Thursday, September 30, 2004

say "foliage"

Just watched the first presidential debate. I am aware that I am of one mind and that many people are of another. I also realize that most people are not still undecided when they watch the debate, rather they know who they're voting for going in, and then hear what they want to hear to strengthen their support for their man while listening for things to discredit the opponent. I fully respect the right for people to disagree with my opinion. But I think we can all agree on one thing.

It's pronounced "nuclear." Noo-clee-yer. NUCLEAR. Say noo-cue-ler one more time and you die.

That is all.

Currently reading: "Medical Boards Step 3 Made Ridiculously Simple." OK, that was a lie. I have the book in my bag but I have not yet broken the spine.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


I've become fairly convinced that I have pertussis. I've had this cough for almost two months now, and have in an exacting textbook fashion moved through the catarrhal and paroxysmal phases to finally end up in the convalescent phase, where I've been chilling for the past two or three weeks. Of course, more ominous diagnoses did cross my mind (especially after watching "The End of the Affair," after which point I briefly consider that I had only six months to live), but my symptoms are absolutely classic, and I am in Peds, after all. What kind of a Pediatrician would I be if I didn't have at least one story of the nasty bugs I've picked up from my patients, walking germ bags that they are? By the time I made my own diagnosis, it was too late to cut the symptoms off at the pass, but I'm on a course of antibiotic therapy anyway just to prevent myself infecting everyone else in the entire hospital. Unless I don't like you. Then I will subversively cough on you, launching my own miniature germ warfare.

I was in the team room of the PICU early this morning, scrolling through some vitals and coughing in a tiny little voice, like Zoolander after the coal mines, when one particularly tough-love nurse poked her head into the room and said, "You gotta be a lot more sick than that if you wanna get some sympathy around here."

Currently watching: "In the Mood for Love." I read the New York Times article about Kar Wai Wong's new movie, "2049" and my interest was piqued.
the winter of our discontent

Why do they keep things so cold in the PICU? What is this, cryotherapy? It's almost October, people. Turn the damn A/C down.

I picked a bad night to be on call. Well, not like I really pick which day to take call, but you know what I mean. Our hospital, hulking behemoth that it is, is in Phase 3 of 5 of TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION, and we just had a big ward-expansion-patient-reshuffling-move-day, in which patients from opposite wings of the PICU basically traded places, and six addition beds were added to the census, which will probably total about 45 by the end of the year. Why the necessity for flip-flopping patients to opposites sides of the ward, I do not know. I'm a resident. Merely a yes-man. They say jump, and I ask how high. They expand our census without expanding the staffing, and I say, "Yes, thank you for the incredible learning experience! I now know what it's like to be that doctor in 'Gone With the Wind,' taking care of a thousand wounded soldiers lying in a dusty field as a tattered Confederate flag waves forlornly over my head! Also, would you like to pay me a little bit less? Food is so overrated when compared to the privilege of FEEDING MY MIND."

Well, yes. Anyway, our PICU is expanding. We built a whole new Children's Hospital a year ago which we've already outgrown, and now we're renovating the old hospital so that we can create one gigantic MEGA-HOSPITAL. Only that's a lot of sick patients and not a lot of sane residents. I think it's amusing, by the way, how safety standards have suddenly changed out of necessity. It used to be that the max cap per resident overnight in the PICU was 9 critical patients each. Now that number has suddenly been expanded to 11. Now forgive me for saying so, because I know the fellows have to handle about four or five times the patient load as we do, but that's a lot of kids who could potentially crap out on you. The thought of even one kid crapping out makes me nervous. Two kids crapping out simultaneously makes me want to curl up in a ball in the corner, rocking back and forth. Hey, but at least there is a cap. On the oncology service, which is it's own mini-ICU (only without the staffing and equipment), there have been nights where a single freshly-minted intern has been covering a service of 25 patients alone, with no fellow in house. These are the things they don't tell you about in med school, because they don't want you to cry.

Oh, yes yes yes, "Back in my day we had to carry 50 patients each and take 72 hour call and do all our own CBCs with a candle and a microscope in the back room. And also, did I mention that we were barefoot? And that the hospital didn't have a roof?" I know, I know. I've heard that one before. But what does a resident have left except the right to rail against the establishment? No time, no money, no life, no food. (I didn't have time to eat dinner last night, and had to make do with a bag of Doritos. Leaves a nice taste in your mouth at 4am, it does.) At least I have my special pen.

All complaining aside, I'm actually really enjoying my time in the PICU. It's exciting, it's new, and I feel like I'm finally practicing medicine, if that makes any sense. Cause, effect. Diagnosis, treatment. Pathophysiology, symptoms. It's like being a second year medical student again, except everything you every learned is being played out in front of you, in real time, on real people. It's very cool. And much better than faxing things to the Medicaid office or calling the Early Intervention office for the five hundred billionth time to set up physical therapy for your ex-preemie. Just pick up the damn phone, people!

