If you're going to steal a TV from a delivery van, it is NOT recommended that you do so from one parked near a police station. Or subsequently wheel it past the police station in a shopping cart. Or wear something as conspicuous as full-body military camouflage while doing so.
Generally, by the time you reach my age, you should have some idea of how to eat the majority of things available at your local restaurants. As a kid you learn pretty quickly that you should peel bananas & oranges before eating* and not eat the bones that are part of your chicken, or ribs, or T-bone steak. Cantaloupe and watermelon rinds aren't recommended consumption, either.
I, personally, don't expect a waiter to give me eating tips (unless I ask first). The only time one did was when Mrs. Grumpy dragged me to a fondue restaurant, and the waiter gave us a spiel on the proper ways to order and combine which foods with which fondue. We got up and left when he reached the 10 minute mark and showed no signs of stopping. I was afraid he was going to start a Powerpoint show.
*Think about it- SOMEWHERE in human history there was a poor sucker who tried to eat an unpeeled banana, and so all of us today have benefited from what they learned. I think their contribution to humanity is up there with the electric light, but you don't see a town named "Unknown Person Who Ate An Unpeeled Banana, New Jersey" do you?
"Hi, I'm a patient of Dr. Grumpy's. On Christmas eve I was at my daughter's house, and they all pointed out that I was dragging my right leg. It didn't hurt, and I didn't want to ruin the party, so I figured I'd see if it got better overnight. In the morning it wasn't any better, and my right arm and face were numb. But it was Christmas, and even though my granddaughter said I was talking funny, I didn't want to bother you, because it's, you know, a holiday. Besides, it made her laugh. She's so cute! Plus, my son had traveled all the way from Albuquerque to join us, and I didn't want to spoil things. Anyway, it's Sunday afternoon, and I'm on the way home after dropping my son off at the airport. So I'm calling to see if I can get an appointment to see you next week. Can someone please call me back in the morning?"
For Christmas day I'm repeating this column from last year. It detailed my December 24th run to the grocery store.
Oh, 2 tomatoes, and some paper plates? No problem. Let me get my car keys.
Crap, Local Grocery is mobbed. Hey, bitch! Don't flip me off! I wasn't even looking at that parking space. Chill.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Salvation Army dude. My only cash is $3, but I'll gladly put it in your kettle.
What a fucking mob scene. Hey! Don't push me! I didn't even want the last shopping cart! I'm just here for some damn tomatoes, lady. Merry Christmas.
Hi, it's me. I have the tomatoes. What brand of paper plates do you want? No, it looks like they're out of those. Okay, I'll get Chinet. Says they're made from recycled paper. Hope it's not toilet paper.
No, Mr. Salvation Army. I gave you my last $3 on the way in. Remember? Merry Christmas.
Hello? No, just leaving. Lettuce? Yeah, hang on. I can go back. Looks like some guy in a Santa hat is yelling at the Salvation Army guy for blocking the door, but security is leading Santa away now. Shit, somebody took my parking space as soon as I pulled out. Let me find another one.
Sorry, Mr. McDonald's manager. I didn't realize this space was for McD's customers only. It's not marked that way. I'll move my car, don't worry. Merry Christmas.
Mr. Salvation Army, it's me again. I had to come back. You have my $3 already.
Lettuce... hey, stockperson, whatever sex you are, where's the lettuce? You only have 3 heads left? Wow. I had no idea there'd be such a rush on iceberg for Christmas. Well, this one looks like it's been dropped the least.
It's a self-checkout. Look, I don't recognize you as one of my Alzheimer's patients, but you obviously are not grasping how to work this thing. So go over to the cashier and check-out the old fashioned way. I think she's one of my dementia patients, so I'm sure you'll have a lot to talk about while you hold up that line.
What the fuck! It's not taking my credit card! All I want is one fucking head of bruised iceberg lettuce!
NO! I DON'T HAVE ANY FUCKING CASH! I GAVE MY LAST 3 DOLLARS TO THE FUCKING SALVATION ARMY GUY! IF I HAD ANY CASH DO YOU THINK I'D BE WASTING MY TIME TRYING TO PUT A SINGLE $1.29 HEAD OF LETTUCE ON A FUCKING CREDIT CARD?!!
Well, fine. I'll go over to the ATM across the parking lot. Look at that line and NO, YOU BELL-RINGING ASSHOLE! YOU ALREADY HAVE MY $3! IF I HADN'T PUT IT IN YOUR FUCKING KETTLE I'D HAVE BEEN HOME BY NOW!
This is the line for the ATM? There are 5 freaking ATM's here? Oh, great, the other 4 are all out of cash due to the Christmas rush. Fine, I'll wait.
Hello? No, I'm in line at an ATM. I need to get cash to buy lettuce and... Because I gave it to the Salvation Army guy, that's why! Look, it's taking longer than I thought!
NO, MR. SALVATION ARMY! I just got this $20 out of the ATM after waiting for 15 minutes, because I gave you my last $3 and now the credit card machine is broken, and if you approach me again I'm going to shove that fucking bell up your ass.
YOU SOLD MY FUCKING BRUISED HEAD OF LETTUCE TO SOMEBODY ELSE? ARE THERE ANY LEFT? NO? CALL THE FUCKING MANAGER!!!
