Last Post…

No worries, it's not in any sort of morbid way, except for the true fans(?) of this blog. My last post was 31 July, more than two months ago. I believe it's the longest hiatus I've taken from posting, but it has been, er, “hectic” during the last couple months of my internship. I've had the occasional thought to post here, or the occasional time and inclination to compose completely random posts; instead, though, like the truly selfish surgeon I've become, I've chosen to use such times for more, umm, personal relationship time and, of course, sleep (usually in that order).

As such, I'll include just a few final thoughts on “time management”, since that seems to be the difficulty. My interest was piqued this morning by another blog article entitled “Dealing with Professional Burnout without Quitting Your Job”. Even if burnout per se isn't my concern, there's almost always the risk for it in my profession, and it's safe to say that my days are quite filled with frustrations. Indeed, almost any of the suggestions in the aforementioned article would make my workday significantly more pleasant—were any of them actually possible.

Unfortunately, I don't have the option to “take a vacation as soon as possible”, “spend a week or two doing only the tasks you enjoy”, or even “prepare your resume to move on”. In fact, I would suppose that most of us—from fry cooks, waiters, and cashiers to physicians—don't have the ability to significantly change the tasks we do during our workday or the times in which we do them. Some may have more choice in moving to another position or career than most resident physicians do, but, like some comments in that article noted, I don't believe it's in any way where I work that causes difficulty in my daily life.

Please understand that my goal here is not to complain without suggestion for relief a la punditry, but rather to note the difficulty with traditional “how to enjoy your job more” suggestions—they're for businessmen, managers, paper pushers, contractors, and so forth. They're not for those of us in service industries where the customer's immediate need—be it ATLS, placement of an external ventricular drain, or the location of the latest DVD releases—must suspend all other activity, where the least favorite part of your job may be the most important part, or where the “dream job” in which your enjoyment really is assured is a dozen years away and requires success in a more nightmarish scenario before you can arrive there.

Thus, my grand suggestions for all those who wish relief to their miserable positions, my epiphanies of the last several weeks which I can only hope will enable me and others to improve our lot as it is, my commandments to which thou must adhere:

  1. Suck it up. Yup, it's tough, but there's some reason you're where you are, and the most likely reason is some choice you made previously. Desperately try to remember what that choice was. If it was a choice you regret now, quit bitching and try to undo it. If it was a choice you don't regret, remember it and keep coming back to it when you feel like bitching. I think many of us fall into the latter category; certainly most residents do. If nothing else, just try to head toward the ever-elusive “something better”… and suck it up in the mean time.
  2. Find someone who will help you suck it up. My significant other is amazing. She cooks, she cleans, she continuously tells me how proud she is of me and that I'll get through it all. She'll also suck it up as necessary, so when I'm doing work I don't want to be doing, I don't also have her telling me she wishes I wasn't doing it. I can't emphasize enough how important such a “someone” must be—and while for me it's a spouse, it could be just about any friend or family member for you.
  3. Don't let anything else get in the way. I'm minimizing. Uncluttering, if you will. Getting Things Done. Oh, there are plenty of projects to do. Crap around the house. A media center PC. Just watching some television. Stuff that's fun, or needs to get done, but is also a distraction from sucking it up and from spending time with your someone. Keep up with stuff that's really important to you, keep doing things that are fun—but get rid of things that have little point. Your future PC won't run Windows? Why spend time optimizing one that does? You're planning to “at some point” put surround-sound speaker outlets directly into the walls? Why tear up carpet for an interim solution?

You don't have time to write on your blog anymore? Don't.

Oh, I'll be archiving everything anyway—I'm really bad at number 3—and I will probably revamp the site to be a non-blog personal page at some point in the future. Still, I'm considering this “last post”. I still enjoy writing, and I thank those of you who have read my rants and prodded me on. See you all around!

1.6% Done!

(Or 1.4% if I do a year of research. Amazing that a year doesn't make more difference.) I've been a surgeon for just over a month; that month has varied between excruciating and not too bad. The program at KUMC is set up for a reasonable amount of time off; I work long hours (typically about 6 AM to 6:30 PM) but only take overnight call twice a month. This “nice” schedule is due partly to my first month being a rotation on the brand-new Breast Surgery service, one that's not yet entirely established as a full team (until next week, when I change to a different service, it's only an intern, a second-year “senior”, and a single attending). If nothing else, it's given me the opportunity to update this blog.

