I’m essentially re-reporting this from Bwog but I just had to share with you the wonderful creativity that can be expressed when bored people come together. That’s right, I’m talking about librarians - what do they really do besides help hapless freshmen navigate the scary stacks and put books back in their proper places? Well, Unshelved has a contest every year called “Pimp My Bookcart” of all things, and this year, Columbia pulled out a win!
Check out this year’s winner, as well as other amazing entries here
I’m particularly impressed by the sheer amount of time that must have gone into some of the refits because many of them are incredibly elaborate. Make sure you check out the fire truck, animal crackers, and Dr. Suess machine in the 2008 competition as well as the covered wagon and Mystery Machine from 2007. Ok, time to get back to work and wait until TWG gets back from going out so she can call me.
So I know I promised you all a post last night, but I got distracted and was unable to motivate myself to figure out something to write that would interest you all. I know, anatomy is always a good topic to fall back onto, but I have the feeling that this weekend I’ll catch you all up on the head. For now though, I want to bring to your attention that it’s evidently National Philosophy Day (at least in England according to the BBC).
In honor of this most horrible of non-holidays - why must everything have it’s own day in the calendar? - the BBC published an article by a philosopher from the University of Glasgow.
In it, he poses a set of four philosophical problems, which you should read first so you know what I’m referring to here. Now, I have some problems with philosophy for the same reasons as aspects of ethics; you can create a seemingly logical argument for just about anything. Let’s begin.
#2: YOU ARE NOT THE PERSON WHO STARTED READING THIS ARTICLE
The problem posits that you are defined by your mental experiences and the information that is encoded into your brain. Now, I can take this explanation of self, even though it completely disregards appearance and any other genetic marker of individuality like disease. Physically I am fundamentally different from everyone else down on a molecular level. My BME colleagues would agree - bone remodeling takes places dependent on load, previous injury (of which I have a few), and mineral composition. This is just one physiological aspect of our being. In either way, let’s say I agreed with the statement that we are our mental information. The problem at the end of your info being put into two different people and not being able to be in two different places makes no sense. Yes, you would be the same person for the exact moment that your brain was put into these bodies, but an infinitesimally small amount of time later, you would be different people by the argument that your mental experiences define you, especially if you were in two different places.
#3: IS THAT REALLY A COMPUTER SCREEN IN FRONT OF YOU?
I actually agree with this one, and it’s one of my favorite little things to make people think, especially when it comes to colors. With physical objects, the principle does not really get expressed as well - it’s obviously a keyboard that I’m typing on now, just as much as this table in front of me is still a table. But colors are an interpretation of light by our brain. What if what we see as purple is actually yellow? I have trouble distinguishing between dark blues, purple and black very often to TWG’s laughter usually, but who is to say what’s correct? Which one of us actually sees the colors for what they really are, or are we both completely off?
#4: YOU DID NOT FREELY AND RESPONSIBLY CHOOSE TO READ THIS ARTICLE
This is the one that I wholeheartedly disagree with, and the one that prompted me to take time here in the library to write this post. This fictional character Fred had, “Unlimited intelligence and memory, and knew all the scientific laws governing the universe and all the properties of every particle that then existed.” The author posits that this Fred would be able to predict everything that was then to come. This is not possible. While Fred would have been spot on for a few billion years, as there were only particle/particle interactions in the universe, as soon as sentient life developed he would start to be completely wrong and marginally better at guessing than you or me. Fred, with his infinite knowledge of particle physics, could no more predict the moment when I decided to raise my arm randomly here in the library than you could. He could not fathom what I would choose to buy at the grocery store or when I would get around to doing the laundry. As humans we are the very definition of free will, and while you might be able to argue that we are all predictable in very general terms, everyone has their moments. Every minute aspect of life is not foretold.
Enjoy the rest of the day!
So, there’s most likely going to be a longer post up later tonight as I take another break from studying for my finals (coming up next week!) but I wanted to share this with you now.
Favorite quote of the day:
‘I don’t know why people ever, ever try to stop nerds from doing things. It’s really the most incredible waste of time.”
As I promised, today I’ll relate to you the story of how one medical student got introduced to a human brain, which then ate him alive! Well, no actually, the last part there isn’t true, and I suppose the fact that I removed Beatrice’s brain from her head is exciting enough to not need sprucing up. So anyways, we did it! After about two hours of careful dissection, checking out the veins and arteries on the outside of the dura (the tough sheathe of the brain) we were able to disconnect the cranial nerves in order and pull the brain out of the skull.
