Thursday, December 29, 2011

Unleashing the crazy.

Sorry for the long gap between posts, but my mind was recently taken over by schizophrenic monkeys with laser prods that they used to keep me in a constant state of manic anxiety. The week leading up to finals and finals week itself was a hellish nightmare for me. I don't understand why it is only during finals and not any other time of the semester that I become a useless mass of nerves, nausea, insomnia and anorexia. I am actually going to be seeking mental health counseling when I get back to the island and maybe some prescription meds to combat my excessive anxiety.

But the good news is that I passed everything. Actually I only got one C+ and the rest were A's and B's. That hasn't stopped my monkey-laser-prodded brain from giving me nightmares all last week about additional exams that I had yet to take in Pharmacology and Virology. I would wake up and practically shout at myself, "You passed! Calm down already!"

Anyway, yes. Seeking professional help and anti-crazy medication as soon as possible.  And my break has been going well. I'm not over-scheduling myself like last break and am taking time to relax. I love the days where it's just me and my husband curled up on the sofa, watching Netflix and eating take out food.

I've got an idea for a pretty long post on common canine behavior myths that I'll probably get up sometime over break. I haven't done a good, detailed skeptical post in awhile and feel the need to be productive. So be on the look out for that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Island Thanksgiving!

I think it's really funny whenever my friends or family back home say things like, "Oh, you poor thing! You don't get to celebrate American holidays down there!"

If they only knew...

Because we're so far from home, Ross students actually tend to overdo the American holidays. We have 3 or more potlucks for every holiday with everyone making some favorite traditional dish from back home. We do it up big time, people! This past Sunday my nearest and dearest down here threw together our own potluck. Everything that makes a traditional Turkey Day dinner was present and accounted for: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin bread... It was awesome. And I got to spend it with people who have come to mean a great deal to me in a very short time.

From left to right: Vanessa, Justin, Sako, Mia and Tricia. Not pictured: Laura, Jessica and Angie, who showed up a little later.

Tricia's mom sent us a care package of Thanksgiving-themed plates, napkins and tablecloths to set the mood.

Angie also made this delicious, traditional Puerto Rican Thanksgiving dessert called tembleque, a coconut custard with cinnamon and cloves. It was amazing!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


A classmate of mine posted a Facebook status about how you would go about handling a situation where a friend has asked for advice regarding their dog showing aggression toward their four-year-old. In this situation while I can offer advice from my experience and the literature that I've read on canine aggression, there is a child involved and I am not a behaviorist. Ultimately anything I say can have real consequences for that child. So I told my friend that I would refer her friend to a behavior expert. A few people offered the same advice. Then another girl chimed in (we'll call her M) with the following gem: "put him in his place - dominant dogs are dangerous!"
I just... *facepalm* So much wrong with that statement. Let's ignore for a moment that she automatically assumes that a dog displaying aggression is dominant - which absolutely is not always or even usually the case. Aggression has many causes, a very common one being fear or insecurity. Anyway! Moving along...

Usually when people use the phrase "put him in his place" they are referring to using dominance or positive punishment-based methods, otherwise known as being your dog's "alpha." I've written about this topic before, and why you shouldn't get your dog training advice from Cesar Millan. But in this case, she is explicitly recommending that the owner use these methods to deal with a dog that is aggressive toward a small child. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I see someone making a badly wrong statement in general, let alone when the safety of a child is involved. Of course I said something.
  • Julie Lada: @M - Depending on what you mean by that - usually people who talk about putting a dog in their "place" mean to be dominant/alpha over the dog - you could very well make a bad situation much worse and get that child bitten.
  • M:  ‎@ Julie - Not addressing the issue in fear of a bad outcome is worse than trying with the chance of failure - In which case it would probably happen anyway. There is no point in keeping a dangerous dog - there are too many good dogs that need homes!

    I pointed out several more times that numerous studies have shown that the use of positive punishment in aggression cases results in higher states of arousal and more frequent incidences of aggressive behavior as well as escalating levels of aggression. And that positive punishment is known to result in the cessation of all behavior wherein the dog has not formed an association between an action and an adversive stimulus and therefore has no idea what is causing you to yell at and/or hurt them and stops doing anything for fear of inciting the adversive stimulus. This often gives the appearance of having "cured" the aggression, when really the underlying cause of the aggression (be it fear, medical, etc.) is still left untreated.

    She clung to her guns. Used "in my experience, dominance works" as an argument. Nitpicked the linked study (after I reminded her to read it three times) with some valid criticism and some outlandish and clearly biased such as implying that referring veterinarians had not assessed the dogs for a medical cause of aggression before referring them to a behavior specialist as well as attempting to chastise the study for not assessing data that it was specifically never designed to address (receiving professional training vs. at home use of methods learned through social media). It got ugly, I got more aggressive and eventually we stalemated. She's clearly not interested in having her worldview of dominance and aggression shaken up.

