Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Internet Just Blew My Mind

Do you have any idea how cool the world that we live in is?


I'm finally getting around to putting the finishing touches on my novel, and I have discovered that the internet is AMAZING.

CreateSpace is an online publishing company that I can submit my electronic text to, and they will send me a copy for free. That's pretty cool.  BUT!  They will also put it on for me, and anyone in the world can buy it.  That's right.  Soon, you'll be able to type my name into Amazon and a real-live hard-copy bonafide copy of my book could show up on your doorstep. I bet you didn't think you knew any of the authors on Amazon- but you are officially wrong.

But, what if you are one of those awesome people who doesn't touch real books anymore, because you own a fancy Kindle?  Or perhaps an iPad where you read your Kindle books?  Have no fear!  Amazon has a program that allows anyone to upload a book onto their Kindle market and sell it as a Kindle book!

Remember when getting published meant that someone had to read your book and think it was worthy of being printed??  Ha.  I remember when Pluto was a planet, too.  Those days are long gone.

The world will soon be a little brighter, because my ill-researched and poorly written novel is about to take both Kindle and Amazon by storm.  Watch out world.  The field of science fiction is about to take a major blow.

I'll put some links on here once they are available.  Unfortunately, the reason that I can make the novel available on so many platforms for free (on my end), is because they are going to charge you for it (on your end).  I think I can make it as cheap as $0.99 on Kindle, and $4.99 + shipping/handling on Amazon.  Those are the minimum prices set by the publisher- and they even give me a percentage of the price as a 'royalty'.  I think I'll get $0.33 per Kindle sale, and $0.51 per hard copy sale.  I might quit my day job.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top Ten Tips For Writing a Novel

10.  If your plot is dragging, kill a character. It's incredible hard to write a boring death scene.  Probably impossible. Unless the character was actually "bored to death", but I think that even that would be interesting to write about.

9. Start with a sufficient number of characters so that #10 doesn't prematurely end your story

8. Think of novel writing as "The Original Sims".  The reason that Sims is popular is that its fun to have control over a group of characters and make them do outlandish things.  Novel writing should be fun for the same reason.

7. Give up on bad ideas quickly.  For some weird reason, I really wanted someone to win the lottery in my novel.  It just didn't fit anywhere, and I spent too much time trying to work it in.

6. Write about whatever you want.  Chances are if you are enjoying typing it, then someone is going to enjoy reading it.  For example, I spend about 5 pages describing an appendectomy in space.  It was SO fun to write, and it's probably the best written scene in the whole book. If it's not fun to write, it won't be fun to read.

5. Have a terrible opening sentence.  It's only uphill from there.  Mine was, "Hello?"  You don't want to set expectations too high at the beginning or else your readers are going to have, ya know, high expectations.

4. Don't apologize for the decisions you make.  I am very bad a writing relationships between men and women (love is sappy and for wieners); but I'm very good an building relationships between men, or between woman (developing friends and enemies is fascinating!!).  So I put 5 men in space, and 5 women on Earth, and they really don't interact with the other group.  Call me sexist- but a woman in space would've cause MAJOR issues that I'm just no prepared to deal with.

3. Don't name characters who aren't important.  I hate when books have too many characters, and I hate when I don't know which ones are important enough to pay attention to.  If someone's not important in my book, they don't get a name.  For example, "the NASA director" appears a lot in the book, but he's not worth remembering, so he doesn't get a name.  You're welcome, readers.

2. Don't say that you have 10 tips if you can only think of 9.

1. Have an awesome closing paragraph.
SPOILER ALERT: Here'e my last paragraph-

I wonder if anyone remembers that we're here.  Do history books mention in passing that 2 people were left on Mars after NASA collapsed?   Do kids with telescopes know that there’s an old couple living on that little speck of light that they see?  Maybe someday a new ship will land.  Maybe new astronauts will brave the terrain in search of life.  Maybe they will find us, an old couple with a world of our own in this rickety little base camp.  We will be there to greet them with flowers from our garden.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

20 Miles of Inspiration

I just ran 20 miles.  See the video below for a thorough description of how I feel right now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jesus Is A Liberal Democrat

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive


If you don't have 4 minutes to watch the whole thing, you can just watch the last 20 seconds (3:55-4:15)- he sums it up pretty well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Baby, It's Warm Outside!

