Only 6 more strokes

Joel, Dave, and myself went golfing at Peace Portal Golf Course http://www.peaceportalgolf.com/index.php on Sunday.  For once I was having good luck off the tee box.  Joel was ahead of me by 2 strokes when we arrived at #5, a 450 yard par 4 and the hardest ranked hole on the course.  To clear the valley in front of the tee-off box, your drive needs to carry about 200 yards.  My drive made it over.  My second shot was a beautiful 4-iron that took me to the corner of the dog-leg right.  I was about 160 yards from the green.  For my third shot, I used a 6 iron and rolled it right up onto the green within ten feet of the cup.  Joel was in trouble and would eventually card an 8 on this hole.  This was my chance to pull ahead and par the most difficult hole on the course.  I read the putt as uphill and breaking left.  That must have been an optical illusion.  My putt went right of the cup by about 6 feet and rolled about 8 feet past the hole.  I think it was the worst par attempt this hole has ever seen.  Now I had a long slippery put on the way back.  I thought to myself that although it looked like a significant downslope, it must be less of a downslope than it appears based on my experience with my first putt.  So I gave it a good whack.  Unfortunately, I sent it flyhing past the hole right back to where I started.  I guess the slope wasn’t an illusion after all.  My third putt was almost perfect, but it stopped about half an inch short of the cup.  I was absolutely disgusted as I tapped in my 4th putt.  Why would anyone want to play such a frustrating game anyway?

The answer to this question came on the 503 yard par 5 13th hole.  I smashed a 250+ yard drive straight down the middle.  It caught a downslope perfectly to add an extra 20 yards or so to the drive.  Joel was hitting his 5th shot (and would go on to record stick-men on this hole) before I even hit my second.  I ended up with a 7 due to a horrible chip, but I didn’t care.  There’s no feeling like hearing the ping of a perfectly hit drive and watching it sail a quarter of a kilometre straight down the fairway.  It was also nice to beat Joel by 3 strokes.  I shot a 105 (56 on the front and 49 on the back) and Joel shot a 108.  I think Dave was somewhere around 150.  We lost track of him a few times in the woods.

Now I know that it is possible for me to break 100 on a par 72 course.  All I need to do is string together 2 rounds like my back nine.  That is easier said than done though.

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It’s a done deal

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For better or worse, I no longer have hair.  Your comments were unanimous in support of shaving it off.  I have abided by the consensus.  Maybe I should have kept the Mohawk though…

Plunged back into turmoil

On Thursday afternoon I sent a $1000 bank draft to the University of Toronto medical school to secure my seat.  I turned down offers from UBC, Queen’s, and Memorial.  I sent a response to the University of Alberta saying they could take me off the wait-list.  I thought that I had made up my mind, and I was ready to run with it.  However, as soon as I got back from the post-office, I was plunged back into turmoil.  I received a call from the University of Calgary admissions office offering me a seat.  I think my exact words were “Damn.  I just sent $1000 to the University of Toronto.”  I’m sure they are used to more enthusiastic responses than that.  Once again, I am facing a tough decision.

I have already outlined the advantages of the University of Toronto in my previous post.  But the University of Calgary medical school has one huge advantage that has the potential to be a trump card: a 3 year program instead of a 4 year program.  I am an old man who is weary of school.  I have been attending university for 10 years.  The “Real World” feels like a mirage on a highway that just keeps receding.  The financial and psychological advantages of finishing a year earlier are extremely appealing to me: 1) a year less of tuition; 2) an extra year of earning power; 3) becoming and MD at the age of 31 instead of 32.

In a 4 year program, medical students typically use their summers off to conduct research in their discipline of interest.  Since I will already have a PhD in neuroscience, this may not be necessary for me at this stage, although I think I would enjoy doing summer research.  Without the stress of doing a PhD, research may be a lot more fun.  It might also be nice to have the summers off to travel.

I only have a few days to decide.  If I end up losing my $1000 deposit it would be shame, but I don’t want to let it influence my decision.  Tuition is $17,500 at the U of T, so I would still be thousands of dollars ahead.

I am amazed that I received 5 offers of admission to med school on my first attempt.  Although deciding between medical schools has been somewhat stressful, I recognize how fortunate I am.  My labmate put it this way: “It’s like choosing which supermodel you want to marry – I don’t feel sorry for you.” 
 

Go Leafs Go

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After agonizing for over a week, I have decided to go to medical school at the University of Toronto.  It was extremely difficult to turn down UBC medical school.  The three years I have spent in Vancouver have been the best years of my life.  Yes the city is beautiful and yes I love the west coast culture, but it was the people that I met here that really made the difference.  A lot of these people have left, and more are leaving soon.  While agonizing over my options, I realized that I should not base my decision on romanticized past experiences.  Rather, I should consider what is best for my long-term life and career goals.  I want to become a practicing neurologist with an active research lab.