    But what killed me was this line...
    • M: Just because I am not up do date on the latest research regarding dog aggression does not make my knowledge inadequate to help a friend.
      THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THAT MEANS! If you don't know what the current consensus in the field is, you shouldn't be speaking on that topic! You shouldn't be giving advice to anyone based on something you are not up on the current data about, especially when it involves the safety of a child!

      I feel like her statement is in line with a lot of my colleagues. "I don't have to know what I'm talking about, because I have a right to share my opinion." A right to do so? Yes. Is it ethical to do so? Not a chance.

      Sunday, November 13, 2011

      Gettin' my nerd on.

      Not much going on. Cookie has been adopted by one of my close friends but she won't be able to take her home until January, so she's staying with me for another two months until my friend moves into her new, pet-friendly apartment. I can't believe the progress that Cookie has made while she's been with me. In just a couple of months she went from being completely unapproachable to now being a huge snugglebug and lap cat. She also has the loudest purr ever.

      I got to practice my blood vessel ligating skills! We have a clinical skills class each semester where we learn aspects of surgical technique so that once we get to small and large animal surgery, we'll already know how to tie sutures and handle instruments in a sterile manner with correct hand positions. This semester we're learning knot tying and had to learn three knots; square throws, Miller's and surgeon's knots. Then we had to practice tying off a severed blood vessel on a model of rubber tubing attached to a syringe full of red dye. We had to use needle holders to tie a Miller's and then three square throws to completely occlude the vessel and then try to squeeze dye through it. If we could, it would be a bleeder in a live animal and we'd have to go back and resuture. It was a really fun learning experience and I learned that I am a suture-tying natural!

      One cool thing did happen last week. In my pathology class we were going through metabolic diseases of bone with nutritional causes such as too little calcium and vitamin D or too much phosphorus. My professor asked who in the class had ever owned an iguana and only two of us raised our hands. He called on me and had me briefly explain about calcium supplementation powders. Later, after class, I showed him a photo of my foster iguana, Katelyn, who came to me with a moderate case of metabolic bone disease brought on from being allowed to free-roam her apartment and therefore not getting enough UVB.

      Brief explanation:

      • Vegetarian reptiles don't get a lot of vitamin D in their diet. They also don't get a lot of fat in their diet, so what little vitamin D they do ingest doesn't get absorbed very efficiently (since vitamin D is fat soluble and is absorbed in the small intestine in a fat globule called a mixed micelle). So the manufacture of vitamin D from UVB in the skin is very, very important in iguanas. When they don't get enough UVB they wind up vitamin D deficient. The activated form of vitamin D, calcitriol, is necessary for adequate calcium absorption from the small intestine. No UVB --> too little vitamin D --> too little calcium being absorbed from food --> the body starts pulling calcium out of bones, leading to softening and deformity of bone.
      Anyway, he basically said, "That's really cool! Wanna talk about it tomorrow at the start of class?"

      And I did, and it went really well! I've had a few opportunities where I've been able to talk to my peers about a topic that I'm really passionate about. In undergrad I got to give a guest lecture in my Companion Animal Management class on exotic animal care and husbandry where I brought in a bunch of animals from the rescue that I volunteer for. It was super awesome. I actually really enjoy teaching.

      Sunday, October 30, 2011


      Last night was the glow in the dark Halloween party at Buddies beach hut. I was originally going to wear my overbust corset and a skirt along with my snap-in custom fit Scarecrow fangs, but didn't like it once I got it on and decided I'd faint in five seconds in a corset down here any way. So I rummaged through my closet and found a plaid skirt, fishnets and knee-high boots. I went as a "vampire naughty Catholic schoolgirl" until everyone kept asking me if I was Jessica from True Blood. I figured, hey, I'm a blue-eyed redhead wearing skanky goth clothes... I guess it fits!

      I also did my friend Vanessa's vampire bite. Unfortunately I didn't have any liquid latex so I had to use crazy glue and it peeled off in minutes in this heat and humidity. But it looked really awesome while it lasted.

      Me with my fangs.
      Nessa's bite.

      Saturday, October 29, 2011


      Just in case any Rossies reading this blog have stumbled across this post feel free to completely disregard it. My comments are still under moderation and may or may not show up, but they're under "Julie." Numerous other students have spoken up and the Lindsay Moffatt comment is from Dr. Moffatt, one of our anatomy professors.

      Note, I am not saying to ignore any critical opinions of Ross. There are legitimate criticisms to be made about for-profit universities, St. Kitts, etc. But the post linked above is based on absolutely, flat-out wrong information and is nothing more than a bitter rant engaging in scare tactics to try and smear the school.

      Friday, October 28, 2011

      Bits and bobs.

