An Evening of Pots

November 24, 2018

Now that we live further away from scorching desert heat, Rachel and I have been attempting to expand our porch-garden. When we saw a good deal on glazed clay pots, we figured it was probably time to commit to moving our plants out of spare storage bins and mop buckets. Loading our haul into the car, I momentarily visualized the potential disaster I was creating, in which the fragile ceramics broke loose from their rudimentary restraints and started rolling around in the trunk.

It turns out it was a vision of the future, since that outcome occurred immediately with the first turn out of the parking lot. One pot broke, and in a complication I did not foresee, the two big ones I had nested inside each other wedged themselves together. Despite my frustrated tugging, they remained stubbornly fused. I set them in the living room, repeating my prior attempts each time I passed by.

Enter Adam, my equally nerdy geeky Child Neurology co-intern. He saw the pots in the living room and I explained my current plight. Naturally he took it as a puzzle, and before long we had set about attempting to use the Power of Science to separate them. We filled the bathtub with hot water…and quickly discovered that the water was far too hot to stand in. We solved that temporary setback by putting a cooler in the tub that I balanced in about as awkwardly as Davy Jones on land.

Once we had the pots established in the tub, we filled the inner pot with ice water and dish soap. After about an hour of equilibration, we banged them on the ground over a soft towel. With an ceramic clunk, they separated, hardly worse for the wear. Voilà!

Welcome to San Diego

July 29, 2018

Moving here has been less than smooth, but in my first week it really went off-script. It started well enough, with our friends Jon and John graciously helping us load the U-Haul late into the night. Jon even came with us the following morning to take a vanload of stuff down and unload said truck. With additional aid  from my new benevolent new child neuro colleague Adam, we were able to finish remarkably quickly.

Having worked up an appetite, Jon and I went  to Lucha Libre,  a highly-rated taco shop with multiple locations in San Diego that is fantastically committed to its theme. Instead of tacos, though, I was taken in by their enchiladas smothered in mole sauce. Mole sauce can be made a number of different ways, but some of them involve peanuts, which is an unequivocal dealbreaker. When I asked about this I was assured that no peanuts were involved in the making of this sauce, so when I got my food I began eating with a heartiness befitting someone who spent the morning hauling heavy objects from place to place. Two sizable bites in, however, the tingling sensation from my tongue went luchador on my brain, cluing it in that Something Was Very Wrong and activating subroutine What to Do Next. I excused myself to the bathroom, induced vomiting, cleaned myself up, and took three diphenhydramine from an emergency kit Rachel insists I keep on hand for some reason. What followed was an exercise in Trying to Act Normal while fighting the intense drowsiness brought on by 75 mg of H1 inverse agonist.

I made it home, said my goodbyes, vomited some more (spontaneously now), and fought back the haze, because  that evening was the first unofficial meetup of my intern class. Events like moving and starting a new job are seismic events that temporarily disrupt one’s social network, and the UCSD Pediatrics Interns of 2018 were keen to make as many new connections as possible before the dust settled. Thankfully my new child neuro colleague Adam offered to give me a ride as I was…indisposed to drive. I worked hard to project that Everything Was  Definitely Totally Normal despite the type I hypersensitivity reaction straining against the bonds of medication.  Nobody noticed, in part because we ended up waging an unspoken battle with the DJ, who over the next several hours struggled to drive 20-odd new resident physicians getting to know each other off his dance floor. He eventually won through a combination of increasing the volume to the point where we couldn’t hear each other and importing people who wanted to dance from other parts of the bar.

I got home, collapsed into bed, and slept well into the following morning. That night was the first official class meetup, where I was able to confirm with a clearer head that my soon-to-be-coworkers were as cool as I’d thought the previous night. I very carefully ate a bit of food without incident, happy to be putting the whole mishap behind me.

On Day Three I met up with our good friend Ashley, who has lived in San Diego for ages, for a dinner of tasty tamales. She was buying a car for her move to Guam that would take place mere weeks after my arrival–karmic retribution for what I did to another good friend back when I moved to California. As it turned out, additional negotiations were yet required, turning a brief trip in to a much longer ordeal. This made it all the more awkward when I noticed that my skin was gradually reddening with each passing minute. I tried convincing myself it was sunburn, but when the patches started swelling into wheals, I was forced to admit that it was the all-too-familiar urticarial rash.