In light of this goal, there are several reasons why the University of Toronto prevailed.  First, there are abundant medical research opportunities at the University of Toronto.  For virtually any neurological disorder you can think of, the University of Toronto has world-renowned scientists working on it.  Second, neurology is a competitive discipline to get into.  There may be more opportunities to pursue neurology as a career option at the University of Toronto, which may make it easier to match to a neurology residency position.
Third, the facilities at the University of Toronto are exceptional.  U of T students have access to six state-of-the-art teaching hospitals serving 5 million people.  Fourth, I am ready for change and a completely new experience.  I grew up in a small city.  Living in the heart of a vibrant urban environment like downtown Toronto where the U of T is situated is an exciting prospect for me.  It is true that I love the natural setting of UBC and am quite comfortable in Vancouver.  But in the past I have never regretted leaving my comfort zone to pursue an opportunity.  Now I will leave my comfort zone one more time to pursue the biggest opportunity of my life thus far.

No Sandwich for me

I just got back from a great weekend of snowboarding at Whistler.  I was still sporting a sore leg from last weekend’s misadventures in the terrain park, but luckily I didn’t add any new injuries this time.  Malcolm was not so lucky, as the 12 stitches in his chin can attest.  He hit a rock while mountain biking the evening we arrived.  Being a crazy limey, this did not stop him from racing the next morning.  It was not his weekend though: he wiped out again when he bent his front rim whilst landing a jump. 

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My only misadventure of the trip didn’t happen on the ski hill.  Rather, it happened on the way up to Whistler when I tried to buy lunch from the Garibaldi Mountain deli in Squamish.  They had a lunch special: a sandwich and salad combo for $6.95.  Because bread does not agree with me (possibly because I have some sort of sensitivity to wheat flour), I asked for a roast beef sandwich without any bread.  The lady helping was not impressed, saying “that’s more than what we normally do.”  I told her just to pile the sandwich ingredients on a plate.  I was surprised when she weighed out the roast beef and cheese and wrapped them separately.  When it came time to pay for my breadless sandwich, she rang it up and said “That will be $15.72.”  I drew her attention to the sign stating that the sandwich/salad combo was $6.95.  She looked at me with irritation, pointed at the plate of roast beef (wrapped in celluphane), cheese, tomotoes, and lettuce, and said “that is not a sandwich.”  I told her she could just give it to me on a bun and I would remove the bun myself.  She called over her boss, saying “this customer has a complaint.”

The boss was more fearsome than the Seinfeld soup Nazi.  He was livid.  He told me if I ordered everything separately, I would have to pay for everything separately.  I asked him why he couldn’t just give me a bun and charge me $6.95.  The lady who had been helping me earlier chimed in and said “we’ve already gone through all the extra work.”  She was definitely not on my side.  I was thinking “what extra work?”  Wouldn’t be even easier to make a sandwich without the bun than with the bun?  The sandwich Nazi looked at me as if I were a thief and told me that I hadn’t ordered a sandwich.  He said something in German, threw up his hands, and stormed into the back.  I was hungry.  I handed my credit card to the woman who had been helping me earlier, resigned to paying the extra cost for not having a bun.  I persisted one more time saying “Can’t you just put in on a bun for me?”

She angrily took the plate back and said “Do you want whole-wheat or multigrain?  I guess it doesn’t matter.”  She spent a bit of time putting all the sandwich fixings onto the bun which she put down on the counter in front of me.  Then she went back to the register and rang it in again.  She said, “that will be $15.10.  Congratulations, you saved 64 cents.”  I must have had a look of pure shock and confusion on my face, because without me saying anything she snatched the sandwich off the counter and thrust my credit card at me.  She said, “I think you’d be happier eating somewhere else.”

I walked right out of the deli and went across the street to Burger King and ordered a chicken ceasar salad.  It cost me just over $6.     

I Love Newfoundland

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Recently I was horrified to learn that my use of the word “Newfie” in this blog may have caused offense (see Mike’s comment in “Decisions”).  The truth is that I love Newfoundland (pronounced NewfoundLAND in the SAND Larry King, not New Finland) and I love Newfoundlanders.  At my graduate residence St. John’s College there are three people from Newfoundland: Erin, Derm, and Kristen (pictured below).  I love them and I’m pretty sure they love me, as can be seen from the photographic evidence below.

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When my Newfoundland friends found out that I was going to St. John’s NL for a medical school admissions interview, they were genuinely happy I would get a chance to see their home province and did everything to make my trip a good one.  Erin immediately offered to have me stay with her parents while I was there.  Derm gave me a list of his friends to contact while I was in St. John’s and drew me a detailed map of George street. 

