Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It all seems to be about blood this week.

So instead of telling yet another blood story, I'll tell a fun food story.

It's fairly obvious that, even if you live in a big town, there are a limited number of places that will deliver food after about ten pip emma. (Unless you're in, like, New York or Sydney or Tokyo or Montreal, which are laws unto themselves.) It's also obvious to anybody who's seen the neighborhood that there are an even smaller number of places that will deliver to Sunnydale after dark. Seriously: You Do Not Want To Walk Across The Street To McDonald's Once The Sun's Gone Down.

So, when a coworker and I got the munchies the other night, we were temporarily at a loss. He said, after some discussion of what we might want to have brought in, "Just let me handle this, okay? You like Thai food, right?"

Saying I like Thai is like saying the ocean is moist. I don't know what half of it is, I can't pronounce the other half, but I like it and I like it hot enough to bring tears to my eyes and make my nose run. So Coworker got on the phone and, after a short discussion in Thai with somebody on the other end, hung up with a satisfied look on his face.

Turns out he lived in Thailand as a kid. Turns out he has a buddy that runs a little takeout joint that nobody's ever heard of. It also turned out, once the food arrived, that nothing he'd ordered would ever be found on the menu of your average Thai takeout place.

There was roti (which is a weird kind of stretchy, speckled, unleavened, absolutely addictive pancakey bread) with curry sauce. There were broad, flat noodles with green curry and little shreds of meat and enough spice to make me cough. There was a...I don't know, a *something* with rice and coconut, in a sauce I'd never tasted before with basil leaves in it, that combined subtle perfume with homicidal heat. And for sweets, there was rice with coconut and...something, and canteloupe with basil and coconut and...something else.

Apparently this was Mom's home cookin', Thai-buddy style. With a little Malaysian influence and maybe something else thrown in.

I ate all of it. I have no clue what most of it was. I even hoarded some of the leftover rice in order to pour leftover sauce on it for a snack at three o'clock. It was some of the best food I have ever had, delivered in boxes by a very small, rather worried-looking man who spoke not. one. word. of English save "Thank you!"

It's a damned shame for my tastebuds that I don't work with that particular nurse more often, but it's a very good thing for my waistline.

Monday, March 29, 2010

This is what you don't want to think to yourself upon entering a room:

"Hm. Where's all that blood coming from?"

You especially don't want that to be your first thought when your patient is intubated and ventilated and Dipped and generally not terribly responsive.

Moreover, you don't want that to be your first thought, because your second thought will invariably be, "Gosh. I wonder if that blood is still coming, or if it's stopped."

Especially when the last time you saw the patient was about three minutes ago.

And the last thing you want to do in that situation--but the first thing you ought to do--is pull back the sheet. There's a moment, when you realize that yes, that is blood on the floor and around the foot of the bed, that your hand reaches out automatically to twitch the sheet off of the patient. There's a nearly-simultaneous moment during which you hesitate and your brain prepares itself for whatever the hell is under there. The drip-drip-drip of blood on the floor is not a sound any nurse ever wants to hear.

What was under there was just a picnic. The patient had had an angiography at a hospital in Nowheresville and had developed, as the patients from that hospital tend to do, an abscess at the angiography site. I don't know if they lick their catheters clean between cases, or what.

Anyway, I twitched back the sheet. I saw a pulsing mass of mixed blood and pus, a result of the abscess eating through the wall of the artery. And I, with gloves already on, dropped the washcloths I'd gone to get onto that mass and pressed the knuckles of my right fist hard into the now-squirting angio site. And yelled bloody murder.

Two of my nursing buddies came in hard on the heels of that yell, assessed the situation in a glance, and ran back out. One got a whole wad of towels and washcloths; the other called an overhead emergency page for surgery and then gave the OR folks the heads-up. A doctor and an intern followed and spelled me on the pressure-giving. An RT came in like the hounds of hell were on her heels and, without asking questions or making any statements, began to ready the patient for transfer to the OR.

From the time I walked in to the room to the time I ran out of the room, alongside the OR gurney, keeping my fist pressed hard into that groin, was less than three minutes. I'm not real clear on how we got the patient from the bed to the gurney; all I remember distinctly is that two pairs of hands came down atop my fist as we did a sheet transfer, keeping the bleeding under control.

I work with the best people on the planet. Maybe six words were exchanged during this whole drama, terse instructions on moving the patient and a count of "One...two...three" as the transfer happened.