I’ve had this damn allergy my entire life, and the symptoms always follow a specific sequential pattern that begins with an ominous tingling sensation in my tongue and oral structures and is the time where a precision strike with antihistamine can prevent some of the worst symptoms. By the time hives have started, though, all hope of a swift recovery is lost. Somehow, I had skipped past all the early warning signs and jumped directly to late stage, next stop anaphylaxis territory. Maybe it was some kind of hypersensitivity or IgE cross-reactivity from first event, or perhaps the allergenic compound was hidden especially well–although I’ve never heard of peanut anything being used in tamales. I vomited as quietly as possible in the dealership bathroom, took several DPH, and drove myself directly home, forgetting in my haze that I was driving Ashley’s car with her house keys. I stripped in front of the mirror to reveal a body more Red Skull than my own. After that night, it no longer mattered that I hadn’t purchased any food for the house: regurgitated gastric acid and hours of retching wrecked my esophagus and upper airway enough that I was disinclined to bother eating solids for the next several days.

One of the many fetch quests during orientation week involved collecting our newly-printed badges. As the others posted for a picture, our dear program coordinator informed me that, unfortunately, there had been a problem and mine wasn’t ready.


April 2, 2018

Fool me once...
Here, we can see clearly that this is spaghetti and not capellini.

Last week I went to Trader Joe’s to acquire provisions for my stay in Ohio. One of the supplies I need to get is pasta, specifically, spaghetti, so I can make delightful spaghetti with lemon and basil. This Trader Joe’s is of course laid out a little bit different from my local one, so it takes me a couple of tries to locate the pasta-containing aisle. Once there, I see the packages of long pasta (yum), the price tag ($0.99), and toss it in my basket (success). It is only once I get home and start preparing it that I notice the recommended cooking time is a mere three minutes. “Three minutes is incredibly short for spaghetti,” I say to myself. That would be because it was not, in fact, spaghetti, but capellini, its diminutive cousin. One might argue that because “angel hair” pasta it is also made of semolina, it tastes the same; one would also be grossly underestimating the significance of mouthfeel in the flavor palette.

What makes this all the more embarrassing is that this is not the first time I have been punked by capellini, also at Trader Joe’s. Are they in this together?! Who knows! What I do know is that fool me once…twice…well, I won’t get fooled again.

Minor Turbulence

March 31, 2018

I’m back in Ohio, this time for ICU rotation, and the week got off to a rough start beginning with the landing. On the first day I showed up naked; that is to say, without my phone, which really got in the way of storing my new coworkers’  numbers for future communication as I stumbled through learning a new workflow. That evening, I managed to screw up “taking a shower” simply by turning on the water. Unbeknownst to me, the shower head was aimed directly at the curtain and had an excellent flow rate. Turns out the curtain had caught on the edge of the tub, forming a sort of pipe to the outside world. By the time I realized what was happening, there was 2 cm of standing water on the bathroom floor. This led to me madly shoveling water back into the shower, using whole towels as sponges.

The following day, I made sure I had my phone and the floor was dry, but proceeded to leave behind my stethoscope, an oversight I only noticed when I reached for it during a physical exam. A panicked flashback revealed its location in my apartment: conspicuously sitting on the shelf directly above where I had hung my coat, so placed in order that both could be easily snatched during the morning rush.

Later in the week I went to the L&D floor to visit some of the people I know from the last time I was here. I brought M&Ms for old times’ sake and apparently couldn’t help also bringing my bad vibes. While unpacking the candy I realized one of the people I was expecting to see was missing, because somewhere between sending messages and my arrival, she had gone downstairs to the ED, a statement that took me several tries to parse correctly that she was a patient in the ED. Having previously made it through life without ever experiencing a migraine headache, she had been stricken with the “worst headache of her life,” a test question keyword for subarachnoid hemorrhage. Thus, my hospital tour extended to the ED, where catching up was interrupted by medical staff as she was cleared for discharge. Ultimately my friend was unceremoniously ferried back to L&D in a wheelchair by one of the OB/GYN attendings I worked with last year.

My apartment building seems to have some form of always-on heat, which leads to a less than comfortable ambient temperature for those of us who run hot. In lieu of a functional thermostat I opted to open the window; as it reached its maximum station, the crank handle fell off, leaving the window stuck wide open. Later during one of my rare workday glimpses of the Outside World, I noticed it was raining heavily and had to contact the apartment manager to try and close it before I flooded a second room in the apartment. They came by and “fixed” it, by which I mean they closed the window and gently placed the handle back into its socket. Naturally the first thing I did when I came home was test it…the crank promptly came off in my hand.