Monday, February 26, 2007

I Was Told There Would be No Math.

“Evil requires the sanction of the victim.”

~Ayn Rand

When I grade the tests of 90 pharmacy students taking clinical pharmacokinetics and one of them writes an answer that doesn't "make sense," or is correct in concept but wrong in some details, the first thing I think to myself is "shoot, we didn't teach it well enough." How many times have any of my professors in this often wretched department ever said that?


Dr Levy, in fact, and he said it to me. Once during a journal review session and I was attempting to answer a question. I started out by saying "I know we heard this in this other class, but I dont think I remember it very well and I am sorry for that..." or something along those lines. Dr Levy interrupted me and told me that the faculty should be the ones apologizing, not me, for it is among their duties to instruct such that we can remember.

I have never heard such a peep from any of the other faculty. They would rather hide behind the excuse of Graduate School Level Expectations than take responsibility for being a shitty teacher.

So I sit at night grading tests, knowing exactly how hard it is for these future pharmacists with a humungous class load, and I wonder how well they are being taught. I see them miss easy computations and I first wonder what should have been done to prepare them better. Of course there is always the factor of the student spending time on the material, but these are a very select few in the pharmacy school and we have to assume that at this level of competition mixed with education that studying is occurring based on the prioritization of classes and grades and subject matter. And the variable that is left is instruction.

I have the advantage of knowing the material almost as well as the professors, at this point, for most of the subjects. Because of that I can watch them without the fear of not knowing, and it provides some startling illuminations on their own fears of inadequacy and lack of teaching ability. What scares me more than anything else is that the sense of ego is so strong for them all, with the exception of Dr. Levy, that it is more difficult for them to accept some responsibility and perhaps improve the learning of the students at their mercy than it is to point the finger at the students and assume they just aren't working hard enough.

I was told there would be no math. But the math happened and I didn't understand it the first time. Now its too late.

Friday, February 23, 2007

If Memory Serves Me Right.

“It isn't that they can't see the solution. It's that they can't see the problem."

--G. K. Chesterton

This morning I was struck by the beauty of memory. My memory. The power of memory and its uncanny ability to shape us through our perception of its part in our "becoming". Our perception of memory is an important thing to consider as a human, because in its strange, circular way, it shapes us. But then we shape memory. And then it shapes us again...we begin to see how people become insane when surrounded by nothing but their own thoughts.

How often we consider something in our past as important in our life is really only the sum of 1) how we have re-shaped that vision over time based on our other experiences and 2) how we "took" the situation in the first place. And over time our original perception becomes a smaller and smaller part of that equation until, at last, our original perception becomes virtually negligible--save for the commentary of storytelling.

I remember sitting on my front porch when I was young--somewhere between 7 and 10. I remember the mornings of summer when there was no school and the feel of the astroturf covering our front porch warming in the expaninding sunlight. The smell of grass and evergreen bushes freshly groomed mingled with the sounds of bees harassing me, dogs barking, and sparrows nearby finding breakfast in the lawn. I remember the sound of the screen door as it slammed shut because I was in too much of a hurry to be careful with it. Usually reprimanded for it.

I was a busy kid. Always busy doing something outside that inevitably got me into trouble. I guess somethings arent destined to remain in our past, after all...

I remember the way the dew soaked through my shoes and pants as I ran through lawns and mistakenly sat down, thinking it had been dry. But more than anything, the memory of sitting on the steps on my front porch in the sun in those young summers has stuck with me. Waiting for life, seeing small flying insects rising from the lawn in the space where shade meets light and not knowing anything about anything from anything. Its beautiful in retrospect. It brings me to tears. That particular part of my life was not exceptionally happy, for many reasons. I took the decay of my family upon myself, and as such I feel like I missed out on the youth I could have enjoyed. I would like to go back in memory and make that kid enjoy more and smile more and love more. I would like to go back and tell him that the things happening around him arent his fault, and this isnt how life really is. Some day he will have a memory of this moment so perfect it doesn't include the feelings of pain he does not yet understand.