I had a fantastic time in NL even though my trip was delayed for three days because of a blizzard.  The hospitality and friendliness I experienced in NL was truly special.  Erin’s parents drove me around to see the sights, such as Signal Hill, St. John’s Harbour, and Cape Spear.  They treated me as if I were their own son.  I slept in Erin’s own bed and ate home cooked food for my entire stay.  After my interview, Erin’s brother and Derm’s friends took me out for a night on the town (i.e. Water street and George street).  I was screeched in at Christians’s on a debaucherous Tuesday night.  I kissed a 20 year-old cod. B’ys o b’ys.  I have earned the right to be considered an honorary Newfoundlander. 

When I returned home to Erin’s parent’s house at 3 AM the night of my screech-in, Erin’s Dad was waiting up for us and we drank and chatted into the early hours of the morning.  I was a bit groggy for my flight home the next morning, but it was well worth it.

Erin’s brother Adam gave me his “I club baby seals” button right off the collar of his jacket just because I thought it was cool.  I have since affixed this button to a “Republic of Newfoundland” hat that Derm gave me (pictured above).  I often proudly wear this hat and button combination when going out.  How many people wear a Republic of Newfoundland hat with an anti- Paul McCartney & Heather Mills button while going out in Vancouver?  Certainly no-one that would intentionally want to offend the friendliest, funnest, and most hospitable people in Canada.  I do not risk the wrath of Vancouver’s militant animal-rights activists for nothing.

Newfoundland is awesome.  Is there another province in Canada that would declare an impromptu holiday for an Olympic curling match?  I don’t think so.  Cheers to a province that has its priorities straight.

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In summary, I use the word “Newfie” only when referring specifically to Derm because he has earned it.  In future posts I may tell a few stories about how he has earned it.  Suffice it to say that I use it as a term of endearment for a good friend.  I do not use this word when referring to Newfoundlanders in general.  I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my use of “Newfie” in this blog.

I am grateful to have been accepted into medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  I believe that the MUN med school is one of the best medical schools in the country.  As far as I know, MUN is the only school with a $6 million “virtual” patient.  The people of Newfoundland are even better.  I am happy that I had a chance to visit Newfoundland and I would return in a heartbeat.

Decisions

Today I received offers of admission to three medical schools: UBC, University of Toronto, and Queen’s.  I was placed on the wait list for the University of Calgary, and I have yet to hear from the University of Alberta.  I have already provisionally accepted an offer from Memorial University.  My sense of satisfaction from receiving such good news after the long wait was surprisingly fleeting.  Immediately I began to ponder the question of where to spend the next four years of my life.  Big decisions have always been stressful for me.  I realize that having a choice is way better than not having a choice, yet I often have difficulty deciding what I truly want and what is the most important for me.  I know that there are many people who were extremely disappointed today who would be more than a little envious of my predicament.  Nonetheless, I won’t be able to relax until I’ve made a decision that I feel confident is the best for me.

Lifestyle is important to me.  Today I’m sporting a sunburn because I was riding up at Whistler yesterday.  I am the fittest I have ever been because it is so easy to stay physically active year-round.  I enjoy the simple pleasures Vancouver has to offer such as running along Spanish Banks or riding my bike through the endowment lands.  I am a Vancouverite at heart.  I love golfing, snowboarding, and all-you-can-eat sushi.  Vancouver is paradise on earth.  I find it difficult to imagine living anywhere else.  Regardless of where I choose to go to medical school, I believe that one day I will return to Vancouver to live and practice medicine.

I am also ambitious and career-orientated.  The University of Toronto is one of the top 10 medical schoools in the world.  Right now I believe that I want to be a neurologist, although I realize that this goal may change as I go through my rotations in medical school.  Matching to neurology is competitive.  There may be more opportunities to pursue neurology at the University of Toronto.  The location of the University of Toronto campus in the heart of the city would also be a novel urban experience for me, and would fit well with my love of eating out, going to shows, going to pubs & clubs, etc. 

It seems like every move I make is to a larger city.  I grew up in Lethbridge (population 70,000), moved to Calgary to start my graduate degree (population 1,000,000), and of course now I’m living in Vancouver (population 1,500,0000).  Is the next move going to be to a city of over 4,000,000 people?  The cultural and professional opportunities of Toronto may to too much to turn down.

This is going to be a tough decision, which will dramatically affect my life in the near and long-term.  The decision could even get harder if I were to receive and offer from the University of Calgary.  The University of Calgary medical program is only 3 years (as opposed to 4 years at every other school).  The shorter program is very appealing to an old man like myself who is weary of school after a decade of attending university.

Right now the decision is between UBC and the University of Toronto.  I have approximately one week to decide.