Saturday, May 18, 2019

That's So Pittsburgh: High Tea with Sherlock Holmes Afficianados

Today Dear Husband and I celebrated the end of two weeks of night shifts with a date for Sherlock-Holmes-themed high tea with the local Britsburgh Anglophile group. It was hosted at the Omni William Penn Hotel, the fanciest hotel in the world when it was built in 1916, at least according to the maitre d'. The chandeliers behind us were gifts from the queen of Austria and are worth $50,000(!). The organizers chose this hotel in part because of the fancy-schmancy atmosphere of the Terrace Room, and in part because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself spent one night there when traveling through the United States lecturing on spiritualism and the paranormal.

The invitation encouraged guests to get all dressed up and ladies to wear hats, and we happily complied. We ended up sharing a table with a slightly older professional couple. Sheila is a runner, and Frank likes organ concerts, so there was a lot to talk about. DH chose the mountain berry tea, while I opted for Earl Grey. We enjoyed a variety of finger sandwiches but could not manage to finish this impressive display of fruit and desserts. The china was a beautiful, classic, floral rose-on-white pattern. Service took over an hour, however, so the special lecture was delayed.

The guest for the day was Sherlockian Jim Zunic, who described himself as someone who has "an inordinate interest in Sherlock Holmes," and it made me wonder what constitutes an "ordinate" interest. He has read all 4 novellas and 56 short stories, watched the television and film knockoffs, and collected a variety of ephemera. It was a short but very interesting lecture. Zunic reminded us that many details associated with the famous detective in popular culture are not "canonical" from Conan-Doyle's original writings: the deerstalker hat, the curved pipe, and the phrase, "Elementary, my dear Watson!"

One last thing: the Terrace Room is overseen by a mural of George Washington recapturing Fort Duquesne (now Fort Pitt) in 1755. The hotel maitre d' pointed out a number of intentional inaccuracies, from the depiction of an elderly GW for recognition's sake, although he would have been 33 at the time, to the Plains Sioux headdress on the Iroquois Native American man in the foreground. The soldier on the left is General Braddock, not Governor Pitt the Elder, for whom the fort and later city were named.

Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this edition of That's So Pittsburgh (TSPGH), you might like the World War I commemoration we attended, or this post about other historic murals.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

What Residency Looks Like XLI: Llamapalooza

Sometimes residency looks like a houseful of pediatricians and their dates/families hiding from the rain in an old farmhouse, crowding around the potluck table and grilled meats, and darting out to the barn to feed the llamas and pet the friendly barn cat. The llamas are all named Jackie, and the cat's name is Twinkie. The hostess and her husband used to have as many as 35 llamas; now there are 6. In the spring they invite the department out for a party on their farm an hour outside of town, complete with legendary grilled salmon, music over speakers from the second-story porch, multiple mixed drinks, and a bonfire once dark fell and the rain relented. If the weather hadn't been so wet, there would have been cornhole and frisbee. As it was, the 5 dogs had the time of their lives. The llamas had no comment, although one deigned to eat a little cracked corn out of my hand.

You had better believe that when the first guy to feed the fire left, yours truly, Girl Scout Extraordinaire, continued to nurse it.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

That's So Pittsburgh: Mystics in Motion

One night at Mystics in Motion (the Wednesday night service formerly known as Worship Jam), we made sock puppets. The idea was that while we might show one face to each other, God knows our innermost selves. So we decorated socks and then turned them inside out and decorated them again. And because this is a group of creatives, we went around the circle to name and describe our characters before and after their transformations. (That's my sock with its two different personalities above.)

Because I waited too long to write this post, I can't remember any of the details, but that's probably just as well, as many of them reflected their creators' personalities and interior journeys. I will say that I was struck by the fact that no one's sock puppet had the same shape as anyone else's: one was tall, another short, one with a long nose, another short, and so on. That diversity and the safe space to open up to one another--to do crafts, and sing/dance, and have the faith of children--is one of the reasons we enjoy this group so much.

In an effort to be conscientious, the socks were undecorated and donated after we finished with them.