My post-call treat today is to be a pedicure at the hands of the little Korean ladies down the block. Not that it's sandal weather anymore, but I like knowing there's a nice-looking foot inside that clog. Then, maybe another daytime movie rental, followed by a nap. I rented "Seabiscuit" the last time I went to Blockbusters, but I don't know if I'm in the mood to watch a movie about a horse and the triumph of the human spirit and all that. Mostly because "Seabiscuit" sounds like a euphemism for poop. "Hey, who left that Seabiscuit floating in the bathroom and forgot to flush?" Maybe I'll get "SNL: The Best of Will Ferrell 2" if the jackass who had it out last time finally returned it.

Currently reading: Honestly, nothing at the moment. I have to figure out my next move. Any other good suggestions? As you can tell from my reading list, I am all about reader recommendations.

Monday, September 27, 2004

the pros and cons

The great thing about the PICU is that the days pass so quickly. You get there and you see patients and you round, and then kids start doing foolhardy shit and admissions come pouring in from the ORs, and the next time you look at the clock it's 3:30pm and you haven't eaten anything or gone to the bathroom in nine hours.

I guess the bad thing about the PICU is that it's busy, and that the kids there are really fucking sick, sometimes so sick that they die. And sometimes they die in really horrible ways, all anuric and bloated and gangrenous on ECMO. But that's another thing about the PICU too--it's never boring. And I guess you can decide for yourself whether that's a good thing or not.

Currently reading: A homegrown PICU didactic about care for the post-op cardiac patient.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

"the end of the affair," a play in one act

The thing that sucks about being on-call on a Saturday is that after you've finished, you're still only halfway through your work-week. It's just a really long week.

I wanted to be all decadent post-call and watch while lounging around in my bedclothes, so I went to Blockbusters and rented "The End of the Affair," starring Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore. It was not my first choice by any means, but they'd run out of copies of "Angels in America" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," so what was I supposed to do? Maybe try this Netflix thing instead. Anyway, it's moot, I went to Blockbuster and rented "The End of the Affair." It seemed promising at the time--good cast, Neil Jordan, all British and World War II-ish, shades of "The English Patient." But the movie did not live up to the promise. Here, in brief, is a synopsis.

I am writing a story about how I hate Julianne Moore, because we had an affair, and then she ended it. Hence, "The End of the Affair." Grr. HATE. Her.

(Flashback two years earlier)

Hello, Julianne Moore

My husband is boring.

Sorry to hear that. Let's do it.
(They do.)

(Flash foward)

Hello again, Ralph Fiennes. It's good to see you again.

Go away, affair-ender. I hate you.

(Doing the Julianne Moore tears-welling-up thing)
Sorry I set up this meeting. It was a bad idea.
(Coughs delicately into hankerchief)

(At a Detective's Office)

I want you to spy on Julianne Moore, because I am crazed with jealousy since she ended our affair. Hence, "The End of the Affair."

I'll see what I can do.


She's sleeping with some dude. I saw her getting undressed with him in the room.

Grrr! Hate her!

Also, I stole her diary.

Gimme that!

I love Ralph Fiennes. Hee! "Mrs. Ralph Fiennes." "Julianne Fiennes." Only I had to end the affair because I made a bargain with Jesus. But I am so sad. Now he hates me. Ralph Fiennes, I mean, not Jesus.

Oh snap!
(Runs to Julianne Moore's house)

Sorry I was wack. Also, that I totally had a spy come and steal your diary.

That's OK. Cough cough.

Let's do it.
(They do.)

Hi, honey! I totally don't mind that you're sleeping around with my friend, by the way. But I have to tell you that the doctor called with some test results. You only have six months to live!

Well, shit. I guess the guy watching her get undressed with was a doctor.

That's right, jackass. Cough cough.

I hate Jesus.


Yeah, so that movie sucked. Don't rent it unless you're some kind of die-hard Ralph Fiennes fan, or unless you want to see full waist-up frontal Julianne Moore nudity. Well, I guess that could be a good reason. One interesting thing that I found while scrolling through IMDb, though, is that they're filming "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and Ralph Fiennes is playing the part of Lord Voldemort! What a good choice. I always thought Ralph Fiennes looked kind of craven and evil. I also see that Cho Chang is finally going to make her appearance in this movie. Guh. I do not like the Cho Chang sideplot.

Currently reading: "Us Weekly." Does anyone else think that Britney Spear's faux-husband looks like David Silver from "90210"? Also, just finished "Angels and Demons." I was legitimately surprised by the ending--there were so many twists in the plot I was getting whiplash. So I was wrong about the Olivetti thing, but not wrong about the monkey-sex.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


So I promised yesterday that I'd talk about our "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" video interview. Let me say first off that we appreciate all the well-wishers, but I don't think we're going to get picked. It just seems that they must see so many people who want to be on the show, Joe's just probably just one of a huge mob of straight guys lined up waiting to hear if they make the cut. Also, when it comes down to it, we're really not all that interesting. But we made it to the final stage of casting, and that we can feel good about.

The casting office was all the way down in Greenwich Village, on the 12th floor of a building full of showbiz-types. In the elevator, a casting agent was talking with some other casting agent about a bunch of kids who were auditioning for some show or commercial they were filming. "I loved that one little boy. He had the spiciest mouth. He was really hot. That's the kind of kid we need, one with a real spicy mouth." Apparently, people in showbusiness use words completely differently from the rest of us. I for one thought she was contemplating pedophilia. But I guess doctors use words strangely too, like when we use the term "lung embarassment" with respect to respiratory distress. The lungs are embarassed now? Why, did their shorts fall off in gym class?

