songs, aahhhh.

Now that mp3s and individual audio files have gone the way of the LaserDisc, we live in a cloud-based streaming world. I used to be a real music nut (desk-based jobs will do that to you) but these days, I get my tunes from the Amazon-backed Songza. It’s like listening to Deathstar music all the time (evil empire, get it?) but I just can’t help myself. My 3GS-turned-iPod-touch has been on 24-hour play all week for one particular station, “Electronic Study: Ambient” and I’m just going to straight up plug the damn thing. If you want to be like me, you’ll find the station on your listening device and let it ride. Remember when Four Tet was the new isht and Aphex Twin was a standard-bearer? Back in the day, indeed.

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apples to oranges


It’s not the inaugural post by any means, but it marks the beginning of an era. I started medical school last week (an early start for a dual-degree program) and in the hubbub, I meant to document the experience but life got in the way. Better later, than forever never. Assume everything from here until 2017 will have to do with South Florida, with medicine, with public health, and with trying to do the right thing in an often-times wrong world.

To set the stage: I just came back from the pool, where I found some shade under the palm trees to do some reading assignments: a comparison of the correlation between gun ownership and the incidence of homicide/suicide across 14 developed countries, a proposal for a five-tiered classification system for different public health approaches (a pyramid), a discussion of the different structural approaches available when attacking a public health problem, a broad overview on the differences and intersections between public health and medicine, and a list from the CDC of the 10 public health achievements of the last decade (2001 to 2010). Oh, and a chapter on training physicians for public health careers. I have a feeling we will read the entire book (free PDF from that link, btw).

Needless to say, I’m happy to be down here, at one of my top-choice schools, and my only expectation is to learn a great deal. I’ll try to keep it daily, even multi-daily. I hope to keep you interested.

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still early in the game

A month into the semester and things are under control: my class in the Greek and Latin Roots of English is really interesting and useful and I’m taking physics more seriously and trying to get ahead of the class instead of just reacting to the insane lectures of our professor. He has a tendency to go off on fantastical tangents reserved for a calculus-based physics class and then end his detour with “but don’t worry folks, I’m not gonna test you on that, I just wanted to show it to you.” Thanks for the ride! Learning about capacitors and magnetic fields is hard though.

On the other hand, organic chemistry is an absolute pleasure; our professor is amazing and with plenty of non-classroom resources available like workshop office hours lead by ex-students as well as the incomparable Organic Chemistry As a Second Language workbook, I feel fairly confident about the coursework. It makes me wonder what I was doing as a freshman many years ago; I had actually taken organic chemistry once in the past and somehow managed to get a C+, something I don’t even remember doing; I don’t even have the textbook anymore! At that point, the hype was that o-chem was the make-or-break litmus test that would determine whether a young pre-med student should continue or not and a C was the border-line grade. I fell for the anti-pre-med marketing and veered off in other directions and I can’t believe that over a decade later, I’m back in that class and doing quite well. A big part of it is maturity (I’m old) but I also credit the last ten years that I’ve spent as a graphic designer; the visual training really helps with the structure and drawings. Our professor uses the textbook only as a guide to the order of knowledge but the learning takes place with the hundreds of drawings that go on the blackboard per lecture. People are rocking the nerdiest pens that I haven’t seen since elementary school!







On the real though, I might have to get some of those. Just sayin’.

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I ran into somebody last night

It’s been amost two months since my last post and a lot has happened: the summer classes came to an end, I ran a marathon, I ran another marathon, I ran some races, had some fun, and the fall semester began. I had my first organic chemistry test (thumbs up!) and my first physics II exam (thumbs down!) and all things are good.

About those marathons I mentioned: the first was a spur-of-the-moment race out in Titusville, PA, the Drake Well Marathon. I ran with a pal of mine and we rocked twin sub-5 finishes. She’s training for JFK so she has a full calendar of marathons this fall in preparation; I just came along because I’m usually able to run a marathon now at any given time. Weird. The second race was The Yonkers Marathon, my only proper, registered race of the year that has an actual timing chip (unlike my beloved Holiday Marathons) that I cared about. I ran the race last year in a horrid 4:16 (due to excessive heat that day and general ignorance about electrolytes) with a 1:50 first half and 2:26 second half. I had to walk the last mile-and-a-half because my legs were totally cramped up. Fun. This year, I slayed that time and rocked a 3:32 with perfectly even 1:46 splits. I had plenty of s-caps, salt-loaded the week preceding with my meals and even then, I still felt I was in danger of seizing up at any given moment. But, I ran well.

