Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Birthday iTunes


Yeah, I'm an Apple what?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Semester Break

IMG_0086.jpgI know it's been a while since I've posted (sorry), but I've been very busy during semester break. It's very good to be back home, particularly after the end of last semester! Some people love St. Maarten, but I happen not to be one of them. I am getting more used to the place, but it's certainly not home. Since I've been back, I've had all sorts of amazing food (including probably too much Chipotle) and it's been good to be back with Heather, the family, and spend some time at the firehouse. Chart House has amazing brunch, FYI. If you've never been there, you're missing out.

The picture is of a brand new, 24 hour, Super WalMart, which just opened by my house. Usually, WalMart doesn't impress me too much, and I'm not sure if it's just because I've been in St. Maarten for a long time, or because this one is unusually nice, but this one impresses me. The place is almost the size of St. Maarten! They have just about anything you could want, and it keeps going and going and going. No, it does not take much to impress me anymore.

We got our grades back from last semester, and the results surprised me a little. I did much better in immuno than I would have expected (immuno was my worst class of the semester), and not as well on the physio final as I expected (physio was my best class). I also did a whole lot better on the MCB shelf than I had expected. Now, I'm very curious to see how much it was curved. Overall though, I did pretty well in all of the classes. I think I did about the same as last semester, but I've heard that as a class, people did not do as well as last semester. So, I'm hoping that I brought my class rank up a little, or at least kept it where it was. I'm looking forward to next semester (as much as you can look forward to going back to school), when classes should become a lot more interesting. I've always said that I couldn't wait to at least get through the first year of medical school. And now, that's one thing that I've finally accomplished!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

First year of med school....DONE!!!

Today was officially our last day of the first year of medical school. One down, 3 more to go. But, only one more year left of classroom, and I think it's only gonna get better from here (as far as coursework being interesting).

First semester was anatomy, histology, and molecular and cellular bio I. Since anatomy is the quintessential first semester anatomy class, complete with lab (at least for most people), I was most happy to be through with that. Histo was less than exciting, but our processor, who has since left, tied in a lot of clinically relevant details. MCB was about tied with anatomy for my least favorite class. I actually liked anatomy better, but hated the lab.

This semester, we had immunology, physiology I, and MCB I. Physio was my favorite class by far, followed by immuno, and then MCB. The immunology lectures were difficult to stay awake for, but at least some of the material was interesting. The beginning of immuno was very dry and very detailed (probably more detail than anyone will remember after med school). But, especially during the last block, it got a lot more interesting. Towards the end, we started getting into various diseases and autoimmune issues, as well as transplant and tumor immunology. A couple nights ago, John and I were actually able to diagnose one of the people on Mystery Diagnosis (on discovery health) from immuno...I was pretty impressed with myself. I was fairly certain that I failed the immuno final, but as it turns out, I actually did very well!

Physio was my favorite because it actually made you think, not just memorize. I like when you can figure something out instead of just sit there, stare at a book, and memorize (last semester was straight memorization, for the most part). Also, I was able to relate physio to a lot of what I do as a paramedic, and what I'll do as a physician, so that made it a whole lot more interesting. Unfortunately, the professor who grades the physio exams is, by far, the slowest grader in the school, and we won't have our grades until Tuesday.

MCB was easily my least favorite, mostly because of how disorganized the class was. They're trying to change things around and things will probably be better for the current first semesters and incoming students, but my class got screwed because of it. It seems like they think that there class is the most important and the only one that matters...evidenced by the fact that they felt the need to give us both a cumulative shelf (covering MCB I and II) which counted for a large portion of our grade, along with another final exam, just for MCB II. Because of that, we had almost no time to study for the other classes and I'm pretty certain that everyone's grades suffered. I am VERY happy to be done with that!

In any case, the most basic of the basic sciences are now out of the way. Next semester is med micro, pathology I, and physiology II...all 3 of which actually seem like the stuff you really need to know to be a doctor, and should be very interesting. Even if they're hard classes, the next couple semesters will finally be the information that I actually want to learn. Not to long ago, it felt like medical school would never start. Now, I'm 1/4 of the way done!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome back to my life...

