Sunday, November 29, 2009

Biochem - Basic Organic Chemistry & More

Nucleotides, genomes, structures, missense v. mismatch, carbon structures, proteins, amino acids, and more, found here:

Nice break we had for Thanksgiving. Nice respite though I know the semester is soon over and next one to start. This learning component of my life is fabulous! Love it and given last week's news, can hardly wait to see how I do just being a student.

I have another exam looming in biochem. Luckily, I know most of the material pretty well. Now to master it and finally, have some REALLY great news to live on for a bit.

What a journey this has been. Thanks for traveling the road with me!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

By Helping A Neighbor, Or Even A Stranger...

Something for all of us to think about. As already noted, I'm especially thankful for the strangers who happen upon this blog, send me notes of support and encouragement.

If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this
Christmas thing last

By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
And to know who needs help
You need only just ask



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Postal Mail

Not very good at opening it. Sometimes I go for weeks without bothering to stop at the mail box. Generally, when I do there are 20 magazines, a bunch of junk mail, and other assorted trash included. And for the past 20+ months, foreclosure notices, late payment notices, and the ultimate sheriff's sale notice.

The foreclosure prevention services offered first by the Bush administration, and then painted with a prettier face in Obama's administration did little to help those that really needed it. A friend of mine had a mortgage under $100k, they had no income, no unemployment as they've never worked, and five kids. They got help. Government and the TARP money spent for them, did in fact, keep them in their house at a reduced rate. I was thrilled for them!! Someone aught to get help.

My situation was very different. I'd worked for 16 years making well over $100k a year and in a few of those years, in excess of $250k. I was never late on my mortgage, never missed a tax due date, never ever thought I'd get behind.

And then I, vice president internal audit whose job it is to make sure the SEC filings are accurate, told my boss he really needed to consider opening the financial "books" back up and restating the financials. He was livid. He yelled at me. And then he got my badge access denied. I was unemployed. Doing the right thing, saying the right thing, relying on the right people for my own decisions, I was fired. Then the company denied my unemployment.

Then they slammed me in the industry supplanting lies and deceit to anyone who would listen - and coming from a still in position executive, "he" had to be right and me wrong. Defamation crossed my mind but it is a hard thing to prove, and harder to pay for lawsuit when one is quickly running of liquid cash.

Immediately I called Wells Fargo, asked for help. At that point, I'd never missed a payment... a $4200 a month payment. I asked to have some leeway in the escrow that I really did not need as I've always had over 30% equity in the house, always carried insurance on both buildings, and always paid my taxes. Wells Fargo said, "Screw you."

For the next 24 months they have and they did.

So, one can imagine I was never exactly happy about getting my mail. Never excited to see which offers might come my way because none of them were either legit or helpful.

Until ... I opened up the latest and greatest from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

Inside the white envelope, for reasons unknown to me, my mortgage had been reduced by almost $2000. The principle had been anchored back to what I originally owed before that fateful December, 2 years ago.

I'm no longer wondering how I will live as a homeless person and no longer wondering where I can go. I'm no longer worried about how to pay for storage and or moving expenses as I am no longer in foreclosure.

To my closest friends who have known all along how bad things were getting, and how hard things were getting on me, and how terrified I was inside but kept calling and kept encouraging me and kept me on the path to med school:

This is my public thank you.

I could not, and would not, have made it without you.

I am truly blessed and absolutely, over the moon, thankful.

Make it a great day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Yippee! Break!

So plans for all of you this coming holiday?

Big dinners, happy festivities, lots of shopping?


I'm alone this year so right after I pop the turkey into the oven, my little white truck is taking me to the local high school to help with the meals on wheels program. Seems like the right thing to do - help others and my own life will seem so much better. Focus on others and my plight will be lessened.

Part of the journey to med school, for me, is learning to live with times that are not easy and not fun and not quite happy. If this is a test of my determination, volunteering is the PERFECT answer.

I simply cannot wait to help!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apparently, Someone Else Thinks Getting Old Is Funny Too

Story of a Challenged Senior

I thought about the 30 year business I ran with 1800 employees, all without a Blackberry that played music, took videos, pictures and communicated with Facebook and Twitter.

I signed up under duress for Twitter and Facebook, so my seven kids, their spouses, 13 grandkids and 2 great grand kids could communicate with me in the modern way. I figured I could handle something as simple as Twitter with only 140 characters of space.

That was before one of my grandkids hooked me up for Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix and something that sends every message to my cell phone and every other program within the texting world.

My phone was beeping every three minutes with the details of everything except the bowel movements of the entire next generation. I am not ready to live like this. I keep my cell phone in the garage in my golf bag.

The kids bought me a GPS for my last birthday because they say I get lost every now and then going over to the grocery store or library. I keep that in a box under my tool bench with the Blue tooth [it's red] phone I am supposed to use when I drive. I wore it once and was standing in line at Barnes and Noble talking to my wife as everyone in the nearest 50 yards was glaring at me. Seems I have to take my hearing aid out to use it and I got a little loud..

