Wednesday, 31 July 2013

On Evenings

"Don't let life randomly kick you into the adult you don't want to become."
- Cmdr. Hadfield

I am on my 8th last study night. Next Wednesday will be my last MCAT study session, hopefully forever.

Thursday next I'll pack a few sandwiches, a blanket, a pillow, a change of clothes, and fill my gas tank for the trip. I'm getting there by way of the bridge, but I plan to come home on the ferry since I haven't been on the ferry since I was a kid and I loved it then. It will be at night, but I'll be able to smell and hear the ocean, and that is the important part.

I am a bit nervous about driving there in the evening. Because I waited to get my license until just before we moved home, I have almost no experience driving where there are moose and deer. A few months in Ontario before we came home, but that was in a city, not on highways going through woods heavily populated with large antlered tasty things. My husband was going to drive, but he can't miss work so I'm going alone. Unless I find a passenger.

I worked out, based on my car's highway mileage, plus some wiggle room for driving in the city, about what I should use gas-wise and added the cost of the bridge. It's cheaper than taking the shuttle, $15 more than taking the bus, and I won't have to miss half a day of work to do it, so this works nicely.

I have to stay overnight in Halifax, and a hotel is right out. I'm trying to arrange to stay with friends near the city, but I can camp in my car if necessary. If you've never done that, you need to go on an impromptu road trip sometime. Hatchbacks are awesome for sleep in a pinch.

It's going to be an adventure for sure. I'd hoped to take my husband with me since our anniversary is 12 days later and we could've made a fun road trip out of it, but life gets in the way sometimes.

A few evenings more. Not long now.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Checking...

I was a little disheartened by my performance on the VR of that last Kaplan I did, so tonight I dd an AAMC VR I had not seen before.

Got a 13.

My confidence has been repaired. I'm still strong in VR.

Going to go do a ton of orgo questions for the rest of the evening.

Monday, 29 July 2013

I was annoyed

I was annoyed today, and I wanted to have some fun so I put that together and made a little rant about a topic I hear about way, way too much: homeopathy.

Here's the rant:

Your body has approximately 100,000,000,000,000 cells.

An Olympic swimming pool has around 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water.

The entire planet Earth has about 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms.

A standard homeopathic preparation is 30C. That is a 1:100 dilution done over 30 times. That means to get ONE MOLECULE of the original remedy, you would need to consume 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of the homeopathic preparation.

More molecules than make up our entire planet (and keep in mind, earth has 2 x 10^50 atoms. If you count molecules, Earth has a lot less.)

There is one homeopathic preparation I’m sure you’ve seen called osillicococcinium. It is a 200C dilution of (supposedly) a duck’s liver. They sell it for treating colds. To get one molecule of that duck’s liver, you would need to consume more molecules of the preparation than exist in the entire universe.

The ratio of duck liver to the solvent (water or alcohol) is 1 molecule duck’s liver to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water.

And they think this will cure colds. It’s water. While rest and fluids are undoubtedly good for you, the couple millilitres of water in those little osillicococcinum dose vials aren’t going to make a dent.

There is absolutely nothing in a standard homeopathic preparation except for sugar, water, or alcohol.

Nothing.

Are there medically useful herbs? Absolutely. Are there natural remedies that have actual medical effect? Yup. Many (probably most) modern pharmaceuticals are derived from natural compounds. But you will not find any of that in a homeopathic preparation. It is physically impossible.

Homeopathy is based on the idea that a weaker dilution leads to a stronger medication.

Try this experiment. Take a cup of water, add a drop of red dye. Take a drop of the dyed water, add it to another cup of(undyed) water. Do that another 29 times. By homeopathic concepts, the final cup of water should be the reddest. Congratulations, you have made homeopathic super dye. Be careful not to get that on your shirt.

Homeopaths believe that water has a memory and that it retains the vital essence of the ingredient. They believe that by diluting and shaking it, they are making the water remember better.

Consider that all water on the earth has been around a very long time. The water that comes out of your tap has been evaporated, rained down, sucked up by plants, drunk by animals, urinated out, evaporated from carcases, and frozen hundreds of times over its existence. In 4.6 billion years, a molecule gets around.