      The grades for all of our midterms are in. My breakdown is:

      Bacteriology - A+
      Pharmacology - B
      Virology - B
      Pathology - A

      So I'm pretty well set for finals! I think the highest grade I need on any of my finals is a 62, so I can relax. It doesn't mean I'll slack off, but I definitely won't have to stress myself out over them.

      Don left yesterday. It makes me a sad panda. We had a lot of fun while he was here, even with me freaking out over my Path midterm. We went diving, which was fantastic and gorgeous and fun. Lots of beach time and eating fresh seafood. And I'd forgotten how much easier I sleep with him next to me. Waking up this morning and going through my routine alone again for the first time in nearly two weeks was tough. But I'll see him again in 7 weeks!

      Wednesday, October 19, 2011

      3 down.

      I've taken three of my four midterms now. I got 100% on BacT, and 82% on both Pharm and Viro. Not too shabby, although I feel I could have done a lot better on Viro if I'd had another day to study. I had a week for BacT and three days for Pharm compared to 24 hours between my Pharm and Viro exams. I've got one midterm left in Pathology, but I've got an entire week to study for it. Still, I'm in a good place for finals. Our midterms make up approximately forty percent of our final grade so doing well on them is really important. Now I'm in a spot where I can fail three of my finals and still pass the class, so that's a huge weight off of my shoulders compared to last semester.

      I dunno if you guys could tell, but I was NOT OKAY during and immediately after finals last semester. As in didn't eat or sleep for 3-4 days, pulling all nighters every night, stressed out of my mind and crying all the time. I'm trying very hard from now on to set myself up early in the semester so that I never have to go through that again.

      Don is here. We went snorkeling today. It's very good to have him here, but I can't let him distract me from studying at least a little bit every day for Path.

      Friday, October 14, 2011

      First midterm = slaughtered!

      Today was third semester's first midterm in Bacteriology. I spent about a week reviewing the Powerpoints and then yesterday went back over them and took handwritten notes on the really important bits . We got our grades back within 3 hours (because Dr. Wang is wonderful) and I got a 100%! Yeah, I'd say this semester is already going much better than last semester. Although, my Pharmacology midterm is on Monday and I'm scared to death of it.

      But for BacT this means that I could completely skip the lab final and get a 64% on the lecture final and still pass the class. Not that I plan on doing any of that, but it's comforting to know that if I do really poorly on one of my other upcoming exams (*cough* Pharm! *cough*) and have to sacrifice study time during finals for one class in order to make up those points, I can safely do so.

      Wednesday, October 12, 2011

      Hi, new Rossies!

      A reader in the incoming January class of 2012 informed me that someone linked to my blog on your Facebook page. Things are kind of insane right now with midterms starting this Friday, but if you have any questions please feel free to email me or friend me on Facebook and I'll get to them as soon as I have a moment.

      If you're looking to get an idea of what your orientation experience will be like, definitely hit the archives and check out some of the earlier entries in January 2011.

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      More homeopathic nonsense.

      Okay, so this has absolutely nothing to do with veterinary medicine.

      The other day I saw an ad pop up on Facebook for a homeopathic birth control pill. I snickered, felt a smidge of concern for the women who would fall for it and wind up pregnant and moved on. Then a few days later a friend of mine giggled during class and angled her laptop so that I could see it. The following image was displayed:

      I laughed thinking, "Hooray, someone else gets how ridiculous the concept of homeopathy is!" But no. The image is making fun of the "real human fetus" aspect.

      I've blogged about homeopathy before but just as a brief recap, here is what homeopathy is:

      - Step 1: Take an ingredient that causes the symptoms you want to treat.
      - Step 2: Dilute the fuck out of it.
      - Step 3: Cured!

      So as ridiculous as it sounds, within the context of how homeopathy is proposed to work, preventing a fetus by taking a pill made out of a fetus actually makes sense. The fact that it flies in the face of objective reality, however, is the problem.

      People, the lulz here isn't that you're supposed to take a pill made out of dead babies. Okay... Yeah, maybe it is, a little bit. But the real lulz/headdesk point here is that people are going to take a homeopathic birth control pill. I could achieve the same effect by only taking the week four sugar pills in my own oral contraceptive pack. Seriously, the shit doesn't work. As evidenced even by the very claims on the package.

      - "Up to 100% effective." You mean it could be anywhere from 0-100% effective? Remember to read carefully, boys and girls!

      - "When used in conjunction with a condom." This is like those miracle diet pills that claim to cause you to lose 20 lbs in just four weeks when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise. You'll actually lose weight because of your diet and activity level, but you'll attribute it to their product.

      *ETA: Emerging evidence suggests that this is a Poe. While that's somewhat relieving, and hey, all bloggers fall for one eventually, I guarantee you homeopathic birth control exists somewhere. Actually, we know it does, only it goes under the pseudonym "pull and pray."

      Saturday, October 1, 2011

      Settling in.

