Monday, November 30, 2015

Black friday was HELL

Seen at a San Diego Costco on Saturday morning:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Some "fusion" cuisines... just don't work

Thank you, H!

Heading west for the 4-day holiday. See you next week!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The good old days

Earlier this year, Medscape ran some awesome 1940's-1950's era medical ads, and I'd like to share my favorites with you (you can click on the link above to see them all).

This one is just awesome. I mean, how better to face the challenges of everyday life and bad hats than to pop amphetamines?

"How does Ellen Sherman do it all? She’s smart. She takes Speed!"

Next is this pic, by the great Dr. Frank Netter. It's called "Ambulance Call" and shows a cheery scene of an elderly lady being hauled off to the hospital while her neighbors gawk.

What product was this advertising? Actually, none at all. Then why, you're asking, was it in a medical journal? Because the picture ("suitable for framing") was sponsored by Chicago's Armour Laboratories, and - get this - was available for FREE to doctors who wrote in and requested a copy for their waiting room. Because nothing gives you more confidence in the doc you're about to see than thinking his last patient was carried away on a stretcher.

Old ads saying that doctors prefer a certain cigarette brand aren't uncommon. This one, however, got my attention.

"70 years from now we'll be sampling pot at the Seattle meeting."

Why? Because here they are pushing them at medical conventions. Yes, out there on the sales floor, between booths selling pharmaceuticals, EEG machines, locums offers, and other stuff... are tobacco companies peddling their wares as a normal part of a medical practice.

Then there's this gem:

"What the fuck? I have to wait another 40 years for them to invent Diet Coke?"

Yes, apparently when the doctor has had a shitty day of irate patients nothing will perk him up more than a paper cup full of tomato juice. Honestly, if someone offered me anything non-caffeinated and/or alcohol-free in that situation... I'd probably throw it at them.

I also have to wonder exactly what kind of refreshment they're REALLY trying to sell... Which leads us to:

This one, about the eternal scourge of armed forces around the world, VD.

"Phil, have the art department make the ampules look more phallic."

Ads like this were actually pretty common in WWII, showing how drug companies (Merck, in this case) were contributing to the Allied victory by keeping winkies and their owners healthy, so they could go get killed somewhere else.

Then for the home front, was this ad intended for Rosie the Riveter. It features (I SWEAR TO GOD!) the top-secret blueprint for... a tampon.

Gotta love the slogan "don't let morale ebb with the flow." Likely the same ad agency that 60 years later thought up "have a happy period."

And last is this one, reminding us that yesterday's health food is today's heart attack. Next thing you know they'll be claiming that cigarettes cause cancer.

"If butter is good for you, straight lard must be even better."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Saturday afternoon

Dr. Grumpy: "This is Dr. Grumpy, returning a page."

Ms. Wilter: "Yeah, I called your office yesterday, about a refill on my Spazinox?"

Dr. Grumpy: "I approved that, and Annie called it in."

Ms. Wilter: "Oh REALLY? Because I just stopped by Pill Haus, and THEY DIDN'T HAVE IT!"

Dr. Grumpy: "Well, I know she called it in. I was in her office when she made the call."

Ms. Wilter: "Well, that doesn't change the fact that I'm standing in Pill Haus and IT'S NOT HERE!"

Dr. Grumpy: "Which Pill Haus are you at? There are a lot of them. We called it to the one on Starr & Harrison, like you wanted."

Ms. Wilter: "So what? I'm at the one at Narn & Centauri, and regardless of what Annie said MY SPAZINOX ISN'T HERE!"

Dr. Grumpy: "Then why... did you ask us to call it in to the one at Starr & Harrison?"

Ms. Wilter: "Why would it matter?"

Dr. Grumpy: "Um, because they're different stores, like, 5 miles apart?"

Ms. Wilter: "But they're both Pill Haus pharmacies! If you call it in to any of them, they all fill it."