By homeopathic theory, your tap water contains the memory of dinosaur bladders and hundreds, if not thousands, of plants (some of which may even be medicinal!) To a homeopath, your tap water should be a very potent medicine.

But they can’t sell you your tap water. So they sell you sugar pills in fancy packages, or little tubes of water or alcohol. And they call it medicine.

Every time these preparations are tested for their contents, they are found to contain absolutely nothing besides the base. It’s a pretty basic process to determine what compounds exist in a sample. That’s not really cutting-edge science.

The thing about homeopathy is, if you think it will help you, you will convince yourself that it is helping.

You will never see a verifiable homeopathic treatment for lymphoma. No homeopath has ever cured meningitis or sepsis. Because they can’t. These preparations have absolutely no effect on real, visible, measurable disease.

But you will see people left and right claiming it helped their pain, or headaches, or nausea, or anxiety. Subjective things. Things that, if you THINK you are getting better, you will see improvement. Even if, as has been shown over and over in controlled studies, there actually is no objective improvements.

People who believe these things help will think they are helping. That doesn’t mean they are, it means that people are very good at convincing themselves of things.

If you are an ardent believer in homeopathy, you’re probably offended by now. You believe in homeopathy. You know it works, even though that is a physical impossibility. “Well science must just not be able to explain why it works!” Except, we can explain it. It doesn’t work. It can’t work. The only effect it has is removing funds from wallets and convincing people they are taking something when it’s nothing but sugar pills or plain old water.

The more vociferous among you may even be tempted to say nasty things about me, call my intelligence or objectivity into question, or even pull the pharma shill gambit – claiming I’m being paid to try to cover up The Truth (ha. My bank account begs to differ.) I've actually experienced this first hand; a friend recommended a homeopathic preparation. I told her homeopathy is bunk, and I was jumped on as though I'd insulted her.

Examine your reaction to the above.

Instead of looking at the actual facts, very basic scientific facts that you should have learned in high school, are you assuring yourself that you are right and that everything we know about chemistry must be wrong?

Are you taking personal offence at me challenging your belief in homeopathy?

If so, you have fallen for yourself and you have taken your arguments for homeopathy into the realm of religion, not science. Facts are not matters of belief or opinion, facts are facts and exist independent of your belief in them.

You are lying to yourself to live in a comforting fiction instead of looking at reality and acknowledging that your very powerful brain did something it is very good at: tricking you.

Instead of being mad at the scientists who want to keep you from being lied to and made a fool of by clueless (or knowingly deceitful) homeopaths, why not take offence at being sold snake oil by a charlatan? Why not be angry at the people who are verifiably lying to you?

I’m sure many of you probably won’t. Seems like tons of people are convinced that all scientists everywhere are in on some grand conspiracy to cover up The Truth.

Because too many people think reality is a matter of opinion and that believe can make lies into medicine.

Reality is true whether you believe in it or not, to paraphrase the wonderful astrophysicist and notable thinker Neil de Grasse Tyson.

Remember, “the first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Spoke too soon

Did another full length test this afternoon, but I would like to point out a few important things:

Take a freaking Advil for the headache before doing the test.
Get the kids out of the house because they can and will be as loud as freaking possible while I am writing. With a headache. Ahhhhh!

I have four full length Kaplan tests and have done them all now. Going to try to fit an AAMC test or two into the budget, but at almost forty bucks a pop, that's going to be difficult considering our funds are tight this month. I'm going to try though.

So far, I have seen a definite upward trend in my physical and biological sciences sections. My orgo understanding is a lot better, and I think if I could have actually concentrated during this one, I'd have done better. My VR was uncharacteristically low. I disagree with some of their answers though, and these questions were phrased quite differently from their other tests (and, from reading around the web, seems they are quite different from the actual MCAT VR section questions.)

Anyway, here's my progression (all PS-VR-BS)
29 June: 9-11-9 (Kaplan book)
7 July: 10-12-10 (AAMC 3)
10 July: 11-13-9 (Kaplan online #2)
21 July: 14-14-14 (Kaplan online #1)
28 July: 12-9-12 (Kaplan book)

Kaplan's #1 online test was actually much easier. I took #2 first because I wanted to challenge myself. I was surprised by how much easier #1 actually was, which is, I suppose, how I got the 14s.