Sorry for the down time, but due to some recent happenings regarding my blog making the St. Maaten newspaper, I thought it was in my best interest to take my blog down and make some changes. However, as you can see, I've now made the blog public once again. I considered leaving the blog down, but I had many people write and tell me that they found my blog helpful and enjoyable to read. Thanks to those people who supported me.

I've decided that I am going to leave my blog up and continue posting. However, you may find that some of my posts are perhaps a little less critical. I'm still not going to sugar coat anything, but I've learned from this situation that some opinions are best left private (or at least not totally public), and so they will remain off of my [apparently very public] blog.

To those of you who enjoy my blog, thank you again, and I hope you'll continue to find it informative and, sometimes, amusing. To those of you who do not like what I post, I'd ask that you direct your browsers elsewhere. I can't please all people all the time, and no matter how politically correct I try to be, there's a chance that you might not like what I have to say. Also, please keep in mind that whatever I post on this blog, the opinions presented are mine alone. They do not, in any way, represent anyone else's opinions.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Coconut Ice Cream

icecream.jpgI'm a big fan of coconut anything, but particularly coconut ice cream. I've found a lady in Marigot, who is there 6 days a week, that makes the best coconut ice cream I've ever had. Unfortunately for those of you who do not like coconut ice cream, that is the only thing that she makes. She just sits on the corner by the entrance to Marigot and makes this ice cream all day every day. As you can see, she has one of the old fashioned ice cream makers, and has to keep feeding it with ice and salt and turning the crank all day to keep it good. What she gets out of it though is definitely worth the effort! It's a little on the expensive side, but considering it's a lot of work (particularly for an older lady) to make and delicious, it's worth it. If you get a chance...stop by and get some!

She's a kinda cute old lady, btw. She wasn't actually making ice cream when I took this picture, but when she saw what I was doing, she decided that she wanted to pose. Oh, and don't expect much conversation (unless you speak french) since she doesn't speak a word of English. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Yummy shawarma

shawarma.jpgSo to balance out my hatred for American Scooter, I went to Aldywan, in Simpson Bay, for lunch. The employees are friendly, if a little slow, and it's usually pretty relaxing in there. In addition to some of the best shawarma on the island, they have Dove ice cream bars, which are always good! I attached a picture of today's shawarma, and I think it looks good, but it tastes better. If you've never had one, it tastes a lot like a gyro. Some ethnic people will go on and on about how they're different and uses different sauces, but whatever, they taste about the same. In addition to having good food, it's also very reasonably priced. The shawarma plate is only $8, plus an extra dollar for a bottle of water. And, since I won $10 in the casino today, it was free! :)

I also had amazing coconut sorbet today in Marigot, which an old lady makes by hand in one of those old fashioned, wooden bucket-looking, ice cream makers. I'm too lazy/tired to resize another picture today though, so I'll write about her tomorrow.

Do not buy an American Scooter!

photo.jpgThis is the entrance to American Scooter in Simpson Bay. If you are ever looking for a scooter and drive by this place, do yourself a favor and just keep driving. There is only really one employee who works there and has zero supervision. So, when she feels like opening, she's open. If she doesn't want to open, she doesn't. And, although this is an American Scooter location, selling American Scooter branded scooters, she made it very clear today that they sell all of their [brand new] scooters as is. If you have a problem with it when you leave the place, it's your problem and you've gotta pay to fix it.

My roommate and I both bought a scooter from her, before we knew how awful she really was (she's much nicer when she's trying to sell you something). However, both of us had issues very quickly with our scooters. While mine worked well for the first couple days, within the first week, it could no longer be started electronically (you had to kick start it). Further, the remote start stopped working and a bulb went out. My roommate fared even worse. His did not even attempt to automatically start, sounded like a harley, and would often just turn off, in the middle of driving.

When we called her about his scooter (I had already given up on getting mine fixed, since it mostly worked), she promised to replace his with a new one. However, when he showed up at the time they agreed (noon), she was nowhere to be found. And then, she didn't feel like coming in or answering the phone for the next week. When he finally did find her at the shop, she gave him a new battery, but refused to replace it. The new battery fixed the problem of stopping in the middle of the road, but it still didn't start properly and was very loud. She couldn't care less...we apparently bought it as is. Then, the miserable woman even had the audacity to tell me that if I bought a [brand new] scooter in the US and the battery was not working after the first week, that I'd have to pay to replace it anyway. Clearly, she has never done business in the US!

