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Archive for the 'reviews' Category

train your brain!

If you’re like me and your brain is rotting due to inactivity, then Brain Age 2 for the Nintendo DS is for you. If you’ve played the first Brain Age, then it’s more of the same…perhaps even a little more challenging. For those new to the game, it’s a video game that is made up of a bunch of mini brain exercises designed to help keep your brain fit. Even my brothers, who think it’s uncool to be smart, are addicted to this video game. So give it a try if you’re bored!  I know I sure get a kick out of beating my husband at it.

how doctors think (or fail to think)

My little bout with cellulitis left me so bored that I finally got around to finishing How Doctors Think, a book by Jerome Groopman that got quite a bit of press when it came out a couple of months ago.  It’s a pretty easy read, but it was full of things I had never really thought about before.  For example, we know that we often make assumptions about people because of the way they look or act.  The disheveled guy who shows up at the ER must be a transient looking for a place to sleep.  And it makes sense that doctors and nurses often make these same assumptions when they treat these patients.  What I didn’t really consider is that we also make the opposite assumptions about healthy-looking people; that is, when we see someone who looks fit as a god and who we learn exercises and eats right, we tend to think that they can’t possibly have heart disease and aren’t on full alert when we’re examining them and ordering tests, leading us to possibly miss the diagnosis.  There are also good examples of how doctors can get into a one-track-mind kind of mode once they’ve latched onto a diagnosis that makes sense to them.  All in all, I would recommend this book to medical students and patients alike.  Medical students can become aware of the errors in thinking that doctors can make that they don’t really teach in medical school.  Patients can use this book to learn how to be more proactive in their care–in fact, he gives specific examples of the kinds of questions patients can ask to help steer their doctors away from some of the common mental traps that exist in medicine.

i love my apple keyboard and mighty mouse

When I spontaneously decided to switch from PC to Mac, I didn’t realize how much I would end up absolutely loving Apple products.  If I had my way, I would really never use a PC again even though PCs have been all I’ve known my entire life.  Macs are just so much easier to use (not that I’m lacking at all in PC expertise), more streamlined, and pretty.  The only thing I didn’t like at first, of course, was the price premium.

Since I’m using my Macbook as a desktop replacement, I wanted to get an external keyboard and mouse for it since my Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse, of course, didn’t quite want to work with it.  I debated between getting the Apple Bluetooth keyboard ($60) and Bluetooth Mighty Mouse ($69) and the wireless Logitech set ($69) because of the huge price difference.  Of course, I wanted the Apple products since they were so pretty, but I didn’t really want to spend so much money on a keyboard and mouse after I had already spent so much on my new Macbook.  However, the reviews for the Logitech set didn’t really leave me confident that I would like it, so I went out to my local electronics store to try both the Apple and Logitech products.  Oh, and what a difference there was.  The reviews for the Logitech set that say that it feels flimsy and cheap were not wrong at all…the keyboard felt like one of those generic $5 keyboards you can buy for your PC and was loud as hell.  The Apple keyboard felt like heaven in comparison.  Given that there aren’t really other options for going wireless with the Mac, I decided to buy the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and Mighty Mouse.

And I’m now happy to report that I’m totally in love with both my Apple keyboard and mouse.  The keyboard, although it looks compact and not-so-ergonomic feels great and doesn’t give me any problems at all.  They keys are also so much quieter than my old Microsoft keyboard and feel so much nicer to type with.  I randomly start AIM conversations with people just so that I can use my keyboard.  That’s just how great it is.  The mouse is great too.  I was sold instantly by the little scroll ball that allows me to scroll both horizontally and vertically.  Yes, my old Microsoft mouse was capable of horizontal scrolling too, but I never used that function on it because it just didn’t work that well.  There are complaints of the scroll ball crapping out after awhile, but I haven’t had that happen to me yet and I’m sure that it’s just because it gets dirty and is easily fixed by a little cleaning.  My only complaint is that there is no way to go backward and forward during internet browsing with this mouse, but it’s something that I can definitely live without and I’ve adapted just fine.

So if you’re planning to go Mac and can’t decide on a keyboard and mouse, I definitely recommend that you go with the Apple products.  They’re just better…so much so that I wish I could get a set to use with the PC that I’m still stuck using at lab.

change isn’t so hard…

…all you have to do is get your brain to rewire itself. At least that’s the premise of the book The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, which I picked up because it has a cool cover (not so cool title) and because it’s about neuroplasticity and I’m fascinated by anything that has to do with the brain.