Memory is a powerful tool, but it is also a very sharp sword. If handled improperly it can certainly be a means by which we distort ourselves beyond repair. I remember everything, I think, somewhere in my brain. But for some reason only certain parts leak out and at the strangest times. I feel like I have changed my outlook on things which causes memories to come back to me in a different light depending on where in my life I am. But then again, when I seriously consider myself, its only a skin deep fraction of my outlook that has changed, mostly involving my confidence in myself. But my basic constitution is still Me--it hasnt really changed. I think most of us are really who we are from day one and then forever. I just believe that we put on different faces for a while, and for some its a face for how we interact, for others its a face of being more optimistic, maybe for some its work ethic.

I remember and therefore I am. Without my memory I would have nothing. Therefore it is probably my most valuable asset even though at times it is certainly my worst enemy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


"Time heals all wounds, unless you pick at them."

--Shaun Alexander

I have this chronically twitching eyelid. It started when I started grad school. I recently found this website regarding eye-twitching and am not surprised by what I found.

Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia

"The most common things that make the muscle in your eyelid twitch are fatigue, stress, and caffeine. Once spasms begin, they may continue off and on for a few days. Then, they disappear. Most people experience this type of eyelid twitch on occasion and find it very annoying. In most cases, you won't even notice when the twitch has stopped."

Gee, really?

"Eyelid twitching usually disappears without treatment. In the meantime, the following steps may help:

Get more sleep.
Drink less caffeine.
Lubricate your eyes with eye drops.
If twitching is severe, small injections of Botulinum toxin can temporarily cure the spasms."

Again, what a shock.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Weathering the Storm.

"If you're going through hell, keep going."

~Winston Churchill

When I graduate from school I am first going to enjoy a keg of Guinness. Yes, all by myself. Well, that is to say, I will enjoy my very own keg of Guinness hopefully in the presence of some fine people. Such as my wonderful wife. (Happy Valentines day, girl!)

After recovering from Alcohol poisoning, in random order, we will go to Europe.

Sometime in the not too distant future a boat or two will become ours. I have agreed that the first will have a motor and be something we can cruise in, say, to Alaska and back. Something we can live comfortably aboard for some time. And then, THEN, after that we will get a sail boat.

Yes this is a lofty goal, and probably reading them has made you believe I need therapy. Its true, but who doesn't? And besides, anyone who has been sailing knows that the power of the wind in a sail has the uncanny ability to focus even the most scatterbrained of individuals, and provides the best therapy I have ever known. So therefore I need therapy because I want therapy... or something.

Anyway, I crave the water. I crave high seas and the sound of the winch winding up my jib. The slosh of water into the cockpit and the gurgle as it slowly drains. The squeak of the pulleys and rhythmic noises of a living sailboat...oh man, its therapy just thinking about it here at my desk. Somehow, the real cares of life disappear when you sail. And no one who has sailed has ever told me otherwise. I mean SAILED. Not just been on a sailboat or motored in a sailboat. And no one who hasn't will understand this.

My wife has never sailed. And while I am out of practice at this point for anything over 20 feet, I would gladly spend a day making mistakes to bring it all back. Someday it will be.

"If you do not know to which port you sail, there is no such thing as a favorable wind."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Freegan Living

“See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.”

--Robin Williams

Apparently there exists an entire group of people who survive comfortably on the by-products of other individuals. Usually wealthier individuals. I suppose the purpose is supposed to make some sort of statement, but, to tell the truth, it seems just weird.

I think I am just tired of people "making statements." And I guess there have always been these things, this tug-of war, for as long as we have had the ability to communicate.

Do people take up a cause for the right reasons?

Anyway, here is something new to me.


And more freegans...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Flicks of Toothpaste on the Mirror

"There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad."

--Salvador Dali

I have a serious issue. More like a real problem.

I was watching a nice, young, hard-working UW student of some variety having a struggle. They were pacing, obviously distressed. The problem was they did not know in which bin to place their potentially recyclable material.

What does this have to do with me?

Here this person was; an obviously responsible, environmentaly friendly and concerned citizen who actually recruited a friend in this crusade. And there I was, picturing a convoluted scenario based on my problem.

I pictured this fine person (who eventually made a choice to place their valued recyclable into a certain bin) walking away from the bin feeling quite good about the world because the fate of that particular piece of plastic was now in the hands of some happy, well-mannered, caring individuals who magically turn plastic we use and toss into a bin back into some usable product once again. And that's good, because less is piling up in virgin forests or ice rafts and killing small helpless owls and baby seals. The responsible citizen is happy that their leadership provides the means for their involvement in caring for the world.

