Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tsunami watch

Tsunami Watch!
Tsunami Watch!

In other news, I've become a mass consumer of media. The two hours on the BART have done it to me. Besides slowly chewing through my music library, and adding to it at the limits of my paycheck, I've been reading NEJM religiously, I'm joining ATS tomorrow so I can start to read the Blue Journal, I listen to podcasts of All Songs Considered, This American Life, and Car Talk, and I have burned through Neal Stephenson's Anathem, Cormac McCarthy's The Road (soon to be a Major Motion Picture starring Viggo Mortensen!), and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother in the past 2 weeks. I'm now firmly putting myself into reading that will slow me down. Next up is a book of Chekhov's stories and the only Pynchon I haven't read yet (except the new one) -- Mason & Dixon. Speaking of the new one, Inherent Vice, it's on my Amazon list, along with Infinite Jest which interestingly has a very similar title and supposedly is quite Pynchon-esque. Wonder if ole' Tom named his new book as a tribute to David Foster Wallace.

To recap:
Anathem -- A relatively slim tome by Stephenson (at least it's only one 900+ page volume) about a world in which instead of having religious cloisters, there are "maths" which keep scientific, mathematic, and philosophic knowledge alive through societal upheavals. Quite nice, a great page turner, especially if you turn quickly through the dozens of pages of philosophic discussions over epistemology and the nature of the universe. For those of you who like their books with timelines, glossaries of lingo, appendices with math and orbital mechanics lessons, and so forth. Let's say Dune meets The Name of the Rose. Or Canticle for Leibowitz without so much post-apocalyptic mayhem.

Speaking of post-apocalyptic mayhem, The Road (soon to be a Major Motion Picture starring Viggo Mortensen) puts a mysterious man leading small people across a desolate landscape avoiding evil. To be played by Aragorn himself in a movie, of course. Except this time he's simply "The Man" wandering south across a post-nuclear America with his son. It being a Cormac McCarthy novel, you know things aren't gonna be all peachy. I kept waiting for Javier Bardem to pop out with a cow stunner.

At to make a nice segue, another tale of an America gone wrong is Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. I found out about it because both it and Anathem were nominated for Hugo Awards (Little Brother was nominated for a Nebula as well.) I read it on my iPhone as it is available for free all over the internets (legally). I found it very fitting to read a tale about the next 9/11, where terrorists blow up the Bay Bridge and the BART tunnel while riding through the BART tunnel twice a day. Anyway, as you know it would, Homeland Security goes all apeshit. The story is told by a 17 year old who lives in the Mission as he gets caught up in the inevitable extreme overreaction that would come from another 9/11. A good parable of the pitfalls of security theater and how we will have to actively fight for the right to privacy in the future (as well as giving some good hints as how to go about doing just that). I'm not sure I really dug the 17 year old point of view but hey that's what Doctorow was aiming for.

So after Pynchon what's next? I can't very well follow a Pynchon with a Pynchon (the new one) or even a David Foster Wallace. Any suggestions?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Music for the beatdown

This week has been a beatdown of an epic proportion.

I worked Saturday and had Sunday and Monday off. And yet Tuesday through Friday was just incredible. Incredible.

Tuesday had the 7 AM bronch so hauled my grudging ass outta bed at oh-dark thirty (actually 4:45) to get the 5:34 train from El Cerrito to Embarcadero. Transfer to the N-line and arrive by 6:30. 12 on service, so the whole day was bronch-round-radiology-bronch-round-repeat then notes. I was done by 8:30 PM and N-line to BART. Between tunnels on the BART, got some frantic pages. After tunnels returned them, and due to some poor communication between teams and attendings, apparently a "routine" Outside Hospital transfer arrived on the CT surgery service without anybody knowing anything. They didn't even give us the courtesy of a big stack of nursing notes. Just the pt (and anybody who's been through Hopkins would know that's pronounced "pit"), reportedly stable and for a simple lung transplant evaluation.

