Tuesday, August 31, 2010


A drawing titled "Phase two: Interpretation" of a few scientists gathered around a huge pile of puzzle pieces with one of them holding a box with "GENOME" and "3 Billion pieces" written on it, and another one saying "I think I found a corner piece".

This is kind of what I feel like...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wear your helmet!

In the words of the ever present Nike ads, "Just do it!" There is no good reason not to wear a helmet. You may think there is a good reason not to wear it, but I assure you that you are wrong.

I actually talked to someone a couple days ago who told me that his reason for not wearing a helmet is because he heard of some study that showed drivers generally give cyclists without helmets more space on the road. You're kidding, right? Unfortunately he wasn't. I would like to point out that flat tires, stray dogs, other wobbly bike riders, cactus spines, roadkill, farm animals, low flying aircraft, komodo dragons, gale force winds and the rest of the world's hazards don't really care if you are wearing your helmet or not.

Having recently moved to the Milwaukee area I am stunned by the number of helmetless bike riders. You have the usual culprits: little kids in their driveways starting a lifelong habit of helmetlessness, the too cool teenagers riding to who knows where with the helmets on their handlebars because mom wouldn't let them leave the house without it but they can't stand to protect their noggins, then there's the old dude who's just out for a cruise on his decades old step through frame that you almost can't blame because they didn't have helmets when he was growing up in the stone age. There are a plethora of other culprits including fishing pole guy, errand girl and the worst of all...shirtless, tattooed, sideways baseball cap, "I ride with one hand on the wrong side of the road whenever possible with a passenger on the pegs" BMX rider with his knuckles scraping on the ground because the seat post is so low.

The options today are much better than they used to be...yes that is leather...

And you don't necessarily have to look like one of these guys either...

The selection of helmets is too wide to even get into right now. The bottom line is that there is sure to be a helmet that fits you comfortably and won't break the bank, so you have no excuse not to have one. Just be sure that you put it on the right way.
and not backwards...

Whether you call it a melon protector, a brain bucket, hard hat or what have you...put it on your head, not on your handlebars or in your backpack (trust me you're not fast enough to put it on before you hit the ground). Then get out there and ride like the wind.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Student Organizations

Over the last two weeks we have had lunch time presentations by all of the student organizations. I'm thinking about joining a few of them including the Student Surgical Society. I wonder if I can bring Junior Mints to our meetings...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Territory

I am spoiled. That's what I think it comes down to. I've been riding all summer in places with mountains and nice newly paved roads with little to no traffic.

But seriously, the roads around the Milwaukee area are in bad shape. Even for driving! The lines are hard to see, there are almost no shoulders. The only thing good for cyclists is that most roads seem to have speed limits of 40 MPH or slower which makes it easier to stay out of the way of traffic.

The worst is that any place in the suburbs of Milwaukee is really congested. It's like they just left all the oldest stuff and kept going with only slightly less old stuff. Even the patches in the pavement are old. It makes it hard when I have limited time to get out and ride, I want it to be on pavement worthy of my wheels.

That's what I get for choosing a med school for its academic credentials, though, instead of riding locale. Pssh! What was I thinking?

With that said, I have found some decent routes. They just can't quite compare to what I've been brought up on. I rode this today:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Save Money Cut Your Own Hair

I am poor. I am a medical student which means that I am poor. A student I spoke to last year candidly told me that her "net worth is now negative around $500,000" (She had a lot of school loans and married another med student, and bought a house and had two kids). Thankfully, I'm not that poor.

However, I am still a med student. Which qualifies me as a PCS (poor college student). So instead of paying for haircuts, my wife cuts my hair. It may not be quite as cool as the Flowbee it is definitely a money saver.

Plus this way, she gets to use some of the money that I would spend on my haircuts towards hers. Win-win situation. Woohoo! Still working on some other money saving techniques like eating at home and trying to find a good bike commuting route (and bike).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Exercise makes me feel good...

...and I haven't been exercising. Class gets in the way a little bit. I see exercise like play time and the more play I get the better I feel.