After a short wait in a lovely, well-appointed waiting room, all Manhattan loft-y with polished chrome and cherry wood floors, we met up with the casting director, who ushered us to a room in the back where a video camera was set up. There, she had us say our names and answer a couple of questions on-camera, mostly centering around why we wanted to be on the show and what things Joe could use help with style-wise. At one point, the casting director asked me, "Michelle, what is Joe's worst habit?" I went blank. I mean, does he have bad habits? Absolutely. Are they things we talk about in the public sector? Not if I want to stay married, they aren't. So I said something lame about how he's so tired all the time and sleeps through our "date nights," which is true, but certainly doesn't make us sound very exciting. As Joe put it, they're probably not thinking, wow, we really want to cast the guy who sleeps all the time. But I don't think they'd want to cast the guy who farts and then blames it on the dog, either. (Oops. Let that one slip. The divorce papers are being prepared as we speak.)

So anyway, after the interview was over, we spent another few minutes talking with the casting director as we were waiting for Joe's polaroid headshot to develop. I think this was all part of the plan, to engage us while the camera was off, to see if we were more relaxed while not being filmed, in a more natural interaction. The first polaroid turned out to show Sleepy Joe (his eyes were closed) so they took another one. Then they gave us a packet of FAQ about casting and said that they'd probably contact us in a few weeks if they were interested in having us on the show. My thinking is that this is the last we'll hear from them. But it was fun to get this far at least, and do something off-the-beaten-path from our workaday lives. Even if there's no free couch at the end of it all.

But now, just because I can, I will reveal the dirty little secret of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." You know how they make it seem, on the show, that everything happens in one day? Like they swoop in, destroy your house, take you out for new hair and new clothes, give you cooking and "culture" lessons, and then you come home a few hours later to find your house completely redone? Well, that's a LIE. Well, maybe lie is a strong word, since they never explicitly stated that it all happened in one day, only implied. But it's a MISREPRESENTATION. On the FAQ sheet, the state that if you're picked to be on Queer Eye, you have to leave four (4) consecutive days free for shooting. And over those four days, you're not allowed to stay at your house. The show puts you up in a hotel for the duration of shooting, while they're renovating your home. (Oh, I'm sorry, I mean your "crib.") And in order to create the illusion of continuity, they ask everyone on camera to wear the same clothes for four days straight. Gasp! I never knew. But these are the things you learn, when you're a big power player like us in the wild world of showbiz.

Currently reading: "Angels and Demons." If this guy Olivetti isn't the Illuminati mole in the Vatican, I'm going to eat my hat. I mean, if I had a hat. If my speculation turns out to be true and I ruin the surprise for anyone who hasn't read the book yet, sorry. But come on people, it's SO OBVIOUS, clearly he's EVIL. I don't know what's going on with this crippled guy, though, there's some secret subplot going on that I haven't quite figured out yet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

what all the fuss is about

Finally, I'm in. The PICU. I've been waiting months to see what all the fuss is about this place. I've listened to other resident's war stories about working in the PICU, like, "oh my god, were you there the night when..." [fill in catastrophe]. I've had patients from the floor and the ER that I had to transport to the PICU emergently because they were septic, or seizing, or decided that breathing was boring that they'd rather not do it anymore. It's the only place left in the hospital that I haven't rotated through yet (well, except for, like, Radiology or places like that), and I was psyched to finally be a part of the action.

But people, our first day on service, morning rounds lasted for nine hours.

Nine. HOURS. On a Monday morning! How are we supposed to get anything done around here?

It was both interesting and disorienting, as first days often are. Every time I switch to a totally new rotation, I feel like a third year medical student all over again. I don't know where anything is, I'm getting in the way of useful people doing their job, and I feel like the most clueless person in the whole unit. Actually, as the most junior resident on-service, that's probably spot-on accurate. Even the Sub-I had started a few weeks before me and knew more about how things ran than I did.

In some ways, I really didn't mind being on call my first night. Kind of a trial by fire. Though it did make me a little nervous that the fellow one-call was a little difficult to locate at times. Not that anything catastrophic happened, mind you, but I felt extremely underqualified to handle some of the things these kids were doing. With the exception of a few, everyone on the unit seemed like they were dying in slow-motion. Though some were slower than others.

We withdrew support from one of our patients last night. I guess this must happen all the time on Medicine, but as a Peds resident, it was the first time I'd ever actually seen it happen. It was a little confusing to me to what exactly was going on, as he had been full-code just a few hours ago, requiring just that--chest compressions, epi, the whole song and dance. But apparently, afterwards, the fellow and attending spoke with the kid's mom and decided that should the situation arise again, it might be better not to put him through it all and instead just let him go.

Around midnight, the nurses were yelling for a doctor in his room, so I ran in there to help. He was bradying down. I thought we were going to start chest compressions again, like we had earlier in the day, but then the fellow came into the room and said, very calmly, "Let's turn it all off." So we did. We turned off his vent. We turned off the alarms. And we watched his heart rate slow from 70s to 50s to 30s, until the all the multi-colored tracing on the monitor went flat. The hospitalist covering the patient overnight looked at a clock and read the time out loud, quietly.

