Thursday, March 19, 2020

What Residency Looks Like XC: Random thoughts

What residency looks like:
1st breakfast: scrambled egg with Old Bay, two warm pumpkin cookies, peppermint milk tea
2nd breakfast: two homemade chocolate chip cookies, yogurt with kiwi and craisins
Lunch: ham sandwich, pretzels
Snack: apple, white cheddar popcorn
Dinner: lentil soup

Yes, I had 4 cookies for breakfasts this morning: brain food! That's me ensconced in an enormous rocking easy chair in the Neurology lounge, where I frequently put my feet up while reviewing charts or writing notes.

Scenes from social distancing: The in-hospital eatery is closed down, and the tables and chairs have been replaced by a cooler with 1/2 gallons of milk and shelves with loaves of bread. Is this an invitation for panic purchasing as if a snowstorm were on its way?

All of the couches, chairs, and end tables have been pushed into a corner in the lobby to prevent visitors or patients from lingering. The entrance is now cordoned off, and security guards check badges in order to keep the number of visitors low.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

What Residency Looks Like LXXXX: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We're ready for St. Patrick's Day at our outpatient clinic! These goofy dinosaur and zebra greet everyone who comes through the waiting room. Did you put on something green, eat your Lucky Charms, and follow the rainbow to its lucky destination this morning? Actually, not many people are out and about, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and restaurants have been closed, and our schedules have been frozen, either to make room for patients who are acutely ill, or in case we get pulled for coverage at the hospital. I'll leave you with a couple Irish blessings for these...interest times:
May good luck be with you wherever you go,
and your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.

May the Good Lord take a liking to you--but not too soon! 


Sunday, March 15, 2020

What Residency Looks Like LXXXIX: Packing my bags

With the heightened concern about transmissability of SARS-CoV-2, the Corona virus that causes COVID-19, many of us have stopped wearing white coats and are lobbying our programs to let us change into scrubs at the hospital so that we're not wearing clothes to and from that could carry infectious particles (of that or anything else). This is all well and good, except for the increase in laundry (time, detergent, electricity) if you can't access hospital scrubs, and the loss of all those glorious POCKETS, which is one of the main reasons I wear a white coat. Also, because I get cold. I have a slick residency program windbreaker with pockets, but I figure that falls into the category of wearable fomites, so I left that at home. Instead I decided to go back to carrying a "medical bag," an experiment I tried a few years ago and then gave up because I figured the bag itself was an infection risk. But I'm trying it again, leaving the bag at the hospital and laundering it weekly (which is as often as I wash my white coats, when I'm wearing them).

I packed my stethoscope (always cleaned before each use), reflex hammer because I'm on Neurology Consults (now cleaned after each use), a couple of pens, a penlight, my pager, some lip gloss, extra hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes. The detachable wallet purse has my driver's license, debit card, meal tickets, and some cash. I can tuck my cell phone (wiped down a couple times a day now) into one of the outer pockets.

Maybe this is premature, but just in case we get to the place at which physician cannot or should not go home from the hospital to non-medical cohabitants, I have also packed an overnight bag with two sets of scrubs, two tshirts to wear underneath (hospitals get cold at night!), extra socks and underwear (not pictured), grubby sneakers, shampoo and toothpaste, a hair barrette, silicon ear plugs for sleeping at night, sanitary supplies, arch supports, key medical references, green tea, granola bars, M&Ms, and dried apricots. (Meal tickets are no go if the cafeteria is closed!) Hopefully I end up pulling this bag from my trunk once the pandemic blows over, but until then, I'll be prepared like the Girl Scout I am.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Lentils: They're what's for dinner!

"I know you want takeout, but we have lentils at home"

Good friend JGD. shared this recipe on Facebook, and it sounded so good that I went out of my way to pick up coconut milk to have on hand to make it. There is little active cook time over the stove, but the chopping and measuring took almost as long as the simmering. Although I usually take recipe directions with a grain of salt--i.e. as suggestions rather than instructions--I was able to follow this recipe to the letter (except for the garam masala), because the author cooks more or less like I do!