My performance today on the VR is sub-par and really not representative of my overall performance. I'm still pretty confident with my actual VR skills.

I'm very pleased to see how my BS and PS are coming along. I'd be happy with 11s in those categories. With less than two weeks left, I think I'm really in a good spot overall. Just have some fine tuning.

Verbal Reasoning Practice

I have found the VR section to be far and above my easiest, yet it is the one people seem to struggle with most.

I thought I'd provide some suggestions of things that appear to have helped me. Though, of course, with the caveat that I have yet to write my actual MCAT (twelve days!)

When I started this studying process, I tended to look at the books and podcasts and videos as material to know. There are, in fact, things I didn't know that I needed to learn (eg. Nucleophilicity, Substitution nucleophilic reactions, elimination reactions, relative reactivity of various organic molecules, chirality and isomerism, etc.) and that has never really been a problem. Cocky as this may sound, I learn facts and relationships exceptionally quickly which is how I have managed to do so well in school with relatively limited study time. I have a good memory and am an analytical thinker which are just traits I was born with and have 'exercised' as often as possible. I have an advantage there.

But the more questions I have practiced, the more people I have talked to, the more I understand how the MCAT works. This is not a test of knowledge and it isn't meant to be. It is a test of thinking.

So instead of trying to work out methods to 'crack' the VR questions, I just think about them.

I have spent years getting into online debates for fun. It's a hobby, one that keeps me thinking and was a bit of a brain saver during the long years I was stuck home with children whose convsational skills were not suited to discussion of challenging topics.

As a result, I have a lot of practice dissecting people's opinions and arguments. I'm used to ripping their evidence and logic to shreds and considering ahead of time what other arguments they might make so I can head them off before they are made.

Conveniently, this happens to be how the MCAT VR section asks you to think. Look at what might support the argument, how the evidence does or doesn't work, what they really mean. That is VR in a nutshell.

So I imagine when I am reading those passages that they were written by someone I can't stand so that I want to tear it apart.

I've also been practicing other critical thinking activities by reading scientific studies and finding flaws. It isn't always easy and often requires solid knowledge of the material and methods. I think this is helping too. I'm forcing myself to look deeply into everything and apply what I know to draw conclusions.

I think this practice matters more than the straight up memorization. I *know* the material already, but I'm not going to be tested on what I know, so I am not as concerned with the knowledge, at least above baseline. I'm concerned with what I can do with it or, in the case of VR, how I can pull it completely apart and judge it.



Saturday, 27 July 2013

Adventures in Messy Business

My daughter will be 3 in October and I've decided that I'm about done changing diapers for good, so we're about to start potty training.

My son, like most kids with autism, was very difficult to potty train. We started lightly introducing the idea at 18 months when he showed some interest in the potty, but diapers weren't done for good until he was four and a half. We spent three years potty training that kid. I am NOT doing that again.

At the moment, she is running around in nothing but her little Hello Kitty underwear. I expect we will have some messes today and tomorrow.

My son, interestingly, thinks it is awesome that his sister is going to be done with diapers so he keeps telling her how awesome it is to use the toilet and it is something big kids do. Hoping this helps.

In the meantime, though, I am keeping her away from the one carpeted room.

The mop is on standby, we stocked up on paper towels. Potty is disgustingly pink and put in a prominent location where she can easily access it.

I really, really hope she is one of those kids who just 'gets it.' Not going to hold my breath, though.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

"Slow down!"

People consistently tell me I am doing a lot and need to slow down.

Working full time and studying and having kids is apparently 'a lot' to most people.

Quite honestly, I do not consider myself that busy. I still have time to relax and enjoy myself. Still have time to cook supper in the evenings and eat with my family at the table, still have time to sit down for coffee with my kids and husband every morning. I am thinking of working on finding a volunteering placement for the fall too, because working 15 hours a week, going to school full time, raising a family, and being an association executive isn't *that* much. I can do more.

I see people who do less than I do who burn out. I see people handle much more than me with absolute grace in everything they do.

