Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me

I've been a little sick over the past week or so.  I woke up one morning to a horribly sore throat, and within a few days, I had developed a white, pustular lesion on the posterior wall of my oropharynx.  I probably just had a mild case of strep throat, but the added stress and excitement of the talent show didn't help me get better any faster.

Anyway, I think my disease and lack of good sleep finally caught up to me, and I didn't wake up until 11am today.  I was upset that I had missed church, and I was doubly upset because I had missed Jubilate singing in the morning worship service.  Luckily, Lee was online to comfort me:

Lee:  haha oh well, the usmle is the new deity and he is a vengeful and merciless god
me:  i hate him!!!
Lee:  you will love him or risk being smote

Welcome to the Sam Show

Life as a medical student has its good days and its bad days.  Yesterday was one of its great days.  Months of rehearsals paid off in what was perhaps the best talent show VMed has ever seen.   Sadly, Nosheen and I were unable to reprise our roles as emcees, but we were entertained nonetheless by the dry and slightly awkward humor of Kunal and Cassandra.

In no way does this mean that I gracefully stepped out of the limelight.  My need for constant attention drove me to push the limits of the number of acts one person can perform.  I mean, who says I can't be in a bluegrass band, a dance troupe, and an a cappella group all at the same time?

It has now become tradition for Lee and I to do a musical act each year.  Last year, we were both in the barbershop quartet group The Lymph Notes, and this year, we were both in the bluegrass band The Blue Ridge Medicine Boys.  My only question is, what genre of music will we tackle next year?  Piano blues?  Acid rock?  Motown?  Big band music?  Korean pop?  The world is our oyster!

I Accept the Consequences

Let's see, what did I do today?  Well, I successfully avoided studying for no good reason.  I honestly had the intention of doing a lot of work this evening, but after talent show rehearsal, Lee, Vicki, and I decided to have dinner at Tara Thai, and it all went downhill after that.  I ended up spending the past two hours enjoying a cold beer, some Food Network entertainment, and Lee's mandolin playing.  One day, when I'm homeless and begging for change on the Corner, I'll look back on today and say, "Oh, that's why I failed out of medical school."

The State of the Union

Those who are more educated about domestic politics and the forces that are shaping our current conditions are probably watching the State of the Union address right now.  Meanwhile, I'm wearing horse blinders so I can concentrate on reading First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2009.  If you're lucky enough to be someone with the free time to keep updated on world news, however, I encourage you to check out the State of the Union Address Drinking Game.  And yes, I stole it off of Myles' Gchat status, so to him goes the credit for discovering this hilarious website.

What Are the Chances?

I was on my way to heating up my dumplings for lunch today when I realized that someone had shut the door to the kitchen in Mulholland Lounge, in spite of the large sign that says "DO NOT CLOSE DOOR TO KITCHEN."  There is a code lock on the door with the numbers 1 through 5 on it, and out of sheer luck, I happened to punch in 1-3-5, and the door opened.

Had I known that the combination was three numbers long, there would have been a 1/125 chance that I correctly guessed the sequence on my first try.  But what are the chances that the lock required three numbers AND that the three numbers were the ones I guessed on my first try?  The answer to that question requires a mathematical model that I am not willing or able to create.

Where There's a Will...

You know how the saying goes.  The problem with me is that there is no such "will."  I cave into peer pressure faster than a fat kid caves into cake.  But there's hope for me yet: I turned down watching Wolverine over at Randy's apartment tonight to stay in and do my POM problem sets.  That's the first time I can recall saying "no" to something since you tried to make me monkey brains.  Ew!!  Okay, fine, I'll do it.

And so what if I've already seen Wolverine three times?  It didn't make the decision any less difficult.

To reward myself, I'm going to spend the next two hours surfing the internet instead of doing the work I planned on doing.

How Far We've Come

I've wasted my share of studying time on Facebook, and it shocks me to see how far it's come since I joined the online social network as a rising first year in college.  Back then, all you could do was enter some information about yourself and "poke" each other.  Over and over again.

Now, you can post (and tag!) photos and videos, write on each other's walls, give each other bumper stickers, update your statuses, play Scrabble, and do thousands of other cool things.  One thing that is NOT cool, however, is Farmville.  I still have little to no concept of what this Facebook application entails, but I'm entirely prepared to judge this book by its cover.  And by this "advertisement."

