Where in the World?
Not to brag or anything, but one of my posts “Neuronistas vs. Reticularistas” was selected to show up in Open Lab 2010. This means that it will appear in this years anthology of the best science blog posts of the year! Thanks to the editors for selecting my contribution!
Oh no! The holidays are over and you intended to have your colleagues over to your house for a little holiday celebration. Nothing big, just your favorite faculty colleagues, maybe your department chair, bring the family, have some spiced cookies and nice wines, a little rum. But you fucked it up, the holidays came and went and you missed your opportunity to socialize and show off your hosting skills. How can you have them over now? Everyone is on holiday withdrawal, plus spiced cookies sound so 2010.
But there is still hope. That’s right, invite them over for paella! There’s nothing to cure a depressing winter sunday afternoon than a leisurely lunch of steaming, fragrant paella. A veritable treasure chest of delicious goodies that will not only showcase your cooking skills but will show off your international sophistication and élan.
So how do you make said paella? In Spain, they typically make paella with either “land” meat (rabbit, chicken) or with seafood, but not usually with both. It is typically cooked over a wood fire and requires patience and artistry passed down through generations. Down in Mexico, we disregard these silly conventions and mix everything together. This recipe uses a mix of seafood with sausage and chicken, but feel free to use any combination of meats and seafood. While the recipe may look daunting, it is actually very easy to do. If you want a test run, you can limit the types of meat used, or even try a vegetarian version (but this is not recommended – I think rabbit will impress your colleagues more).
You will need:
6 chicken thighs
4 sausages (chorizo, sweet Italian, whatever)
Shellfish (mussels, clams, etc. – calculate about 4-5 per person)
Un-peeled shrimp, or large crayfish (2-3 per person)
Squid (hoods and tentacles -1 squid per 2 people)
1 onion, quartered
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
About 4 cups of rice (see below)
2 bay leaves
Chicken broth (or water)
Salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
2 hefty pinches of saffron (or substitute 1/4 tsp of turmeric, but saffron is way better)
So in what now seems like a different lifetime, I had written about an issue we had had with The Third Reviewer and one of our manuscripts at a Fancy Journal. To summarize, we had two initial good reviews who had agreed to accept the paper, when the journal decided to add a third, who trashed the paper and thus, this being a Fancy Journal, got the whole thing rejected. Against all odds, we went on the warpath against this reviewer and appealed the decision, this never having worked in the past.
And… ten weeks later WE WON!! Paper is accepted, Third Reviewer has been vanquished, and a piece of the Mojo Banjo has been recovered! Now it’s time to…
“How are you feeling this morning Mr. Namnezia?”
“That’s fucking Dr. Namnezia to you, you little intern. And I would be feeling better if you hadn’t fucking burst into my room without knocking and turned on the light and scared the shit out of me.”
“Oh, sorry about that Mr. Namnezia. Are you in any pain this morning?”
“Look you little fuck with your little suit and tie, none of the other interns wear suits, they wear scrubs, and at least express some sort of sign of humanity when dealing with patients. Why are you wearing a suit? You remind me of all those over eager premeds I teach everyday. Maybe you can spend some time developing some real bedside manner rather than the fake concern and “professionalism” you are expressing now.”
“Are your bowel movements OK?”
And the worst thing about all of this, is that despite me wanting to say all this, I didn’t. I just answered his questions obediently, let him listen to my insides and let him off, with his smug sense of authority. This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in being a patient, basically becoming an object, a body to be treated and not a person. Having spent last week in the hospital (I’m home now) really took a lot out of me, both physically and mentally. After a week of not walking or eating much I am ridiculously skinny/weak and my body does not feel like mine. During my stay I was visited by a slew of hospital doctors, and every time I would have to explain my whole situation as they poked and prodded me during every shift change. Plus of course nurses coming in and out to give you medication, silence your beeping I/V pump, take your vitals, draw blood, etc. And in all of this the stress of making sure things stayed clean and that nobody made any mistakes. The whole thing is very dehumanizing. Not just being in the hospital, but being a patient in general.
In the 1960′s French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote in “The Birth of the Clinic” about the emergence of the “medical gaze” in the medical profession since the late 18th century. The idea being that a doctor cannot look at a patient as a whole person, but rather as a body, with a bunch of symptoms. Now, I have to admit that the only reason I’ve read Foucault is due to my undergraduate institution’s penchant for adding obscure poststructuralist philosophy to pretty much any class. I also have to admit that I can only can makes sense of about half of a things Foucault says. But after being in the hospital, his point becomes incredibly clear. It is a dehumanizing experience.