That's something I wasn't sure I'd be doing anymore. I get tired, and these are far from the worst hours I'll have this year, quite possibly the opposite. I'm the first to admit I've felt like giving up more than once, and have been trying to find things in my life to give up other than those few things which are—or should be”most important to me: Lindsey, my home, and my career. I've backed off on most other aspects of life as much as is possible while still keeping my (marginal) sanity, but keep trying to take some time to combine projects from the above three, like doing paperwork in the study with Lindsey, working around the house at the same time she is, and so forth. We're also still getting the opportunity to go out for a meal and a movie once every week or two, a nice little surprise. (The Simpsons Movie is good, by the way, and Hairspray isn't.)

I have to give Lindsey a lot of credit, here. She's taken over a lot of work around the house, stuff I was doing (or which wasn't being done) when we lived in Los Angeles. She's clearly working hard both at home and at her new job at Mercer, but keeps her spirits significantly higher than mine while taking care of me at the same time. I've known for a long time how amazing she is, and still keep being impressed by it. Okay, enough gushing. Apparently it doesn't become the jaded surgeon I'm aspiring to be.

Much to my surprise, I have actually been able to scrub on several cases a week. First assist on a few, and I've even been a “Junior Surgeon” on two cases. (Sure, they were pilonidal abscess excisions, but they were my pilonidal abscess excisions.) This, again, is partly due to working for a single attending, but I'm not begrudging it—I was honestly expecting not to scrub at all this year. I know I won't be able to keep this up on all services, but it's a nice surprise.

The month's been rough—echoing one of my friends from Keck, it's certainly the hardest thing I've ever done. And this is just the beginning. I don't expect to have a truly “hard” rotation until September, but at least that's one I start with a one-week vacation. In the meantime, I'll blog when I can, so keep checking back—just don't expect it terribly often. Thanks for reading.

Off to KC…

…well, actually not off for another forty hours or so. Moving van loaders come tomorrow evening, and we leave Monday morning for Vegas, the first stop on our move to Kansas. I may or may not post during our trip (like the geek I am, I've only reserved hotels at places that advertise free wireless Internet access). In any case, it's moving time for lots of my colleagues and friends (big shouts out to Faze, Dan, and even Pete, who's technically already moved. The website will still be online—I finished moving everything from my own servers to DreamHost a few weeks ago.

If you're trying to reach me, I'll still be checking email a couple of times each day, and our cell phones will remain active until the end of June (the 29th, I expect). “Bon voyage” to anyone else out on the roads next week; personally, I'm just ecstatic to be leaving Los Angeles.

My Wii has come in!

Yep, after a long wait, my Wii has finally arrived this evening. I originally intended it as a birthday gift for Lindsey (she's a fan of the Paper Mario series), but it kept getting delayed. Still, it's finally here, along with several games and accessories (which actually arrived yesterday). We won't actually be connecting it until we get to KC (just easier to truck things over in their original packaging), but when we do, I'll be hooking it up to my other new toy, my final farewell to Fry's, a brand new Sharp LC-37D62U. (Catchy name, huh?) Oh, it's purty. I took it out of the box just to make sure it didn't have any dead pixels, and put it right back. I'll post some pics once everything's hooked up in a couple of weeks.

I Want an Apple TV

Well, kind of. I want what this device could be. There's been speculation since the device was announced (although somewhat less so since it was launched) that it doesn't have the features “everybody wants”, like a DVD player, the ability to buy directly from your TV screen, and the ability to stream pictures from more than one computer. In fact, TUAW, just today, had an article asking Is the Apple TV a Dud?.

It turns out the machine is very hackable, being essentially a lower-end Intel Mac. This makes it tempting all by itself. Further, I get that Apple's not trying to make this an all-encompassing home media center; there's really no need to include a DVR (okay, minimal need) or a DVD player, since all of the content available for such is quickly available online (in legal or semi-legal form) or via ripping your own DVDs (again, legal or semi-legal). I'd be perfectly happy with this little box—indeed, I'd have purchased one long ago—if only for a couple features which still aren't available, and without which I'm extremely unlikely to purchase any such device:

Play just about any format I throw at it
An open source program, VLC will play nearly any file I download on a Mac. It's not without its problems (mainly user-interface-related), but plays VOBs, AVIs, and so forth remarkably well, requiring no degradation of quality just to get a movie into a “supported” iTunes format. Unfortunately, there's still no “plugin” available for Apple TV (or Front Row) to enable video to be played in anything other than a QuickTime-equivalent player; and in fact, due to the iTunes business model, Apple has very little motivation for coming up with such a thing. It would be nice, though, if one of the many hacks for Apple TV changed this (and only this—the Front Row interface itself is excellent).
Show higher-resolution video
This is likely only a processor-power issue, something which can easily be corrected in the next iteration of Apple TV (if there is one). Again, though, this is unlikely to happen without higher-resolution video files, something people have been clamoring for from iTunes. Personally, I'd be happy enough just to play the files I currently have (the aforementioned downloads and DVD rips) in their higher resolution.