Running a marathon in January was a really stupid idea.  BECAUSE DECEMBER IS FREAKING FREEZING IN NEW ENGLAND.  I ran 9 miles on a treadmill a few days ago because it was too dang cold to do it outside.  Do you know what's fun about being on a treadmill for 90 minutes?  Nothing.  Nothing is fun about it.

BUT!!  Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition-  check out the forecast for Sunday in Rhode Island.

51 DEGREES!!  WAHOOOOOO!!  This will significantly improve my chances of completing 18 miles.  Hopefully the 90% chance of precipitation will be in the form of Gu Chomps and Gatorade.  Nevermind, that sounds sticky.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Santa!! At Midway!!

Walking through Midway, on our way to our fancy residency interviews, Ala and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to chat with Santa about our Christmas lists.  And Southwest gave us each $20 our next flight for doing it.

It was a Christmas miracle!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Death Takes Up Too Much Space

I'm spending the next 2 weeks In the surgical intensive care unit, since my interview schedule is a little slow in December. My first day back on a surgical service since August, and I'm already waiting for a patient to die. The death has been a long process. A long morning.  A family meeting, then withdrawing care, then a morphine drip. Maybe it's because I'm fresh off of my novel writing adventure, but I'm feeling very poetic about Death today. Here goes nothing:

Death takes up a lot of space.  It demands a perimeter around it, where Life is not allowed.  No laughing here.  No smiling.  No talking about what you'll make for dinner.  How much space do you need, Death? 10 feet? 15 feet?   The whole hospital floor?  How far away do I need to keep my Life, to avoid offending your perimeter?  Certainly I must leave your room- where the silent monitors growl at me.  Certainly I cannot stay in the waiting room- where the family wearing black stares me down.  I'll take my Life down to the cafeteria, I suppose, to avoid your looming glare.
I'd like to check my email.  Is that ok, Death?  I'll promise not to smile.  Even if I see a picture of my nephew, I'll be as stone-faced as a wall.  Your expanding perimeter soon takes out the nurses station too.  Can I still have donut, with all its cheerful sprinkles? No? Fine.
Ballooning outward, stretching your limbs like a tired cat, you reach down every hallway whispering, "Run away, Life.  Right now, all this is mine." Life reluctantly obilges, shrinking into the corners and closets, knowing that this too shall pass.  Death will pass over us and soon leave us alone, we reassure one another. Life will resume its rhythm and dance, knowing that it was a small price to pay to keep Death satisfied.  We'll shirk to the corners every time you enter, Our Friend Death, as long as you keep ignoring us in favor of sicker souls.
Slowly you fade away, shrinking back into your secret hiding place some place in the bowels of the hospital, where you can watch us furiously scurry to stave you off.  Oh, if we could find you, and smoke you out like a rabid raccoon.  Alas, you hide too well and we are left dreading your next return, hoping it won't be in our very own house.  There's no room for you in my house, Death. I'll fill it up with Life and Laughter, build a perimeter of my own to stand at its border with my wand raised to you crying, "See, Death? I take up space too! "

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Building Up and Tearing Down

I have spent the past month or so focusing on 3 major activities: writing my novel, getting ready and attending interviews, and running.

The novel writing adventure was all about spewing words onto a page, as many as I could in a day, regardless of their importance or value.  I succeeded in finishing my novel in time (which means I get a free paperback copy of it as my prize! Wahoo!)- but now I have to take on the task of editing my novel.  I can already  think of five or six paragraphs, off the top of my head, that I know are complete crap and should probably be deleted.  But it breaks my heart to do it-  I poured a lot of time and energy into those piles of meaningless words that don't really contribute to the plot line. At the time, I really felt like that rambling monologue about a sandwich would be helpful....

The interviewing adventure had been a whirlwind.  Since September, I've been eagerly collecting interview offers and meticulously adding them and all their associated travel plans to my calendar.  But soon, I had 23 interviews offers, but I knew that I should only really attend 12-15 (according to every sane person I've talked to).  So now I've begun the sad process of canceling them. I get overly sentimental about the programs that I'm giving up.  I KNOW which ones need to be canceled, but when I go to do it, I suddenly feel like I'm closing the door to a possible future that I could possibly have if I kept the interview.  It's emotionally draining to talk myself out of all the imaginary lives that I'm envisioned for each of the programs.

