15 January 2004

Barium Boy (New Super Hero?)

Sir Humphrey DavyYes, it’s true. This month, my rotation is GI (Gastrointestinal) radiology. That means that for the next four weeks, I’ll be “slinging barium” as the saying goes. “Where does one ‘sling barium’?” one might ask. Well, barium is a metal element that is harmless within the human bowel. Being a metal, it is easily seen using x-rays of the abdomen, where it fills and outlines the bowel wall remarkably. So, like some gross metamorphosis on the Wild West theme, I’m a 21st century barium slingin’ cowboy.

So, I use creative ways to get barium into the intestines, whether it’s desired to look at the upper GI tract (esophagus, stomach, small intestines) or the lower GI tract (colon). Patient’s always love the procedures, commonly tell me that I’m their favorite doctor, and always go home smiling (ahem, sarcasm anyone???). All in all, it’s an enjoyable part of my job, since I do miss the patient interaction of a more clinically-based medical specialty.

One of the perks of the rotation is that I get to work with a GI radiology technologist, referred to here as Mike to ensure anonymity, who is a bona fide barium master. He often proclaims, “I’ve single-handedly trained over a hundred radiologists to do barium enemas and swallows.” This guy is no joke- he’s hard core. In fact, he calls himself the fastest x-ray tech in the west (he’s referring to how fast he takes his part of the x-rays, since the only things between the patient and the bathroom are Mike’s x-rays). As I’m learning which views to take, I constantly hear in my ear, “SHOOT IT!!” “FOR CHRISSAKES, SHOOT IT DOC!” Hehe. It nearly kills me it’s so fun.

The patients are remarkably forgiving and polite. I’m not sure how I would do in this situation. Most of the men make jokes (men have this interesting way of finding diversion through humor when placed in a situation involving such an exam. There are countless one-liners that men automatically recite when the prostate is being examined.

As for my diversion, I looked up some (interesting??) facts about barium.

1) It’s the 14th most common element,
2) It melts at 725 C and boils at 1640 C, and
3) It was discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy (the handsome, winsome man pictured upper left), who also discovered the anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

I’ll end with a quote from Sir Davy: “Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it.”
Consolations in Travel — Dialogue V — The Chemical Philosopher

In and out,

Barium Boy

Posted by pederhorner at 8:41 PM | Comments (4)

14 January 2004

Can't live without this... well, that's hyperbole, but this is definitely cool!

I’ve just come across the most nifty (is niftyist a word??) Winamp plugin. So, all of our CDs are now on the hard drive in mp3 format, and we often use the computer as our “jukebox” so to speak instead of firing up the Yamaha changer and receiver. Well, one of the problems with mp3s, is that there hasn’t been a good way to view song lyrics while playing the mp3.


Winamp ScreenshotI found this little Winamp plugin called Lyricsys that’s solved all my woes. Open an mp3 file, and BAM!, the Mini Browser window opens with the lyrics to the song within 3 seconds or so. Amazing little tool. The lyric database grows everyday due to a collective “good-will” and shared uploading by users (not required, but helpful for the rest of us who enjoy obscure music).

So, pour a glass of wine, load up the mp3s, and do your work/entertainment with the music in the background, and the lyrics available, if you should need to peek.

Posted by pederhorner at 9:05 PM | Comments (6)

01 January 2004

Nothing's Sacred .. airline tray tables and overhead bins

Blank table tray. Soon to be no more.Check this out. Amazing. I hate to rail against this again, so soon, but this is an affront to our privacy and self-determination. We are being inundated with advertisements by increasingly invasive and pervasive methods. Our eyes and attention are apparently worth a lot of money, otherwise the advertising industry wouldn’t be doing so well (and by corollary, companies wouldn’t be spending so much money for it if it didn’t have tangible (read: profitable) results).

As the article (see link in previous paragraph) noted, advertisers will not only be putting ads on airplane tray tables but also on the overhead storage bins. I suppose one might argue that by agreeing to this, the airline(s) will be able to increase their profit margins by doing next-to-nothing and that will translate into either lower seat fares or assurance of future airline solvency (both good things, of course). But, I’ll remain skeptical, at least on the former argument.

Is it just asthetics that we should be worried about? Well, to some degree, yes. Ads are often ugly distractions that rely on cliche or a cheap emotional plea to spur us to buy/action.

Perhaps it’s the simple problem of distraction. Ads are often witty, funny, or sexy, and these offer cheap quick “fixes.” At the same time, we’re left with less and less time to think, reflect, and plan our lives effectively. Each second that we spend looking at an ad (via any media), is a second away from doing life, reality. This is a critical issue. Ads have evolved to a point where they sell by entertaining us. Ads are in and of themselves, a diversion. Superbowl commercials are a prime example. They are talked about at the watercooler many weeks after the game. Companies pay exorbant dollars to place their entertaining ad during halftime.

Or, is it an issue with privacy? Shouldn’t our constitutional right to privacy be secured against advertisement invasion? Intellectual privacy is the battleground here. It’s not always possible to simpley avert our eyes and ignore something so prevalent and inescapable. We shouldn’t have to be bothered with this theivery of our sacred time and cognitive energy.

In the end, I suppose we just need to exercise discernment and limit the number and amount of advertisements we encounter/spend energy upon. Ads are a necessary evil. Due to ads and corporate sponsorship, many of the cultural opportunities, such as low art museum admission prices, cheap symphony and orchestral tickets, and music festivals (such as Merlefest in NC), are accessible to nearly everyone of all economic classes.

This all being said, let me tell you about a great internet jazz station called Dr. Horner’s Classic … ;)

Posted by pederhorner at 9:12 PM | Comments (2)