This is 2 cups of lentils and 1/2 can of coconut milk, with 1 can of diced tomatoes and 1 package of frozen spinach. Too bad the soup used up some of the spices (ginger, cloves) and all of frozen spinach. Now I have to figure out what to do with the other 1/2 can of coconut milk--maybe freelance some more. After all, we've got all kinds of beans in the cupboard, and plenty of other spices.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Los Angeles: Santa Monica editon

Wednesday we stuck close to our home base in Santa Monica. After a lazy morning, during which I logged in remotely to watch a hospital update about COVID-19, we met a friend from residency for seafood at the Santa Monica Pier. Below is the view of the roller coaster from our table.

The Pier first opened in 1909 to disguise the sewage pipe that extended into the ocean under it (!). It was the first concrete pier on the West Coast. Somehow the fishing was still superb, and an amusement park was added during World War I. Which was all well and good until rust and a large crowd caused the end to collapse in 1919! They eventually replaced the whole thing with creosote-treated wood. Oh, and stopped pumping sewage underneath. The late 1920s and early 1930s were jumping, when a huge ballroom was opened; unfortunately, the Great Depression sank that venture. After World War II, the Pier was once again an entertainment site. According to the history on the Pier's website, a fisherman named Olaf C. Olsen was the inspiration for the comic character "Popeye"! Other famous people associated with the Pier are Charlie Chaplin, who sailed a yacht in the harbor, and Preston "Pete" Peterson, who invented the famous oblong lifeguard flotation device. Like so many public goods, by the 1960s, the Pier was in disrepair. Community activists saved it from politicians in the 1970s, only to watch it succumb to the forces of nature in a pair of winter storms in 1983. It was rebuilt as a concrete pier with a wooden deck and an amusement park, finally opening in the 1990s.

After lunch we walked the length of the pier, said good-bye to my friend, and then over-paid to ride the solar-powered Ferris wheel. The views were nice, and it wasn't too windy. No necking, though. We walked down to the beach and waded in the water, which was cold, but it wasn't as blustery as that time we tried to touch the Pacific Ocean while visiting San Francisco a few years ago.

A stroll along the receding tide line brought us back to the Perry's where we had eaten breakfast our first morning in town. We rented a tandem bicycle for an hour to pedal down to Venice Beach and back. A one-speeder with seats I thought were too low, it was a bit of a trick to balance and steer. Nevertheless, we can proudly proclaim that in ~15 years of marriage, we have now kayaked, canoed, biked, and assembled Ikea furniture together. 

By that point the sun was going down, and the temperature was cooling off, so we met our host at a local rooftop cocktail bar to watch the sun set over appetizers and drinks. Below you can see the beautiful crown palms lining the main drag and the Pier in the background. When it was dark, we drove home so I could cook us pasta and asparagus and watch Parasite.

Editor's Note: Did you miss Tuesday's post about the La Brea Tar Pits?

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Los Angeles: La Brea Tar Pits

After two years of Spring Break trips to Florida for adventures with nature, Spring Training Baseball, and cultural sights, this year Dear Husband and I decided to visit my old dissertation adviser, who has retired to California. #1 on my Los Angeles bucket list was to visit the La Brea Tar Pits, ever since my aunt gave me a book about dinosaurs coming up out of the tar to visit modern-day LA. Besides the whole childhood dream thing, this is a really cool site that combines science with history--the gorgeous weather for the outdoor parts didn't hurt--and it is the kind of thing we couldn't do anywhere else we have ever visited. (Our usual go-to's are art museums and botanical gardens, ever since our honeymoon.)

Our adventure back in time started with hopping on a city bus for the hour-long ride from downtown Santa Monica to the heart of LA. Public transit was free for the Super Tuesday Election Day. We read books and gawked at the urban scenery. Second happy surprise was that the museum was free (first Tuesday of the month during the off season). We joined a 45-minute walking tour of the site, which originally belonged to the Hancock family. In the late 19th century, they extracted the "tar" (really asphalt) and threw away the bones they found (dumb sheep), until it became obvious that these weren't ordinary bones (and fangs!).