I'd never watched someone die before like that. I suppose in some ways he was dead already by the time I came on service, but I mean I'd never been there at the moment that the acutaly machinery itself stops, and everything grinds to a halt. In some ways it was a lot less dramatic than you would think, though there was a real cognitive dissonance in watching all those numbers on our precious, precious monitors drift downwards, alarms beeping and buzzing until manually inactivated, with us standing there and doing nothing. Not that there was anything to be done. But it just felt strange.

So there was that kid. And the fourteen other kids on the unit next to him. And the fifteen other kids on the other side of the PICU. I feel like by the end of this month, I'm going to forget that there are any normal, healthy kids anywhere in the universe. What, aren't all kids septic, dialysis-dependent, and rejecting their second heart transplant? Sure seems like it.

Currently reading: "Angels and Demons." I'm not really blazing through this book at my customary speed, because I got a ride to work on Monday morning (therefore no subway reading time), and I was so tired post-call that I took a cab home and went straight to bed. But I read five pages before I passed out, so there.

Tomorrow: An update on our "Queer Eye" video interview!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

it's getting cold in herrre

Holy crap, when did it start getting so cold outside? Today is beautiful, but freezing. It's the kind of day they depict on the covers of college brochures, or possibly J. Crew catalogues pimping the NEW FALL LINE, exhorting you to FALL IN LOVE with a CRISP, TWEED JACKET, an ITALIAN CASHMERE SWEATER, and a NEW FALL COAT with VINTAGE DETAILS. Can I mention, by the way, how much I love it that the flagship item of the new preppier than prep-school J. Crew fall line is called "The Wellesley Cable Sweater"?

I had an anxiety dream about starting in the PICU last night. It should be noted that I get anxious every four weeks when I'm about to switch to a new rotation, even if it's a rotation that I've done before. I get all nervous and obsessive, and have trouble falling asleep the night before. Yes, well, anyway--in this dream I showed up for my first day in the PICU, only I forgot that I was on call the first day (this is true by the way, I am on call tomorrow) and thus forgot to dress appropriately. In the dream, I believe I was wearing a skirt, and had my contacts in instead of my glasses. So this started me a-fussin', because I need to start off the day in the right mindset to take call, and now I was all screwed up. And then I remembered that I wasn't actually allowed to leave the PICU at any point during the day, and had neglected to bring myself food for lunch and dinner. "So what do you do if you don't have any food?" I asked my senior resident, who had been on call the night before. "Nothing," she answered casually. "You just don't eat." And this made me absolutely crazy, because there is nothing that will panic me more than the prospect of NO FOOD. Residents are like primative animals, in some ways. We would kill for food and a nap. Or at least for a stale bagel and three minutes of pager-silence during which I can lay my head on a countertop, all restful-like. Finally, in my dream, I realized that it was only Sunday and I was having yet another in a lifelong series of anxiety dreams, and that I should just chill out already and just enjoy my last free weekend for a month instead of being such a freak.

Today we headed on over to Chelsea to visit the new Home Depot that just opened up. A Home Depot in Manhattan. Some people said it couldn't be done. Well, those people were cowards. We bought some lightbulbs and batteries, the size of our purchases hardly justifying the fuss of fighting our way into the store and elbowing through the determined throng of home-improvers. "Quick, Annette, to the power tools!" We paid for our purchases using the self-serve checkout line, which was a little confusing for us, but satisfying in the end, feeding items past the laser window and hearing the accepting beep. It's hard to find the barcodes on some things. I have new respect for the people who work the supermarket checkout lines.

Currently reading: "Angels and Demons." Gee, do you think Langdon and Vittoria will save the Vatican from being annihilated before the power for the antimatter containment field runs out? And will they have crazed monkey sex in the end? The suspense, she is killing me!

Saturday, September 18, 2004


We woke up this morning to some extreme weather conditions. Thunder, lightning, and a torrential downpour. I suppose it was the fringe of the Hurricane Ivan weather system, though I'm surprised that a hurricane set to decimate New Orleans could have effects that could be felt in New York. Nonetheless, the rain and such lasted only about an hour, after which point everything cleared up and we actually ended up with quite a nice autumn day. It's getting brisk out, like a Lipton's teabag.

And now here's a little something to reassure those of you who think you're overly nerdy:

It's a picture of Joe doing a fundoscopic exam...on the dog.

I know. I know.

Currently reading: "Angels and Demons." I feel like I should have saved this book for Hawaii. It has that beach-read feel to it.

Friday, September 17, 2004

advancing to the next round

So Joe managed to make it down to that interview today (one of his senior residents very kindly covered his last two clinic patients), and did well enough that he got called back for a second interview. And the next interview will be videotaped. How very "Real World." And strangely enough, they want me to come along to be interviewed too. I don't know why they need to meet me, since the show is all about the men, but I am more than willing to oblige if it will help our chances. So that's all very exciting. Hopefully we'll be able to schedule the interview for Tuesday evening, when I'm post-call. Otherwise, I don't think I'll be able to make it at all, what with the PICU hours and all.

