...and Medicine

>> Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sifting and sorting through my junk--because hey, let's be honest, I have a LOT of it--I came across the take-home, midterm exam for my "Psychology and Medicine" class that I took all the way back in January of 1998. I actually came across it this past summer (2015), and thought it was notable given the references to the health care system under President Bill Clinton. Several months later--after reviewing it again--I find it notable for how much more difficult it was than my Public Health class last semester. For instance, if we had essay questions like the ones in this exam, the entire class probably would have flunked.

Psychology and Medicine J Term 98 Exam 1

Choose Five of the seven items. Answer each question accurately and in such a way that it is clear you know and can apply the information from the readings. Be specific in your answers and do not waste time by rewriting the question or offering rambling platitudes. Your answer should be no longer than three pages, single spaced print.
Yeah, you read that right. Pick 5 items and write a maximum of 3 pages, single spaced, which means your entire exam could reach a maximum of 15 pages, single-spaced print. If I remember correctly, I could only get up to 10 pages of regurgitation. And, oh yeah, we had a little less than 48 hours to write these.
1. Martin Seligman, President of the American Psychological Association, calls you on the phone and says, “I understand you have studied what research in clinical health psychology needs to do more of or differently in order for psychologists to play a part, and get paid for that part, in the changing health care financial and decision making environment. What, specifically do clinical psychologists need to do in their research and treatment practice if they want to be included in health care as it is currently changing?
Didn't answer this one, but it's still interesting thinking about the question. Kind of. Actually, I take that back. This phrase--"the changing health care financial and decision making environment"--is just more proof that we need a single-payer health care system. How much time should health care providers be spending on things like that rather than spending time with their patients/clients? Less than what it is now no doubt.
2. No sooner have you finished your report for Dr. Seligman, than the phone rings again. President Clinton’s chief of staff and asks if you would be willing to talk to the President. You cordially agree and then are placed on hold for a few moments while the president finishes playing with his dog and practicing the saxophone. After you listen to a few strains of “Hail to the Chief” while you wait on hold, the President himself comes on the line and in his friendly Arkansas voice says, “Hey. I hear you are a student of my friend Brian Baird and you know something about health care issues. As you know, the last time I tried to do something about national health care it backfired. You’ve had half a semester of Psychology and Medicine now, so I was wondering, based on the articles and class discussion thus far, what specific steps would you take and why if you were designing a health care system and determining how financial resources should be allocated for the country. Please be specific now and let me know what articles you got your information from because remember I have to run this past Congress to get their approval. Oh, By the way. I need this in two weeks for the State of the Union address.”
Yup. I answered this one. And to think that health care is still a HUGE issue. It hasn't gone away since 2008. I would much rather have some sort of single-payer system than having to fork over almost $200 a month for health care that I rarely--hopefully and never want or need--to use.
3. After two weeks of arduous work, you have just completed your response to President Clinton. You settle back for a moment, impressed by how a lowly psychology student can actually make an impact on the political scene. Then, the phone rings again. You think it might be a close friend asking you to go out, but you are surprised to hear a foreign voice. Turns out its the UN Secretary General, who says, “Good morning, I just heard about your great work for President Clinton. We were wondering how decisions about health care expenditures would be different if the population under consideration were the entire world, not just the US? Again, be as specific and refer to particular articles because I have to run this past the General Assembly.”

4. You have just completed your work for the Secretary General when who should call but Bill Gates Jr., who says “Hey, I just heard about the great work you did for the UN and for President Clinton. We have been considering whether or not to implement a health promotion program for Microsoft employees. I have two questions for you. Based on you understanding of the literature and issues, and considering all of the costs and benefits (which I hope you will discuss) do you think we should do it or not? If we do proceed with a program, what should it include and what steps should we take.
#4 is almost ironic, isn't it? This exam was written in January 1998, and the Gates Foundation was formed in 2000. If this exam was written today, I'm pretty sure that #3 would be about the Gates Foundation interacting globally. I'm not sure if #4 would be still written the way it is above. Microsoft could still be used as an example because my alma mater is in the Pacific Northwest.
5. Wow, all that work has sure been stressful hasn’t it? Based on your understanding of the literature on stress and illness, what effects do you think that stress might have had on your health and just how might we measure how much stress you have experienced? Be specific about the processes involved and the data that lead to your judgements.

