Friday, December 29, 2006

Booked

There are a few occasions in life when you can actually feel individual neurons dying. One of these occasions, as I discovered, is traffic school. Especially 8 hours of traffic school spread out over 2 nights in four-hour classes from 6-10pm during your vacation. The class taught me, among other things, that if people actually followed the rules of the road, automotive travel would be about as efficient as going to work in a horse-drawn carriage.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hey oooh

I've been posting a lot of music videos recently--not sure why, may have something to do with the fact that my TV here in Milwaukee only gets like 2 channels clearly, so I get my TV fix by watching stuff on YouTube. Anyway, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers have a new song out called "Snow" which is pretty good...check it...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Discovering the fishies

So, I just came back from the annual holiday party at work. Now, I usually avoid things like holiday parties, for no real reason other than social ineptness. But, I figure, it is a bunch of medicine geeks and, in that setting, I'm actually pretty hip. Anyway, my real motivation was that it was held at Discovery World, a museum/aquarium in Milwaukee. I was excited at the prospect of checking out the aquarium, in particular, and I figured the science wing would have some cool things to check out too.

So I get to the party, do a little meeting and greeting, and then head over to the aquarium as soon as I am able. The aquarium was sort of small at first glance, but I thought what they lack in space they may make up in quality.

As I walk to the first exhibit, I can feel the adrenaline flowing, it's game time, my neurons firing in anticipation of all the exotic fish-related trivia tantalizingly dangling before me like a worm on a hook. And then I'm there and I look into the tank and I see...

Brown trout. Perch. Groupers. Yes, the same fish that are featured on dinner plates across the country were on display, swimming around the tank with a certain smugness that comes from knowing that they, at least, were not going to end up on your dinner plate. In fact, much of the display, featuring fish of the Great Lakes, could have easily been called instead, "It's what's for dinner." I half expected the little displays that provided information about the fish to say something like, "brown trout is best served with a lemon sauce and french fries."

What more can I say? They're trying to make downtown Milwaukee more of a cultural attraction and it clearly needs more work. Thank God Chicago is so close...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Jammin

I'm postcall, in that crazy haze induced by caffeine and sleep deprivation. My fellow residents seem to look forward to my postcall days, apparently I'm a lot funnier when I haven't slept...

Before I drop off to sleep, I thought I'd post one of my favorite songs these days, "Crazy" as done by Gnarls Barkley, my head just bobs in that Punjabi style that you all wish you could do. I mean, you all just lucky I only head bob, cause it's danger in the living room when the rest of me gets going. Luckily, my roommate is at work late or he'd be wondering what's going on up in here...

Anyway, here are some crazy videos...



Sunday, December 03, 2006

Arabs saving Jews during the Holocaust

Fascinating article about Robert Satloff, an American Jew, who chronicled the lives of Arabs who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ellison controversy

This is ridiculous...



Jon Stewart has a nice rejoinder...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Living Old

An excellent show by Frontline on "Living Old" about healthcare challenges for the elderly. Really eye-opening, whether you're in the healthcare industry or not...one quote from the show:

"Only those people who have 3 or more daughters or daughters-in-law have a better than 50% chance of not finishing their life in a nursing home or institute."

You can watch the whole show online

Thursday, November 23, 2006

25 Funniest Analogies

Courtesy of a link from reddit.com, the 25 Funniest Analogies (Collected by High School English Teachers).

It's as funny as fumbling a falooda float...I know it's shocking that none of my analogies made the list, because I'm as witty as a wall of watermelon in the middle of winter...as pithy as a porcupine in a puddle of pomengranates...

Open Shut Case

So I got a garage at my apartment in Milwaukee. I was really excited about getting it since it means I won't have to scrape the ice and snow off the car once winter hits. Thing is, I'm starting to realize how spoiled I am, because the garage does not have an automatic garage opener.

So I actually have to manually open and close the garage door.

This is really annoying in the morning when I'm pulling out to go to work (on time as always) and I have to jump out of the car to bring the door down.

ARRRGH!!!

There, I feel much better now...the price of luxury...

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Story, on the big screen

Many of you have seen the epic movies Spider Man and Spider Man 2. What you may not know is that much of the movies are loosely based on my own experiences. While I was never actually bitten by a radioactive spider, can't climb walls or shoot out spider webs, there are a lot of less obvious connections...they're so subtle, in fact, that I'll let you think about it until something comes to you.

In the meantime, check out this tight trailer forwarded to me by my little bro...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Victim of Israeli Attack on Beit Hanoun




Why?

American Muslim elected to Congress

Though his social views are at odds with traditional Muslim views, Keith Ellison is the first American Muslim to be elected to Congress. This is a major accomplishment by an American Muslim who reverted to Islam, from Catholicism, when he was 19 years old. It will be interesting to watch how he performs in Congress. PBS aired a segment about him on their show Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fantasy Congress

So, you're obsessed over your fantasy football league, fretting over who to start this weekend and whether or not to make a tempting trade?

Well, why should sports have all the fantasy? Why can't there be fantasy in other areas? Like politics? Yeah, fantasy politics, where truth, justice and the pursuit of happiness prevail...

While such a happy place may seem more fiction than fact these days, you can indulge your political thirst by joining Fantasy Congress, a website where you track the performance of Congressional representatives as they make their own deals, pass laws and do whatever else it is they do inside the Beltway...

I heard about it on NPR and they apparently already have some 16,000 users including a lot of lobbyists and congressional staff people. So be cool, be savvy, find out if your representative made the last vote, play Fantasy Congress today!

[I haven't tried it out yet, maybe when I have more of this precious commodity called free time...if you try it out, let me know just how much fun it is...]

Saturday, October 28, 2006

How about a cuppa?

So I've officially become a tea snob.

It all started a few weeks ago during a friend's iftar party in Milwaukee. Now, typically, I'm not much of a tea drinker. I mean, every now and then I'll pick up a cup but I'm more of a coffee (injected with substantial amounts of chocolate and sugar) kind of guy. Anyway, he serves this tea, and I take a sip and nearly jump out of my chair as an unexpectedly pleasurable taste and aroma wash down my palate.

I turn to my friend and ask him, in my usual subtle way, "what the heck is in this? This is like the world's best tea, ever." He smiles a knowing smile and gestures for me to join him in the kitchen. He says, "Ah yes, brother, you like the tea? Now here is its secret," at which point he shows me a fancy looking tea pot with a tin of small dried leaves next to it.

It is at this point that I am introduced to one of the culinary wonders of the world -- loose leaf tea. Like many of you, I only knew tea as something that came in little baggies from Lipton or Celestial Seasonings. You boil some water, put the little baggie in the cup, add some milk and presto, tea is served. Such tea, my friends, is not tea. It is but the pale gustatory imitation of the real thing. It would be like growing up and having been told that NutraSweet or Splenda is the same thing as sugar.

So, this is the way it works. The fancy teapot actually contains a metal cyclinder that sits in the middle of the tea pot. The cylinder has multiple, small pores on its sides. You take some loose leaf tea and put it inside the cylinder, where it sits. Meanwhile, you boil some water and then pour it into the teapot. The hot water mixes with the tea leaves inside the metal cylinder (called an infuser) and the tea begins to brew. You let it brew for 5 minutes (for most black teas) and then you take out the infuser and are ready to serve some real, honest, delightfully delectable tea. And yes, you can still add milk and sugar...

It takes a little more work, especially to clean out the infuser, but it is so worth it. So, anway, after this amazing tea experience, I tell my Mom all about it, a true tea aficionado, and she gets all excited about it too. So, after a little online research, I surprised her with a set of loose leaf teas and the fancy teapot w/infuser for Eid. She absolutely loved it.

So now we're exploring the different kinds of loose leaf tea with the sampler set of teas we got. So far, we're sticking to black teas, but there are so many other types out there to explore. Lipton may just never be enough again...

Have you reddit?