The running adventure- well, that's not slowing down at all.  I'm still very much building up that area of my life (my long run this weekend will be 18 miles.  UGH.)  It'll be torn down soon, too, though.  I'm sure that a month after my marathon, I will feel like I spent an extraordinary amount of time working toward something that was over so quickly, and all I have to show is a medal and a story.

Sorry this post became so whiny.  Here's my new favorite picture in the whole world to cheer you up.  Aren't we the best-looking couple you've ever seen?  I certainly think so.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another Novel Except

I had joked, before the mission, about prophylactically taking out everyone’s appendix.  I want emphasize that I said it was a JOKE, because it would be completely ridiculous to submit otherwise healthy men to the risk of surgery that they didn’t need, solely for the benefit of potentially avoiding the rare and unlikely scenario of having to do emergency surgery in space.  The NASA doctors didn’t grasp the humor or irony though, saying that if prophylactic surgery was my recommendation then they would make it happen.  I mused at their overly cautious approach, and decided to see how far I could push them.  I suggested that we should probably take out the men’s gallbladders too, lest one of those start to act up in space.  They agreed wholeheartedly.   Finally, I proposed cutting off everyone’s testicles too, to avoid emergency surgery in the (extremely!) rare circumstance of testicular torsion.   They nodded along, and said that it sounded reasonable.   At that point, I began to stop enjoying my little game and fearing what kind of men I was really talking to.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Improptu T(of)urkey Trot

About 2 miles into my 8 mile run this morning, I ran (literally RAN) into a group of about 100 people who were about to start a Turkey Trot 5K. As I approached where they were inconvientently standing on my running path, the gun fired and they all took off. What the heck, I thought, I'm always up for an impromptu 5k with 100 of my new stranger-friends. Unfortunately, I still had 3 miles to run when everyone else finished.

I hope that everyone's Thanksgiving is full of pleasant surprises like mine was!! Enjoy your turkey, and take the opportunity to try some tofurkey if you have a vegetarian friend who is willing to share (it's so good- I wouldn't blame them if they don't want to share!!)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Novel Excerpt

I'm hard at work on my novel, and realized that I haven't shared any excerpts yet with my faithful blog audience.  So here's one. Enjoy!

What struck me first was how quiet his room was.  There were doctors, surgeons and nurses in the room, but there was no urgency, no rushing around, no screaming out orders, nothing was STAT!, nothing at all was happening.  Jonah was too quiet also.  He looked peaceful, laying on the white sheets with his eyes closed.  The monitors ticked away at the calm rhythm of his heart, beep beep beep beep beep. My eyes moved from his serene face... down his body.... until I saw a dramatic change in his white sheets at the level of his thighs.  The sheets turned to a dark red, filled with his blood.  Blood dripped from the edges of the oversaturated sheets onto the tile floor, where a nurse calmly mopped it up as it fell.  There was something else wrong with the sheets too.  I looked more closely.  Just below the change from white to red, the sheets suddenly fell flat against the table.  It looked so peculiar that it took me a minute to put together what it all meant.

Jonah’s legs were gone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'm Marrying Keith

I normally hate going to my hairdresser (here's why) but today was different.  I called for an appointment and got some guy named Michael that I'd never seen before.  But I'm not picky, so I was ok with it.

So I sit down and he starts snipping away and being very chatty.

"You know, I actually have some psychic powers," he stated
"Oh really?" I replied, as I flipped though my magazine, not really listening
"Yes.  And I'm getting a strong vibe from you.  I see myself doing your hair for a your wedding soon.  Are you getting married anytime soon?"
"Nope," I said, secretly thinking, "You're just trying to get me to make an appointment for an up-do with you. I see right through your sales tactics, mister!"
"Well, I think that you're going to be getting married sooner than you think."
"That would be very interesting." = "Are we really still talking about this?"
"The name Keith keeps coming to my mind.  You are going to marry someone named Keith."

So that's it,  My psychic hairdresser has spoken.  I'm marrying Keith. Nevermind that I don't even know anyone named Keith.  Here's my favorite picture of me and Keith at our wedding. Keith likes brunettes.

Bahamas Wedding

Monday, November 15, 2010

15 Miles is REALLY Long

I ran 15 miles.  I was sad to discover that 15 miles is only 57% of a marathon, though.  It felt much longer than that.  Some of my 'firsts' for the run included this being the first run where I outran my iPhone's battery,  where I could see my breath, and where I listened to music (not Podcasts) from 2+ hours.