      Sorry for the lack of updates, but honestly vet school is kind of boring. You go to class, you come home, eat, study, sleep, repeat. My days aren't exactly thrilling. But I do have a few updates to share.

      - The new apartment is great. My relationship with my landlord is fantastic, and in fact I'm going to her birthday party later this evening. My location is so amazingly quiet and serene. The other day the sun was setting and turned the ocean in front of my property bright pink. It was so incredibly beautiful and I had another of those moments where I just stop and wonder at how lucky I am to have this experience.

      - I've mentioned before that my orientation group/roommate situation wasn't ideal. With the exception of one person, there was no real animosity or drama, we simply just didn't find much relatable in one another. Too different. It took me about 1 1/2 semesters before I found people that I really clicked with. At the end of semester 2 I had found my support group, my Ross family. It's helped tremendously dealing with the stress of third semester.

      - I finished up my dive certification this semester! I am officially open water scuba certified!

      - Cookie didn't get adopted during the first adoption event, so I am still fostering her. Come on! Who wouldn't want this in their life?

      - School is going okay. This semester is another tough one, largely because we've only got the two exams in each class. Midterms are two weeks away and my crack down intense study time began Thursday with a tutor session for Pharmacology. Today I had two TA sessions, one for Bacteriology and one for Virology. My other class is Pathology, which doesn't have a TA or a tutor because it doesn't really need one. Pharmacology is the only class that is scaring me right now because the professor is kind of terrible. His powerpoints are all just bullet points with no exposition but his lectures don't really expand on them very much, but he will expect you to know details that he doesn't provide you. Luckily the details he wants are provided in another class he teaches in Vet Prep, so as long as you can get ahold of those notes you should be okay. My advice for any future Rossies reading this is to get yourself a tutor for Pharm and find the Vet Prep notes.

      - My husband, Don, is arriving on Oct. 17th! He'll be here for a week and a half and I am so excited!

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      A cookie monster.

      Everyone, meet Cookie, my new foster kitten. She was picked up by the feral cat spay/neuter-release program and deemed too tame to re-release. They surgically remove part of the left ear while they're under anesthesia to tag cats that have already been altered so they don't cut open an animal unnecessarily. I think it's adorable because it fits her name; she looks like someone's taken a bite out of her.

      She's cute on a stick and one of the most demanding, cuddly cats I've ever known.

      Saturday, September 3, 2011

      New apartment!

      All done unpacking and decorating! Time for photos!

      All things I've dove for or found on the beach. Ditto for the pic below.

      I love my apartment, yes I do!

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      Semester break numero dos!

      My family came down to visit for the first week of break. I got to see my momma, my grandma, my aunt and my cousin (who is preggers with another cousin). It was great to show them around my island and take them to some of my favorite restaurants. I even had a few new experiences - tried sugar cane for the first time and got to see a lot of things on our island tour that I didn't get to the first time I did it back in January.

      I'm also all moved in to my new apartment. I love it. I more than love it. I am so happy and at peace here. It's my space and my things and quiet, so quiet. No passive aggressive roommates, no ill-behaved dogs jumping all over me anytime I so much as leave my room for a glass of water. Nothing but birds, Coqui frogs, waves pounding the beach and the occasional monkey scuffle. In other words, heaven on earth.

      Anyway. Pictures!

      Saturday, August 20, 2011

      Movin' on up!

      I passed!!!! I'm a third semester! Second did not claim my soul, but it came very, very close and did steal a portion of my sanity for awhile.

      Now I've got two days to clean the house before my family gets here, do a little bit of packing for moving into my new apartment next week, pick up Amelia and Dolly after dropping their owners off at the airport, all in the midst of a big storm heading our way tomorrow. But that's okay, I'm rested and recharged. Last night I unwound by going out for Indian food and watching RENT while singing along loudly with one of my best friends down here (who also passed).

      But I'm going to have to recognize when/if I'm getting stretched too thin when my family is here and let them know that I need to rest. That's where I got myself into trouble last break. I tried to see too many people in a short period of time and was constantly shuffled from one place to the next and didn't get any time to just relax. This past week has basically sapped me dry physically, emotionally and psychologically. I'm a little broken inside from the stress and self-loathing I was feeling these last few days and need to get that under control before going into third. I've heard bad, bad things about Virology and Bacteriology and third semester only has two exams - a midterm and a final. So there is no affording any mistakes. I can't go into it with the headspace I'm in right now or I'll fail out.

      They warned us that we only have two weeks in between semesters and that this program is intense and a lot of people can't cut it. You never fully appreciate that until you're in the thick of it. But think about how stressed and exhausted anyone is during finals week. Now take that, multiply it by three times a year, and only 14 days afterward you're thrust into a new semester with more challenging classes. This is the most insane rollercoaster I've ever been on, and a highly self-destructive one at that, but I have to keep the end goal in sight.

