Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Wonders of the Internet

Last week while Claire & Sophie were in France--and I was stuck here in Boston working like a dog in the Dialysis Unit--we managed to keep in touch via the Internet. We did some Webcam conferences which was great 'cause I got to play with Sophie from several thousand miles away! Claire had the camera so the photos are from her point of view--but in the bottom picture you can see me at our dining room table...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

#1 Revealed: le Tour du Croissant

And personal favorite Christmas Card of the past twelve years...the 2006 Tour du Croissant, my pastry-eating contest with myself accomplished during my year in France.

Why I loved making this card: (a) it brings back a lot of good memories about all the wonderful monuments and neighborhoods of Paris, (b) the layout is attractive (especially the dessert grid on the back) and (c) it was a good excuse to stuff my face with nineteen delectable French pastries in a single day.

That's it for now! We'll do another countdown of Nate-sponsored Christmas cards in another dozen years or so. Happy 2008 to all!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

#2: Do You Want to Look Better Naked?

And now for the moment of truth...which will be the #2-rated Hellman Christmas Card of All-Time (and thereby revealing, for anybody who's keeping track, the #1-rated card)! The "Do you want to look bettter naked?" Fat Foe advertisement from 2001 brings home the penultimate prize.

In my opinion, nothing beats this card in terms of overall level of sleaze. It is the anti-Christmas card, in even worse taste and tackier than the idea of me sending out a Christmas card proclaiming myself as the sexiest man alive. It advertises a product, Fat Foe, designed to transform the beer-drinking, ice cream-stuffing couch potato on the left into the smoldering hunk of rock-hard abs pictured on the right. Even better is the fact that I took these photos at the house of the Washington University School of Medicine Department Head of Pediatrics's kitchen while house-sitting one Christmas vacation.

Tomorrow...the true #1 revealed!

In the meantime: Sophie et ses cousines, Maeve (top) et Auxanne (bottom):

Thursday, December 27, 2007

#3: Nate's ER and Bait Shop

Onto my favorite 3 XMas Cards. Our #3 rated card goes all the way back to 1997, "Nate's ER & Bait Shop."

Why choose this card amongst the top 3? It consists merely of a store-bought card frame with a photo of myself (as a 2nd-year medical student) about to saw off the leg of fellow med student Dan Berg (photo credit Terry Cummings--the Washington University medical student, not the former Milwaukee Bucks basketball star) with a barely-visible "Nate's ER and Bait Shop" scrawled on the blackboard, off of which there is considerable glare. I choose this in my Top 3 because (a) the concept is inherently funny, (b) my hairy friend Dan Berg is inherently funny, and (c) it's the first time an element of the bizarre made itself into one of my Christmas cards (as I've mentioned earlier, the first card from '96 I don't consider all that interesting) . Without this card, there would be no Nate holiday greeting card tradition.

Claire and Sophie are back!! And with them comes a host of glorious Christmas photos, including these pics documenting first encounter with Pere Noel:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

#4: Ambushed by the Rubber Chicken Comic Book

The 2002 card, a mini-comic book describing the adventures of Nate's confrontations with a diabolical rubber chicken, is ranked at #4 on the All-Time List of Nate-Sponsored Holiday Greetings Cards.

Lots of things I like about this card. First, I have a huge comic book collection, and it was a hell of a lot of fun shooting this and putting it together. Second, it incorporates not only a rubber chicken, but also evil Dick Cheney clones, into the plot. Finally, the little logo thingee in the upper left-hand corner of the card, featuring the seal of the comic code turned out pretty official-looking.

Starting tomorrow: we're moving into the TOP THREE!! The cream of the crop! What card will come out on top?!? An America waits with bated breath.

Claire & Sophie coming back tomorrow! I'm so excited for our little family to be reunited once more...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

#5: GQ's Sexiest Man Alive

Move over, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. 2000's Sexiest Man of the Year, according to Nate Hellman's Christmas Card, was none other than Nate Hellman. This card comes in at #5 on the All-Time List. Photo credit goes to younger sister Susie Hellman.

What's good about this card: it effectively incorporates my parents' Indianapolis-based hot tub, and is heavy on the cheese factor. Definitely works as an "anti-Christmas card" in terms of the "inappropriate factor."

