Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Over the next month or so, I'm going to face some difficult decisions. Namely, what to pack.

I'm moving overseas in about a month and understandably want to arrive in my new country free and unencumbered. But due to my packrat-like nature, we're going to end up putting a great deal of our stuff into storage.

Just as an example, I just took 5 random items from my living room shown in this photo:

I will now attempt to explain why I much put each of these items into storage as opposed to throwing them in the trash or donating them to Goodwill (which would probably be my wife's preference). From left to right, we have:

1) A wooden baboon statue I bought in Africa for the equivalent of probably $2 US. What a bargain! I think most people would agree that this one's a keeper.

2) Unopened box of wedding candies. Hey, it's from my own wedding, can you blame me for being somewhat sentimental?

3) Crazy Eyeball glasses. You never know when these things could come in handy. I've already used them for three important occasions: they were featured in my annual Christmas card 2 years ago, they are present in my profile, and I used them for a last-minute makeshift Halloween costume last October.

4) Koosh Ball. In how many impromptu Hellman family games of "pig-in-the-middle" has this particular Koosh Ball been utilized? It must be save, for sentimental value.

5) Incredible Hulk figurine. You're asking me to throw away my favorite comic book hero of all time?

You get the picture. I'm going to need a ton of boxes to save all this crap. This was just the small potatoes, too--to get a full idea of the magnitude of my problem, you have to consider the wedding present boxes we haven't yet opened, my 2000+ comic book collection, and the 3-foot tall giraffe statue in our living room.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Our French Apartment

It's now officially less than a month before we leave our humble abode in Philadelphia, and after a few weeks visiting the fam in Minnesota & Indianapolis, we'll be on our way to gay Paris.

We already have an apartment set up and signed a lease a few weeks ago! For future reference, our address will be:

52 avenue du General Leclerc
75014 Paris

It's in the 14th arrondissement (Paris is divided into 20 such arrondissements, see map above) and is pictured as a red star on the Mapquest map here:

Other interesting locations within walking distance include the Hopital Necker (the hospital/reseach center where both Claire & I will be working), the Pasteur Institute (just across the street from Necker), the Eiffel Tower (at the foot of le Jardin du Champ de Mars on the map), and le Jardin du Luxembourg. You can link to a much higher quality map of the area here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Continent-Sized Debate

How many continents are there?

Seven, right? This is certainly the classical teaching in the United States school system. I learned yesterday from my French colleagues that in Europe they encourage a "six continent" system, with North and South America being lumped together as one continent. Apparently the residents of South America prefer the European system as well.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of a continent is fairly arbitrary, and therefore there is no single correct answer as to who is right about the number of continents.
I have been to 3 of the continents in my life so far (North America, Europe, and Africa).

Sunday, May 28, 2006

X-Men 3

In order to celebrate the passing of my PENULTIMATE CALL OF RESIDENCY--the last time I will have to spend 30 straight hours in the hospital, I might add--I went to watch the "X-Men 3" movie yesterday afternoon.

The verdict: not quite as good as the first two X-Men movies (which in my opinion are the strongest comic book movies out there), but still had some memorable scenes. I loved the new characters they introduced--in particular Juggernaut and Kitty Pryde (the mutant who can walk through walls), and the final scene with Magneto playing chess in the park (I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen the movie yet) provides enough ambiguity to make us consider an "X-Men 4". You could tell it was a different director, and I didn't necessarily agree with his decisions to kill off so many characters--then again, it comics, nobody's really dead permanently.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Holy Game 7's, Batman!

So far you can't be disappointed with the NBA playoffs. 3 out of 4 2nd round matchups going to a Game 7! I watched most of the Dallas-San Antonio game which went into overtime and it was riveting. Shot after big shot. Dirk Nowitzki was at his sneering best and although Duncan played great his shots were just a little off during the overtime period.

The "Final Four" is therefore: in the West, the Dallas Mavericks against the Phoenix Suns (setting up a battle between former teammates and foreign friends Dirk Nowitzki & Steve Nash, both of whom are seeing boozing it up below), and in the East the Dee-troit Pistons (led by one of the baddest-ass 'fros of the league in Ben Wallace) against the Shaq-Fu led Miami Heat.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Albino Anti-Defamation League Speaks Out Against Recent "Da Vinci Code" Movie!