A new site I've discovered today that lists top news stories people on the net are reading, Reddit.com. A lot of interesting stories, yet another way to waste time on the net...

O'Reilly on Letterman the first time...O'Reilly pretty much took this one...


O'Reilly on Letterman the second time...Letterman took this...


And less serious...two great bands...U2 & Greenday

Pachy Drama

A fascinating account of elephants gone amuck, due to the destruction of their social structure. The article, written by Charles Siebert for the NY Times Magazine, argues that trauma affects elephants in ways that are surprisingly similar to humans. And elephants, under such circumstances, develop hair-trigger tempers making them capable of trampling down villages, smacking around rhinoceroses and killing people.

What's interesting are the details on pachyderm society, from how they rear their children to their visiting of their dead. And if that's not enough, did you know there is an elephant preserve in Tennessee?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Eid all Over

It's funny how, after a month of fasting, it's so easy to go back to snacking all day long. I've been raiding my Mom's pantry and fridge with an audacity that would humble most Norsemen...

For some, um, meatier fare than what you may have received at the average Eid khutbah (i.e. sermon), I present to you, dear reader, some Eid sermons well worth the read.

1. Pickthall khutbah (June 29th, 1919) - Pickthall, in my mind, wrote the greatest English rendition of the Qur'an ever, and was an amazing thinker. In this sermon, he reminds us that Islam is not, "a state of ecstatic lethargy, but a state of ecstatic energy."

2. Imam Ebrahim khutbah (November 14th, 2004) - Given in Cape Town, with reminders of some beautiful hadith (sayings of the Prophet, peace be upon him).

3. Imam Humaid khutbah (October 2006) - one of the Imams of Makkah, a summary of his khutbah reported in the news. Couldn't find a transcript of it.

Lastly, came across some news stories on Eid in other places, including Ghana, Iraq, Phillipines, Kenya and even Hawaii.

Aloha!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

So White & Nerdy

This is a hilarious video, Weird Al in one of his finest since "It's All about the Pentiums"...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gone too long

So my friends and fans, has absence made your hearts grow fonder? Have you found yourself pining away for a new post of the mundane misadventures that fall my way?

I didn't think so either, but, after a trip into the ether, I'm back. Where I've been, now there's a tale. Like Mr. Baggins, I feel like I've been there and back.

When you first put on the long white coat, you feel like a superhero donning his new supersuit. Like the Prince of Gotham, your utility belt is equipped with pager and PDA, a stethoscope hangs over your shoulders like nunchuks and you walk with a just a hint of a swagger (that is totally unearned). Bring on diabetes, you think, it's game time.

Of course, the bubble is quickly burst once you actually start seeing patients. The "simple" diabetic now shows up with a sky-high sugars, dangerous levels of potassium and dehydration. Now you can't just say, "give him insulin." You gottta figure out what kind of insulin, how much and for how long. Back-seat driving, as pleasurable as it was as a student, just doesn't work here.

One of the things I was least prepared for was the physical and emotional drainage of internship. Especially nights when I was on call, it felt like being given the steering wheel of the Batmobile in the middle of a car chase. All you really hoped to do was avoid crashing...

Of course, it's not so dire - you do have senior residents and attendings for help and guidance. Plus I have this tendency to stay and stay until I think everything's done, which makes for some super long days. I've learned that "signing out" (giving the on call person tasks to follow up on) is not a sign of weakness, but rather of sanity.

There are a couple of memories that stick out in my mind. One is the first time I had to pronounce a patient's death. The patient was 41 years old and was diagnosed with melanoma (a skin cancer) this past April. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread all over his body, and there were metastases in his heart, liver and brain. When he came to the hospital, he knew that he didn't have much time left. What he needed from us was placement of a catheter to drain fluid from his belly (ascites secondary to malignant effusions in medical jargon).

I did an initial tap of the fluid in the patient, to relieve his symptoms, until a catheter could be placed by radiology in the morning. The next morning, however, things had changed. His kidneys were shutting down, his heart was going into dangerous rhythms and it became clear that the end was coming sooner than later. The patient did not want any heroic measures taken, something his family was in agreement with, and asked only to be kept as comfortable as possible.

When they paged me to come and pronounce his death, his entire family was at his bedside, his wife in tears and young children around the bed. He was diagnosed with melanoma in April and dead in August. I remember feeling clumsy while examining him for signs of death. It sounds strange to say that, but in medicine, death is still a clinical diagnosis. There are a series of things you look for on exam to confirm the patient's death and then you "pronounce" them.

But more than that, there is an emptiness you feel, no matter how many people are in the room with you. The same person you were talking to earlier in the day now lies before you, lifeless, and there is no more you can do.

Death lives in the shadows. We fill our hospitals with gleaming electronics, bright lights and windows as though we can drive out the shadows, drive out the only certainty there is in the world, that we too shall pass.

As difficult as it was for me to deal with, I cannot even imagine how it must have felt for the patient and his family. How does one wait for death?

On those weighty words, I leave you to your thoughts. Until next time friends...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Life in the Not So Big City

So people want to know what it's like in Milwaukee, especially as an expatriate suburban Chicagolander. The first thing that strikes me about the place, at least in the hospital, is that there actually are a lot of other expatriate suburban Chicagolanders around here.

You often discover this secretly, in a discussion on sports, for instance. If the other person doesn't talk about the Green Bay Packers with a reverential deference, you begin to wonder...if the person doesn't know anything about the Badgers, you become almost certain, and eventually they'll say something that will seal the deal - "didn't the Bears have a great season last year?" Of course, as turncoat Green Bay fan, I just nod and smile.

Many of us in this secret society of people from Chicago often refer to Milwaukee as Chicago's northernmost suburb, a designation not really favored by the locals here for some reason. Some people I've talked to here think of Milwaukee as a big "small town" but it seems to me the people running Milwaukee are more interested in making it into a "New Chicago" than a charming bucolic throwback to the days of yore.

One thing everyone can agree on: don't speed in Milwaukee, or Wisconsin generally. If you do, you will get a big, fat ticket. This fact is so well known and understood, that I routinely see people driving the speed limit. This is an unheard of practice in Illinois.

In fact, on Illinois highways one can safely go 70-75mph despite a speed limit of 55mph. In Wisconsin, with a speed limit of 65mph, people drive no faster than 75mph. The daring few in the left lane may push it to 80mph but even then only when safely out of the stretch of highway between Kenosha and Racine, which is one giant speedtrap.

There are even billboards that advertise this fact - I saw one that said, "Speeding is a Big Ticket Item" and another one for Cousin's subway sandwiches that says, "It's worth its weight in speeding tickets."

So I guess it's safe to say that life is slower here...

There are also some random connections back to Chicago even up here. News Radio WBBM 780 from Chicago comes in quite clearly up here and I often listen with special delight when they give the rush hour traffic reports in Chicago.

There is no such thing as 50 minute delays here in Milwaukee. Even with a massive highway construction project, it takes no more than 15-20 minutes for my commute, a blessing I can hardly describe to you in Chicago.

But there are prices to pay for this life of ease. We do not have nearly the selection of relatively cheap, but good, Indo-Pak or Arab restaurants out here. One place that is pretty good that I've been to is called Ujala, which makes some great naan and chicken karahai.

That's it for now on my notes on M-town...if I get time, maybe some stories from my month in the ER...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Crisis in Lebanon

"No one can for one moment accept rockets in Haifa, Nazareth, or anywhere in Israel. But demanding that the Lebanese government rein in Hezbollah while bombs rain down on a variety of targets, some civilian, is not the answer.