In it, the author discusses neuroplasticity (changes that can occur in the organization of the brain) as a field that is coming into vogue now that there is proof that the brain is plastic (versus the old belief that it is not, otherwise known as localizationism in which each of our functions are located in a specific area of the brain).  I guess this shift in thinking took place longer ago than the author makes it appear because I was always taught that the brain is plastic and in fact, had to answer a couple of questions about the mechanisms of neuroplasticity during my dreaded qualifying exam.  Nonetheless, this book was quite interesting as it describes new plasticity-based approaches to treatment of learning disorders, age-related memory loss, stroke treatment, etc.  There’s even a fascinating little vignette about a girl who was born with only one hemisphere of her brain who lives a more-normal-than-anyone-would-expect life.

All in all, although I found this book a little simplistic because of my educational background, I think it is a good read for those with an interest in the brain and our current progress in demystifying how it works (and who might not like a bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo).  I know you’re just dying to learn how neuroplasticity leads to porn addiction and people seeking out and staying in bad relationships (*cough cough* not-so-dear brother-in-law) among other things.

does someone you know/love/hate have fatal flaws?

Yes, I said “fatal flaws.” It sounds like the title of a cheesy psychological thriller. Tall, dark, handsome guy meets attractive woman. They hit it off. He falls for her. And then, after he’s settled into couple-dom with this perfect woman…cue dramatic music…he discovers that she has fatal flaws! And he spends the rest of the movie trying to avoid being a victim of this fatally flawed woman.

Well, cheesy as it may sound, isn’t that what our real-life relationships are like? We meet someone. S/he may be someone we work for or with, someone we think we can be friends with, or someone we think we just might come to love. Things go well. For awhile. We settle into routine. And then, sometimes slowly and sometimes like-an-anvil-on-your-head, this person all of a sudden isn’t what you thought s/he was and you find yourself doubting yourself as well as this other person that you now have a relationship with.

A surprising percentage of the population have what are termed personality disorders, defined by the DSM-IV as “persistent patterns of feelings, thinkings, and behavior that result in problems with relationships, in controlling impulses, and in functioning in social, school, or occupational settings.” These disorders include histrionic, narcissistic, antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, paranoid, borderline, and schizotypal personality disorders. We’ve all heard the term narcissist before, but do we know what it means and how a person with narcissistic personality disorder behaves? Probably not. So how do we know if we’re in a relationship with such a person? How do we know how to deal with such a person? We don’t. And as long as we don’t, we’re stuck in a destructive relationship that only serves to cause us to question ourselves and whether or not there is something wrong with us when in fact there is something wrong with the person we are involved with.

The book Fatal Flaws: Navigating Destructive Relationships with People with Disorders of Personality and Character seeks to address just this–how to tell if we are in relationships with people who have personality disorders and how to best deal with these people if we are in fact in such a situation. I won’t lie…it wasn’t an easy read, even for someone like me who has had some training in personality disorders and their treatment. But it’s worth the time and effort to read if you are in a relationship with someone who has one of these personality disorders and you want to understand why they behave the way they do and how you can try to work towards a healthier relationship with this person. The author, Stuart Yudofsky, first gives a case history of a patient that exemplifies the particular personality disorder at hand and then uses that history to delve into issues in the diagnosis and treatment of that personality disorder. He gives helpful tips on how to deal with people with each personality disorder. However, these tips are not meant to be substitutes for professional medical help but rather to supplement professional therapy that you and the person with the personality disorder should be receiving. It is far beyond your (and many unqualified therapists’) powers to “cure” a person with a personality disorder, but you can through the use of this book learn to understand their patterns and your behaviors that may be feeding into and reinforcing their disordered thinking. More importantly, you learn to recognize these disorders and to recognize in yourself the reasons why you were drawn to these people in the first place so that you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Thanks to this book, I’ve discovered that my major professor definitely has narcissistic personality disorder and that my not-so-dear brother-in-law’s super-psycho super-fugly girlfriend most likely has borderline personality disorder. When I read the description of narcissistic personality disorder, a light bulb went off in my head as I realized that so many of my problems with my major professor stem from his narcissistic tendencies. True, I can never tell him what I’ve discovered or coerce him into therapy, but at least I now know what I am dealing with so that I will no longer reinforce his behavior or be hurt by the things that he does because of his personality disorder. As for super-psycho super-fugly girlfriend, there is nothing I can do there but feel sorry for not-so-dear brother-in-law. Except for maybe send a pertinent excerpt from this book to him. Though she has brainwashed him so badly that it’s not even worth the effort on my part. But at least I know what’s wrong with her and how to deal with her if I ever have to again (though I shudder at the thought).