      Tuesday, August 2, 2011

      Home stretch.

      Alright people, it's finals crunch time. Don't expect any pearls of wisdom from me for at least the next two weeks.

      Break is three weeks away along with seeing my family and moving into my new apartment. I also have three cats lined up for pet-sitting over break, which will be a nice little bit of extra cash coming in. Two of the kittens I'm getting are Amelia and Dolly, and a third 3-month-old male from a friend of Mia, Dolly's new owner. No word yet on whether I'll also be getting Roman, but his owner is supposed to email me.

      Tropical storm Emily is just barely grazing us right now. We lost power for about 3 hours but that's been the worst of it so far. I got all my hurricane emergency supplies ready just in case, though. Now I have a cabinet full of bottled water, canned food, bug repellant and chafing dish fuel.

      Saturday, July 23, 2011

      Hard work pays off.

      So my first round of exams didn't go so well. I was in a really funky headspace at the beginning of the semester with absolutely no motivation to study whatsoever. I phoned in my exams and it reflected in my scores. I failed two of them and passed the rest with Cs, except for Parasitology where I got a B+ and an A on the first two midterms. In Physiology II I failed the first exam but passed the second and third midterms and the professor curves quite a bit, so I am still passing that class with a C+. Immunology hit me the hardest with a 64 on the first exam (remember that below a 70 is failing) and only two midterms before the final, so up until yesterday afternoon when we got our scores on the second midterm, I was officially failing that class. I studied my ass off for the second midterm, making myself nauseous and exhausted in the process. The night before the exam I got about 3 1/2 hours sleep and took two caffeine and B vitamin pills to give me a boost before the exam.

      It paid off. I got a 94 on the exam. I missed two questions out of forty. I now have a 79 in the class, which I'm just gonna go ahead and call a B because I can (and because I only need an 81 on the final to have a B and if I study half as hard for it as this exam it's in the bag).

      I'm back! No more fear of failing out and having to repeat. Second semester claims a lot of souls. I'm gonna pull myself together and make damned sure mine won't be one of them. My grades this semester won't be anything remotely resembling last semester's, but it'll be a kick in the ass to do better in 3rd.

      Any firsties or future Ross students reading this, here is your advice for surviving second semester: if you're a Reich person, great. I am not. With Reich it's pretty much an either/or thing. For his exams you can understand the material perfectly but if you don't understand him or how he thinks, don't expect to do well. You pretty much just have to know the material inside and out and pass each exam with a C and then he'll curve the class so that hopefully you'll have a B. With Gyimah it's the exact opposite. If you know the material, you WILL get an A. But knowing the material doesn't mean reading through it once or twice. He is incredibly detail oriented and expects you to know every teeny tiny thing in the notes. So read through them at least three times, study the TA notes and make yourself some flash cards. If you do that, you'll ace his class.

      Saturday, July 16, 2011


      My Puerto Rican friend introduced me to breadfruit a few weeks ago. She made me tostones, which can also be made with plantains, and are basically a twice-fried potato cake-like snack. They were delicious! Imagine the best french fries you've ever had.

      Some tostones I made a couple of weeks ago.

      Since then I've been buying breadfruit from the lady who runs a produce stand with local fruits/veggies at the bottom of the hill where I live and making tostones pretty regularly. I've become pretty addicted. I went to see if the trees could be grown anywhere in the U.S. maybe in southern Florida. Nope! They can only grow in sub-tropical conditions where it is at least 65+ degrees year round and high humidity.

      Looks like I have yet another reason to attend the annual Caribbean vet conference that's hosted here every year once I've graduated. Most students here become addicted to Ting, a grapefruit-based soft drink that's similar to Fresca in the U.S. but less sweet and more tart. We make jokes that they come back for the Ting. In my case it's beaches, Ting and breadfruit!

      Tuesday, July 12, 2011

      That doesn't mean what you think it means.

      Today I bought a cheap bottle of lotion to keep in my purse that has a fragrance that isn't terribly offensive so I can apply a teeny bit when leaving anatomy lab and smelling of dead, preserved horseflesh. I quickly glanced through the ingredients and found placenta extract listed. It made me raise an eyebrow but ingredients like this aren't put there for people like me. I read that and say to myself, "Nice marketing gimmick." The average woman reads that and says, "Oooh! How exotic!"

      I decided to do a quick Google search on the supposed skin health benefits of placenta extract and opened up a whole new world of woo and lulz. My particular favorite is quoted below.

      "Placenta Extract contains proteins, coagulation factor, erythropoietin, polysaccharide, lecithin, vitamins, enzymes, various types of amino acid and growth factor. Medically tested and proven, the skin cells become more active after use, which in turn enhances the immunity of the skin."
       Wow, okay. Let's take this step by step, shall we?