Fine I'll take this bag of salad instead, but it better be for the original $1.29. Merry Christmas.
Don't even think about it, Mr. Bell Ringing Salvation Army Guy.
When I got home Mrs. Grumpy told me she'd just found an extra head of lettuce in the refrigerator. She'd forgotten she'd bought one yesterday and put it in the produce drawer.
Quartzsite, Arizona is a small town along U.S. Interstate 10, and many just stop there for food and gas on the way to other places.
In the local cemetery is a small pyramid with a copper camel on top, marking the grave of a mostly forgotten man named Hadji Ali.
Very little information about his background is known. He was born in 1828 in what was then called Greater Syria (today that includes Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus). His parents were likely Bedouins. He was Muslim.
What is known is that he played a central role in what's now a mostly forgotten (but well worth remembering) oddity of American and Canadian history.
The idea was first proposed in 1836, but wasn't taken seriously until 1848. Following the Mexican-American war, the United States found itself in control of a large desert, covering what's now New Mexico & Arizona, and parts of Texas, California, and several other states. The U.S. Army needed to establish bases and supply lines in the area, both for the border with Mexico and the continuing wars with Indian tribes.
The railroad system was in it's infancy, and there were no tracks through the area. It's part of the largest desert in North America. The only way across was to use horses. But horses, like humans, are heavily dependent on water. This made the area difficult to cross, and vulnerable to attacking Apaches.
And so in 1855 Jefferson Davis, then U.S. Secretary of War (later to become President of the Confederacy during the Civil War), put into action an idea proposed by several officers: buy camels to serve in the desert. Congress appropriated $30,000 for the endeavor, and officials were sent to Turkey to do just that.
Between 1856-1857 the U.S. Army bought 62-73 camels, transporting them from Smyrna, Turkey to Indianola, Texas. To handle them they brought over 8 camel drivers, with Hadji Ali in charge.
The camels worked remarkably well... To a point.
They were perfect for the environment. The huge southwest desert didn't faze them. They led supply trains all over, from Texas to California. With their low need for water, and bodies specially adapted to arid environments, they easily crossed areas where horses and other pack animals couldn't.*
But there were problems. The Americans had envisioned combined forces of camels and horses, each making up for the deficiencies of the other. But horses and donkeys are frightened of camels, making joint convoys difficult and requiring separate corrals. The army was also unprepared for their intrinsically difficult personalities- camels bite, spit, kick, and are short-tempered. Horses are comparatively easy to handle.
With the start of the American Civil War, the U.S. Army Camel Corps was disbanded. Troops and horses were needed on the east side of the country, while camels weren't. Most of them escaped into the desert, and thrived there for a while. In an attempt to preserve them, the Arizona territory actually outlawed camel hunting, a law that's often scoffed at by those who don't know the reason behind it.
But the camel story didn't end there. One of the soldiers, Frank Laumeister, saw business opportunities in Canada. He bought a herd, and in 1862 took them north to British Columbia. The Cariboo gold rush was in progress, and pack animals were needed.
Canadian prospectors and a friend.
The results in Canada were mixed. The camels were strong, and could carry twice as much as mules. But their broad feet, while perfect for the sand and dirt of the desert, were cut up by the rocky terrain of the Pacific Northwest. It became necessary to make special protective shoes for them (given their difficult nature, it's unfortunate that history hasn't recorded how they responded to having shoes put on them).
The Canadians, like the Americans, discovered they weren't easy to handle. The same problems of difficult disposition and spooking horses came up. In addition, they found camels would eat anything they found. Hats. Shoes. Clothes that were out drying. Even soap. And so, after a few years, the Canadians gave up on the experiment, too.
But they weren't forgotten. A mountain range in British Columbia is called the Camelsfoot. The town of Lillooet has "The Bridge of the 23 Camels". A geographical basin is called "The Camoo".
Some camels were sold to farms. Others escaped into the wild. One was mistaken for a grizzly bear (WTF?) and shot, ending up briefly on a local bar's menu.
The last reliable sighting of a wild camel in Canada was in British Columbia, in the 1930's. The last sighting in North America was in Douglas, Texas in 1941- 85 years after the first ones had landed.
Two fiction movies have been based on the North American camel experiences: "Southwest Passage" (1954) and "Hawmps!" (1976). There's even a folk song called "Hi Jolly!" about them.
And what became of Hadji Ali?
His American hosts had trouble with his name, and pronounced it as a greeting: Hi Jolly! After the camel business shut down he decided to stay here, becoming a citizen in 1880. He tried his hand at several business, and married a woman named Gertrudis Serna in Tucson. They had 2 children. At some point he changed his name to Philip Tedro, but "Hi Jolly" is the name that stuck with him, and is on his Quartzsite tomb.
Hadji Ali and Gertrudis Serna
He prospected around the southwest U.S., occasionally working for the U.S. Army. Once, when offended that he hadn't been invited to a friend's party in Los Angeles, he broke it up by repeatedly riding through it in a wagon pulled by 2 of his remaining camels.
He spent the last few years of his life in Quartzsite, Arizona, dying in 1902. His adventures had impacted 2 countries and covered 3 continents. It had been 51 years since he'd left his native Middle East on one of the oddest military missions on record.