Widening the war will inflame tensions, increase casualties and decrease any prospect for a permanent peace. The United States can best support Israel and the Arab world by vigorously pursuing an end to the violence, the resumption of a peace process and a commitment to unite the region to isolate terrorist groups and all who oppose a just and lasting peace for all people."
-Representative Jim McDermott, Washington State

"The Lebanese people, who had hoped that their country's dark days were behind them, have been brutally dragged back into war. Already, over 300 Lebanese have been killed and over 600 wounded. And the casualties are mainly among the civilian population, about one third of them children. Much of the infrastructure in Beirut and around the country has been destroyed. Lebanon remains under an Israeli military blockade, imposed by sea and air."
-Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General

"In Lebanon, from a humanitarian standpoint, we are witnessing a tragic, downward spiral. We already have a crisis with rapidly growing unmet needs. Every day the fighting continues takes us closer to a human catastrophe."
-Louis Michel, the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid (European Commission)

"Call for an immediate cease-fire in the region that would allow the rapid deployment of the international humanitarian aid effort and the return of international law;"
-Conference of the Presidents, European Parliament

Saturday, July 08, 2006

My latest addiction

I absolutely love the game, "Pac the Man X" developed by McSebi.  It is based on the old PacMan arcade game and is really well done.  My high score is over 56,000 and my goal is to erase Imran and Ejaaz's high scores from my high score list. I think they only have one score each on the list now.  Soon, my precious, soon the list will be all mine...

Hey, so there's not a whole lot to do in Milwaukee, okay...

Friday, June 23, 2006

What's Happening Now?

So it's been a while since I've posted. Much has gone on in the world, Dwayne Wade turned out to be the real maverick, the Mets have been making the Wright moves, and there are some Tigers that need to be muzzled by the White Sox before things get out of hand.

I've also finished school, mash'Allah, and am counting down to July 1st when I get to trade in my short white coat for a long one. I imagine it will be a momentous occasion, held the evening before we start, with the red carpet rolled out in front of the entrance to the emergency room. As the lights glare and the cameras flash, I'll walk in and the hallway will be lined with hospital staff and papparazzi. The lights will be dimmed and then the soft, subtle music that is played when the Chicago Bulls enter the United Center will be piped in over the hospital PA system. Someone will say, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, announcing your new house interns!" And with that the audience will break out cheering and clapping. "Coming in at a little under six feet tall, the only brownie that won't melt in your hands, Uuuuuu-mar!" Of course, the crowd goes wild...

If only the long white coat imbued you with new superpowers, x-ray vision would be particularly useful, to match the great responsibility wearing it entails. Like a butterfly fluttering on the winds of change, one cannot help but feel trepidation and exhilaration, along with the great hope that God is guiding you to ever better things...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Your Dangerous Drugstore

An interesting article by Dr. Marcia Angell in the New York Review of Books that I saw posted on World Health News. There is a lot of debate these days about how effective the FDA is in regulating the drug approval and monitoring process.

The concern centers around whether scientists at the FDA are impartial enough, especially given that many have financial relationships with the companies they oversee. Public opinion is turning against both the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry in the wake of recent high-profile recalls like Vioxx and Bextra.

While the consistent, and often impressive, profitability of the pharmaceutical industry certainly suggests that these companies are recovering more than the cost of R&D in the prices of the drugs and devices they manufacture, it is hard for me to come down on them for making money. What's wrong with making a profit?

On the other hand, we do need to care for those unable to afford treatment. I think we can go a long way towards accomplishing this if we reform how the government purchases drugs from the industry. Medicare, for instance, cannot use its purchasing power to bargain for lower rates like other countries do. This type of practice runs counter to free market price setting and artificially inflates prices.

If Medicare were free to bargain for better prices, then we would see drugs costs more in line with what other countries pay. While this may cut down on the amount of profit pharmaceutical companies receive, I'd find it hard to believe that it would make them unprofitable.

Of course, the industry has one of the most powerful lobbies in the country and likely has no intention of sending their golden goose to slaughter. As long as they can market directly to patients and maintain the current Medicare payment system, their corner offices with views are not likely in any danger.

In our zeal to reform the industry, however, we must be careful not to stifle it. The pharmaceutical industry remains a vital source of funding for research studies and the consequent medical breakthroughs. A balance between the profit motive and public health needs must be struck in a way that rewards innovation while not sacrificing the health of those most in need.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Throw Down

Today Ahmed challenged by brothers and me to a game of basketball in an email that defiantly stated: Bring it!

Such innocent exuberance is something I've come to expect from AJ, but I had a feeling he was not all sugar and spice when he included the following image in the email:

Indeed, this picture was worth a thousand words. AJ was putting the world on notice that he was Jordan to the Shakur Brothers Reece Gaines. In fact, he felt so bad for us, he was even giving us an autographed jersey before the game, like a pre-emptive parting gift for people who come to game shows and win nothing.

Imran, perpetually clueless, responded to this email with, "LOL. Dorkistani." The true nature of the insult had clearly flown way over his rather large head. He thought AJ was merely being cute, in a yuppie Lincoln Park sort of way.

But I knew better. Having been schooled during my formative periods on the South Side of Chicago, I knew a throw down when I saw one. AJ was calling us out, and it was time for us to respond. So I did, not visually, but lyrically, in the only way a South Sider knows how:

You tell me to bring it,
You, who play so half bit,

Watch my defense rip
as your shots slip

Mine fall down like rain
Proclaiming my righteous reign

Peace out,

Shakfoo

To this lyrical onslaught, even AJ had to submit, saying only:

Dang! Kamikaze Ninja Wu-Tang Shaolin Rajpoothi Jigga Wigga Ill-Will up in 'dis.

What else can one say? Unfortunately, the game tonight was cancelled, but soon enough we shall see how this battle of wits plays out on the court...

President Bush Impersonation


You've all probably seen this by now, but it is still quite funny...


Friday, May 19, 2006

Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight


A fascinating investigative news story by the Hartford Courant, which was posted in the latest issue of Harvard's World Health News.  Here is an excerpt:

These practices, which have received little public scrutiny and in some cases violate the military's own policies, have helped to fuel an increase in the suicide rate among troops serving in Iraq, which reached an all-time high in 2005 when 22 soldiers killed themselves -- accounting for nearly one in five of all Army non-combat deaths.

The Courant's investigation found that at least 11 service members who committed suicide in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite exhibiting signs of significant psychological distress. In at least seven of the cases, superiors were aware of the problems, military investigative records and interviews with families indicate.

World Health News also posted a link to a story by ABC News, based on the Courant's investigation.

The Courant reports that the Army is satisfied with efforts it launched two years ago to improve mental health among troops, and that they expect some "variation" in suicide rates among troops. 

Hardly a comforting voice of support for our troops.  Those who do seek help likely do so with much stigma and belittling of their condition, problems even civilians face in coping with mental illness.  Yet our troops can ill afford the impact of mental illness in a place where uncertainty is palpable and the line between life and death is so thin...

In related news, HBO is set to launch a documentary called "Baghdad ER" which, according to Lieutenant-General Kevin Kiley (Army Surgeon General), shows, "the ravages and anguish of war." The military, initially supportive of the show, is now distancing itself from it -- one wonders if it is not doing the same with respect to the mental health of its soldiers...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How the Winds do Change

The sun is shining through some thick white clouds as I help my mother spread some gravel in the front yard. After a few minutes, I take a casual look up into the sky and notice that there are huge, dark storm clouds coming from the north advancing, rather rapidly, towards the south and directly over us. As I looked south into the sky, the sun was still shining bright and the sky was blue and clear with some thick puffy white clouds. I called out, a little nervously, to my Mom and said it looked like some storm clouds were headed our way. Without looking up from her work, she said she heard something about 70 mph winds in Chicago on the local news.

Less than a minute after that, we felt the wind pick up tremendously and now the sky, which was previously half clear and half dark, was now completely dark above us and the wind started whipping everything around us. Trees were starting to shake and we grabbed all the tools and ran into the garage. Moments later, the rain started thundering down and pelting the windows in our house.
View from my garage.
There is something about thunderstorms that always evokes a sense of fear and trepidation within me. There is a verse in the Qur'an,

"The thunder hymneth His praise and (so do) the angels for awe of Him."

