Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WAKE UP! Your class starts at 8!

Today I awoke with that throat-gripping fear experienced by every student who has ever thought that he slept through class. The thing is, I hadn't. Not even close. Today I have Biochemistry I at 9:30am, which I told Nicole last night before we went to bed. I also told her that I was going to set my alarm for 7:00am.

I had the hardest time falling asleep, and didn't quite manage it until around 2:00am. So, after Nicole got up at 6:15am to go for a run and my alarm went off at 7:00am while she was still out, I decided to reset it for 8:00am to get my six hours. Just before she had left, she gently woke me up to tell me that she wouldn't be back by the time I left for class. That should have been my first clue, but I was only halfway there. Otherwise, I would have thought, "How long are you running that you won't be back in three hours??" Unfortunately, I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

Apparently, when she came back from her run at 7:47am and saw me sleeping there, she instantly remembered only that I had set my alarm for 7:00am, and therefore must have been planning to go to class at 8:00am. So, as a good wife would do, she screeched out in a voice that just about gave me a heart attack, "Justin WAKE UP! Your class starts at 8!"

I sat up in bed, eyes and hair wild, before she even finished saying my name. The adrenaline kicked in, helping my thoughts fly. As the cobwebs cleared, I slowly replied, "No, it doesn't. It starts at 9:30am... I told you last night, didn't I?"

We figured it out after I went back to sleep for fifteen minutes and had a laugh, but man, that was a freaky way to start off the semester...

In med school news, I've completed, paid for and submitted every secondary application except for Wayne State's and the University of Indiana's. They are still reviewing my primary application, deciding if they want to request a secondary.

And now, the waiting game begins.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Naiya Likes Peas

I discovered that my dog Naiya, a chocolate Labradinger Retreiver, loves peas. Regular, frozen peas.

Here she is, checking out the bag.

I let her sniff one.

Just a regular, frozen pea, yet it captures her attention completely.

They're perfect for balancing on the nose.
Stay... Staaaay...

OK! And yes, she caught it.

Regular frozen peas. Awesome.

If you didn't notice, I took a break this morning.
All right, time to shower and shave...

Secondary App Update

I've now completed secondary applications for an additional three med schools, bringing the total up to nine out of fifteen schools. The newest three were Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.

That leaves Rush, Northwestern, and Loyola left to do of the schools from which I have received requests for secondary applications. No word yet from Indiana University, Wayne State or the University of Toledo.

In other news - hooray! My electric bike battery shipped today! No tracking number yet, but I'm hoping it will be here by next week sometime, ideally before class starts...

Now it's time for some sleep. It's been a long, long day, as evidenced by the fact that I keep trying to slide my finger over my laptop screen to make the page scroll as I would on my iPad...


Holy cow, after typing that, I actually pushed on the "Publish Post" button on the screen with my pointer finger without even thinking about it. TIME TO SLEEP!

*CLICKS on "Publish Post" button*

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Secondaries: Six Down, Nine to Go

I have successfully completed (and paid for! OH YEAH!) secondary applications to the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ohio State University College of Medicine, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Technically, I haven't paid for that last one because their website isn't working properly, but all the rest are firmly under my belt.

I'm not over the bridge yet, that's for sure. While Indiana University does not have a secondary application, Wayne State and the University of Toledo review applicants' AMCAS applications before deciding if they want to request a secondary application or not. That can take 4-8 weeks, so I'll be waiting on those for a little while longer at least.

That leaves me with my applications to the University of Illinois at Chicago, Rush Medical College, Northwestern University Feinberg SoM, Michigan State CHM, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine to worry about for the rest of this week.

Writing the secondary application essay definitely gets easier as you go along. For one thing, you can use parts of some essays to answer other schools' prompts. Oftentimes it just requires a bit of rewriting to make things mesh. For another, you just get more comfortable as you go along. The words just kind of flow a bit more as you lose your fear of writing these monumentous 250-chunks of text. It's just writing, right? Right... Writing that can change the whole course of your life if you miss a typo that irks the reviewer enough to make him toss you to the "discard" pile...