*Technically, it should be noted that camels are originally from North America. Really. Their ancestors evolved in North America 23-40 million years ago, but left. One group went west into Asia (then down to Africa), several million years ago, over the Bering Strait Land Bridge, evolving into today's camels. The rest migrated to South America 3 million years ago when the Isthmus of Panama formed, and became llamas and alpacas.
Today I'm presenting 2 gifts to wrap up this year's guide. A big "THANK YOU!" to all who sent in ideas. If yours didn't make it, don't despair. I'm saving some for posts over the year. Feel free to keep sending them, because I'm planning on doing this again next year. It's you guys who make it fun to write this.
And now, on to the gifts!
I have plenty of patients with migraines. I do my best to treat them. I have an arsenal of medications to work with.
But, if you prefer more touchy-feely ways of treating them, there's now this:
Yes, they are what you see: Goggles you strap to your face, with moving magnets on stems that rub you around your eyes. Batteries are even included!
Last week I polled 10 random migraine patients who came to the office, and all of them thought this gadget looked closer to being a torture chamber than a migraine treatment. One said "It looks like an iron maiden for the face!"
Do you miss your college apartment, with the leaky toilet that spontaneously flushed every hour (sometimes more)? Neither do I.
But if you do, now you can buy a clock that will recreate the experience!
Yes, for only $24.98 you can recreate that "cheap apartment with the alcoholic repairman who can never fix the damn thing" feel. Clock does not include rodents, sexually loud neighbors, or intoxicated roommate listening to Metallica at 3:00 a.m.
Maybe you're a bank robber with sensitive skin. Or Al-Queda has been recruiting you, but your delicate complexion can't handle the Afghanistan sun. Or you're a radiologist who shies away from that big yellow ball in the sky outside your nice, dark reading room.
Fortunately, Coolibar has a line of sun protection with people like you in mind.
So many catalogs feature idyllic holiday scenes. Usually there's a Christmas tree in the middle, with presents piled under it. A few toys. Children playing in the background. Some mistletoe and holly. A fireplace. All trying to get you to order junk for people you don't like.
So why should a science supply company be any different? Shouldn't they have a holiday catalog, too?
(click to enlarge)
Because if finding a skull or anatomically-correct partially-dissected torso under a tree doesn't say "Merry Christmas!", I don't know what does.*
* Depending on the location of the tree. If it's one in your front yard, that isn't good.
Need a tie or scarf for that special person? Neither do I. But if you do, wouldn't you want something like gonorrhea or ebola virus on it? Of course you would!
(click to enlarge)
Yes, now fashionable neckware for both sexes comes in an assortment of unpleasant pathogens, including plague, dust mites, and mad cow disease! Also available in not just 1, but 2 types of breast cancer!
After 10 years of faithful service, our office credit card machine won't be supported in 2011. Apparently some sort of new gadget is required. So I ordered one last week, and it came over the weekend.
Monday was a pretty frantic afternoon here, and Mary had to leave 15 minutes early to meet with her son's teacher. Since I was done with patients, and to procrastinate on dictations, I pulled out the old machine and installed the new, shiny, credit card gadget.
I tested it (it works) and on the way home tossed the old machine in the environmentally-friendly electronic recycling dumpster at Local Electronics Store.
So Tuesday morning Mary comes in, and runs back to my office. She looked frantic.
Mary: "Where's the old machine?!"
Dr. Grumpy: "I installed the new one last night."
Mary: "WHERE'S THE OLD MACHINE?!!!"
Dr. Grumpy: "I put it in the recycling dumpster down the street."
Mary: "I DIDN'T BATCH OUT AND CLEAR IT LAST NIGHT! I WAS IN A HURRY AND FIGURED I'D DO IT THIS MORNING!!!"
Dr. Grumpy: "Calm down, I mean, how much could be in it? 10 or 20 bucks?"
Dr. Grumpy: "WHAT?!!!"
Mary: "You had a few cash-pay patients yesterday, and..."
Dr. Grumpy: "Is my first one here yet?"
I grabbed my coat and yelled to Pissy's staff we'd be back in a few minutes. Mary and I ran to my car, and drove over to the dumpster.
Someone had left the lid open overnight, and so there was snow on the pile of computer monitors, old hard drives, iPods, and cell phones. In conduct unbecoming a neurologist, I climbed into the dumpster and frantically dug through the snow (forgot my gloves at the office, too). Several downtown homeless people stopped to watch, and one kindly yelled that there weren't any cans in there.
I found the machine, tossed it to Mary, climbed out, and we sped back to the office.
While I was with the first patient Mary transmitted billing from the old doodad and wiped its memory.
My patient asked why I didn't have my usual Diet Coke on my desk. I told her I didn't need it.
I know there are golf fanatics out there, who live to play.
But sometimes you can't get out to the course. Maybe the weather is bad. Or you're just too busy at work. Or you can't get a decent tee time.
And that's where this next gift comes in.
(click to enlarge)
Yes, it's a miniature golf course for your bathroom. It includes a putter, 2 balls (besides your own, guys) and a "Do Not Disturb" sign. I suppose you should also spring for some Clorox wipes to clean the putter between rounds.