My Mom always taught me to pray, whenever it looked like it would rain, that it would be a blessed and merciful rain, one with which God revives and restores the land, not one bearing His punishment. The suddenness, and intensity, of the storm reminded me of how tenuous our hold is and how indebted we are to Him.

Now, as I look through the window, the rain has settled into a soft drizzle and the sun is starting to peek back through the clouds...the storm is gone, as quick as it had come...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Coming to America

There is a long-standing academic debate going on as to whether or not Muslims came to America before Columbus did in 1492. Some argue that Muslims from Islamic Spain or West Africa came centuries before Columbus and point to historical accounts of such voyages in Arabic texts as well as linguistic clues in the names of places. While the case has not been convincingly made, a summary of the debate is provided by Rebecca Fachner on the History News Network.

What I found interesting in Fachner's article was her reference to Leo Wiener, founder of the Slavic Language Department at Harvard, who made an argument for African Muslims arriving before Columbus (Africa & the Discovery of America). When I looked up Professor Wiener, I found links to some of his published works and discovered that he also made an argument that Germanic languages owe their origins, in large part, to Arabic.

In his, "Commentary to the Germanic Laws and Mediaeval Documents," Professor Wiener states:

The second volume will discuss the more than two hundred words of Arabic origin in the Gothic Bible and in all the Germanic languages. I will also show that the Naples and Arezzo Gothic documents are late eighth century forgeries, that Jordanes has come down to us in manuscripts interpolated about the same time, that Germanic mythology is of a literary Gothic origin, based on Arabic sources, and that no literary documents in Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Old High German exist which do not show the influence of the Arabicised Gothic language.


Professor Wiener also wrote a four-volume text called, "Contributions Toward a History of Arabico-Gothic Culture ," which further develops the above thesis.

It's always interesting to me to find scholars who demonstrate such historical links between Islam and the West. Many historians, in fact, have made the assertion that Europe's Renaissance was fueled by the transfer of knowledge from Islamic civilization through 12th century translation movements (Arabic to Latin) in Europe. It would perhaps go a long way to helping resolve current "ideological" debates if both sides realized how connected they are to one another...

Below I've included links to additional sources that make a claim for Muslim discovery of the New World.

Sources:
1. They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America by Ivan Van Sertima (Professor at Rutgers University)
2. Unexpected Faces in Ancient America by Alexander Von Wuthenau (Professor of Art History at Mexico's University of the Americas)

The following contain detailed bibliographies for further reading:
3. Exploration in Texas by John L. Davis (online version of his book containing an impressive bibliography)
4. Online bibliography by Karl Schwerin, Dept. of Anthropology, University of New Mexico

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The End is Only the Beginning

 
I'm doing family medicine at Michael Reese hospital these days, my last rotation as a medical student.  I graduate at the end of May and then start my internal medicine residency in Milwaukee in July, God willing.  While finishing medical school will be the end of formal schooling, it really is only the beginning of the intensive training process that occurs during residency.  I'm somewhat nervous about the transition, both because it is the next level of patient care and because I'll be in a new city, but I'm also looking forward to the chance to do what I've always wanted to do.  It's strange to think the moment is at hand...
 
Michael Reese is an interesting hospital.  In the past, it was a major academic center, producing physicians like Dr. Milzer who helped design an effective vaccine for polio and Drs. Pick and Lagendorf, who helped develop the EKG.  There are other big names as well, but, unfortunately, the hospital lost much of its luster when it was taken over by a for-profit hospital chain. They failed to transform Michael Reese into a profitable hospital, a model that seems inappropriate anyway for the patient population Michael Reesee serves.  They are now owned in part by Doctors Community Healthcare Corporation which partners with physicians to run the hospital.  Apparently, they have made some progress and still maintain a residency program in internal medicine.
 
The weird thing is how underutilized the hospital is, with entire floors abandoned and empty.  You can walk through and see patient rooms that haven't been used in years, where the only activity is the dust settling down on countertops and window sills.  The family medicine clinic that I'm at takes up an entire floor though we clearly do not need so much space.  One of the other med students told me that it used to be a wing of the hospital and that our exam rooms actually used to be inpatient rooms.  If they were patient rooms in the past, the rooms were likely a little snug...  
 
The physicians at Michael Reese, however, are doing a real service to the community by seeing largely uninsured patients and taking care of them.  And I'm sure the residents see more than enough interesting cases, as many patients have advanced stages of various diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and the like.  
 
The frustrating part about working with a low-income population are the patients who simply refuse to take care of themselves.  I saw one patient, a woman in her late 40s/early 50s, who weighed over 300 pounds, total cholesterol over 300 (over 200 is bad), and blood pressure above 160/90 (called stage 2 hypertension).  She was prescribed a variety of medicines to help control her blood pressure and cholesterol but only takes one of the medicines, at half the dose prescribed.  This, despite the fact that Medicaid covers the expenses for all her medicines.  On top of all that, she smokes.  I talked to her for a while about the serious implications of her illnesses (heart attack and stroke) and tried to encourage her to take her medicines, but I have a feeling she is out there somewhere having a cigarette and eating one too many items off the dollar menu... sigh...  
 
There are, of course, many patients that do a great job of adhering to their medicines and following up with doctor visits, and those are the patients that make you feel like you're doing some good, that the struggle is worth the effort.  We certainly cannot force people to do what we think is best for them, no matter how sincere our intentions, and developing the patience and discipline to understand that is a lifelong challenge.  At least, for the likes of me...
 
On that, adieu 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Rabi ul Awwal

This month is Rabi ul Awwal in the Islamic calendar and is significant because it is the month in which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born.  An excellent article on the meaning of this month is posted here:
 
Rabiul--What?
 
 

Combine Demo Derby

Stuff you can't see anywhere else...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Certify This

Had to get up real early this morning to get certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support.  The class was held at Northwestern's Memorial Hospital in Chicago - talk about a beautiful hospital! There are few hotels that look as nice, I've never seen such a big and luxurious hospital.  Someone told me each patient gets his/her own room and that there are something like 700 beds in the place...
 
The Northwestern medical students have got to be spoiled.  Can you imagine going to school at a place that is walking distance to both Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan? Shoulda worked harder in college...
 
The other thing I had time to reflect on, as I was zooming up I55 at 7:15am, was how cool it must be to be a morning person.  While it took every ounce of will power to drag myself out of bed for class, I thought about how much more productive people who rise and shine must really be.  The morning just feels so full of potential and opportunity, especially on a bright sunshiney day like today.  I've always been a nighthawk, staying up late to do what I do, but a part of me has always wished to be more of a morning person...
 
Well, these days I'm doing a rotation in orthopedic surgery with a surgeon who operates out of Christ and Little Company of Mary Hospitals. Had a nice little break since my preceptor was gone for a few days, but it'll be back to the operating room on Monday...
 
Orthopedics is like carpentry in a lot of ways, and if you have that kind of skill there are probably few jobs that are more rewarding.  [Honey, I fixed that cabinet up vs. Honey, I hammered someone's pelvis back into shape today ].  Plus, as my friend Ejaaz pointed out, there are some more elegant aspects to orthopedics in terms of the fellowships they can do in hand surgery or spine surgery.
 
I can also attest to the fact that the stereotype of orthopedic surgeons as jocks seems to hold largely true.  My doc had tried out for the US National Soccer team before injuries kept him from going on...
 
For me the main value of this rotation really is in learning a little bit about the clinic side of orthopedic surgery, learning how they manage their patients before and after surgery.  It's funny to think this is my second-to-last rotation of medical school...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Help me to Observe

 
Journalists who go abroad to bring us stories from the rest of the world offer us a great service.  From the comfort of our homes or offices, we can join them as they endure the extremes of climate, squallor of poverty or the tragedy of violence.  (Unless, of course, they are travel writers on assignment to Tahiti.  The yin and yang of the trade, I suppose...)
 