And yes, it is just like it looks on TV. Jogging down the hallway of the basement, the fluorescent lights making stripes of brightness in the dark, one person bagging the patient as others push the stretcher, and me, fist sunk up to the wrist in somebody's bleeding body.

I remember it as a series of snapshots that got dropped into the film of my otherwise-routine night: the resident's face as he realized what had happened. The attending's expression as she scrubbed in for an emergent bypass. The intensely concentrated look of the respiratory therapist as she loped at the head of the stretcher, watching the monitor for oxygen saturation. The sight of my glove, now loose and filled with blood, as I pulled it off over a sink.

The OR manager looked at me funny when I asked him for a key to the scrubs cabinet. "Why do you need scrubs?" he asked. I looked down and realized that, aside from a few spots on my shoes, I had not gotten a drop of blood on my uniform. I do not know how.

The sight of clean ciel blue scrub pants over slightly bloodied Nikes was more unreality than I could handle. I sat down, hard, and breathed deeply for a few seconds before I went back up to the floor.

The patient will be fine. The bypass went well, transfusions over the next couple of days will take care of the blood loss, and the abscess--which had gone deeper than anybody had suspected--is now drained.

So am I.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I think this really and truly might be my neighbor's dog.

Because this picture looks suspiciously like the ones we were taking of his pooch, after Max wrestled him all over the yard in the snow, and there was only one snowdrift left untouched.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Advice needed: current and former nursing students, this one's for you!

A particularly intelligent Faithful Minion and I have been shooting emails back and forth for a week or so. She's having a problem staying motivated through her first semester of nursing school, and I've hit a wall in the advice-giving department. I'm turning it over to you guys.

The problem, as far as we've worked it out, is threefold:

1. Nursing school, and its methods of evaluating knowledge, bears no resemblance to anything else on the planet. Even if you've done well in school before, you're unlikely to do well on the first one or three or six quizzes or tests you take, simply because the testing format is so strange. By "strange" I mean "all the questions come in an NCLEX format and that's freaky as hell."

Query one for Faithful Minions: How do you work out the correct answer when faced with NCLEX-style questions? How is this process different than it was in, say, English class or Biology 101?

2. Screwing up tests and quizzes makes one fearful and anxious of doing it again. This leads to test anxiety, which is a true black, shaggy bitch on your shoulder.

Query two for Faithful Minions: How do you get rid of test anxiety?

3. Screwing up tests and quizzes makes one feel idiotic and unmotivated. Never mind that nursing school is like unto nothing else on the planet except maybe a bad Surrealist novel; it's still happening.

Query three for Faithful Minions: How do you get your mojo back and stay motivated in the face of fuckups?

I have to confess: as my memories of nursing school get foggier, my ability to say anything sensible on this subject dwindles. I'm putting it out there for you guys with the certainty that somebody else will be able to deliver in the brilliance department.

Git to it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I just had a realization.

I am a crazy old lady, forty years early.

Definitions: "Old" means, to me, at least eighty. Although, given the long-livedness of my family, I should probably push that to eight-five or ninety.

"Crazy" means a cackling, cigarette-holder-waving, martini-drinking, be-lipsticked woman with heavy black-rimmed Harry Potter glasses with one of those beaded chains on them. Also many cats, also insane decor. Also big bell-sleeved pieces of clothing that might or might not have been Victorian men's smoking jackets at some point in the past.

"Lady" means being able to cackle, wave your Sobranies around in your ivory holder, drink your pink gin at four pip emma on the dot, and still have people coming over to eat your potroast and sit on your insanely decorated couch.

Aside from the smoking jackets and ivory cigarette holder (and the martinis; I've never liked martinis [Sorry, Granddad and Granny!]) I'm there. Proof?

Following Sal's lead, I've been looking into color in my wardrobe. Also something more than jeans and V-necked T-shirts and cardigans. Gudrun Sjoden is my new obsession.

Also obsessive? Glass beads. In different brilliant colors.

And displaying my Fiestaware and various other midmod ceramics. On shelves. Above the doors of the kitchen and dining room. Where the cats can't get to them. HA!

Also biscuit tins and salt boxes that date to the turn of the century.

Also really good power tools. I'm thinking I may need to upgrade my two B-level drills for one A-level. But holey kamole are they expensive!