Now I, Dr. Grumpy, consider myself a reasonably good neurologist. And I stay in my comfort zone. I don't try to treat chest pain, snotty noses, or dogs.
And, unless I really had no other options, would definitely NOT pretend to be able to fly a plane.
But Captain William Hamman, a senior jumbo jet captain for United Airlines, has apparently been doing both. He really is a pilot.
At the same time (sort of like in Catch Me If You Can) he's been passing himself off as a doctor. Not just any doctor, but a cardiologist. And he's done training courses for the AMA, American College of Caridiology, and FAA. He's done CME lectures at accredited training programs.
Guess what? After many years of doing this, he turns out not to be a doctor at all! He never did residency, or fellowship. He briefly attended medical school in the late 1970's, but dropped out and never graduated.
A nurse called me yesterday because a patient was getting worse, fast. So I ordered a STAT CT scan of her head.
So Ms. Nurse asked if I wanted just a head CT, or a if I'd prefer to do a "Stroke Alert!".
This was a new one to me. She explained that a "Stroke Alert!" is a new protocol developed by my hyperactive colleague, Dr. Nerve. When a "Stroke Alert!" is ordered they automatically do a head CT, EKG, a few labs, and call a Nurse Practitioner who's in the hospital to come assess the patient.
So I said what the hell. Let's do a "Stroke Alert!". She said she'd take care of it, and got off the phone.
Roughly 3 minutes later my cell phone rings again. It's the clerk for that floor.
Dr. Grumpy: "This is Dr. Grumpy."
Mr. Clerk: "Yes, I'm calling to tell you that there's a Stroke Alert! in progress in room 52."
Dr. Grumpy: "Um, yes... I ordered it."
Mr. Clerk: "Well, the protocol says we have to immediately notify the neurologist on call for all Stroke Alert! situations."
Dr. Grumpy: "Even if the neurologist is the same person who just ordered it?"
Mr. Clerk: "Look, I'm just following the protocol."
Hi, Zuktar the Mighty here, penning a guest column for Dr. G's gift guide.
In the good old days, after vanquishing an opponent, we would celebrate by drinking from their skull. Sure, they leaked a little, and were tricky to grip, but they could hold a lot of wine or espresso, and made a decent insulated container if the coffee were too hot.
But for a modern barbarian, things are different. I mean, that block party tends to empty early if you put skulls next to the punch bowl. And if you hold up a skull at Starbucks and ask the barrista to pour your latte in there, you get some funny looks. Once she collapsed, though luckily a guy dressed as Elvis ran in and saved her.
So what's a 21st century barbarian doing a pencil-pushing desk job to do? Well, fortunately there are options. I can get pen holders made from vertebrae and femurs. These handsome accessories make any desk special.
Particularly when your new boss realizes what happened to the last person who didn't give you a raise.
Thank you for the letter that came this week asking me to remove your pulp rag magazine from my lobby.
(click to enlarge)
A couple points I'd like to make:
1. Your magazine came in freakin' MAY! There's no way my awesome office staff would have left it out there until December to read, anyway.
2. In fact, there's no way it would have made it to the lobby at all. It went into recycling shortly after it arrived. My patients prefer reading "People", "Sports Illustrated", and "Better Homes and Trailers".
3. I'm kind of sorry now that I did toss them, as I'd like to know what sort of "advertiser error" would lead you to recall it 6 months after the fact. Please feel free to comment if it's something juicy.
4. (MOST IMPORTANT). There is a DAMN good reason your magazine should have been recalled (or never published in the first place). The issue in question is the one I already featured on this blog because of the wild-eyed, Haldol-deprived, migraine patient you had on the cover!!!
I'm sorry you were 30 minutes late for your appointment yesterday, and Mary had to reschedule you.
I try to run on time as best I can. I understand that traffic/weather/building collapses are not under your control, but I can't set my entire day back to accommodate you, either.
So I appreciate you being willing to reschedule to next week.
And I understand you having to stop in the lobby bathroom after your prolonged stop behind a broken truck/burning bus/crashed blimp.
When you come out of the john, and notice Mary is busy with a drug rep, YOU SHOULD not sneak back to my exam room in hopes of being seen. I'm not that ignorant of my schedule. When Mrs. Jones and I walked from my office over to my exam room, and found you sitting in there claiming that Mary had told you to go back and wait for me, you looked pretty damn stupid.
Especially since you thought that I'd somehow be less likely to toss you out if you put on a paper gown.
Take your clothes out to the lobby bathroom, get dressed, and I'll see you next week.
Gigantic convoys of ships carrying weapons, food, and troops went constantly to Europe, bringing supplies to the Allies. They left from several major Canadian and American ports.
On this day one of them went horribly wrong. And outside of where it happened, it's mostly forgotten.
A large convoy was gathering in Halifax harbor for the trans-Atlantic journey. One ship was a freighter heavily loaded with explosives, the S.S. Mont-Blanc.
At 8:40 that morning, due to a series of mutual errors, she collided with the freighter S.S. Imo.
