Sweden is Smarter on Schools than U.S.

I came across this article in today’s Washington Post.  Apparently the folks in Stockholm have a better grasp on the power of markets to improve performance than most of us here in the states.  Well, at least some of them do.  Take Barbro Lillkaas who had this to say, “If you run a good operation then you make a profit. But you won’t get any students if you are bad,” she said. “You have to do a good job to get money; that is even more important for a private school.”  My sentiments exactly.  I can only hope that this convinces some of the left-leaning public-school advocates in this country who hold the Scandinavian countries in such high regard to rethink some of their positions.  I’m not holding my breath, but I may be breathing a little bit shallower.

~Fox

(Un)settling Down

Will Wilkinson reminds me of Reverend Merrill in A Prayer for Owen Meany.  Both are preoccupied with emotional concepts that most men accommodate as a matter of course, and both insist on viewing these ideas through the lense of their antitheses.  For the reverend faith and doubt were the two aspects of the inseparable duality.  For Will, its kids and happiness.  Responding to an article that appeared in Newsweek, he writes:

…the profundity of the experience of loving a child I think blinds many people to the very real costs of raising them. To accept that we have been made less happy in a real sense by our children threatens our sense of the profundity and the value of that bond. So people get upset when they hear this. But that’s not counter-evidence. Not all values move in one direction and it is a mark of maturity to be able to admit that some of the things we value most comes at a sometimes steep cost. We yearn to love our choices, and our lives, with whole hearts. But to do so is to lie to ourselves about ourselves, to close our eyes and cover our ears like children to the profundity of what we have given up.

I’m with him all the way to the final sentence which I find hard to interpret.  I think he is trying to express something akin to the socratic dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living.  If that is the case, I can understand and appreciate the sentiment, but I wouldn’t classify the desire to harmoniously integrate our past decisions with our present lives and future prospects as an instance of willful self-deception or woeful ignorance.

Recognizing opportunity costs when presented with a choice is good to the extent that it helps move you to a more efficient allocation of resources, but once the decision has been made (especially with respect to having children) those foregone alternatives become sunk costs–the hole down which they descend may well be deep, but spending time contemplating its profundity strikes me as a rather futile endeavor.  Just as Reverend Merrill eventually found his position advocating the dynamic juxtaposition of faith and doubt untenable, I’m not sure how Will can sustain the view that the essence of appreciation is regret.  Children and parents deserve wholehearted love that does not entail a nagging reminder of how good life would have been without the other.

~Fox

iPhone 3G goodness

I caved to the pressures of society and bought an iphone yesterday. There was no camping out or waiting in line to get one of the first phones, but I’m glad I made an effort to get to the AT&T store relatively early yesterday morning since I got the last iphone in stock at that particular location. I’ve never owned an apple product in my life, but thought since I was going to have to buy a smart phone or PDA to run the highly useful Epocrates program (a drug reference library – particularly handy for medical students, though more and more doctors are also on board these days) I might as well get a cool one.

After about an hour or so of fiddling around with it, downloading the latest version of iTunes, and synching it with my computer, I finally got it to work and started looking for cool applications. Even then I was having some problems getting a few of the apps to load, which I chalked up to the boatload of other people sitting at home trying to do the exact same thing. Fortunately as of late last night they were all up and running, and everything has been smooth sailing ever since.

So what do I have on my phone so far? First and foremost I downloaded Epocrates Rx…I figured since it’s the reason I wanted a smart phone in the first place I should at least make it appear as though I’m using my phone for “educational” purposes. 🙂 Hopefully Epocrates will adapt their entire product line for the iphone in the next few months, so I can start surfing diagnoses and treatment plans from the convenience of my hand-held device. The other more practical apps I added include Zenbe lists (which I used this morning for my grocery shopping) and YPmobile (yellowpages, which I might delete since you can search for businesses through the GPS that comes with the phone). For fun I added Pandora (finds radio stations for you to listen to based on your favorite artists or songs), TapTap (sort of like guitar hero or dance dance revolution for your phone), PhoneSaber (a light saber…while this one doesn’t really do anything, it is fun to swing at my husband as it makes the cool sound effects), and UrbanSpoon (sort of like a magic 8 ball that takes advantage of the accelerometer to randomly pick a restaurant near your GPS location).

So far I’ve enjoyed the apps (including ease of installation), and I’ll definitely be testing out Epocrates this week to see whether it is easier than hunting down a free computer and checking for drug dosages or interactions (plus the iphone version of epocrates includes a pill identifier – pretty cool, though I’m not sure how many times I’ll actually need to use it). I also noticed, while depositing a check this morning at the atm, that my bank has an online banking system set up to access from the iphone, so I’ll probably try and install that in the next few days. Seems like a good investment up to this point. Any suggestions for other cool or useful applications that I should add to my new phone?

~Lily

Why you should avoid hospitals during the month of July

I haven’t posted in awhile, mostly because I’ve been so busy studying for (and hopefully passing) Step 1 of the US medical licensing exam. But I thought this would be a good time to write a post – for one, I have the day and weekend entirely free, and two, I start rotations in the various clinical specialties next week and am not sure how much free time I will actually have at that point.

So, why should you avoid hospitals during the month of July? To avoid run-ins with new interns and 3rd year medical students like me! No, I’m not trying to be self-deprecating…just realistic. Interns started at the beginning of this week – these are students who just graduated medical school and are starting the first year of their residency. Many of them are at new hospitals in a new part of the country, and have not had to assume a whole lot of responsibility up to this point. They’re nervous and still learning the ropes, and it will take time for them to feel comfortable with the situation.

Then there are 3rd year medical students like myself – we’ve had limited patient contact up to this point, but now we are thrust into the hospital and assigned patients to follow as we rotate between specialties like surgery, medicine, pediatrics, etc. We have limited clinical skills, but are expected to hone them as we complete the year (this includes things involving needles and patients – such as inserting IV’s and drawing blood…scary thought). We may not have much say (read: almost none) in what happens to the patients, but since we are new to the hospital we inevitably don’t know much about what’s going on and will slow the well-oiled machine down.

These factors contribute to longer stays and higher rates of mortality during the month of July (http://www.nber.org/papers/w11182). Just another reason to be careful this July 4 holiday.

~ Lily