Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the year stuff

Dec 31. Another year comes to end. Time for every two-bit hack to publish his/her "best of " lists. his formality is weary, but whatever. No reason for me to get left out.

Every now and then someone will ask me to give a few book recommendations. I enjoy talking about books as much as I enjoy reading them, so I don't need much excuse to write this list. Here is Universal Gravitation's very own "Best books in 2012", winnowed down from a number of books read across various genres.  Notice the little "in" in the title. These were books that I read in 2012, not ones that were necessarily published this year. I did a similar list last year too, so if you want more perspectives/recommendations, feel free to head over to that post .


Sunday, December 30, 2012

WTF pictures - Don't f@$k with Vespas

Saw this hilarious sign on the sleepy streets of Pismo Beach, CA:

This was outside local Italian restaurant Giuseppe's. Quite the protector of Vespa owners' rights, this Giuseppe.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blisters, diarrhea and giants - an accurate roundup of med school

Merry (slightly belated) Christmas to you all.

(Happy Festivus if you are into that sort of thing.)

Meant to write pretty much everyday this month, but real life intervened in the form of OMG FINALS. If you spent the last three weeks frantically refreshing this page or kept re-reading past gems from this blog, I apologize profusely and sincerely. I am back now with fresh material to ensure this venerable little corner of the vast internet will not go unmanned (Or un-botted. You have no way of knowing if I am a highly proficient AI).

Recently concluded block numero tres of second year of med school. Only three more blocks to go before most of my classmates get shipped to the hospital wards and get presented with real patients with real illnesses.

This block's material explored interesting material and answered some critical questions. Like: what do you blame when your "hormones act up"? Is the pituitary gland really the "master gland"? Is there more to diarrhea than inconvenient trips to the shitcan? (Hint: yes) Can a skin rash be both macular and papular? Read on to find out.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

This week in ranting: why is the pancreas so presumptuous?

Welcome to the second installment of "This week in ranting". Here is first installment: The lung is a noob .

A little background before we get started: today we had a small group session devoted to breaking bad news. Usually these small groups are a colossal waste of time. People sit around holding hands singing the kumbaya and nothing of any significance gets done. This small group session was an exception. Delivering bad news to patients is a critical skill and although teaching it this early might not have terribly important retentive value, at least they are exposing us to these things. Long story short, we were supposed to deliver a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to actors pretending to be patients.

In the midst of this session, it suddenly struck me that the pancreas is a freaking presumptuous organ. I mean look at it. What other non-paired, singular organ in the body presumes to seem and sound plural?

Ever hear the heart calling itself the "hearts"? No! Because that would be stupid. And arrogant. How would you feel if the brain woke up tomorrow asking people to call it "brains"? The brain is a pretty important organ, right? Yet you don't see it letting all this important get to it. You don't see its ego swelling to the size of a dirigible.  Look at the liver - the humble little organ that could (well actually the liver is one of the largest organs in the body, but let's roll with it). It sits there patiently and meticulously filtering out all the toxins you and I brazenly dump in our bodies. But you will never hear it saying it prefers to be called the "livers."

Why the pancreas then? This gnarly (no, literally. The pancreas is pretty tortuous) piece of tissue with the texture and feel of a giant chicken tender is a fairly crucial organ. It spews out digestive enzymes and also releases important things like insulin and glucagon so your body doesn't all of a sudden go into a coma due to swings in glucose levels. But unlike the vital organs like the heart, liver or the brain, this punk slab of cells swaggers around wanting its name to seem plural. An obvious case of plurality envy, if you ask me. It is clearly jealous of the lungs, the kidneys, the testes, the ovaries, the eyes, the limbs and so on.

So I looked into this a little bit more. Turns out some ancient Greek idiot named it the pancreas (meaning "whole flesh"). The plural of pancreas is pancreases or pancreata (yuck). Here's probably what actually happened: some Greek anatomist was looking at this yet-unnamed organ and was preparing to call it something sensible and singular. But this punk probably threw a tantrum and threatened to dissolve all organs around it with its enzymes. Faced with such daring thuggery, the Greeks promptly called it the pancreas.

So here I am, seething with rage and incredulity, while the pancreas prances around holding us hostage.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

WTF pictures - Eastern Poland is apparently THE place to invest and make money

 So here I was, flipping through this week's Economist, reading about exotica such as passing away of Britain's famous speaking clock (apparently in Britain you call a number and have a voice tell you the time of the day) and gerrymandering in Georgia (the nation, not the state) when I came across this gem:

This old man looks awfully grumpy. In all honesty, he looks like a hardass. If this is my future father-in-law...yikes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Poem of the week - "I heard a fly buzz when I died" by Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, much revered today, was considered an oddball back in her time. She wrote without much care for such niceties as punctuation, capitalization and rhyming scheme. She was a very prolific poet, but only a mere handful of her poems were published during her lifetime. After her death the poetry world was blessed with the discovery of a trove of her unpublished work, nearly couple thousand poems.

Here's one of her most famous works. I love the sombre tone and the morbid nature of it.

I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.
The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.
I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable,-and then
There interposed a fly,
With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.