The Mont-Blanc immediately caught fire. Her crew tried to put it out, but due to its rapid spread were unable to. Scuttling attempts were unsuccessful, and the crew were forced to abandon ship. Someone rang a fire alarm, and several firefighting teams quickly responded to the docks. But with the ship in the harbor, there was little they could to but watch it burn. None of them knew about its cargo.
At 9:04 a.m. the disaster happened.
The ammunition cargo on the Mont-Blanc exploded with the force of 3 kilotons of TNT (roughly 1/5 the strength of the Hiroshima atomic bomb). To this day it remains the largest accidental explosion in human history. Windows were shattered 10 miles away. Objects fell from shelves 80 miles away. The explosion was heard over 200 miles away.
A mushroom cloud and fireball rose over a mile into the air, and a tsunami wave of water, 60 feet high, was sent surging into Halifax. The steamship Imo was picked up and thrown ashore like a toy. Many people (including the firemen) who'd gathered ashore to watch, or were trying to get to the Mont-Blanc to help, simply vanished.
Fire spread through the city. Since it was winter, many homes had furnaces and heating stoves alight, and the shock wave blew them over, spreading heating oil and coal on the ground. Red hot shards of the ship's metal rained everywhere in the city, starting fires in buildings not directly affected by the explosion. A half-ton section of the Mont-Blanc's anchor was thrown over 2 miles into the city, and is now part of a monument. To this day St. Paul's Church has a piece of wreckage embedded in the building.
The city within 1 mile of the entire explosion (326 acres) was utterly destroyed. Buildings, docks, warehouses, homes, and people- all gone in a few seconds. Large fires swept quickly through many city blocks, fueled by winter stores of coal and heating oil. An inferno grew quickly.
Many of Halifax's rescue workers were injured or killed by the explosion, and so the city's ability to react was already impaired. Firefighters from nearby communities came to help- only to find that fire hose and nozzle sizes weren't standardized, and they couldn't connect to the Halifax hydrants. In spite of this, they and surviving local crews worked valiantly to put out the fires, and began rescue efforts of the many trapped under collapsed buildings.
But it was a northern Winter, and darkness came early, along with bitter cold. Rescue workers struggled through the night, chasing voices and moving frozen debris by hand.
The dawn brought light- and a heavy snowstorm. It became the largest blizzard of that decade, dropping 16 inches of snow on Halifax in a few hours. It put out the last of the fires, but also impaired efforts to reach those who were trapped. Many survivors stuck under debris died from exposure while awaiting rescue.
This view overlooking Halifax harbor was taken after the snowstorm. This had previously been a busy neighborhood and business district. Click to enlarge.
All told, roughly 2,000 people died- 600 of them under 15 years of age. Another 6,000 were seriously injured, with 9,000 total wounded. 31,000 more were either homeless or had only minimal shelter. Many of the wounded were blinded by flying glass, and care for them eventually led to new treatments for eye trauma.
Although there were many heroes that awful day, one man stands out. His name was Vince Coleman, and he was a railway dispatcher ashore. When he learned of the burning ammunition ship, he realized that a loaded passenger train was on it's way to the waterfront depot, and would be there in a few minutes. Instead of saving himself, he ran to the telegraph key and quickly tapped out "Stop trains. Munitions ship on fire. Approaching Pier 6. Goodbye." He was killed a few seconds later in the explosion, and is credited with saving at least 300 lives.
Local hospitals overflowed with the dying and wounded, and anyone with medical training was pressed into work. The overtaxed Canadians were assisted by medical crews from American and British warships that had gathered for the convoy. An old ocean liner was turned into a hospital ship overnight. Other medical responders arrived, sent from all over Nova Scotia to assist.
Word of the disaster reached America in a few hours, and the state of Massachusetts rapidly organized a relief effort. All available trains in Boston were frantically loaded with food, medical supplies, shelter materials, and volunteer rescuers and medical personnel. The first train left Boston the night of the explosion, chugging through the same blizzard that was impairing relief efforts, and arriving roughly 30 hours later. It was followed by many other trains from all over Eastern Canada and America. The supplies and workers they brought are credited with keeping the death toll from going higher.
It's been 93 years since the tragedy, and the American assistance hasn't been forgotten. To this day Nova Scotia annually chooses it's finest Christmas tree and sends it as a gift to the city of Boston. This is the tree that stands in Boston Common every holiday season, remembering assistance in a time of need.
The phrase immediately brings to mind explosions in the background. Shell holes. Cries of the dying and wounded. The sound of gunfire, off in the distance (I'm getting used to it now).
Definitely not the kind of place where you'd go for a good night sleep.
At least, that's what I think. I mean, given a choice between a war zone and my bedroom here in quiet Grumpyville, I think I'd sleep better here. In a scientific poll (okay, I asked my kids) 100% of respondents agreed you'd likely sleep better at home than in an active military operations area.
Of course, someone had to prove this.
So, in a study involving over 41,000 soldiers, they compared sleeping habits at home to sleeping habits in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They found that soldiers in war zones don't sleep as well as those at home.
In a breakdown of groups, soldiers who'd been directly involved in recent combat situations had more trouble sleeping than non-combatants. Here's the complete story.
We generally take the sun for granted. It rises and sets pretty reliably, and is a relatively ordinary star.