This is what I found when I searched Google Images for "tired runner".  I think they reflect my experience pretty well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Meet The Astronauts

I'm writing a novel (in case you've been living under a rock).  And it's the fun-nest (most fun?) thing ever.  Can't you tell from that last sentence that I just wrote that I am obviously a literary genius?

My favorite part is making up my characters.  I decided to have a lot of characters.  I'm not clever enough to write 50,000 words about a boy and a girl who fall in love or something, so I chose to have 10 characters.  That way I really only have to write 5,000 words per character. And making up characters is the fun-nest (most fun? I really need to figure that one out)  part of the novel anyway.  So why not have a LOT of them?

But I hate books with too many characters, because I lose track of them.  So I've named all my characters something that helps you to remember them.  For example, Dale is a Dork, and Mitch is in the Military.  Charlie Bravo is a pilot (because they say things like Charlie Bravo), and Jim and Judy are married since their names start with the same letter.  I also love that I get to make up back-stories and crazy personalities for all of them. I like putting little parts of myself and people who I know into the characters too.  So here's a brief introduction to my astronauts.  You can meet their wives later.

Jim Adler: Astronaut/Doctor.  Pretty much the kind of doctor that every little med student wants to be when we grow up.  He's going to do emergency surgery in outer space using only a plastic kitchen knife and freeze-dried space food. And he also is trained in cannibalism, and can perform an alien autopsy without puking.

Charlie Bravo:  Astronaut/Pilot. Very rico suave.  He might've been inspired by the volleyball scene in Top Gun.  Unfortunately, the best looking astronaut always has to be the first one to die.  Sorry Charlie, those are the rules of space travel.

Mitch Becker:  Astronaut/Co-Pilot.  Alcoholic.  NASA tells him, "Either you'll be sober on Mars, or you'll build your own rocket to come back to Earth to get booze.  We are fine with either one."  Still haven't decided which option would be more fun to write though...

Edward Soloman:  Astronaut/Engineer. Basically every boy I ever met at IIT.  Super dork.  Except you, Danny, you're the greatest. Not dorky at all.

Dale Richards: Astronaut/Biologist.  More similar to his bacteria than to his crewmates.  Rushed onto the mission and so he didn't have time to undergo a full psychiatric review prior to take-off.  Hint hint- he's gonna go CRAZY.

Those are my astronauts.  I'm glad that you've all been introduced.  And, needless to say, all of my astronauts love to have upside down, outer space, zero-gravity dance parties. Here's a picture from our most recent dance party while we were doing the YMCA dance.  I think Mitch and Edward got the hang of it (Excellent "Y", boys), but Charlie looks like a sideways L, while Dale and Jim are just doing somersaults in the background.  Come on guys.  Get your act together.

Monday, November 8, 2010

New York, New York

I have an awesome camera, but somehow I always forget to take pictures.  Oops!

After my recent trip to Chicago, I caught a quick flight to New York City to see Billy Elliot on Broadway.  I have to admit- I felt like a very important person showing up to O'Hare in my fancy interviewing suit, flying to New York and taking a cab straight to a Broadway show.  That's the kind of thing that fancy rich people do on a Saturday!!

Danny and I went to New York as a surprise for his sister's birthday. She had never been to New York before, so her husband planned a surprise trip for her birthday, and we were the extra surprise!  The show was SUPER (I'm downloading the soundtrack right now so that I can re-live it).

In other news, my interviewing is going really well.  The numbers are: 23 programs applied to, 21 interview offers received, 17 interviews scheduled (but I'm trying to cut it down to 14-15), 2 interviews done.   The interviews that I've done so far were both really low stress, and I ended up loving both programs more than I thought I would.  That could be an issue if that trend continues.   Since I'm applying in mostly Chicago and New England, I'm going to be flying back and forth a lot.   We looked at our calendar last night and realized that either Danny or I will be in Chicago for the next 6 weekends.  WOWZA.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sweet Home Chicago!!

 Come on.  You know you love it.   Look at it again. You love it.

I spent this week in Chicago with some of my favorite people.  One of the more obnoxious parts of medical school is called "Step 2 CS" which stands for Clinical Skills.  Or Cash Sapper.  You have to take and pass the exam to be a doctor- but the exam is only offered in 5 cities in the US (and neither New York or Boston has it!!)  and it costs about $1100.  Yikes.  So my roommates and I decided to make some lemonade out of our $1100 lemons, and turned the exam into an excuse to go on vacation together in Chicago.

