doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Month: October, 2016

Sidewalk talk

You see a lot of strange things living in New York City. Some of them funny, others upsetting. But today as I walked down the sidewalk, I saw something pleasantly poignant. So much so that though I was hurrying back to my apartment to study, I paused to take a photo. The message, faded by rain and the elements, is a good reminder for us all.


Apparently, there are more of these messages. See images of them here.


Cerebral humor

The brain is complex. Studying it is fascinating — and also frustrating. Thankfully, I have people in my life who help me keep my sense of humor about this amazing organ, and the two months spent studying it during medical school.

"Just inflate!"

“Just inflate!”

First, there’s the Emergency Brain, with the tag line “Just inflate!” If only it were that easy, right? It’s a nice thought though, and one that makes me laugh.

Second, there’s The Handy Brain Model. This is a brain model like you’ve never seen, a mitten of sorts that you put on your hand to simulate the lobes of the cortex as well other structures like the amygdala and the hippocampus. It’s both funny and practical. Who could ask for more?

Thanks, guys. Laughter really is the best medicine.

A sound strategy for stress relief

Medical school is stressful. I don’t think anyone — whether looking from the inside or the outside — would deny that. So part of surviving the experience is about finding strategies to mitigate that stress. A healthy diet and regular exercise go a long way. Spending time with other people, doing non-medical-school things, is key too. Something else I’ve recently discovered is listening to the calming sounds of nature while studying. It helps put me in a peaceful frame of mind even if the material at hand is complex, and potentially frustrating. You can buy this sort of thing of course, but it’s also available for free — a plus for broke medical students — on YouTube. My favorite YouTube channel in this vein is Relaxing White Noise, which has 10-hour tracks ranging from “Bird Happy Hour at the Mountain Creek” to “Rain on Tent” to “Forest Night Nature Sounds.” There are also non-nature sounds, like a fan, but living in the concrete jungle of New York City I want to be reminded of green places and things. (I also want to drown out the perennial construction.) Here’s a sample of one track I like, “Forest Rain Sounds”:

Once a copy editor, always a copy editor

You know you’re a still copy editor at heart when

… You’re reading a neuroanatomy textbook, trying to learn about the vestibular system, and come across an antibiotic spelled in two different ways on the same page. Not only do you notice this, but you feel the need to investigate: gentamicin vs. gentamycin? The former is the correct spelling (with the “i”), according to multiple online sources including the Mayo Clinic. But this isn’t enough. You now need to grasp the roots of this mistake. So you dig deeper, and discover that the misspelling is somewhat understandable given that other antibiotics — streptomycin, neomycin, and tobramycin — spell that syllable with a “y” rather than an “i.” And actually, gentamicin (with an “i”) is sold under the brand name Garamycin (with a “y”). After all this, you are mostly satisfied, except that you have no power to correct the error.

Following such a lengthy digression, this is your final, perplexed thought: “Now what was I reading again?”

When life gives you lemons, build a couch

When I moved into my new apartment in August, the couch I’d bought off another student simply didn’t fit through the narrow hallway of this ancient New York City building. That was frustrating. So I found an online company, Home Reserve, that sells couches (and other furniture) you assemble on your own. Furniture assembly is always an adventure. You never know what the instructions will be like, or whether the parts will be banged up. But I didn’t have much choice. The company’s website emphasizes that the UPS boxes containing the couch parts will fit through narrow spaces, and the videos they posted made the process seem pretty self-explanatory. So I hoped for the best.

The two boxes, each weighing about 60 pounds, were delivered last night. My kind next door neighbor helped me lug them up the stairs. This morning, I put everything together. In less than three hours, I went from two big boxes of flat wooden pieces to a fully finished, upholstered couch. Pretty amazing. My apartment finally feels like a home — a home where I have somewhere to sit other than my bed. That’s a good feeling.

Note: Click on any photo for an enlarged slideshow.