I mean the GPS looked pretty smart on my dash board, but the lady inside was the most annoying, rudest person I had run into in a long time. Every 10 minutes, she would sarcastically say, "Re-calc-ul-ating" You would think that she could be nicer. It was like she could barely tolerate me. She would let go with a deep sigh and then tell me to make a U-turn at the next light. Then when I would make a right turn instead, it was not good.

When I get really lost now, I call my wife and tell her the name of the cross streets and while she is starting to develop the same tone as Gypsy, the GSP lady, at least she loves me.

To be perfectly frank, I am still trying to learn how to use the cordless phones in our house. We have had them for 4 years, but I still haven't figured out how I can lose three phones all at once and have run around digging under chair cushions and checking bathrooms and the dirty laundry baskets when the phone rings.

The world is just getting too complex for me. They even mess me up every time I go to the grocery store. You would think they could settle on something themselves but this sudden "Paper or Plastic?" every time I check out just knocks me for a loop.

I bought some of those cloth reusable bags to avoid looking confused but I never remember to take them in with me.

Now I toss it back to them. When they ask me, "Paper or Plastic?" I just say, "Doesn't matter to me. I am bi-sacksual.." Then it's their turn to stare at me with a blank look.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

For Garret...

From here to beyond, beyond.


HIV Videos

Retroviruses explained in a very cool video - some components still befuddle me, but before our next exam, I will understand!

And why drugs are so difficult to develop against this deadly disease. The mutational ability of the virus helps the virus stay alive (yes, I do believe that virus' are living things)

Friendly Comparison Games

Another forum has had me thinking about friendly comparison. Maybe it is human nature to see others and their accomplishments, or lifestyle, or life choices, and wonder about our own. I'm not sure. Maybe I lack that "gene" or maybe, I've just grown out of it. To me, it is a dangerous and self-destructive cycle to compare oneself against another. The old adage about someone, somewhere has it worse than you, can likewise be stated, someone, somewhere has it better than you.

One of my friends has this uncanny ability to always say the right thing, always stay in a job she hates with people who are lazy and as un-hardworking as her. Her lip never seems bent or bitten, she just seems to be able to navigate the treacherous lanes of the business world, and succeed. Her empathy toward others never falters, if you are her friend, it seems you're her friend for life. She even overlooks the crappy things that other friends do to her, and still speaks to them. On top of that, she's good with money, ALWAYS has the best clothes, the perfect nails, the cutest hair cuts, and the whitest teeth. She amazes me!

I'm nothing like her. If I tried to compare myself to her, I'd be a complete failure. My clothes are not cute (hard to be "cute" at 6'1"), my nails - yeah, they're short and not manicured, and everyone knows, the business world befuddled me.

One of my other friends... and I'm pausing here to reflect... he is. In the 15 or so years that I've been able to consider him a friend, I've never been more impressed or amazed. He likewise, always seems to know the right things to say (or not to say at all!!), is kind, compassionate, caring, friendly, helpful, nice, fun, good with money; just an all around great guy. The first time I met him he was putting shoe-goo into the soles of his running shoes. I started to laugh at him. He smiled told me the shoes were perfectly good, just that the soles were wearing out. What made that more ironic is that he and his family are extremely wealthy. You would never know it though for the wealth is never flaunted, never pushed, never, ever, ever discussed. Humility runs deep in that family. As you can imagine, he's always been sort of on a pedestal for me. A great man from a great family with a great backbone and solid heart.

I'm nothing like him either. If compared myself to him, I'd be a complete failure. I'm dirt poor, not that frugal (hell no, I'd BUY new shoes if it meant selling CDs at the local pawn shop), never seem to know the exact right thing to say, and certainly not always funny. (Yes, bambi needed to be put in my car!)

Another one of my friends is a horse rancher and researcher. She has a couple of little guys and she's an awesome mom! She also speaks what is on her mind sometimes tactfully and sometimes not, she does what she thinks she is the right thing to do no matter what, is frugal with her money, divorced her p.o.s. husband before he could hurt their kids, AND got solid A's as an undergrad at the normal u-grad age. She works like a dog - horses, dogs, kids, job... and somehow makes it all gel.

I'm nothing like her either. If I compared myself to her, I'd be lazy, still dirt poor, didn't get A's in anything but tennis and golf in undergrad, and my son's issues along with my ex are already well noted.

Last, there is my friend who many years ago set up a play date with her son and mine. She and her family had moved here from L.A. to make sure their son had a good midwestern upbringing. My son came home one day from the local mall's child activity center (romper room with capital FUN) and said he'd given out our very private, very unpublished phone number to this woman and her husband. I was horrified. Then... she called. I was polite wondering what kind of drug runners they had to be to escape from L.A. notorious drug investigation squads. Then she asked to meet me. Politely, as is the nature of our region, I agreed. Harmless, right? I mean the drugs aren't going to be sold to me in the mall! Therein, ensued a more than humbling experience for me.

