Saturday, June 30, 2007

Soda jerk

Soda innovation has been slow lately. Although they’ve been releasing new sodas at fairly regular intervals, the “new” flavors have little to offer.

The prime example of this would probably be the new Coke Zero Cherry and Vanilla Flavors. Now I’ve purchased both of these a number of times and have enjoyed them, but are they really necessary? Can’t we handle Diet Coke in its variety of forms? Or why don’t they replace Diet Coke with Coke Zero? I can certainly taste the difference, but I’d be hard pressed to pick which I preferred over the other. If it would drop the price at all to mass produce one or the other I’d drop one without a second thought. I guess they want to avoid the whole New Coke fiasco.

Another prime example is the Pepsi Jazz series. Again, they have a Cherry AND Vanilla flavor that differs little from Diet Cherry Pepsi. The Strawberry is different at least, but isn’t terribly good. And then they release a third variety: Carmel. Who in the world has been writing Pepsi letters requesting a Carmel soda? Is it bad? No, it’s fine. But you buy it once for the novelty and then only ever think about it if there’s a ridiculous sale going on.

Coke Plus I think is a funny concept. Vitamins in my soda? What are they going to do next, put Fluorine in my drinking water? The product is decent (sensing a trend?) but I don’t think it will ever replace vitaminless Diet Coke. It has a slight aftertaste that is just enough to make me forego my daily intake of Folic acid. But as a ¼ doctor I wholeheartedly support pregnant women drinking Coke Plus.

I tried Pepsi Max last week. The story behind it is much more interesting than the soda itself. In 1993 Pepsi made a new formula for Diet Pepsi that tasted more like normal Pepsi. They wanted to release it in the US, but the FDA wouldn’t approve one of the sweeteners. So they released it in every other country in the world, where it has been one of their more popular drinks. Finally last month the FDA approved that final ingredient and they were able to start selling it here. With one change: they added 30% more caffeine (slightly more than Mountain Dew.) Predictably it tastes exactly like half a glass of Pepsi mixed with half a glass of Diet Pepsi. I did stay up the entire night after drinking 3 ounces of it, but I feel that is unrelated. Drinking the rest of the 2 liter has done nothing for me, either emotionalloy or in terms of my alertness.

Where’s the innovation Coke and Pepsi? The only new flavors that I’ve enjoyed this year were from Diet Rite and whoever makes Vault. They shouldn’t even be in the contest. Sure Pepsi Blue and Clear failed commercially, but I thought they were dang cool. And I’m the only person that blogs about soda so they should take notice.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

God works in mysterious ways

Because I’m not spending time studying (though if I were a good med student I’d start getting ready for the Board exams) I feel obligated to volunteer my service for things that I’d usually ignore. Saturday was a prime example of this.

A friend of mine was moving across town so I volunteered to help her move. Admittedly I probably would have done such a thing during the school year, but that works against the theme of this post. I wasn’t terribly happy to discover that there were only 2 of us that showed up in the morning, despite the 6 or so hands that were raised in Elder’s Quorum. So as I moved things with one hand I used the other to make calls on my cell phone, waking people up and guilting them into helping us out. Despite my efforts at recruiting, it still took us longer than I had anticipated and I didn’t get home until 2.

This wasn’t a big deal, except I had volunteered to work at a First-Aid booth at a Comfest at noon. I had signed up to work at this booth a couple weeks earlier because another friend of mine was in charge of getting med students to fill these positions. However she hadn’t told me what Comfest was at the time. Turns out that although it is technically a nondescript Community Festival, Comfest is most famous for being a congregation of topless women. It is legal to go topless in Columbus, but most women usually waive this right. Comfest is an exception. In the days leading up to the festival I also heard it described as the gay festival, the hippy festival, and a den of iniquity. The last being from a missionary. So I had a dilemma on my hands. I thought I was being a good person by doing volunteer work and helping out a friend, but it may in fact lead me into certain temptation. In the end the choice was taken from me as I missed my window of opportunity at my other service project.

So I got home at 2, just in time to sleep until my doorbell rang at 3. I did my best attempt at alertness and answered the door, to find the Sister Missionaries. They had asked me the day before if I would mind hosting a discussion in my apartment. Since I had no studying to do, I said that would be fine, and here I was. They didn’t actually have a discussion, we just watched The Testaments with their newest investigator and soon-to-be-convert. I don’t think our HDTV and surround sound are really necessary for feeling the Spirit, but evidently the Sisters have decided that my place is THE place to watch movies. Their investigator had missed the ward activity the night before, so I invited him to the barbeque we were having a few hours later.