Also another tool belt. Currently, I have a black-and-pink, studded, Hello Kitty belt with the typical hammer loop/nail pouches/level hook on it. The belt has strangely become too large over the last several months, so I'm looking for another. Preferably one that Lady Gaga would wear while putting up picture frames with nothing in them.

And this. I do not know why.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

That was just plain weird.

"Get me eight ounces of whole milk. Not skim, not two-percent, but whole milk" the doctor said.

"Okay" I replied, thinking he was running low on calcium.

He gave the milk to the patient to drink, then told me to time out exactly ten minutes. So I did.

Then he went in, interrogated the patient as to whether he'd drunk the milk, interrogated me as to whether it had been exactly ten minutes, and pulled the patient's chest tube.

I have never heard of this before. Whole milk prior to pulling a chest tube? Huh? Does anybody have any clue?

*** *** *** *** ***

The flight RN was, as most flight RNs are, long and lean and rather weathered.

"You'll like this one" she told me, with a grin. "She's ninety years old and sharp as a tack. No health problems, no history, no meds at all. Had four kids at home and has never been in the hospital."

"Wow" I said. "That's pretty amazing. Did you guys have any trouble on the flight up?"

"Nope," she said, "Once we let her into the cockpit so she could see how a plane actually flies, everything was very quiet."

*** *** *** *** ***

The animal therapy folks came by last night. Normally we don't let Rottweilers in to the ICU, but everybody who's immunocompromised has gone somewhere else, and we have a couple of patients who really need therapy starting NOW.

Rosie the Rottweiler is enormous, calm, kind of drooly, and a leaner. She leeeeaaaans into you in order to get her ears scratched. This is normally not a problem for me, except Rosie weighs more than I used to (somewhere north of 180 lbs) and is persistent.

It's very difficult to give a five a.m. report to a doctor--especially an attending who has a history of being hard to work with--when a nearly-two-hundred-pound dog is leeeeaaaaning on your legs and asking, through subterranean mutterings, to be scratched.

Yes, I work in a children's book.

*** *** *** *** ***

Out of the blue came the request: would I be willing to rework Fashion And Beauty Tips For Nurses for wider publication? Never one to turn down a chance at self-aggrandizement, I immediately said yes.

The article should be published shortly in ScrubsMag. They have a website,, which is quite informative and rather a lot of fun. It's like Vogue for nurses.

*** *** *** *** ***

Max recently saw the "F*CK YOU; I'M AN ANTEATER" Interweb meme and has decided to try to imitate it. I keep reminding him that he's not an anteater, but he won't listen.

*** *** *** *** ***

A not-natural-night-person I work with gave me some excellent tips on working nights that I'd like to pass on, as they've helped me regain what little sanity I had.

1. If you have more than two days off, flip the middle days so you're awake when it's light.

2. Spend as much time as possible outside during those days.

3. The day before you go back, take a long nap in the afternoon. Then go to bed early, but set your alarm for midnight or one a.m. Stay up until your regular time, then sleep.

4. Work all your nights in a row if you can possibly manage it. Yes, the third or fourth night sucks, but then you have three or four days off.

5. Do not attempt to flip for a single day, or even two days. That trick (and I quote) never works.

*** *** *** *** ***

There is a Scottish Festival coming up in June in Arlington, which is quite a drive from here, but which may be worth it. There's something about piping. And men in skirts.

Seriously: How badass is this? The British took pipes and drums with them into the Falklands.

And Ghurkas. Pipes and drums and Ghurka regiments are, if you know your military history (thanks, Dad!), the most terrifying combination ever.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Slap My Bitch Up

This is what happens when you give a bored, bored woman access to free eyeshadow and eyeliner.

It doesn't show in the picture, sadly, but the shadow is black with turquoise sparkles. It's also considerably more whorey than in this snap.

I am having fun.

This is my life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In which Jo reserves the right to be condescending as hell.

There is some....person I've never met on my Facebook feed.

(Yes, I'm on Facebook. At least it's not MySpace, okay?)

He argued today, in response to an article posted that talked about healthcare reform protesters shouting what's called "The N Word" at members of Congress, that calling somebody a mouth-breather and calling somebody a N-asterisk were exactly equivalent.

Even if the person doing the shouting in the second case, the perp if I can call him that, was a white male.

And he defended that position. Twice.

(No, no, don't do that! You'll get a nasty, nasty bruise on your forehead if you bang it on the desk that way. Stop.)