My problem is the following:
I pictured a different scenario after this fine person tossed the plastic into the "appropriate" bin. And this might be just a reflection of the helplessness I feel during this period of time in my life, true. But I picture this bin NOT full of exactly the appropriate recyclable materials as defined by the handy diagrams on the lid of the can, but more like a mosaic of items of which maybe 3% is actually going to be recycled. Even worse, I picture this bin being picked up by someone who DOESN'T care about the environment. They are pissed at the world because although they were a physics professor in Laos they couldnt get a job here in the good ol' US of A because they don't speak a lick of english. And so now they support their family by hoisting recylce bins around. Maybe that stuff ends up in the trash because its only more work for them to haul 60 lbs of leaking, stinky, half-rotten food in giant bags to a separate bin. To 4 separate bins depending on the type of material. So maybe it makes it to that processing station or maybe it makes it to the dump after all. Let us be positive and believe that our Laotion (could be any origin) friend cares and separates appropriately--and I happen to believe this is the case. But then the real fun begins.

A truck has to come and pick up this stuff. Assuming everything in the truck is recyclable, where does the truck go? Is there someone watching this truck and tracking its movements? Maybe it goes back to a station here at the fine institution of UW where this trucks load look so similar to other trucks loads that it really isnt worth the trouble to unload the truck into the properly labeled and well differentiated receptables. Its much easier to load it into the Big Green Bin known as the dumpster. Its not called a dumpster because it contains recyclable goods.

If you havent already figured it out I don't trust humans very much. After all, we have decided to torture and kill each other over footwear. People have destroyed everything to make room for more people and more places for those people to eat and put trash and murder and rape and kill other people. We put something in a recycle bin, someone comes and picks it up and its out of sight and mind. We are supposed to trust that someone is looking out for us, blindly we trust. And here on a LIBERAL college campus, its supposed to be EXTREMELY guarded. I say bullshit.

This is a situation that repeats itself in all levels of our lives. 30% of the population select people to do the talking for us and then 75% of those people stop paying attention. That very small fraction that is left, something like 7%, are the people who took genuine interest in the course of action our countries' leadership was taking, and this is supposed to be a representation of my views? But thats not what gets me. It's that the people who dont take part in the election process and can not show you on a map where North Korea is that bitch and complain when things are not turning out the way they want them to.

I don't trust people. I believe that if left up to someone else, I will probably get screwed because it seems to be human nature. I do not believe that I should screw before I get screwed, but instead I live a life in constant defense. I do not walk around assuming the worst about every person I see, in fact its the opposite. I assume the best about the people around me. The larger trend of human nature, however, scares the shit out of me.

I don't follow the people who pick up the recycling bin and make sure that it gets separated from the trash at each step right until the moment the magic happens to turn this into a reusable material. I don't lay awake at night wondering about that. What I do think about, though, is the overall nature of trusting that a governing body elected by a fantastically small group of people really cares about the same things I do.

Friday, February 02, 2007

"Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save."

--Will Rogers

Last night I thought I would be clever and kill two birds with one, um, salmon. I have a very difficult med chem test on monday, which I am much less prepared for than I care to even admit to myself. As well, I have a test tomorrow, Saturday, of the epic "CUMULATIVE" variety. It could be my last one. Haven't studied for that either.

Last night I had the opportunity to smoke about 10 pounds of salmon thats in the fridge, and since I knew it would take half the night I thought it was the perfect way to have time set aside to study. It was kind of humorous that after a few hours of it, at 12, the salmon in the smoker wasn't even close to being done. Smelled tasty, but not even close. I put another pan of wood chips on the burner and went back to chemistry land. Eventually it was 1:30 and I couldnt even keep my eyes open any longer let alone study med chem. I checked the salmon and again, not even close.

I called it a night and finished the salmon this morning.

I guess it seemed more humorous earlier this morning. Oh well.

Ok, so now with a little bit of a clear mind (does it really only exist in my dreams?) I thought about WHY this morning it seemed funny to me that last night (this morning) the salmon was not finished at 1:30 AM.... the reason is that last night I had the --here is the funny part-- stupid idea that I would be "running out of time" for studying. And then, what happened? The salmon didnt get done until 5:30 and I couldnt stay awake any longer past 1:30. Hyuk.

Its still not funny, I know.