Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hermaphrodites and MORE!!!

My vacation was excellent, and there are many pictures to share. Tonight I'm too tired, so I'm giving you a slightly blurry picture of the hermaphrodite that I rescued during a six-hour hike yesterday. I probably should have set him/her down on something brown so that the picture would have shown up better.


Not having ever encountered a banana slug before, my friend Ru emailed me this link that I thought was rather amusing... particularly the paragraph about the sexual practices of banana slugs.

Today's vocabulary word: apophallation

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Vacation!

Ok, where do desert rats go for vacation? Where it rains, of course!

I should be back next Tuesday-- pictures to follow!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Don't be a Dumbass

I am not one who is blessed with the ability to remember movie quotes, bible verses, or antibiotic dosages for that matter. I came across this during my reading last night, and just had to laugh.


The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.
"

Psalm 33:8-9


So the next time that someone asks me what my favorite verse is, maybe I can respond "Don't be a dumbass. Psalm 33:9!"

Some days I think I'm not mature enough to be anyone's doctor!

----------

I also learned a new word last night from the other book that I'm reading: kleptocracy

Here's the definition according to Wikipedia:

Kleptocracy (sometimes Cleptocracy) (root: Klepto+cracy = rule by thieves) is a pejorative, informal term for a government so corrupt that no pretense of honesty remains. In a kleptocracy the mechanisms of government are devoted to taxing the public at large, or using their control of government processes in order to amass substantial personal fortunes for the rulers and their cronies (collectively, kleptocrats), or to keep said rulers in power through redistribution schemes. Kleptocrats typically use money laundering and/or anonymous banking to protect and conceal their personal illegal gains.

What's a Little Uranium Between Friends?


Ok, so the home inspection went well-enough. Other than playing lottery with both a furnace and water heater that have outlived their life-expectancies, most of the problems are actually with the detached garage. Fine, I can deal with that.

This morning I found out that the radon inspection came back high, specifically 8.8 pCi/L. The cutoff for livable spaces is 4. I’m not that familiar with radon, as the soil clay here is pretty much too hard for anything to leak out of it, so today I did a little reading.


Radon is formed from the breakdown of thorium and uranium. Decay elements include two different forms of polonium, which are highly effective in damaging lung tissues. Even worse is that it has a synergistic effect in smokers.


The response from the seller is that they do not want to fix it (cost approx. $1500), and are questioning the validity of the test, as technically the basement is unfinished and not a “livable space” and they recall the levels being significantly lower than 8 when they bought the home 8 years ago. They are ordering a retest of the first floor, which should come back with a level half that of the basement. Their agent additionally told my agent that a lower result could be obtained be opening windows, and improving ventilation in the house. While I’m glad he’s figured out a way to destroy the entire integrity of the test, my concern is that radon levels are often quite a bit higher during the winter when the house is sealed up.


I am not really all that concerned about my own personal exposure, particularly as I am only planning on living there for my residency, but it might make the home more difficult to resell to anyone wanting to modify the basement. Ultimately, if when their test comes back negative, I’ll probably just end up doing long-term testing over 6 months to a year, and deciding whether or not to fix it then.


My loan application was “instantly approved” today as soon as I submitted it, and a good chunk of the morning was spent calling for estimates on homeowner’s and auto insurance. It was another thrilling day all around.


----------

I haven’t mentioned my running in terms of distance lately because it has been sporadic at best. And, considering that I’m leaving again on Wednesday for a week, I doubt that I’ll make my original goal of 5 miles by June. Hopefully, I can pull it off before I leave town for a week’s worth of driving a big-ass rental truck!


Today I ran 3.25 miles without stopping. After a few minutes of walking, I was able to do another 0.75, but I was sure huffing and puffing by the end of it!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sigh

Today I cleared everything off my desk, leaving only exactly what I need over the next few weeks behind. And, while it's always good to remove a layer of dust, sometimes you find some good surprises and some not so good surprises. Every time I think I've gotten rid of most of the remnants of my past relationship, something else surfaces.

I was sorting through a collection of thank-you cards and found a couple of random "thinking of you"/"I love you" cards from Hallmark's Warm Wishes line. Every now and then, when I'd go over to X's house, I would hide a card somewhere for him to find after I left--in the microwave, clothes dryer, under a pillow, tucked in with a uniform, just wherever I could think of.

Although he wasn't much of a talker, he was a sentimental guy. He saved every card I ever gave him. One year, I baked a batch of sugar cookies that were heart-shaped, and decorated them with phrases like the little Valentine's Day candies. He refused to eat them, and kept them in his pantry, forever on display in a glass cake dish.