Anyway, I am feeling pretty good at this point! Hopefully I'll finish what I have left by either Thursday or Friday. That'll be a push, but it's what I'll have to do to get all of the secondaries in by their two week mark, given those five luxurious days spent in the Porcupine Mountains. Don't worry, I won't forget to finish editing my pictures and put them up here. Just as soon as I have some time.

In other news: my bike battery should be getting shipped out tomorrow!!! I spoke with my good buddy John (he always answers when I call) at Amped Bikes and they should hopefully be able to send me one of the ten Tube Batteries that they got in early for testing ahead of the batch that will be arriving in September. Originally, I ordered my battery on June 18th. I got it around the middle of July, but it was faulty and had to be sent back after riding about 2 miles on it. As of yesterday, I was expecting to have to wait until September to get a battery, but now I'm looking at getting one in less than a week! That would be extra awesome, as it would allow me to FINALLY write my post on my electric bike. Funny how that was originally intended to be a summer project, yet now it's almost fall and classes start next Tuesday.

Holy cow, classes start in one week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Loft

We moved about two weeks ago, and this post has been composed in quick five-minute chunks over this past week. I think I'll also include some time lapses of us unpacking some stuff, possibly in the form of a video. Click below to load the pics and stuff.

As a quick update, I am submitting secondary applications in the order that I received the requests. I have submitted secondaries to the Pritzker, OUWB and UofM so far...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

We Have Internet... Sort of.

So, last night after I got home from work, a slight shock miniature bolt of lightning struck my brain.

Why not ask one of the neighbors if we can pay ten bucks and use their internet connection for the next week or two until AT&T installs our connection??

I was dumbfounded that I hadn't thought of this before. Here I've been, stressing about not being able to work on my secondary applications because I don't have an internet connection, and a simple solution, however temporary, was waiting there the whole time.

Within five minutes of knocking on my neighbor Ben's door and offering him ten bucks, we were online. He also offered the possibility of just splitting internet costs with him. Since he pays $60 per month (YIKES.) for internet, that would be $30 per month for us. I'm leaning toward just going with AT&T, since our plan would be $30 per month there as well, and I wouldn't have to connect to a different Wifi network to access all the wirelessly-stored goodies on our external hard drives...

Anyway, crisis averted. This morning Nicole and I used the new connection to purchase our textbooks online, both e-textbook and regular paper formats from Amazon. All of my textbooks will be electronically rented and viewable on my iPad. I believe two of Nicole's were available on the iPad, and everything else will have to be old-school format for her. We decided to go through two suppliers - CourseSmart and Kno. We wanted to go through Inkling, but the just didn't have any of our books available yet... Regardless, between the two of us we've saved about $320 in wallet space and more than 50 lbs in backpack weight for this semester, so we're doing pretty well.

Other than that, I finished one of my essays for Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine this morning. Now it's on to proofing and possibly another essay before work this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Not a happy camper.

After a week of waiting, a trip to Grand Rapids to pick up the incorrectly-addressed (and horribly overpriced at $75) AT&T modem, 350+ minutes spent on hold, 90+ minutes spent talking to customer support, 20+ calls to tech/customer support, 2.5 hours spent trouble shooting and staring at blinking red lights, and a cancelled technician appointment, AT&T tells me they never had my address in their system and that they accidentally activated service in my name for my building's main office address instead of for my apartment. It will be approximately a week before they can get my address entered in their system and get the internet activated at my address - a week in which I need to submit at least 9 medical school secondary applications online. I am not a happy camper.

If you need me, I'll be either at work or the library, apparently.


Can't Catch a Break

Today has just been one thing after another. You're about to read a post about epic frustration, particularly of the sort that originates with gigantic corporations that maintain abysmally low standards of accountability.

Before we left for the backpacking trip, we moved. Before I get ahead of myself, I apologize - I still haven't put up pics of the new place or nice ones of the backpacking trip because right now my only Internet access is via my iPad, which makes it kind of hard to upload the pictures since my data plan is limited.

After we moved, I cancelled our DSL at the old place and arranged to have a new modem shipped to the new place for the AT&T Uverse Internet that we would be getting here. The plan was to have the new router arrive while we were gone and get left at the door, and to have the new service be activated today so I could start working on med school secondaries in earnest. The router wasn't here when we got back last night, so I called ATT to see what was up.