      • Proteins, polysaccharide, vitamins, enzymes - The only way this could be more vague is if they'd smacked a label on the bottle that read, "This lotion contains macromolecules." Enzymes is a particular favorite buzzword of mine in the world of woo. Woosters use it for all sorts of stuff, be it skin care, dietary supplements, and on and on. Tell someone something will "boost their enzyme activity" and they'll gobble it up faster than you can keep the product on the shelves.
      • Coagulation factor - Which one? Prothrombinase? Thrombomodulin? Fibrinogen? Leaving that aside, why on earth would I want to rub something on my skin that causes blood clots?
      •  Erythropoetin - This one cracks me up. Erythropoetin is a hormone that regulates red blood cell development. Let's assume, purely for the sake of argument, that the entire hormone could be absorbed through the skin and enter my blood. Why I would want to suddenly have a huge influx of hormone that promotes red blood cell production? Doesn't that actually sound kind of dangerous, as something that could potentially cause a thromboembolus or stroke?
      •  "...the skin cells become more active after use, which in turn enhances the immunity of the skin." - How? Explain this mechanism, please. How does increasing the "activity" (another vague, generalized term) of skin cells help them to better maintain the mechanical immunological barrier your skin provides?
      Stuff like this makes me laugh and depresses me beyond belief every day, because as silly and ridiculous as it is, people buy into this crap! Companies love to throw out science-y sounding terminology to confuse and enthrall the general public. Unfortunately it's very effective, and not just with things as unimportant as which lotion to buy, but also with much more serious issues such as whether to vaccinate your child. We see it in vet med, as well. Particularly with things like pet food.

      During a lab in my nutrition class last semester a student asked me what an ingredient was on one of the food labels we were supposed to be interpreting. It was Lactobacillus acidophilus, one of the "pro-biotic" bacteria that naturally occurs in your gut. It was in powdered form and in a dry dog food, which means that it was dead dead dead and completely biologically inactive. She asked me why it was in the food, then. I guessed that it was probably because a gullible owner would read that and say to themselves, "Oh, I know that word! It's in my yogurt! If it's good for me, it must be good for Buddy!" But I said that I couldn't be sure and perhaps there was some beneficial effect of a destroyed bacteria that I was unaware of, so we asked the professor. Guess what his answer was? It provided nothing to the diet and was there for ingredient recognition purposes in order to sell more food.

      Think critically, people. Don't accept everything you hear. As one of my professors loves to say, "Thiiiink about it!"

      Saturday, July 9, 2011

      Things are looking up.

      It's official. The awesometastical resort apartment is mine. The lease is signed by both parties, the deposit check cashed and my official move in date is Sept. 1! Although they'll give me the key the week before to start getting my stuff moved over.

      This combined with finally getting the radiator in my car replaced, and thus ending months of pouring coolant into an overheating car only to have it leak out and the needle all the way over in the red by the time I get home, has me in high spirits. Even with another 12 days from hell with 4 exams lined up my mood is considerably lighter than it's been since the beginning of the semester now that two, huge weights have been lifted off of my shoulders.

      Now I'm just focused on passing all of my classes and looking forward to seeing my family in August. I'm excited to get to share the parts of the island that I've fallen in love with with the people that I love. I can't wait to show the island to my mom, especially. She's always been one of those people who is a natural optimist and takes joy in almost anything, so when I plop her smack dab in the middle of a tropical paradise it'll be like watching a kid win a $100 spending spree in a candy store. She's going to love it here.

      Sunday, July 3, 2011

      I can breathe underwater!

      Today I had my first closed water dive on my way to becoming open water scuba certified. It was pretty sweet. I've been in water pretty much my whole life, from my grandpa's boat when I was a kid to various swim clubs and teams throughout middle and high school. Swimming comes as second nature to me as breathing, which actually makes learning to scuba dive kind of difficult. You have to unlearn a few of the deeply ingrained skills you've been using for years, like holding your breath or breathing out through your nose when you're underwater. Overcoming those instincts can be stressful at first.

      I did really well for the most part, except on the last two of the three mask clearing exercises. Exercise one is clearing a partially flooded mask where you go under, breathing with your regulator, and lift up the corners of your mask and let it fill 1/3 of the way with water. Then you take a deep breath through your mouth with your regulator and exhale forcefully through your nose. The bubbles in your mask force the water out. I did great on that one. The other two - clearing a fully flooded mask and taking off/replacing your mask while underwater - required me to close my eyes, since I wear contacts, and at that point I started to panic a bit. A small, visceral, reptilian portion of my brain started screaming the second my eyes were closed under water. Took me by surprise, actually, since I wasn't anticipating any of the exercises to actually scare me. I still completed them on the first try, but the dive instructor could tell that I didn't like it one bit and told me we'd practice them again next time to familiarize me with them and get me to a point where I'm comfortable doing them. I think I'll do better next time since I won't be doing them for the first time just minutes after taking my first breath underwater.

