Volume control

May 25, 2011

As I sit here preparing for my wicked microbiology exam in 8 hours or so, I’ve come to a very important conclusion:

With the exception of med psyc/ethics prof, the profs this semester have SERIOUS ISSUES with volume in their lectures.

Neuro doesn’t have a textbook or a Kaplan book, I get it, he’s explained time and again he’s being thorough, fine.  But micro, seriously?  This is INFORMATION OVERLOAD–these lectures are nothing but copied and pasted blurbs and photocopied tables.  There is WAAAAY too much information to sort through.  I’m sitting here reading about virulence factors and I can’t help but compare our prof’s tactic of overloading us with (not entirely useful) information with the ways in which bacteria utilize pili or toxins in which to invade and kill host cells.  A bit ridiculous.  But I must carry on.

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So when last we left off, I had finally gotten my car back, completely repaired and was oh so happy.  I neglected to mention that the day previous to that, I went to pick up my tote that I shipped down with Tropical.  I had a really bad experience, so I don’t think I’ll do that again.

So I only sent down one tote this time–I’ve gotten my little apartment pretty cozy and you have to keep in mind that out of everything you send down here, 90-95% of it will stay, so it makes you shop very carefully when you’re at home.  There are tons of nice, convenient things I would love to bring down here, but this place is a money pit.  So since I had only shopped for consumables and the bare necessities that I would need for the next 12 months to make it bearable here, only one tote to send.  Even it wasn’t filled to its usual capacity of bulging, requiring almost a whole roll of duct tape to secure it.  I had a case of sugar-free Red Bull (because you can only find regular on the island), another stand fan (because it’s hot and my A/C is making my electricity bill astronomically expensive), some giant cases of Slim Fast powder (ugh I need diet), some water filters for my Brita pitcher, some sugar-free powdered drink mix (to make water drinking more bearable), among other stuff.  It ended up costing ~$250 USD for Tropical to send it down here (I can send 2 totes for $300) because the major costs incurred are the freight charges to ship it from NC to Miami–you’re really better off using Tropical if you have a lot of heavy stuff to send.  And then when it got to the island I wasn’t able to work with my usual broker, Mr. Jeff, who charges me $20 EC–instead I had to work with some old, crazy lady who charged me $50 EC, and then the customs lady had a field day with my tote.  She opened EVERYTHING and got pissed off at me because I had taken the labels off of things.  She found my shocks for my Jeep and charged me outrageous duty on them, charged me for my Red Bull (I’ve never been charged for this before), charged me for my fan, and because I was in a hurry when packing my tote and stupidly left them in the box, she charged me for my Brita filters.  DAMMIT.  I ended up having to pay $230 EC in TAXES.  @#$( NEVIS CUSTOMS!  SO ANGRY.  So, yes, I will NOT be shipping anything else down.  Those crooks can take my money and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine because they won’t be getting another dime from me.

I got home, unpacked my tote, savored my expensive consumables, got the shocks to Don, he put them on my Jeep and I got my Jeep the next day.  I studied all weekend for Neuro and Psyc exams on Monday.  Neuro went well, though not as well as I would have liked–apparently the material was ridiculously easy and technically wasn’t even Neuro yet, so those of us who scored in the high B range are extremely apprehensive for the next exam.  Psyc was stupid.  Yet again, just like EBM and Epi, there were argumentative, unclear questions with multiple correct answers.  I scored in the high 70s and was disgusted that I’d spent that much time studying for that stupid class, then Psyc prof gave us a 10 pt curve (only it wasn’t REALLY a curve, according to him) so I didn’t feel so bad.  I ended up having the same grades for both classes, which was ok, but man it’d have been nice to have started the semester out with A’s instead of B’s, oh well.