So to celebrate our miniature successes, we're going to head on out tonight to get dinner and finally, finally watch "The Bourne Supremacy," starring Joe's spiritual twin, Matt Damon. And after that, we will come home and sleep. When you're a resident, sleep is better than anything else on earth. Better than any food, movies, or any other activity that you can think of--and I'm sure you can think of many. That's kind of pathetic, I guess.

Currently reading: "Angels and Demons." My dad lent me his copy. Am I nuts, or is this the exact same story as "The Da Vinci Code"?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

one step closer to "queer"

So I just got an e-mail saying that the casting directors of "Queer Eye" want to meet Joe for an interview! Rather, Joe got the e-mail. Only it was sent to my e-mail address, because that's the one I put on the application. They want to meet Joe at the open casting call on Friday, and they want for him to bring pictures of our house. I mean, they probably e-mailed everyone who ever applied for a spot on the show ever, because "open casting" means open casting. But still, we have one foot in the door. And even if he doesn't get picked, we can just tell the story over and over again about how we were rejected from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," because Joe was just too stylish to begin with. The only problem is that the open casting call is between noon and 5pm on Friday, and Joe works in the clinic up until 5pm at least. This could put him out of the running. But maybe he'll show up 20 minutes late and they will be charmed by his "I was seeing patients, dammit" excuse and just let him interview anyway. Come on. Please? I'll be your best friend?

Some people out there have been expressing doubts that Joe would enjoy being fussed over by The Gays. What, like he would be nervous and uncomfortable, because he might "catch gay?" Well, I assure you that Joe loves that show and is totally psyched by the mere possibility of being selected, even if it is a crazy long shot. His favorite guy is the food and wine expert, Ted, because of his practical skill set. I like Kyan, the grooming guru, because he seems to have a very sensitive side (shown to nice effect in the episode with the toupee guy) and has nice skin. But both of us are puzzled by Jai, the "culture" expert. His role in the group seems somewhat ill-defined.

So anyway, Joe's going to try to finish work in a timely fashion on Friday so that he can take a cab down to midtown to make the interview, where he will be charming and witty. My assignment tomorrow is to take sad pictures of the apartment for him to bring on his interview, so that the designers on the show will want to redecorate the shit out of it. Further updates as events warrant.

Yesterday, we had dinner with Brendan and Narges, in town from Arizona, where Brendan is doing his neurosurgery residency. Seven years in Arizona, huh? I sure hope they like it out there. They do seem happy with how everything is going, although this is the most tired I've ever seen Brendan, who usually maintains a baseline hypomania.

I just bought a new fall sweater, and am happy that it's cool enough to wear it out.

Whenever people come in from out of town, they want to have sushi. I guess there's a lower density of sushi places in Arizona versus New York.

I was actually surprised that Brendan was up for sushi, because he had apparently gotten food poisoning from the meal on the plane, and had been vomitting all day. I thought we'd be going to the dry toast and tea cafe. But no, he insisted on sushi.

Clearly this is the picture I should have sent in for Joe's "Queer Eye" application.

Brendan, Joe, Narges and me. It occurs to me we hardly have any couple-friends who aren't in an interracial relationship. We are the world, we are the children.

Tomorrow's my last day in the NICU until February. Next week, I'll be starting my month in the PICU. Only one letter off, but a whole different world.

Currently reading: "The New Yorker." They actually had an article about "Da Ali G Show," specifically about Khazakistan's response to Borat. Hilarious. Also, I finally finished "The Time Traveler's Wife." I was getting a little confused towards the end, because I couldn't figure out exactly what was happening (spoiler alert, do not read ahead if you have not read the book but intend to -- like what the hell happened when he got shot by Clare's dad, and how come he didn't die until later, at the New Year's Party? Jigga what?) but it was a sweet story, and very sad indeed. I didn't cry, though. Because I am made of stone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

queer eye for the straight guy

I just nominated Joe for "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

It's not that I think Joe looks terrible. In fact, I'd say he looks pretty good most of the time. And it's not that I want to be on TV. The show is "Queer Eye for the Straight GUY," remember, so it's not even about me. In fact, on the off-chance that Joe gets picked to be on the show, I will probably schedule myself to be conveniently on call that day so that I can avoid the whole scene.

The real reason that I want Joe to be on "Queer Eye" is that we need a new couch.

The ravaged couch.

The ravager.

Well, to start, I was thinking about sports coats. I've been telling Joe for months that he needs to get on the stick and just buy a standard navy blue wool sports coat already. He has nothing of intermediate dressiness between a suit and shirtsleeves, and I just figure the guy turned 30 in May, it's time to join the ranks of prep school teens across the land and just get a freaking sports coat already. I'm offering to get one for him as a present. It was going to be a surprise, but then I realized it couldn't really be that much of a surprise because I need him to try the damn thing on before I buy it. The nice ones are expensive but the cheap ones don't fit well, so why bother? "Every man needs a navy blue sports coat." I was telling him. "You could dress it up or down depending on what kind of shirt you wear inside." And it was at this point that I realized how much I sounded like someone on one of those makeover shows.