So what is there to do? Ever since I got sick I’ve been approached with offers of complementary medicine – Reiki and such. They say these are for the mind, conventional medicine is for the body. But why? Why do I need someone reorganizing some energy forces or whatever to make me feel more human? Why can’t regular medicine be for both? Why can’t it be more human? And I really think that the solution is simple – it’s called good bedside manner, listening to patients and treating them well and like equals. That’s it. But I found this lacking in so many doctors.
That’s not to say all doctors are like this. We were fortunate enough to find a doctor who really takes his time to answer all of our questions (between my wife, brother and I being scientists, believe me, we’ve put him through the ringer) thoroughly and intelligently, has been great at helping us get second and even third opinions, facilitating medical literature and just overall caring. He welcomes emails with questions and checks in at random times to see how I’m doing. Likewise, in the hospital there were a handful of nurses that you could tell went above and beyond to provide good care and look after your best interests. So medicine need not be so dehumanizing, it just takes someone to care and listen to make a huge difference.
One thing I’ve learned about this is that in order to make my body mine again, I’m going to have to put up with being poked and prodded for a while, but hopefully, little by little I can reclaim myself again. That slowly I will fatten back up and regain my strength and feel like me again. But for now the most important thing is to maintain perseverance, strength and most importantly patience. And to stay out of fucking New Jersey…
Note from Namnezia: The following is a guest post from my smart and lovely Supercool wife, who has been indispensable in navigating this bumpy road. Enjoy!
Having only been in the hospital for the birth of our children, I guess I didn’t know what to expect when we showed up in the hospital 3 weeks ago and were given what can only be described as a knock-out punch to the stomach. In the past three weeks, we have dealt with pneumonia, lymphoma and some serious hemolytic anemia that has us talking about types of red wine every time my husband visits the loo.
Being a scientist myself, maybe I expected nurses to hand us daily charts and graphs, detailing progress. I expected protocols and treatment plans that wouldn’t change hourly. During the day we spend so much time focusing on the science of what is happening – a crash course in cancer biology, hematology and immunology. At night when I lie down to sleep in a cot placed too far from my husband’s side to actually reach him, I listen to the monitors beep throughout the oncology ward and I wonder how did my love become part of this cruel experiment with an n=1?
Aside from his physical appearance my husband remains unchanged. Thankfully, his sense of humor is safe from the cancer that has invaded his body. Immediately following his first round of chemo, to which he responded with rigors so severe it was as if he was undergoing an exorcism, he opened one eye and with the little strength he had left, said to the oncologist, “That is some wild shit.”
His jokes have taken on a bit of morbidity but he throws them around with the same spirit as always. When the bad news started coming in, he didn’t want to hear it all at once and let the oncologists know by telling the following joke.
“So, a man is going on vacation and asks his neighbor to look after his cat for the week, and to call if anything was wrong. On the first day of vacation, the phone rings. The neighbor says, “I’m sorry, man, but your cat is dead.” The man is distraught, cannot enjoy his vacation and promptly returns home. He says to his neighbor, “Listen, you ruined my vacation. If you have bad news for me, you should break it to me gently. You could have called on the first day and said, “Hey, your cat is up on the roof.” On the second day, you call and say, “Hmmm….your cat is close to the edge.” On the third day you call and say “I’m really sorry, but your cat fell and might have broken a leg.” Fourth day, “Man, your cat isn’t doing too well, he might be a coma.” Fifth day, “Sorry, but your cat is on life support.” Sixth day, “Maybe you should come home.” Seventh day, “Sorry, but your cat is dead.” The neighbor apologizes. Next year comes around and the man goes on vacation again, instructing his neighbor to call if anything goes wrong. On the first day of vacation, the phone rings. It’s the neighbor and he says, “Man, your grandmother is up on the roof.” My husband is not on the roof, but these past few weeks have definitely been an uphill climb – with bumps in the road as big as mountains.
Now – to get to the title of this post. I’ve always been pretty ambivalent about the color yellow. Didn’t really love it – but really had nothing against it. Well, now that’s a different story. Yellow can instill panic in me – but can also instill a sense of calm. It is all about placement. Yellow – and all colors for that matter – should stay where they belong. Yellow should not suddenly show up uninvited in the skin, but should be a color that one sees when visiting the commode. Quite rightly, mustard nitrogen – one of the chemotherapy agents – should not be going into my husband’s body. I’ve been thinking a lot about yellow recently, and can definitely say that I am a bit mad about it. Twice right.