Wednesday, July 19, 2017

That's So Pittsburgh: The Pirates Parrot

That's so Pittsburgh: the Pirates Parrot sat at the end of our row, two rows from the visitors' dugout on the third-base side of PNC Park. Next he hopped up on the dugout, "danced" for us by wiggling his ample bum, refused to let a fan take a picture with his head in the parrot's mouth, and promptly melted into a puddle in the 90+-degree heat. At his feet you can see the two boogie boards covered in black tape that he uses like a flip cell phone.

Other TSPGH moments you might enjoy: Mrs. T's pierogies racing on the Jumbotron and Steelers swag spotted in our neighborhood.

Friday, July 7, 2017

That's So Pittsburgh: Eating in the Strip District

For Christmas, My Awesome Parents (MAP) gave me a gift certificate to 'Burgh Bits & Bites, a local tourism outfit that specializes in tasting tours in some of Pittsburgh's various neighborhoods. We finally found a chance to use it when the weather wasn't rainy, and I wasn't working. Destination: the Strip District, the 3/4-mile strip of land four-blocks wide between the Allegheny River and The Hill. It has a history of immigrants, enterprise (including the original Carnegie iron, later steel works), shipping, and wholesaling. In fact, 80% of the business conducted in the strip is wholesale (baked goods, cured meats, cheese, tortillas, etc.). Interestingly, of the 200+ businesses there, only two are not locally/family owned (McDonald's and Penzey's Spices). And they draw from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, including Italian, Syrian, African-American, Greek, Polish, and Mexican.

Our food and architecture tour started in the walled courtyard of Old St. Patrick's Church. The courtyard is a lush oasis in the middle of an urban, industrial landscape. The church was the first founded by Pittsburgh Irish Catholics and has the distinction of being one of only three in the world with scala sancta ("holy stairs"), which should be ascended on one's knees while reciting a litany of prayers. Our entertaining guide, Richard, also told us about the time the church burned to the ground in 1935 while the volunteer firefighters brawled over who would have the honor of saving it. The round tower to the right of the current building is the only part that survived the conflagration. Richard gave us freshly baked cinnamon bread from Mancini's Bakery to keep our hunger at bay.

Then we visited Parma Sausage for tastes of salami; Labad's Grocery for fresh hummus and warm pita; Prestogeorge to ogle their enormous coffee roasters; and Mancini's to peer in the plate-glass front window.

Next we contemplated restoration strategies for various buildings, from a rowhouse whose arched windows had been bricked up instead of having custom-made windows installed; an old cork factory turned into loft apartments; and St. Stanislaus, whose twin towers were damaged by the methane-fueled explosion of bananas ripening in a warehouse across the street in 1936 (yes, really; truncated towers below).

By this point it was mid-afternoon with little in the way of actual food, and Dear Husband and I were starting to get ravenous. So we were relieved to sit in the air conditioning and be offered greasy slices of pepperoni roll at Sunseri's. Alas, DH succumbed to the peer pressure to finish off the box, and I had eaten three slices with copious amounts of red sauce, so by the time we got up the street to S&D Polish Deli, we barely had room for our mashed potato and cheese pierogis (sharp cheddar cheese > sweet farmer's cheese).

Say "Cheese and Pepperoni!"
It turns out those were the main dishes of our tasting tour and that it was time for desserts. First was meles (fruit turnovers) from Colangelo's. Too bad they ran out of raspberry; DH had to settle for apple, while I chose apricot. We ate them for breakfast the next morning. Then came biscotti from Enrico: cherry for him, Black Forest for me. Of all the establishments we visited, this was the only one I had heard of (except Parma Sausages)--in fact, we had even met Enrico our first summer in the 'Burgh, at the little farmers market south of us. We haven't seen him this summer, as the market is even smaller than it was last summer, and we may have to find another one to patronize, as I prefer to buy organic produce from local farmers, not from people who are reselling others' products at marked up prices.

