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.


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...