Dr. Grumpy: "Uh, no, just the one we call it too."


Ms. Wilter: "I thought that when you call it in to any Pill Haus, it goes to every store, and so they all get it ready for you. That way, I can pick it up anywhere I am. Isn't that part of the internet and all? That all their stores are connected and fill it for you, so you can just go to any of their places to get it?"

Dr. Grumpy: "No, they just fill it at the one we call it to."

Ms. Wilter: "Well, that's not very convenient, or customer friendly. I'm going to complain to them about this."

Dr. Grumpy: "Okay. Your Spazinox is at Starr & Harrison. Have a good one."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thorough exam there, dude

Seen in a chart:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mary's desk

Mary: "Okay, so we'll see you on Friday, at 1:30. Do you need directions here?”

Mrs. Scan: "No, but what tests will he order on me?"

Mary: "I don't know. He's never seen you before, so it will depend on what he finds when he hears your story and examines you. Every patient is different."

Mrs. Scan: "Well, I really don't want to come in unless I know what he's going to do."

Mary: "I understand, but that's up to him. I'm not the doctor. You'll be able to talk to him about this during the visit."

Mrs. Scan: "Look, I'm not calling you to play games. Either you tell me what tests he's going to order, or I'm going elsewhere."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tall and skinny. REALLY tall and skinny.

Seen in a chart:

Monday, November 16, 2015

The badge

 I'm sitting at the nurses station, writing a note.

Suit Lady: "Excuse me, Dr. Grumpy? You're not wearing your ID badge."

Dr. Grumpy: "It's in my black bag. This shirt doesn't have a pocket for me to clip it to."

Suit Lady: "Well, the staff can't see it."

Dr. Grumpy: "I figure after almost 20 years here they all know me." (loudly) "Hey, you guys all know me, right?"

Passing nurse: "Too damn well, if you ask me."

Dr. Grumpy: "See?"

I go back to writing my note.

Suit Lady: "But it's your new badge, with our new Local Hospital logo, isn't it?"

Dr. Grumpy: "Yeah, you guys inactivated the old one so I couldn't get in the parking lot. I didn't have much of a choice."

Suit Lady pulls up a chair and sits real close, like she's about to make a dirty proposition.

Suit Lady: (softly) "Haven't you noticed the effect this is having?"

Dr. Grumpy: "Um..." (looks around) "on what?"

Suit Lady: "It's terrible for employee morale! They can all see you're not supporting our new branding. If they don't think you're behind them, it will affect how they do their jobs."

Dr. Grumpy: "They're not even paying attention, and don't care."

Suit Lady: "They're trying to be polite, but it's obvious that your lack of support is disappointing to them. You really should have your ID proudly displayed."

Dr. Grumpy: "Look... I need to finish writing my note. I've got 2 other consults to see."

Suit Lady: "Well, please wear the badge. Not doing so is bad for patient care."

Dr. Grumpy: "Do you really believe that?"

Suit Lady: "You need to envision the whole of who we are today at Local Hospital. It's all part of our new brand in the community. And, of course, that includes doctors like you."

Dr. Grumpy: "If I'm your brand, your brand sucks."

I turned back to my note. Suit Lady glared at me for a few minutes, then left.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Seen in a chart

I bet the dentures don't smoke, but use alcohol and caffeine occasionally.

Thank you, Anon!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Day, 2015

What is a veteran?

People, of course, are the best known. Those who risk it all to protect others.

But humans certainly aren't the only ones. For most of history, horses were a key factor in military campaigns, serving even into WW2 (although not widely known, most of Germany's logistics early in the war depended on horses).

Of course, dogs have played a key role, and are likely the most important non-human serving in the military today. So have birds, dolphins, bats, elephants, monkeys, and many other creatures.

But what about a ship?