But I digress, much as we did on the tour, venturing down a covered alleyway into the former garage that is now Enrico's cafe, which offers brick-oven pizza at lunchtime and bread-baking brunch on Sunday mornings.
Finally, we trundled into the Stamoolis Brothers Greek grocery store, which offers an enticing variety of local and imported foods. They offered us little tasting plates of real Greek yogurt with orange preserves, French crostini with honey, nougat, cheese, and non-alcoholic ouzo soda. All in all, a warm but not wet afternoon getting to know our new city better. For the cost of our tickets we got all that food, a bottle of water each, and a tote bag. We were so full that we completely skipped dinner, and now we just have to decide which neighborhood to eat our way through next!

If you enjoyed this blogpost, you might like these other food-themed TSPGH entries: one about how making pierogis at home is easier than you think, and one about the tradition of Friday fish fries during Lent.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Residency Looks Like: Bag that Baby

Sometimes residency looks like more training for dealing with emergencies. After I intubated the plastic baby's Singh truce in a row, one of the instructors drew me a picture with the helpful admonition​: "Intubate here!!"

Friday, June 30, 2017

What Internship Looks Like XLII: I just finished intern year!!

And th-th-th-that's all, folks! This is the last of the What Internship Looks Like posts. From here on out, this occasional photo series will be called What Residency Looks Like (WRLL). If you're ever nostalgic, just search for the tag WILL or WMSLL (What Medical School Looks Like).


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Internship Looks Like XLI: Blooper Edition

The last two years I have opened myself up to public humiliation by publishing a top-ten list of medical training-related blunders. As a third-year medical student, I once tried to find peripheral pulses on a patient's prosthetic leg. While traveling on residency interviews as a fourth-year student, I cataloged my various breakfast-related mix-ups. In the past year, there was typical clueless ‘tern behavior, like going to the “AOB” building instead of the “CHOB” building, or taking my chief resident's advice to park on the street for a weekend shift and getting a $40 ticket. But that's small potatoes compared to...

Intern Bloopers

10. One time I finished a gynecological exam and told the patient "everything looked/felt good" down there--and she called me on it. [We're supposed to say it was "normal."]

9. The time I was the third person to call the “wife’s number” listed in a patient’s chart, but it was really somebody totally unrelated who was nevertheless nice about it, even though the first call had come at 1am. I never found out why the night team believed this patient knew his wife’s phone number, given the fact that he was being admitted with delirium and had been found out of bed--more than once--stark naked, trying to stick his finger in an electrical socket.

8. The morning I thought I was going to have to call "jeopardy" (i.e. call out sick) when I slipped and fell getting into the shower, landed on my tailbone, and nearly blacked out from the pain. I just sat in tub until I could see again and had a righteous bruise for about a week.

7. When I tried to check extra-ocular movements by having a patient follow my finger with their eyes, and I knew the patient was blind. I wish I could say I only did this with one patient, but I would be lying.

6. And then there’s The Saga of the Wrong Cheesecake.

5. My first night shift at the children's hospital, when a nurse told me over the phone the good news about a patient's laboratory value. I expressed my sincere enthusiasm and thanks, hung up, and deadpanned to my senior resident, "What does it mean when XXX happens?" The other residents managed to hold in their laughter for about 30 seconds until they finally busted up and told me I deserved a b---sh-- award.

4. When I ordered an ICU patient's Versed drip for a Riker score of 0 (the nursing equivalent of "dead").
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3. The time I text-paged "Not urgent" to the hospital pharmacy's code (i.e. emergency) pager.

2. The day in newborn follow-up clinic when I was jiggling a baby on my shoulder, and her belly button stump came off, on my white sweater. Of course it was bloody and stinking. I put the baby down, wiped off my sweater, moved my name tag to cover up the spot, and had to reassure the parents—twice, via interpreter—that really it was fine and normal. (Which was true but didn’t sound like it given the chain of events.)

1. The time my attending was interviewing an elderly patient in the hospital to try to determine whether she had dementia. He was asking her leading questions about her neighborhood, like what kind of dinosaur statue stands on the corner outside of Shady Lane School, “It’s a brontosaurus, isn’t it?” he asked. Suddenly I snapped out of my daydream and responded, “That’s right near my house—it’s a triceratops.” If looks could maim...