The rest of the week went ok.  We’ve started child development in psyc, which is definitely more interesting than Mood disorders.  Psyc prof is passionate about it because in his previous career, he was a child psychologist.  There’s a lot of memorization, though, which doesn’t seem like it’ll go well with our other blocks (which will all be together and normal for this block 2).  Neuro has been nuts.  All kinds of memorization and learning and stuff I’ve never heard of, which still sounds very important.  Unfortunately, I haven’t touched my notes for this block–we have our first microbiology exam this coming Wednesday, so everyone’s stressing about that.  There are over 70 pages of notes–MANY charts to memorize, lots of bacteria to know, lots of tests to know.  Ugh.  So that’s what I’ve been doing all weekend.

We had a mock exam Thursday for the Biochem/Genetics TA session that I think went really well.  We had excellent attendance with over half of the class there.  Many people were frustrated that we weren’t going to put the actual exam up on the student server for everyone until today, Sunday.  We still feel it’s for the best, though.  There were a lot of questions that prompted discussion over multiple correct answers and wording, and if you weren’t at the TA session, you missed that and could have been confused.  We gave the kids some really solid advice, though many of them left before we could discuss it, still I genuinely hope they do well.  As we’ve told them, these are easy tests in the beginning that they should really try to blow out of the water and do well on while they can.  Naturally they’re all worried about Physio, as they should be, so I hope our message got through to them.

I’ve been cooking this weekend.  My loan check finally came in last week, so I finally got to go to the ATM and get some ECs to pay my landlady for my electricity for March and April ($920 EC, OUCH), and to go shopping with more than a $75 EC budget.  The Best Buy in Gingerland is really improving–they have fresh meat now, and rotisserie chicken.  I made a rotisserie chicken salad last week to eat in Oat Bran pitas for lunch or dinner (my “one sensible meal”‘ of the day on the slimfast plan).  It had raisins, apples, celery, onion, grapes, walnuts, and a bit of mayo.  Out of this world.  I wanted to go back and get more chicken but they were out, so I settled on a package of split chicken breasts and stew beef.  Yesterday I cooked the chicken breasts in Kraft BBQ sauce in the crock pot and made shredded BBQ chicken breast when they finished–again to eat with Oat Bran pita points.  Last night I cooked the stew beef in some Campbell’s beef gravy–it smells good and looks great but I don’t think I’ll make it again–it ended up being ~$14 EC for only 1 serving while the chicken was ~$20 EC for 3 servings.  Plus I’m trying to stay away from red meat.  Today I’m making a “chili” of sorts in my crock pot, again, with Ragu Mushroom tomato sauce, Hormel beanless chili, onions and garlic.  I’d love to have it over spaghetti but due to fiber, carb, and calorie concerns, will probably eat it like a stew with pita points.  Also I found some giant zuccini at the store which I chopped up into spears and stirfried with some olive oil and soy sauce.  So hopefully my cooking for the week will be done.  My plan is to continue having oatmeal for breakfast, slim fast for lunch, and then one of my cooked meals for dinner.  I’m still having a problem getting my 2 liters of water in daily.  I’ve found that it’s necessary for me to drink Coke Zero while at school, for the caffeine.  Which means that I have to come home and drink all of my water before bed.  It’s not so bad if I come straight home, but these late evenings when I have lab or TA sessions usually end in me going out to dinner with someone, then coming home late and going straight to bed.  I suppose I’ll have to stop those and just come home instead.  I had two of those evenings on Thursday and Friday so I had to catch up on my water and drank a whole whopping 6 liters yesterday.  I was proud of myself though–Thursday I went out for Chinese with some friends and got Tofu and ate only Tofu and no rice, thus not compromising my diet.  I went home and had some V8 because there were only onions as veggies with the Tofu, but still, you can eat out and not ruin your diet.  Friday was a different story–I went to Yachtsman’s and had a Commodore Burger with onion rings and was in heaven.  Yea, can’t do that very often–my weight has stayed the same despite the water and the strict dieting this weekend, which really kills my motivation–but at least I have a cause for it, and, sigh, I can remove that cause by not going to get massive burgers any more.