As a recent story in the Christian Science Monitor points out (which I first came across on Harvard's World Health News) many of these journalists are finding it difficult to simply observe difficult situations, and not do anything about it.  Their desire to help, however, sometimes conflicts with their goal to remain objective for the story.  
 
The article covers the spectrum of opinion on the subject, from quoting journalists who say they never get involved to those who can't help not being involved.  Personally, I don't think it hurts the story to help.  At the same time, one has to know how to help. 
 
Throwing money around in the middle of the street in a poor neighborhood isn't the answer, but refusing to buy someone a meal who you know is malnourished and hungry seems a little harsh.  In Islam, as in other religious traditions, feeding the hungry is a great act of worship.  Refusing small kindnesses to others only hardens one's own heart--one goes from being an objective observer to a callous one.  
 
As Kelly McBride, an ethics group leader at The Poynter Institute, says, "I don't think you have to separate being human from being a reporter."
 
I'd agree...  

Hijabi

 
 
     - Sarah Ismail
 
 

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The New Voyages

Okay, continuing on the Star Trek theme, I've discovered that some Trekkers are not content with the loss of all things Star Trek. No, they want new episodes and they're not sitting around waiting for Paramount to do it.

So, for your viewing pleasure, a group has started making Star Trek episodes called the "New Voyages" which features the original Star Trek crew in, well, new voyages. There are two episodes out so far, one in post-production and two more in pre-production.

The episodes are free to download and they apparently aren't making any money from their efforts, though one wonders where they are getting the time and money to do so. Of course, like most Trekkers, they're probably still living in their parents' home...

If you're too busy to watch them on your computer, you can always download them to your iPod. I've seen part of the first episode so far, and the acting is not the best, but the special effects are surprisingly good, especially in scenes where they show the Enterprise flying about. Just goes to show you how computer animation is becoming more accessible and giving more people a chance to make their own movies.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Remember cloaking?

Okay, you Star Trek geeks, you remember how the Romulans had cloaking technology? I know I'm exposing myself by posting this, but there are more of you out there than care to admit it!
 
Well, in a case of science fiction becoming science, some dudes discovered a way to shine a laser on an object so that the object disappears.  The catch? The effect only works on the infrared spectrum of light, which means we can't see it happen (which makes it a real lousy trick at dinner parties - " Watch as I shine a laser on your hand to make it disappear.  Dude, it's still there.  Ah, yes, but it is invisible in the infrared spectrum of light! Oh, ok.). 
 
But the principle could possibly be extended to the visible spectrum of light and then you'd have cloaking technology for real...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Resurrecting Bethany

Update on Bethany (3/31): IL Facilities Planning Board public meeting

Bethany is believed by Christians to be the hometown of Lazarus, a man Christians believe Jesus (peace be upon him) raised from the dead. It is a town not far from Jerusalem and in Christian history is also associated with other important events in the life of Jesus (peace be upon him). Today the site is called Al Ayzariyah, Arabic for "the place of Lazarus."

Today, Advocate Bethany Hospital is at the center of a brewing controversy in Chicago, over Advocate's plan to convert Bethany from a hospital to a long-term acute-care facility. The 150-bed hospital is on Chicago's West Side and serves a primarily indigent minority population in the Lawndale neighborhood.

I did a pediatrics rotation at Bethany in my third year. The attending ran a very busy outpatient clinic at the hospital and we got to see kids come in with all the usual complaints (runny noses, fevers, strep throat, hernias, immunizations) as well as things one tends to see more of in the inner city (asthma, lead poisoning from paint chips, developmental delay from maternal substance abuse during pregnancy). We also got to see newborns in the nursery and frequent lectures on various pediatric topics. It was a great hands-on experience with an excellent attending and I'd love to see the hospital stay open.

Advocate officials, however, expect Bethany to lose over $20 million this year and it may continue to lose money over the next three years. Advocate claims that economic realities have forced them to find new ways to utilize the hospital in a sustainable manner. This led them to the plan to convert the site into an long-term facility that provides acute care for chronically ill patients, making it the first such facility in the area. They also plan to establish a Bethany Community Health Fund to promote health and wellness.

The question, however, that opponents of the plan, led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have is whether or not Advocate allowed Bethany to wither away by failing to invest enough resources into it. Advocate is the largest hospital network in the Chicago area and quite profitable, making over $140 million last year. Local community activists argue that the bulk of such money is put back into Advocate hospitals in more affluent, suburban locations and that Advocate isn't doing enough to serve the indigent, in keeping with its nonprofit status and mission. Essentially, they blame Advocate for "racial redlining" by not investing in its city hospitals that largely serve uninsured black patients.

Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who is challenging John Stroger for the Democratic nomination to Cook County Board President, has called for hearings and asked for Governor Blagojevich to intervene. Claypool argues that, "Advocate's precipitous decision will leave a huge gapping hole...It will send hundreds of patients to already overtaxed hospitals."

Activists also argue that Advocate was trying to circumvent state authority by shutting down certain services without state approval. In addition, they feel betrayed by Advocate because it made comments, prior to approval of a $200 million plus expansion project at Lutheran General, suggesting it would continue to invest in its city hospitals.

As a result of all the controversy, Advocate is planning to hold a public hearing on Tuesday, March 21, at 10 a.m. at The Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle in Chicago. Some are upset, however, by Advocate's decision to hold the meeting in the Loop, and not the West side neighborhood, which would have enabled more area residents to attend. Moreover, it is being held on the same day as the primary elections, which would require people to take even more time out of their workday to attend.

I'm against Advocate's plan, both because it limits options for the underserved and because it takes away an important teaching site for our medical school. Moreover, Advocate is well-known for aggressive collection practices from its patients and a "for-profit" mindset despite its nonprofit status and mission. It is not a particularly generous nonprofit, all things considered.

And has it really exhausted all options in saving the hospital? Could better partnerships with local community and religious organizations have helped improve things? Could reinvestment in Bethany have made it attractive enough to attract higher income patients moving into the near-West Side?

I realize it is hard to tell someone to continue running a facility that is losing $20 million per year. And there are other questions that complicate this discussion. For instance, do nonprofits have a duty to provide charity care and, if so, to what extent? Doesn't the state have a greater duty to provide for the care of the uninsured?

In the meantime, what do you tell the over 60,000 residents of the area that they will lose their hospital? Join the long lines at Stroger? Hope the heart attack/stroke/ketoacidosis doesn't kill you in the meantime?

Additional Sources:
1. It's My Mind blog - where I got the Crain's link

Saturday, March 11, 2006

My ports aren't for sale...

Daniel Drezner, assistant professor of political science at U of C (headed for an associate professorship at Tuft's), had some interesting thoughts on the Dubai Ports World deal in his blog post entitled, "What's the big deal about the port deal?" and in his most recent comments, "Well, I feel much safer," Drezner says:

There is a lot of blame to go around here on this one, but I must reluctantly conclude that the Bush administration should shoulder most of it. Bizarrely, this is a case where I think they got the policy right but royally screwed up the politics. Both the failure to keep Congress in the loop after the CFIUS approval and the veto threat without consultation guaranteed a Congressional revolt.

I can't blame Congressmen too much for acting like short-sighted glory hogs driven by electoral considerations -- that's their job. So I'll join the crowd and blame Bush.


What is disingenuous about the whole controversy is the attempt by critics of the deal to state their case in terms of opposition to all foreign management of port operations. Yet, as the Council on Foreign Relations, states, " the majority of port terminals across the country are foreign-run. For instance, more than 80 percent of the terminals in the largest U.S. port, the port of Los Angeles, are operated by foreign companies ." Clearly, foreign ownership of port operations is the industry standard, with no negative repercussions of such ownership being widely reported in the media prior to the Dubai deal. Moreover, the workers who load and unload cargo are all U.S. citizens who are either members of the International Longshoremen's Association or the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. So, on the ground, not much would really change, other than the profits of running the business going from P&O to Dubai Ports World.