Her husband was at the top of the legal ladder at "the" largest movie making studio in L.A. He had graduated #1 in his class at UCLA Law, editor of the law review; she was a physical therapist. He had a movie produced starring Bruce Willis and yes, his name is on the backside of the DVD cover. They are an incredible couple and amazing parents. Their love for one another, their love and unending patience for their child who is beyond blessed to have "them" for parents is what Hollywood movies are meant for. All three of them are brilliant.

I'm nothing like any of them either. I'm not brilliant, will not graduate #1 in anything - ever, will never have a movie produced or made about me, and do not have their patience. While I adore my son and will forever despite his grievances with me, I'm not an amazing parent. I'm just a mom who tries, and tried, hard.

With all of that, I'd be a failure if I compared myself to just four of my friends. In their own right, each one of them is successful in their own way.

And so am I, in mine.

So to those of you who read this (and I know you do), please stop with the comparisons to your straight A friends who go to Ivy league schools and got the "big initial degrees" from those Ivy league schools.

YOU are special and awesome in your own way. Find it. And find a way to congratulate yourself on being ... just you.

Make it a great day!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How Much Compassion Required (edited)

Compassion or naivety? Compassion or enabling?

A situation has arisen over the past few days that gives me a bit of pause to question my own compassion toward others and whether or not my next reaction is compassionate, or enabling, or something entirely different.

Someone, whom I do not know first hand, has been sending me text message that threaten my life. The first one came with my first name and was innocuous. The 2nd one came and said I needed to be very careful when coming home that night. The 3rd one, shortly thereafter, said "Jason would be waiting for me." I took that to be a strong reference to the slasher type movies that were common in the 80s and 90s. Given that I live alone, my house and property is secluded, it made me nervous and a little scared. Given that I likewise have a former professor who stalks me as well as his wife, I needed to be careful.

At that point, I took the text messages to the campus police department (jurisdiction is questionable as I received them while in class but don't live on campus). The police report was written up, I was given the report number told that the individual would be told to stop, and an investigation begun.

Apparently, the investigating officer is sick and was unable to start reviewing the report.

I got another one last night and lest there be any doubt as to the "Jason" reference, it was cleared up yesterday afternoon.

"Jason from Friday the 13th will be awaiting for you at home tonight when you get there."

I didn't need to ask if I was over reacting and immediately went to the police department. The individual who answered the phone at the number in my text message hung up on the officer. The officer called back. The individual hung up again.

It seems to me the individual finally understands what harassment is and that threatening someone is not taken lightly. Nor should it. The individual was told to quit texting me, quit harassing me and that it was felony terroristic threats.

I got one more yesterday after I left the police department.

"I'm sorry. The texts were just a joke."

It seems to me this individual has a warped sense of entitlement and does not truly understand what harassment and threatening texts are. In a word, abuse.

Every abuser I've known, including the filth that lived here with my son and I, was "sorry" and yet that did not change their behavior. Every rapist I know and have talked to felt "sorry" they had committed the crime and in the back of my mind, I've always wondered if they really did, or if they were just sorry they were caught.

I've often ended up at just sorry they were caught.

So, my compassion toward an individual is caught in the cross fire right now - I have no doubt he's sorry he got caught. What I don't know is if he would/will do it again to someone else and if I try to get the police department to stop the investigation, am I enabling him to continue the crap behavior.

As a physician I'm sure this question gets pondered with one drug specifically, and I'm sure many others as well: oxycontin. So how does a physician finally adapt their compassionate ways to stopping an addict or at least, draw the line between compassion and enabling.

In my case, I am not interfering with the investigation. The individual needs to have consequences for his behavior. I did not find his "jokes" funny or interesting or wanted.

My compassion in this regard has found it's limit and I won't enable his crap behavior further.

(edited portion)

For some who may wonder about my safety inside my home, I am. The canines who share my abode with me, are protective, large, and loving. A few weeks ago, my own father who has known the younger great dane since he arrived in my home, failed to announce himself as he walked through the front door of my house. Storm, for all his loving goofiness, became instantly protective of his pack leader, fast asleep on the sofa, and bit my dad... and then quickly realized "oops!"

I believe Storm would have not stopped had it been anyone else he did not recognize. Had it been a true intruder, someone far more unwelcome in my home, the assault would not have stopped.

And Storm, is what I call very affectionately, my "little great dane" - not trained to protect, not trained to be fierce, just instinctively, he is.

I'm safe.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quick Funny On Age

Received this in my email today:

"How Old Are You, xxx?" as the subject line. I choked and laughed. Timely, I might add given another forum's propensity to bring out the worst in ageism and pre-meds.