The test was fine.  It's 8 hours of seeing standardized patients and proving that we (1) speak English (2) have better interpersonal skills that Dr. House and (3) know how to order lots of imaging and labs tests to ensure that healthcare costs continue to rise at an astronomical rate for another generation.

After the test, we had Chicago-bonanza.  I took my roommates to my undergrad old stomping grounds, and even paid an improptu visit to my sorority (yup... nobody knew me.)   Then we went to the Shedd Aquarium for free (thank you Chicago Public Library card!) and then the Art Institute also for free (thank you free Thursdays).

Apologies for the poor quality of this one!  The aquarium people took our picture, printed a copy for us and then wanted us to buy for $30.  Instead, I took out my iPhone and took a picture of the print they had made and handed it back to them.  Score: Aquarium: 0  Laura's wallet:1

As if by fate, my roommate Ala also got 3 Chicago interview offers, one of which she was offered WHILE we were in the aquarium.  My new magical life plan is to convince all of my favorite people in the world to move with me to Chicago.  The odds are looking good for me to- I've 7 interviews in Chicago currently.  Wahoo!
I also ran into one of my other good friends from IIT on the train, and went out to dinner with him and 5 or 6 of our common friends.  I forgot to take pictures of that, but it was awesome.  I always feel like I'm a rockstar when I run into people I know on public transportation. My travel companions probably thought I knew everyone in Chicago since I was just like, "O look, there's my friend!! Let's go say hi!"

In summary, Chicago rocks.  And you can rock too if you move to Chicago.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How's That Novel Going?

My novel is going AWESOME.  I'm sure I'll run out of steam sometime soon, but right now I've got a little over 9,000 words (about 18 pages in Word) written.  I love my characters, and it'll be a little sad to kill them off one by one once they land on Mars.  It takes a lot of dedication to be a novelist with a dark side- you've got to kill them even if you love them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Running "Music"

I can listen to music on my 3 mile, 4 mile and even 5 mile runs.  But I've found that after about 45 minutes of listening to music, I get exceptionally bored.  That's usually about the time that Pandora kicks me off because I've hit "Next Song" too many times.  They pleasantly suggest that if I dislike the songs that they are choosing so much, then maybe I should make a new channel.  But the bottom line is that after 45 minutes, I'm antsy and bored.  EVERY song seems too slow, too fast, too sappy, too serious or too musical.

But fear not!  I have found a solution!!  PODCASTS.  They are AMAZING.  Here are my favorites:

Radio Lab:
These are hour-long PodCasts that address some scientific-ish topic by telling a bunch of stories, discussing research and generally hypothesizing about it.  The topics are often big and vague- but that allows them to draw out interesting themes from a wide range of related stories.  My favorite one was called "Limits",  I also liked "Falling" and "Words".  The next one is "Symmetry".

Stuff You Missed In History Class
Today I learned about Winston Churchill's pet platypus.  And about the contrasting military strategies of the Persians and Athenians at the Battle of Marathon, and the role of the runner who carried the news 26.2 miles back to Athens and subsequently dropped dead (a very fitting marathon-training topic!).  These PodCasts are shorter than RadioLab (15-20 minutes) which is good for my short attention span. I'm planning on getting at least a few episodes from each of the PodCasts on the "How Stuff Works" website.  They've got one called "Stuff You Should Know".  I just can't argue with that!!  There's probably lots of stuff that I should know (but currently don't).

Here's the real reason that I love PodCasts: they are the only thing that I've found that makes me go- "O wow!  I've already run 9 miles?!  I was just so enthralled with Queen Elizabeth's childhood stories that I forgot I was running...."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Party!!

The Dread Pirate Roberts. 
But he wasn't the real Dread Pirate Roberts, and neither was the Dread Pirate Roberts before him....
Guitar dress! 
Who says there are no good costumes left on the discount rack on October 29?!
I can play a mean Classical Gas on myself
Playing allowed by invitation only.
He can play me like a fiddle
Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right...
and who is dead.
I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ridiculous Things My Novel Has Made Me Say

I'm currently "storyboarding" for my novel.  It's going to be a science fiction book (I think I watched too many Gary Sinise movies growing up- it was the only plot line I could come up with!!) and I'm LOVING coming up with crazy stuff to write about.  The best part is that, since I'm going to write the whole thing in a month, there is absolutely no room for fact-checking or research.  So I'm just making it all up.  It's very free-ing to write fiction that is TOTALLY fiction, without worrying about whether or not is plausible.  Here are some of the crazy things I've asked myself in the last hour as a I sketch out a very loose plotline:

"Do you think NASA trains their astronauts in cannibalism?  Like how to cook each other?  I bet they would."