Here's what I wrote in reponse:

Robert, I just got up from a nap and am feeling fairly rested, so I'll try to 'splain this to you:

The word "Nigger" has historical connotations not unlike those carried by the word "Juden". It harks back to a time of the enslavement of a group of people, and the later marginalization and murder of members of that group by the dominant members of society, white men. For a white person to call a black person a "Nigger" is to knowingly invoke that context, thus adding a level of threat to the insult.

One white person calling another a mouth-breather is, while fairly silly, not at all comparable. For one thing, there is an equal historical power balance assumed in the relationship. For another, there has never been a wholesale enslavement, degredation, or slaughter of mouth-breathers by other members of society.

I would invite you to test my statements by calling members of whatever ethnicity you like mouth-breathers, then trying the experiment with the other word.

Post-racial society my *ass*. It may be just me, but it seems like the bigots and their defenders are coming out of the woodwork, especially with the healthcare debate going on. (See Penny's comment on "The Morning After The Nights Before", below, for an example.) Something has made these folks feel safe, and I'm not sure what it is.

Whatever it is, the same people weren't yelling about government-subsidized highway construction or the heavy government subsidies of gasoline, or even the billions of dollars spent on the war in Iraq--when a white guy was in office. In fact, when I heard a story on lifting government subsidies on gasoline a couple of summers ago on NPR, I heard exactly the same sort of panicked rhetoric from the same sorts of people, about how it would DESTROY THE UNIVERSE OMG WE'RE ALL GONNA DIIIIIIEEEEE!


I guess there'll always be ignorant people in the world, like those folks on Medicare interviewed on NPR who didn't want the government involved in their healthcare, by gum. I guess there'll always be people who are bigoted and mean-spirited. I just wonder what force of nature lifted their rocks so they could crawl out, blinking, into the sunlight.

Shit. Sorry, guys.

For anybody who was worried by a title that read, "Hi. My name is Jo, and I need somebody to talk me down", I apologize. That was actually about redoing my kitchen now that I've gotten sick of the brightly-colored dots, but I hit "enter" too fast and posted only the title without meaning to.

It's down now. And my kitchen, despite the dots, is untouched. If I do decide to repaper the walls and change out the backsplash and repaint the cabinets and keep the hardware and put in a vent a hood and refinish the floor and paint a floorcloth and replace the door that's missing....


....well, I'll let you know.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Middle of the night music.

I seem to have a thing for bass and baritone voices these days.

I also seem to have a thing for the Magnetic Fields.

The morning after the nights before.

Holy crapping monkeys, as my coworker Kathy would say, it's been a week. Working four nights in a row leaves you in much better shape than, say, working two nights, being off for a day, and then working two more....but HCM, what a mess I was this morning.

I'm finding that I really like becoming a generalist. Though Sunnydale is primarily a neuroscience facility, we also see what are called "complex" patients. Those are folks with massive, complex medical histories that wouldn't normally be able to get the sort of surgical or medical care that we provide in the itty-bitty towns where they live. As a result, this week I've taken care of a patient with a neobladder (so freaking cool--hey! Let's make a new bladder out of this piece of intestine! How about it?), one poor dude with some whacked-out chest surgery, a woman with an incredibly complex breast reconstruction that involves moving some bits here and other bits there, and a couple of people with your average, every day, run-of the mill stuff like aneurysms and infiltrating sinusitus, who also have X, Y, Z, and Z to the X wrong with 'em.

My eyes still glaze over when I see an EKG rhythm other than normal sinus, but I *really* dig seeing fresh post-op patients and their various problems.

Sometimes those problems require more of a light touch than at other times.

I was settling in a fresh post-op last night whose angiogram had run later than we'd expected. They'd managed to coil the dude's aneurysm, but one of the coils had gotten loose and had had to be retrieved, which took a little longer than usual. He was fine--grumpy about having to lie down flat for six hours, but otherwise okay--so I was able to take some time between hourly neuro exams and chat with him.

He started talking politics. Now, regular readers of this blog know that I don't talk politics or religion with my patients. If they ask, I'm a Democrat, a conservative Republican, a Christian, or a Blorgian yak herder--whatever gets me out of the room and doesn't raise either of our blood pressures. So this time, as in the past, I kept my eyes down, my hands busy, and my mouth shut while Aneurysm Dood bloviated.