The entire email is here:

Monday morning (xxx),
Two months ago we told you all about interview questions you should avoid answering in "Don't Answer That Interview Question." That piece sparked a flood of comments from you, Readers, and based on the volume of your emails, the (illegal) question that gets asked most is the age question.

Despite all of our attempts to be a "PC" society, the sad truth is that ageism still exists in force. Enlightened employers know that older workers bring wisdom, maturity, and experience to the table, but too often, it seems, that doesn't translate into a level playing field in the interview.

And in some ways, this is the most difficult issue we here at TheLadders face in advising you.

We're all getting older – hey, even Jim Morrison would be 65 now – and the younger folks coming into the workforce and doing the resume screening seem to place a higher value on youth than years of contribution.

So we had writer Patty Orsini look at how to handle – and how to dodge – the age question in our most recent Advice package.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Age (Le Gasp)

I'm unfazed by trying to do the unthinkable at my age. When I was younger I was unfazed as well. However, back then, some 20+ years ago, I was also unfazed about drinking and driving, smoking cigarettes during a screening of the latest "Halloween" movie, or other issues such as chronic poverty, homelessness, civil rights of individuals, lack of medical care, or really, anything else. I was simply, clueless.

Some on other forums have trashed my dream and the pursuit of medicine at, le' gasp, "my age"... apparently, I should be holed up in my home with bunny slippers on, sipping cocktails, and waiting for death since apparently, trying to give back to society for another 20 - 30 years is unthinkable. Apparently, at 45 one's life is over and we should all just sit back and wait for the ugly dude in the black dress/cape like thing carrying a sickle.

For all of those of you who prescribe to that notion, please leave. Seriously. Get a grip. Grow up. And leave.

Yep, my younger peers are sometimes sharper and quicker in their detailed observations... but not generally. What I *may* lack in astonishing speed of understanding, I far more than make up for it when putting together the details I need and the strategy. Something about that overall comprehension I had to use as an executive that the younger folks lack.

This is likewise NOT a bash on my younger peers. I love being in school with them - they have accepted me openly as one of them, never guessing how old I am (le gasp) or that my son is their age (more le gasp) nor caring whether or not I get something immediately. Most of the time, they are asking ME for help in understanding those detailed issues and questions, and the subsequent strategy; not the reverse.

For those of you who wonder why some medical school would admit someone who is surely awaiting for death to show and take my soul leaving behind apparently a withered body, they would admit me for many reasons.

Some students who get into med school right at 22, leave the profession some 20 years later due to burnout. So, at 49 they are burnt out and leaving for administrative jobs vs. staying in the profession as physicians. Hmmm.... I plan on practicing until I'm in my 70s.... same duration, 20 years. Why wouldn't a med school admit me? Monetarily, I've already made more than most doctors, and the professors who teach them. With that old notion about how much investment a medical school makes in each med student, the water leaks out. I can already give back to the med school if that is the argument. I already have.

Some students, in fact most, have no interest in serving the rural communities, especially women who are catered to for their lack of apparent numbers in admissions. Take that women are less often going into medicine than men, a woman who actually wants to be in a rural setting, the age (le gasp) becomes even less meaningful. Twenty years of a rural physician is better than none. Further, those women who have door wide open for them are more often than not choosing the highly paid specialties rather than the lowly paid rural, or even metro, family physicians.

Some students who get into med school, for lack of a better word, lack compassion. They're darn smart, they ace tests, they can wiz-bang around a molecule like there is no tomorrow, but they can't empathize or relate to a patient. Their egos enter a door before their bodies. I had a doc like that once and dated another. Older students, replete with our bunny slippers, lost our egos to the bad rush of the business world and sociopaths that dwell there. Egos bashed and bruised are seldom recovered. We simply adapt and use that honed psyche to help others.

Some of us, despite our age (le gasp) even follow our passion and our dream. Hoping that unlike some shrill naysayers, that the door is opened and we are allowed a seat in a class.

So, I guess I will put away my bunny slippers and if the dark shadow darkens my door step carrying a scythe, I'll slap him upside the head and tell him to get a life and a clue - I'm not dead yet, nor am I close, despite my age (le gasp!).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hoping The Door Opens At Some Point

Some days my head meets the nail. Some days the pans aren't dented quite enough. Some days it would seem the faith that brought me to the door is testing my utter mettle as I try to make things gel.

I'm still ever thankful for the supportive professors, friends and adviser that I have at school. I'm still ever thankful for my parents who ... love me no matter what path I traipse along, and support me no matter the personal cost to them. Honestly, their faith in me sometimes brings up the utter guilt that dwells within. This dream of mine is their journey as well. Thankfully, they believe in this path of mine too. They too remember me wanting to be a doc when I was little, and doing chemistry experiments in our dungeon of a basement.

I'm blessed, I know that.