VMed Prom

Nosheen and I have thrown quite a few parties in our day.  But we really saved up for our last official Mulholland Society social event.  We went balls to the wall planning for this year's VMed Prom, and I daresay we outdid ourselves when it came to the food,

the "VMed" wayfarers as party favors,

and the music.

Okay, so we didn't actually DJ the event ourselves.  We hired Matt Steffanina, a local DJ and dance instructor, but he was cool enough to let me play with his turntables before everyone else showed up.  As you can tell, I was channeling Pauly D last night.  In fact, I might start going by the nickname DJ Sammy Z.  Although, let's be real: I could never give myself a blowout every morning before I left the house.  It took Angie and me over 20 minutes and half a container of hair product to get all of my hair to stand up like that.

Well, now that VMed Prom is over, I can finally concentrate on what I'm supposed to be doing: studying for Step 1 rehearsing for next week's VMed Talent Show.  God, I love my life.


I've read some pretty crazy things in the year and a half that I've been in medical schools, but this has to rank somewhere near the top.  On diagnosis of Chagas' disease, caused by the protozoon Trypanosome cruzi:

"Xenodiagnosis: 40 laboratory-grown reduviid bugs are allowed to feed on a patient, and one month later the bugs' intestinal contents are examined for the parasite" (Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, p. 339).

I'm sorry, but why would you subject patients to being eaten alive by the same bug that may have given them the disease from which they're currently suffering?  Isn't there something ethically and psychologically disturbing about this, especially when you could just as easily (and much less painfully) try to visualize trypomastigotes in a blood sample?  I just can't imagine what it would be like to be "fed on" by 40 bugs at once.

Speaking of things I can't imagine, it's time to go do my first urological and gynecological exams!  WOOHOO!

Winter Cleaning

You may have noticed that I now have my old links up to the right again.  You may also have noticed that the list is a lot shorter than it used to be.  I went ahead and purged all of the blogs that hadn't been updated in over a month, and this is all that was left.  However, I do want to point out one new addition: thisisgarrettbuxton.  Garrett is one of my best friends from undergrad, so get out there and show him some support!

In other news, I am seriously considering giving myself a blowout à la DJ Pauly D for VMed Prom.  Any thoughts on the situation?  (Pun definitely intended.)

Let the Ridiculous Mnemonics Begin!

Call me a nerd, but I really enjoy reading First Aid, because it has some outrageous mnemonics to help you remember the 8 gigabytes of material we need to know for the Step 1 exam.  Sadly, not every hit can be a home run, and some of the memory techniques make little or no sense.  For example:

Mesodermal defects = VACTERL: Vertebral defects, Anal atresia, Cardiac defects, Tracheo-Esophageal fistula, Renal defects, Limb defects (bone and muscle) (First Aid 2009, p. 121).

Okay, that might help if I had any idea what a VACTERL is and how to associate it with mesodermal defects.  According to Lee, it's the progeny of a virus and a bacteria.  And a vampire.

Autotune the MLK

Happy belated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  Those of you who read Geekologie religiously like I do have probably already seen this, but just in case you don't (which you should), here's something for you to wrap your puny little brains around.  Come on, you should have known this was coming.

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

Okay, I'll stop talking about Carbon Leaf after this post.  Maybe.  But before I do, I wanted to share one of my favorite songs by them, The War Was in Color.  I was blown away by their performance of it during the acoustic concert in Old Cabell Hall, during which they played a montage of clips and photographs in the background.  I'm pretty sure this is the same video, and I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do (I watched it three times last night).

Oh, and Josh, don't worry about playing music while we study.  I don't mind listening to stuff in the background while we're talking things through.  I just have a hard time concentrating when I'm trying to read sentences like "Phenylketonuria is due to decreased phenylalanine hydroxylase or decreased tetrahydrobiopterin cofactor" (First Aid 2009, p. 109).  Seriously, what the heck!?

The War Was in Color

I don't tend to listen to music when I study, because it's really easy for me to stop thinking about what I'm reading and start mapping out the chord progressions in my head.  Sadly, I've been spending a lot of time studying as of late, so I haven't listened to much music at all.  Well, that's not entirely true; sometimes I play jazz in the background, because I know so little about jazz harmonies that I can listen to it without getting too involved with the music myself.