6. It turns out that in fact, your stressful lifestyle has cause some problems. Indeed, in response to advertising that promised you would feel better and look sexier if you smoked, and in order to biochemically cope with the stress of producing all those high profile reports for those high profile people you took up smoking. Now it’s time to try and quit. From your understanding of the literature, how did smoking help you feel better about stress, how might it actually have increased the adverse physiological effects of stress, and how the heck are you going to stop?

7. Oh great! So you decided to quit smoking and start exercising as a way to get healthy. Trouble was that all the time you spent sitting at the keyboard typing all those reports made your back ache. Then, when you tried to carry the ten thousand page tomes to the printer you threw your back out. Now you are receiving compensation for your injury and you can’t even help out around the house anymore. Fortunately, however, you have read a number of articles about pain and pain behaviors so you can describe a model of what is happening and propose a couple of ways that you might better be able to deal with the situation.
These last three could have almost been used on my Public Health final. We covered back pain a little bit at the beginning, and smoking got a special focus on the end. I'm still surprised how in-depth these questions are asking me to write as opposed to what I had on my Public Health exam. God, I cannot describe in detail how much that class took what should have been a very interesting subject and turned it into such dull matter. Death and disease should ALWAYS be interesting!


Sonnet from the past

>> Sunday, January 10, 2016

So this little thing is something I wrote all the way back in my freshman English class. For some reason, I feel compelled to document it electronically before I toss this paper in the shredder. I still have no idea what I was writing about, but, hey, I was a freshman!

Roses have thorns, and purple mountains mud
But praise the deep vermillion of its shade
And drops of dew, which come of like wet blood
And through the years of time the scarlet will fade
The roses will continue with their thorns
That stain their precious scarlet ornaments
Lilies, with their own hearts, are shaped like horns
And scent of gold that makes the air so dense
Nor do I wonder at the lily's white
Whose base is so green that it seems like jade
The two are brighter than a summer night
Which never seem to finish by the blade
One red of fame, another pure of joy
But neither one is anything but coy
Iambic pentameter, I don't miss it.


Technologic medicine

>> Saturday, January 2, 2016

No one who's seen the decline of pneumonia and a thousand other infectious diseases, or has seen the eyes of a dying patient who's just been given another decade by a new heart valve, will deny the benefits of technology. But, as most advances do, this one has cost us something irreplaceable: medicine's humanity. There's no room in technological medicine for any presumed sanctity or uniqueness of life. There's no need for the patient's own self-healing force nor any strategy for enhancing it. Treating a life as a chemical automaton means that it makes no difference whether the doctor cares about--or even knows--the patient, or whether the patient likes or trusts the doctor.

Because of what medicine left behind, we now find ourselves in a real technological fix. The promise to humanity of a future of golden health and extended life has turned out to be empty. Degenerative diseases--heart attacks, arteriosclerosis, cancer, stroke, arthritis, hypertension, ulcers, and all the rest--have replaced infectious diseases as the major enemies of life and destroyers of its quality. Modern medicine's incredible cost has put it farther than ever out of reach of the poor and now threatens to sink the Western economies themselves. Our cures too often have turned out to be double-edged swords, later producing a secondary disease; then we search desperately for another cure. And the dehumanized treatment of symptoms rather than patients has alienated many of those who can afford to pay. The result has been a sort of medical schizophrenia in which many have forsaken establishment medicine in favor of a holistic, prescientific type that too often neglects technology's real advantages but at least stresses the doctor-patient relationship, preventative care, and nature's innate recuperative power.