After 35 minutes on hold, I spoke with a human who told me that they had accidentally neglected to include the apartment number on the router shipment. Ironically, they had remembered it on the "estimated bill statement" that they sent me which estimated my bill at $185.11 instead of the $75.00 that I was supposed to owe. The customer care rep assure me that I could ignore that paper; it is automatically generated and has no bearing on reality because it doesn't reflect your promotional rates and discounts. When I asked her why they send it if that is the case, she answered, "Oh, I don't know, that is just the way we have been doing it for ten years."


Back to the router thing. They said that the router was being held at the UPS distribution facility in Grand Rapids, about a 45 minute drive for me one-way. They told me that I would have to call and update the address information with UPS because they couldn't do it. Armed with my tracking number, I called UPS and was promptly told that the shipper would have to update the address, or I could drive there and pick it up. After arguing my way to a supervisor, I was told that actually, they could have a person from the distribution facility call me within one hour to update the shipping information. Great! I thought, that will work out well and no driving to GR for me.

Wrong. The hour came and went with no call. When I called UPS again, they had no record of ever having spoken to me, and no request had gone through to have anyone contact me to update any shipping information. They. Also said it was impossible for anyone at a distribution facility to make an outgoing call like that. Rather than argue more, I just drove to Grand Rapids and picked it up.

After running some other errands (including shipping out our defective 4-month-old Dyson vacuum cleaner, which I won't get into right now other than to say that it began seeping acrid smoke for no reason), I got back" went grocery shopping with Nicole, at dinner and hooked up the new modem. What do you think - did it work?

That would be a big fat NO. After forty minutes of staring at a blinking red connection light, I called ATT and waited on hold for forty minutes before talking to anyone. They then had me try to install it in multiple rooms before telling me that my issue occurs with approximately one out of every hundred people, it is a known issue, and that the only way to fix it is to have a technician come out, plug in another modem, then plug my modem back in. The earliest that they can get another technician here is between noon and 4pm tomorrow. When I work at 1pm. They told me that there is a 90% chance that the technician will call before he or she arrives, but that they don't always call, so I may just not hear from them, and if I happen to already be at work, I am out of luck. So, here's hoping that they will come during the first hour of my window, which they never do.

That was my ending point at around 11:30pm. To vent some of my frustration, I just wanted to build something that works. Part of my errands earlier today included buying some pulleys and hardware to make a retractible clothesline for Nicole so that she could hang laundry in the loft, then raise it up near the ceiling out of the way to dry. I had everyone measured out and ready to go, found the studs in my ceiling with the stud finder, and got to drilling only to find that all those studs that I had found were metal girders, not wooden two by fours, even though they were the right size and spacing.

So that is it. Today was one huge flop from beginning to end, and I have yet to get going on my secondaries, fourteen fifteenths for which I still have yet to read the essay prompts. I'll be getting up nice and early to take my laptop in to the library for some free Internet access to get cracking on these things. Thanks for reading all the way if you got here without cheating. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Backpacking Recap Preview

I'm in the back of my friend Josh's SUV right now; we have been on the road for about 10.5 hours now - hours which have been characterized by nine episodes (and counting) of House M.D., sharing childhood anecdotes and stopping by the side of the road to put out potential forest fires then waiting for the fire trucks to take our statement. All of my joints are extremely stiff in the way that only days of extreme physical exercise followed by a 10.5+ period of almost complete motionlessness can accomplish. Granted, I am not in as bad of shape as Nicole, who sprained her wrist (or at least severely strained the tendons) on the last leg of the trail today. Regardless, we can't wait to get back home, take a shower and SLEEP.

I was planning on doing a really detailed post about the trip tomorrow once I got all the photos sorted, tagged and edited, but that may have to wait until I've at least gotten something of a jump on the 14 secondary applications for which I received requests while out on the trail... I'll try to have something up in the next couple of days, even if it is just a random smattering of my favorite shots and time lapses.

Until then, you'll have to be satisfied with some unedited preview shots that I managed to load onto my iPad:

Above: part of a time lapse of us putting our tent together. I'll have the full thing in the days to come.

Above: our tent at night. I love these long exposure night shots.