Being busy is just how I thrive. I am very good at time management and being self-directed. It makes life exciting, and I always have new stuff to do. I have to be busy or I go nuts. The two years I was a stay at home mom taught me that.

Of course I get stressed at times, particularly when I am sick or have a suddenly much larger demand on my time (eg. midterms) but I have really good stress management techniques as well, so it doesn't build up.

It just all came to mind because I was talking about my fall schedule with a co-worker, and she said "you need to slow down. You can't work that much while in school."

It isn't up for debate. I do not have a choice about working, and if I want my med school chances to stay good, I cannot take less than 5 courses per semester. Stressing about how 'busy' I'm going to be isn't going to feed the kids, working will. So I will work.

Here's how real life works: You look at what needs to be done. Figure out how to make it possible. Do it.

There you go.

I need money, so I will work.
I need to be a full time student, so I will take five classes per semester.
I need solid grades, so I will make sure I study every evening and adhere to my academic best practices.
I need a good MCAT score, so I will study as much as is necessary to make it happen.

No ifs, ands, or buts. I have to do it, so I will do it. No room in that for "if I can..." Of course I can. I'm not going to burst into flames because I have demands on my time. I'm going to be a doctor for frig's sake. I am TRYING to get into a career where 60+ hour weeks are normal. I'd be a crap resident someday if I were afraid of a little hard work.

This is what happens when army brats grow up.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Last break day

Tonight is my last permitted break day. I have sixteen days left until my MCAT. After tonight, I will study every night until the evening of the 7th, when I will wrap up to let it all sink in. Studying immediately before an exam is, IMO, not a good idea. Just freaks me out. Sleep, mental rest, and self-care are the most important things right before. Clarity of mind will get me more points than last minute cramming.

I got the approval for the 9th off, so I'll only have three days of work that week. Because I work for a federal government department, I get the 5th off, even though it isn't a provincial statutory holiday. The evening of the 8th, my husband and I will take our kids and dog to my parents' house, then leave for Halifax. I'm not sure where we are staying overnight. It will be either a relative's home an hour away or a hotel. Funds are tight due to us missing a lot of work because of the stomach bug that won't quit - six days between us. Affording the gas and bridge toll alone will be difficult, but we'll make it happen, even if it means spending the night in the car. We're already too invested in this to back out now.

The closer it gets, the less nervous I get. I'm in the final push of studying, and stress will just psyche me out. I need to be focused, not freaked out. Fortunately, my husband is wonderful about helping me and keeping my stress levels low. He's taken on all the housework and most of the child care in the evenings. He's wonderful.

Last night off. Back to it tomorrow!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIS IS WHY TIME OF DAY MATTERS!

I couldn't afford to spring for an AAMC test since I've missed three days of work, so I did another Kaplan Full Length (I have 4.)




FORTY TWO!

Fourteens even.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Lost Days

The past few days have been unpleasant. I was getting a lot sicker, landing me in the ER yesterday. A few bags of fluid and some IV gravol set me on the mend. Amazing how quickly dehydration can run you ragged.

Twenty days to MCAT. I am surprisingly not as stressed out as I thought I would be, though at the moment I have enough energy to be concerned with very little.

Tomorrow will be a full length practice test. I'm reviewing more organic chemistry today. Fortunately it is oppressively humid here today so my kids don't mind me sitting down with my books and flash cards.

I was studying a little in the ER yesterday and was trying to hide what I was doing (I refuse to be the annoying premed who pesters doctors) but I fell asleep with my flashcards on my chest. When I woke up, someone had straightened them up on the table and left a little note saying "good luck. We need more doctors."

Made my day. As much as something can when I'm sick enough to be in the hospital.

So, with those hastily scrawled words on my mind, back to studying. Luck is nice, but I need brain power to do this.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Off and Away

Monday, my son leaves for his second annual trip to visit his aunt, uncle, and uncle-to-be. My siblings are kind enough to pay for him to visit in the summer, and in two years (assuming we're not already in their city) my daughter will get to go as well. He's been talking about last year's trip since he got home, and he's humming with excitement for this one.

It will be nice to have a week of just one kid. It is surprising how much that reduces the work load. I thought having one child was a lot of work, but two is more than double. Particularly since I was usually outnumbered for most of the past two years.

