Thursday, January 31, 2008

Special upgrade

I've been renting a lot of cars lately and even though I usually ask for the super-economy model with fourth tire optional, I often seem to get the special upgrade. The last time I rented I got a PT Cruiser in Cool Vanilla, and the time before that I got a Ford leather. In fact, every one of the rental car company employees I talked to wondered why they had a Focus in leather in the first place.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Bit of a cold spell today, with temps well below 0 degrees (F) and wind chills around -30F. While I was out running errands earlier a young, scarfless guy passed me as he turned the corner into the wind. The next thing I heard was "Aaagh!!! My face!"

Also overheard today, in conversation among clerks at Office Depot: "He called and said he was baking something. He wanted to know if baking soda and flour are interchangeable."


Monday, January 28, 2008

Physician, heal thyself

Considering the endless hours I've spent breathing recirculated airplane air recently, I guess it should come as no surprise that I'm now fighting off a spell of viral upper respiratory misery. It does, however, make me aware of an unfortunate side effect of medical school, which has been to take away all of my usual strategies for cold self-medication. Sadly, I'm now all too familiar with the clinical trials that have largely failed to find any evidence that my cold remedies have any actual beneficial effect. And worse, because I'm aware of this they won't even work as placebos anymore! Hardly seems fair, somehow.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Glasses: half full or half empty?

Melinda June faces presbyopia head-on (although she doesn't see it -- har, har!) and makes an impassioned case for embracing the fashion implications of one's eyewear. A few years ago I, too, accepted the consequences of seasons spent eyeballing the dry, abrasive print of medical texts and got some spectacles myself. However, in solidarity with MJ, I realize that they were as much for effect as for refraction; when stalling for time to answer a diagnostic question I'll find myself peeling them from my face, placing one earpiece in the corner of my mouth, and muttering "hmm" while affecting a thoughtful frown....

Friday, January 25, 2008


I recently had a chance to visit the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale. It's a fascinating building -- a central multistory glass tower housing the books is surrounded by a windowless outer shell composed of thin, translucent marble panels. The large and unique interior space features displays of Gutenberg Bibles, first-edition Audubons, and other bibliographic goodies.

All very cool, but it turned out to be an interesting olfactory experience as well. As I walked in, I noticed a distinct odor. Now, I've been in lots of libraries, used bookstores, and other manuscript collections and I recognize the smell of old, musty books. But this was different. It was evocative and mysterious -- complex, slightly acrid, but not unpleasant. I've never really smelled anything like it. Perhaps it was just the cleaning solution they use on the marble combined with old book smell, but I'd like to think it was something more romantic.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Omega Man

Much to the chagrin of Madame L -- who perhaps credits me with more sophistication than my behavior would seem to warrant -- I had been looking forward to seeing I Am Legend. Finally saw it last night, and it didn't disappoint. No spoilers, but today brings a headline that appears particularly ominous in the context of last night's flick: 'Safe Ebola' created for research.


Johnny One Note

It looks like this blog has devolved to the point where it's just a string of interview travel anecdotes. But I guess that's reasonable, since that's pretty much what my life is these days. I'm heading out again tomorrow morning, back to the east coast.

However, I can report that Lady M and I went out and whooped it up on Saturday night. We joined a group of people at our local Eritrean-Ethiopian restaurant where we had a very nice after-dinner chat with the owner (and I tried to remember a few words of Tigrinya). Later we went to the bars and things degenerated into a much-needed bout of drunken college-town revelry.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008


Considering how much I've been flying lately, I've been very lucky about not having any travel disasters. Unfortunately, last week my luck ran out.

Naive, trusting country boy that I am, I was very understanding about the "mechanical problems" that had canceled my morning flight the other day. However, when I got to the airport for the next flight I was told that I couldn't check in because I wasn't there two hours in advance -- for a domestic flight. (The agent at the ticket counter waved one of those little ticket folders at me saying "read the fine print" -- which I actually did, and of course there was no requirement to be there two hours early.) When the next flight came, there were "mechanical problems" again. A 70-seat airplane had been replaced with a 50-seater, and I've never seen such an aggressive gate agent; he actually came on board and announced "if nobody volunteers to take another flight I'm going to start pulling people off this flight!" Needless to say, the passengers weren't very impressed. Narrowly missing being manhandled by the gate agent, I finally got to O'Hare a mere six hours late. But when I went to check on my connecting flight, whaddya know -- it was cancelled! Due to "mechanical problems," natch. It took standing by on two more flights to get out of Chicago, and even then I only managed it by sitting on someone's lap.