"How many of my characters can I kill off?  So far I've killed 9 of 12.  Too much?  Nahhh...."

"I don't want my astronauts to wear space gear when they walk around on Mars.  So I guess Mars has breathable atmosphere.  And they have WiFi to run a web cam"

"Is it possible to stow-away on a space shuttle?   Like hide in the luggage compartment?  You'd probably die from lack of oxygen and stuff- but it'd be a good plot twist!!"

"O crap- I just killed my last character.  **deletes back 3 scenes to prevent massive causalities**"

This is going to be an AWESOME month!!  I love being ridiculous!!  :-D

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My First Novel

I am writing my first novel. That's right. A full-length, 175 page, 50,000 word novel. And I going to do it one month. I am entering the National Novel Writing Month contest. Along with 150,000 of my anonymous Internet friends, I am going to attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That's 1600 words per day (which is more words per day than I usually speak!). It's my kind of "contest" too- you win if you finish, you lose if you don't.

This novel is going to be awful. Truly terrible. I will probably  foreshadow things that never happen, because I will forget that I did it. I will probably develop and then abandon characters randomly. I will have a wandering and boring plot. I may never re-read or edit my novel. I am just going to spew it out. Maybe it will feel  therapeutic and rewarding. Maybe it will just re-affirm my decision to go into medicine (and thereby avoid the humanities all together). But it will be a challenge and a new experience- and those are two
things that I've never turned down.

Read more about it here Join me if you are up for it!! It will be a month to remember. If I ever write a nice turn of phrase or decent paragraph, then maybe I will share it on here- but otherwise you'll probably never see a word of it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Story I've Waited 4 Years To Tell

October 2006.  I sat in Midway airport, waiting for a flight to a medical school interview.  A woman sat down near me, talking on her cell phone.  With nothing better to do, I eavesdropped.

"... I really did like most parts of the program.  But it seemed like most of the residents were married with kids, and that they didn't  really ever hang out as a group.  I don't know, I guess I was just hoping that the resident would be friends..."

This woman had flown to Chicago for a residency interview!  I was awed.  In four years, I would be in her shoes.  That blew my mind.  In four years, I would go from a just-barely-legal-to-drink-alcohol undergrad, to a doctor who would interview for jobs as a doctor.  Whoa.

And here I am.  It's surreal becasue that memory from four years ago is so fresh in my mind.  I can't believe that I'm already in that woman's shoes.  My first intreview was this week, and it went splendidly.  I have many more to come.  And I'm still blown away that I'm interviewing for a job as a doctor.  When did I grow up?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Half Merry-thon

I did it!   13.1 miles in 2 hours and 14 minutes (10:08 was the final overall pace).  It was a wonderful, beautiful day. 

Pre-race = cold and nervous

We had views like this for at least half the race

Heading toward the finish line (pretty much the only place with any spectators)

Finishing!!!  Still smiling!!  (Yes, my shirt says "Go Laura!")

The conquering heroes (and our wonderful driver)!

Free food just tastes better

It was a great experience.  Beautiful course, and I felt pretty good the whole time.  I could see myself doing more of these.  I was surprised by how much of a difference it made to be running with so many other people (about 4,000 in the race).  I love my running watch too.  It gives me the ability to share these awesome gems with you:

The race course- lots of ocean!
The elevation map- lots of hills, luckily the last mile was downhill.  Otherwise I wouldn't have been smiling at the end!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interview Update

Eight interview offers so far!! Wahoo!! The goal is 12-15, and most of my favorite programs haven't started offering yet.

The planning  process for the traveling and logistics is humorous, to say the least.  I find myself frantically asking myself (and the people who still tolerate me) things like:

"Can I put 2 interviews on back-to-back days?  What if I spill something on my suit on the first interview?  Is there a dry cleaner by the hotel?  Do dry cleaners do same-day cleaning?  Maybe I can get the menu for lunch for the first interview to make sure that there's nothing that's likely to spill or stain..."