And then, earlier today, I was looking around our apartment. Maybe it's the post-call view, but it seems that our abode has reached the point of canine-takeover that we're generally embarassed to have guests over. So I was taking inventory of all this and came to the conclusion that, "damn, we need a new couch." But who can afford a new couch? And what kind of couch? Should we get a cheap couch, under the assumption that it will be rapidly destroyed again by our canine and future human children? Or should we save up for a nice couch so that we can commit canicide/infanticide when one or the other pukes on the fancy brocade pillows? And how does one transport a new couch to the 19th floor of an apartment building? How does one get rid of the old couch? And even if we did get a new couch, the fact remains that we don't really have any other furniture outside of med school flotsam. You'd think we just graduated from college or something, the way we live.

And then, inspiration struck. How else to get a subsidized sports coat and a subsidized couch? Through reality television, of course! So I filled out the application for Joe, included a picture, and e-mailed it to Bravo. Joe doesn't know about all this yet, but I'm sure he won't mind. Right? Right? Are you with me?

It's a long shot, sure, but here are some reasons why we (Joe) may get picked.

1.) Hello, he's a doctor. People love that shit!

2.) He's from the Midwest originally. Country Mouse Moves to the Big City is only one of the most compelling themes OF ALL TIME.

3.) Let's be honest here: gay men love Joe.

Come to our house, Thom Filicia!

Currently reading: Almost, almost done with "The Time Traveler's Wife." Allison warned me that she cried at the end. I scoffed that I don't cry. She says she doesn't either...usually. Finished "Persepolis 2" in one afternoon. I enjoyed it, but prefered the first book, just because more of the first book took place in Iran. And I love her parents, so I was glad when she moved back from Austria so that we could see more interactions with them.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

scutmonkey submission: "burn, baby burn"

As always, click on the picture above for the larger version. Thanks for the submission, Betsey!
dinner with friends

I was walking down to Union Square yesterday morning when I passed by a theater with a 11:15am showing of "We Don't Live Here Anymore." I looked at my watch: it was 11:18am. Well, what the hell. I was one of only four people in the theater, also lone movie-goers who were also maybe feeling slightly guilty about ducking into a dark theater on a warm, sunny Saturday morning instead of enjoying more wholesome outdoor activities like, I don't know, frisbee or something. The movie was not so good as The New Yorker sold it to be (that is to say it wasn't the BEST MOVIE I've EVER SEEN in my LIFE--an uncharacteristically gushing New Yorker review) but roughly as good as the New York Times reviewed it to be. Worse than The Ice Storm, better than Dinner With Friends. So based on that, you can decide if you want to see it or not. Well, based on that, and your own assessment of how distracted you'd be by the fact that Mark Ruffalo looks just a teeny bit like Jud from "The Real World: San Francisco."

So both Bob and Andy were in town this weekend, so we went out for a big med school rotation group reunion last night down in Alphabet City. There are a few pictures (though really only a few, I kept forgetting that I had my camera on me), but they are rather unflattering shots of the participants, so I choose to be kind and keep them in the non-public sector. What was billed by Kal as a night of ethnic delights (Japanese food, a hookah bar, French-Carribean dancing) was downgraded to just Japanese food and a regular old white bar, but we had a good time nonetheless. I miss those guys. It's sad that everyone's so spread out now, though I have to say they all seem very happy with their new lives, and I'm happy for them. It just makes everything so inconvenient. Why can't all my friends live in the same apartment complex, like in "Melrose Place"? That way, we could see each other all the time, be all up in each other's business, and have the occasional wedding day catfight that ends up with two of its participants falling into a swimming pool. Now tell me that wouldn't be fun.

I've just pencilled the next "Scutmonkey" strip, another reader submission from Betsey H. in Texas. All my exes live in Texas. The comic will be up as soon as I ink and scan it, but that might not be for a day or two, since I'm on call tomorrow night. It's a-comin', though. In the meantime, why not submit your own "Scutmonkey" story? In the words of my mom, who sometimes talks like a fortune cookie, "It is very fun and cathartic for you." Please enjoy your nice Chinese food with chopstick, the typical and glonus of Chinese history and cultural.

Currently reading: "The Time Traveler's Wife," for subway reading, "Persepolis 2" for the dog park, because it requires slightly less concentration allowing me to keep half an eye on my hell hound. I also stopped by the bookstore today to pick up a copy of "In the Shadow of No Towers," but then I realized that 1.) the book was huge, the size of an end-table, and 2.) the pages were made of cardboard, so it weighed approximately as much as an end-table as well. And it's only 42 pages long. Maybe I'll wait for the paperback edition. Hell, forget paper-back, I want the paper-inside edition.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


Strange. After the psychotic break yesterday, my keyboard seems to have reverted to normal. I shant question it.

There's a lot of things I could talk about. Today is September 11th, again, so I could talk about that. But I've done that before, and there's really not much more that I have to say about that terrible day, except that even three years later, any brilliantly sunny, mild day will make me think back to that Tuesday and remember how beautiful the weather was, and how all the more jarringly surreal that made everything. And how, when I least expect it, a low-flying plane across the New York skyline will make me pause for just a moment and hold my breath until slowly, slowly, I usher it safely out of view.

I could talk about the dog, and how we got her this gigantic smoked beef bone as a present for her birthday...but then I'd have to reveal how lame we are because 1.) we calculated the dog's birthday 2.) we give her presents for her birthday, and 3.) we are a weird, childless couple who tells stories about their dog until everyone is bored to tears, because we think our dog is people. So I choose not to talk about that either.