Some, however, state that the Dubai Ports World deal is different because the company is state owned and thus amounts to letting a foreign government (rather than company) run operations at U.S. ports. This seems to be the stance taken by Senator Barack Obama who states, " Over four years after the worst terrorist attack in our history, not only are we failing to inspect 95% of the cargo that arrives at U.S. ports, but now we're allowing our port security to be outsourced to foreign governments. " Yet even this argument fails to hold up, because a state-run business is not the same thing as the state. Consider, for example, if the United States Postal Service won a contract to deliver mail in Mexico. It is not the same thing as a "foreign government" ( i.e. the United States) running the postal system of Mexico. If, for instance, someone robbed a USPS mail truck, it would not be considered an unprovoked attack on the sovereign United States. It would certainly be aggressively prosecuted and it may make the USPS reconsider its contract, but it would not amount to an international act of war.

Add to this the fact that many of the senior leaders of Dubai Ports World are Americans, including the Chief Operating Officer, Edward "Ted" Bilkey. If anything, we should feel reassured that Americans are serving at the highest levels of this state-run business, a sign, certainly, of how much Dubai values American business acumen.

Lastly, there is the argument that terrorists responsible for 9/11 were from Dubai and that Dubai serves as a financial center for terrorism. This, naturally, means we cannot trust Dubai at all with anything related to American security and the War on Terror.

First of all, the fact that a terrorist is from a particular place does not automatically render that place evil. For instance, Timothy McVeigh, the American terrorist responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing, was born in New York. Does this mean New York is evil? Should we suspend all trade activities with the State of New York? Is New York a threat to our national security? It is silly to even suggest such things, yet people are doing it with impunity in the case of Dubai.

Dubai is an important financial center, but it is not responsible for what kinds of individuals bank in Dubai nor what such people may do with their money outside of Dubai. It is no different than the situation with Swiss banks and Switzerland. No one attacks Switzerland when it's discovered that some money laundering scheme went through Swiss accounts. In fact, anyone who watches action movies in the United States, knows full well that bad guys always have their money wired to Swiss or Jamaican bank accounts, because no questions are ever asked. [This last example is not meant to be serious]. More seriously, despite the fact that it did not have to do anything, in October of 2005, the Central Bank of Dubai directed all financial institutions to strengthen internal controls to further reduce the risk of money laundering or other abuses of Dubai financial institutions.

For Heaven's sake, even President Bush has called Dubai a committed ally in the fight against terrorism. The White House has released an extensive fact sheet detailing the importance of the relationship between the USA and UAE. Some of the key points include:
  • UAE Ports Host More U.S. Navy Ships Than Any Port Outside The United States
  • The UAE Is A Partner In Shutting Down Terror Finance Networks
  • The UAE Is An Established Partner In Protecting America's Ports
  • The UAE Is A Critical Partner In Afghanistan
  • The UAE Is Supporting The New Iraqi Government
  • The UAE Is Supporting Middle East Peace Efforts
  • The UAE Provided $100 Million To Help The Victims Of Hurricane Katrina
As an American, it is embarrasing to me to see so many Americans react to the Dubai Ports World deal with such anger and emotion. And sadly, after having read all the arguments, I can only attribute such anger and emotion to Islamophobia in general and Arabophobia in particular.

Consider what Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International had to say about the debate on PBS' Online NewsHour:

The other part of this is that there is a very ugly xenophobic tone that has crept into this debate. And I think that tone itself, quite apart from the actual decision that was made, will be very negative in terms of public opinion. And public opinion in many of these countries may force governments who otherwise would like American investment to come or would like to buy American goods to be more willing to interrupt.

So the tone is part of the problem that worries me, as well as the individual act.

This outcry is at odds with everything that we as Americans stand for. The biggest loser in this entire ordeal is not Dubai, it is America, for it reveals a worrisome undercurrent of hatred and unfounded fears. Arabs and Islam are not going anywhere. They are a part of the reality of life in this country and abroad. Our approach to either should not be based on ignorance or fear but rather engaged discussion and contact. Though it is not a quick path or always an easy one, it is the surest path to peace and security. I only hope we have the wisdom to take it...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Who wears the pants in this family...

Dude, these women almost look like characters out of a comic book. Don't doubt what a woman in a burqa with a little attitude can do. Doesn't look like the burqa is holding these women back...

His Airness

Don't know why I'm into commercials these days, but Darren Rovell had a nice piece on his blog about the new Air Jordan XXI shoe commercial. It's interesting to me how Jordan manages to remain commercially relevant despite no longer playing and Rovell talks about how commercials like this make it happen. Some smart marketing guys working for Jordan. You can watch the original commercial on Rovell's blog and then watch the one below which someone put together on YouTube, showing the commercial next to footage of Jordan doing those moves back in the day...still magic.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Where it goes nobody knows...

Remember when twirling your pen in class was so cool? Well, here are some people who've been to one too many study halls...still it's fun to watch...

Bush on the Pitch

A video of President Bush learning to play cricket on his trip to Pakistan.  His visit was marked by intense security precautions and the banning of all protests, including one in the neighboring town of Rawalpindi.  Apparently, Imran Khan's political party, Insaaf, held a protest despite the ban and police beat and arrested many of those assembled.  Imran Khan was placed under house arrest. 
 
It seems that President Musharraf is ruling with an increasingly heavy hand, which may only make things worse in Pakistan.  It doesn't make much sense to me why he banned a protest in another city, that on the surface, was peaceful in nature and would not have posed any security risk to Bush.  Umm, Musharraf? I realize you're walking a tough line, but seriously, let a little (political) freedom ring... 

Saturday, March 04, 2006

How we do it in Russia & China

Yassine forwarded some fascinating links to me on Islam in Russia and China.  They are brief video journals done by New York Times journalists who talk about a new mosque that was built in Russia and the native Tartars who are enjoying their new religious freedom.  Also a town in Linxia, China known as "Little Mecca". Enjoy!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Too much cash money, no benefits, welcome to Wal-mart!

 
The New York Times reports on the recent controversy surrounding Wal-mart and the miserable healthcare benefits it offers employees.  According to an internal memo, that has since been posted on the web, the average Wal-mart employee makes only $20,000 per year, with 8% of their income going to health care costs.  In fact 46% of employees' children are either uninsured or on state Medicaid.  M. Susan Chambers, the Wal-mart VP who wrote the memo, called for Wal-mart's board to shape healthcare coverage as a national issue--the implication clearly being that doing so would keep Wal-mart from having to improve or expand such benefits.  
 
In fact, over 20 states now have bills pending that would require Wal-mart to offer better healthcare benefits to its employees.  In response to such sentiments, the CEO of Wal-mart, H. Lee Scott Jr., gave a speech to the National Governors' Association, arguing that such legislation is not the solution.  While such legislation is unlikely to pass in most states, Wal-mart's response shows that it takes such proposals as a serious threat to its current "benefit" structure.  Apparently unfazed by Mr. H. Lee Scott Jr.'s speech, the governor of Washington, Christine Gregoire, said 20% of Wal-mart employees receive state aid for healthcare and its a problem she expects Wal-mart to solve. 
 
While I'm a fan of the free market, I'm not a fan of Wal-mart.  Wal-mart is known for being an extremely efficient organization and that is partly what allows it to sell things so cheaply and effectively.  But it also is a very profitable company and could easily afford to invest in its employees by giving them better healthcare benefits and wages.  In fact, Wal-mart recently reported that fourth-quarter profits rose  13.4% and it raised its dividend by 11.7%, hardly signs of a cash-poor company.   
 