I ended up tossing the cards tonight, even though they were blank. I am sure there will eventually be more someone special's down the line, but it just doesn't seem right to recycle them.

And, while I now have a tidy desk, there's still a big pile of random crap on my bed to sort through.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Waffles, Anyone?

There was not a whole lot going on today. I finished the HR nightmare this morning—30 more pages, not including a 10 page history and physical I dropped off at my doctor’s office for her to initial. So anyway, since my life is pretty much boring right now, I’m going to attempt to entertain you with another story from my friend doing an OB/Gyn rotation. I had briefly considered going into that specialty, but ended up changing my mind after doing a second rotation in it.

---------

It seems my friend’s preceptor has been looking for alternative ways to bring in more cash. A representative for laser hair removal came in to the office the other day. Apparently, he told the doctor that a good way to become more familiar with the equipment would be to offer to perform free treatments on his office staff.


That night, my buddy called me and said, “So do you think I should get one of those?”

“One of those what?”

“You know, one of those Belgians.”

Long pause… “Why would your preceptor offer you waffles?”

“No, it’s a bikini wax!”

“Oh, you mean a Brazilian?”

“Well, I knew it was one of those countries that starts with a B…”

I just about died laughing and told her a Belgian would probably involve Rogaine and more hair growth! Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone in that office got a free bikini wax—that’s the last service in the world I’d ever want to be performed by my boss—way inappropriate!

----------

I did kill a couple of hours today watching “Memoirs of a Geisha”. A friend had given me a copy of it for my birthday, but I wasn’t too excited about it as I don’t remember enjoying the book all that much a few years ago. However, I think this is one rare case where the movie was actually better than the book!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Damn

One of my friends recently told me she's been feeling like saying the word damn a lot lately, and today I wholeheartedly agree. After getting an email from my new HR department informing me that the 15-page packet of information I sent them two weeks ago was not entirely complete, I went to the website thinking that I shouldn't have too much left to do. Boy, was I wrong! I didn't miss 3 forms... I missed THREE MORE SECTIONS of forms to fill out!

After spending no less than FIVE HOURS this morning printing forms, filling out forms, and copying said forms for my own records, I still have more to go! Remember me complaining about HIPAA training a few months ago? Now there are more automated modules of information to read, with tests to submit and certificates of completion to print. I can now tell you what both CODE ELMER and CODE GROVER mean when paged overhead. I think this is all somewhat ridiculous as we still have two days of orientation at the end of June, but I suppose I'll play along because really I have no other choice.

I went to the gym today, and still am not up to the level I was working at before I went to Philadelphia. I'm going to really have to step it up a notch.

On the plus side, my realtor called and said that my home inspection was done today and they should be emailing me the report sometime soon. Apparently the seller also wanted to sell me her dining room set, but I don't need one. Part of me wonders if she wanted to offer it as a trade for the clothes dryer?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Drive It Like You Stole It

After reconfirming with the family that we weren’t getting together for Mother’s Day, I decided to drive 200 miles south to where one of my friends was doing an out-of-town rotation. Let me just preface this story with the fact that the last two road trips we have done together have involved speeding tickets for her. Prior to this weekend, I had never been pulled over. Ever.

----------

It had been over a month since our last desert hike, so we headed to a nearby mountain to check it out. This was the sign at the entrance:


Instead of following a trail to who-knows-where, we decided to play it safe and walk up along a dirt road… for three miles… entirely uphill. Luckily, for once we started in the morning, so only the downhill portion was in the noonday sun.


Let me just say that on Monday it hurt just to sit in my car and drive home.


T
he entire time that we walked there were birds that kept circling overhead. We kept joking about them being vultures, but now I can see that they definitely were not. I guess I should have paid more attention to all the times my father has talked about classifying birds. Hawks, maybe? I don’t know.
















----------

And just in case you want to know what improvements have been made in securing our country’s borders, I’ll have you know that the US Border Patrol is now watching from the skies with bright, white blimps.

----------


After cleaning up at her place, we headed out to one of the local wineries. It happens to be very close to Mexico. I had never done wine-tasting before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but they gave us fifteen different types to taste! After walking around for a bit, I drove my friend’s Firebird back towards town. Unfortunately, I handed her my digital camera, and most of the pictures she took look something like this…


…but she did manage to take a few nice shots.