But let's face it: We're here because it's there. If it were to burn out tomorrow, AND we had the capacity to use all wood, oil, nuclear fuel, etc. (including what's still underground) we could keep the planet warm enough to support life for maybe 72 hours. Maybe.
But it's always been free. Until now.
Ms. Angeles Duran, of Spain, has registered herself as the owner of the sun. Really.
She claims that while international treaties forbid nations from owning stellar objects, individuals may do so. So she went to a local notary and registered herself as the sole (sol?) owner of a very large furnace, currently located 93,000,000 miles from her.
She says she's going to start charging the rest of us for using her property.
Mrs. Compass: "Yeah, I have an appointment there at 9:00, and I don't see your name on the directory."
Mary: "What building are you in?"
Mrs. Compass: "Medical #5."
Mary: "Okay, we're in Medical #1, on the 6th floor. If you go out to the parking lot and face east, it's the big white building."
Mrs. Compass: "Okay, I'm on my way." (click)
(3 minutes later)
Mary: "Dr. Grumpy's office. This is Mary."
Mrs. Compass: "Yeah, I can't find your building."
Mary: "Where are you now?"
Mrs. Compass: "In the parking lot, facing west."
Mary: "We're behind you. Turn around. It's the big white building."
Mrs. Compass: "Oh! I see you! On the way." (click)
(3 minutes later)
Mary: "Dr. Grumpy's office, this is Mary."
Mrs. Compass: "Um, I think I got turned around and lost in the parking lot."
Mary: (sigh) "Okay, where are you?"
Mrs. Compass: "Facing your building. It's the reddish colored one."
Mary: "No, that's not our building... Hang on..." (walks to window) "What are you wearing?"
Mrs. Compass: "A red sweater, and a black baseball cap."
Mary: "Can you wave your arms and jump up or down or something... Okay! I see you. Turn to your left. No, I mean your other left. Yes. Now do you see the big white building?"
Mrs. Compass: "Oh! It's right in front of me!"
(at this point Dr. Pissy, the rest of the staff, and I were all standing at the window, in hysterics, while Mary tried not to lose her composure)
Mary: "Great! Just walk straight toward us!"
(Lady in red sweater and baseball cap walks about 10 feet toward us, then turns around and goes back the other way)
Mary: "Stop! Turn around!"
Mrs. Compass: "I thought you said I had to go east?"
Mary: "Yes, but now you're going west."
Mrs. Compass: "Are you sure?"
Mary: "Promise. Just turn around and walk toward the white building."
A few minutes later her flight landed successfully at my office. As she was filling out the paperwork, she said "You know, I started out in this building, too, and noticed your name on the directory. But I was sure you were in building #5, so I figured it was another Dr. Grumpy, and left."
Yes, folks, Christmakuh, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and Solstice are fast approaching, and it's time for
The Dr. Grumpy Guide to Holiday Shopping!
I'd like to thank the catalog companies who have inundated my home with their wares, and the readers who have sent in ideas, to help me guide you.
This tradition started last year because patients routinely call my office asking if we have any gift ideas (NO! I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHY THEY CALL ME!!!), so I figure many of you are dying to do the same.
So I'm here to help you, my loyal readers, find some of the best gifts out there, and will present them over the next few weeks.
So, to kick off your holiday shopping, I'm starting with 2 exquisite items, both from the same site.
Artist Leah Piepgras (who I don't know at all) apparently felt the world needed a set of dishes displaying the human digestive tract. Each place setting features 5 dishes, with individual pictures of various organs "from mouth to anus". Her site lists them as an "exercise in mindfulness", though I personally see it as a way to encourage dieting.
This, for example, is the dinner plate featuring intestines.
To see the rest of these awesome plates, or even to order your own set, you can visit her site. Move your cursor over the plates to see the different anatomy pics.
Not into dinnerware? Well, Ms. Piepgras also has a lovely silver necklace available. Namely this:
Yes, I know you're wondering "What the heck is that?"
Well, according to her site, it's "an accurate representation of semen" (REALLY!) in case you enjoy looking like someone just ejaculated on your sternal notch. She has 2 different blob-o-semen shapes available. Both can be viewed here.
When I was 5, my family lived in Massachusetts. My dad was a graduate student at the time, my mother was raising 3 kids. Dad worked 2 jobs, AND was an amateur boxer, to support us.
That winter we ran out of money. I didn't have a coat for school, and my parents couldn't afford one. My mom would dress me in multiple layers of her shirts to send me to school.
Somehow, through our church, word got out that there was a little girl who needed a coat. A family out there bought me a brand new one in my size, and donated it through the church.
I still don't know who they are, or how they heard about me. But it was warm, and fit me perfectly, and was my favorite coat EVER. It was still in good shape when I gave it to another family in need. By that time we weren't living in Massachusetts anymore.
Whoever you are who bought me that coat so long ago, thank you. It made all the difference in the world to me. And still does.