So, just save yourself the trouble and stay far away from this place. Their scooters are cheap, but they're not worth the headache. As the saying get what you pay for.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Best and Worst of St. Maarten

OK, maybe not the best and worst, but among them. The first photo is my favorite gas station guy. He's always friendly, fast, and actually uses a calculator to convert guilders to dollars. He always remembers who I am and he's always great to talk to. This is what customer service in St. Maarten should be like!! It's not often that I tip a gas station attendant, but if there's change left over...he always gets it.

The second picture is from the one and only Taco Bell in St. Maarten. However, what they serve there can barely pass as Taco Bell. Before you even get your food, you have to deal with the horrendous cashier ladies. First, they don't even know the menu, not even a little! This was not the first time I had been in there and they did not know what a Chalupa was. Second, they don't sell hard shell tacos, because they just don't feel like it anymore!! They're still on the menu and in all the pictures, but they just don't have them. Next, while it takes longer to get your food at Quiznos (somehow, they are able to bend time so that even though they move, nothing happens), it is a little more infuriating at Taco Bell because they just move soooooo slowly, and then only between talking on the phone and talking to each other in the back. The woman can literally only make one taco at a time, and she does so at an unbelievably slow pace. This, of course, is not until the cashier finally figures out how to put your order into the computer.

Once you get your food, the worst part begins. After 20 minutes in line, and such meticulous care put into making each taco, one at a time, you'd think it would at least taste OK. You'd also probably think that, being a franchise, all taco bell's would use the same ingredients. Well, they don't, and the meat, cheese, lettuce, and chicken here all sucks. I'm pretty sure that my chicken had a tumor. As much as I do love Taco Bell, I will not ever be going back to this one. I wish the taco bell ladies could take a lesson from Gas Station Guy!!

Friday, April 4, 2008


The cell cycle, according to me...
cell cycle.jpg
What else do you want to know? ;)

A man is NOT pregnant

xinsrc_40203052813370463170435.jpgCome on people...why do you all insist on believing everything that anyone tells you? There's currently a story on CNN's front page, apparently also recently aired on Oprah, that a man is pregnant. If you pay absolutely no attention to the facts, I guess I can see how you'd believe it. I mean, it's a person that looks like a man, says he's a man, and is married to a woman. But, that doesn't make him a man!

In reality, he's transgendered. He takes male hormones and lives life as a man, but he has retained all of his previous female bits and pieces. Therefore, as much as he may like to say he's a man...he's really a she! "He" is lacking two very important pieces to being a man, namely a Y chromosome and what I would consider some pretty essential parts! Also, judging by his current voice, I'd say he's given some of the male hormones a rest (probably a very good idea if you're pregnant).

So, the only thing different here is that two women are married, one of the women is much hairier than normal, thinks she's a he, and got pregnant. Unusual? Yes, definitely. CNN front page worthy? No. There are a lot of unusual people out there, and there is not enough paper in the world to write a story on all of them. So, to sum this up (since so many people are missing this), this "guy" is not really a guy. He was born a woman and still has all of his original female parts. So, an unattractive woman is pregnant.

Can't we just call a spade, a spade?

[i know, the picture's horrible, but that's him/her]

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Goodbye Second Semester...almost!

In my disgust at this morning's MCB class, I nearly forgot that second semester is basically over! We still have exams left, of course, which means a ton of studying left to do. But, because the Friday before an exam is not mandatory attendance, today was our last day of new information for second semester! So, now that's left to do is a ton of studying, hopefully do well on the exams, and go home for a much needed 2 week break! When I come back, I'll officially be a second year medical student! I've gotta admit...I am a little surprised at how fast time has been going by here. But, given my opinion of the island and the local inhabitants, it can't go by fast enough!

Dear MCB, Stop wasting our time!!!