I told someone with complete confidence a few weeks ago, "What God brings you to, He'll bring you through" ...

I look upward and ask, "Now?"

Okay, a few days or weeks pass and I think, "Okay, how about now?!"

Still the utter quiet resonates in my home.

"Maybe, now?"

Nope. Still no answers.

I keep hoping the current issues will go away, resolve themselves, and allow me to just be a student. In the meantime, I try to focus on things that make me smile, make me laugh, or just allow me the peace and quiet of a nice night at home.

Some days the music can't get quite loud enough nor the pans dented quite liberally.

Today, would be one of them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Flu Fatality Hits Home

Many years ago, the families were best of friends - visiting each other from far away as one family moved. The kids were all friends - older, younger and tweeners. As time passed, the parents of the two families remained close friends attending their kids' weddings, birthday celebrations, and more.

In the late 80's a call came home from the mother of other family. The husband had suffered a fatal heart attack. If I remember right he was in his mid-60s so a relatively young man. What I remember most about him was his effervescent personality and calm demeanor... and their basset hound! It was sudden, without warning, and sad.

In the early 90's, a call came home from my own mother saying the wife of that man had just gotten out of bed, weak in the feet and unable to feel her legs. After several trips to the Mayo Clinic (hometown hospital as we are all from Rochester), she was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. I had no idea what that meant but was soon to find out. You can read that story here:

A few years passed, she passed away and her daughter, the one I have such good, fond memories of was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the age of 50, with an IQ of maybe 85-90, she was aware that her health was not strong and that treatment would make her ill. She was aware that she could soon join her mom and dad and that gave her some modicum of comfort. She passed away a few short years ago, surrounded by the Wynonna song that was played while her mom passed.

And tonight, the older brother of those siblings was eulogized as he passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly from complications of H1N1. He had his dad's personality and was well loved by everyone. Easy going, calm, funny, good natured, and fun to be around, he was just like his dad. Sadly, he was also overweight, probably diabetic, had congestive heart failure, and contracted the flu. As is well stated, the complications of H1N1 are hardest on those with already compromised health systems - the elderly, the young, and those with respiratory ailments.

Sadly, this family has endured more than it's fair share of health related issues.

And for all of us, a reminder as to why staying home and away from the public is so critical if you get the flu.

Don't pass it on. Wash your hands (not that little sprinkling of water you think is adequate - use soap!). Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough and wash your hands promptly. Stay home.

To the family, I'm so sorry.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"This Is It"

When Michael Jackson passed away in June, like many other closet fans of his, I mourned the loss. While I secretly danced in my home to his music, and listened to it loudly in my truck, I never openly admitted my secret amazement at this talented musician.

My secrecy never had to do with his music. He was beyond talented. I would akin him to a modern day Mozart - just as gifted, obsessed with perfection, and just as tragic.

Tonight's viewing of the movie, "This Is It" was awesome to watch, a feast for my ears, and a massage for my feet as they never quit moving. I wanted to get up and dance but knew better. I also had to choke back a few tears as I realized this amazing talent would never grace the stage again.

Not that it matters from the other side of a computer screen, his family should be embraced and honored for letting this picture be made. I realize the naysayers out there and the sarcastic dolts will say the family let it be released for money.

Perhaps. Who cares?

Michael loved what he did - you can feel it as you are taken on a journey through concert rehearsals. Michael was energized, active, and engaged not some doped up, zombie that some would like you, dear reader, to believe.

Go watch. Go pay the $10 (really? when did those prices go up?!). Go enjoy.

I know I did - my feet are still moving!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Note To Self:

When rushing out the door to take exams, make sure to bring the little white pills... you know, the ones that are labeled "Propranolol" and help you not get headaches mid-exam?!

Yep, ran out the door this morning, rushing around to get things to my bosses (yes, I am a teensy little clerical worker for a department on campus) and forgot my beta blockers. Dumb headache started about 5 mins pre-exam... hands went cold. I made it through the exam ... go ahead, ask me Type 1 vs Type 2? Citric acid cycle? oxidation phosphorylation? GLUT2... really, go ahead, make my day :P

So, now here's the scoopage - beta blockers, what do they do? How do they help me cope with exams when I don't generally have high blood pressure? I could probably answer that too.

In my rudimentary knowledge, I knew that adrenaline was pumped our probably from the adrenal glands (good guess, eh?). What I figured beta blockers did was stop that pumping action thereby stopping the secretion of adrenaline (epinephrine I've come to find out). So, I was pretty darn close, I think.

And while we're at it: lipoproteins make it possible for insoluble molecules to float through the body because the outside of the lipoprotein is hydrophillic with polarized heads of a carbon chain with the hydrophobic tails turned inward where the little insoluble molecule sits very nice while being transported around the body.