The chemical pathways of mood enhancement from exercise may not be as clear as we once thought they were, but one things is for sure. The general consensus is that exercise results in improved mood and can even help with depression and anxiety. Also for me it's a big stress reliever. Working my body is an outlet for pent up nervous energy and a tool for organizing thoughts or just escaping from them for awhile.

I talked with a friend in college who was a cross country runner about the weird almost magical effects of what even a short but intense bout of physical exertion can do for feeling good the whole day. Her response was "yeah, if I don't get my run in, I just feel like a pile." I would agree and right now I feel like this guy:

oof. Hopefully I can get my routine on track.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take the Stairs

Taking Stairs poster

New York City started putting these up last summer in an effort to combat some of the modern diseases compounded by city living (i.e. heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity etc). It's not a bad idea either. Stairs are the secret workout machine that nobody knows about and nobody needs to pay for. It's a tool for building self discipline as well. Something that we can all admit is helpful to have a little more of.

I for one am opting for the stairs at every opportunity at this point in life. With as many as 3 hours at a time spent sitting in lecture I need to move more every chance I get. And with the added weight of school books to carry upstairs the benefit is additive.

A quick check on with online calorie counter shows a significant difference in calories burned for a 175 lb person who spends 5 minutes walking stairs.

ActivityCalories burnedWalking 2 mph18Walking 3 mph29Walking 4 mph34Walking - up stairs53Total Calories Burned134

I've also heard that stair climbing is one of the most directly translated workouts from walking to bike riding. Imagine the muscles the you use when climbing a hill on your bike and when taking the stairs two at a time, they are very similar.

Whenever you get the chance, save a little electricity and burn a little bit extra of your own energy. You'll be happy you did in the long run.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ahhhh....Morning Again

The best part about every day is that it starts with a morning. It's a chance to start all over again with a clean slate.

I've turned to more of a night person over the last two years from working in the emergency department, but this summer I've turned back into the morning person that I was in college. I like mornings. Sunrises are so much better than sunsets. You can hear the world wake up with you. It's my favorite time of day to run or ride my bike because it's peaceful. The coolness of morning can be a rush and getting out the door and doing something active is a great jumpstart to a day. Morning even smells good. Unless of course you have a bad case of morning breath.

Good Morning! Go tackle your day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

There's a first time for everything

As a new medical student, there are a lot of firsts. First day in medical school. First test. First patient. First nervous breakdown...well hopefully I can avoid some of the firsts that other med students may experience.

Today was an exciting first. The first day with a cadaver. While some may find that scary or disturbing or maybe both, I was looking forward to today and even though our goals in lab today were fairly simply it was a special day nonetheless.

Today we investigated the upper chest of our cadaver to look at the pectoralis major and minor as well as some of the innervation and vessel supply. It's a fancy way of saying that we peeled our person so we could look at the chest muscles. Weird...but cool. I'm thankful that so many people are willing to let us explore like this so that when it comes to working with living patients we know where the inside parts are from experience and not just drawings. No book or poster could ever match the benefits gained from human dissection.

I'm sure there will be many more firsts along the way, but this one will be hard to beat as far as true educational impact goes. Until then it's a matter of staying afloat amidst the flood of information in between exciting firsts like today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Allergies are no fun

For those of you without allergies, count your blessings. Allergies can really mess you up. While I may not ever actually sneeze my head off, it feels like I could sometimes. Having seasonal allergies is kind of like having a nagging cold for a couple months at a time or more.

During the first two fall semesters of college I would frequently carry around a ridiculous amount of tissue or toilet paper for nose wiping and even then it wasn't uncommon that I had to leave the room to get more. It stinks. Since then I've had better control of my seasonal allergies but as anyone with hayfever knows your success at fending off the inevitable all depends on the day.

Today and tomorrow are supposed to be bad days with pollen scores in the "High" range according to the pollen forecast on Pollen.com (yes there is such a thing as a pollen forecast). While I used to think that a significant amount of willpower could simply push aside the ill effects of seasonal allergies I have been proven rather wrong time and time again. When it comes down to it, the pollen always wins. No matter how hard I try I just can't stop being allergic. Too bad, huh? Maybe that's something I can figure out during one of my pharmacology classes or something.