Although I was pretty pissed at United, usually their flights out of our local regional airport are well-run. I think the problem is that these flights were actually handled by a subcontractor called Mesa Airlines. In the future it would probably be wise to stay away from any airline that has as many "mechanical problems" as Mesa Airlines.

On the plus side, all the sitting around in airports and planes gave me time to do some medically-related but recreational reading -- about 18th-century surgery. Stand by for gruesome historical anecdotes....

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

If it's Tuesday, this must be Indianapolis

Tomorrow morning I head out for another interview, and tonight United Airlines e-mails (and calls!) to inform me that the flight's been canceled. Momentary irritation gives way to relief that mechanical problems are responsible for the grounding -- let's not take any risks in that department, okay?

However, I must be reaching some sort of interview travel saturation point. When I got the call, it took a second to register: "I'm flying someplace tomorrow? Hmm, I wonder what city I'm flying to?" At least, being at home this evening for once instead of in a hotel room, I can place what city I'm in at the moment. Just too many flights in too few days recently, I guess.

On the other hand, even though travel fatigue is setting in I remain excited to see each new residency program. It really is fun to get a cross section of Emergency Medicine nationwide. And United was very good about re-booking me on other flights; I'll be late, but I'll get there.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Road Warrior

Yesterday I completed the first continuous 24 hours I've spent at home since the start of the year. There has been much traveling and much interviewing over the past month. A few highlights:

I lived in Boston for almost 10 years, but a few weeks ago I returned to the city for the first time in over a decade. It was a sentimental journey to former residences, hangouts, and the old alma mater. The city looks beautiful -- it's in much better shape than when I left during the big recession in the early 90s. And the beer and sausages at Jacob Wirth are just as good as I remember from 15 years ago!

In Chicago applicants were invited to the residents' and faculty's annual holiday gift exchange. Many of the presents were whimsical or humorous, and when the dust settled I found myself in possession of a Durex Pleasure Wave Vibrating Pleasure Pack. That took some explaining when I got home to Lady M. ("But honey, it really was a job interview. Really!")

At a dinner in Massachusetts for applicants to meet residents I was the only applicant present. Five residents, assorted spouses (spice?), and little ol' me. Fortunately they were all very friendly and fun to hang out with. And I certainly had ample opportunity to get all of my questions answered.

In New York had a chance to hang out with Sis-Bob for several days. Saw a cut of her latest film, which was artistically impressive, very self-assured, and both funny and thought-provoking. Wow!

Upon sitting down in an interviewer's office in NYC he motioned towards his computer screen, which displayed none other than this very blog! Pretty much settles the debate about whether residency programs are googling me....

In Orange County I had an interview at which the backdrop through the window was the Crystal Cathedral. Afterwards I went over to check it out. I thought it was a very successful piece of architecture. The buildings are handsome and quite appropriate to their southern California location; the spire is well-sited, visible for many miles to the east along Chapman Avenue leading up into the hills. I do try to squeeze in whatever tourism I can on these trips.

On a commuter plane on the ground at O'Hare the gate agent asked the flight attendant "is this flight going to Cedar Rapids, Michigan?" The flight attendant replied that she expected it to go to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The past few weeks have been such a whirl, I'm not sure I remember which state we actually wound up in....

Now I have three whole days here at home before I fly out for the next interview. Time for sleep, laundry, and catching up on blogging!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Between flights

Quick update for anyone wondering what happened to me. (Something that I often wonder, myself.)

I'm on the interview trail in a big way. Flew in from Boston the night before last, then later this morning it's back to New England, followed by a couple of interviews in NYC (the city so nice, they named it New York), after which I head for southern California. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the laptop I was hoping to have for all of this, so I haven't really been able to post to the blog, read or return e-mails, or generally have any idea what's going on in the wider world. This morning I'm mostly just grateful that when I booked today's flight for New Year's Day I had the good sense not to put myself on the 7:00 AM flight.

Thanks for the well-wishes and concerned inquiries -- I'll provide more details as soon as I can.

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