Today, yet again, the MCB department has decided to combine us with the first semester class, making one very large overcrowded class in LH1. Just for a little quick background, because I'm not sure if I've already written about this, but MCB is basically a mash up of 3 classes that don't go really go together that well: cell bio, biochem, and genetics. Maybe there is some way to put them all together, but AUC has been totally unable to figure out how. For our (2nd) semester class, they decided to not integrate them at all, but just break each class up, throw them in a random order, and have them taught by a bunch of different teachers. For the first semesters, they decided to make it somewhat more sensible, and teach each area separately, basically making it 3 separate classes, as it was before.

After making all of these changes, there was obviously some overlap between the two classes. So, instead of teaching them separately, they decided to teach the two classes together. Unfortunately, they were again unable to properly organize this, and they wind up teaching us the same thing twice. I'm really getting sick of hearing, "2nd semesters have already had this, but we're gonna review it for the first semesters!"

For the past week or so, it seems an awful lot like they have run out of things to teach us. So, while they absolutely flew threw the biochem part of the course, sometimes cramming huge amounts of information into the last 2 days before an exam because they had to rush through it, they are now very slowly making there way through the easier stuff. They are also having multiple teachers teach almost the exact same thing, in 3 or 4 different ways. And now, they've decided to make it worse and teach us the same thing again, but crowd us with the first semester class! Today, we're going over muscular dystrophies...something we've already done in at least two other lectures. Do they really have 3 days worth of information on muscular dystrophy to teach us?

This is where we have issues with PhD teachers instead of MD teachers. I don't think the PhD teachers always know what is important for us to learn and what is useless PhD level information. One example of this is the fact that in nearly every packet that we get in genetics, Nail patella syndrome (a mutation in LMX1B) is mentioned. The genetics teacher did research on this at Hopkins, which is good for him, but the incidence is 1:50,000 (compared to about 1:600 for something like Down Syndrome). So basically, we'll most likely never see or hear of this disease again, it's not mentioned in USMLE review books, and likely nobody in a US school has ever heard of it. However, it just keeps coming up, over and over, for us.

Some classes here do a very good job of presenting roughly the same information that is in the review books, meaning it will likely show up on the USMLE and is something important for us to know. Other classes, however, do a very bad job of this. Oh..they've also decided to give us two cumulative finals, one is the shelf exam, made up of actual old USMLE questions, and the other is their own cumulative final. Apparently, they don't think that the shelf tests all of their information well enough. Seems to me that if it's not important enough for the USMLE to test on, we probably don't need to waste our time learning the little details of it. What a great way to spend my time studying. MCB really cannot end soon enough! I don't think anyone in my class is going to miss it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Is this safe?

Dangerous wiring!
I'm pretty sure that it can't be. This wire was just hanging down off the side of a building, right into the middle of the sidewalk. I didn't touch it to find out, but I can't imagine that this is a very good idea! This was also in Marigot, but not in one of the nicer areas. I think I"m not gonna go back to that area anymore.

Wish I had my camera

Marigot abandoned
I was walking around Marigot today while I waited for some work to be done on my new scooter (the front light was not working) and came across this abandoned building. Unfortunately, all I had was the camera on my iPhone. I wish I had my real camera, because I could have gotten some great pictures!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

St. Maarten Dentist

Dentist office
Today, I was very pleasantly surprised by my trip to the local dentist. I wen to the office of Dr. Guevara, at the recommendation of some of the AUC faulty and students, and I was very impressed! The office is at least as nice and clean as any US dentist office (actually nicer than my US dentist) and the dentist was very good also. They are also significantly cheaper than the US dentists. My neighbor paid $250 for his root canal, which he is very happy with. So, if you need a dentist, I'd highly recommend that you go to this won't be disappointed. For a couple minutes, I almost forgo that I was in St. Maarten!

April Fools at AUC

Golden Chancellor
Today, Dr. Tien (The Golden Chancellor) has decided to dress appropriately for the island. Who wants to wear a stuffy suit when you can wear an inflatable, Hawaiian shirt, and cool hat? Fortunately I took this picture early, because it didn't take long for the school to remove it. Everyone seemed to think it was funny, including most of the faculty, so I don't know who felt the need to ruin the fun!