When we were about a half-hour from town, I looked in the rearview mirror to see flashing lights. Uh-oh—but I was only doing 55 mph, and my friend had long since stopped taking pictures, so what was the problem? I pulled to the right, and this 18 year-old kid walked up to the window.


The first thing out of his mouth was, “Why are you parked in the middle of the road?”


To which I fired back, “Dude, there’s no shoulder here,” and pointed to the weeds. For future reference, I wouldn’t suggest addressing an officer with dude, but luckily once stopped, I saw that he was a Border Patrol agent.


“Are you two US citizens?”


Is he kidding? I’m a glow-in-the-dark strawberry blonde and my friend is of the pasty-variety as well. “Um, do you want to see some ID?”


“No, but could you pop the trunk?” There’s not exactly a whole lot of space to stash people or drugs in a Firebird but ok, let’s just pretend like he had any reason to pull us over.


At this point, my co-pilot pipes in, “Those are the T-tops in the back, just in case you don’t know what they are.” Fabulous, so now not only have I called him “Dude” but we’re openly questioning his intelligence.


He lets us go, and we drive off mystified as to why we were ever pulled over to begin with. Everyone so far has opined that he was just bored and wanted to stop two women in a sports car.

---------

The next morning, we actually did go to Mexico, if only briefly to check out the cost of prescription medications. And, while you can buy pretty much anything (well, not Botox!), most of the stuff ended up being cheaper at home with insurance coverage. However, I’m pretty sure we’re probably the only people to walk into pharmacies there with a PDA in hand, ready to price-compare. We ended up haggling on some blankets and calling it a morning.

Home Sweet Home?

This is what I am hoping will be my new casa:


I love the maple out front, and the garage in back has a basketball hoop, which I'm hoping the current owners will leave behind. A home inspection is still pending, but the contract has been signed by both parties, so I am keeping my fingers crossed--not literally, as that would probably lead to deformity after a week!

I did take some pictures of the inside, but since it is still occupied and we haven't closed yet, I feel kinda funny about posting pictures of someone else's stuff. I will definitely take tons of pictures when I move in, and comparison shots after I've messed things up. The layout is basically three bedroom and one bathroom, which are all upstairs. The first floor has a eat-in kitchen, separate dining room, living room with brick woodburning fireplace, and a tiny office. Laundry is in the basement.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Week in Review

I am exhausted, completely drained. The past five days have been a frenzy of frustration. Now I understand why buying a home is such an ordeal.

----------

Sunday- I arrive late, and am fortunately able to stay with one of the residents and her fiancĂ© for the week. I didn’t sleep much the night before because I was up late preparing a portfolio of all my accounts for my lender. Over at least the past six weeks I have been looking at area properties and reading and re-reading a question and answer book on home buying. I had thought that I was a well-prepared woman, ready to waltz into a buyer’s market and take my pick of many cute, available older homes.


Monday- I met with my realtor at 10 am, and was horrified to discover that most of the 20 properties that I had previewed online and compared against one another already had contracts! Apparently, www.realtor.com is not updated regularly! After over an hour of scheduling appointments, we hit the road. Eight hours later, with only a short break for lunch, we called it a day. Only two homes had any promise—most I was able to immediately eliminate after simply driving by and seeing obvious structural problems. Many more failed after mold, natural gas leaks, and shoddy repairs surfaced. The highlight of the day was jogging at a nearby lake in a cool breeze at sunset with the resident I was staying with.


Tuesday- My realtor was busy with an art class in the morning, so I met with the bank and got my paperwork in order. That afternoon’s appointments were even worse, as we were subjected to crazy paint jobs and landscaping, suspiciously smelly carpets, and railroad tracks that were practically in the side yard. The jet lag starts to kick in, and I realize that my parallel parking skills are subpar as I try to interpret the 3rd type of automated parking payment system that I have seen in this city. That night, I search frantically online for more housing options, and come up with very little.


Wednesday- Another half-day with the realtor. The condos and townhomes in my price range are slummy at best. We find an adorable house near a pond with ducks, but my realtor suspects that it is over-priced for the area. We call to reschedule appointments at the two houses from Monday to find out that one now has a contract. Apparently, her agent acted in his own best interest by telling her to accept an offer from one of his other clients so that he can get both commissions. She said that she told him that I seemed very interested in her house, but he insisted that she had to take the offer right there and then.