If you’re thinking that you couldn’t possibly need this book because you are surrounded by no one but the most personality-disorder-free of us all, you could be right. But more likely than not, you’re wrong. Because even if someone doesn’t quite have the pathology to have a personality disorder as described in this book and in the DSM-IV, everyone carries certain traits from these personality disorders. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because we need some of these traits to a certain degree. They are healthy and adaptive to a certain degree. But certain traits or when exaggerated can make people hard to work with or get along with. Singling out these traits and learning how to deal with them can be of benefit too.

Lastly, reading this book can also help you understand yourself. I learned that I lean towards obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. No, I don’t have it. But I recognize some of those traits in me. And because of that, I have become aware of the things I do that just might not be so reasonable to other people and that might be self-defeating. Knowing these things, I can now try to tone them down a bit.

Overall, maybe I’m a nerd with a little too much interest in psychiatry, but I found this book interesting. It may be a little much for people who do not have any familiarity with psychiatry, but is still relatively easy to read and understand. Although the author claims that this book was written for both health professionals and laypeople, it definitely leans towards the health professional side and somewhat lacks in practical advice that a layperson can easily use without the help of a therapist. As such, I would recommend this book to those people out there who are engaged in a relationship with someone who has a personality disorder and wants to learn more about this person’s disorder or someone who has an interest in psychiatry and personality disorders in general.

i didn’t study today because…

I was too busy playing Elite Beat Agents on my DS Lite.  I know.  I'm bad.  But I just couldn't help it.  It was too addictive.  So addictive that I already beat the game.  At least that means I won't be playing it instead of studying anymore.  But then again, there's the Japanese version, which I have but haven't beaten yet.  I'm so screwed.  This game reminds me of just why I love my DS Lite so much.  It's a game that not-so-good-at-video-games me can play without too much struggling.  Basically, you're "elite beat agents" and you go around pumping out beats to different songs to save people from various situations such as a babysitting nightmare and a speed freak cab driver.  How well you do in following the beats (which you tap out with your stylus) determines how the story goes.  Screw up too badly and you lose and don't save the day.  Do well and you save the day.  It's great.  And it also has a versus mode so I can pwn my husband at it whenever I feel like it.  I'm sure hoping they come out with more games like this one because it's now one of my favorite DS Lite games!

a wii for mii afterall

I guess I should be happy.  I got my Wii after all.  But somehow I'm not.  And it's all thanks to the people at Amazon, who told me that my Wii was delayed indefinitely thereby causing me to waste two days moping about not being able to get one and trying to chase one down only to them then ship it!  Seriously, WTF?!  They kept insisting that they had absolutely no idea when my order would be filled, but then they shipped it two days later?  How could you not know, liars?  And thanks to their mishaps, I had to cut short my trip out-of-town for the holiday to come back and retrieve my Wii from my doorstep before thieves could, which could have been avoided had they shipped it when they promised before Thanksgiving.  Just because they sent me my Wii before I expected (which was sometime in June 2007 based on their "we have no idea" answer) doesn't mean that I'm any less mad at them nor does it mean that I'm going to go right back to buying stuff from them.  Nope.  I'm going to be trying my best not to ever buy stuff from them ever again, thank you.

And now, time to move on to a much more important topic: how so very cool my new Wii is.  If you've read any of my posts about how much I love my DS Lite, you'll understand why I love the Wii: it's like a DS Lite but on a TV.  The Wii remote is like the DS stylus, only better because you don't have to write on your screen…all you do is wave it around.  And the games are not so complicated that unskilled-at-video-games people like me can't possibly play them, just like the DS Lite.  We only have Wii Sports right now (waiting for Christmas for other games to come in the form of gifts :P), but it's quite entertaining.  I especially like the tennis since it's something I've been playing in real life and I can play regardless of the weather outside (unlike tennis in real life).  The bowling game provides all the fun of bowling without the smelly shoes.  I can't wait to get Trauma Center!  Though I have to wonder how silly we look to outsiders waving our little Wii remotes around like we do.

in an alternate universe…

I would probably be in law school. No wait, if that were true, I would already be a lawyer and making $120K. But I’m not a lawyer. Nope, I’m still a student and I definitely don’t make anything even remotely close to $120K. But I have no regrets about the choice I made (despite what I rant and rave about all the time here, which by the way, has more to do with grad school than med school). Besides, I can play lawyer on my Nintendo DS Lite. As a matter of fact, that’s what I did today instead of studying. After more hours than I care to admit to, I finally beat the rather addictive game called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It was quite fun though probably not at all realistic because the lawyers also played detective. It includes neat little features, like the fact that you can really play lawyer by yelling “objection” into the microphone if you have an objection to raise. You also get to play with a fingerprinting kit and luminol in the last case. It was a little slow and repetitive at times, but the detective work and evidence-gathering parts as well as the cases themselves were quite fun. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel!