Archive for the 'Uncategorized' category

What I Am Reading: Dystopian Future

Aug 21 2014 Published by under Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

CircleRemember reading 1984 in high school? Big Brother is watching you so you must conform to society's standards! The Circle tells the story of the genesis of an internet-age totalitarian society much like the one Orwell created.

I doubt that this one will make the jump to "literature that should be taught, but I might be wrong.

What is The Circle? Imagine that Google, Facebook, Twitter, Paypal, and every other major internet service were mashed up into one giant corporation. This company controls an online identity system that keeps people from participating anonymously or pseudonymously online. This led to complete internet civility (of course!). It also allowed more secure payment systems, even leading some to suggest that all cash be eliminated for Circle-based payments. Employees at the company propose new uses of The Circle to make life more pleasant and secure all the time. The one thing no one seems to do at The Circle is code or actually do computer stuff. Hmmmm.

The story focuses on Mae Holland, a new employee at The Circle. Through a friend who is in The Circle's inner circle, she secures an entry-level customer experience job that allows her to escape a mind-numbing position at a local utility company. The Circle resides on a California campus with all the bells and whistles we expect from an internet company: game rooms, free cafeterias, gardens, sports fields, the works. In addition, their seems to be multiple social events for employees every evening, some of which are mandatory. The campus also boasts beautiful dorms where employees can stay and give up life outside The Circle all together.

May starts out treating her employment like a job. As time goes on, she discovers that she is expected to participate in The Circle's ongoing social media (internal and external) as well as "extracurricular" activities or she will be viewed as "antisocial" and "not part of The Circle." May succeeds, and rises in her department, eventually resulting in 6 or 7 separate screens on her desk for various components of her work. Eventually, events occur that prod May to become "transparent." This means wearing a live web cam at all times so her life while awake becomes an open book. Nothing can be deleted from her video feed (even when she catches her parents having sex).

The leaders are intent on "Closing the Circle" which should make May ask some very critical questions. However, despite the obvious impending loss of freedom (and the reader screaming at her on the page), May seems disinclined to see anything but the rosy picture her supervisors paint. Even when someone brazenly spells it out for her, she fails to see the danger of the situation.

The use of tiles at the company echos parts of 1984. Instead of "Big Brother is Watching," we have "Secrets are Lies" and "Privacy is Theft."

We often look at totalitarian states and wonder how the regular people let this obviously bad government happen. This book tries to explain that, and does a reasonable job. I wish there had been a few more examples of resistance, other than an ex-boyfriend who I found generally unappealing. If anyone else has read this book, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Change, change, change

Aug 14 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

More and more learning requirements have been added to the curriculum for medical students and residents. Advocacy, quality improvement, and communication skills are all worthy subjects for the house officers learning a specialty, but it has cut the availability of slots for didactic teaching.

Good. Lectures mostly bored me silly; I learned more from reading about patients and thinking on my feet than I ever did from a talk.

This does not eliminate the need for we faculty members to provide appropriate information for our trainees. We just have to figure out other ways to do it. To that end, I am converting my lectures to short videos (amazing that something I spoke about for the better part of an hour can be condensed to 7 minutes) with accompanying handouts. These will be posted online so that whenever the resident needs the topic they can access it in the manner they prefer. Eventually we hope to have a series of online assessments as well.

I just finished my first conversion, Pediatric Acute Kidney Injury. Closed captioning is in progress (it's the slowest bit of YouTube). I've also embedded the video here for your "entertainment."

Things I learned:

  1. You can never practice your narration and cues too much
  2. An expensive microphone beats a cheapie every day
  3. It's amazing how long it takes to make a 7 minute video
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Vacation!

Aug 02 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

I am off to enjoy some time with my spouse, my son, my brother, and assorted critters in the woods and waters of Oklahoma. Feel free to make snarky comments below while I have another cocktail...

Photographic evidence of this endeavor will likely be available on my twitter feed.