The worst part is when allergies mess with your physical or mental performance. Both of which are problems for me as an amateur athlete and professional student. It's not easy to roll out of bed and go to class when your eyes are burning and hard to open first thing in the morning only to give way to a runny nose, incessant sneezing and itchy eyes during the day. Luckily it's not that bad yet, but the season is just beginning.

On the bike is a totally different story. Fall is generally my allergy season, but thanks to lots of rain and a cool spring, our spring allergy season hit extra hard in Minnesota this year causing unsuspected difficulty on the bike. My hopes for a 3-4 week track racing season in early June were obliterated when I realized that just stepping foot into the infield and getting ready on the freshly cut grass made it difficult to breathe. It's no fun trying to ride 25-30MPH when you have to catch your breath just standing still. It's the first time I've been able to empathize with asthmatics. Not cool.

All this to say that you have to pick your battle strategy carefully. Obviously I can't avoid going to class, but I can avoid racing during the times that my allergies are at their worst. Central air is always a useful tool in combination with daily antihistamines and all those other prescription-style solutions. But sometimes, even all that isn't enough. I was relieved to find that even pros like Alberto Contador and Oscar Freire had to call it quits for a little while this spring to wait out their allergy season.

Now if only I can find a professor who will cancel class on days that the pollen count is too high...

Monday, August 16, 2010

School Supplies

Back to school, back to school. Can't forget to make sure you have all the school supplies you need.

Pens, check!

Notebooks, check!

Textbooks, check!

Dissection kit, check!

Human cadaver...uh??? Check!

That's right, I start Clinical Human Anatomy on Wednesday. From what I understand it is supposedly one of the more formative experiences in medical school. I can only imagine why. Let me give you a small sample of our dissection manual, "before plugging in the bone saw, be sure that the switch is in the 'off' position..." Yeah, that's right bone saw. Not to be confused with Bone Saw...

BonesawMcGrawSavage53.jpg image by Wiktowasichu

Cool, huh?

Friday, August 13, 2010

I'm a man, I kill spiders.

Last night my wife asked me to kill a spider. Thankfully I was not injured in the event. It made me immediately think of this article by Dave Barry that was introduced to me by a college roommate. Enjoy:

Published Friday, February 12, 1999, in the Miami Herald


From Now On, Let Women Kill Their Own Spiders By DAVE BARRY

From time to time I receive letters from a certain group of individuals that I will describe, for want of a better term, as ``women.'' I have such a letter here, from a Susie Walker of North Augusta, S.C., who asks the following question: ``Why do men open a drawer and say, `Where is the spatula?', instead of, you know, looking for it?''

This question expresses a commonly held (by women) negative stereotype about guys of the male gender, which is that they cannot find things around the house, especially things in the kitchen. Many women believe that if you want to hide something from a man, all you have to do is put it in plain sight in the refrigerator, and he will never, ever find it, as evidenced by the fact that a man can open a refrigerator containing 463 pounds of assorted meats, poultry, cold cuts, condiments, vegetables, frozen dinners, snack foods, desserts, etc., and ask, with no irony whatsoever, ``Do we have anything to eat?''

Now I could respond to this stereotype in a snide manner by making generalizations about women. I could ask, for example, how come your average woman prepares for virtually every upcoming event in her life, including dental appointments, by buying new shoes, even if she already owns as many pairs as the entire Riverdance troupe. I could point out that, if there were no women, there would be no such thing as Leonardo DiCaprio. I could ask why a woman would walk up to a perfectly innocent man who is minding his own business watching basketball and demand to know if a certain pair of pants makes her butt look too big, and then, no matter what he answers, get mad at him. I could ask why, according to the best scientific estimates, 93 percent of the nation's severely limited bathroom-storage space is taken up by decades-old, mostly empty tubes labeled ``moisturizer.'' I could point out that, to judge from the covers of countless women's magazines, the two topics most interesting to women are (1) Why men are all disgusting pigs, and (2) How to attract men.