Above: one of the many awesome waterfalls we got to see while on the trail. I've got a lot of great shots, probably enough for a dedicated to just waterfalls... We'll see.

Above: a good shot showing the steepness of some of the trails.

Above: another good one showing just some of the steepness.

Above: the sunset over Lake Superior from our camp on top of a bluff last night. I'll leave your with that as a preview, though it was more than I intended, as my eyes are gritty and my screen is blurring and dancing before my eyes as I write. Goodnight!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Weird Pepsi and the Mackinaw Bridge

This is the strangest set of Pepsi vending machines that I have ever seen. We stopped at the LP side of the Mackinaw bridge to take some pictures, and this was there:

Here's the group (well, the part in our car, anyway) in front of the Lake:

There's no telling how long I will have this speedy 3G connection. Here is my view right now as we drive over the bridge though:

Amazing... I never get tired of driving over this bridge.

11-hour Drive and Secondary Apps Update

And we're off! I'm currently crammed into the very back of Josh's pathfinder. It's very cozy, that's for sure, and definitely one situation where height is not an asset:

Secondary application update: I have now received secondary application requests for five more schools: the College of Medicine at Ohio State University (OSU), the University of Michigan Medical School (UofM), Pitt School of Medicine (Pitt), Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB), and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UW SMPH). Too bad I'm off on a backpacking trip and can't get started on any of them! Oh well - it gives me something to look forward to getting done when I get back!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2012 Entering Class AMCAS Application Verified

So this is cool... My AMCAS application got verified today! I just got the email notifying me in my inbox, printed off a copy and meticulously reviewed AMCAS' GPA calculations and course corrections. Everything looked spot-on, which is a relief. That means that I don't have to fill out any correction forms or request that updated or corrected transcripts be sent to AMCAS from any of my schools. I don't have to write any detailed letters explaining how/why I made mistakes, or ask the registrar's office to write any to explain any errors on their part.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that the golden trifecta (AMCAS App (including my personal statement, biographical information, and experience descriptions), Letters of Recommendation, and Transcripts) are all on their way to completing tidy little files with my name on them at each of the fifteen schools to which I applied.

Now I can go on this backpacking trip tomorrow resting comfortably in the fact that things are going smoothly and hiccup-free. Waiting this long for anything is hard, but worry-free waiting is just so much better than any other kind...


Instead of trying to split this into multiple posts, I've decided to just stick a bunch of stuff that I want to share into one very varied post. I've decided that this will be named as a combination of Blog and Vomit, making Blogmit. Every time I feel like I've just got too much going on, I will Blogmit.

Here's my backpacking backpack. It was originally a cheap Jansport external frame that I souped up to have a stand. That's right - $15 extra and I've got an easily packable stand-alone pack!

Our new place (which I can't really show you very good photos of yet because they're on my laptop, which doesn't have an internet connection yet (this post was done on my iPad and posted via its data connection)) does not have a vented dryer hook-up. This was surprising, given that it has a 4-prong dryer cord (which I had to rewire our dryer to be able to use), washer hookups and a washer drain. When I asked the maintenance guy what we should do, he suggested that I buy a new dryer that would condense the water vapor back into liquid, then drain it down the washer drain. HA! No way. We bought a $13 ventless filter attachment thing, as seen above. You fill the bucket with water and it catches the lint. Yeah, it puts out a lot of hot, moist air, but that will be welcome in the winter, and until then it's still cheaper to run the AC a little more than to pay $1.75 for each load in the dryer down the hall...

Speaking of air conditioning: ours isn't working. Yesterday the AC was working but the fan wouldn't shut off. The handyman spent six hours trying to replace the circuit board and finally got it so the fan would cut off when the room reached the target temperature. He thought he was good. When I got up this morning, the temperature was 80 degrees inside. After three hours of the above ventilation system, the photo below was taken.

In other news, I've been riding my bike (still no battery yet... probably going to be another two weeks before I get a replacement to the one that I ordered on June 18 and received on July 8, then sent back again on July 12) to work each day. It's much easier now that we only live about 1.5 miles away, though I'm still sweating up a storm by the time I get there each day. It only takes me about 7 minutes, and will only take me about 3 once I get that battery... Again, I'll do a full write-up on my bike (with video, I promise!) once it's all put together.