Going to a barbeque is hardly a selfless activity, but since I spent a good portion of the time fellowshipping, I’m counting it towards my point. After dropping my new friend off at home I reached my apartment at 12, having spent the vast majority of the day doing service, preparing for service or skipping sinful service I had agreed to do. What was my reward?

I couldn’t sleep.

At all.

I’ve had restless nights before, but this was a pretty unique experience. After about an hour in bed I realized that I was even more awake than I had been when first getting in bed. So I got up and spent the next 6 hours on me-time. I squandered the majority of it by watching 4 episodes of Battlestar Galactica, but hey, I deserved it. I didn’t really get tired until about midnight, so evidently that night of free time was my blessing for helping others. God works in mysterious ways.

Friday, June 22, 2007


It’s summer, which means different things to different people. To me it means watching entire TV shows on DVD. This summer I believe I may watch Hex, Battlestar Galactica and Twin Peaks. Or I could get a girlfriend, I haven’t quite decided. But I’ve started off with the Larry Sanders show.

I’ve been vaguely aware of the Larry Sanders show for some time. I can’t name a single thing that Garry Shandling has done and it’s been interesting to learn about a moderately famous person who had somehow slipped completely under my radar. But in the last week I’ve watched 4 DVDs worth of the show (which is all that has been released) and I assure you that it is hysterical.

I’m not entirely sure why the show is funny. There are certainly a great many things working against it. The picture looks horrible. It certainly doesn’t help that I have a HD TV and a near HD DVD player. The show started in 92 and they simply didn’t plan on me watching it in this manner. It’s also a problem that the show is set in 1992. A lot of the humor is very topical and I just don’t catch all the jokes that were funny to those familiar with show business 15 years ago. This also influences the guest appearances. I don’t really care about Sharon Stone. She may have been huge 15 years ago, but I know that her most recent work was the villain in the Catwoman movie, who was made of stone due to prolonged super-makeup use. Yes, incidentally I have seen the majority of the Catwoman movie. The show also aired on HBO and relies on a bit of shock value with swearing, which gets tiresome.

But as I mentioned earlier, the show is hysterical, and I’m not sure if I can convey why. The main cast of Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn are each amazing in their own way. They’re horrible people that you love anyway. I’m pretty confident that The Office wouldn’t exist without this show. These characters are very grounded in reality, but end up having very extreme reactions to some absurd events in their lives. I particularly loved Rip and if the complete series is ever released I may very well buy it to see more of him. The format of switching between the talk show that they run and showing their personal lives is very effective. The bits with celebrities on the talk show are funny, but not nearly as funny as the celebrities making fun of themselves in backstage footage. And although the celebrities themselves are often a bit dated (I love that David Duchoveny is a recurring guest on the show, but he certainly lacks Hollywood clout these days) the bit parts are a veritable who’s who of modern celebrity. Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, Jeremy Piven, Janeane Garafalo, Scott Thompson, the list is pretty endless. Ok, so that list probably doesn’t wow you, but it’s fun that pretty much everyone that shows up on screen is recognizable.

If you can handle Rip’s dirty mouth the show is must-see TV. TV from 15 years ago, but better than the majority of today’s programming.

Working stiff

I’ve called many people crazy before, but today was my first experience with someone who is actually schizophrenic. Admittedly, I’m probably never supposed to use “crazy” in any professional area. But for all practical purposes, when people think “crazy” they are thinking of a schizophrenic individual. And today I met my first.

It was a relatively short encounter and really wasn’t as interesting as you might hope or expect. She’d been committed by her family and has been here for about a week. She seemed normal enough at first but as we interviewed her the answers she gave to our questions never seemed to quite add up. She’d go off on tangents and her stories would occasionally contract themselves. I think the biggest disconnect I noticed was that her cause and effect didn’t make any sense. She said one thing made another happen, when it was clear to everyone else that those things had no relation. It was kind of like an elaborate Wernicke’s aphasia: she was speaking gibberish but it seemed completely normal to her. Wernicke’s applies to actual gibberish words, but she had gibberish stories and responses.

Although that interview yielded little fruit, we did get blood samples from several patients to enter into our study. Although this is good for the project, it was relatively bad for me in that I spent four hours in the lab processing blood. I was quickly reminded why I gave up on biomedical research: it’s dead boring. It’s just a horrible mix of doing mindless things (labeling test tubes) difficult things (using complex equipment) frustrating things (perfectly separating two layers of solution) and of course waiting. Watch as I become a professional researcher.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Living the dream

So I’m a week into my “summer vacation.” What have I been up to?

Well most importantly, I invented a new sandwich yesterday. A friend gave me some avocadoes in exchange for watching his tomato plants while he’s away on a real vacation. After a quesadilla, a burrito and a tasty scrambled egg/avocado combo I was out of ideas and had a couple left. So I decided I’d use the avocado as a base for a sandwich, much like peanut butter. I vetoed avocado and jelly sandwiches and instead tried avocado and honey. I decided this would be a bit too bland so added a fair amount of cinnamon to the mix and my new sandwich was born. It’s fantastic. Unfortunately now all my avocadoes are gone so I’ll have to wait for him to go on vacation again.

In non-avocado news, classes are over. I had my last test a little over a week ago. It was a little anticlimactic in that it wasn’t a final or anything; just the latest in a series of tests. But the last couple months have been relatively relaxed, so it wasn’t really a pressure drop. We’ve been doing our neurology/psychiatry unit, which I’m relatively informed about. So where many of my classmates had a bunch of microbio or embryo or immuno experience in previous units, I actually have had classes on these topics before. My prior experience didn’t really translate into higher test scores, just less stress for me since I could usually reason my way through problems I didn’t have immediate knowledge about. When we return to class in August we’ll have one final blessed unit of neuron before heading back into uncharted territory.

For the summer I’m doing schizophrenia research. Well, hopefully. I was accepted into a program to do said research, and they’ve paid me for 8 weeks of work on it, but the work has yet to materialize. My PI (Principal Investigator ie boss) is taking a month off in Scotland, so I’m a bit lost as to what I should be doing. The 2nd in command just took a job at another hospital, so I’m even more confused. Because of these two events they haven’t been interviewing patients for over a month, so my hopes of just jumping into an existing project aren’t going to work out. So while I wait for approval to work with actual patients (hopefully that paperwork goes through this week) I’ve been more or less filling the time at work. I’ve organized my office a bit. I’ve made a lot of copies to get packets ready for patients. I’ve attended optional seminars for the psychiatry department (it was comforting to be able to hear a lecture aimed at practicing psychiatrists and to be lost only a small portion of the time.) The closest thing to real work that I’ve been doing is getting trained by our resident psychologists in their psychometric studies so I can do them with patients if/when my approval goes through. I guess I can count myself fortunate that the time I spend waiting for something worthwhile to do makes my vacation seem longer.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Everything is Overrated

I recently viewed Ocean’s 13 at The Movie Tavern. The best thing about the experience was the theater itself. It’s not my favorite kind of theater (the dollar variety) but at least it’s a 5 dollar ticket with a student ID. They only show a handful of movies, but they tend to be the highest grossing first run movies that I want to see anyway. The gimmick of the theater is that it is also a restaurant. Some of the seats are up against a bar, while others have a small table placed in between chairs. It’s a fun concept, even if the food is expectedly overpriced. But who would pay 3 dollars for candy when you can pay 5 for Apple Crisp? Fools that’s who. We had just been to a luau, so didn’t have any food this time.

On to the movie itself. It was fine. That’s really the best review I can give it. I don’t understand why America is so enthralled with these movies. Sure the ladyfolk can ogle messieurs Pitt, Clooney and Damon simultaneously, but really, what’s the point? You don’t make a movie just so your stars can exist up on screen. No doubt that these 3 are cool cats and fun to watch. I’m also a fan of Cheadle, Izzard, Pacino and x number of others in the movie. But the movie itself just isn’t that good. The first one wasn’t that good. The second was pretty horrible. America, these movies aren’t good, stop throwing all your money at them! I’m not saying I hated the movie. I did laugh several times. I thought some of the banter was witty. Some of the concepts were interesting. But nothing was stand-out by any means. The theft elements were ridiculous, so it was a poor heist movie. There was no action to speak of, nor any drama. And though it was amusing, it hardly succeeded as a comedy. It was just there. Blah.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


They did a pretty good job of making Scarecrow creepy last year. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they've done some good work with the Joker.