Except maybe warplanes, perhaps no inanimate object carries in it the spirits of those who built and fought in them. The people who mined and processed ores and turned them into metal parts. Sat at a desk and carefully designed the finished product. Welded, riveted, and cut steel to build it. And, finally, lived, served..., even died, on board.

Every country has its museum ships. Here in the U.S. we have an assortment of preserved battleships, aircraft carriers, submarines, and a few other fighting machines.

Perhaps the most meaningful ships are the ones that never fired a shot, but contributed as much (if not more) than any warship ever did. Yet they're often the most forgotten.

Sadly, there are only 2 of such left intact in the world. But in the horror of WW2, they were one of the most critical factors in crushing Nazi Germany.

Britain, like Earth's other island empire, Japan, is heavily dependent on trade to supply her people. Food, fuel, and countless other necessities of life are imported through a vast network of oceanic routes. This obvious weakness was attacked twice by U-Boats in the last century. It was a war of numbers: if Germany could sink supply ships faster than the allies could build them, the Nazis would win. And, for a while, this appeared to be the case.

While a late comer to World War 2, the massive American industrial output quickly rose to the challenge. An 1879 (yes, you read the year right) British design for a cargo ship was taken, modified for technical advancements, and simplified for mass construction. Companies run by the American industrialist Henry Kaiser (ironically the son of German immigrants) had developed mass production techniques in building the Hoover, Bonneville, and Grand Coulee dams. They turned these skills into the production of freighters - called Liberty Ships - at a level never seen before.

In 4 years, 18 shipyards built 2,710 of these ships. At 1 ship every 2 days, it was by far the largest number of ships ever built to a single design. Like many other industries, their construction depended heavily on the huge number of women - including a large percentage of black women - who entered the workforce in the war effort. Society made some huge changes in WW2, and would never be the same again.

The ships were designed to have a service life of 5 years, though most survived far longer. Although many were sunk by U-Boats, Germany was never able to catch up with the rate of production. This was a key factor that led to the ever-growing bridge across the Atlantic carrying the soldiers, tanks, planes, and other supplies that eventually landed at D-Day and moved into Germany. Many, including the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, served at Normandy. Offshore at D-Day, they rapidly unloaded supplies of every kind onto barges and smaller boats, which were then taken to the beach for the men who needed them.

Cargo ships, while far from the glory that the battleships, carriers, and submarines are accorded, are fighting ships all the same. Without them no overseas war can be fought or won. Logistics and supply lines are everything.

A few Liberty ships actually did fight, including the Stephen Hopkins. Using her single gun, she battled the German raider Stier until they both sank.

The sailors on these forgotten ships gave as much as those in other service branches... if not more. By percentage, more men in the U.S. Merchant Marine died in WW2 than in any other branch, and statistically were over twice as likely to be killed as someone in all other services combined:


(Air Force veterans wondering why you aren't on the list: you're grouped in with the Army. The USAF didn't become its own service until after WW2)

After the war the Liberty ships - so crucial to victory - were forgotten. Now they were just surplus freighters, far more than the world needed. Some were sold off, others put in reserve, and others... just left in port with no where to go.

They sat and rusted, and, eventually, when it was clear they weren't needed, sold for scrap.

But a few of these veterans are still with us. Trident Seafood has the former Albert M. Boe (renamed Star of Kodiak), now land-locked, working as a processing plant in Kodiak, Alaska.

Yes, that's a Liberty ship

The hulls of 2 others serve in Portland, Oregon as dock supports. Another, without engines, is a museum in Greece. Another... isn't quite as popular.

But 2 of them, remarkably, are still operational. One is the John W. Brown, in Baltimore and the other the Jeremiah O'Brien (named after an American Revolutionary War sailor) in San Francisco. I visited the latter this summer.

She's remarkably well-preserved, still set in the 1940's. After the war she quickly went into the reserve fleet, and was never sold off or modified. She spent over 30 years in mothballs before it was decided (in 1979) that a Liberty Ship should be saved for future generations. Amazingly, it was found she was still operational after 34 years of sitting at anchor, and became the only Liberty ever to leave the reserve fleet under her own power. Volunteers swarmed her, cleaning, polishing, and painting.