Yes, I could raise these issues in response to the question asked by Susie Walker of North Augusta, S.C., regarding the man who was asking where the spatula was. I could even ask WHY this particular man might be looking for the spatula. Could it be that he needs a spatula to kill a spider, because, while he was innocently watching basketball and minding his own business, a member of another major gender -- a gender that refuses to personally kill spiders but wants them all dead -- DEMANDED that he kill the spider, which nine times out of 10 turns out to be a male spider that was minding its own business? Do you realize how many men arrive in hospital emergency rooms every year, sometimes still gripping their spatulas, suffering from painful spider-inflicted injuries? I don't have the exact statistics right here, but I bet they are chilling.

As I say, I could raise these issues and resort to the kind of negativity indulged in by Susie Walker of North Augusta, S.C. But I choose not to. I choose, instead, to address her question seriously, in hopes that, by improving the communication between the genders, all human beings -- both men and women, together -- will come to a better understanding of how dense women can be sometimes.

I say this because there is an excellent reason why a man would open the spatula drawer and, without looking for the spatula, ask where the spatula is: The man does not have TIME to look for the spatula. Why? Because he is busy thinking. Men are almost always thinking. When you look at a man who appears to be merely scratching himself, rest assured that inside his head, his brain is humming like a high-powered computer, processing millions of pieces of information and producing important insights such as, ``This feels good!''

We should be grateful that men think so much, because over the years they have thought up countless inventions that have made life better for all people, everywhere. The shot clock in basketball is one example. Another one is underwear-eating bacteria. I found out about this thanks to the many alert readers who sent me an article from New Scientist magazine stating that Russian scientists -- and you KNOW these are guy scientists -- are trying to solve the problem of waste disposal aboard spacecraft, by ``designing a #####tail of bacteria to digest astronauts' cotton and paper underpants.'' Is that great, or what? I am picturing a utopian future wherein, when a man's briefs get dirty, they will simply dissolve from his body, thereby freeing him from the chore of dealing with his soiled underwear via the labor-intensive, time-consuming method he now uses, namely, dropping them on the floor.

I'm not saying that guys have solved all the world's problems. I'm just saying that there ARE solutions out there, and if, instead of harping endlessly about spatulas, we allow guys to use their mental talents to look for these solutions, in time, they will find them. Unless they are in the refrigerator.

Copyright © 1999 The Miami Herald

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Today is hot!

Like this:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The new kid

Yep, that's me again. The new kid. Well, sort of. I'm the new kid along with 203 other incoming M1 students at Medical College of Wisconsin. M-1 is the equivalent of a medical school freshman, in case you were wondering. It's a funny feeling after being away from the academic world for the last 2 years. The different part here is that life is not like it was for any other schooling up until now.

Up until now, every class I've been in has been populated primarily with people more like me. We've all lived closer together (except college maybe), we were all closer in age and generally closer in background. Here we all have some things in common. We all want to be doctors, we all went to college (at least I think so), we all eat and breathe and sleep and study... A LOT. And we're all bored with orientation and ready to hit the books, sort of, I guess. Regardless of what we have in common it all feels a bit different than anything before this. Which is probably a good thing. I mean, no one wants medical school to feel like kindergarten, right? Just imagine what our health care system would look like then. Oof.

Even though it's orientation, we still get a bit of a feel for what it will be like time wise. It's going to be really hard to do a lot more than go to school, eat and sleep, but it's definitely doable. The prospect of minimal free time makes me value my summer that much more. It was awesome. I'm going to miss riding my bike 8+ hours a week.

However, in an effort to stay sane and not squishy I have resolved to take steps to be involved in "non-studious" activities and "good lifekeeping" habits.

1. Eat good food and at home whenever possible. (note: good food)
2. Play.
3. Get involved with classmates outside of the classroom. Because if I don't, my only social interactions will sound something like this...
- What did you think of that last test?
~ It was hard.
- Yeah, I thought so too
~ Do you remember the answer to that one question about that stuff?
- Maybe. Do you mean the one about the thingy that does whatever.
~ Yeah
- Yeah, that was hard
~ Yeah, really hard....
...ad infinitum

Hopefully our conversations will be a little more intelligent than that, given that we are going to be doctors and all, but after our brains have been pulverized it may take a little recovery time.

I figure if I eat well, play anything I can whenever I get the chance and interact with people outside of the classroom, I won't turn into a blob that's just full of smart stuff and maybe it will feel at least a little like a normal life.

A little.


maybe not.