      I've never had any interest or desire to scuba dive personally. My husband had a particularly bad experience with a horrible diving partner, though, and since I'm a control freak to the 1,000th degree and was losing my mind waiting over fifteen minutes for him to reemerge after everyone else had arrived back on the boat and felt completely powerless to do anything about it, I decided that it wasn't so much about want and more about needing peace of mind. If I'm down there with him, some negligent asshole can't kill him. After getting down here and seeing how gorgeous the reefs are, my interest has piqued slightly. I still think I prefer snorkeling to diving, but we'll see once I actually go out on a dive.

      Last but not least.

      Dolly's been adopted! I'm actually really happy with the result, because now both Amelia and Dolly have found homes with two of my good friends down here. I can visit them whenever I want and there's been talk of arranging a playdate/reunion at some point.

      Mama's actually taking it remarkably well. When Roman and Amelia left she called and searched for them for days afterward. She did a little of that last night, but the most notable change is that she's become much more affectionate. Back to how she was while she was pregnant. I'm happy for it to just be Mama and me again. Kittens are adorable, but they can be frustrating and exhausting at times

      Bye bye, Dolly!

      Wednesday, June 29, 2011

      Selfish altruism.

      Occasionally you get to do a little something for yourself while also benefiting something else in an awesome way. Today I got that chance. There was a table set up in the Student Union selling jewelry. Every semester this table gets mauled by students because not only is the jewelry beautiful and unique, all the proceeds go to a terrific cause.

      Turtleshell jewelry is really pretty, I'm not gonna lie. But it also means that an endangered species is being knocked off so you can sport those lovely, multifaceted earrings. Unfortunately with the popularity of turtleshell and how inexpensive it is, it's difficult to get people to give it up. Especially tourists who want to take home something "Caribbean-y" when they hop off the cruise ship for a few hours to go trolling for souvenirs in Port. Not to mention how difficult it is to convince the locals to stop making turtleshell jewelry when: A.) It's a part of their culture. B.) It sells.

      So what this project has done is given local artists a chance to make money selling jewelry that replaces turtleshell with sea glass, seashells and recycled bottle glass beads. The pieces are truly stunning, too. They've got everything from very simple glass beads on a leather thong to more ornate silver wrapped pieces of gorgeous sea glass. I bought an anklet today with a bead made of out a recycled Bombay Sapphire gin bottle. It's very simple, but for some reason I just love it. And I got to give money to a good cause, which makes it even better.

      Please to excuse the lack of shaving in a few days.

      If you're interested in learning more about the sea turtle project, go to:

      Friday, June 24, 2011

      New meanings.

      Vet school makes you redefine some things you used to think you understood. For example...


      A quiet night in with friends.

      Thursday, June 23, 2011

      Just keep swimming...

      Ever since getting down here, upper semesters have described second semester as the semester you "survive" or "just get through." It's basically back to back to back exams until finals week. The last four weeks have been a hellish rollercoaster ride and I only get two weeks in which to rest, recuperate and review everything I was just tested over in preparation for the next intense round of exams.

      This semester has definitely been an eye-opener. My lowest exam score last semester was an 80%. This semester I have already failed two exams. Failed in the sense that at Ross anything below a 70% is failing. I haven't failed failed anything yet, but of course as far as my continued enrollment here is concerned, that doesn't matter. The good news is that one of the fails was in a class with a steep curve such that I am still passing the class with a high C. The other exam I failed was only by 4 points and so I feel confident that I can recuperate and pass that class as well. Still, these grades are a far cry from where I was at last semester and from what I am capable of. In all honesty I've had a pretty bad case of apathy this semester. It took me several weeks to get my head in the game and by then I was far behind. Talking to my friends in their second semester of vet school both at Ross and elsewhere in the U.S. this seems like a fairly common thing. Like "senioritis" you just hit a wall and can't bring yourself to put in the effort. Eventually you either pull yourself up by the short hairs or fail out.

      I'm slowly coming out of my funk. I've forced myself to start reading ahead before anatomy lab and actually take an active role in going over structures with my group instead of sitting there staring at dead flesh like a zombie. I'm reading ahead before immunology lectures, because the lectures for that class are supremely boring and unhelpful but luckily the written notes are much more beneficial and easy to understand. Unfortunately with physiology, I don't know what I can do to bring my grade up. On top of useless lectures, the written notes are dense and narcolepsy-inducing and the professor tests in such a way that even if you know the material 100% in and out you can still fail the exam because the way he asks questions is completely counter intuitive to most students. We have a popular phrase for failing one of his exams here which I won't repeat because it contains his name. Luckily there is usually a huge curve for this class. Needless to say he's not one of my favorite professors and I'll be glad to see the tail end of him in 3rd semester.