I’m in the middle of laundry and more micro studying and I think I’m due to go hang another load out on the clothesline.  Sorry for the late update but things have been busy.  Hope all is well with you all and I’ll try to check in later.

But I have block in 9.5 hours.  Boo.  Off to study.

Time is going to be an issue during this semester.  Not that it wasn’t a problem in previous semesters, but being in class until 5:00 or later some days is really cutting down on the time I have to come home and study.

The day before yesterday, I walked to school in the rain, sat through classes until 4:45, got a ride home in the rain, and crashed.  I didn’t wake up until 3:00 in the morning, then barely finished my subjects.

Yesterday, I walked to school right after the rain, sat through classes until 4:00, went to the library to wait for my 6:00 TA session to start, stayed until 7:10, walked home in the dark, and crashed.  I didn’t wake up until 6:00 this morning.  Now, I did get some studying done for the 3 hours I was in the library, but just in one subject.  Now I’m still a bit behind in that subject and haven’t touched the other two.

Sleep seems to be mandatory with this exercise thing, so I guess that means I need to get my car back asap if I want to get anything done but sleep.

Med 3

May 10, 2011

With a week of classes under my belt, I feel like I can safely comment on how I think they’re going now:

Micro–Only had one day of class so far.  The Immuno prof who usually starts the semester had a medical emergency, so we’re starting class a week late, with the prof who usually teaches the second half, micro.  The first day of class was insane.  He went really fast covering many topics.  I’ve had micro and immuno before, but it was overwhelming to me.  Hate to think how those kids with no background felt.

Neuro–Another quickly-moving class, but thorough.  Every aspect of each lecture including any possible needed background is covered swiftly and efficiently by the prof.  He got a bit behind last week, but as promised, made time to go back and review the missed slides.  The lab situation seems a bit fishy–because the anatomy lab, where the brains are kept, is occupied during our lab time on Mondays from 4-5, we typically go to the lab on Fridays during our class time, but then every now and then, the prof will request that we have class during the lab time on Monday to make up for the lab trips.  We had to stay yesterday afternoon for 30 minutes–it doesn’t sound that daunting, but after 6 hours of class and, in my case, a walk to school (because my car’s in the shop), I had to fight to keep my eyes open.

Med Psyc–It goes.  Slowly.  Don’t cover that much material.  Prof speaks pretty slowly, doesn’t use big terms.  It’s a nice juxtaposition to the other two (previously mentioned) hard classes, but with my ADHD, I find it hard to sit still.  I’d love to work on notes for other classes, but the prof looks right at me and delights in using my name in examples or grilling me from time to time, so it’s out of the question.

Ethics–Also taught by Med Psyc prof.  REALLY boring.  The only hope is that we seem to have a few people in our class who aren’t complete liberals who might disagree with the ethical norms, but we’ll wait and see if they’re conversational enough to add some spice to our discussions.  We’ve really only had 1 class so far, but it didn’t sparkle the appetite for more.

Outside of class, not a lot of happiness is going on.  My hot water isn’t working.  I told my landlady but I think she’s still caught in the wake of her father’s passing, so I don’t want to press the issue just yet.  The cold showers are getting lame, really quick, though.  And I found more mold.  There was a really bad patch behind the door on the wooden ledge going throughout the kitchen, then it continued on into the bedroom.  They came off easily with Mold-Fighter, but I wonder what’s causing them.  Still waiting on a radiator for my Jeep, so I left it with Don.  Walking to school sucks–I’m leaving at 7:45 for my 9:00 class, but it’s downhill and I’ll hopefully find a ride back home this afternoon.

Back in Nevis

May 6, 2011

My bad for not posting sooner, but the days surrounding the trip back are always so hectic–so much to be done, so many last-minute people to see, and then the actual journey back is always an experience in and of itself.