The failure of technological medicine is due, paradoxically, to its success, which at first seemed so overwhelming that it swept away all aspects of medicine as an art. No longer a compassionate healer working at the bedside and using heart and hands as well as mind, the physician has become an impersonal white-gowned ministrant who works in an office or laboratory. Too many physicians no longer learn from their patients, only from their professors. The breakthroughs against infections convinced the profession of its own infallibility and quickly ossified its beliefs into dogma. Life processes that were inexplicable according to current biochemistry have been either ignored or misinterpreted. In effect, scientific medicine abandoned the central rule of science--revision in light of new data. As a result, the constant widening of horizons that has kept physics so vital hasn't occurred in medicine. The mechanistic assumptions behind today's medicine are left over from the turn of the century, when science was forcing dogmatic religion to see the evidence of evolution. (The reeruption of this same conflict today shows that the battle against frozen thinking is never finally won.) Advances in cybernetics, ecological and nutritional chemistry, and solid-state physics haven't been integrated into biology. Some fields, such as parapsychology, have been closed out of mainstream scientific inquiry altogether. Even the genetic technology that now commands such breathless admiration is based on principles unchallenged for decades and unconnected to a broader concept of life. Medical research, which has limited itself almost exclusively to drug therapy, might as well have been wearing blinders for the last thirty years.

It's no wonder, then, that medical biology is afflicted with a kind of tunnel vision. We know a great deal about certain processes, such as the genetic code, the function of the nervous system in vision, muscle movement, blood clotting, and respiration on both the somatic and the cellular levels. These complex but superficial processes, however, are only the tools life uses for its survival. Most biochemists and doctors aren't much closer to the "truth" about life than we were three decades ago. As Albert Szent-Györgyi, the discoverer of vitamin C, has written, "We know life only by its symptoms." We understand virtually nothing about such basic life functions as pain, sleep, and the control of cell differentiation, growth, and healing. We know little about the way every organism regulates its metabolic activity in cycles attuned to the fluctuations of earth, moon, and sun. We are ignorant about nearly every aspect of consciousness, which may be broadly defined as the self-interested integrity that lets each living thing marshal its responses to eat, thrive, reproduce, and avoid danger by patterns that range from the tropisms of single cells to instinct, choice, memory, learning, individuality, and creativity in more complex life-forms. The problem of when to "pull the plug" shows that we don't even know for sure how to diagnose death. Mechanistic chemistry isn't adequate to understand these enigmas of life, and it now acts as a barrier to studying them. Erwin Chargaff, the biochemist who discovered base pairing in DNA and thus opened the way for understanding gene structure, phrased our dilemma precisely when he wrote of biology, "No other science deals in its very name with a subject that it cannot define."
~Robert O. Becker, M.D., The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life, p. 19-21.


How to Become a Straight-A Student

Yeah, I read this shit. That's the one nice thing about being on winter break. You can finally catch up on the things you planned on reading before you started grad school. I totally planned on reading this summer before I started but wasn't able to pull my head out of my ass to get it done before I moved.


Technically, I did get straight As in my first semester, which did include two A-minuses. But, I know part of that was sheer luck since my first semester classes are easier than what's going to be coming down the pike. Well, there's that, and the fact that I want to do well learning this grad school shit. I didn't spend years thinking about it to just not engage with this stuff.

And that's what I really like about Cal Newport's stuff. It's so simple, easy, and efficient to understand. He's full of good ideas that I know will work on implementation if I just follow through and do it, which is why I took five pages of notes on all the tips and tricks in this book. I particularly like the work progress journal idea since having an electronic task list just didn't work as well as I thought it would.

It also reminds me that I should start taking a look at his blog on a regular basis again. The first post I came across a few days ago was him writing about The Feynman Notebook Method. I have no idea who Richard Feynman is, but this strategy of having a notebook where you document the things you don't know or understand is brilliant. Like, I could understand things well enough to pass my exams on the day I took them--even better than other people in my class--but I couldn't describe things to level I really want when I think back on it in retrospect. Since we're not allowed to keep our exams, one professor would allow us to keep our exam essays. I was never interested in taking the first two. I thought briefly about taking the one from the final, but then I thought to myself I will never touch that thing if I take it home. But now--after reading about the Feynman thing--I'm thinking that perhaps I should have taken it home and punched it up. I guess I will have to get myself another notebook and deconstruct everything from memory, so I can remember what I've learned and what I still don't know jack shit about.



This is just to say...