"Hi, Dr. Grumpy. It's good to see you. Thank you for signing for samples. I hope you've been doing okay. How are your kids? My son is getting divorced. But that's fine, because I never liked her. Is this going to be enough samples for you? I wish the company would give us more. We also have the new 50mg pills, I don't have any here, but will send you some info. Are you ready for the holidays? My company is doing layoffs. I have no idea if I'll have this job in a month. I'm bringing lunch next week. Do you like turkey? I thought about getting some, but I think that would be overkill. Don't you? My daughter hates turkey, but she has all kinds of food allergies. I bet she got them from my ex, because there isn't anything right about him. She's interested in going into medicine, too. Do you have any advice for her? I can bring sandwiches instead. I found a new place I like, but they toast the bread, and not everyone likes that. I'll ask if they can leave some plain. This drug, by the way, is now on first tier with all major insurance plans. Which plans do you take? A friend of mine should probably see you, I'll have to find out what insurance she's on. Thank you for your time, and I'll see you next week."
Ghost ships are the stuff of legends and Halloween stories. But some ghosts are real...
The S.S. Baychimo
The Baychimo was a small, sturdy, freighter owned by the Hudson Bay Company. Her job was to travel the coast of Victoria Island in the Canadian arctic, trading supplies with the local Inuit people for valuable fur pelts. She worked during the area's brief open water season (July to September) spending the rest of the year in Vancouver.
The winter of 1931 came early, and Baychimo was frozen in ice several times while returning home. By mid-October she was stuck fast near Point Barrow, Alaska. Most of her crew were evacuated by aircraft (the first time a long-range air rescue was accomplished).
The Baychimo trapped in ice, November, 1931.
A group of hardy souls decided to stay with her until the spring thaw, as they'd collected a particularly valuable fur cargo that year. They built a shelter ashore, and settled in for several months of night.
On November 24 an exceptionally violent blizzard struck, surprising even the arctic veterans with its ferocity. In the morning, mountains of ice 70 feet high were piled where the ship had been. The Baychimo was gone, crushed under tons of ice and snow and sent to the bottom.
Or so they thought...
The men radioed for rescue, but it would take a few days. As they waited a passing Inupiat told them the ship was adrift several miles down the coast. They set out on foot, finding her again trapped in ice. They took as many pelts as they could before returning to the shelter. Another violent storm was coming, and they assumed it would sink her.
The Baychimo had other ideas.
The second storm pushed her out of the ice and into the open sea, free to wander the icy north alone.
Over the next several years she was infrequently seen, and rarely boarded. Some of the valuable furs were even removed. But no one was able to bring her in. Attempts to restart her engines failed, and storms (which some claimed the ship had summoned) always drove would-be salvagers away. In one harrowing case a group of Inupiat boarded her, only to have a sudden storm trap them on the derelict for 10 days.
She was seen every few years, and each time the assumption was made that it would be the last. Only to have her show up again. Scientists, hunters, and fishermen. Inupiat tribe members. Russian, American, & Canadian ships and planes. All reported her at one time or another as she wandered the Arctic waters.
She was last seen in the Beaufort Sea in 1969, having survived 38 years afloat and alone in one of the world's harshest environments.
Today it's assumed she's at the bottom, and I suspect they're right. But who knows? Alaska has begun trying to catalog the estimated 4000 wrecks along the state's shores, and maybe she'll be found.
I'm busy with all kinds of junk today, so thought I'd re-post this one. It was from the days when I was my only reader.
First, let me say that I'm an experienced hiker. When I was in residency I'd hike all over, regardless of time of year. I've hiked pretty much all terrain short of tundra. I've hiked to mountaintops in temperatures of 110 degress. I'm well aware of what precautions have to be taken, supplies carried, amount of water, and other emergency precautions.
So I recently took Craig on a Boy Scout hike. I'm not a member of the den or any of that stuff. I'm just a parent who went on the hike with my kid. They told us to bring water, so I grabbed 2 of my old hiking bottles and we each took one, and some other junk, and took off.
The hike in total was a 2 mile round trip in a well maintained, ranger-patrolled, trail area.
We got to the meeting place, and I was AMAZED at what people were carrying for this pissy little hike on a surprisingly nice day. Water by the truckload. Cases of granola. Two people had backpacks with tents in them (no, rain was NOT forecast, or even suspected). Another guy was carrying a little coleman stove with a gas container (but no food to cook on it). There was a lady dragging a cooler with wheels on it, loaded with water (even though everyone had their own water bottle). Another bozo was even packing a BB gun, assumedly in case we ran into some dangerous, aggressive fauna, like a rabbit.
The leader was a guy in his late 50's with a beer belly, wearing a boy scout uniform. I have to say that nothing could possibly look more dorky on an adult male (not to mention a paunchy one). They say women love a man in uniform, but I don't think that's the uniform they mean.
So the leader introduces himself, and says he'll take the front of the line, and his grandson, who had been an Eagle scout, will be the back of the line. At that point he gestured to his grandson, who was a sullen, glaring, teenager with multiple piercings, a few tatoos, and a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. He was mumbling into a cell phone and exuded a sense that he would rather be having his nuts chopped off than following his dorky looking grandfather around on a hike.
And off we went. 40 people and enough supplies to survive a nuclear war, for a 2 mile hike (NOT a "3 hour tour"). It was scenic and fun, and took about an hour. The only unexpected happening was when we wandered out of the grandson's cell phone range and he began screaming bloody murder. The lady with the cooler offered him a bottle of water to cheer him up.