I drive back and forth between the two remaining properties and time the distance from the hospital. I am left with a cute two-bedroom Tudor/colonial that’s overpriced, but half the distance from work, or a three-bedroom bungalow that I love, but involves driving in a large U-shape to avoid the bad part of town. After stewing on it for a few hours, I decide to make an offer on the Tudor/colonial. I tag along with my friend on a few errands to check out the largest mall in town.


Thursday- I meet up with the realtor and we check out a few more places that I either hate or are in disrepair. We visit the Tudor again and scope out the owner by talking with his inexperienced agent who reveals more than he should. Back at my realtor’s office, we research the property to find that it is $50,000 over the price of three-bedroom homes in that particular neighborhood. Also, it was originally a HUD home that he bought for an extremely low price two years ago. We find two more properties in the computer and schedule early-morning appointments as I’m leaving town tomorrow afternoon. I resign myself to making an offer on the bungalow in a sketchy part of town, but it now has another interested buyer. At this point, I’m still not sleeping more than 4-5 hours/night and have no appetite.

That evening, I meet up with several of the residents in my program and am recruited to play in a softball game. It has been 15 years since I have touched a softball. I remember that the last game I played, as the only thing I proceeded to catch in left field that night was a grasshopper in my mouth during a very poorly-timed yawn!

The game was fun, although we lost 2-10. The other team showed up with matching shirts, knee socks, and metal cleats—yikes! I only had two opportunities to hit over the course of seven innings and both times I actually hit the ball on the first swing—even making it on base once!

After the game, we went to Hooters for beer and wings, which was a first for me. Yes, the wings were good, but the waitresses weren’t particularly anything special. Frankly, I think they were all only A/B cups. One of them was also at least five-months pregnant—not a good combo with a push-up bra and hot pants! I guess maybe they have a policy about you can only work there as long as you can fit into your uniform? Anyway, everyone in the program that I have met so far seems pretty cool and laidback.


Friday- I meet up with my realtor, an am totally down-spirited. However, the first property we see that morning is a reasonably-priced colonial in a neighborhood that I like that is still close to the hospital! The second place turns out to be a dump, so feeling elated, we go back to the office to make an offer. As we are finishing up the paperwork, the seller’s agent finally returns our phone call and says that two other offers were submitted the night before, and that he’s meeting with the sellers at lunch to review them.

My agent insists on submitting our offer in person and we go to the same restaurant for lunch. I end up raising my offer $10,000 to the high-end of my budget. A half-hour ticks by, and we hear nothing. In the meantime, I nibble at the freshest fried fish that I have ever had and awesome macaroni and cheese. An hour passes, and my stomach is in knots. My agent’s phone has rung at least a dozen times, but they have yet to call. Finally, they call and ask to split the difference between my offer and their listing price, saying that “She’s having a hard time letting the clothes dryer go as it was a wedding present.” Seriously, what the hell is that about? I decide it is not worth it to lose the deal over another $1800, and go for it.

We walk over to their table, and a massive flurry of paper signing ensues. The wife is in tears, and the couple is noticeably stiff around each other, so we’re thinking it was a divorce and selling the house is kind of the final step. My agent asks what took so long, and theirs says, “Oh, we were just eating lunch first.” What an ass! He knew we were sitting there waiting on them!

I am relieved that the search is over. After spending a week looking, it would have been such a bummer to go home with nothing. The house is a bit bigger than I need, but much nicer than anything else that I had looked at. And, while my realtor has been telling me that decorating has little to do with value, I have other issues with having no time and no stash of cash, so for me move-in condition was a huge factor.

So after a week of searching, I find out that I have a house only three hours before my plane leaves town!

----------

I have a new respect for realtors out of this whole ordeal—at least for mine. Everything is so volatile and between all the driving and lunches, she would have been out quite a bit of money had we not found anything. Overall, I feel really good about my purchase, and if even if the market slows down some, I think that I will be ok.

On the way home I got re-routed since Continental airlines couldn’t get me to my connecting flight on time. I should have known, since on my flight reservation lists them as being 10% on time. Whatever. I have one more flight this month—but for a real vacation, and then I should be back to one or two flights per year. I like seeing new places, but for me getting there is not half the fun—particularly via giant germ tube.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

FOR IMMATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

OK, here’s my real title for today: Top Ten List of Things that I Could do with a Life-sized Cast of a Hospital Administrator’s Hardware

If the above offends you, I suggest you stop reading now. This story was related to me by a friend, and too funny to not pass on, so here goes:

A woman in her mid-sixties went in to see her gynecologist the other day. She had been having problems with urinary incontinence, and a Birch procedure was scheduled for repair of a cystocele found on exam. During a previous visit, the two had discussed the procedure and the doctor had explained that although the surgery focused on repairing the bladder, sometimes remodeling of the vagina is necessary. The patient had stressed that she and her husband were very sexually active, and she was concerned about being able to maintain their activities after surgery. He had told her that she could resume her sexual exploits a few weeks after surgery, and although things might feel a little different at first, he didn’t anticipate any problems.