"Is it worth it to pay the extra fee to return the rental car to a different city than I rented it from; or drive back 2 hours to my original airport?  If it saves me $50 but costs me 2 hours, is that worth it?  What would I have done with those 2 hours anyway... but it does increase the probability of me getting into an accident.... I should look at the safety report for that highway..."

"What is the probability of a snow store in either New England or Chicago in early December?  High, right? Is it high enough that I should allot arrive a few days early in case my flights get canceled?  But what if arriving a few days early means missing out on another interview? Is one in the hand better than two in the bush?  Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?"

I had my practice interview a few days ago, and I learned a few things from that experience too.  First, while trying on my suit for the interview, I decided to do a little boob experiment.  I tried on the suit once with my regular bra, and once with my super constrictive running sports bra to see which made the suit look better.  Without a doubt, smaller boobs=better looking professional suit.  It reminded me of that movie "Now and Then" where the tom-boyish girl duct tapes her boobs because she wants to be boyish.  I'm going to pretend that I'm doing it for my own comfort and because it makes me look thinner, and not let it become a sexism issue. I just need to remember to bring a separate running bra for the trips where I'm planning on both running and interviewing. Otherwise I would be a very stinky applicant.

Also, my practice interviewer said that she normally advises surgery applicants to nix activities like scrapbooking from their list of hobbies ("it's way too feminine")- BUT she said that when I mentioned scrapbooking it was fine because I made scrapbooking seem "like an activity that is extremely goal-oriented, requires great dexterity and hand-eye coordination, and is a simple, practical and pragmatic solution to a real problem of categorically storing excess pictures".  I never knew that I talked about scrapbooking in such a military-esque way, but I guess it's nice that I can sell just about anything to my surgically-minded audience. Maybe I should've been a saleman.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Secret Handshakes, Treehouses and My First Day of Kindergarten

When I was about to 4 years and 11 months old, my family moved from Kansas to Ohio.  I was devastated, because my birthday was in ONE MONTH and I wasn't going to have any friends to invite to my party (Note: I don't think I actually cared about having friends per se, but I just knew that birthday parties were supposed to be lots of kids).   I was so devastated.  My little 4 year old world was ruined.

I've heard different versions of the story, but Michelle Bruno either invited herself to my party, or was coaxed by our mothers to be nice to me- but either way she showed up at my 5th birthday party, and we were pretty much inseperable from that point on.  We made up secret handshakes with a million different meanings- "Best friends", "I'll never tell your secret",  "I was a jerk and I'm sorry".  We climbed a tree that we thought was a pirate ship.  We had a secret club, whose sole purpose was to be as cool as our older sisters who had their own secret club. We had sleepovers, but we didn't play 'house'-  we played 'Russian immigrants' (what?!).  We went to camp together and told semi-scary ghost stories.  We ended up in Chicago together for college and shared a whole different kind of secrets and stories and games.

First day of kindergarten

Together again in college

Visiting me in Boston at Fenway
Anyway, recently-renamed Mrs. DiFranco, is my favorite person in the world.  I love that EVERY memory from my childhood has her in it.  I love that we are still as thick as thieves, and I love that I got to stand up next to her last weekend as she married her new best friend. She got married this past weekend, and it was the most BEAUTIFUL wedding ever!!   Here's my favorite picture from the night, and there's more in the slideshow in my last post

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wedding Pictures


Friday, October 1, 2010

Running Gear

I'm running a lot now. 430 miles so far, according to my little marathon tracker over there ------->
It's strange to realize that probably 400 of those 430 miles have been around the same 4 mile loop by my house.  What can I say- I'm a creature of habit.  But I've got some cool toys that make running super fun!!  Here are my favorites; check them out!!

1980's style wrist sweatbands
that used to be white

Waterbottle that straps on my hand

Garmin running watch,
which usually just tells me
that I'm still slow.  O well. 
iPhone- I LOVE Pandora
for running music

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fourth Year Overview

Fourth year of medical school... ahhhhh.... I get more relaxed just thinking about it.

The general timeline of fourth year is:
    August- submit application to residency (check)
    September and October- receive interview offers (4 so far!!)
    November thru January- interview at programs (expensive flights that time of year...)
    February- rank programs
    March- find out where you matched.
To keep us busy in between all of those things, we have electives and some other requirements that we have to fulfill.