I was walking ahead of 2 dentists, who spent the time discussing different drilling techniques, the most pus they've ever seen in a dental abscess, and other interesting topics.
And so, at the end of this, we had to fill out a form for my son to get his hiking badge. As I've learned in the last year, the Boy Scouts award badges for the most mediocre of accomplishments, such as a 2 mile hike, attending a rodeo, or breathing. I think the badges would be more meaningful if they were for more challenging things, such as swimming the Amazon, kayaking over waterfalls, and hand-to-hand grizzly combat.
I apologize for the misunderstanding concerning your medication.
When I wrote: "Take 1 each morning after you wake up", I meant to take it when you wake up, first thing in the morning, and are getting up for the day.
I DID NOT mean for you to take it when you get up to pee at 3:00 a.m., and are going back to bed. Or when you nod off after breakfast for 5 minutes, then wake up again. Or if you lie down for a nap after lunch and then wake up at 2:00 p.m. (which isn't in the morning anyway).
I'm writing and faxing you this expedited letter, and also left a message with your secretary, as I want to explain what happened yesterday. I'm sure you'll be hearing Mrs. Panik's side of the story soon enough.
My secretary, Mary, has a daughter who is a few years younger then mine. As a result, we give Mary our hand-me-downs when our kids outgrow them. This has been a satisfactory arrangement on all sides for several years (my kids get their hand-me-downs from my sister's kids).
So yesterday I brought in some things for Mary, but due to a busy day forgot to give them to her.
During my appointment with Mrs. Panik I went to get a blood pressure cuff. In doing so I accidentally knocked over the bag of clothes, spilling little girl Disney Princess undies all over the floor.
As I picked them up, Mrs. Panik suddenly stood up and accused me of being a pedophile. She wouldn't listen to my explanation, and said she didn't want to continue the appointment.
So far we haven't received any calls from the local police, but I wanted to alert you of this misunderstanding in case Mrs. Panik calls you.
I'd like to thank PJ for bringing this important research to my attention.
In an effort to settle the question of whether or not laptop computers contribute to infertility, a research group attached temperature sensors to volunteers' scrotums and recorded how they changed when using a laptop. They did this with & without lap pads, and in various sitting positions.
How come these articles never say how much they paid the volunteers? Here's the link.
Mr. Sprint: "I'd just climbed down the ladder when..." (cell phone rings) "Sorry, Doc, hang on."
(answers phone) "Yeah? Oh, hi Pete. Uh-huh. I have no idea. I mean, I've got $4,000 in that account and need to transfer it. Yeah. Hold on, Pete, let me get some advice. Hey, Doc, for retirement what are you recommending right now? Roth IRA's? And what mutual funds are you telling people to invest in right now?"
This is my Grandfather. His name was Martin. He died in 2001, and I was fortunate to know him.
He was born in Poland, but his family was living in Austria when Hitler came to power. As Jews, the family knew they had to leave, and pooled their money to send the smartest child (his name was Irving) to America, with instructions to find a way to make a living in America, FAST, and then bring them all over one by one. Irving was 19 years old at the time, and only knew 1 distant cousin in the U.S.
Somehow he did it. That's a story in itself.
World War II was only a few month away when it was Marty's turn. He remembered being on an immigrant ship when it was stopped and searched by a Danish warship, and the passenger's fear that it might be a German ship coming to turn them back if war had broken out.
Many family members didn't get out, and vanished from history. Lost anonymously in a death camp, with millions of others.
Marty joined the family in Chicago. To gain citizenship quickly he volunteered for the Army, and served through the war. Because of his German background he wasn't allowed at the front, as there was concern about loyalty. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, in California, guarding against a Japanese invasion that never came.
After the military he went through the struggles of returning to normalcy, at different times working as a fur salesman, a door-to-door vacuum salesman, and finally finding his career at a clock factory. He had 2 children, one of which is my mother (Hi, Mom!).
Blackdog doesn't seem to mind doing so, but I personally don't think it sounds healthy.
A scientific poll of the office staff, and a few drug reps and patients, found that 100% of people I saw today agreed that toilets should not, except under extreme circumstances, be considered a source of drinking refreshment.
Apparently, though, this isn't as common a belief as I'd like to think it is.
The city of Chandler, Arizona, has unveiled their new city hall building, which (I SWEAR!) includes signs in the bathrooms specifically telling people NOT TO DRINK FROM THE TOILET!!!
This blog is entirely for entertainment purposes. All posts about patients may be fictional, or be my experience, or were submitted by a reader, or any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate.
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Cast of Characters:
Annie: My Phenomenal MA Mary: My Awesome Secretary Ed: The office fish Dr. Pissy: The guy I share an office with Mrs. Grumpy:My Boss (also the world's greatest school nurse) Frank, Craig, and Marie:The Grumpy Tribe Mello, Garlic, and Onion: The Grumpy Dogs
Questions? Comments? Biting sarcasm? Write to: pagingdrgrumpy [at] gmail [dot] com
Note: I do not answer medical questions. If you are having a medical issue, see your own doctor. For all you know I'm really a Mongolian yak herder and have no medical training at all except in issues regarding the care and feeding of Mongolian yaks.