Under the gray reserve paint at the bow they discovered the original crew had painted a googly-eyed topless lady, and she was carefully restored following the original outlines (ensuring snickers from teenage boys for generations to come).

Inside, the ship is in great condition, with very few restrictions on where you can go. The kids and I wandered the passageways, peering into cabins and imagining the merchant marine sailors who lived here as she crossed the ocean and supplied Operation Overlord. You walk across the simple bridge - a far cry from those on a warship - and imagine staring out at the vicious waves of a North Atlantic winter crossing as the ship pitched and rolled beneath you.

Her single small artillery piece is still there, quite different from the massive guns in fortified turrets you see on warships. Here the fighting men were exposed to the elements and enemy fire, and their aim was entirely by sight. Today the gun is protected... from roosting pigeons by a line of spikes on the barrel.

Marie draws a bead on the Transamerica Pyramid.

The engine rooms are open for access, though it involves squeezing through hatchways and taking steep ladders up & down. Beneath the water line engineering buffs will find one of the few working triple-expansion reciprocating engines left in the world. The engine is so well-preserved that (if it looks familiar) it was where they filmed the engine room scenes in 1995's Titanic.

The film's sound engineers also recorded the creaking and rocking of a metal hull as she steamed through San Francisco bay, and the clanking of the obsolete engines. They went on to win 2 Academy awards for their work.

But the Jeremiah O'Brien wasn't content with just sailing around San Francisco harbor. In 1994, with the 50th anniversary of D-Day approaching, a crew of volunteers climbed aboard her. Many of them were veterans of Liberty Ships (even some who'd served on her) and brought her back to prime shape. She had a long trip ahead.

Setting out from northern California, her outdated engine and single propeller drove her south to the Panama Canal, from where she crossed into the Atlantic and turned north again.

On the morning of June 6, 1994 she was again off the beaches of Normandy. She'd brought a crew and passengers who'd fought there. Now, 50 years later, she was back at the site of the largest military operation in history.

She was the only large ship who'd been there originally and returned for the anniversary. Only one other big ship that served that fateful day still exists - the battleship U.S.S. Texas - and she's long been immobile.

In a former cargo hold aboard, there's now a D-Day museum. One of the items there is simply this picture, taken at Normandy beach on the morning of June 6, 1994. The simplicity of the black & white print belies the subject: 4 men who'd swarmed ashore that terrible morning 50 years earlier, and now returned to the same spot, alone in their thoughts.

All around them, but not seen, are many others who never left the beach that day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November 10, 1975

40 years ago today, 29 men died on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

In terms of shipwrecks, 29 isn't much, but if one of those is your father, or spouse, or sibling, or friend... it can be everything.

Like the recent El Faro sinking, the overwhelming lesson of the Fitzgerald is simple: the forces of nature are bigger and stronger than can be overcome by technology and metallurgy. As long as people have been sailing the seas, some have been lost to storms. In our era of GPS, radar, and satellites we're lured into believing the sea is safe. And, compared to previous eras, it is.

But the power of a storm can be far beyond our best designs. Even if you take out the factor of human error, the sheer destruction caused by storms, tsunamis, and many other natural phenomena is overwhelming.

On December 17, 1944, during WW2, the U.S. Pacific fleet lost to a violent foe. 790 men were killed. Of the 86 ships present in Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet that day, 3 destroyers were sunk and 27 other ships (including massive battleships and aircraft carriers) suffered serious enough damage that they had to return to base for extensive repairs... And the Japanese never touched them.

All of that damage was inflicted by a typhoon. Admiral Nimitz, in his report on the disaster, wrote it "represented a more crippling blow to the Third Fleet than it might be expected to suffer in anything less than a major action."