Yup, those two. Apple could have my $300 (or even $400 or $500, maybe more) if they added in just those two things. In the meantime, I'll greedily wait for someone else to do it, and somewhat less greedily spend the time I can on making a replacement myself. Don't hold your breath, but I really am working on it.

Bill Gates & Steve Jobs

So I don't post a lot of my computer geekdom thoughts anymore; I especially try not to openly fan the flames of Mac vs. PC. Still, I've got to comment just a bit on this one&hellip

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs appeared together last night at the D conference. I just watched a highlight reel of their appearance (videos of their entire show are available at the same site), and was quite impressed—with Mr. Jobs. Seriously, could Bill Gates have come off as a bigger dork? Sure, they both have their images, but I keep being more impressed with Steve's and less with Bill's. Is it really any wonder that Macs have the “cool” image? Give it a watch, let me know what you think.

Fake Steve Jobs Blowing My Mind…

I've been a fan of Fake Steve Jobs (partly because I'm a fan of Real Steve Jobs) for some time, but I never expected to see a post like his recent one suggesting more drug use. Gist is that kids today are corporate automatons essentially because they learned to “just say no” to drugs (oh, and sex, too).

In fact, the only problem I have with his entire argument is that I don't know a lot of just-say-no-ers. One may argue it's due to a large portion of my extended education being in southern California (or the portion that wasn't in California being in graduate mathematics), but I've met few enough people that chose to say no to the occasional joint or the occasional relationship-free romp. Sure, harder stuff (in both those senses) was rarely partaken, but “drug-free” was never one of the more appropriate descriptions of my chosen crew.

And yes, that applies to those I hung out with in medical school, as well; and no, not just the anesthesiologists. My drugs of choice may be legal (and advertised, and encouraged socially), but plenty of my colleagues (and friends) made different choices, and I'm not entirely certain that mine was the “better” one overall. I may have been in a committed relationship the entire time, but that again didn't keep several of my colleagues (and friends) from enjoying each others' company without worry of awkwardness when back in the hospital. No, we're not talking Grey's Anatomy here, but it's not a 50's hospital drama, either.

What's my point? Well, mainly just to link to the always fascinating FSJ. Beyond that, maybe I just felt like ranting a bit about the cloistered life too many live nowadays. Oh, I'm still looking forward to the move to Kansas City and the possibility of being cloistered there—but it's a self-cloistering, a cloistering by choice, rather than being convinced by someone else that I need to avoid “the evils” of the world. Mostly, it's just the thrill of getting away from the craphole that is Los Angeles.

That's Right, I'm a Surgeon

Well, I haven't taken boards or anything yet, but it's true—I'm now a doctor. I graduated yesterday, and have about six weeks until I begin treating patients with the least supervision ever.

Many have said it before, but I think it bears repeating: as a general rule, pray you don't ever get sick in July.

Free at last!

Well, not free so much as freer. (Freeer? Free-er? You get the idea.) iTunes will soon be host to a large collection of DRM-free tracks from EMI. EMI's press release (just like Apple's press release) notes that the quality is also higher, at 256 kbps. Pretty cool.

I was happy when Steve Jobs called for DRM-free music back in February, but to be honest I just thought it was a marketing ploy that would never come to fruition. Considering the higher quality, with full albums still available at the same price (individual tracks are thirty cents more), I might just have to start getting all my EMI music from iTunes. Wow, what a sellout I'm becoming.

Speakeasy & Best Buy

So, in a way, this makes the move easier. Best Buy has purchased Speakeasy. Far and away, my favorite ISP, which has unerringly offered excellent customer service and the right to run my own servers and such, has taken a nice “hands-off” approach to copyright, and seems to have always been a friend of the techie, is now a subsidiary of The Man, the bastion of consumerism which I can't imagine being so kind.

I was trying to decide whether or not to stick with Speakeasy; DSL is now significantly slower than cable or fiber, and the service is still quite a bit more expensive than that from the local phone company. Still, though, it was worth it (especially since I don't have cable and fiber isn't available in my neighborhood). With the move, though, I was rethinking this; with Speakeasy (as I know and love it, at least) being out of the picture, this should simplify the situation a bit.