Is there even an "Albino Anti-Defamation League"? Apparently so. According to them, the "Da Vinco Code" is the 68th movie since the 1960s to contain an evil albino. When was the last time you can recall seeing a movie where the albino was the good guy? "Da Vinci Code" features as one of its more memorable characters an Opus Dei monk named Silas who is a ruthless and crazed albino assasin. He is shown below with other memorable evil albinos, including "The Twins" from Matrix Reloaded and that funny Igor-like henchman from The Princess Bride.

Guess they have a point...

I saw the movie (Da Vinci Code) two nights ago with some general, I liked it! Probably moreso than my wife, who is a bigger fan of the Dan Brown books than myself. Highlights included the scene where the albino jumps up from out of nowhere to strangle Tom Hanks and the overall hotness of leading actress Audrey Tautou.

In other news, Nate's "Call Countdown" is down to: 2 more calls, 6 more ER shifts. Yowzah!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Why do people in West Philadelphia do so much cocaine?

I'm always amazed at the prevalence of cocaine use in the West Philadelphia population (and probably other large cities in the United States) which I am allowed to witness when I'm working in the hospitals here.

I would say that about 2-3 patients every night that I admit while on-call are coming in either with a cocaine-related health problem or have a history of doing cocaine in the past. The suprising thing to me is not just the fact that there are patients getting admitted with cocaine-induced chest pain, but that it is viewed as such a common, normal way of life in some communities. Many patients are very up front about their cocaine use and their lack of desire to quit it, much like people who smoke cigarettes.

I've also had no shortage of conversations which go like this:

Me: I'm going to ask you some questions that I ask all my patients. Do you smoke cigarettes?
Patient: No.
Me: How much alcohol do you drink?
Patient: maybe once in a blue moon.
Me: Do you take any drugs? Have you every taken cocaine?
Patient: No.
Me: Did you ever take any drugs?
Patient: Yes, well, I used to do cocaine, but I don't anymore.
Me: When was the last time you did cocaine?
Patient: A week ago.

It sounds moronic, but I've learned the hard way that you absolutely have to ask patients this series of questions or you will miss out on an important piece of their medical history.

In Botswana there was no cocaine. There was also no iv drug abuse. I think there may have been some marijuana and certainly I saw some cases of alcohol abuse, but other than that it was a fairly drug-free society. In addition all citizens of the country get free national health care and Botswana has never been in a war during its entire history of existence.

Perhaps we should start rethinking our classification of what consitutes a First World and a Third World country...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Good news travels fast

Thanks for everybody's concern about my dad's injury. I'm happy to report that he's recovering well and hopefully will be able to go home this weekend (albeit in a wheelchair)! I just got off the phone with Darth Maul to give him the good news.

Nate's call countdown: 3 calls, 3 ER shifts to go...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Count Your Blessings

I was on call last night when I got paged by my parents, probably sometime around 11pm. I recoganized their home phone numbers, obviously, and was instantly concerned. Why would my parents be paging me at 11pm when they knew I was on-call? It was either good news or bad...

Unfortunately, it was news of the bad variety. But it could have been a lot worse.

My dad was on a bicycle ride with one of his fellows and some old demented woman who probably shouldn't have been driving in the first place hit him with her car dead on. He was thrown from his bike and although he fortunately did not suffer any damage to his spine or hip, he did end up breaking his left knee, 5 ribs, and bled about a liter and a half of blood into his right calf which had to be drained. He was taken to surgery and fortunately has done well so far--in fact, he was even able to stand up on his own this morning, with the help of some high-quality pain medications. He's going to be out of commission for awhile, since he can't bear weight on his left leg for awhile and also can't use crutches because of the broken ribs.

Get well soon, Dad!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Star Wars Cooking Team

I found these "Star Wars Cooking Team" photos while browsing on the website "Flickr" yesterday. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Next MJ?

Watched the 2nd half of yesterday's Cavaliers-Pistons game. I have to admit that I thought the series would be a true blowout in favor of the Pistons, who are despite the current 2-2 series tie are still my pick to win the NBA Finals. LeBron James was pretty damn impressive--nearly had a triple-double despite missing a couple of shots, had some sweet fall-away treys when it mattered, and seemed to be able to drive to the basket pretty much whenever he wanted to. There's been a lot of talk about LeBron being "The Next Michael Jordan", but I always cringe when I hear that phrase.