Why this card isn't #1: probably my most narcissistic card ever (hopefully people realize that there is a strong element of self-deprecation here)....not completely professionally done, as the inside cover was "pasted" on instead of printing out in double-sided format...also one of the cards I had to think twice about sending to older relatives & casual acquaintances due its general level of raunchiness...also, I just realized that this in fact was my 1999 XMas card, which means that there is a major typo in this year's card's retrospective (it's mixed up with the Trotsky one).

Congrats to the 2007 Duluth Dominators, this year's "MD Aware" Fantasy Football League champions! This year's victory is dedicated to the many Duluth fans, who have made this small-market northern community into a truly model sports franchise.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

#6: National Enquirer Hellman-Pecqueur Wedding Exposé

We're into the top half (#6 of 12) of the Nate Holiday Card Countdown, which goes to the 2005 National Enquirer parody celebrating another Hellman major life event, my marriage.

What's good about the card: I think the format of the card is a fairly good mimic of an actual Enquirer cover, with the exception that the unintentional comedy factor of the actual Enquirer cover far outweighs the intentional comedy of my own creation. What could be better: not much. The "Tom Cruise/Oprah Winfrey" battle was blatantly plagiarized from the Internet, though.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

#7: It Came From the Deep

Resuming the Holiday Card Countdown...#7 on our list is the 2004 "It Came From the Deep", Photo-shopped rendition of the classic "Creature from the Black Lagoon" movie poster.

What's good about this card: Lots of extras including a list of all the (fictitious) movies I've starred in, and other parodies, one of which, the Dracula one, has served as my official blog photo for quite some time. What I'd like to change about this card: a still somewhat amateur Photo-shopping effort.

Have been web-camming with Claire & Sophie recently as they are currently visiting Sophie's French grandparents. It's a little lonely around the apartment these days, so it's been very therapeutic to see my little one across cyberspace even if I can't be there in person. What the hell did we do without the Internet? As many problems as our modern-day society has, I'm indeed thankful that I am alive during the Internet generation.

What a big sports day coming up tomorrow! The Duluth Dominators, my Fantasy Football team, goes up against the Memphis Blues (my friend and the Commish Scott Halpern's team) for the league championship tomorrow. If you think of it, try and cheer Payton Manning, Randy Moss, Clinton Portis, and Marion Barber to big games while rooting against the likes of Kurt Warner, Reggie Wayne, Frank Gore, and Brandon Marshall.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

#8: Joyeuses Fetes from lil' Sophie Hellman

Spoiler alert! For anybody who hasn't yet received my card in the mail and want to wait until it arrives...'cause coming in at #8 on the all-time Rankings is this year's "Joyeuses Fetes" Christmas card featuring none other than little Sophie Hellman in her Christmas Card debut.

What's good about this card: first and foremost, it includes my adorably cute daughter. No criticisms there. Also, it was amongst the most FUN I've had doing a photo shoot for my annual card, as it involved not only myself but also Claire and Sophie spelling out human letters one memorable evening late at night on our futon with a red sheet draped over it. I also like that it's so colorful.

But I have to knock it down a few points on the list simply for recycling old material in the form of old Christmas cards on the inside and card back. It's a function of how busy I am this year, and hopefully I will rebound with all-new material next year. In addition, my sister Cathy remarked to me yesterday that my cards have evolved to become less and less inappropriate through the years to the point where they are becoming more like the generic family holiday greeting card. Oh well, at least I threw in the word "Mofos" to spice things up a little...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

#9: Hotsky to Trotsky

Coming in at the number 9 Nate-created Holiday Card of All "Great Moments in Christmas History" card published in 1999, a.k.a. "Nate Discovers Photoshop." And still not very adept at it, I might add.

What's good about this card: hey, on the cover there's a picture of Trotksy! (seated next to my right). There's nothing like a good dose of random now and again.

What's bad about this card: it's a blatant rip off of a much funnier (in my opinion) party flier I had created earlier in the year to advertise a party at our pad in St. Louis. I have distinct memories of frantically printing out this card in my PhD lab into the wee hours of the morning...

What am I, stupid? I had the good fortune of having Christmas off this year. However, since I didn't have any plans, Claire & Sophie are doing fun French things now, and I felt bad for one of the other poor fellows who was scheduled to work that day, I was talked into switching. Guess I'll be working Christmas after all...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

#10: The Clones of Nate

#10 on the list is from 1998: "The Clones of Nate". This card, which was created at the onset of my PhD years, depicts me in a variety of stereotypical lab poses (including a couple of "mad scientist" shots involving me grinning like a maniac while clutching a containing full of dry ice bubbling in liquid), was my 3rd Christmas card overall. The photo credit goes to fellow MD-PhD-er Heidi Rayala.