I'm currently on a required rotation called "Community Health".  It's a 6-week elective where I have about 3 hours of lecture a week, and I spend the rest of my time working on my "project".  One of my classmates' "project" is to make a pamphlet for pediatricians' offices about ADHD.  No joke.  6 weeks to make a pamphlet?  AWESOME.  As a 3rd year, I was expected to throw together hour long lectures on one day's notice.  As a 2nd year, I was expected to learn everything there was to know about the human body in 4 weeks for the boards.  As a 1st year, I was expected to memorize ridiculous amounts of anatomy in a few hours of lab time.  But as a 4th year- I've got 6 weeks to make a pamphlet.

Here's another funny 4th-year-quirk that I've noticed.  The process of receiving interview offers is strange.  There are rumors about  programs that send out email invitations to more candidates than they have spots for.  And many programs offer interview dates on a first-come, first-serve basis.  So 4th years are majorly obsessed with checking their email CONSTANTLY, for fear of losing an interview spot because they were slow to respond.  When we are in community health lectures, everyone has their smart phone out on the table, and isn't shy about checking it every few minutes for interview offers.  I've seen 2 of my classmates get up and walk out of the room to call a program back in the middle of lecture.   That would've been SOOO inaappropriate any other year of medical school- but now it's the norm.

Basically, I'm on a $40,000 vacation in lovely New England this year.  I'll send you a postcard.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sexism in Surgery

I've started, and then stopped, writing this post about 15 times.  I've wanted to share some interesting ancedotes about how I have/haven't seen sexism in surgery- but it never comes across as anything interesting or engaging.  Why?  Because quite frankly I don't care that much.  I don't care if I'm treated a little different at times, I don't enjoy making a fuss about it or writing about it.   In general I have a million more pressing concerns that whether or not my breasts affect my brains and my hands.

Until now.

I'm SOOOOOOO freaking annoyed by the process of finding an "appropriate" outfit to wear to my surgery interviews.  First, I was told  I have to wear a pant suit, not a skirt.  Fine.  I'll give up the fact that pants make me look like Hillary Clinton (translation: frumpy) and skirts make me look like Sarah Palin (translations: stylish).  Second, I'm told that I have to wear a plain white button up shirt under my suit.   This irks me a lot.  I genuinly think a plain white shirt looks TERRIBLE under a suit.  I've been told by probably 10 people that it would be absolutly inappropriate to wear anything colored, silky, ruffled, or pretty.  I just feel like wearing a plain white shirt without a tie just makes me look like a sloppy version of a man in a suit.  To have a shirt open at the top like that seems so unprofessional looking.  Not to mention that anything button-up is likely to reveal more cleavage that I want.  I have toyed with the idea of trying to find a tie to go with the suit- but that seems like I'd be trying too hard to be manly. Third, I have to wear heels.  Fourth, I can't carry a purse.

Here's the message I'm getting from everyone I speak to:

 "Dear female surgery applicants, 
        Please dress as much like a man as you can, so that we can maintain our fanatasy of continuing to exist in an all-male world.  So pants suits only, and no purses.  Only white button up collared shirts are allowed (colors and  nice fabrics make us nauseous) but don't wear a tie (we reserve those for the Big Boys).  And please still wear heels- they are just so cute.  And we've heard they are very comfortable.    Sincerely, Everyone."

Below is my attempt to use Google Images to make myself feel better about white shirts without ties.  Thoughts?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cross Training

Marathon training is officially in full swing!  You can check out my widget over there -------->

Every Sunday, though, I'm supposed to do "cross training".    I'm struggling with the best way to do that.  Last week, I went swimming.  It was wonderful- until later that night.   My feet starting coordinating a very elaborate series of cramping patterns that made it pretty much impossible to do anything except sit on the floor, whine, and rub my feet.   Take a look at my right foot.  The big toe is pulled down and over and you can see all the tightened muscles on my foot and ankle.  It hurt a lot more than that picture gives me credit for.
Crampy feet = Crabby Laura.

So no swimming this week.  Here are some of the other things I tried, instead.
Building our tents = building a base?

Lifting a baby = lifting weights? Check out those triceps!
Bonfire at the beach = swimming at the beach?

Running down a dune = running at all?  Not really cross-training...
Hatchet throwing = terrible idea!!!

My final conclusion?  That I have awesome friends, but kinda suck at cross-training.