Health care, as it turns out, is not a human right. Nope, no sirree. Health care of any sort is one of those things that the deserving work for, by God, and no socializt preznit is going to tell *him* any different. Why, if you need something, you should just go to the emergency room, right? (I didn't say a word. I swear.) Nobody should get what they haven't earned; if they take something for free, like health care, they're nothing but a drain on the system.

(Parenthetical note: why did this guy assume that I would agree with him that health care isn't something that everybody ought to get? I mean, did he not realize that I see the effects of untreated hypertension and diabetes every day? I know, I know; rhetorical question.)

In fact, that's what *he* did. He had a terrible headache, and some vision changes, and drove himself to the hospital--no socializt ambulance for him!--where it was discovered that he had an aneurysm that was just about to go nucular, if you'll excuse the term.

Whereupon he was airlifted, on a two-hour whirlybird flight, to our fine facility. We called in the neuroradiology fellow, a couple of CNAs, the radiology techs, a nurse or three, and promptly coiled his aneurysm. We then moved him to the CCU, where I was busy dealing with his incredibly labile blood pressure.

Where, glory be to the Great Watchmaker and technology, he was well enough to bitch about socialized medicine and the takeover of our good, clean American society by left-wing radicals interested in running our lives to the nth degree. He'll spend the morning in the CCU tomorrow, then be ambulanced home to Teensyville, where he'll return to normal life, except for a checkup in six months.

I was glad we were able to help him out, even if his particular views were odious to me personally. I was even more glad when I saw his face sheet, with the code next to the financial number that means his care was paid for by the hospital as a charity case. Everything, from the airlift to his breakfast in the morning, will be financed by Sunnydale; it's part of our commitment to provide free care to one in five patients.

Those damn socializts. By which I mean us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I could be bounded in a nutshell, part three.

I'm on call tonight. Even if I don't go in, it's still better than splitting shifts, because I managed to sleep most of the day.

With very bizarre dreams.

Something about working nights gives rise to what The Erstwhile Husband and I used to call "defrag dreams"--the sort of nonsensical, emotionally-laden-yet-distant-feeling, bizarre dreams that are your brain trying to sort things out and toss the trash. My general rule is that if it makes enough sense for me to not categorize it as bizarre, it's a dream that I need to pay attention to. If it's one that makes me say, "How fucking weird" four times in fifteen minutes, it's a defrag dream.

I was a cop, I was a nurse, I was standing outside the house I lived in when we got married, holding a gun on a guy who was trying to shoot down a police helicopter with what looked like a water pistol. I was a cop, I was a nurse, I was running back and forth silencing pumps and giving meds in my cop uniform, knowing that I had to change clothes soon before the manager arrived and balked at the handcuffs at my belt, and wondering if there was an empty room where I could do so.

I woke up and fell back to sleep with cats purring on my belly. There was a patient dying, and we were unable to do anything about it. The crash cart wouldn't come open, the pump wouldn't work, the pressure bags wouldn't hold pressure. The patient was dying, and the doctors were sorting out something in another room, and there was a lot, a lot of noise.

I woke up and fell back to sleep. This time I was getting married again, with my late ex-mother-in-law running the show (a nightmare for sure). Back to the old house, looking through alternatives to the hideous wedding dress she'd picked out for me, finally deciding on something Mom pulled out of a box that looked like a feltboard covered with child-drawn flowers. Holes in the roof, squirrels running everywhere, and in the middle of it, the summons to come to work. All my colleagues were at the wedding, and nobody was there to work, so I got asked to come in. I didn't go. For some reason, the wedding program had a picture of a baby wearing heavy, black-wire-rimmed round glasses and a top hat. I was walking down the street as guests passed in large farm carts, picking up the spent shell casings from the first dream.

When I finally woke up from that one, I decided to frost and decorate the cake for tonight's baby shower and damn the torpedos. Now that that's done, I think I'll feed Max and unload the dishwasher and then look for something else grounded in reality to do.

Working nights feels unreal. Even driving to work--it's an opposite commute--knowing that I'll be up when All These Other People are asleep feels unreal. Once I get there, the feeling of unreality subsides, but doesn't disappear completely. After a few days of steady night shifts, I find myself living in a world almost as weird as a defrag dream.

There are two spent shell casings in my desk drawer. Maybe I'll make them into earrings.

Tuneful Tuesday

You can't go 'round just sayin' stuff because it's pretty
And I no longer drink enough to think you're witty.

By request: Fashion And Beauty Tips For The Boy Nurse

(See the comments on the previous F&BT post. A nice anonymous boy asked for tips, so here they are!)

I'll reiterate here about cleanliness, short fingernails, and clean shoes and scrubs. Those are important no matter what sex you are, or whether you're a student nurse or a full-fledged, ass-runnin' nursey type.

However, there are a few boy-specific tips I can share:

Tip The First: Beards: either don't have one or keep it neat.

I love a good beard. Really and truly, I do. However, something that's chest-length or scraggly or otherwise unkempt should either be shaved off or neatened up. Same goes for pornstaches of any description: if you can floss your teeth with it, it's too long.

And don't ever go with long sideburns or muttonchops. Please.

Tip The Second: Shaving: early and often.

Please, guys, shave before clinicals and/or coming to work. There are about a jillion ways to remove hair from your face and neck; if one doesn't work, another certainly will. Razor bumps can be kept at bay with a quick daily swipe of a Stridex pad. Trust me: I have more acreage to shave on a biweekly basis than you do, and Stridex works.

Tip The Third: Leave the bling at home.

Nobody wants to see masses of jewelry on women, and nobody wants to see it on men, either. A class ring plus a wedding band is all I really want to look at on your paws. The large crosses or eagles or whatever you're stringing around your neck should either be tucked under a shirt or taken off.

Tip The Fourth: Underwear. It matters.

Especially for those of you wearing whites as students (and thank God the schools I work with are getting away from them), undies matter. Print boxer shorts, blue briefs, or weirdly things will show. White underwear under your whites, please (do they sell men's underwear in nude/buff colors? I don't know), boxers or briefs or whatever. Don't make the mistake The Late Lamented Friend John made of wearing Valentine's boxers under whites.

Tip The Fifth: And this one is unisex, about piercings and tattoos...

Piercings and tattoos bother me not a bit. I should not, however, be able to see either easily while you're a student (restrictions relax a little at my facility once you're hired). Piercing shops sell nearly-invisible keepers for holes pretty much anywhere in your face. Tongue piercings are usually not an issue unless you're one of those annoying people that clacks it against your teeth constantly. Just make the effort. That's all I ask. (Note that if you wear a piercing or tattoo as a religious or cultural matter, you should not be required to take it off and I will back you up to the hilt on the matter.)

Tats are a little trickier to deal with. Covering them up is your only option. One of my dearest ex-coworkers, now in nursing school, has to wear UnderArmor under his whites on a daily basis, because he has two full sleeves. This will not affect his job prospects, I don't think, because Dr. Skippy has two full, gorgeously colored sleeves himself, and he's a damn surgeon.

(Oh, yeah: if you have noticeable nipple piercings, please put, I don't know, maybe a band-aid over them. Or wear an undershirt. That stuff can be really, really distracting.)

Tip The I've Lost Count: Hair other than that on your face.

If you have a luxurious growth of chest hair, bravo for you. Please wear a crew-necked T-shirt under your scrubs. I work with a surgeon who, despite being a mild-mannered type, is furred to an extent that I didn't think was possible, and I know more about his chest hair than I really want to. Ew. Don't make that mistake.

Likewise, if you have long hair--and this is particularly important for guys, as long hair is still seen in some parts of the world as a little daring--it *has got to be neat*. Ponytails or a single tight braid are more than acceptable. Again, if this is a religious or cultural requirement for you, there should be no question but that you're allowed to do your thing. If it's not, though, make the effort to keep that stuff under control. Shaun White's a damn cutie, but I wouldn't want him changing a sterile dressing on me.

Tip The Final, on Special Considerations (also unisex):

I've worked with Muslim women and Sikh men both as students and as coworkers. I've worked with Indian women who wear a bindi or a red mark near their hairline, Christians who veil or wear only skirts (the women, not the men), conservative Jewish men who have full beards, and even a couple of First Nations men who'd never cut their hair in their lives.

Whether you're wearing a nose ring, a bindi, a headscarf, or a turban, to do so is your right. If anybody gives you crap about it, you might have to go up the chain of command until the situation is resolved, but DO IT. Religious symbols worn on the body are a right, especially if they're an integral part of your beliefs, and you can work out a way to maintain that symbol without it being a distraction. Do not let anybody tell you different.

And, if you're working with me and somebody gives you shit about your cap, your bracelet, your unusual underwear, or your nose piercing, I reserve the right to beat them half to death with a used Foley catheter. Just come see me during normal business hours.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What makes me happy, Monday night edition

The spots on my kitchen wall.