What I'm trying to get to is that I just made the mistake of using the iTunes gift card that Tina gave me for Christmas to download Indian Summer and Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat, two of Carbon Leaf's albums that I didn't already own.  I had completely forgotten what great musicians these guys are!  One of my favorite concerts of all time was when Catmo and I went to go see them play an acoustic set in Old Cabell Hall.  We also saw them at Starr Hill Music Hall back when Starr Hill Music Hall still existed:

Don't mind how disgustingly sweaty we all look (especially Barry Privett, the lead singer).  Hey, wait a minute.  What happened that Carbon Leaf t-shirt that I'm wearing?  I haven't seen that shirt in years!  I wonder what I did with it...


Christin just informed me that Jersey Shore's Pauly D will be DJing a party at the UVA Chapter of DKE later this month.  I'm not sure how accurate her sources are, but if this turns out to be true, I might have to bring myself to go to a frat party again just to see this guy "perform his craft."  Why do they keep referring to it on the show like that??

Of course, this is the same Christin that's going to party it up later this week at McFadden's in DC, where JWoww and Pauly D will be making special appearances.  Perhaps my dream was really a vision of the future...

Rock Me Mama Like a Wagon Wheel

All is not lost, as my last post may have sounded.  There are, after all, still some happy moments in my life.  Building off the success of the Barbershop Quartet performance at last year's VMed Talent Show, Adam suggested that a group of us take our musical talents in a different direction this year.  Our makeshift band met for the first time today to play and sing through some bluegrass tunes, and we sounded pretty good, if I do say so myself.  Folks, get ready, cuz the Blue Ridge Medicine Boys are coming to town!

I'm a Nerd

I admit it, and I'm proud of it.  I just got back from watching Avatar again, and you know what?  It was just as fun to watch the second time around.  Only once in my entire life have I seen a movie twice in theaters, and that was one of the Lord of the Rings films, although I can't remember which one.  Of course, that's not counting any of the movies I've seen at the Byrd, Richmond's historic movie palace.

Anyway, articles about the Avatar blues have been popping up all over the internet lately.  While I first dismissed these "news stories" as ridiculous and irrelevant, I'm beginning to see where these fans are coming from.  After immersing myself in a 3D world that combines the lush vegetation of the tropical rain forest with the bioluminescence of the coral reef, reality is a little hard to handle.  Especially when that reality is sitting in Claude Moore Health Sciences Library on a Friday night working on Epidemiology problem sets.  Sigh...


I got my first spam comment on my previous post!  Unfortunately it's in traditional Chinese, and I'm only able to read Chinese at a fifth grade level anyway, so I can't tell what it says.  According to Google Translate, it means something like this:

"A person's fortune in the first is always the most profound, and sometimes even into the hearts of people forever insulation."

Err, what?  The comment is also followed by a number of links to sites with, umm, mature content, so I would avoid clicking on them if I were you.  Too late, you already did it, didn't you?  I knew it, you perv.

Parasites, Pokemon, and Pajamas

Liz: i cant take any of these parasites seriously when they all sound like the next generation of pokemon. Clonorchis. Cestode. Volvulus. Dracunculus.


Interview with the Sam-pire

Err, sorry, that was really lame.  Anyway!  Once upon a time, when I was just a senior in high school, I applied for the Jefferson Scholarship at UVA, given for excellence in Leadership, Scholarship, and Citizenship.  By the grace of God, I received one of the scholarships, which paid for all of my college tuition and expenses and included several enrichment programs, including a summer-long trip to study commerce in several countries of the European Union.

Well, I just got back from interviewing this year's Richmond nominees, and all I can say is that I am so glad that I did not have to apply against the kids we saw today.  One girl received a 2400 on her SATs, has scored a 5 on every AP test she's taken, is captain of the swim team, and co-chairs the Honor Council; one girl co-founded a non-profit organization that helps the needy in Cambodia and is captain of the field hockey team; one girl has planned fundraising events that have collected over $9000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, was selected as a delegate to the Hague International Model UN Conference, and is captain of the cross country team; one guy is simultaneously SCA president and senior class president and translates at a free Hispanic health clinic on weekends; and one guy is the concertmaster of the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra and has won seven National Arabian Horse Show Championships.  After a long day of interviews, we were surprisingly able to whittle our nine finalists down to three that would advance to the National Selection Weekend in Charlottesville in the spring.  Best of luck to this year's Richmond representatives, not that they'll need it!