Make it a great day!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh, Nevermind - THIS Is Why I Love Science

Harvard could do a couple of things to improve this:

1) Explain what is happening with lipds with moving text boxes
2) Explain the protein building blocks are adding and deleting molecules
3) Tell in the video notes what the song is :)

Biochem or Christmas Lighting Thoughts...

You tell me! (Actually, I AM studying biochem, just taking a wee break and thinking about Thanksgiving weekend activity... if only I had the money this year that I'd hoped, my house would be done up like this)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Biochem Test Looming... Study Tips

With the classroom notes in hand, and the test prep questions printed out, the preparation for the looming exam is well under way. Unlike other classes in prep for med school, this one is different.

There are no exhaustive equations to manipulate whilst punching random numbers and variables into a NON-graphing calculator (you did get that, right? non-graphing because obviously if we can program the dumb thing we can get orbital shape right too on a test... seriously, doesn't the administration think if we're smart enough to program a calculator to get the right answer, we just might be smart enough to know how to USE the dumb equations in the first place?)... anyway, I digress.

Biochem is different. Sure there are numbers involved: 200+ is bad on a glucose check no matter the time after fasting: 160 bp is bad no matter when it is taken; and yes there are other numbers involved too: BMI 18<25, 26<30; waist measurements; how many lipoproteins make up a chain that will be cleaved during various processes and yet, biochem is not about numbers. The numbers make the real deal understandable.

What makes studying for this class, almost fun? Integrating organic chemistry with health and finally seeing how knowing what one molecule change (orientation on the molecule for a carbon cluster) impacts the whole chemistry of the body, and especially, insulin response. A fructose is very similar to a glucose except for one tiny little change.

Yep, and we studied leptin, lipogenic attributes of fructose vs. glucose, genetic and environmental impact on various peoples, and how - really how - the impact of personal choice impacts far more today than genetics. Genetics can't leap inside a generation so eliminating one variable leaves, personal choice, or more kindly, "environment"... I'll have to remember that when I reach by personal choice for my diet coke and dark chocolate Milky Way bar. :D

So, how am I studying?

Each component of the test prep sheet gets everything I know about it written down. Then I'm comparing that to the lecture notes, things I find online (the ATP youtube is awesome for remembering things), and WebMD. Oh yeah, and you guys who read this blog and write me back (what's up with that anyway!?! /unschlucking tongue from inside of cheek now - you guys are awesome!)

Here's to biochem, here's to another test... Maybe this exam will be the one that finally puts my test anxiety to bed, and lets me start looking at tossing the propranolol... must say though, I do like that name... lol.

Make it a great day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009


She sings, she laughs, she growls but mostly, she sings. And, I for one, hope she never stops.

When life sucks eggs and dispenses with the subsequent gas, generally Wy's cds get ramped up until my speakers bleed, pots get pounded with spatulas until they are dented, and I am exhausted.

They've been played a lot lately. I'm surprised some of them made it through the past few weeks; actually, one of my speakers didn't.

Wy has always been the only female singer I've ever really bought into. She's a no-holds bared singer with a soul that runs deep, wild, and mysterious. She wears her heart on her sleeve for all the world to see and sing. Her Harley blood probably runs just as honestly in her veins as it does on the road when she drives, her wild red hair flying in the wind.

Wy mentioned something about faith tonight when I met her, I said what God brings you to, He will help you through. She looked at me and said, "Amen." She was gracious, amazing, warm, funny, engaging... I was already an adoring fan of hers and tonight, she became irreplaceable.

Thank you, JB... I will -

Sing from somewhere way down deep
Sing and make the angels weep
Sing and open heaven’s door
Sing ‘til you can’t sing no more

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shameless Plug...

As written several times, there are many who gently nudge, support, encourage and most of all, listen. I try to reciprocate but sometimes, I just fail.

A friend of mine, if I'm lucky enough to call him that, has written a book on Neil Diamond's life. And I'm shamelessly, plugging it here. My golden retriever is named after a lyric in one of Neil's songs:

The Story of My Life

"The story of my life is very plain to read
It starts the day you came
And ends the day you leave
The story of my life begins and ends with you
The names are still the same
And the story's still the truth


It's the story of our times and never letting go
If I die today, I wanted you to know "

Hope's real name? "Story Of Our Times"

So how does one actually meet these people? Well, in this case, one late evening in the mid-90s after having slept outside the Target Center for Elton John tickets (yes, for you youngsters that is long before buying tix online at Ticketmaster). After settling in front of the arena, #9 in line, I slept on a lawn chair completely set up with a cooler and some diet coke (go figure!!).

I was ecstatic when the windows opened up and I was first in line at my window. MORE ecstatic when I realized I was going to see my very first Elton John show (I'm a die-hard).

Sadly, the night of the great concert, a certain music reviewer disparaged my idyllic piano player/singer and said the concert basically, sucked. They say health hath no fury like a woman scorned, and I would disagree. Hell hath no fury like a woman who reads a reviewer's comment and heartily disagrees. I wrote the repugnant reviewer. I asked him which grade school he actually graduated from and if he'd advanced musically beyond playing a xylophone and/or glockenspiel.