I can pretend, right? :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eat at Home

That's right, eat at home. In a world full of restaurants and fast food joints it's easy to convince yourself that it's easier to eat out and faster. But it's so much better for you to make your own food and share a meal with your family!

First let's evaluate this strictly on a convenience factor. While it may seem like you save a lot of time by going out to dinner, that's hardly ever true (unless you only visit McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell etc.) Let's say that dinner takes an hour to prepare and you spend 30 minutes eating. I'd say that's a fairly generous time allotment considering the number of families who dine and dash off to sporting events, school plays, PTA meetings, Wednesday night church and such. That's 1.5 hours of your evening.

Now let's take a look at a night out. Most people are willing to drive at least 20 minutes to go out to eat at a place that they like, often even more than that. There's 40 minutes right there. Not including the 15-20 minutes that it takes to be seated, order your food and have it brought to your table. Suddenly there's the hour that it took to make dinner and that's assuming that there was no traffic, you are the only one at the restaurant and you instantly knew which place to go for dinner without any delay in decision making. Not so fast and convenient now, is it?

Granted it's nice not to do the dishes, but is it worth paying $10 a plate or more just to have the dishes done when you could prepare the same meal for less than half the cost at home? And face it, $10 a plate these days is relatively moderate when you include taxes and tip (I doubt your tipping the server at home, although, maybe you should be).

Besides the time and money factors there is also the health factor. When you cook at home you know exactly what goes into your food and how much you are eating. Plus you rarely feel as obligated to stuff yourself and "get your money's worth" when you are eating at home instead of at a restaurant.

To illustrate, try this on for size: This winter I took my wife to dinner at a nearby restaurant as a special night out. I had a roasted red pepper stuffed chicken breast with mashed potatoes. Sounds tasty, no? I was curious about the nutrition facts for the meal and was shocked to find that the meal I had just eaten was around 1500 calories, not including my two large glasses of lemonade. I did not feel like I had stuffed myself despite eating over half a day's worth of calories. Admittedly, I was full, but not to the point of bursting or to the point at which I felt like I really shouldn't eat anything else that evening. In comparison, I had cooked a similar meal of stuffed chicken breasts at home during the spring and had an equally tasty dinner that was approximately half the calories of eating out.

Another danger to your health of eating out is feeling that you need to get your "money's worth" as I previously mentioned. The unfortunate American definition of this generally means More = Better. We opt for quantity over quality. Which leads to all sorts of problems that I will have to address at a later date.

All this to say that there are many benefits to eating at home, and you don't have to sacrifice flavor or quality. Not that eating out once in awhile is a bad thing. All things in moderation, right? Including moderation itself...hmmm...chew on that all you philosophers out there. But for now, try dining in a little more often. Make it a game and see what you can save by eating at home. Whether it's dollars or pounds it'll all add up in the end.

In case you need any other encouragement, have a taste of this...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yummm... Smoothies

Craig's Strawberry Banana Smoothie

-1 cup Orange Juice
-1 Banana
-1 1/2 cups Frozen Strawberries
-1 cup Plain Yogurt
-add Sugar to taste (1-2 Tbsp)

Serves 2 large smoothies (20 oz); ~275 cal/20 oz smoothie

Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Different kinds of riders

Conversations with people about cycling are always funny. They generally assume that to be good at cycling you need to have an expensive bike and be fit like a runner. They don't generally realize that it's a completely different discipline of fitness and that there is just as much variety in riders as there is in other types of athletes. Just like runners who compete at different distances are generally built differently, so are cyclists.

Most people think of cyclists as guys like Andy Schleck, Alberto Contador and they all look like this...

Skinny dudes with super legs.

What they don't realize is that there are lots of different types of cyclists and they come in different shapes based on their discipline. Climbers (like the two guys above) are generally not very big. They tend to be short and skinny or tall and really skinny. Sprinters are generally the "big guys" on the road who are more muscular in the upper body. This comes out to being fairly average looking size-wise, but generally with really big legs (like Andre Greipel). And then the time trialists fall somewhere in between.

What most people don't realize is that there are all sorts of different breeds of bicycling too, and with them come a variety like you would find in the amazon jungle. Everything from mountain bikers whose only ride downhill....