View from the carrier U.S.S. Cowpens as the storm approached.

For many, their first (and only) knowledge of the Fitzgerald comes from the Gordon Lightfoot song. That's where I first learned of it, too. But there's more.

She was named after the CEO at the time of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, who commissioned and financed her construction. Built in 1958, she was (at the time) the biggest boat on the Great Lakes (yes, on the lake they're technically called boats), and remains the largest one ever lost there. She spent her entire career hauling ore between ports.

The lifespan of a Great Lakes freighter is generally twice that of their ocean-going counterparts. Spared the corrosive effects of saltwater, at 17 the Fitzgerald was still in overall good shape, though had the usual wear & tear all ships (and people) get with age. By 1975 she'd made 748 trips on the lakes, for a distance equivalent to circling the Earth 44 times. She set several records for ship size and loads carried.

She set out on November 9, 1975 from Superior, Wisconsin to Detroit, under the command of Ernest McSorley. A second freighter, the venerable Arthur M. Anderson (enroute to Gary, Indiana), joined her for a distance. The Anderson was skippered by Jesse Cooper.

As they sailed, a vicious November storm was brewing, though the initial predictions said it would pass south of the lake. As the day went on it moved northwards, going across the lake and taking the ships into its path.

As the afternoon of November 10 went on, they encountered winds averaging 50 mph (93 kph) with gusts up to 75 mph, and waves 35' (11m) high breaking over their decks. At 3:30 p.m. McSorley told Cooper the Fitzgerald had taken some damage and had a list. A few minutes later the U.S. Coast Guard issued an advisory for all ships to head for the nearest harbor due to the unexpected ferocity of the gale, and the 2 ships changed course for the nearby safety of Whitefish Bay.

At around 4:10 p.m. McSorley called Cooper to say his radar had been lost to the storm. In the blinding snow and rain, the Anderson closed the distance to the Fitzgerald, trying to act as the eyes for both of them with Cooper calling directions over to McSorley based on his radar plots.

Sometime around 5:30 McSorley told the coast guard he was "taking heavy seas over the deck in one of the worst seas I have ever been in."

At 7:10 Cooper radioed McSorley about the position of a 3rd ship that was now on his radar, and asked him how the Fitzgerald was doing. McSorley answered "We are holding our own."

It was the last message ever received from the Fitzgerald. A few minutes later the Anderson's radar was unable to find her, and she didn't answer the radio.

Cooper, not believing at first the Fitzgerald had been lost so quickly, gave it a few minutes to see if she showed up again on the radar sweep. He contacted the other ship nearby to see if they had her on radar (they didn't). Finally, at 7:39, he radioed the Coast Guard to sound the first warning. Unfortunately, in the violent storm the Anderson was the nearest ship to make a rescue attempt. Against his better judgment, Cooper turned around.

It must have been terrifying, knowingly going back into a storm that had just destroyed a ship bigger and more modern than yours. One of the Anderson's crewmen, upon hearing what they were doing, scribbled a last letter to his family, sealed it in a bottle, and tossed it overboard. A second freighter, the William Clay Ford, bravely joined the search that fateful night.

But there was nothing to be found. In the next few hours both the American and Canadian Coast Guards sent ships and planes to the area. Only a few pieces of debris, and a badly damaged lifeboat, ever turned up.

As news spread, the families of 29 men (ages 21 to 63) began coming to terms with their losses. Reverend Richard Ingalls, Sr., of the Mariner's Church in Detroit, rang its bell 29 times, a tradition that continued until 2006 when the service was changed to remember all lost on the Great Lakes.

Mr. Edmund Fitzgerald's son, also named Edmund Fitzgerald, died in 2013. Like his father, he was involved in many endeavors through the Midwest, though is perhaps best remembered for bringing the Brewers baseball franchise to Milwaukee.