      In better news, I found an even better deal on an apartment and changed my plans to move into the original one I mentioned before. This place is $100/month cheaper, with more amenities included (free WiFi and premium cable) and includes a dishwasher, dryer (which the other didn't have - a lot of Kittians use a dry line) and a pool! Yes, a pool! I am so entirely psyched about this place I can't even tell you. Pics posted below. I'll change things a bit when I move in, mostly in the bedroom with my sheets, rugs, yoga mat and knick knacks being bright orange, yellow and pink. But for the most part, this is what it's going to look like.

      Wednesday, June 8, 2011


      I'm sorry! I know I haven't updated in awhile, but second semester is crazy-go-nuts. There's pretty much at least one exam every week. I had one last week, one this week, two next week and and then another the week after next. Then I get a two week break during which I need to study my open-water scuba certification material and schedule my first closed water dive. This is on top of trying to find a new apartment, which thankfully I've found. I was able to remain in the same area that I live in now, which I love because where I live right now is very quiet and residential compared to other student living areas. And I was also able to keep my current landlord, which I'm also very happy about because she's a great lady. I won't move until late August, but I promise pics of the new place when I've gotten settled in.

      I've also been trying to find hotel information for my family when they come visit during the semester break, which actually turned out to be fairly easy. I called a few places and asked if they offered a Ross student discount and spoke to a few Ross students who've had family come down and they said that the Timothy Beach Resort was very nice, clean, the staff were friendly and they offered a great discount for Ross students. I stopped by and took a look, confirmed the discount, and sold! They're getting a full suite complete with separate kitchen, living room and bedroom as well as a deck with patio furniture for less than $100/night. Sweet!

      In closing, Dolly is still adorable and still unhomed. She has something to say to those people who passed her over for her siblings...

      Wednesday, June 1, 2011

      Two down.

      Both Amelia and Roman have gone to their new homes. Dolly is the only one left to be adopted. Last Saturday at the adoption event everyone kept remarking on how soft Roman and Dolly's fur was. I guess I never thought that they were softer than average for kittens, but then realized that Mama's fur is incredibly soft as well. I guess they got her good genes!

      It helps that I'm friends on Facebook with their new owners and get to see all of the pictures they're posting and how well they're doing.

      Some of their best photos in a proper send off:



       And the last videos I have of all three of them together:

      Saturday, May 28, 2011

      Hey, Dad!

      Check it out.

      Nyaah! Nyaah!


      Your daughter.

      The conversation between me and my Puerto Rican friend when I saw this in Ram's went like this:

      Me: "OMG BIRCH BEER!"

      Angie: "Birch... beer?"

      Me: "Yeah, it's like root beer only more spicy."

      Angie: "Like Dr. Pepper?"

      Me: "Kind of! But not really..."

      Friday, May 27, 2011

      Club ideas.

      After several weeks of putting it off, I've finally started concentrating on the evidence-based medicine club I want to start. I have a few ideas that I'm pretty proud of.

      - A critical thinking "toolkit" workshop that would consist of 3-4 lectures on how to evaluate journal articles. There will be one lecture on how to calculate effective sample size, a lecture on how to calculate a p-value using t-tables and evaluating appropriate margins of error, a lecture on determining if the experiment is controlled, if the article's conclusions are supported by their data, if there were appropriate blinds in place, etc.

      - After these skills are in place we will hold monthly get togethers where we do a literature review on a topic that we've voted on and evaluate the existing research on that particular treatment modality, animal behavior, etc.

      -This morning in the shower another idea came to me that I'm really proud of. It'll be called "The Genuine Article" and will be a fundraiser where as a club we have three journal article abstracts on something that seems outlandish and unbelievable. Two of them will be fake and one will be real. Students will buy tickets to vote on which one they think is the real deal and place them in a bucket under that article, and at the end of the contest we will pull a name out of the winning bucket and buy that student dinner.

      I'm so excited!

      Friday, May 20, 2011


      I just realized that Dolly inherited Mama's nose smudge. It's exactly the same size and shape, only orange instead of black.

      In other news, Amelia has found a home! She's going to one of my fellow classmates in one week. I've got seven days to say goodbye. It'll be tough, but I'm ready to start my new life with just me and Mama. These days the new fun game is, "Let's wake the food provider up at 5am by running laps around her bed and nomming her toes!"

      Monday, May 16, 2011

      Itchy all over.

      This is the result of having to sleep with my windows open for just three nights:

      Ditto for the left leg and my back. My roommates? Hardly a bite between them. I don't know why the bloodsuckers love me so much. My blood type is hardly a delicacy; A+ is practically plebeian! I have such awful reactions to the mosquitoes down here, it's downright miserable.

      Come to think of it, though, I need to redo my blood typing test. The last time I did one I came up with very difficult to interpret results on the Rh antigen portion. Maybe I am A- after all, and at 7% of the population that would explain why mosquitoes consider me such a tasty treat.