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What I Am Reading: Meat-Lovers' Edition

May 27 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

I have not posted a book review in a while, but not because my reading has suffered. No, my reading has mostly been new books in series that I have reviewed on other occasions. I also encountered a couple of tomes that failed to keep my attention long enough to complete them. If I am going to tell you what I think of a book, I want to at least be able to struggle through it.

I am delighted to finally break this block with Maureen Ogle's In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America. The author, a PhD historian from Iowa State, also published Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer in 2006. Writing about beer and beef? What a life to emulate!

The book provides a history of meat production in the US, these colonies practically begging the settlers to convert grain to flesh and make big bucks. The author's background as a technical and economic historian shows, and we really begin to appreciate how economies of scale developed over time. Having lived in a number of places with shuttered slaughterhouses (Chicago, Omaha, Kansas City, and Oklahoma City), I now understand how advances made this model of meat production obsolete. Wars and other political events also drove changes in production processes.

One of the books I never finished a felt like reading a series of slides on the topic.In contrast, Meat flows from advance to advance, telling a coherent story that can be hard to put down at times.

My only gripe comes from the portions dealing with the emergence of the pathogen, E. coli O157:H7. This type of the common bacteria has importance because of its production of shiga toxin, leading to aggressive colitis sometimes followed by hemolytic uremic syndrome. The book implies that the danger of this germ comes from antibiotic resistance, something which is not the case.

As a meat lover, I thoroughly enjoyed turning every page. If you have already decided that Big Ag is bad, you will not like this read. If you are trying to figure out whether organic/free range or other "specially-raised" meat is worth the premium price, then this is the book for you.

Now I need to go find some bacon.

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The Spouse Does Good

Apr 17 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Earlier this week my husband received a small package in the mail. From Scotland.

Click for source

When he got home, he handed it to me to open.

Inside I found a necklace and earrings similar to those pictured.

It seems he caught an episode of How It's Made in which these heathergems were featured. Enterprising Scots take the stems of heather, beat them into submission, and mix them with natural dyes to produce these multicolored "gems" that are then lacquered and set. The Heathergems site includes a bunch of cool brooches and other Celtic themed jewelry.

Cool Flash Design!

Good job, Jim! I got something pretty, and I learned something new today!

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Back to Reality

Mar 19 2014 Published by under Blog Maintenance, Uncategorized

Urologist's ad in bathroom at Traditions Field

Urologist's ad in bathroom at Traditions Field

I have finally returned from a much needed vacation in the sunshine of Florida. We watched six spring training baseball games and saw our daughter. The ad pictured to the right was posted on the back of the bathroom stall doors in Port St. Lucie where the Mets play. My spouse shared that the same practice advertised in the men's room for treatment of erectile dysfunction...something about helping you get to home plate.

Now I must work again. Catching up always challenges me. I have finally learned to do what I can do; the whole backlog does not have to be completed the first day back (even if everyone wants their piece done immediately).

I have some material for posts piling up on my desk, so you should see something science-like in the near future.

In the meantime, I have to see a few patients!

By the way, if you haven't done so yet, go over here and support science education while playing bracketology with Darwin's Balls, our NCAA Basketball group. I have Cinderellas winning a bunch of rounds, so I may be out after the second round!

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Saturday Night #Thunder

Feb 24 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Saturday evening I attended a very special event that I was banned from discussing until now.

In a children's hospital, you get used to celebrities doing things. Local personalities hand out goodies, making our patients and themselves a little happier in the process. Most of the time, they seem to target two patient groups. Premature babies get a lot of love, as do the kids with cancer. Other patients with chronic diseases receive less media attention. Kids with cancer might DIE! Children on dialysis will get transplants and be cured, right?

Not always. And a kidney transplant is hardly a cure, given life-long risks of immunosuppression.

I was delighted a few weeks back to hear that a local star wanted to do a party with our dialysis kids. Not only were they (finally) getting some special attention, but the celebrity would be my favorite OKC Thunder player, Serge Ibaka. My excitement was tempered by the fact that at first we nephrologists were not invited to the party.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I pouted a bit, but accepted my missed opportunity.