That was ten days ago and I’d really been taking it easy the last few weeks; school has been kicking my ass so it was a good time to focus on my first few midterms as well; this was the reason I picked such an early race so I could get right into classes. Last night I attended a joint speedwork session hosted by the North Brooklyn Runners, our team‘s partner and kindred spirit; 6x800s at 5K was tough but I enjoyed the speed (shoutout to Marvin!); I had run 3 miles to McCarren Park as a warmup and the workout was great; we then celebrated birthdays at a nearby bar, one member of each team (shoutout to Chantel and Patricia, the lovely ladies of the evening!). While everyone was downing 32-oz styro cups of beer, I was having my signature water on the rocks and when it came time to leave, everyone piled into the subway or walked home while I decided to run back to the apartment that I am currently watching for a friend of mine on vacation.

The route is about 3 miles going straight down Bedford before hanging a right at Gates so I was just chugging along in the bike lane, going against traffic (my bad). It was late enough that there were very few bikers out; I was about 2 miles in when suddenly, I blanked out. No idea what happened just prior but when I came to, I was laying on the ground, there was a dude on the ground, his BMX sitting on the street, and an ambulance. This guy must have made a turn onto Bedford smacked into me and I had suffered an LOC incident (loss of consciousness). Being the tough guy that I was, I got up gingerly and saw I had a gash on my right shin and a little scrape, but I felt fine. The biker actually went over the low handlebars of his ride and had a real gash on his head. I played like I could just walk it home, just a couple of bumps but then the EMTs that arrived said that while they couldn’t force me into the ambulance, it was their professional opinion that I should get in with them.

So here I am, a prospective medical student: I should support the system that I am about to enter; I should not deny the professional opinion from these folks and just undergo the entire process, not just for my own health but also out of intellectual curiosity. I felt fine, I really did, but then, I also had a concussion; what I went home and lay my head down and never woke up? So I climbed in to the ambulance and we were taken to Kings County Hospital, the famous ER department that is so gully, the field surgeons of the Army have a residency at Kings County to do their combat trauma stimulation training.

By this time, it was after midnight but the ER was quiet. I was admitted, braceletted and checked out by some MS4 student on ER rotation as well as some residents. There was an attending on the overnight shift but I was in the care of the young people who I basically wanted to become. I shared with them that I was a post-bacc student and the young doctor who stitched me up had attended the same program five years ago! So we reminisced about the professors she had and it was a very cool experience. SUNY-Downstate is right across the street so the residents were associated with that academic hospital, some had attended medical school there as well. I’m asking all these questions with a busted lip; I still look like I’m holding a walnut in one cheek but thankfully, nothing serious. Some stitches to my left shin, an abrasion on the other as well as my right elbow, a big old hematoma on the back of my head, left side, but no open wound. CT-scan revealed no damage to my actual brain and x-rays on my sore left hand revealed no breaks as well.

They stitched my shin up with some dissolvable sutures and cleaned me up nice; I had a good conversation with the young woman working with me (shoutout to Ruby!) about medical school, rotations, residency; she loves the fast-paced random environment of emergency medicine, something that I’ve never considered as part of my future, but I can see the appeal; the care is hands-on and often, non-preventable, at least in the case of most trauma; I’m starting to formulate ideas in my head about the exact sort of medicine I want to practice and I consider last night’s experience to be part of that.

They released me at dawn and I made my way to my friend’s apartment where I passed out for six hours. I figured I should write this episode down for posterity and maybe restart the blog since the school year just started as well; I remember last semester it was a good release for me, so I will try to update this more often. But now, I’m gonna hit the couch again in this darkened apartment and just rest my head. After all, I’ve got over 30 miles of running planned for this coming weekend! (That’s another decision I need to make).