So after Easter, the week went well.  I had a couple days home by myself during which I endured dentist appointments and last-minute shopping, but I did get to have lunch with some great friends and visit them at work.  I got to go to Durham and see all of my old friends from work and from undergrad which was amazing and quite honestly, something I didn’t think I’d get to do.  It was great catching up–they haven’t changed a bit, which was a nice, grounding comfort.  Dad and I were supposed to go to Raleigh with the fair board but the convention was canceled, so we had a nice cookout instead.  I spent a lot of time Sunday visiting with Emily, my 13 year old Siamese cat.  I miss her dearly, and I knew I would, so I spent as much time with her exclusively as I could.  Then we all had to go to bed early to get up for the 5:50 flight Monday morning.  Almost everything was packed–I was resolved to the fact that I would have to check 2 suitcases, but when I went to weigh them, one was 45 lbs (fine) and the other was only 35.  That just wouldn’t fly (no pun intended)–the airline was charging $30 for the extra bag, so I sure as heck was going to get all 50 lbs worth.  We went out to fill up on gas for the trip and I got a 12-pack of diet Sundrops to take up some weight in my suitcase (10 lbs!).  Unfortunately some of them burst on the way down, but I had them triple-bagged.  I’m sure I probably mentioned before that the selection of diet sodas here is extremely limited.

So the flight down was interesting.  Had THE CREEPIEST flight attendant EVER on the CLT–>MIA flight.  She was an older lady with this crazy Shirley Temple wig on, with a really strange perfume and an affect to match.  I was excited because I ran into Kish at the airport, so it’s always nice to have someone to fly with.  When we got to the Miami airport, there was a little confusion over whether or not we were supposed to go recheck our luggage (on inbound flights, yes but not on outbound flights), but once we figured it out, we settled down at our new gate.  Slowly tons of MUA students started trickling in–we ended up comprising almost the entire flight.  The flight was overbooked, so they were offering 5 people a $500 voucher, hotel stay and transportation to take the same flight the next day, but classes started the next day, so I had to decline.

The flight itself was not bad–I paid an extra $25 or so to upgrade my seat to the first row behind first class and had AMPLE leg room–it was heaven.  The down side, however, is that the arm-rests are fixed, so my hips were aching from the compression by the time we made it to St. Kitts.  P.S. Totally on a diet now to fix that problem.

Immigration and customs weren’t that bad at all but waiting for the luggage tested my nerves.  Through skype and updates on facebook, I’d found out that persons on earlier flights through St. Kitts hadn’t received all of their luggage, so I was worried when I began to think of the complications associated with getting luggage from St. Kitts to Nevis when school had already started, but thankfully both of my bags arrived.  I caught a cab with other MUA students to town, to one of the only ferries of the day to Nevis (apparently it was Labor Day in the federation), which ended up being a giant cluster.  The ferry was overbooked and almost everyone had multiple pieces of luggage, so they waited until they couldn’t load any more people or luggage to decide to unload it all and re-load it onto a bigger ferry.  Though I got into St. Kitts at 2:30, we didn’t get to Nevis until 5:45.  Then because I had arrived on the passenger ferry into Basseterre instead of Sea Bridge, my car was not waiting for me.  There was a fight for H-buses and of course the taxi drivers were trying to take advantage of students ($20 US each to go to the dorms? I don’t think so–gaugers!)  so I didn’t actually get transportation until 6:30.

A friend I met up with in Miami and I were traveling together and famished, so we crossed our fingers that there would be some restaurant open, despite the holiday, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the Yachtsman, an American-owned restaurant was indeed open.  The Yachtsman has an excellent burger called the Big Commodore, that’s a dead ringer to a big-mac from McDonalds, but it’s only available before 7:00, so we were in luck.  The mosquitoes almost ate us alive while we waited, but we got 2 commodores to-go and ate at my friend’s place.  Then I grabbed my bags and made it home.

My landlady was waiting for me down in my apartment.  They had cleaned for me–so nice.  I had done some shopping for her, so I collected her purchases from my luggage and gave them to her–she was thrilled.