Everything was going well enough, when abruptly she reached into her purse and pulled out a life-sized cast of her husband’s erect penis. She said that she wanted the doctor to have it available in the OR to make sure that it would still fit. At that point the doctor turned beet red and my friend had to turn away to keep from laughing aloud. He politely declined the use of her model and convinced her that it wasn’t necessary.

Apparently, the woman’s husband is also on the administrative board at that particular hospital and she convinced him to make a cast of himself by saying that they wouldn’t be able to have sex for a year afterward if she wasn’t properly fitted. I would think that anyone in his position would know better, but perhaps he was more interested in participating in the sculpting activities! Unfortunately, woman and penis left the office together, so no administrators will be hurt by the re-telling of this tale. If I had been the gynecologist, I would have been tempted to keep the cast, if nothing else, so that people would believe me!

Top Ten List of Things that I Could do with a Life-sized Cast of a Hospital Administrator’s Hardware:

10. Make a customized hood ornament for my rental truck.

9. Photo-op tour featuring various historic locations across the US.

8. Bring it to future board meetings as negotiating power… “Well, what does Mr. Happy think of that idea?”

7. Paperweight.

6. New anatomically-correct placards for men’s restrooms.

5. Replace garden gnome in unsuspecting neighbor’s yard.

4. Donate it to a local school’s sex-education program.

3. Avant-garde art in a fertility clinic.

2. Holiday gift for Viagra/Cialis/Levitra drug rep.

1. Mount it beneath his picture in the hospital lobby.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

No More Hoops to Jump

As of now, I am a free woman! Today was my last day of clinical rotations. Ever. The surgeon I have been working with is out-of-town tomorrow and has the rest of the week off, so I finished mid-week! All that is left now is walking in a silly cap and gown and collecting my diploma. I still can't quite believe that they are letting me become a doctor! Graduation is not for several weeks yet, and this weekend I leave to find housing. After that, there is much packing and organizational stuff to be done for the move. I am also squeezing in a small vacation and hopefully more hiking adventures before graduation.

When I look back at the past four years, there have been many times when I have wondered if I would do it again, knowing what I do now. The answer is still yes. I am really excited about the future, despite some unwanted advice from a very bitter anesthesiologist yesterday. During multiple cases, he told me I should abandon emergency medicine as a career as it would most certainly lead to unhappiness and career burnout. I don't know why some people seem compelled to dump their negativity on others. While it is true that I may have gently steered a couple of people away from my particular medical school, when I encounter pre-med students or medical students in classes behind me, I generally try to be supportive. It is hard enough trying to choose a major or career, without some random stranger whining about how unhappy they are.

I think that when people ask for advice they have often already made up their own mind and are really just looking for reassurance. Plus, I figure that most medical students are pretty determined individuals, so unwanted advice or negativity generally gets ignored or immediately opposed...at least that is how I often react.

In the end, I really think that individuals are responsible for their own happiness. If you don't like something, change it. If you are not happy with your career or job, retrain. If you are not happy with your money situation, get another job or spend less. If you are not happy with being tired all of the time, work less. I know that's a really oversimplified version of life, but don't we all tend to make things more complicated than they really are? So many times I tend to confuse wants and needs and make things much more difficult for myself along the way.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

Today I turned 28, and overall it was a good day. In honor of other Taurus people out there, this is the Stock Market Bull statue in NYC. And no, that is not me hiding behind the statue! I don’t put much stock in astrological signs, although I can be a pretty stubborn gal. One of my friends has likened me to a grizzly bear—quiet and self-sufficient, until you start poking me with a stick or backing me into a corner. Plus, I am a woman who appreciates her sleep, and have never been of a sunny disposition when rudely awakened.

At this time last year, I was doing a general surgery rotation in the Bronx and spent my birthday at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. This year was just as much fun, having spent the day visiting with my family and friends.

Birthdays always seem to be a milestone to reflect on one’s accomplishments. For me, being 27 came with a lot of insecurity and questions about my future. Right now, 28 is looking pretty good—between starting a profession and re-establishing my independence, I am pretty positive about the year ahead.