Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This week in ranting: the lung is a noob

Exams on Monday - heart, lungs and kidneys.

The more I learn about disease processes in the lungs, the more incredulous I get. Simply put, the lung is such a noob at fighting infections. I mean look at it. Almost every insult to the lung ultimately results in irreversible fibrosis and some weakass exudative stuff going on in the alveoli which ends up doing more harm than good anyway. All the reactive immune responses in the lung end up causing harmful granulomas. Every kind of terrible lesion seems to happen in the lungs. Pus? We got it. Abscess? Ooh we have multiple kinds of abscesses. Which one would you like? Necrosis? Again, such a wide variety to choose from! Unresolved, persistent infections? Check. 

You would think the body would do a better job at protecting such a vital organ that literally keeps you alive by dumping out CO2 for O2 and by sweeping out all manner of gunk that gets in. 

That's my rant for the week. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Random stuff

Random stuff that I want to talk about.

  • I have made no secret of my intense passion for bikes and biking. I have blathered about the topic several times, like here and here . This week my days as a glorious and proud outlaw came to an end. I surrendered my gritty, badass ways and agreed to abide by society's repressive laws. That's right. I finally purchased a helmet. For 10+ years I rode around unfettered, like an untamed majestic beast of the wild. Now after months of persistent pushing, both by friends and family, I am a rebel no more. Here is the heinous object that made it happen:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Starry starry night: musings on the tragedy of van Gogh

My good friend (let's call him PH) here introduced me to this gem of a song by Don McLean (he of "American Pie") last week. Most of you might be familiar with it; I wasn't. Now I am a hooked.

It's called "Vincent" and it's McLean's beautiful homage to the life of artist Vincent van Gogh.

McLean's voice is so clear and gentle in this song. And the lyrics. Oh man, the lyrics.

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls

Such amazing poetry.

This song set off a period of van Gogh obsession for me. After making an obligatory pilgrimage to his wikipedia page, I was astounded to learn how difficult and tragic his life actually was. Prior to this I always assumed he became famous during his lifetime and suffered from mental problems toward the end of his life due to mercury or lead poisoning.

Turns out he spent most of life as a failure, forever frustrated, both at himself for failing to achieve goals he set for himself and at the world for not reciprocating his earnest attempts to define it. Vincent was a veritable Europe-trotter, moving and staying in various towns and cities across multiple countries. He wanted to become a priest and enrolled multiple times in schools, but always found himself getting thrown out (once for being too spartan and austere - he slept in a stable because he believed he should suffer to enhance his piety). Periods of apprenticeship in art shops and schools also ended in failures.

Vincent wrote a lot of letters to his brother, an art dealer, and much knowledge about his life comes from those letters. He struggled with loneliness and terrible mood swings. He contracted syphilis (much like Nietzsche), which almost certainly contributed to the neurological symptoms later in his life.

But through it all, he kept drawing and sketching, down to the last days of his life. At age 37, after multiple visits in and out of sanitariums and asylums, he shot himself. Reportedly his last words to his brother were, "The sadness will last forever."

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's in a name: anatomy of a username

I often get asked where/how I chose my username. I use it across different platforms with some variation. Since I have nothing better to write about at the moment I decided to make a whole post about the genesis of my online handle.

Gather around kids! Grandpa has a story for you!

It's 1861 in Imperial Russia. The river Don is aflush with premium vodka. Tsar (czar/csar/tzar/tswhatever) Alexander II, perhaps taking a break from the vodka-drinking championship circuit, decides to set the serfs free. Freedom and equality for all! Bastille! Oh wait, that's French.

You can imagine the complications this causes. The old nobility, accustomed to sitting on its ass chugging vodka, is not happy. The old fogs are already annoyed with the kids these days. Those darn kids are learning European liberalism in their universities and schools. And now they have to deal with Alex's laws.

In this setting Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev pens what will become an enduring masterpiece. It has a boring name - 'Fathers and Sons'. It is received shittily by the critics. Embarrassed, Ivan drinks some vodka and leaves Russia.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poem of the week - "Squattings" by Rimbaud

Continuing our theme of volatile, passionate and brilliant poets, today's installment is courtesy of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud. I managed to snag an excellent used copy of his poems for just three dollars at the local bookstore recently. Rimbaud personifies young rebelliousness. Most teenagers/young adults will pout at needless social conventions or the forceful but irrational rule of authority and will stop once they hit adulthood. Rimbaud took to poetry. By age 20, he was dazzling those around him with his irreverence, boldness and arrogance. He died of cancer at just 37.

Following is one of his "milder" poems. I love his long, deliberative approach to the central act.

Here's "Squattings":

Thursday, October 4, 2012

UG Sports: Then there were three

The first four weeks of this NFL season were so crazy that the only way I can do justice to the craziness is to upend the modifier 'batshit' to crazy. Everyone and everyone's grandmother has written/ranted/spewed froth about 'Golden-gate', aka 'the one that was stolen from Green Bay', so I won't talk about the replacement refs at all. They are gone now. Let us all have the same poise as Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who phoned the guy who botched the call and left him a nice voicemail, telling him that although he didn't agree with the call (obviously), he thought the ref handled the issue with class. I will leave you with this parting gift, however. Too priceless to pass up:

Besides, there is plenty of other craziness to talk about.