I went to bed early, around 10:00 from the sheer exhaustion from the trip.  We were supposed to have class the next morning at 9:00 starting with Microbiology, however it was announced that our teachers were having some difficulty getting back to St. Kitts, so that class would be canceled for the week.  Classes, then, didn’t start until 11:00.  WOO!  I used the opportunity to take a much-needed trip to town–to go to the ATM and re-charge on EC $.  Had I not been dieting, I would have loved a Bear Claw from the bakery.  There wasn’t enough time to go grocery shopping, so I headed back to school.

Neuroscience, the class at 11:00 was very interesting.  The teacher is very interesting.  It’s strongly reminiscent of work.  Lots of familiarity there.

After neuroscience was lunch, from 1:00-2:00 just like last semester.  I utilized it to go to the admin building and purchase my gym membership, only to find out a few hours later that for personal reasons, ahem, my trips to the gym will have to wait a week or so.

From 2:00-4:00 is Med Psyc.  Must say I’m a bit disappointed with that class.  It’s taught by the same guy who team-taught EBM, taught us Epidemiology last semester, and who is taking over Ethics this semester as well.  I thought the other classes were lackluster because he was forced into teaching them and didn’t care a lot about them, but surely that Med Psyc would rock because that’s what his degrees are in and it was his previous profession.  It doesn’t rock.  Not even close.  It’s just as boring as the other classes.  He makes some attempt at engaging the class by showing us videos and using interesting examples, but for the most part, he just stands up there and lectures and reads directly off the slides.  I find that I’m not stimulated to go and learn more about these illnesses at all.  We talked about electro-shock therapy today and it was as mundane as a packet of ketchup.  Disappointed.  Perhaps he’ll redeem himself later.

So for the earlier part of the week, we are scheduled to have Neuro/Micro labs in the afternoon, but they’re not ready to begin yet, so we got out early in addition to our late start.  It was only today that we started Ethics (it meets Thursdays and Fridays from 4:00-5:30).  I thought it would just be a continuation of Med Psyc but there is an interesting twist that we have a few students joining us who are retaking biochem in the 2:00-4:00 slot.  I think the prof wants to make it about us learning bedside manner, though unfortunately he announced that we would be doing presentations on ethical issues.  Ugh, more presentations, more group work.  Hopefully it won’t be a tough class.  We meet again tomorrow for our first real class, so we’ll see what goes on.

On a personal level, I’ve had trouble coming home and getting in gear to study.  The only semi-tough material we’ve had all week is neuro which seems a lot like review, so you hate to come home and work on it again.  I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to write out notes this semester like I’ve done in previous semesters–I know there are more efficient ways, but if a system works for you, why rock the boat?  It’s just so time-consuming.  I’m still debating.

This afternoon I came home, had some oatmeal and went to bed for a nap.  I’m trying to find a happy setting on my A/C that’s not too cold but not too hot and today was a swing and a miss with 24 degrees C.  Too hot, so I only slept from 5:00-11:00.  I woke up and decided that I must unpack.  I have friends that want to come and study, but I can’t very well entertain company in my small apartment with suitcases littering the floor.  Ideally I should probably be reading up for neuro, but I think it’s probably time for bed again.  I’m quite hungry, but I know if I eat anything carby that it’ll just go straight into fat when I go to bed.  I have another liter of water I should drink for the day, but that doesn’t jive with going to bed and not the bathroom.

Class again tomorrow morning at 11:00–heaven–but perhaps I’ll be struck with a bolt of determination before then and wake up to study?  Maybe?  Maybe not.  Either way, plans to break the diet for 14 hours–trip out with the gals for a tried and true pasttime of Friday night BBQ chicken and garlic bread, then a Saturday morning breakfast trip to the Hermitage restaurant for some toe-curling coconut french toast, Irish breakfast tea with cream and sugar, and catching up with classmates in different semesters about their breaks and study tips for the new semester.