What's good about the card: it's the first card where I also include material on the card's inside.

What's not so good about the card: first, it's kind of a rip-off of my friend Eric Plumb's Christmas card from the same year--a much better effort which also involved making clones of oneself. Also it was printed on regular printer paper, which I definitely regret.

PS to any Blog Readers in France--Malheureusement, je n'ai pas eu le temps pour envoyer les cartes de voeux a France--ne t'inquietes pas, j'espere de le faire ce week-end!

Monday, December 17, 2007

#11: Alas, Poor Yorick...

Coming in at #11: my 1996 Holiday Card debut! In all truthfulness, I wanted to rank this #12...but because it was, after all, the first Christmas card I ever made, I cannot in good conscience rate it last.

What sucks about this card: a real lack of originality. What medical student hasn't struck the Hamlet pose during 1st year Anatomy class at some point?

The photo is credited to Meagan Jacoby, a fellow MD-PhD student while at Washington University in St. Louis.

Join us tomorrow, when I'll think of some more disparaging remarks about former Nate-sponsored Holiday Greetings cards!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

#12: Philadelphia-Themed and Strangely Prophetic Rocky VI Parody

They're in the mail. Not all of them, but most of them. This weekend was Christmas Card Weekend. I made, printed, wrote, sealed and sent out the majority of my cards from Friday night until Sunday morning.

I've been sending out an annual Holiday Greeting Card since my first year of medical school, in 1996. This latest one (2007) is not my favorite one, but it's also not the worst either. To commemorate the past 12 years of Nate's Holiday Greeting Cards (and also because I feel like I haven't had as much interesting to blog about recently), I'm going to count them down, from worst to best. Anybody with any opinions, you can let me know--I have an idea about which ones are the top 3, but my mind could be changed.

So, without further ado, the WORST Nate-sponsored Christmas card, #12, is from 2003, my Philadelphia-themed "Rocky VI" parody which coincides with my moving to Philly to start my internal medicine internship at Penn. The funniest thing about the card, in my opinion, is that about 3 years AFTER I made the card, a Rocky VI with a comically old Rocky Balboa WAS actually made in real life. What I don't like about the card: not very professional-looking. The paper quality was kind of crappy, and my Photoshop efforts were pretty feeble.

Stay tuned for #11, coming soon!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Doin' It Duluth-Style

We just had a major Duluth-style snowfall in Boston. It's still snowing and I think it's supposed to get to well over a foot. The city's traffic was utterly paralyzed and I'm so glad I didn't think to drive this morning...I biked instead. Riding my bike home in the blizzard was no picnic; I probably walked it back about 40% of the way and was skidding like crazy, but managed to stay on the horse and laugh at grid-locked, frustrated drivers on the way.

Medical Topic of the Day: the role of "the sitter." What's a sitter, you may ask? When a patient is completely psychotic, unruly, demented, or at risk for harming themselves or others, it is possible to have them watched by a sitter. These are people who basically sit in a chair next to the patient's bed and watch them to make sure they don't do anything dangerous, like try to escape or pull out their beautiful new dialysis cather, and if need be physically restrain the patient.

I'll admit that it's not the most glamorous job in the world to be a sitter, and I'm sure they don't get paid all that much to do it. But through the years I've been shocked at how little sitters engage themselves in the patient's care. These people are sitting next to the patient for hours at a time--you'd think they'd want to ask some basic questions, such as "why is this patient in the hospital?", "did they have this important test done yet today?", "did the patient eat most of their lunch?" etc etc. Out of curiosity at least, if not for a desire to participate in some level of the patient's care. Yet in my experience, when I come into the room and ask the sitter even the most fundamental question, they will have no clue, and will distance themselves with a remark such as "I'm just the sitter." Ladies and gentlemen, our health care dollars at work...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eight Crazy Nights

Tonight's the last night of Hannukah, so happy dreidel-playing everybody. Sophie got her gift last night and was totally captivated by the candles.

Claire and Sophie are heading to France tomorrow for Noel. I'll miss them a lot, especially stuck here in the cold, dark Boston winter.

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Eating Milestone

An eating milestone has been accomplished over the past few days: Sophie's first successful food. She's downing mushed up squash and green beans like a champ.