I could talk about the baby in the NICU that I'm taking care of, who was born at 23 and a half weeks for various and sundry reasons, and who I basically thought was going to die within hours because she was basically a fetus, all transparent skinned and fused eyes and tiny labored breaths. But the parents wanted everything done, and despite some ethical reservations, we acquiesced and the kid surprised all of us by not only not dying, but doing unbelievably well on minimal support. I mean, minimal considering that she was born at 23 and a half weeks gestation. She's only on room air CPAP, for crying out loud! So I could talk about how some kids are freaky and amazing that way. Or I could avoid talking about work altogether, since it's my weekend off, the first weekend in more than a month that I've not had to spend either at a wedding or a hospital.

I could talk about how I'm worried about our new intern class, because they seem really tired and depressed and beat down already, even though it's only September. Usually morale hits a low around January or February, though last year we had a biphasic low due to an early start to flu season. The hospital has been extremely busy, and there's a lot to deal with, especially for the newbies. It just freaks me to see them like that, all dead-eyed and bitter, when just three months ago they were so dewy and enthusiastic, fresh out of medical school. I just don't really know what to do about it. And I'm concerned about how this bodes for my block as Ward Senior this fall. I want our team to be happy, dammit! Happy interns, happy happy! Even if we are in the hospital over Thanksgiving! But I'm not going to talk about that either, because once I say that, then our program is going to get some malignant rep that'll keep all the good applicants away, and we'll end up next year with a class of suckers. I don't know why I care so much, since I'll be doing Anesthesia by next Spring. But I do.

I could talk about the cool weather and how it makes me want to go out and purchase a whole new fall wardrobe, but how in the interest of money management, it would probably be better for me just to go out and look at other people's new fall wardrobes. Or, instead of talking about it, I could just go out and do that right now. So I will. I will go out and window shop and maybe swing by the bookstore to see if they're carrying Art Speigleman's new book. And then I will come home and rest, because my friend Andy is back in town from down south, and I want to be ready for our big night out of ethnic delights, the likes of which Chapel Hill has never seen.

Currently reading: "The Time Traveler's Wife." I'm thinking of taking Jenn up on her suggestion and making a separate page of book reviews and recommendations. Each book review could be a separate post, and we could use the comments section for each post to discuss. It could be like Book Club! Fun, and a little bit nerdy. That's the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it, uh huh uh huh.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

there is no "p" in our "ool"

Help, there's something wrong with my computer! In specific, there is something wrong with my keyboard, and to be even more specific than that, there is something wrong with my "p" key. First, it wasn't working at all, which created minor difficulty logging into my user account, because my password contains the aforementioned letter "p" in it. After logging into the administrator account and disabling the password protection function on my account, I was finally able to log in, only to use the only trick in my arsenal against any and all computer difficulties--the good old hard reboot. Only it didn't work this time. Now my "p" key is working, after a fashion, but the thing is that when I push the "p," what shows up on the screen is "pkpk." So when I want to write "p," I have to erase all the other nonsense characters that are popping up around the "p." And the worst is that the problem is spreading to characters in orbit around the "p." Suddenly the "o" and the "l" are acting up too, not the mention the period and the comma. S=o instead =of being ab/le t=o write a n=orma/l sentence[, it c=omes =out /l=o=okping /lipke this;. Do you know how much editing it took to make this paragraph legible? Ten minutes worth. This is no way to live.

Joe says he thinks either my keyboard driver needs to be reinstalled, or that I just need a new keyboard. However, I'm standing by my current theory; that my computer is possessed. Possessed by a demon that hates the letter "p."

Currently reading: "The Time Trave/ler's Wife;." Maybe my pkeyb=oard is time trave/leing t=o the distant future[, where the w=or/ld is a /l=ot m=ore re/laxed ab=out pkunctuati=on;.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

patients check in, but they don't check out

So it's set, I'm taking Step 3 of the Boards at the end of October. I planned it that way because 1.) LOGICAL NECESSITY: I'll be on elective in October, so it's really the only block this fall that I'll be able to take two days off for the exam, and 2.) CONVENIENT POST-EXAM PARTY PERIOD: I go on vacation the following week so it'll be nice to have the Boards over and done with before we head off to Hawaii. The pineapples will taste sweeter that way. Who knows, my scores may even be in my mailbox by the time we get back.

Calling the hotline the schedule the exam was a strange experience once I finally got through, because I've never been called "Doctor" so many times in one conversation. I almost got to thinking that maybe she was making fun of me, but then maybe it's just their protocol.

And when would you like to take the exam, Doctor?

If I could schedule it for October 25th and 26th, that would be great.

Just one moment, Doctor. I'm just waiting for the computer to show me if those dates are available at your chosen testing location, Doctor. Just one more moment please, Doctor. (Pause) Thank you for holding, Doctor.

Stop calling me "Doctor."

So that's that. I've been admonished not to study for Step 3 of the Boards, so I guess I won't, really. Honestly, after finishing med school, I don't even think I can remember how to study anymore. My sister came over this weekend to pick up some old Anatomy texts that we don't use anymore, and looking through my old med school notes from second year, I just couldn't believe that I had actually ever learned so much. Or forgotten it all just as quickly. Well, maybe I'll just brush up on some old people medicine that I've forgotten. Speaking of which...