Oh, teh Nomz!

The start to my Gchat with Sunny: 

me:  ...
Sunny:  OMG
me:  i may or may not have had hot pot again for dinner tonight
me:  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunny:  why are we both talign about food immediately

It's true; we have one-track minds.  In other news, I'm back home in Richmond for the night, and I'm studying with Titan curled up next to me.  I expected him to be excited to see me, but I happened to walk in the door right as my dad was feeding him.  Titan looked at me, thought about greeting me, but then went back to his bowl and finished eating before turning around and jumping all over me.  It's a good thing I understand where he comes from: food first, family second.

Allow Me to Correct Myself

Dreams involving Jersey Shore do not necessarily indicate that I will fail Step 1.  The fact that I got a 31% on the Kaplan diagnostic test, however, does.

Honestly, all that I remembered were the things we learned in the last block.  I certainly recognized the words in all of the rest of the questions; I just didn't remember anything about them anymore.  This is going to be a fun three months...

Get Out of My Brain!

That's the second night in a row that I've had a dream involving Jersey Shore, and I'm sorry but that's simply not acceptable.  Two nights ago, I dreamed that I was the ninth cast member of the reality train wreck, and I beat out both Mike "The Situation" and Ronnie for the affections of Sammi "Sweetheart" (as if the other guys had a chance).  Last night, I dreamed that Catmo and Christin came down to visit me at the Jersey Shore house, and Mike "The Situation" and Pauly D tried to spit game at them the entire weekend they were there.

I think that settles it: there's no way I'm passing the Boards if all that's going on in my subconscious is imaginary plots involving trashy MTV reality shows.

Best Iron Chef Idea Ever

Theme Ingredient: Staphylococcus aureus exotoxin TSST-1

The trick to winning the challenge: The food has to taste good not only going down, but also coming up.  Hilarity ensues!

You Can't Win Them All

I shouldn't have been so proud of getting through to Comcast last night.  I just got off of a conference call, and since it was my first time, I didn't understand the etiquette.  Apparently Doug had just finished saying something when I joined, because there was a long pause, and I wasn't sure if I had entered the code properly.  "Hello?  It's Sam.  I've never done one of these before... is this working?  Do I need to do anything else?"

It turns out they had already started, and pretty much everyone else was already there.  It wasn't until a few people joined after me that I found out you're supposed to announce yourself by saying, "Sam Zhao has joined."  I choose believe that my introduction was more unique and personal.

How to Get Things Done

Our internet at home has been working only intermittently over the past few weeks.  I hadn't really done anything about it, because when it started happening, I was in the middle of exams, and then I left Charlottesville for winter break.  This past week I've tried calling Comcast a few times during the day, but I kept on being put on hold for ridiculous amounts of time and getting cut off right before I was supposed to be connected with a customer service representative.

When I got home from the VMed Faux New Year's party last night, the internet wasn't working again.  Assuming that everybody else in the country was probably asleep at that point, I decided to call Comcast at 1:30 in the morning.  And what an accurate assumption!  I got through without having to wait at all, and now we have a technician coming over to the house tomorrow afternoon.  Ultimate win!

Ultimate Fail

This block, I sadly decided to leave Titan at home with my parents, knowing that keeping him at school with me would distract me from studying for the USMLE Step 1.  Well, it turns out, I know nothing at all.  If anything, my productivity has declined since I've come back to Charlottesville, dog or no dog.

But how can I possibly sit down and study when I have to plan the VMed Prom?  When I have to lead Arrhythmics rehearsal?  When I have to practice for the Talent Show?  When I have to leave right now to go to Jim and Neil's birthday party before we all head over to Faux New Year's?  Ultimate fail.