Don't get me wrong - investing in employee benefits is an expensive proposition, but when you're doing as well as Wal-mart is doing, does it really hurt to share the wealth with your own workers?  Offering meaningful healthcare to their employees may not have many benefits to Wal-mart's bottom line in the short term.  But, if it considers the long-term benefits, a healthier workforce ensures a more productive workforce and, more than that, may have intangible benefits like increased employee loyalty and satisfaction.  It irks me to see big businesses like Wal-mart be so stingy towards its own workers and so extravagant in terms of the benefits and pay of top executives, a trend that has become all too common on Wall Street...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

...but I am sincere

"I do not pretend to be a divine man, but I do believe in divine guidance, divine power, and in the fulfillment of divine prophecy. I am not educated, nor am I an expert in any particular field...but I am sincere, and my sincerity are my credentials."

-El Hajj Malik El Shabazz / Malcolm X

One of my favorite quotes. Check out this TV interview of Malcolm, speaking on one approach to solving the problem of racism in America: Right click and select play, doesn't work in Firefox



















You can find a ton of information on El Hajj Malik El Shabazz by visiting the Malcolm X Project, a wonderful resource on this most remarkable of American Muslims. Well worth checking out.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Some funny stuff...

A hilarious segment from Jon Stewart's Daily Show on the "Cheney incident" which I first saw posted on hahmed's blog.

Some of my favorite commercials right now are courtesy of Mountain Dew's new energy drink MDX (which Ali says is good stuff), catch them on the MDX website, and click on the link for the ads (at the top of the page).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Subscribe to the Chronicle!

You can now subscribe to this blog via email, using the FeedBlitz service. Just type your email in the box on the right-hand corner of the page and you'll be notified of new postings to this blog via email. Now you don't have to guess or use those funky feed aggregators to catch the latest in mundane misadventures...

I've also added a Google searchbox, changed the format of the Google ads and still have the link to download Firefox. You can get it all here...exciting isn't it?

To God do we belong

Attended a Muslim funeral today. Once the coffin was lowered and they began covering it with dirt, the lonliness of the grave really struck me. You leave everything behind in death, no amount of tears will water you back to life, no prayer will resurrect you nor can any take your place. No matter what what you did, or even what you believe, there is one inescapable certainty, we too shall pass.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Not so emergent...

Well, about halfway through my ER rotation and I can safely say I wouldn't be much good as an ER doc. There are things I like about the ER--you really do get the chance to save lives, whether it is by doing CPR or intubating someone in respiratory distress--but there are a lot of things that I wouldn't handle so well...

First, it's too raw. People are often in bad shape and that encompasses quite a spectrum of things. Some come in with foot, mouth or body odor so foul, you feel like someone knocked you in the nose and stuffed rotten eggs down them. Others walk in covered in blood or vomit, sometimes both, and you are almost afraid to touch them lest they pour forth right on to you. Still others are intoxicated, on a variety of substances, and you spend half your time worrying whether or not they're going to punch you as you calm them down enough to, hopefully, save their life. And then there is the schizophrenic who came in and told me was is lucifer. There are also whiners, people who are in relatively good shape but seem to think they will get better faster if they continuously complain. I just want to tell them sometimes, "Look buddy, you think you got it bad, have a look two beds down and you'll know what it means to be sick. Go home and thank God you're not in his shoes."

Second, it's the nonlinear way things work. You have like 3 or 4 patients with important stuff going on at the same time, and you have to keep track of everything. One patient could be in diabetic ketoacidosis, another not very responsive because of alcohol overdose and everyone else complaining of pain. You're at the center of all the activity, having to motivate some of your staff to do things while also talking to other physicians, family members and educating your patients. I often feel like getting up in the middle of the madness and saying, "Oh yeah people, what about me? Anyone want to know how I'm doing?" To be a great ER doc, you really have to be selfless, patient and nonjudgemental, more so than in other specialties...

Third, the schedule is all off. Even though, if you look at total hours worked in the month, it is probably less than many other specialties, you work them in shifts, which can be at different times of the day. So your biological clock is always getting set and reset and things that hold meaning for others (like the weekend) lose meaning for you, because your day off may be Tuesday and Wednesday. I don't know, it's weird, you are like on an alternate timeline from the rest of humanity. It feels strange...thank God I don't have any overnight shifts left...

I can see how the pace, intensity and even the schedule appeals to some, but I'm not cut up for it...it does make for some great stories, I'll try and post some of my more interesting patient encounters...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Life in the ER

Just a quick update, because I really don't have much time for more - I'm doing a rotation in the ER at St. Bernard, located in the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Englewood in the south side of Chicago. Doing the night shifts right now and seen a lot of your typical ER stuff - chest pain, people with bumps/bruises needing stitches, intoxicated people (cocaine, alcohol and heroin are pretty common here), diabetics with poorly controlled blood sugar (things like DKA) and women with ob/gyn issues (a real gardnerella variety of infections--a bad pun for the medical types). You also see people come in with strokes, heart attacks. We've had one person arrive dead-on-arrival, and the cause was uncertain. There have been a bunch of times we've needed to intubate people because of respiratory distress or they were poorly arousable...

It's not a level 1 center, so we don't see any trauma, that gets sent mostly to Christ...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

What's the Rush?

I'm at Rush University Medical Center in the middle of a rotation in pulmonology/critical care. Basically, I'm on the consult service, which means we spend our day going around seeing patients in the hospital who have developed lung problems, or whose lung problems are too complicated for nonspecialists to handle.

It's a busy service, we have one attending, one fellow, three residents, plus me the medical student and we are all usually carrying 4-5 patients. We start the day around 7:30AM and often end up staying til 6pm. Some long days for what I thought would be an relatively easy month...

One of our patients is a gentleman who has multiple sclerosis (MS). MS usually affects people of Northern European descent and women are affected twice as much as men. So if someone says MS, you usually think of a young white woman, between 20 and 40 years of age. What's interesting about our patient is that he is an African-American male.

He basically came in because he had fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. He breathes through a tracheostomy, which is when they hook you up to a ventilator by making a hole in your windpipe. We're seeing him to treat a pneumonia he developed as a result of the vomiting, which happens when some vomit accidentally goes down the windpipe into the lungs. Pneumonia is very serious in MS, because it has high mortality. Nearly 50% of people with MS die because of complications from things like pneumonia, pulmonary emboli, and urosepsis.

It was discovered the abdominal pain was due to a kidney stone, which was removed, and he is doing better now, though we will not be able to take him off the ventilator. MS is a really tough condition, there is no cure and we don't know what causes it. Our patient has become so spastic (a kind of involuntary muscle tightness) and weak, he can no longer walk around, even though mentally he is intact. He likes watching game shows, and I watched a little bit of Family Feud with him...I admire his perseverance and only wish we could do more for him...

Race of Hope

Saw a show about Cameroon, on PBS' Globetrekker show. Not really a huge fan of the show but it was on and I was bored. The show's host came across a big event in Cameroon, called the "Race of Hope". It involves running up and down Mount Fako, or Mount Cameroon, a volcanic mountain that rises over 13,000 feet into the sky. I think the race is a total of 42 kilometers or so.

It's actually scheduled for this Febuary and attracts athletes from all over the world. Personally, I get tired after like 7 flights of stairs. 13,000 feet sounds like a whole heckuva lotta stairs...

To entice the lazy, they've doubled the prize money to 3 million CFA, which sounds like a lot but translates to $5300. Hmmn. Or you could sit on the couch and watch other people do it for you...and if you have HDTV it'll be like you're really there! Won't it?

Well, whatever you decide to do, here are some nice pictures taken by Ann Bowker, who did climb the mountain and who apparently has climbed a whole lot of them, if her site is any indication...



Mt. Cameroon is also famous for its biodiversity and a local tree called prunus africana, whose bark is used to make a medicine to treat prostate enlargement. Cameroon is the largest exporter of prunus and apparently the French are the biggest importers...draw your own conclusions...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Storm Warriors: Heroes of the Shipwreck Coast

If I told you that there was a place called "Shipwreck Coast" where ships and sailors met their untimely deaths in frigid, choppy waters that crash against constantly shifting sandy shoals and rocky coastline, where do you think I would be talking about? Norway? Sweden? Iceland?