The Arthur M. Anderson, now 63 years old, continues to work on the Great Lakes today, 40 years since that fateful night her name became forever entwined with the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald lies in 2 large pieces, the bow upright and the stern inverted, in 530 feet of water, oddly straddling the American-Canadian border. The cold freshwater has kept her well-preserved and her name is still clearly visible. She's been visited several times over the years by different expeditions, though they're tightly regulated by both governments out of respect for the grave site. The ship's bell was recovered in 1995, and is now in the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. A replacement bell, with the names of all 29 crewmen engraved on it, was left with the ship.

In the wake of the disaster a number of regulations were changed regarding maintenance, safety equipment, weather forecasts, ship loading capacities, and annual inspections to address concerns the sinking raised. To date another large ship hasn't been lost on the lakes.

No matter what country you're reading this in, some aspect of your life depends on those who sail. Likely more than one. The clothes you're wearing, the food you eat, the computer or tablet or phone you're reading this on, the car you drive or the fuel it uses, the metals and construction materials in your home and office... may have came from somewhere else by ship.

Shipping is still, after 1000 years, one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to transport goods. All of us in our interconnected world depend on it. But never forget that for those who take the big boats to sea, sometimes the price is higher than we realize.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dear Alzheimer's Association,

Thank you for your recent letter concerning a new Alzheimer's Disease support group in Grumpyville.

May I respectfully request you refer the person stuffing the envelopes to a neurologist?  The "enclosed fliers" about the new support group were nowhere to be found, nor was the local director's business card "to call if you have questions" attached like it said it was.

For that matter, you should probably have the person writing the letters checked out, too.

Yours truly,

Ibee Grumpy, M.D.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Quote of the day

"I saw a surgeon once. He took out my appendix, or maybe my gall bladder. Shoot... It could have been my tonsils... or an ingrown toenail... anyway, you know, it was one of those things."

Thursday, November 5, 2015



Growing up I had a friend named Kevin. Who had a dog named Winston.

Winston was not the brightest dog.

Kevin's family always had Italian breads with dinner. You know, the long kind with a hard crust.

One afternoon Kevin and I were playing Dungeons & Dragons at their kitchen table while his mother  got dinner ready. The usual long loaf of bread was lying on the counter.

At some point, while Kevin's mom was chopping up veggies, she bumped into the loaf and knocked it to the floor.

Winston grabbed it in the middle and made a beeline for the doggie door. Due to a terrible sense of spatial judgment, he didn't realize the bread was longer than the opening was wide, and tried to run through at warp speed.

It looked like a guy getting clotheslined. The impact dislocated his jaw. I ended up going to the emergency vet with them.

Winston was eventually fine, but never tried to steal a crusty bread again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Seen in a chart

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mary's desk

Mary: "Dr. Grumpy's office, this is Mary."

Mr. Hand: "Hi, I need to get in today. I may have had a stroke. My left arm isn't working."

Mary: "Well, you really need to go to ER for this."

Mr. Hand: "I know. I'm there now."

Mary: "You're in ER?"

Mr. Hand: "Yeah. I called 911, and they brought me here. I'm lying in back, waiting for the doctor."

Mary: "Okay, then..."

Mr. Hand: "I've been here about 5 minutes, and they haven't sent anyone in except a nurse. So if you have something open, I'll just come over there instead."

Mary: "No, you need to stay there. You'll probably need studies, and it's not safe for you to leave the hospital to come here if you're having a stroke."

Mr. Hand: "The ambulance is still out front. I could ask them to bring me over there."

Mary: "You need to stay there."

Mr. Hand: "Sorry. Had no idea caring for people was such a waste of your time."


Monday, November 2, 2015

Overheard in ER

Dr. ERP: "Boy, your throat looks awful... why did you wait so long to see a doctor?"

Lady: "You know how it is with us medical professionals! We always try to treat ourselves first."

Dr. ERP: "What sort of medical professional are you?"

Lady: "I'm taking classes on medical billing."
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