Except she was hypoxic to beat the band and syncoping with florid right heart failure in cardiogenic shock. That's the one-liner that's bound to send a shiver up any medicine doctor's spine. The CT surg fellow was just called in because they were doing a heart and a lung transplant (cases start at 0030!) and only the intern was available to admit the patient. OK, no big deal, transfer to the ICU and let the ICU deal with it.

Oh yeah, the ICUs at the hospital are open. Funny how that kicks you in the goodies. CT Surgery would still have to deal with the patient, they'd just get an extra set of hands to put in lines and do chest compressions if need be. So transfer to the ICU is not an absolution like it is most everywhere else.

The very nice fellow said that they would try to deal. I tried to contact everyone I knew in the hospital (none of whom were there) and my attending and see if there was anything we could do.

There wasn't.

So I changed into scrubs and into the car and back to work by 11:30 PM. And true to form, the pt was sicker than snot and other secretions starting with "s" and proceeded to try her hardest to check out for more celestial climes.

Anyway, I slept in 10ICU bed 16 (it was closed for a water leak) for around 30 minutes between peri-codes and pressor titrations and urine output checks.

Wednesday morning crawled out of the ICU, had the 7 AM bronch and now 14 on service (with the new and the overnight transplant). So it was bronch-round-bronch-round-etc oh yeah and two hours of meeting. Crawled to my car (parked conveniently in the only non-J permit street parking in the Sunset around 9 blocks from the hospital up one of those hills that end up being the scene of slo-mo sequences during movie car chases). Got stuck in traffic for about an hour and managed to make it home by 5:30 where I worked on my notes for 2 hrs before crashing at 7:30.

Thursday had the 7 AM bronch, 4 other bronchs, clinic, oh yeah and 4 new admits. So bronch-round-bronch-round-clinic-round-round-notes until I dunno around 10 PM and then home by 11:30. Must admit some notes didn't get done.

And today yet again with the 7 AM bronch as well as 2 others, 2 hrs of lecture. And all the notes from today as well as the ones that didn't get done yesterday. 17 on service (as one was discharged). Worked on notes until 11 and then sat down to try to blog. So excuse the marginal coherence.

At least I'm learning a ton. And riding the bronchy donkey all day every day.

So here's a new music acquisition that I think of every morning while starting my one and a quarter hour commute. Because the name is so true. In this short life of mine, I've come to realize that you can judge books by their cover and likewise you can judge bands by their names. So you just know that ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are going to be awesome. Ladies and gentlemen: We Were Promised Jetpacks. It is so true. We were. Every day, I imagine myself standing in front of the house in an asbestos jumpsuit, pulling down my goggles, lighting the burners, and arcing off into the darkened Western sky on top of 20 feet of white flame only to arrive in the Sunset fifteen minutes later, face windburned but with a permanently tattooed smile.

WWPJ is from the Scottish group of bands on Fat Cat Records that all sound the same (but good! see Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad). Here's "Moving Clocks Run Slow." They have a video for "Quiet Little Voices" but there's no way I'm passing up a reference to special relativity. There's also a killer live acoustic version of this up on the youtubes.

To bed for me. As an aside, as I retire at 12:11 AM, this September 12 2009 Anno Domini, it has started to rain lightly. This is the first rain that I've seen since moving to California.

Monday, September 7, 2009


While coming home a few days ago, The Unicorns' album "Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?" came on my iPod. (BTW what a crock that the latest and greatest iPhone can basically wipe your butt for you but can't do Album Shuffle). I started listening to this album in graduate school and I hadn't listened to it for probably 3 years. Just an unbelievably fantastic album in that first wave of terrific Montreal indie music. Cheap keyboards, three quarters of the songs about ghosts, bones, or unicorns.

They share the Belle and Sebastian thing where you find yourself asking "Are these guys serious? Or are they just messing with us?":

Unfortunately, it was that one album and out. Luckily though, most of them got back together, got better keyboards, and made Islands, whose album "Return to the Sea" contains some of the most beautiful pop of the last 5 years: