Monday, April 25, 2011

Comrades, fill no glass for me

Oh! comrades, fill no glass for me
To drown my soul in liquid flame
For if I drank, the toast should be
To blighted fortune health and fame.
Yet, though I long to quell the strife
That passion holds against my life,
Still, boon companions may ye be,
But comrades, fill no glass for me.

I know a breath that once was light
Whose patient sufferings need my care
I know a hearth that once was bright,
But drooping hopes have nestled there.
Then while the tear drops nightly steal
From wounded hearts that I should heal
Though boon companions may ye be,
But comrades, fill no glass for me.

When I was young I felt the tide
Of aspirations undefiled,
But manhood's years have wronged the pride
My parents centered in their child.
Then, by a mother's sacred tear,
By all that memory should revere,
Though boon companions may ye be,
Oh! comrades, fill no glass for me.

- Stephen Foster

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Aged Mother
You're a dreadful photographer!


Aged Mother
In those photos you sent me of the Hatchling she looked like a real fatface.  But she's gorgeous!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Going with the flow

Each night, as I lift the Hatchling from her bath and place her gently in her mother's arms where she is wrapped in a thick white fluffy towel to soak up the water and keep her from the cold, I am accustomed to shouting out, "No prisoners!  No prisoners!"  It's just the way I roll.

A few days ago I was surprised when my Smaller Half asked me why I did it.  Naturally enough I told her that I was channelling Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.  I'd been assuming for several months now that she knew what I was referring to.  It turns out she had no idea and thought it was just best to go along with it unquestioningly in order to stop me from becoming even more deranged.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to win at med school

Medical school.  You can work your little heart out if you wish.  You could graft your buttocks to a library chair.  You could shamelessly brown-nose a senior doctor and hope to "noticed" and taken on as a new protege.  You could get all military and launch "Operation: Study".

But frankly, why bother?  The sole determinant of your clinical confidence as a med student is your ability to place intravenous lines into people's veins.  You may have eaten your textbooks for breakfast but if you can't slam in that cannula your mojo will be shot, down in flames, MIA.  Conversely, you may have skipped your last few years of classes but as long the first cannula of the day slides in sweetly, you'll feel like you can cure cancer.  Or at least dehydration.

When I was doing my anaesthetics rotation recently I noticed that anaesthetists like to hover over you and give you gratuitous advice.  If this happens to you, do not listen.  They are trying to steal your mojo using this old anaesthetic voodoo curse.  Shrug off the advice and dwell instead on this advice, given to me last year by a nice GP-anaesthetist:
Find the vein.  Put the needle in it.
Seriously.  You need to approach this task with a Zen-like serenity.  The less you are thinking, the better.

The reason anaesthetists try to steal your mojo is that cannula mojo is a zero sum game.  The better you get, the worse someone else gets, and vice versa.  Thus, it is important to mentally destabilise other students if you see them trying to place cannulas (or cannulae, as we used to call them in the Vetus Hospitium Romae).  This is easily done by offering advice, or more subtly, implying that they are so good that they don't need advice and thus the pressure to perform is on.

Last week on the wards, an Esteemed Colleague had been asked to change the cannula in one of the patients, a lovely old lady.  I wandered past in the nick of time and was able to wage psychological warfare on him from the outset.  Sadly, he got me back immediately.

Oh, going for that vein there, eh?  Huh.

Esteemed Colleague
Well it seemed like the best one.

Oh sure, you've got to go take your best shot.  

Esteemed Colleague
Darn it, I've burst the vein.  Big haematoma there.  Sorry, I'll have to try your other arm.

Oh yeah, that looks like a great one.  A sure thing.

Esteemed Colleague
Darn it, not again.  Maybe that first arm was best.

Lovely Old Lady
Maybe PTR should have a try?

Sure, I'd be happy to.  Hmm, this vein here looks good.

Esteemed Colleague
PTR's just done six weeks of anaesthetics where he did this all day, he's great at this.


Monday, April 11, 2011

On frailty

As previously noted, I own many books.  Many books.  This has been made abundantly clear to me by removalists, friends, visitors, and even - in what must surely be an exemplar of the pot calling the kettle black - my own Aged Mother.  Nevertheless, when I hear about a discount book sale I go rushing headlong to buy more.

I do this even though it would actually be cheaper to buy books online from places like abebooks in the UK, especially with the Australian dollar as strong as it is.  But I don't buy books online because I am inept at the key step of figuring out what I want to actually acquire.  Hence bookshops.  It's great to walk in and be immersed in walls of books, a paperback prison that frees rather than constrains.  It's not until I look at ten shelves of books on ancient history that I suddenly realize that my life hitherto has been incomplete because I lack a comprehensive knowledge of the campaigns of Scipio Africanus.  That's the kind of insight that you just can't get online.

Little did I know that this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Yesterday my Smaller Half, the Hatchling and I went to the big sale at Borders in the city, which is going into administration due to bogus management.  20-40% off everything in store.  We split up and agreed to meet back in half an hour.  I was super restrained and only got two books: some stories by Jorge Luis Borges (whose name I mention here primarily because I don't know how to pronounce it and hence will never be able to use verbally) and a book by Jon Krakauer called Into Thin Air, both of which I have been coveting for some time and merely needed a tiny knock such as a 20% discount to crystalize the purchasing impulse in my mind.

My Smaller Half failed to arrive at the designated rendezvous point so I went searching for her.  With a dark sense of foreboding I made my way to the only possible place she could be - the children's books section.  Forty five minutes later I was only able to crowbar her away from there by surreptitiously provoking the Hatchling into a tantrum and announcing that it really was time to leave.  We had to leave the store with me carrying the Hatchling and the pram piled high with new kids books.  In a stroke our book-buying tendencies have multiplied.

Mind you, we got some absolute crackers.  Several Richard Scarry books, an incredible pop-up book that I probably would have bought for myself anyway, a set of Beatrix Potter books, some cute little fairytale books, and more.  And more.  And more.

Buying kids books makes me feel simultaneously old and young.  I tend to buy the books that I remember from my own childhood.  Partly it's selfish nostalgia (literally "the pain of homecoming") but also partly the sincere belief that if I know I'll enjoy the books that I'll read to the Hatchling then I'm more likely to read to her.  Reading books such as "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" again takes me right back to my childhood, when I would flip the pages back and forth looking at how the holes in the fruit line up - amazing!  What makes me feel old is when I try to poke my fingers through those holes and they are now too large to fit.

Hopefully I don't have acromegaly.