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conservation of energy

As the semester comes to a close, I realize that physics will be with me for life. It always has been, I’ve just never been able to think about how things work in these terms. One of the easiest concepts is that of the conservation of energy: what you start with is what you end up with, just in different forms. The classic equation is here:

The first term represents kinetic energy or KE, (the energy of movement where v is velocity); the second term represents potential energy or PE, where g is gravity and h is height. So if you are high up, and you’ve got a long way down, then that’s a lot of potential energy. And if you are moving at a fast speed, then you’ve got a lot of velocity. The A and B subscripts just show that from one state to another, the combined amount, called total mechanical energy or TME, remains constant. Say you are at the top of a cliff but standing still. All your energy is captured in how high you are, and how fast (and hard) you will fall. And if you are at the very bottom, you don’t have a lot further to fall but you’ve sure got some speed (and a medical bill, unless you are the Road Runner).

But can these terms be swapped out for more abstract things? I’m beginning to think so and while I’m not formulating anything as deep as my man Leong’s theories on love and life, all I’m saying is, because TME is defined as the ability to do work, we can swap out other terms for KE and PE that apply to do our daily lives. I used to think that not only did I have to study hard, but I had to play hard too: the extreme mental activity I was doing had to be counteracted by some extreme physical activity so the two canceled each other out, yin/yang style. For instance, I ran a marathon right before midterms, and did well with both activities. But on really light study weeks, I actually got lazy overall, and didn’t do anything. But this summer, I’m starting to think in physics terms, and specifically with conservation of energy. There is only so much energy I have to do X amount of work, in whatever form it comes out in. KE can easily be swapped for MA or Mental Activities and PE can easily be swapped for PA or Physical Activities. And as I’m finding out now (at least on this compressed summer schedule), I can only do so much before one of them suffers. Our formula then becomes:

I know it’s not that deep but I find comfort in knowing that there can be a law which tells me I need to stop messing around with the running and the biking and the yoga and the boot-camp classes and just buckle down and get my ass in the library. And when I’ve logged in enough hours with the books, then I can go buckwild with the physical stuff. All this is fairly obvious and most folks call it time management. I just like making it into a formula.

One more thing about the conservation of energy: it’s not perfect. Which means that while the formula equates the two items from one state with the same two items in a different state, there will be aberrations and loss of energy. For instance, the guy falling down the cliff may hit a bird and change course, or his jacket might open up and wind resistance comes into play. There are an infinite amount of terms that can be added to either side of the equation and in life, there is more to it than just MA and PA. Let’s not forget the unexpected things that come up, the things you are forced to confront and the things which don’t fall neatly into any categories, from one day to another. Be mindful of the totality and its constancy and your daily living will that much easier.

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rockaways to rockefeller

No big news here: physics is still kicking my ass but I try to take time out of the week to sweat as much as possible. Last weekend, a quick bike ride to the Rockaways to hang with my pal Gato at the latest branch of Caracas Arepa Bar, at the 106th Street Concession Stands at Rockaway Beach and the day after, a run up at Rockefeller State Park Preserve with Joe Garland and a bunch of folks from the New York Trail and Ultra Running Meetup as well as the Bronxville Running Company. Took the Metro-North up from GCT and in less than 40 minutes, I was on the OCA with about two dozen other folks and it was awesome; we did a loop through Rockwood Hall State Park along the Hudson and then back into the preserve proper to finish up. I brought my bike with me (make sure to get a Metro-North Bike Permit, good for life) and rode back down to Manhattan afterwards, about 32 miles, basically taking Broadway all the way down from Westchester; not a bad ride at all.

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FCN of 7

I know I’m not the only one and this 1363-page thread on confirms it but damned if it isn’t fun! Yes, Silly Commuter Racing is a game I end up playing every morning and every night but often, I’m not in the mood and so I just roll along at a steady clip, just trying to get to where I’m going. But then I get passed by someone who’s actually workin’ it and it’s on. I usually win because I haven’t bumped into roadies on my commute but lately, there is a Mexican guy on the ride home who always wants to race hard and it’s getting annoying. Using the FCN (“Food Chain Number”) Calculator on the website It’s Not A Race, I come out as a 7 while my nemesis (let’s call him El Ciclista, no relation to Elcyclista) comes in as an 11 which means I should be beating him every time. I’ve seen him every night this week and while he’s beaten me once on the downhill, I don’t want to run into him again but I just don’t feel like racing hard every night.

But then I think about what my friend Julia once said: I always ride hard. Damn! That’s hot. And especially hot coming from a seemingly demure petite female, an O.G. biker who hasn’t used a Metrocard in years and rides all year long through ice, snow and rain. Basically, what she’s saying is, don’t be a wimp, step up your game and represent yourself, always.

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