*S*H playing on the television in the waiting room and I realized it was time to go.  I tore open the envelope and found in it a print-out of the notes that I'd written up in the record of a patient who'd come in on Monday.  I'd taken a fair bit of time with him since he'd presented with a cluster of vaguely uncertain problems that somehow made me worry that something really bad was going on.  On the bottom of the notes was written, by one of the doctors, "This was a difficult patient.  You did a good job with him."

I was stunned!  Doctors seldom give positive feedback to patients, let alone to students.  Or perhaps I should say seldom to me.  This is the first time I have received unqualified encouragement this year.  Not that I need to have my praises sung by the temple priestesses each morning as they release the doves - it's just that sometimes if you don't get to see the sun for a while the winter starts to seem a bit bleak.  I drove home that day, not exactly on a high, but at least with a certain dignity and sense of progress.  Maybe I can make it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not Tony Abbott

Yesterday, in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, the software billionare and philanthropist Bill Gates was asked some questions about his family.  When asked if he thought that Jennifer and Phoebe should remain virgins until their wedding night, Gates replied, "Um, ahh, look - I'm no Tony Abbott.  You can't expect to be able to quiz me on this kind of stuff and for me to know the answers right off the top of my head."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I object to my cat being treated like a common criminal.  What's that, you say?  I'm raving like a madman again?  Let me explain.  Come closer.  Closer!  Let me whisper in your ear...

We took the Secret Cat to the vet a little while ago, and short minutes later we were pushed from a dark consulting room out through the back door into the sunlight, where we stood blinking and dazed, groping helplessly in our pockets for any money that might remain.  Once we got home we realized that we'd been given some tablets to give the cat.  (Actually, the vet originally said to us, "Oh, you're medical students?  Do you have any way of getting hold of amlodipine?", to which I replied, "I don't think that breaking into the drug cabinet at the clinic and stealing the drugs there to give to my cat would be a good first step down that pathway to Hell which is paved with good intentions", so he sold us the amlodipine at a vast markup instead.)

It was kind of cute, the box had a little label printed up just like for a human prescription.  Except the cat's name was in inverted commas, like this: "Chopper" Read  (My cat is not called Chopper Read, that was just an example of formatting).

See what I mean?  Hypothetically, if my cat was called Snowball, and hypothetically if my last name was Farkas, the prescription label would be "Snowball" Farkas.  It makes my cat look like a crook, and looks trashy and downmarket and entirely lacks the dignity and quiet majesty of Snowball Farkas.

Furthermore it doesn't actually make any sense.  The cat's (hypothetical) name really is (hypothetically) Snowball.  It's not a nickname.  If anything, it's my surname that should be in quotes: Snowball "Farkas".  It's not really a relative of mine, after all.  As the old joke goes, cats don't have owners, they have employees.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm a lipstick socialist. Or something.

I've just discovered that my Smaller Half and I are unbearably snobbish members of the chattering classes.  I discovered this because I started ironically singing Mozart's 9th Symphony while we discussed quinoa (a food eaten by lefties, greenies, hippies, pinkos and vegans).  Here's how it went down:

Smaller Half
How much is 80 grams of quinoa?
I reckon about half a cup.
Smaller Half
I'll look it up in Stephanie Alexander. Do you think quinoa would be similar to semolina?
Yeah sure.
Smaller Half
Well, well! 80g is half a cup!

[Loudly sings melody from Ode To Joy in an triumphant reference to Peggle]
Smaller Half

[Continues singing]

Smaller Half
That's enough.


Painful, I know.  But you really should watch that youtube video I linked to.  It's great.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Morning coughy

You know how sometimes you get a tune or an unusual word stuck in your head?  That happened to me yesterday.  It's much worse for me when I'm tired and yesterday I was stonkered.  I'd gotten up really earlier, before 6 a.m. which, contrary to my previous experience of the world, actually exists.  And get this: that early in the morning the sun isn't even up yet.  It's like night!

So I was really tired to start with, then I just got more tired because I think I got a bit dehydrated.  Drinking coffee rather than water doesn't do much to wake you up after the first couple of cups, and it makes you pee like a racehorse.  And to cap it all off I ended up spending too much time wandering around outside in the cold and popping in and out of nice warm shops in town, which is also tiring.

I managed to avoid getting anything too preposterous stuck in my head until we went to get something to eat at the markets and I saw my supervisor across the way and the word "dextropropoxyphene" popped into my head.  I think this happened because the last time we spoke, a couple of weeks ago, he made some strange remark to me about how I was probably hooked on it when I was a kid and that's why I liked the taste of cough syrup.  Sure.  Nothing at all to do with the fact that the cough syrup was 95% sugar.

Anyway, having a word keep whizzing round inside your head is annoying at the best of times, but when it's dextropropoxyphene it's doubly annoying because I can barely pronounce it.  I'm pretty sure that I don't even know what it is, which would make it a Rumsfeldian known unknown.  No wonder the war in Iraq went so badly.  The insurgents probably had bottles and bottles of dextropropoxyphene and they weren't afraid to use it!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Baby bonus

People who write business columns and people who run training sessions to help junior government employees become risk averse are fond of quoting an old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".  Medical students, on the other hand, are fond of quoting an old Chinese blessing, "May you get sprays of arterial blood across the front of your favourite shirt".  This blessing came true for me yesterday.

