Sunday, April 29, 2007

Difficult decisions

Here’s Alicia with our new dogs. Just kidding! They are, instead, Jock (white and tan) and Lucky (black and white), the two lovely boys for whom we are dog-sitting this week while their parents (M3+family) are out of town. They illustrate perfectly most of the characteristics I’d like in a pet, friendly, smell nice, short hair, not too slobbery. The only thing they don’t fit (by a long shot) is the 25 lb weight limit imposed by our new apartment complex.

Difficult decisions

Alicia and I are, in fact, strongly considering getting a dog next fall - though probably not one as large as either Jock or Lucky. We have had many discussions about which type of dog would best fit with our relatively small apartment, our busy lives, and our need for a small pet (under 25 pounds) to comply with the regulations set forth by our apartment complex. We are also weighing the kind of grooming necessary for each particular breed, how much we think the dog might bark and annoy our apartment neighbors, and how happy it will be with the amount of exercise we can provide it.

Here are the current contenders, as well as my thoughts about each one (the links will take you to the Animal Planet description of each breed, a slightly more fun-pet rather than show-pet oriented website than the American Kennel Club, though both were helpful for us):

Boston terrier: These dogs are super cute, and are at the top of the list right now. Of their minor health problems, “stenotic nares” are included, which means they snort and make crazy breathing noises all the time. I think we can work around this, as they are cheerful and energetic, but seem like they would be happy with our living arrangements (walk + playing every day, but having to stay home alone a bit in the middle of the day).

Pug: Alicia and I are somewhat divided on the cuteness of the pug. I think they are adorable. She does not. Alicia is also somewhat turned off by the fact that the grooming needs include “cleaning facial wrinkles.” They are also plagued by the “stenotic nares,” so I’m currently pushing for a Pugston - a Boston terrier/pug mix.

Miniature daschund: Alicia’s mom still has the dog they got when Alicia was in high school - Sam - a super cute little miniature daschund and she would love nothing more than to get one for ourselves. I’m strongly considering this, though I might like to branch out a little bit.

Bulldog: The bulldog was my attempt to suggest a dog that was my idea of cute like a pug, but less “ridiculous looking” for Alicia. Because of the need to clean the bulldogs facial wrinkles as well, I think this one is sort of near the bottom of our list. That being said, I think they are sort of cute and tough-looking.

So that’s the short list. I’d love to have a little vote take place, as well as get your comments/suggestions. Please click here to vote.

PS. The board exam is finally over. It’s hard to believe that it was only a few days ago (Thursday), as I’ve done so much since I finished (read: I had over a month’s worth of errands to run).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I’ve been at the University of Michigan for a relatively long time. Those of us who did undergrad here (and stayed for medical school) remember that the Life Sciences Institute used to be a ratty looking collection of buildings and parking lots, and then a giant hole in the ground, all before it sprang to life as a modern, highly stylized (and debatably tasteful) new building. We may remember being in the LSA building during our first few weeks on campus, but I was shocked just last year when I realized that it was, in fact, finally completed after nearly 4.5 years of construction and inside it was beautiful (contrasting starkly with my first impressions of it). We’ve witnessed countless expansions on this campus, all of which start with knocking things down and digging holes, and we’ll be here for many more (I perhaps more than most of my classmates - yay for the MSTP!). As I was driving home the other day, I was struck by the balance between knocking buildings down to build new ones and improving the ones we have. Within a few short blocks on State St. (central campus), one can see expansions underway on both the UM Museum of Art and the Kelsey Archeological Museum (both of which are at the huge hole stage, but did not involve knocking buildings down) as well as the newly initiated demolition of the Frieze building (pictured above).

This made me pause, and reflect on my almost reflex nostalgia. Was the Frieze building really all that great? You see, as an undergraduate, I had a huge number of my classes in the Frieze building. It housed many of the foreign language departments. It was also one of the most distant buildings from my dorm, and I resented it on many frigid mornings. And the heating never worked very well so it was either still icy inside, or heated to the level that I would classify as blazing inferno. And it was laid out so poorly that you could identify those people who had never had classes there before by their frustrated looks, angry mutterings, and their unusually brisk pace. The Frieze Building apparently started out life as a high school, and was acquired by the university sometime later. From there, it was added on to and adjusted, never quite fitting the bill for a university building, but never so outrageously unworkable to have merited total destruction and rebuilding. Now, needs have changed and the site is destined to become a dorm. I guess that seems reasonable enough to me.

This never-ending sequence of renovation, demolition, and construction can at times be disturbing, but perhaps models the rest of life eerily well. Each day is like an evaluation, whether it’s of a job, of a relationship, of school, of anything, honestly - deciding whether it’s beautiful and functional just as it is, just alright how it is for a few more years, whether it needs a few little touch-ups and it will do, or whether the time has come for a massive overhaul. Especially during board studying, during the desperate moments where each of us questions everything about our lives, we wonder where on that spectrum our lives fit: whether it’s worth the misery of sitting in the library for 8-12 hours every day, whether it’s worth having to work so hard to squeeze in time with family and friends, and frankly, whether we aren’t doing more demolition than construction during this study period. And yet, here I am, on another morning, ready to head out with my books/flashcards/notes. Must be working well enough.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Need direction? Try the graduate library.

Helpful signs on the floor of the stacks.

I think that the most helpful bit of advice about board studying I’ve ever seen/read/heard was Ben Bryner’s blog posting last year. He compared it to an eating contest, which horrified me to some extent last year, and continues to appall me as I force down another subject today. And yet, there is something satisfying about reviewing all of the material from the past two years. (Maybe there’s a career for me in eating…) It’s like I’ve actually learned things along the way. In spite of my fears that I had retained nothing, I seem to have gleaned more than a few things along the way. Which is not to say I really love being sequestered in the library for long hours at a time, or that I need more than one hand to count the number of friends I’ve seen in the past week. I don’t. But at least I’m getting somewhere. I’m coming up on what is arguably one of the biggest hurdles of medical education. (I say one of the biggest knowing that third year, and internship will be insanely difficult, but they are practical, and as such, fundamentally different.) That’s exciting.

So as I look to the floor outside of where I study, and it points me in one of four cardinal directions, I think about exactly where I am going, and am somewhat pleased to discover that I don’t really know. Sure I’ll be in PhD-land next year, learning public health background and methods for my dissertation, and staying in PhD-land for a few years after that, and then I’ll be a third year, and finally a fourth year, but after that, who knows? It will be a residency, but who knows where? And who really knows in what? (Right now I’m thinking OB/GYN, but so much could change in the next 6 years…) So, as I study for boards, I try to keep life in perspective, and remember that this is just one (albeit relatively large) more step forward. Chow down!