>> Wednesday, December 23, 2015

This is Just to Say
I have taken
The Rocky Horror Picture video
that was in
the bag

and which
you were probably
for tonight

Forgive me
it was hilarious
so morbid
and so kinky
Again with the high school shit...

Which should be obvious since I used the word "video" (aka circa 1993)...


Winter solace

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Found this blast from the past when I was sorting through old stuff in my room.

Cold air
~ kills plants
~ makes me sick
~ is everywhere
~ a nuclear bomb
~ the flu
~ God
~ that spring is right around the corner
Yeah, gotta love the shit I wrote in high school creative writing class.


I hadn't thought about it that way before

>> Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why couldn't someone like Marilyn Monroe save herself?
I don't think Marilyn committed suicide. I don't think Marilyn was murdered. I think it was an accident. But she was playing with fire. I don't think she was as acutely aware of it as some of my other self-destructive friends.
~Elizabeth Taylor to Rolling Stone in 1987


Avengers: Age of Ultron

>> Saturday, July 11, 2015

So, I finally went to see this today. It finally made it to the discount theater. I was specifically waiting for it to do that. I didn't even want to fork out regular matinee price for this. I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road a couple of months ago with one of my friends. I paid matinee price for that and didn't regret it. Of course, when it came between choosing to see either Avengers: Age of Ultron or Mad Max, we both chose Mad Max.

When I was on my way driving to the theater, I was thinking to myself that it's almost to the point where Marvel should/could do a "previously on..." segment before every film. It really is to that point. It's becoming so ubiquitous. I haven't seen Iron Man 3, still waiting for it to show up on Netflix. Haven't seen Thor: The Dark World either; although, I almost saw it at the discount theater, but got there kind of late so I just let it go. Still waiting to see it on Netflix. I did see Captain America: The Winter Soldier last year on opening weekend and quite enjoyed it. Same with Guardians of the Galaxy. But I have no desire to see Ant Man at this point.

I felt like I saw this with as much of an open mind as I could have. It's been a month or more since I've seen advertisements for it. And...it's okay. I feel like it's an achievement given how much is stuffed in there that it still has a coherent story. I haven't even seen every Marvel movie, and it just seems like it's sinking under its own morass. There's too many action scenes, and the big one at the end just goes on and on and on and on and on forever. I think I read somewhere that the movie is better when it's just concentrating on its character moments, and I agree with that. There's not enough of them.

And can I just say that RDJ is bringing out the asshole qualities in Tony Stark excellently? Even though it may not be intended, that's what I was thinking. I can still remember 15 years ago when they were considering Tom Cruise as Tony. That popped in my head while watching this. Tony is such an ass without Pepper around.

I did enjoy seeing Wanda and Vision on the screen. Vision looks not completely human, yet completely real. I'm actually looking forward to seeing more of him. Wanda was nice to see, except she's not in it as much as I would like. I didn't mind the Banner & Widow thing as much as I thought I would, but didn't we establish in the last Avengers movie that Bruce had a little bit more control because he's "always angry"? Feel like he regressed for some reason.

But driving on my way home, I was thinking two things: 1) glad I only paid $3 to see this, and 2) I enjoyed Man of Steel more than this. Don't get me wrong, Man of Steel has its problems, but I have no desire to see Age of Ultron again. In fact, I'd rather watch The Dark Knight Rises again, and I'm not big on that movie either. At least when I saw MoS, I thought about seeing it again, but didn't think my ears could bear it after they were ringing for an hour afterwards. Maybe I'll watch it tonight, particularly after having seen the new Batman v Superman trailer today.

This movie is very forgettable.


I'd never thought of it that way before...

>> Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I had never really understood how a nation that so celebrated the individual could obliterate all differences the way this country did. In a system of mass production, the individual workers are replaceable and the products are identical. The identical cars are followed by identical gas stations, identical restaurants, identical motels and, as an extension of these, by identical TV screens, which hang everywhere in this country, broadcasting identical entertainment and identical dreams. Not even the Soviet Union at the height of its power had succeeded in creating such a unified, collective identity as the one Americans lived their lives within. When times got rough, a person could abandon one town in favor of another, and that new town would still represent the same thing.
~Karl Ove Knausgård on the U.S.


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