(yeah, I think they're crazy too....crazy awesome!)

To track cyclists who try to be the fastest they can be in a mere 0.75 km. I'll leave you with a couple of these guys who look like they would tear your bike apart with their bare hands and force feed it to you if you beat them in a race.

Gregory Bauge (France)

Sir Chris Hoy

I bet no one makes fun of them for wearing spandex.

Blend it!

We just got a blender. Unfortunately, I couldn't talk my wife into a Blendtec blender. Even after showing her this. But it still makes some tasty treats.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Working out is good for your brain too.

I recently read an interesting article about the correlation between vigorous physical activity and GPA. While there have been many recent studies relating the mental and cognitive benefits for seniors who exercise, I haven't seen a whole lot on what goes on with a young brain with exercise. Studies show that there are strange correlations between being able to concentrate and the amount of physical activity one engages in. Even to the point where physical activity can help a person avoid taking medication for things like ADD (Riding is my Ritalin).

This past June, however, the American College of Sports medicine reported the results of a project that showed a positive correlation between GPA and exercise in undergraduate students who engaged in "vigorous" activity for at least 20 minutes a day. (vigorous means it's hard to talk while you are doing your exercise. Like Big Bob up there^) The study goes on to say that this correlation has been well established in elementary students and secondary students, but that no previous studies have significantly investigated the same phenomenon in college students.

I'm hoping that this finding extends to medical students too, given my pending return to the classroom. Looks like maybe I should be lobbying for a return to recess after lunch like back in the good old days.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Getting Lost

After the big move to Wisconsin and almost a week off my bike, I was getting anxious to get out and explore my new surroundings. I carefully planned a route to get over the freeway and away from the busy streets closer to Milwaukee to my east. I was pleased to find that it only takes a few miles until I'm in open country roads passing cows and cornfields with some nice little leg stabbing climbs to boot.

In my ecstasy I soon realized that I had forgotten some of my landmarks and taken a wrong turn. Now, I welcome getting lost because it generally means that I find myself in new exciting places and I'm a good back tracker. However it can leave your ride feeling a little bit like this...
After backtracking and taking a sidelong jaunt to a section of my proposed route I resumed my ride home, albeit in a somewhat scrambled order. The day only turned out to be 6 miles longer than intended and I got a taste for my new riding "neighborhood." The verdict. I like it. No mountains, but we knew that already, now didn't we.

As I returned home I thought about how badly that could have gone if I didn't have a reasonable sense of direction. I mean I could have wound up in Illinois or something...something worse, like taking a wrong turn into Lake Michigan and winding up like this guy.

That would be bad.

Luckily, I can swim. I mean, I didn't get that lost. Or as lost as this post has gotten. Back on track.

Getting "lost" is one of the pleasures of bike riding. Sort of. There are a few keys to truly enjoying it.

First of all, pay attention to how you got lost. I know that seems dopey, because if you were really paying attention, you shouldn't have gotten lost at all, right? Wrong! Sometimes you follow your directions flawlessly or someone else's directions and you still wind up somewhere that you weren't expecting especially when you are exploring new territory. BUT if you know the streets from which you came and the general direction you need to go to back track you can save yourself the call home to get a ride when the sun goes down and you are in the middle of who-knows-where.

Second, have an idea of boundary roads. For instance if you are planning on riding around a lake, know the main roads that are on each side of the lake. This helps if you miss a turn or suddenly wind up on a road that takes you away from the lake. Or if you know that you are riding southwesterly and don't want to ride further south than Highway 1,984,241 or further west than Crooked Lane that can help make sure that your quick little cruise doesn't turn into a century.

Finally, don't panic. AND don't be stupid. If you wind up somewhere that you shouldn't be (i.e. not safe) don't be too macho to turn around. In most cases, though, the bigger problem is when you just keep riding and riding and riding without thinking and the next thing you know you're in the wastelands without so much as a 7-eleven to stop and ask for directions.

The bottom line: exploring is fun, even when you don't exactly know where you are. That's what exploring is after all isn't it? I bet Lewis and Clark rarely knew where they actually were. You never know what you might find...

although, if you get far enough away to meet this guy, you might be too far away to make it back...