So, my son being gone for a week means I am going to be able to study while my daughter is up. She's happy and just fine playing on her own, so I will get to sit her down with some crayons while I try to force my brain to perform.

My lovely little viral reservoirs children were kind enough to bring home a stomach bug last week that has cost me several nights of studying. I was better for a few days, then got worse again. I was off work last Thursday and today, and that is quite unlike me. Unfortunately, I've had a very sensitive... constitution since that weeks-long illness in January so I'm not fighting this off as quickly as I'd like.

Being home from work this morning did mean I was able to complete my registration. My university makes second years register last, which is annoying. Three courses I wanted filled up by yesterday, though the professor for one was kind enough to open up additional spaces after being asked nicely (begged.) He's my favourite professor and I REALLY wanted to take the class so I am absolutely thrilled he made it happen.

My courses for next year:

First semester:
- Cell Biology
- Animal Diversity
- History of Biology (the course with the awesome prof)
- Organic Chemistry
- Modern Physics for the Life Sciences

Second semester:
- Genetics
- Microbial Diversity
- General Physiology
- Statistics II
- Christian Tradition

So, I only have one non-science/math course the entire year. Much better than the 4 I thought I'd be stuck with. I'm taking two third year courses.

Modern Physics for the Life Sciences is part of the new biomedical physics minor my school is offering. My physics professor told me about it last year and I am so excited to take it. It's designed to fit into a biology program and has a focus on human medicine in particular. That, plus History of Biology, are the courses I am most looking forward to this year.

Less than seven weeks until school starts!

My MCAT is three weeks from tomorrow (holy crap) and I will be purchasing one of the AAMC exams on Sunday so that I can write at the same time of day as I will be writing my actual exam. I'll report back my score.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Little Bits or Motivation

I had absolutely nothing to do at work today, so I spent most of the day flipping through orgo flash cards. Kaplan has an app - if you have a Kaplan account, you can download it. It's a particularly useful one. The flashcards are quite comprehensive and the interface is simple to navigate.

There are also a ton of flash cards on StudyBlue for free.

It is hard to stay consistently motivated, particularly with just over three weeks to go. I am still uncomfortable with my fluency in organic chemistry; I'm working on that in particular. Chemistry, biology, and physics are not difficult, but there's a bit of a brain block with organic chemistry. I'm really trying to get the concepts down so I can figure things out on the MCAT; I don't want to memorize.

On the plus side, it is good I am getting this out of the way over the summer. If I can break through these roadblocks over the summer so I am better prepared to completely rock orgo next year.

I put together my schedule for next year as I am registering on Thursday.

Classes I'm taking:
- Cell biology
- Animal Diversity
- History of Biology
- Organic chemistry (1 semester only)
- Modern Physics
- Microbial Diversity
- Genetics I
- Religious Studies: Occult and Esoteric Traditions
- Statistics II
- Children's Literature

I selected my courses strategically, based on what I know about the profs and material covered, and what I need for future prereqs. All that will be left for med school prereqs after this year is one more English course and biochemistry, both of which I intend to take next year (though I will take English next summer if at all possible.)

It works nicely as well, since I have only three lab courses all year. It promises to be a pretty relaxed year, inasmuch as university can be. I want to optimize my GPA since I'll be applying to four Ontario schools in less than a year.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Dates and Beets


I had to thin the beets in my garden again. I did it a few weeks ago and left lots since I wanted to let them grow a bit more before I thinned them again. Now I have a pile of baby cioggia beets. If you have never had these before, I encourage you to seek them out. They are very sweet and a lot milder than regular beets. They are also smaller and very visually striking, and the best part is they don't stain. At all.

By the time they are full grown, they have 10 or so rings of colour:

They are also very, very easy to grow. I think every seed we planted grew, and we've had to thin them three times now. Should be ready soon.


Spending the afternoon in the garden was a lovely distraction from studying. My husband was at work and when he is away I can't really do more than flip through some flash cards anyway.

I'm now officially under 4 weeks until my MCAT, but a more important milestone just passed: OMSAS opened for the new cycle.