Fortunately nothing bad happened to anybody, as is usually the case when blood starts squirting around the room.  I finally managed to attend a birth and help out in my own fumbling inadequate way.  I found it fascinating, intimidating, scary, uplifting, barbaric, and wonderful.  The best bit was cutting the umbilical cord that for 9 months has connected me to my supervisor - no wait, I mean has connected the baby to his mother.  As it turns out, there's a good technique for cutting the cord that doesn't involve getting cord blood sprayed all over you.  But the doctor and midwife didn't share this with me until after I had tried it my way.  Oh how we laughed!

Births are strange.  I basically stood there for 5 hours doing pretty much nothing and feeling as useless as, oh, a man in a labour ward.  Then there was 5 minutes of leaping around holding this in and that back and throwing the other in the bin.  And then there was a baby!  Which then meant that I had to spend the next hour furiously shaking everybody by the hand and making lasagne... for one.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Sometimes I check out my google analytics page to see what search terms lead people to this blog.  The vast majority are people who search by typing in the actual URL.  Okay people, why not save a mouse click and actually type that URL into the box thingy of your browser rather than into the google box thingy?  (sorry to get all technical on you)  A small majority of the remaining minority are the people who search for "prone to reverie", "reverie blog", "pronetoreverie" or some small mis-spelling of that kind of thing.  So that's interesting - these are people who are looking for this blog and find it.

Then there are the searches which come up over and over again in small numbers, so seem to be of interest to people generally: "baked egg challenge", "imaginary country names", "start low go slow", "questions about sandwiches", "mr tumble hello song lyrics".  I like to imagine that I'm able to help these people but in reality I know I almost certainly don't.

And finally there are the searches which are just a little bit creepy.  Most of these involve the word "prone".  For example: "prone hairy", "doctors used for prone examination", "aunt prone", "fantastic four prones", and "gay prone dark alley".  These are the one that I prefer not to use my imagination on.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


This morning I talked to Mr Dinosaur on the phone!  I also visited the Volcano Office where I helped to draw a map of the volcanos so that nobody would get a surprise!  And I did some building as well!  And I wore lots of different types of hat!  And I got to play the coconuts when we all sang songs!

Childcare is awesome!

Monday, August 2, 2010


The new film Inception has been garnering a lot of attention.  Here's a brief review of it by my Aged Mother:
I went to see a film called Invictus.  No, not that, Inception.  Well - I've never seen such a complete load of utter clap-trap in all my life.  It's one of these science fiction films, so I suppose you'd like it if you're into that kind of thing.  People jumping into other people's minds and then jumping into other minds and in and out of their dreams - and the violence!  And buildings falling down and it's utterly incomprehensible.  I went up to a young bloke in the lobby afterwards and said, "I'm a very old lady and I had no idea what that film was about.  Can you explain it to me?"  So he did and I said, "That's all very clever but couldn't they have shown us all that in just half an hour instead wasting all that time?" and he said, "Yes but then we would have missed out on all the special effects".  Honestly, you've never seen anything like it.  Two and a half hours of complete garbage.
Zero stars.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I write like...

There's a website (iwl.me) which allegedly analyses your writing and it tells you which famous author your writing style most resembles.  Yes, I've done this before with other websites, but this one has the gumption to pop up a window offering to sell you a special course to improve your writing while simultaneously saying you write like a famous author.  Audacious!

So I figured I'd give it a try.  I pasted into the input box my earlier post reviewing the Hot-Can.  IWL told me that I write like some guy called David Foster Wallace.  I go to check him out on wikipedia.  Cool - he's acclaimed.  He's ironic.  He's innovative.  Oh, and he's dead.  Hung himself.  That's not so great for either of us.

Now I'm wondering if maybe I should try a different bit of my writing.  So I paste into IWL's input box my earlier post on how I got antidepressants mixed up with painkillers.  And it tells me I write like David Foster Wallace.  Perhaps choosing a post about antidepressants wasn't such a good idea.  Way too obvious.

So I try IWL on a previous post of mine about wearing a new type of scrubs at a new hospital.  And it tells me I write like David Foster Wallace. My post about my cat's medical history?  David Foster Wallace.

What the heck?  My working theory is that IWL is just telling me the same thing over and over no matter what I put into it.  To test this I try typing in the phrase "You have a face like a bum", but it complains that I need to enter several paragraphs of text.

So I go back to the wikipedia page about David Foster Wallace, whose name I am starting to tire of, copy the section on "Themes and Styles" and paste that into IWL.  And it tells me I write like H.P. Lovecraft - who is the author that I'm currently quoting at the top of this blog, and who invented the self-same Yog-Sothoth that appears in my fermented dairy quiz right at this very moment.

Something sinister is going on.  I think Wikipedia has been taken over by the Elder Gods.

[postscript: it gets stranger yet - continued in the comments section...]