Let me tell you, holding a human brain in your hands is about as weird as it can get. For some reason, I was perfectly fine with the heart - it only took me a second to get over the fact that something so small was responsible for such an important part of our lives. The brain was different. Just holding a surprisingly heavy amount of nerves in your hands, you begin to realize the vastness of our abilities and the incongruity that this bundle of nerves contains our darkest secrets, our deepest memories, and the shameful memorization of N*SYNC lyrics. Everything about our bodies is controlled by the little lump that we worked so hard to get out of the cranium - a million different functions all acting in perfect concert with no mistakes. I know I’ve said this to you all before, but it’s impossible to understand exactly what I’m trying to express in words if you haven’t cradled the human brain in your hands. You can’t just see it in a museum, you need to hold it, feel the solidity of it, and make it an object rather than some mysterious force that allows us to do all the things that make up our lives.
To be a doctor is to have a window onto the world that no one else but those closest to you can see through. The things I’ve done over the past few months in anatomy have opened my eyes to the wondrous complexity of the body, showing me the door to my future of fixing the problems that arise. It’s a bit crazy to think of it like that, and somewhat daunting. Let me try to explain how I feel.
I took a course my last year at Columbia that dealt with science and technology and how they influenced art and writing of the times. Throughout a lot of the course we would read books or excerpts from the Industrial Revolution that praised the glory of machinery and personified the new inventions into something more human that the general populace could relate to. When I look at Beatrice and think about the past few months, I feel like I’ve entered the largest warehouse imaginable. It’s filled top to bottom, front to back, with gears churning, steam whistling, and pistons chugging away as far as the eye can see. In the chaos there is an order that I have just begun to see, but its vastness is overwhelming when I realize that it will be my job very soon to fix this monstrosity of metal.
A bit dramatic wouldn’t you say?
Either way, I remembered what I was going to tell you the other day - a VERY dirty mnemonic for remembering the cranial nerves. Very dirty, and yet, the most common one that everyone knows:
Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And Feel Virgin Girls’ Vaginas And Hymens.
(In order I-XII, olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, vestibulocochlear, glossopharyngeal, vagus, accessory, and hypoglossal)
Along with this is the one that describes the nerves themselves as sensory, motor, or both:
Some Say Marry Money, But My Brother Says Big Breasts Matter More
We’ve finally come to our last section of anatomy - Head and Neck. For the last few weeks this has been in the back of our minds as we wonder what the experience would be like. Beatrice has proven an interesting subject for the entire rest of her body, but now we’ve arrived at the pinnacle of the course, where everything we’ve learned has to come together. We needed to learn all about the bones in Back and Limbs, finding every little ridge that had a name and figuring out why it was there specifically. We worked with cross-sections and CT images in TAP, and our knowledge of the nervous system grew exponentially. Now, the body has a trick in store for us - it’s the part that my father said to me, “Charles, this is what separates the men from the boys.”
He couldn’t have been more right.
Head and neck involve just about every skill we’ve developed over the past few months, with more information than anything we’ve done before. Just move your head around a little, crack your neck, smile, frown, act excited, and make the smallest face you possibly can. Each of those movements takes a huge amount of coordination from your facial and neck muscles, and each little smirk has an incredible amount of nerves that controls it. Those nerves, by the way, all have to come out from your head, and so your skull has a zillion tiny little holes that all have names and variations. Add in the 22 bones, numerous sutures between them, and every little ridge, depression, protuberance, and mark needs to find it’s way into our very crowded skulls.
Needless to say, it’s a staggering amount of information that has to be memorized, all while dealing with the fact that today we took the skin off of Beatrice’s face (including the eyelids). Personally, I also dissected deep into the parietal gland (the one that produces saliva and sits in front of your ear), taking out, piece by piece, the face that used to belong to a woman.
Drive. It’s a weird thing that can make you push past almost any obstacle, and today was no different. In a situation where >99% of the world’s population would have passed out, vomited, or run out of the room, my group and I were able to calmly get our work done, all while making jokes and being in good spirits.
Yet, we were taking off someones face.
Let that sink in.
A little more.
It was quite the experience today, and it will only become more intense on Wednesday when we’ll cut off the calvaria (to be fair, this cut is being done for us) and pull out the brain. That’s right - a true Dr. Frankenstein (that’s Frahnken-steen to you!) moment. All we need is a small sidekick and a stormy day to set the scene. Hmm, I wonder what the weather is going to be like here?