He wrote back. Eee gad!! Le Gasp! And therein started a friendship of sorts. I never met the man face to face until well into the 2000s. We corresponded about our kids, our lives, and he NEVER recanted his account of that concert. It never mattered to me. I'd moved on. And while I'm still a die-hard Elton fan, I too can sometimes understand where the reviewer comes from. I think he is spot on.

And so, I think a book by him, is probably less a review than a composite of a well-known, and beloved singer. If it holds true to form, it is worth the few bucks you will pay for it and I, for one, can tell you, he's objective.

(and by the way, thank you, JB)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Relief, Excitement, Research!

Many years ago, in a city far, far away a 4th grader found out her teacher had some disease that was unpronounceable, spellable yes, but could not be pronounced. The little 4th grader headed to the library to find books (all far too over her head) and then to doctors in the network of family friends to discuss.

The discussions were probably very high level as the 4th grader was smart, just not "that" smart. I'm pretty sure some things were left out as age appropriate. The aside from learning about leukemia, was learning to research.

For my biochem class that I've been allowed to rejoin, there is a research paper due. My inner geek exploded inside with joy, glee, sheer smiles! I LOVE to research topics - from medicine to pharmaceuticals to clinical trials to chemistry ... the pattern is becoming clearer.

In 35 years, I've moved a bit from cancer and leukemia research having long since realized there are other interesting diseases out there. My choice this time, is ALS.

Lou Gehrig's disease robs the individual of their motor function including swallowing and eventually, breathing. As the body declines, their minds do not. It is an insufferable disease that I saw first hand some 15 years ago in one of my family's very close friends.

My mother became the primary care-giver for a woman who had been her close friend in high school and throughout life. My mother is not a nurse, not a physician and the closest she has come to medicine is her own health. My mom, however, has a good heart... and gave it all for this woman to live as peaceably as she could.

My parents put a ramp through the front door of their house to make sure the lady's motorized wheelchair could get through. They had already built the house with wide enough door jambs to allow for their elderly years and the possibility that one of them might be bound.

As the woman's health declined, her mood did too. That is not unexpected as the mind stays fully alert which increases the potential for depression. Her professional care-givers would often not show up so my mom would be called and on one occasion, I was. I volunteered to go. This woman had known me all my life and had been amazing. It was my turn to give back.

Little did I know and yet, I knew I'd never regret that I went.

She needed to be turned about every 5 minutes. ALS robs the person of the ability of simple things like rolling over in bed, moving an arm, changing a leg position, even... moving the head. The eyes can still move, the mouth can still speak but nothing else works. Every 5 minutes for 10 hours, I would try to understand what she wanted as ALS started robbing her of speech as well. A head moved to the left, a pillow fluffed, a tear wiped... whatever she needed. Eventually, exhaustion took her that night for about 2 hours, I think. I too, was exhausted - emotionally as well as physically.

I stayed until the professionals showed up. I cooked her bran for her, carefully fed her, gave her sips of water, prayed with her for a peaceful passing. She was scared.

No, she was terrified. Not of death but of how that would come. Choking was now common in her life and sometimes, just catching her breath was a hard day's work.

Thankfully, her passing was painless and peaceful. She had suffered this disease for three years before it took her.

In honor of her, and my mom who took care of her until the end (and who's 78th birthday it is on Saturday), I'm doing my research on ALS. I am hoping to find some better news or at least hopeful news, compared to that which was dispensed in 1993.

Chem Midterm Done, Biochem Next Up...

This song, light and fluffy, reminds me of my brain right now because not everything can be so serious and hard and difficult. Sometimes, it's nice to just sit back, relax, and smile. (And yes, I KNOW, it might be a bit egotistical but seriously, this is a blog about MY journey and things I find along the way... what'd you expect?! :D)

Make it a great day - and a better one tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

And There In The Bowels

of a old, outdated building, in a tiny office tucked way in the corner sat my adviser. She sat, listened, didn't say a word. As I continued, she continued to just listen: never judging me, never disparaging me or asking what I could have done differently, just listened.

Then she inquired about my safety. THAT she was concerned about. Yes, she was concerned about my academics but Maslow's pyramid starts at safety and that was first and foremost in her mind.

Safety from what you ask?

A stalker.

(I edited this portion out from an earlier version of this post and placed into the comment section.)

This is not about him, for that is a waste of space. This is for my adviser who in the shallow, darkened end of an old building, in the back corner of an not-so-well lit room, gave me support and then some to continue the path. She put a light on the "prize" again for me. She helped me see objectively what my options were and what the resolutions to those would do to me related to med school.

None of them hopeless or bad.

She restored some light. And to her, as to many of you, I am thankful.