This year's hopefuls are now putting together and getting ready to submit their applications.

That means that in less than 12 months, I will be putting together my application and getting ready to submit it. It isn't "a year and a half away" or "a couple years away." No, I will be applying in less than one year.

A year is nothing. A year flies by in a flurry of birthdays and holidays and long weekends and milestones. My husband's and my seventh wedding anniversary is in a little over a month. It does not feel like we have been married for seven years, it really doesn't. A year is eaten up by expectation in far less time than I would like at some points.

So a year, I have a year. When I started this journey, applications seemed a lot further away than the two years they were, and now here I am, with less than a full year to go before I pay my fee and take a dive into the most frustrating process of my life, and I don't feel like I have enough time at all.

Cheers, my friends. Good luck to this year's applicants!

I'm going to go munch on some beets.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

29 June: 9-11-9 (Kaplan)
7 July: 10-12-10 (AAMC 3)
10 July: 11-13-9 (Kaplan)



It's been long enough since I took AAMC 3 that I did not remember the material. I feel that is a representative score. When writing it, I wasn't thinking 'oh yeah, THAT question' - I was approaching the material as if it was new.

Obviously, verbal remains my strong point. Organic chemistry is still my weakest. I'm coming to understand the concepts, but applying them is still proving difficult. I have an intuition for what is what, and this is helping me on some questions, but I can't always explain HOW I know, which is a problem on others.

After payday, I'm planning to pay for some of the more recent AAMC tests.

My Gold Standard flash cards are no longer helpful. I know everything on them now. They have been great for ensuring that I do know at least that much, but I no longer feel the need to review them since the material has definitely sunk in. I'm continuing to go between the Kaplan, EK, and Khan Academy organic chemistry sections to work through problem areas, but it is slower going than I'd like.

I'll continue posting my practice scores. 29 days to go!

Don't tempt fate

Okay, I should have kept my mouth shut last night.

This morning, my daughter and I both woke up with a stomach bug.

Gastro is pretty much the only reason I will call in sick to work, short of a hospital stay. My coworkers have young kids too. The last thing they need is a stomach bug. So I'm home with my feverish, puking toddler today.

You know you're a premed when, after calling in sick, you breathe a sigh of relief because it means you have more MCAT studying time. Between trips to pray to the porcelain gods.

Life doesn't stop for viruses.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

I can't brain today

I am a bit blah today.

First semester of last year, I pinched a nerve in my neck that left me whining endlessly for the better part of two weeks. These things happen. I'm more prone to them than most people, but hey, that's life. Could've been worse anyway.

Well. Yesterday, I woke up completely unable to move my right leg. And I do mean completely. About ten minutes of rocking back and forth and I managed to roll over and crawl my way off the bed at which point I spent several minutes working on how to get my leg under me and walk. I know the feel of a pinched never, and I could tell this was just yet another, so I spent a little while working out how to walk around (with much groaning and whining), made sure I could control my foot enough to drive safely (I am paranoid about safe driving) and went to work.

It took me thirty five minutes to walk two blocks from my car to my building, and another ten to make it to the elevator on the other side of the building.

If it wasn't so pathetic, I'd have laughed.

When my husband got home last night, I gave up any pretense of being productive and went to bed. At 6:30. Woke up 12 hours later and yay! I have some control back today, but my muscles are pissed at the abuse they suffered yesterday so I'm still walking like an 80 year old in need of a hip replacement.

This gets very, very annoying. I'm now very sore AND limping around.

Oh well, it could always be worse. Now, to make up for the study debt from yesterday! MCAT in 30 days!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

FL 2

Just finished another full length practice test. Under testing conditions; timer, timed breaks, no study materials nearby, just scratch paper and my brain.

Additional conditions:
- It is very, very hot in my bedroom so I'm quite uncomfortable.
- Exhausted after a long day at the beach.
- Sick with a sinus infection.

That said, I brought up my score 3 points since my last full length practice test (a week ago Saturday.)

10-12-10 PS-VR-BS.

Honestly, if my real score were exactly that, I would not rewrite. A 12 VR is quite comfortable, and 10s in the sciences wouldn't make me stand out, but also would not be a detriment to me. The VR score is the most important anyway.