School Is Hard

I've gotten so used to the four hours of class from 8am till noon that the past two days have seemed extremely long to me.  We've added on an extra hour during lunch in which we participate in a guided review course to help us prepare for the USMLE Step 1.  Learning new material for four hours each day is doable; learning new material for four hours each day and then realizing for another whole hour how much we've already learned and subsequently forgotten is not.

Fret not!  There is still good news to be shared: I found another list from the year 2009.  Behold, CollegeHumor's Most Liked Pictures of 2009.  Enjoy!

Knowledge Is Power!

Only my first day back in school, and I've already learned so much!  And by "so much" I mean "how to pick a $10 lock from Walmart."  Thanks to Lee, who showed me how to do it earlier tonight.  Moral of the story: don't bother locking your doors when you go to bed tonight, because you can't stop me from stealing all your nomz.  Oh, and also, don't buy $10 locks from Walmart.

On a different note, do you remember that song "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette?  It was really catchy but infuriating, since nothing in her song was actually ironic; it was all just really, really bad luck.  Anyway, if you were as annoyed as I was by the abuse of this rhetorical device, then you might also enjoy the video below.  In order to fully appreciate it, though, you might want to watch the original music video first.

Zhong Wen

I just got back from a really weird trip to Walmart.  When I was ready to check out, I walked up to the Chinese-looking cashier and greeted her with my typical, "Hi, how are you?"  She responded with, "Ai, ni hao."  Afraid that I had just imagined she was talking in Chinese since I'd been around my parents and their friends for the past two weeks, I continued speaking to her in English.  And she continued replying to me in Mandarin.  After a few exchanges, I finally gave in and bewilderingly said goodbye to her in Chinese, too.

Anyway, the point of going to Walmart was to buy a new lunch box because my old one that I'd used since sophomore year of high school finally broke.  Eh, I guess its time had come anyway.  But imagine my surprise when my new lunch box rang up on the register as "SECRETBUCKET."  So cool!

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Tonight is my last night in Richmond before I head back to Charlottesville.  To be honest, this has been one of the best breaks I've had in medical school.  Not to be too cheesy, but I'm glad I got to spend every day with some of my best friends from high school and college.  We met up again tonight at Krispy Kreme where we always went as teenagers.  That's when Tina brought up something I had completely forgotten about: fake book names.

For some reason, one day during lunch in high school we decided to create titles for children's books based on all of our friends' names.  Several of them we could no longer recall, but here are some of my favorites that we still remembered:

That's How, Sam Zhao
Nice Try, Nick Desai
Get the Pliers, Mica Swyers
Crash and Burn, Christina Chern
You're Wrong, Allen Huang
Move to Houston, Katie Houston

Okay, so the last one wasn't that great.  But anyway, hanging out with old friends wasn't the only thing I did this break.  I also watched all 61 episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender online.  And yes, that clocks in at right under 24 hours of viewing pleasure.  The series follows the adventure of a boy named Aang who must use his abilities of air, water, earth, and fire manipulation to defeat the evil Fire Lord and restore balance to his mystical world.  It's also the basis for M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming film The Last Airbender.  You can find most of the show's episodes here and here.  Sam and Titan give it two thumbs and two dew claws up!

I'm Obsessed

The end of 2009 means many different things to many different people, but to me it means endless lists of "Top [insert number] [insert noun] of the Decade."  And I'm a total sucker for Top 10/25/50 lists.  Don't ask me why; I really wouldn't be able to answer you.  I guess I like putting things in categories, and I like putting things in lists, so a list of things in a certain category just... makes sense to me.

On that note, here's a little video from JibJab that sums up the past year for us in musical format.

Resolutions 2010

Ah, a new year, a new decade, and a new Sammas to follow suit.  Here are my resolutions for the year 2010.

1. Be more frugal.  This shouldn't be too hard, since I'll be too busy studying for cumulative finals and the USMLE Step 1 this coming block to be out spending money.

2. Be more patient.  This might be a little harder, since I usually want things done my way and done immediately.  But it's certainly something that I can improve upon.

3. Be more thankful.  This will probably be my most difficult resolution, since I am the ideal consumer and every ad ever made seems to be targeted directly at me (see my Christmas Wish List).  However, I want to appreciate more what I already have and worry less about collecting more.

Welp, that's it.  I'll let you know how it goes on January 1, 2011.  For now, it's time for a nap.