Since the early 1900s, a million fossils have been removed, cleaned, sorted, and identified. The first iteration of the museum opened in 1913 already! They're currently in the middle of a big project, combing through 23 bins of material removed when the county art museum is next door built a parking garage. Check out the saber-toothed cat skull on display in "the lab" (above). We had not realized that the pits are all man made, either to mine asphalt or to look for fossils, and none of the ones being actively excavated were open to the public the day we went. Instead, we took part in a research project on artificial reality and teaching visitors about ecosystems, climate change, and the scientific method. We also watched a 3-D film--"Titans of the Ice Age"--which really played up the whole "sheets of ice" theme, although the AR study had taught us that the average temperatures in the Los Angeles area during the Pleistocene Era were only 16 degrees cooler than now, so the environment looked much the same. In fact, I think our tour get said 95% of the species found fossilized in the pits still live there day!

Wall of ~400 dire wolf skulls, one quarter of their collection.

Animatronic saber-toothed predator attacking a large ground sloth. 
It's no wonder why the latter died out.

I'll leave you with this photo of me being silly in the gift shop:

Editor's Note: Stay tuned for more Santa Monica/LA sights and experiences!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

That So Pittsburgh: Underground Railroad Tour

Today friend J.H. invited me to join her on a Doors Open bus/walking tour of sites connected to Pittsburgh African-American history. We gathered in Market Square before boarding four yellow school buses and spreading out around the city. Bus #1 started at Bigham House on Mount Washington.

Thomas James Bigham (1810-1884) built this brick mansion in 1849 above a ravine on land his wife Maria brought to their marriage. Known as "the Sage of Mt. Washington," he was a successful trial lawyer, local and state politician, newspaper publisher, and abolitionist. Their home was reportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad. After listening to a docent tell us about the history of the people and the place, we were allowed to have a look around. There wasn't much to see, as the house is currently a private community center without the historical furnishings or decorations.

Next stop was Morning Glory Inn on the South Side. A chic bed and breakfast that caters to weddings on the weekends and business travelers during the week, it was included for the unusual brick-lined vault off the basement that *might* have been constructed at the start of the Civil War in order to be used for the Underground Railroad and most definitely saw use during Prohibition.

Next we returned to Market Square to visit The Original Oyster House, Pittsburgh's oldest bar and restaurant. It was opened in 1870 to sell oysters and beer. The next owner (1916-1970), Mr. Americus, had a second house in Atlantic City and used to attend the Miss America pageants, so the walls are covered with old photographs of the contestants. The various fashions and physiques are fascinating. The next owner (1970-2019?), Louis Grippo, had a law office above the bar, as he was a successful defense attorney. "He never lost a murder case in his whole career!" according to his widow, who gave us the spiel instead of their daughter, who currently runs the joint but was in Seattle representing the city at a young entrepreneurs event. Mr. Grippo sounds like quite the local character, and he's the one who covered the rest of the walls in photos of famous people. I don't know why we stopped here, but I did learn that the only oysters they still sell come from a particular spot in the Chesapeake Bay, as they couldn't afford the insurance coverage for the shuckers if they served oysters threatened by toxic algae blooms.

Last stop was the original Dollar Bank building, which I have already featured on this blog for its famous lions and imposing facade. This Pittsburgh original--founded on my birthdate in 1855--has been accepting deposits from all manner of Pittsburghers for 165 years and sponsored this tour. They even have a half-time employee and a history graduate student from Duquesne interning to do research into the African-Americans and immigrants who signed their deposit books. There are multiple rooms on the main floor of the bank building devoted to its history and rotating exhibits such as this one. Among other things, the two historians showed facsimiles of 1860 Census forms on which two enslaved men were recorded by just their age, sex, skin color, and owner. But because they had shared that information when they later signed up at the bank, the researchers could put names and stories with these otherwise dehumanizing records. This was an uplifting way to end Black History Month.

Editor's Note: You might also like this post about a group of creatives and artists, or else this three-dimensional bit of clever public art in the Pittsburgh Airport