Maybe having El Presidente at our hospital wasn't quite the public relations boost as we had originally anticipated. I turned on the news on Labor Day (Fox News, it should be noted) and they were going on and on about the DEATH RATE at our hospital for cardiac surgery and how we had the HIGHEST DEATH RATE of any hospital in the region and it was unclear if the Clintons know about the DEATH RATE when they were transferred into our hospital from Westchester and was the President going to DIE because we were the DOCTORS OF DEATH? Also, did the Clintons know that our hospital was ONLY RANKED SEVENTH in the nation for cardiac surgery and why didn't he go to a HIGHER RANKED HOSPITAL and was he going to DIE now because we are a bunch of TWO BIT HACKS?

Now, I haven't looked at the raw data myself, but at least from working in the Children's Hospital, I know that we get transfers in from outside hospitals all over for complex patients that need a higher level of care. Sicker patients have worse outcomes, even under the best of circumstances. All this says to me is that our surgeons are willing to take the risk of operating on sicker patients. I know, because I've seen it. As a med student and a resident, there have been many, many, many times where I've thought incredulously, "You want to take this guy to surgery? This guy? Are you nuts?" Or, "You want to do chemo on this kid? Seriously? Well, OK..." Sometimes it turns out surprisingly well, and other times (unsurprisingly) it doesn't. But we're talking about the crazy sick patients. For "normal," relatively healthy patients like El Prez, we do a pretty good job, as do probably most big hospitals in New York.

And as for the issue of why Clinton didn't go to another hospital--it's funny how often people forget the issue of geography. The man lives in Westchester, when he needs medical care, he'll go to a hospital in New York. And if you hold stock with U.S. News and World Report, we're the "best" hospital in New York, whatever that means. If the guy lived in Ohio or Minnesota or North Carolina, then he'd probably go to one of the institutions there, and they could park all their crazy news vehicles and satellite dishes outside of those hospitals for a while.

Currently reading: "The Time Traveler's Wife." This is a great book, thanks for whoever it was that recommended it to me in the "Comments" section a while back. It helped me keep my sanity during a long post-call delay on the A train this morning, as I was wedged between a fat man's belly and another man's armpit.

Friday, September 03, 2004

do you know the muffin man?

I can't believe August is over. I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to summer yet, I feel like I hardly had a chance to be out in it. Not that I have any objection to fall--there's that whole fresh, back-to-school feeling about it. And the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's chain keeps the end of the year moving along at a nice clip. It's just that whole January through April tunnel of darkness that I really have a problem with. Which, I guess, maybe be a bigger problem than I thought, considering that's a third of the year that I find objectionable. Maybe my body is just wired for a warmer clime. Well, not that I'll be moving down to Texas or anything.

A scene outside the hospital Wednesday morning, as I was picking up some breakfast for me and a co-resident at one of the coffee carts:

I'll have two of those chocolate chip muffins.


Yes, two chocolate chip muffins.

Oh, OK.
(Reaches for donut)

No, a muffin, a muffin.

(Reaches for cruller)

No, not that, a muffin. You know...
(Makes muffin shapes in the air with her hands)

Oh, yes yes, I know.
(Reaches for slice of pound cake)

(Tapping on glass, pointing to muffin)
THIS thing. I want this thing, please.

(Looking perplexed)
(Grabs muffin, put in a bag)

Thank you. But actually, I need two muffins. Could you get me another one please?

(Pause. Grabs bagel.)

How can you work on a coffee cart and not know what a muffin is?

Currently reading: The New York Times article about Bill Clinton's emergency CABG. I wondered why there were approximately one million and one news vans parked outside our hospital this afternoon. Now I understand. In her press statement, Hillary Clinton said, "He's in excellent hands and he's in one of the greatest hospitals in the world." And I'm proud to work there, dammit. Although I have to admit that all of this is giving me the urge to be terribly non-HIPAA compliant, maybe coasting by his room one, two, three times just to see if I can orchestrate an "accidental" glimpse of the man before Secret Service apprehends me. Only I won't really do that, because I don't want to get fired.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

four calls, nine days

I am the queen of call-stacking! Four calls in nine days. Now if only I were paid by the hour. So far on call tonight, we had a kid who coded requiring chest compressions and intubation, a newborn double-outlet right ventricle who needed lines, and a micro preemie who needs to be tapped. She works hard for the money so you'd better treat her right.

Currently taking a short dinner break. The dinner is Wendy's, because they're open late, they're across the street from the hospital, and it seems appropriately decadent in that throwing-your-hands-up-why-bother-pretending-to-be-healthy kind of way. Plus, Wendy's will sell you a really gigantic tub of Coke. Biggie size indeed.

The reason my calls are so stacked in the first half of this block is because I needed this upcoming weekend off. My cousin is getting married in South Carolina, and I was under familial contract to attend the festivities. Looks like this might not be the best weekend to fly down South, unfortunately. Or to have a wedding, for that matter. Let's hope the reception is indoors. Preferrably in a basement somewhere.

Currently reading: "Carnet de Voyage." I loved "Blankets" so I felt obligated.