Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Taming of the Rat

When exiting the train station I have come to recognize several homeless people who hang out near the entrance panhandling and selling "street sheet" newspapers. The other day I realized that one of them was selling her papers sitting down instead of standing as usual. In her lap was a large, dirty gray rat, the type that you see running along the train tracks. She was feeding it some bread and stroking it. It looks like she had been able to tame it and turn it into a pet. My hat is off to her because it must not have been easy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


They have been renovating our building recently and making the hallways more modern and bright. Overall, the changes have been good because when we first moved in it was kind of dark and scary. But during this last week they re-did the elevator, which was circa the mid-1970's, and I am not sure the "new" elevator was a step in the right direction.

Basically, they put down some fake marble linoleum flooring and covered all of the elevator walls with this low-pile beige carpet. I have no issues with the floor because it looks a lot nicer. But with the elevator being as small and confined as it is, the soft beige walls now remind me of the solitary confinement rooms for decompensating patients that I saw in the inpatient psychiatric facilities during my 3rd year of medical school. It's a bit creepy. Oh well, I guess it's motivation to take the stairs and get some exercise.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How My Brain Feels After Step 3 Day 1

Sorry for the lack of posts. I have hardly left the house for the past 4 days of cramming for Step 3. Today I took the first part and my brain feels like it just got spun silly by an ostrich. Yes, you read that right. Now check out this footage from one of my favorite events of all time: The Virginia City, NV Camel Races.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Heat and Steel

It was pretty hot here today. And the summer heat means that the buses are just miserable. I got out of the hospital a bit later than usual and found a crowd waiting at the bus stop. I know from experience that this points to a packed, steamy, miserable ride home. There were no buses in sight, so I walked a block back to the previous stop on the route. Soon enough the bus pulled up and I got one of the few remaining seats in the very stuffy back of the bus.

The back of the bus always has a distinctive odor. It's usually a mixture of body odor, cheap cologne, and stale cigarette smoke. Today was no exception, and there was even a strong alcohol smell overshadowing the usual suspects. I pulled out my book and tried to focus on reading while I wondered who on the vicinity smelled like they just fell out of a bar.

Within a couple of stops the bus was packed. A rather scruffy looking guy managed to elbow his way to the back through the crowd and someone got up and offered him a seat. The new arrival looked to be a bit mentally unstable as he sat down, muttered to himself, and started to dig through a big dirty backpack. Everyone around him went back to their respective activities... sort of.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the guy pulling something really shiny out of the backpack. I discretely glanced over and noted that he had pulled two large daggers out of the bag. That's right--daggers. These were real daggers, like mini-swords. They looked like they could cause extreme bodily harm. It seemed like everyone noticed the daggers at the same time. A tense feeling of silence fell over the back of the bus. Everyone looked away. What do you do in a situation like this? We all seemed to opt for remaining very quiet and sat still, trying not to look, while the guy played with the daggers. He rubbed them together, banged them around, ran the dull surfaces across his needle-tracked arms, and muttered the whole time.

After a few minutes of this I decided that I wanted off the bus at the next stop. Who knew what this guy could do. I figured I could easily make it out since I was between him and the door. All of a sudden, he jumped up and started down the aisle with his daggers. Everyone froze... and then he quietly exited the bus, daggers and all...

We all exhaled and resumed reading/listening to music/texting/etc. It was quite a day in the summer heat.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Urban Dictionary on Wheels

My daily bus ride has been a very educational experience this week. I have learned a ton of new vocabulary words by overhearing random conversations. It's so much better than Urban Dictionary because it's live and I get all the context and the players involved. Of course, I am guessing on some of the meanings based on context, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Here are a couple of my new words relating to illegal activities.

"We got rapped the other night."
Rapped - got busted by the cops for doing something illegal

"How long is he gonna sit down for?"
Sit down - be in jail

And I knew that "snitch" was used as a noun for someone who rats someone else out. But I had not heard it as a verb until the other day.
"He started snitchin and got us rapped."
Told the cops about their illegal activities.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Adventures in Gluten-Free Baking

Yesterday I had to give a journal club and bring in food. I made gluten-free brownies from a mix and everyone loved them. This success motivated me to bust out my gluten-free flour and cookbook and give some chocolate chip cookies from scratch a try. Supposedly, with the proper ratio of gluten-free flour and xanthan gum, you can follow a traditional wheat-based recipe with the same proportions of flour. We decided to take a trip back to childhood and make the recipe on the back of the Tollhouse chocolate chips.

The first clue that something might be amiss was probably the runny consistency of the batter after we followed the recipe to a T. Was it the Smart Balance Trans-fat free spread we used? Or was the gluten-free ratio just a bit off? Who knows. We plowed ahead and put teaspoonfuls of "dough" on the cookie sheet. Into the oven it went and within a few minutes we noted the "cookies" were running together a bit. By the time they came out 10 minutes later, they gave the term "cookie sheet" a whole new literal meaning. We had a sheet of chocolate chip cookie. It was rather hard to get off the pan and came out in big, flat chunks. Luckily, it tastes good, but is very aesthetically unpleasing.

We decided to bail on traditional cookies that that point since it was clear that they would not hold their shape. We dumped the remaining batter into well-greased a baking pan and created a cookie-brownie-cake sort of thing. Hopefully it will taste good. Better luck next time.

Update: it is yummy, like a very delicately textured brownie with excellent cookie flavor. And you can never go wrong with chocolate.