"The Next MJ" has been used to describe a number of players already, many of whom have failed to live up to their namesake. Grant Hill looked pretty impressive early on in his career, but several ankle surgeries later is a shadow of his former self. Kobe scored 81 this year, true--but his team lost in the playoffs after being up 3-1 and he's not that young anymore. I remember a time when even Jerry Stackhouse was being compared favorably to his fellow Tar Heel alum.

Sure, LeBron is crazy good, and his potential to improve is mind-boggling. But there are still so many things that have to happen before LeBron can be mentioned in the same sentence as Jordan. First, he needs to get some better teammates--I don't see him winning the title with this group, not that they're terrible. Second, he'll need to win some rings. Not just one, either--one of the great things about Jordan is the number of consecutive championships he won, not to mention the fact that every single time he made it into the Finals, his team won. Third, he needs to stay healthy--one fluke game could turn him into Grant Hill II. Finally, he'll need to add to his legend, which as of right now consists mostly of his potential. Jordan had the 2 heart-breaker game winning shots against the Cavs, the Slam Dunk contest dunks where he took off from the free-throw line, scored a playoff-record 63 against the Bird Celtics in their heyday, and hit a sweet J against the Utah Jazz as his last shot to win the title prior to retiring for the 2nd time.

So we can start talking about comparisons after LeBron does all these things.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Thank You For Smoking & Ninjas

Saw the movie "Thank You For Smoking" yesterday which was actually quite good. Comparing it to "American Dreamz" (which was showing at the same theater and I had just seen a few weeks ago), I surprisingly enjoyed it more. Fast-paced, makes fun of its self, plus a great bit by Sam Elliott as a lung cancer-ridden Marlboro Man. My only knock is that I thought Katie (sorry, Kate) Holmes part was not very good.

Oh yeah, and since I already pointed out the medical errors in Mission Impossible: 3, I might as well do the same for Thank You For Smoking. First off, while I certainly do not endorse smoking in any age group and certainly not teenagers, smoking does not really cause cancer in young people as suggested in the show. In addition, the scene where Nick Naylor gets kidnapped, plastered with about six dozen nicotine patches, and barely survives, he is told by his doctor that smoking even one cigarette could cause him to develop paralysis and kill him...well, let's just say it's hard to envision a physiologic explanation for that. Maybe I should try a similar lie to my patients to get them to quit...

In other news, find out what ninjas think of love by clicking on the ninja below:

Sunday, May 14, 2006

More of the Same

First off: the Call Countdown is worthy of mention. After last night I am down to: 4 total calls left (plus what is sure to be six annoying ED shifts) before I can kiss my Internal Medicine Residency career a fond farewell. I'm getting closer every day!

Second: it's been awhile since I've had a question of the day. Here's a tough one: name the longest river in each continent. I'll exclude Antarctica (because I don't think there are any rivers) and Australia (because it's fairly obscure: the Murray-Darling River, as per Click here for the answer.

Finally, a few more cool pics from the Africa trip...

Nate looking exhausted as he climbs Table Mountain in Cape Town.

A veritable buttload of penguins.

There's nothing like a charging elephant to make your day...

Zebras. 'Nuff said.

Rafting on the Zambezi River. Our group didn't spring for the extra dough to have photos taken during the trip, but my friend Matt "The Linesman" Ortman who went a few weeks earlier did--this cool photo of the raft mid-flip is courtesy of him.

Friday, May 12, 2006

mini-Botswana reunion

Had a BBQ last night at our place, inviting several of the people with whom I had gone to Botswana! It was cool seeing everybody again & reminiscing about what a unique experience it was. Here are some extra photos I received courtesy of Matt Ortman & Jon Bazeley:

Rainbow at Victoria Falls.

Packs of wild dogs!

I'll sort through more of them later and post some of the good ones!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Medical Errors in Mission Impossible 3

Claire, my sister Susie, her boyfriend Andrew and I all went to see Mission Impossible 3 a few days ago. My take on the flick? Good actions sequences plus one of the greatest theme songs of all time and all-in-all probably worth seeing. The major drawback, however, was the complete ridiculousness of the medical explanations they included. Some of the problems are listed below:

#1: when Tom Cruise comes in to rescue the character played by Keri Russell who has been tortured to within an inch of her life, he gives her an intramuscular injection of adrenaline, resulting in a miraculous recovery. A few minutes later she's doing somersaults and blowing away bad dudes. Adrenaline is really only indicated for a few medical conditions--for example, a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting, or if you're in cardiac arrest--neither of which seemed to be the case with poor Keri, as bad as she looked. It's not like giving yourself an adrenaline shot will give you super-strength, like it does in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game.