Ideally, I would like at least 33 composite with at least 10 in each science section and 11 VR, with another couple points spread around if any section is only at my minimum. If my VR is 10 or lower, or I have lower than 10 in either science section, I will most likely rewrite next summer.

Honestly, VR is my strongest section. I've spent most of my adult life spending far more time than I should reading very wordy things and engaging in online debates. It is VERY easy to get used to picking apart sections of text when you've spent years doing exactly that for fun. I do expect my VR score to be my highest, and it has consistently been throughout all of my practice tests, with the exception of a fluke where I got a 15 on BS. I have not been able to repeat that success, and since I guessed on a lot of questions, it really was chance.

While I am nervous with my MCAT being 4 weeks from Friday, I am confident I can do what I need to do to make this happen and avoid a rewrite.

For what it is worth, I'm finding the EK Audio Osmosis oddly useful. It's on in the car while I drive, or playing on the iPod while I clean or walk to work. It's just outright stupid - they are trying way too hard to be funny - but some of the stupid stuff sticks with you. The Kaplan books are filling in a lot where the EK doesn't. Other things I'm finding VERY helpful:
- Khan Academy for Orgo
- WikiPremed (free MCAT course online, basically)
- A few formula sheets (each of those words is a link to a different page) that came up on a quick Google search





Chaleur

It is *hot* here this week. Relative to our normal temps, anyway. The Island is typically warm to mildly hot over the summer, but long stretches of 30+ are uncommon. It has been uncomfortably hot for the last week. My husband works in an install bay all day, and is just cooking in there. To avoid heat stroke, they are allowing the employees to take breaks whenever necessary to cool down. My work is air conditioned, which is lovely.

Fully air conditioned homes here are uncommon. Many people have a window AC unit in bedrooms, but it is uncommon to see central air. That is the only thing about Ontario I really miss. Man, I'd like some A/C right about now.

Having a house that gradually reaches uncomfortably hot temperatures, the best thing we can do is get out of it. That's a big benefit of summer; we not only want to go outside, we pretty much have to because it is cooler out there.

Funny how our terribly insulated house is great at keeping in the heat... in July and August.

Yesterday, the kids needed some cheering up as they were still very upset about Freddie, so we spent the late afternoon/early evening at the beach. With the temperature today, we're going to be useless at getting any of the house projects done, so we're going to spend the afternoon at the beach too. Great thing about living on the Island - you're never far from a beach! Our favourite is just about five minutes away if we go up the back roads. It's unsupervised, which is why I don't go there without an adult to kid ratio of at least 1:1. Dogs are allowed, so we're just going to load up everyone and head out in a few hours.

Honestly, I wouldn't really accomplish anything besides laying down and whining about the heat if we stayed home for that time anyway.

I can bring my books to the beach and study a bit there, at least, with the salt breeze keeping me cool.

I'm going to miss my home in the summers. It's so lovely here.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Difficult passing

My son's bird died today. He has never been an emotional kid and doesn't typically grieve. We have lost pets before, but this one was *his* pet. While we were out, Freddie's foot got caught and he died, likely from stress as canaries are very sensitive.

I've never seen him so sad, nor have I ever seen him cry over another being. He helped me wrap Freddie's body up, and we buried him. My son said goodbye, put some wildflowers on the grave, and cried for a while. He's still upset. We've been talking, though now he's relaxing and watching some TV because he's all cried out for now.

I was quite fond of the little bird too. I've never seen a canary that is so friendly, and so enthusiastic about everything. He was an absolutely happy little bird, and for the short time we had him, he had a good life which he hadn't had before. I'm going to miss his songs in the morning, his little trills every time I walked by.

Perhaps we'll get another Canary someday, but there will never be another Freddie.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Impressing the upper decks

I'm good at my job. That's not a brag, it's more a comment about how easy my job is.

I work in a unit that manages financial things for a large government department. I buy stuff. Do a little bit of HR (leave, job changes, that kind of stuff) but, largely, I buy items other employees need to complete their jobs.

This is easy, typically, but then there are days like today where people ask me to buy things that are no longer manufactured. I had to track down the one manufacturer who used to make it, find out where they had sold their remaining stock, then have a local store special order them from the distributer.