Well, how about the Upper Peninsula in Michigan? Just watched a documentary on PBS called "Storm Warriors: Heroes of the Shipwreck Coast" that talked about Shipwreck Coast on Lake Superior in the UP of Michigan.

If you look at the image below, from the Great Lakes Information Network, Shipwreck Coast is the coastline after you emerge from the Soo Locks of the St. Marys River going into Lake Superior along the northern coastline of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Another image is here, from the documentary website.



The problem was so bad that Congress eventually built a series of "Life-Saving Service Stations" along the coast and two lighthouses. The people that lived here faced harsh, long winters and an almost desperate isolation as they served this country by rescuing those in shipwrecks, or ships that were clearly about to become wrecks. The documentary detailed many of the heroic rescues that were accomplished and depicts the life of these men and their families in an engaging manner.

It's kind of strange to imagine Lake Superior as the setting for so much maritime drama. From 30-foot waves, to tragic deaths and incredible rescues, the 100 or so shipwrecks along Shipwreck Coast each have a compelling story behind them.

Apparently today, you can visit Shipwreck Coast and go scuba diving to see the wrecks firsthand. There is also a museum you can visit, to complete the edutainment.

Amazing what's in our backyards...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Hajj

Some 3 million Muslims are nearing completion of the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim who is able must make, the culmination of a spiritual and physical journey to the most sacred of environs. The Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam and the reward of a successful Hajj is nothing less than complete forgiveness for all one's sins.



But the blessings of Hajj extend to all Muslims, as the first ten days of the month in which Hajj is held are the most blessed days of the year - any good acts performed in them receive more grace and reward from Allah than in any other days of the year.

A beautiful poem by Ibn Arabi, one of the greatest saints of Islam, expresses his love for the Ka'bah. It has been translated to English by Gibril F. Haddad, from Ibn Arabi's Futuhat:

1. In the Place of refuge my heart sought refuge, shot with enmity's arrows.

2. O Mercy of Allah for His slaves, Allah placed His trust in you among all inanimate forms.

3. O House of my Lord, O light of my heart, O coolness of my eyes,b O my heart within,

4. O true secret of the heart of existence, my sacred trust, my purest love!

5. O direction from which I turn from every quarter and valley,

6. From subsistence in the Real, then from the height, from self-extinction, then from the depths!

7. O Ka`ba of Allah, O my life, O path of good fortune, O my guidance,

8. In you has Allah placed every safety from the fear of disaster upon the Return.

9. In you does the noble Station flourish, in you are found the fortunes of Allah's slaves.

10. In you is the Right Hand that my sin has draped in the robe of blackness.c

11. Multazam is in you - he who clings to love for it, will be saved on the Day of Mutual Cries.d

12. Souls passed away longing for Her, in the pain of longing and distant separation.

13. In sorrow at their news she has put on the garment of mourning.e

14. Allah sheds His light on her court, and something of His light appears in the heart.

15. None sees it but the sorrowful whose eyes are dark from lack of sleep.

16. He circumnambulates seven times after seven, from the beginning of night until the call to prayer.

17. Hostage to endless sadness, he is never seen but bound to effort.

18. I heard him call upon Allah and say, beside the Black Stone: "O my heart!

19. Our night has quickly passed, but the goal of my love has not passed!"

Sunday, January 01, 2006

It was beauty killed the beast

Somewhere in the $300 million special-effects extravaganza that is "King Kong", Peter Jackson is trying to tell us something. It must be something important, as it is the longest remake of a movie that has been remade several times since the 1933 original by Cooper and Schoedsack.

To be honest, I've never seen the 1933 production, though I do remember the Toho Studios production "King Kong vs. Godzilla," (and nearly all their other movies) which seemed to be in endless replay on WGN back in the day. I can't say I found those movies to be particularly good, but they passed the time on those lazy summer days when it was too hot or too wet to go outside...

[please note plenty of spoilers ahead]

Part of Jackson's purpose may simply be to bring a character he's loved to life in a way no one could do before, thanks to modern special effects, and his skilled orchestration of ficitional and actual characters on the screen. His work on the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy has cemented his visual style, one in which the fantastical setting of the movie itself becomes a character, with its own moods, mysteries and even betrayals.

But perhaps there is another message in the Kong epic, one that speaks about man's fascination with the wild and the irrepressible urge, in some, to tame it. It is interesting to note that they end up on Skull Island, not because they want to (the ship's captain had turned the ship around to go to Rangoon), but because a storm and fog enshrouded the night and they were run aground into some rocks. After their freaky encounters with the local savages (who deserve the term), Denham and the rest of the crew set out on Skull Island to rescue Ann Darrow, who has been abducted by Kong. Little do they expect to stare open-mouthed both in wonder at the beauty of the scenery and in fear of the gigantic beasts roaming the Island. There is something about the Island that makes man seem small and so hopelessly weak.

As they attempt to save Ann Darrow, the rescue party gets smaller and smaller the deeper into Skull Island they go, as they are beset by dinosaurs, insects and the weather. In the end, the rescue party itself is saved only when the crew from the ship is able to come, armed to the teeth with rifles. This, humankind's technological savvy, is what ultimately saves man against the overwhelming elements of the Island.

Unfortunately, our technological powress often brings out a mean streak in humanity, for it makes us think we are not only savvy but powerful. Powerful enough, for instance, to capture a force of nature like Kong and bring him back to the Big Apple. Of course, it isn't primarily hubris that motivates Denham to capture Kong, it is the profit motive. He stands to make millions from showcasing Kong and he isn't about to let the chance pass him by. So he devises a way to capture the beast and, before you know it, the big gorilla is on his way back to the Big Apple.

Once there, Kong inevitably finds a way to bust out and wreak havoc on the streets of New York, culminating in his ascension of the Empire State Building and eventual machine gunning by little biplanes. Kong is dead and, as Denham says, it was beauty killed the beast.

While it sounds nice, it is one of the dumbest lines to end a movie as it was hardly beauty that killed the beast. Kong didn't swim across the Atlantic to follow the cute blonde with green eyes. It would be really weird if he did. He was carted there against his will, kept in chromed steel chains and put on display. It was not beauty that killed Kong, it was man's inability to control him, an inability to control the natural.

This issue actually comes up on a practical level quite often. As Ali pointed out to me, it is not uncommon for people living in relatively remote areas of America that are scenic, beautiful and wild, to encounter bears. Or, as their natural habitat is destroyed, displaced bears find their way into urban areas. The bears will often make trouble, and can be a real danger to the elderly or little children, and thus people try to put "the fear of man back into them". Bears are not unlike Kong. Both are great to behold, either in their natural habitat or chained up, but once they go "wild" on us, we destroy them.

In our quest to subdue nature, we become shocked when nature reclaims itself. We wonder how it is that a city built below sea level could become so ravaged by a hurricane (umm, don't build cities below sea level), we wonder why mud slides in California damage so much property (maybe we shouldn't build on unstable hills, even if they do have great views) or why bears wander into our backyards (how about not having any forest left?).

Often times, it is the monsters we create that we must destroy. And maybe that would have been a better line to end "King Kong" with...

Notes:
1. See a trailer for the 1933 "King Kong"
2. Trailer for the 1976 "King Kong"
3. "Bear Prowling in Genoa" The Record-Courier, 12/30/2005.
4. Novelization of King Kong, available from Amazon
5. "It Wasn't Beauty Killed the Beast" by Gary Giddins, 11/22/05 in the New York Sun
6. Roger Ebert's review, 12/13/2005 (he rated it as one of his Top Ten for 2005 & also agrees that it wasn't beauty killed the beast)