#2: when Keri gets a metallic implant shot up her nose and into her brain, Tom Cruise tries to short out its circuitry by performing cardiac defibrillation. Okay, I'll buy the basic premise, but the cardiac defibrillator on their escape helicopter takes a full 30 seconds to charge, and she dies while waiting for this. Talk about a crappy defibrillator! It should take 2-3 seconds, max. Are you telling me that the same secret organization that can afford to routinely blow up deluxe Italian sports cars can't even spring for a decent defibrillator?

#3: at the end when Tom Cruise electrocutes himself on purpose, he's apparently gone into cardiac arrest. He must, since his wife (played by Michelle Monaghan) is a nurse and starts doing CPR. He must be done for at least, like 5 minutes, which is not a trivial amount of time. However, after she performs a precordial thump which revives him, he sits bolt upright and a few minutes later is seen relaxedly walking through the streets of Shanghai. The recovery is far too rapid; if you're heart stops beating for 5 minutes you would have a profound acidosis and a strong possibility of hypoxic brain injury which may or may not recover.

Don't they get a medical consultant for this kind of stuff? Hell, I'd be willing to do it for free!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Visions of Marzipan

As I reflect in my post-call stupor, I am left with few stories to tell and little news to relate.

I guess I can report that I got one more of the grants that I applied for in order to get paid the big euros while in France next year. This was from the Federation Recherche Medicale (FRM), a French government scientific organization. Unfortunately, I missed out on the Chateaubriand grant. With the Fulbright grant, however, that makes 2 out of 3, and in the immortal words of Meatloaf, that ain't bad.

For today's entertainment, some pictures my sister Susie took of some homemade marzipan she made recently. I like the pics because they're so colorful...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My goo runneth over

I am proud to announce the recent entry of my good friend & literary colleague Stephen Kaarbo's to the blogosphere. His kick-ass blog, Saga of the Verbal Spoon XI, promises the makings of a true blogging virtuoso. And Steve, anytime you want to send me my percentages on the royalties for Saga of the Verbal Spoons III-X, just feel free to send a check my way. I'll have my people talk to your people.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hellmans Victorious in Broad Street Run!

The 27 Annual Broad Street Run took place yesterday Sunday, May 5th in Philadelphia, PA and the story of the day was the brother-sister combo of Nathan and Susie Hellman, who wowed citizens of the City of Brotherly Love with their superb running chops. The dynamic duo came in 10,282nd and 10,343rd overall. Pictures below!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Big Willie-Style

So Claire & I (and a bunch of our friends) went to see "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" last night, one of the plays featured in this year's Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival. It's pretty amusing. It basically condenses every single Shakespearean play into a 2-act play which is heavy on slapstick humor and modern day references. Highlights included a rap sung to the plot of "Othello" and the finale, which involves doing the play "Hamlet" backwards.

In other news, I'm close enough to the "Finish Line" that I have decided to keep track of the number of calls I have left. Hallelujah! No more calls in the middle of the night asking me to order stool softener for a patient! No more hopping out of the call room bed at 3:30 in the morning sprinting down the hall to deal with a cardiac arrest!

Truth be told, I will miss it at least a little bit.

The tally so far--I have:
SIX (6) calls left,
ONE (1) piddly shift on the Geriatrics unit, and
SIX (6) ER shifts left before I finish.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

post-call shenanigans

I was draggin' post-call yesterday, disoriented after a busy night and a long nap afterwards. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation to lie around in my underwear and simply read comic books when I was invited to go out with the core members of the HUP SAR Men's Club. I always feel better when I go out and do something post-call, even if I'm tired. It makes me feel more like a normal person and less like I've "lost" a day.

The HUP SAR Men's club was originally the HUP Intern Men's Club, and all male members of the Internal Medicine residency class are included. Thus far we have sponsored such worthwhile endeavors as the McDonaldland Eating Challenge, the 1st & 2nd Annual Mustache Competetion, and HUP Bowls I-III. Last night, however, was simply an informal get-together and impromptu celebration of the engagement of my friend Dave Portnoy with his lovely lady friend Lisa Usdan. Congrats!

That's it for now. I'm going to try & finish up in clinic soon so I can get to see this play--reviews to follow...