A few days later, I got the call that I could come. None of my family could come with me, but I was welcome to watch my patients interact and have some fun. I also was not to bring a phone or camera, although being on call meant I had to bring the phone. This loophole allowed me to take my completely unofficial illicit photo of the shot blocker at right. That's just the kind of rebel I am, folks.

The event took place in the hospital play zone. Each patient and their immediate family spent about 15 minutes alone with Serge (I shook his hand, I can call him that now, right?) and the kids got personalized Thunder jerseys, autographed in most cases. Then we all came together and he answered questions from the patients. After a group photo, he then shot baskets against the kids on an arcade basketball game (one girl even beat him; she is still glowing). Afterwards, he even posed for selfies with some of the teens. I have never seen such big smiles on the faces of these children; dialysis appointments rarely make you happy.

Things I learned or confirmed?

  1. Standing next to a 6'10" guy makes me feel even smaller than usual.
  2. During the games, Serge looks fierce, like he would not mind breaking your nose. In real life he is charming and quite attractive (and roughly the same age as my children; I have already heard all the Mrs. Robinson jokes this weekend, thanks).
  3. He speaks 5 languages, including his Congo tribal tongue, French, Spanish, Catalan, and English. Many of our patients and families have Spanish as their first language, so this was another delight.

Saturday's event left me with such a happy feeling. I am hoping others will take on the fight for kids with less publicly emphasized disorders, including the drive to raise money for research and treatment. All children deserve to have their health struggles acknowledged.

Thanks, Serge. Now go block some shots.

 

 

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Celebrate!

Dec 24 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Every year I end up with some Christmas song stuck in my brain, a festive ear worm to end the year. Here is this year's lucky song. Enjoy and have a happy holiday, whatever you celebrate.

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A Holiday Tradition

Dec 18 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Here I sit, waiting for patients that seem to be not showing up or being extremely late for their appointments. Lucky for me I can do this in my administrative office; the clinic computers will not let me blog!

This will be my last week at work this year. Next week I will be working at home to prepare for a big celebration, including both of my offspring arriving home on Monday. Once they leave the nest, you no longer are guaranteed their presence for holidays, so this year could be very special. That means exchanging gifts at the office this week. This morning, my secretary and nurses surprised me with a Page-a-Day calendar about shoes. And I mean cool, potentially unwearable and/or unaffordable shoes. Pure shoe porn.

I gave my co-workers my traditional gift, consisting of something chocolate and something from Heifer International. For 2013, I felt it wise to create real duck dynasties by donating flocks of ducklings:

Flock of Ducks for $20

Your gift of a flock of ducks gift provides project participants with a starter flock of ducklings. For millions around the world, duck eggs form the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Duck gifts benefit the family because they:

  • Yield eggs and protein for nourishment
  • Boost income through sales of ducks, their eggs, feathers and down

Ducks are good for people and for the environment. They rid the area of insects and weeds, and the eggs they lay provide protein for hungry families.

Thanks to your flock of ducks donation, families that begin with a starter flock can eventually manage hundreds of ducks. The money earned from selling the ducks and their eggs can afford a family the opportunity to send their children to school.

Last year my spouse went through the catalog, and we gave a water buffalo because how cool is it to tell people you bought a WATER BUFFALO?????!! This year our family gift will be a llama.

Llama! Only $150!

Please consider donating this holiday through Heifer International. Families get the means to provide themselves with food and income. This can then free children to go to school, as well as advancing the economy of an entire community when participants donate offpring of their animals to another family in a special ceremony.

Besides, you know you want to tell someone that they're getting bees this year...

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Back in Flight

Nov 01 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I write this post in the Oklahoma City airport, named for Will Rogers. This famous entertainer died in a plane crash, making the airport an ironic memorial.

Today begins 10 days on the road. The first stop is Philadelphia for the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Next week I relocate to Atlanta for Kidney Week 2013; I hope you have all your shopping done for the festivities!

Today while I enjoy the friendly skies, enjoy yesterday’s post; if nothing else, it includes the GIF of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer dancing in The Sound of Music. You’re Welcome.

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