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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Tuesday, September 27, 2022

    Scary Story Season

    October will be here soon. Time for some creepy reading material, yes? 

    Recently I heard about a book of short stories which had been written by AI (artificial intelligence; in short, computer-generated stories). The book is available on Amazon, here. The book is available on Kindle Unlimited and since I subscribe, I took a look at it. My take on the book: although it was interesting to look at, I don't recommend that anyone purchase it. The sentences use proper grammar and word choices, so they are readable, and the premise of most of the stories starts off as interesting (the introduction states that the computer was given an introductory sentence to start off with for most stories, or a selection of scary stories to review). But many of the sentences are repetitive, the plots build no tension whatsoever and they all end on a nonspecific note. In fact, in many of the stories it's strongly implied that the narrator dies but there is no explanation of how they are then able to narrate the story! While it's an interesting accomplishment, all that really has happened here is that the computer has re-invented bad creepypasta. And heaven knows there is already plenty of that to go around.

    There is certainly better horror writing on the internet if that is what you are after. I can, for example, heartily recommend the SCP website as a source of good reading. The rationale that fuels the website is this: the SCP is a secret institute tasked with restraining many monsters, anomalies, what have you from wreaking havoc in our world. Each story is framed as a report which includes its restraint requirements, the circumstances under which it was found, its effects and so forth. The danger level of these items does not correlate with restraint requirements; for example, something marked "safe" can drive people to suicide. It simply means that it does not have to be guarded or locked in a cell.

    The website has been recently updated, and now in order to access it you have to type your name (or a name, at least). If you click on certain stories, this name will be entered to make it look as if it involves the reader directly. This adds an extra frisson, if you will. I will list two of my favorite entries here. 

    SCP-087, "The Stairwell," is very simple but utterly terrifying and is probably the single best story on the site. It's a stairwell. And there's something in it. Just go read it. (ADDENDUM: I just went to reread the story and unfortunately the appended reports are missing. Basically, they begin with mildly disturbing and get scarier... and the final report is [REDACTED]. Sometimes less is more.)

    The other is SCP-2521, which was created for a contest on the site requesting a story with the fewest words possible. This submission has no words. It's all done visually and is absolutely brilliant. Interestingly, there were a lot of complaints from site members and the author didn't win the contest, because it didn't follow the "fewest words" rule. This issue is worth mentioning, as the administrators and members of the website are known for their pickiness. On the other hand, that is precisely what keeps the overall quality of the site so high. Mediocre writing is not tolerated. And the happy ending is that the entry was immediately awarded a permanent place on the site (most submissions are severely edited and need to be rewritten before getting a spot, and "newbies" are discouraged from submitting stories until they have been around long enough to learn the site's requirements). 

    So if you dare, and if you enjoy scary stories, give this site a try. Just don't say I didn't warn you...


    Sunday, September 18, 2022

    The Boards

    I'm finding it harder and harder to work up motivation to study for this test. I recently heard from two co-workers that the Boards, which MDs take to certify in their specialty (I'm Internal Medicine), are now open book.  This will make things somewhat easier, though there certainly is not enough time allowed to look up every single answer. Whether or no, I just need to keep pushing through on this and it will be over in two weeks. Then I can proceed to all the other issues competing for my attention... and that queue will soon be as long as the queue to view Her Majesty. 

    (off topic: I plan to get up early tomorrow to watch at least part of the funeral.) 

    But back to medicine: I have found that the longer I practice medicine, the easier it is to tie certain points to patients I have seen and worked with. Therefore, less rote memorization is required. That said, most of my primary care practice centers around a fairly narrow set of topics and I need to refresh my memory on many others. This is my fourth time taking the test, yet I'm still nervous. I keep reminding myself that I passed the other three times, so surely it won't be that bad this time. 

    At any rate. Today is my good friend V's birthday and I need to get going; I am taking her and her daughter out to lunch. I also need to do some pickup and cleaning as my brother will be arriving later this week for the funeral of a good family friend. To be continued.