Now, I know I had something to say that wasn’t anatomy-related, but I just can’t seem to figure out what it was now. That’s the problem with this whole way of writing. I get so caught up in the moment, that I constantly forget what it is that also provoked me to write! Ahh, perhaps it was the fact that I received my medical equipment last week.
Now that was something! While technically “free” (though most likely included in our tuition) we got a stethoscope, an opthalmoscope, otoscope, sphygmomanometer (BP cuffs and gauge), tuning forks, reflex hammer, and cases for everything. I can’t even begin to tell you how emotionally overwhelming that moment was when I got back to my apartment and opened everything up. My white coat was truly something, and this was on a totally different level, because they are the tools of my chosen profession that I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life. The coat will be replaced with a physicians coat in 3.5 years, but my stethoscope will last me for the rest of my life.
Now do you see why the color choice was so important?
All in all, I couldn’t really believe that it was all mine. After so many years of playing with the ones that belong to my parents or seeing them on the doctors that I worked with, this one was wholly and truly mine. It even has my name engraved on the bell as if it wants everyone to know who it belongs to. We’ll start using all of this stuff after our winter break, so for now it’s packed up neatly in cases (after a long period of playing with everything) for a little while.
BRAAAAIIIIINNNNSSSS later on.
P.S. Has anyone ever seen a doctor actually use a tuning fork? I can’t recall ever seeing such a thing, yet every physician has them.
My red is so confident that he flashes
Trophies of war and ribbons of euphoria
Orange is young, full of daring but
It’s very unsteady for the first go around
My yellow in this case is not so mellow
In fact I’m trying to say it’s frightened like me
And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from
Giving my life to a rainbow like you
Daylight savings time ends (begins? I can never keep it straight) tomorrow, so don’t forget to turn your clocks back an hour and grab some more sleep than usual!
There’s more to fill this space that I want to write about, but I can’t seem to get it out in words. Suffice it to say that this big white text box begs me to fill it to the brim every time I open this blog to write, and today, it’s not worth your time for me to put everything I’m feeling down. I’ll leave it at this - go out and enjoy the election, spend time with your friends, maybe make an “Oscar pool” of sorts for the swing states.
What do we give up as we get older?
It seems that when we’re young, we’re always told that the world is full of possibilities and that if we work hard, we can become whoever we want to be, do what we want to do, and live our lives as we see fit. Life runs in the opposite direction though - we age, and every year, our hopes and dreams get whittled down until what defines us is simply the dregs at the bottom of a cup of tea. They’ve given all of the flavor to the remaining water, but so little is left that at times, the loss of the rest of those leaves seems bitter. An imperfect analogy for sure, but one that is apt for the situation.
We leave behind many things, whether it be friends, sports, music, or other activities that we used to pass the time when we were younger. And, unfortunately, we’re still young. There’s more to come.
We still feel the sting of something lost that was once so dear to us, and as we desperately try to hold onto the rest of what we thought made us who we are, the ropes tying us to them continue to fray. Time moves us farther from what we see ourselves as, forcing us towards some new reality of life, somewhere where no one cares what happened around the fire so many years ago. Where it doesn’t matter who was your bitter enemy and closest friend, your first kiss and last goodbye.
We lose touch with the people who once mattered more than we can express as they get thrown to the side, lost in stacks of phone messages, wall posts, and text messages.
What are we to do? Create new surrogates to fill the gaps? It’s like in cartoons, when someone runs through the door - they always leave a perfect hole that only they can fill. I can’t really tell you all why I’m writing this down; maybe it’s just a way of trying to make myself feel better that my best friends from home are no longer a part of my life (save an exception here and there). Sure, I see them when the stars align, the planets put into their proper place, but no longer do we have the camaraderie that we once did. Smiles are exchanged, lives updated, but in the end, we go our separate ways once more, not to speak again until we can once more grab onto that rope.
Now I know some of you are still in a place where this isn’t an issue, where you still see those closest friends. Please, count yourselves lucky and work to keep it that way. Still others didn’t have that large group of people that you really care about and for you, life is as it always was. For me though, it’s a loss most keenly felt when alone on a Saturday night, absorbed in books and treading water in a sea of neurovascular trees.
I do apologize for the emo-ness of this post, but…
Well, now that I think of it, I don’t really know why I felt so compelled to write all this down - I guess I’m just trying to justify the guilt I feel in not being more in touch with the things and people that used to define who I am.
Time for some more tea.