You may also enjoy Medical School Bloopers Part 1 and Part 2

Monday, June 26, 2017

Story + Recipe = Storecipe

Over at H-Net, on the H-Nutrition online community where I am an Editor, we are observing something called "What is a Recipe?" It's an unconventional kind of conference happening partly in person, partly on the interwebs, during the months of June and July. The folks over at The Recipes Project put out a call for proposals to address the question in whatever creative way we wanted. Some people are making YouTube videos, there's a gal growing potatoes and blogging about it, and lots of people are tweeting. We asked our list-serv members to write a short piece about their favorite recipe and what it has to do with the history of nutrition. I wrote about satiety and the stereotypically heavy Central European dinner; others tackled oatmeal (food for animals or children?), dehydrated rations for Indian soldiers during World War II, and even individualized recipes for Soylent.

One of the groups participating in What is a Recipe? invited us to their "Cooking with Anger" netprov (internet + improvisation) as a way to think about the influence of emotions on cooking and eating. I decided to give it a try. Here's my storecipe (story + recipe) with the automatically generated list of ingredients and "spices." Click the link in the story to find the recipe.

Level: Chef

Your basket
Main Ingredients:

Spice Pack:
1/3 cup of love
1 teaspoon of nervousness 

I heard the door of my apartment slam and the squeak of worn springs as my step-sister threw herself onto the futon in the living room. “I can’t believe that fink got away with it!” she said.

“Who’s a fink?” I asked, drying my hair with a towel as I came out of the bathroom. It was 7AM on a Saturday morning, and Janice had been gone all night clubbing.

“A pickpocket on the subway,” she answered juicily, around a mouthful of mango. She must have spied the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter as she entered. “This one’s really good!” she said, and cut another piece.

“I should hope so,” I countered. “They’ve been ripening for the last week.” I took the slice she proffered me on the flat of the knife blade. “What did he or she take?”

“My cellphone with IDs—right out of my back pocket!” said Janice. “Do you think I’ll ever see them again?” she asked nervously. “I’ve got to catch the train back to Philly this afternoon.”

“Maybe, maybe not, sis,” I replied. “It’s unfortunate but not all that uncommon here in New York. I’m sorry that happened to you. Let’s make some phone calls to your bank and the DMV, and then I’ll fry your some kohlrabi fritters before we head down to the train station.”

Janice sighed a combination of frustration and satisfaction, ran her hands through her hair, and then laughed when her sticky fingers caught in her curls. “Sure, let me shower and look up the numbers on my laptop. Thanks!”

She gave me a wet kiss on the cheek on her way to the guest room, while I headed for the kitchen.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

That's So Pittsburgh: Kennywood Amusement Park

Finally with some vacation at the end of the academic year, about 1/3 of the Pediatric residents decided to have a day at Pittsburgh's famous Kennywood amusement park (est. 1898). We rode a variety of roller coasters (sometimes more than once), spinning rides, and water rides; cheered each other in the carnival games; and ate fair food (funnel cake, ice cream, chicken fingers/fries, lemonade, burgers). While standing in line, we watched the daredevils who had paid extra money for the Skycoaster "free fall" ride, chatted about past and future rotations, and compared childhood experiences of visiting amusement parks. Yes, the pediatricians even rode the carousel. My favorite ride was either the Sky Rocket, a modern looping roller coaster, or the Racer, a wooden coaster with side-by-side tracks. "My" car won the race, and I may have yelled "See ya later!" to the losing car as we passed them in the home stretch. My least favorite was the Thunderbolt, another old coaster that jostled too much. The funny story about the ride pictured to the left is that when we rounded the corner and saw that there was no line for it, we all agreed to give it a try, without much of an idea of what it actually did, which was to swing so far and so high that--at the apex--you were above horizontal, staring down at the ground very far below you. Needless to say, some of us expressed pure terror at that part! All in all, an excellent day of camaraderie marred by neither rain nor sunburn. Even the humidity was bad but not unbearable; and the rainy forecast likely kept away some of the crowds.