A laughably small purchase took me most of the morning, and no one will ever know the work I put into finding those items.

Or the two hours tracking down the requirements for a security item. It required calling three departments and the police. You would not believe how strict they are about security - which I was very pleased to see, personally.

Since starting, I've completely reorganized everything to do with my position to ensure efficiency and accuracy. Having worked in the private sector for many years, I cannot stand to be idle at work. If I do not have a task to complete, I find one or make one.

This, combined with my tendency to learn things quickly, has made the people above me like me. I work hard, I'm good at my job, and I'm continuously seeking ways to improve and streamline everything.

When the news came that my unit was being shut down, my immediate supervisor and one of my seniormost coworkers immediately got to work on finding a new place for me within the department.

Turns out, this may not be necessary. While I'm wanted elsewhere, it so happens my current department also wants to keep me. Problem is, the departments (another one approached me later) that want me would work so much better for my goals than finance as they are both medically-focused units where I'd be working directly with health care providers.

Ultimately, it is up to my manager. If it works out better for her budget to have me move somewhere else, it's up to her. Though I do kind of hope she allows the move, much as I enjoy working with the people I work with now. Working with doctors and nurses directly would be very helpful for my future and the point of the program under which I was hired is to help students with their goals.

We'll see.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

But surely you will...

Today, a co-worker who is aware of my goals asked me a question about what I will do when I'm a doctor.

Now, I know things will change for me when I go through med school. I know my approach to many things in medicine, many of my opinions, my view of patients, my feelings on everything from finances to mental illness - all of these may change.

One thing that I can say with absolute certainty right now: My intent to practice science-based medicine will not change.

My coworker asked whether I'd refer people to homeopaths and naturopaths. I said absolutely not, I don't support quackery and there is no evidence nor any rational basis for the effectiveness of the practices of these... people. She then said 'well surely you'll at least send people to chiropractors!'

Nope.

My future patients deserve a doctor whose treatments are based in an understanding of science. While not all treatments have randomized controlled trials to support their efficacy (sometimes they just haven't been done because of a new approach/drug/whatever, sometimes they can't be done for ethical reasons because the control group would be subject to too much risk,) medical treatments as practiced today have a basis in reality, in science. They have plausibility - there is a biological reason to expect that they will work, often a mechanism through which they are expected to work. That is what separates evidence-based medicine (things with RCTs) from science-based medicine. Evidence doesn't always exist yet, but there should at least be a reason to expect something should work, based in understanding of the human body, the disease, and the treatment itself.

I am a scientist first. I will always be a scientist first. As a patient, I expect the above of my doctors, and I will expect no less of myself as a physician.

That, I can say with absolute certainty now, will not change. Health care needs people who can stand up for science and insist on rational, reality-based medicine.

On that note, back to my science education. MCAT in five weeks, two days.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Tick tick tick

My MCAT is five weeks from Friday.

I am not, as of now, feeling very prepared. The organic chemistry is where I'm stumbling a lot. The biology, physics (with the exception of circuits and electricity - I have a mind block there), verbal, and general chemistry I am comfortable with.

My chemistry professor from last year was a sessional and due to budget cuts, I don't believe her contract was renewed. She offered to tutor me in organic chemistry this summer if necessary. My husband and I are discussing whether to put some funds into having her tutor me just to ensure my knowledge really is where it needs to be.

After a very careful review of my practice test from the other night, I noticed about half of my wrong answers were simply because I was not careful enough in reading the questions. They are not always very straightforward, so it is necessary to pick them apart a bit, and I was not cautious enough in doing that. I like the analyses the online Kaplan tests give; they are very thorough in explaining why answers were wrong, not just why the correct answer is right. That is very helpful in identifying where I am making mistakes.

The circuits and orgo are the biggest problems. The challenge won't be in dealing with those two weak areas, the challenge over the next five weeks will be in ensuring that I do not neglect stronger areas while preparing for those ones.

Fortunately, my husband understands that because I am so close to the test, as soon as supper is over every night, I need to be studying.

On that note, I only have an hour and a half until bed so I need to get back to it.