On the med school front, my application is still in line to be reviewed and distributed to medical schools. It's taking a little longer than I thought, but I'm hoping that when we get back next week it will have been verified and I'll be able to get started on writing the bulk of my secondary essays.

Lastly, I will be taking pictures all along our backpacking trip with the Nikon. I plan on writing a post for each day of the hike, but we'll just have to see... For those of you that made it this far, we'll be hiking in the Porcupine Mountains of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with the highlight of the trip being the Lake of the Clouds. I've never been up that way before, but I expect it will be incredible. Wish us luck, as I heard that the bears have been uncharacteristically active and bold this year...!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Crazy Week...s. Moving this weekend!

It's been a while since I've written anything. There's a good reason for that.

My life has been crazy.

Tuesday it was confirmed that the house we're renting from our church is going to be needed for the new youth pastor they are hoping to hire and have move in over the next four weeks. We were fairly prepared for this, since we met with our pastor a little over a month ago and were told it was a real possibility. After recent correspondence, I figured that the probability of us needing to move would be about 95%. This wouldn't be a huge issue, except that my classes (and therefore my 14-hour-everyday days) start in 27 days. There's no way that I could plan for and execute a move after classes start anyway, so we'd need to be out soon. Oh, and we're going on a 5-day hike to and around the Lake of the Clouds in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in about a week.

Needless to say, recent times have been a bit frantic. During the past week, I started and finished a pell-mell search for a new place to live, primarily focusing on a place that would reduce our stressful school year as much as possible in terms of location, quality and minimization of heating- and parking-related headaches. Using a combination of Craigslist and driving around town to find For Rent signs, my wife and I viewed seven residences in 3.5 days. Tuesday, we met with our pastor and found out that we would definitely need to move, and the sooner the better for both us and them. About two hours of painful deliberation later, I signed a one-year lease, coughing up way more money than was comfortable for the security deposit and the first month's rent. We had been undecided between renting out the main floor and basement of a house that was further from downtown, campus and work but was across the street from a huge park and had a view of the lake, and a loft right in the middle of downtown that was a five-minutes' walk from campus and 1.5 miles from my office. In the end, we decided on the loft because of convenience and simplicity. It also had the benefit of forcing us to purge all of our extraneous possessions, such as old notebooks from college, kitchenware we don't use (who needs a salad spinner when they never eat salads?), and nine-year-old t-shirts with holes in the armpits.

I got the keys to the new place yesterday so we could take measurements, start planning a bit where we'll put things and just basically get our heads a little bit straighter. We can't start moving until Friday, and I've already got a 17' U-Haul reserved for Saturday!

In medical school-related news, one cool bit came through today. My committee letter (along with all of my letters of recommendation) arrived at AMCAS yesterday! This is good because it means that all of my letters are ready to go out to medical schools as soon as my application gets reviewed and approved for distribution. I submitted it on the 5th of July, and it usually takes around 4-6 weeks to get verified by AMCAS, after which it will be off to the races!

This coming semester is going to be an absolute blur. I will be taking Biochemistry I (Monday Wednesday Friday (MWF) 1-hour lectures), Analytical Chemistry (MWF 1-hour lectures) and Analytical Chemistry Lab (Thursdays for 3 hours). That will be in my mornings, and I hope to be able to shadow physicians and/or find a volunteer opportunity for my Tuesday mornings, though those may end up being focused on "marriage insurance," aka quality time with Nicole. I'll be working from 1pm-9:30pm every day, then coming home to try to do homework and write secondary essays for any of the 15 schools that request them, which is likely to be all since each one has an associated $65-$110 fee they like to collect.

That all being said, I'm looking forward to the challenge. It may get more difficult toward the end of the semester when I will start the interview process. Things will probably get fairly hairy when I start having to miss class and take vacation days at work for the interviews that are far out of town, but we've saved up for this, and it should go all right. I know I've got an incredibly wife who will be able to hold down the fort when I'm out of town, even though she'll be working part-time and starting her first semester as a full-time nursing student.

Hopefully, this will be the craziest our schedules will ever be.

I could probably write twenty more pages with everything I have buzzing around in my head, but that just means that I should get on here and write more often! Finding the time and motivation - that's the key.

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