There's comedy. There's high comedy. And then there's the comedy of being the Renal Fellow on-call at night who is paged by a patient who is already hospitalized in your hospital who is complaining that she received her medications at 7:15pm instead of 7:00pm like she is used to.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Happy Birthday to Me. I'm 34 today. My friends Tom & Lisa are giving us the ultimate birthday present: a night of babysitting. Tonight, Claire and I will dine at a quality restaurant, unencumberered by strollers, extra bottles, random squeak toys, and most importantly, a certain 5-month old who, while generally well-behaved, can still enter melt-down phase at the drop of a hat.

Friday, December 07, 2007

409 Days Left...

We've had a bit of a "fellow crunch" over the past of my co-fellows had to go be with his family in Lebanon for an emergency, and now he is having problems getting back into the country because of visa issues! Obviously this is causing him considerable stress (his wife and young child remain in Boston), and from my own standpoint I admit it's a considerable hassle. It means that instead of dividing up our workload into 4 fellows, it's divided up into 3 fellows. Makes a big difference. In any case, this situation is illustrative of a major flaw in our nation's immigration policies. My friend/co-fellow is a physician, a productive member of society with a family living in the U.S. for several years, whose presence is sorely missed at work and at home, and now he is being prevented from coming back into the country? All while thousands of often jobless immigrants arrive in our country via unregulated borders and little regulation? Does this seem like a good policy? It's lacking in common sense, but then again that could describe a lot of policies of our current administration. Only 409 Days left...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

BWH Mustache Competition

They have these "BWH Bulletins", a weekly newsletter having to do with news at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, at various locations around the hospital. This week's headline story, I was delighted to see, was an apparently officially-sanctioned mustache competition between residents and attendings of the Anesthesiology Department. It brings back memories of some other mustache competitions I've been a part of, back in those fabled facial hair years of 2004 and 2005.

The question is: I'm nearly 34 years old (on Saturday) and I still think that mustache competitions are humorous. Will that always be the case? I say yes.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

XMas Card Ideas

It's the month of December, and never too early to start thinking about Christmas card ideas...

I have one which is percolating. However, it would involve me somehow obtaining this human-size kidney mascot costume, "Billy the Kidney", based out of the National Kidney Foundation in Indianapolis. Believe it or not, I've actually entered into negotiations for this costume. But I fear it may not actually happen. Perhaps need to think of some other ideas...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Spoke too fast...

*In a recent blog post, I had described the final day of my Dialysis rotation. Spoke too fast. Turns out that two of the four Renal fellows at my hospital are either in a foreign country for family reasons or at home puking. So I'm pulling double duty on the Dialysis service while helping out with the Transplant service.

*In Philly I saw the construction of the new Comcast building, which will be the tallest building on the Philadelphia skyline. So that's why our cable bills are so expensive...

*The acronym "PTSD", as many probably know, refers to "post-traumatic stress disorder," during which individuals subjected to a stressful situation (e.g., warfare, an assault, etc) are traumatized by events which remind them of the original event. Anyways, I think I'm getting beeper-related PTSD. I jump whenever I hear other people's beepers, or sometimes to any similar electronic beeping.

*My Fantasy Football team, the Duluth Dominators, finished second place for the regular season. Hoping for some luck to carry me through the playoffs.

*I just figured out that it is friggin' cold in Boston.

Nate Hellman, Renal Fellow
(that's how I end all my consult notes)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Philly Photo Bonanza

I had the weekend off, and Claire Sophie and I made a power-trip to our old stomping grounds in Philadelphia. We were there for a total of just over 24 hours, but we managed to pack in a ton of wonderful reunions with our friends. It was even enough to make up for the fact that I had to drive back in near-constant rain/sleet/snow on I-95 and the return trip home took a full 2 hours longer than the trip there. Pics from the Weekend:

Nate introduces Sophie to a Philly Yeungling lager at the Ten Stone bar.
Claire and Clotilde: Parisians in Philadelphia.
Brunch at Marathon Grill: Peter and Jill.
Newlyweds Meena and Rahul allow little Anna Shashaty to rifle through their wallet.
Matty O and Katherine practicing their French with little Sophie...
...with a big smile as a result.Claire and Sophie in Rittenhouse Square.
"Meeting of the Minds": Anna Shashaty (daughter or our hosts Mike and Jill) makes friends with Sophie.