And as it turns out, I'm staying in biochem (YEAY!) and yes, I'm safe.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Private Loan Information - Coming Soon

Several companies are still supplying needed private loans to credit-worthy students OR not-so credit-worthy students WITH co-signers.

I'm in the midst of studying for gen chem II exam. Will post more on it soon.

Until then,

Make it a great day!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It Is So Tempting To Blame Obama

And yet I won't. I did not vote for him and quite honestly, didn't vote for McCain either. The latter had my vote until Palin was attached but then, dear old Colin Powell got my 3x write in vote - 2000, 2004, 2008.

Why not Obama?

I'm not going to denigrate my blog with a political bent, although, I have a hankering to. Discussing what is wrong with Obama's health care plan is open season.

During the years I was fully employed making well over $200,000 a year, paying $80,000 a year in taxes (withdrawn from paychecks) and FICA and Med, I had decent health care coverage. Not great but it was decent enough that if I needed to get to a doc, I could. At $200,000+ a year, I had more than enough money to take care of my son, take care of my home, take care of things that needed tending and even put away funds for retirement (now long tossed out the window) and open a securities account.

The war chest was built using lies and taking money I'd rather have been spent making sure the homeless on the street were cared for. Why is that the most powerful country in the world would rather make bombs and blow the snot out of another country without provocation, than take care of our own. Most homeless are not there because they chose to be - they are ill: mentally and generally, physically. The veterinarians have shown far more compassion for our homeless than our government caring for the homeless person's pet often for free. Even vets understand the compassion and warmth a pet can bring.

The first democrat I would have ever voted for was Paul Wellstone (guess you now have it, I'm from Minnesota). I wrote him shortly before the election that year and told him he would be the first Democrat that I would ever vote for, and hopefully, the last (as I was praying the GOP would get back to mid-ground). The letter I received back from Senator Wellstone was typed but signed by him, with a small comment underneath his sig. He died a few days later in a plane crash and my vote went to Mondale. Why would I not vote for, refuse to vote for, Norm Coleman?

Somewhere along the way, Norm forgot who he fought for when he first entered politics. He forgot the common folk who don't have healthcare, don't have food, don't have basic necessities of life. He forgot, or quickly found out it was not vote-worthy, the people who made him the mayor of St. Paul and supported his wrangling of a hockey team (the state, however, does thank you, Norm, for that!).

Norm is indicative of what is wrong.

He chased money. He chased votes. He chased like a dog after a car, things that were not helping mid-America and eventually, all America. Common necessities, basic needs. Maslow's pyramid... security, safety, food, health.

By chasing money all politicians forget to chase a moral compass. That moral compass gets lost in the plethora of indulgent dinners, PAC funding, and ego stroking. Obama is no different. I believe his goal is to help Americans get health care but his means are off base and therefore, his moral compass is wrong.

Obama still cares about lining his pockets with PAC money for 2012. Obama can't disparage the CEOs of insurance companies because they horde big money and big egos and big lawyers. Obama can't disparage the lawyers because... lawyers tend not to disparage their own ilk. Obama is set up for failure because the people he most trusts - those like him with pedigree initials from pedigree top-ranking law schools - don't get the moral compass thing either: forget about lining the pockets and do what is right.

They won't. They can't. And because of all that, $200,000+ a year went to fund bombs and fuel for Iraq instead of needles and blood and pharmaceutical research for disease fighting drugs.

I don't blame Obama for the health care mess. I blame greedy CEOs, greedy BoDs, greedy lawyers, greedy insurance companies run by greedy CEOs supported by greedy lawyers and enhanced sycophants surrounding the same.

Okay, so much for not being a political bent. :)

Make it a great day!

P.S. I was never ever worth that amount of money, I don't kid myself. Going into work everyday, I wondered why they paid me as much as they did to sit around, strategize how to use internal audit to make the company more money, commit no fraud (they did anyway), and manage/motivate/direct my teams. One day, while sitting in the board room, almost to the point of checking out the backsides of my eyelids whilst the "powers that be" discussed ad nauseum the derivative instruments of Goldman-Sachs, and the impact of selling short our position on the housing stocks, I questioned:

"Do you put this much effort into releasing good (product)? If we focus on doing good things, the rest will come. Two hours on derivative instruments when that is x% of our portfolio, is not difficult or worth it. We are not performing brain surgery here."

No, they didn't like me much. Especially when I told them they were committing fraud. But then again, at that time, the executive administration of the US government's SEC looked the other way when told companies were. Ironically, a finance executive once also employed by that company as a contractor just told me, "If anyone in this life deserves to do what they love, find their path and their dream, it is you, J." She was the former CEO and CFO of a multi-billion dollar company. She got it. She understood. She likewise laughed at the gobs of money thrown at people who move boxes and cups around all day playing, "Find the penny" (okay, that was snide but the point made, eh?)