Friday, May 3, 2019

What Residency Looks Like LX: Starzl's stare

Sometimes residency looks like listening to interdisciplinary rounds with the intestinal care team under the watchful gaze of Thomas Starzl (1926-2017), the famous liver transplant surgeon. He was recruited to Pittsburgh from Colorado, where he had grown tired of opposition to his pioneering but as-yet unsuccessful operations to save the lives of patients in liver failure. At Pitt he developed a highly successful transplant service, training fellows who went on to populate the field. This was back in the 1980s, when transplantation was still so new that Starzl had to fly in a rented private plane to the various hospitals where a donor had died, harvest the organ, take it back to Pittsburgh, and implant it--there just weren't other surgeons who could do this kind of surgery. According to Burden of Genius, the well-done documentary I watched on the IMAX at the Carnegie Science Center, he was a no-nonsense perfectionist and difficult to work with. But he got results. There was scandal about the way he let wealthy patients from the Middle East pay their way, but he also operated on any patient, regardless of their ability to pay. A government investigation found him innocent, but he burned out of the OR after 10 years here and turned his attention to researching immunosuppression regimens for preserving organs after transplantation. Click on the link above to see some great photographs and watch the doc-trailer.

p.s. Pittsburghers, you have two more chances to see the film at the Science Center, May 19, 4pm and 7pm!


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What Residency Looks Like LIX: Poop Deck

Another entry in my log of bathroom posts. One of my colleagues bought this sign and accompanying door handle charm for our workroom/lounge. Seems self-explanatory.

When I was a third-year medical student, I observed/assisted in an operation with the colorectal team. One of the PAs laughed when I made some comment that suggested I wouldn't deal with poop as a doctor, since I hadn't chosen colorectal surgery. She was right. It is inescapable. I also gave up calling it "stools" or "bowel movements" pretty quickly, because some people didn't know what I was talking about, but everybody knows what you mean when you ask, "When was the last time you pooped?"

For instance, while shadowing an ER physician in medical school, I developed a simple "review of systems" questionnaire, 6-8 questions I ask all my patients to make sure I'm not missing something that impacts their daily lives: eating/drinking, peeing/pooping, sleeping/playing (or working). We also prefer that our patients are walking/talking before they are discharged (or whatever the developmental/ functional equivalent is).

Ahoy, matey! When was the last time you pooped?


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What Residency Looks Like LVIII: An Oasis

Sometimes residency looks like checking email under a gazebo in a rooftop garden oasis in the middle of an urban hospital complex on a warm and sunny spring day while hidden birds loudly chirp their business to the world. I'm on campus on a vacation day to hear a Grand Rounds presentation about current trends in medical education.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter 2019 + bonus recipe

 Happy Easter! Dear Husband and I celebrated with a lovely service at church with music that was much nicer than the weather outside. Then I spent a second day in the kitchen, this time preparing to host small dinner for work colleagues. The menu included a McCormick & Company shrimp and dill pot pie, pineapple angel food cake, fruit salad, and a delicious white German wine. We ended the night with a game of Settlers of Catan.

Frau Doktor Doctor's Easter Dinner

1. Saturday morning, go grocery shopping with half the neighborhood. Sunday afternoon, realize you're still short the shrimp, half-and-half, sugar snap peas, and angel food cake mix. Send DH.

2. Begin to prepare the pineapple angel food cake by messing up the crucial step of substituting 20 oz of crushed pineapple for the water.

3. Strain the cake mix over the sink, add the pineapple, and bake as directed at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, saute 1/4 of an enormous yellow onion, chopped, and 1/2 of a 3-pound bag of shrimp in butter.

5. Realize the sauce won't fit and divide the mixture into two pans.

6. Take the cake out after 30 minutes. Should have left it in another 10 minutes so the top wasn't so tacky. Increase oven temp to 400 degrees.

7. Whisk 1 1/2 cups of half and half, 1/4 cup dry white wine, 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp dill weed, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp thyme. Divide between the pans and bring to a boil while stirring continuously.

8. After sauce thickens, pour into a 2 qt dish. Stir in a package of sugar snap peas. Cut a roll of pizza dough into slices and arrange like shingles on top.

9.  Put into the over 20 minutes before your guests are due. 10 minutes later, turn off the oven but leave the dish inside. 10 minutes after that, decide the top isn't baked enough, so turn the oven back on to 400 until you smell the juices overflowing onto the bottom of the oven and burning.

10. Dig in! Too late you realize the shrimp still have their tail shells on. Good thing it's so delicious!

N.B.--While I was writing this post, I looked back for the last time I used dill weed--only to discover that I had made this very same recipe 3 years ago. I asked why he hadn't reminded me, and he said it was because afterwards I had become violently ill! Thankfully no guests were harmed in the making of this blog post.