Clean sheets and blankets on a very-nearly-all-white bed.

My toothbrush holder.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It has been a good day.

I was waved off last night for four hours, so I took a nap and ate a burrito.

Then they failed, utterly and completely, to call me in for the remaining eight hours of the shift.

For those of you who haven't been following along perhaps as closely as you should've, that means I got to sleep in the dark at wake up at 0730 (adjusted time).

Last night I went to bed after a charming email and a bottle of pale ale. This morning I woke to cats who, against their wills, had not destroyed the house, a dog who was so happy to have his belly rubbed that he invented new grumble-sounds, and a package from Friend Pens the Lotion Slut on the front porch.

By nine this morning I had gone grocery shopping, cleaned the fridge, and run the dishwasher. This afternoon I spent mowing the back yard and getting about six million new freckles (hooray! It's freckle season!). Tomorrow I'll do the front yard and dig the dead stuff out of the front beds, then make a chocolate cake with Italian cream icing. Overnight, I'll do laundry.

And then the night-shifting starts again. It's been a blessing, though, to have a couple of days to be a real person.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fear Not. The hipster boys are actually quite polite.

You may have heard about the music festival that's starting up here in Texas, down in Bigtown. Well, we here in Littleton have our own, complimentary music festival that runs in concert with The Big One.

As such, Those Darn Kids across the street have a number of big names staying on their floor tonight. None of these people are members of bands I've ever heard of, but I'm assured that they are, indeed, Big Names in the indie-rock, alt-country, mod-punk circuit. Those Darn Kids, who throw an annual party that is almost completely silent despite featuring two live bands and 400 invited guests, are big on those circuits, too.

Which means I get odd knocks on the door now and then.

Tonight it was one of Those Darn Kids with a Big Name in the alt-whatever world. I shuffled to the door in my bathrobe and opened it (the door, not the bathrobe) to find the cute guy from across the street* with a sheepish-looking alt-rocker next to him. The alt-rocker was holding his arm at a funny angle. Turns out he'd sprained his wrist loading Fenders into the band van, and needed ibuprofen, an ice pack, and a more professional wrapping job than the hippies in the crew had been able to provide.

So I dug out an appropriate ACE, fed him ibuprofen, fixed him up a pack of frozen edamame, and told him to rest his wrist for a couple of days, if he could. Turns out they're off for a day or so, then play a big gig at Fred's Friendly Beer Warehouse down in Bigton. He should be able to wield his drumsticks or strum his bass or whatever it is he does (cowbell?) by then.

Sometimes being a nurse is an enormous pain in the ass. Sometimes it makes me giggle once I'm alone and have shut and locked the front door. Those Darn Kids are very helpful, demolishing outbuildings and hauling rock for me, but never before have I been treated with courtly deference by two dreadlocked young bucks while wearing nothing but a cat-snagged bathrobe and Birkenstocks.

*For reals? From a distance of twenty years, since he is exactly one-half my age, I can look at this kid and wonder how he walks down the street unmolested. Golden-brown tan even in the dead of winter, blond dreadlocks, ice-blue eyes. They didn't make 'em like that when *I* was twenty, or if they did, I was too buried in books to notice. We share a birthday, and I refrained from mentioning this year that he was born at the same time I was finishing my senior thesis is sociology. Gracious, it's odd getting old.

Bad Omen or Fertility Symbol? You decide.

Since I've started working in the CCU, six--no, seven--of my coworkers are seeing their marriages break up.

And six of my female coworkers are pregnant.

Don't drink after me.

Fashion and Beauty Tips for the New Nurse

I'm constantly asked by Faithful Minions, "Jo, how in hell do you do such a demanding job while remaining a paragon of beauty and style? The rest of us grovel in the dust at your feet, wearing worn-out, ill-fitting Landau scrubs, or stand in a huddled group in the parking garage, waiting for the vision of loveliness and grace that is you to bless us with a look."

It's not easy. Gliding in a lightly-scented cloud of gorgeousness takes *work*. But, because I am just that good, I'm going to share some of my secrets with you, my FMs of the female persuasion (or the male FMs with long hair and a yen for MAC cosmetics).

Fashion and Beauty Tip The First: Get scrubs that fit. Nothing is worse, when you're trying to resuscitate a patient, than having your pants rip (or worse, fall down, happened to a friend of mine, true story, and we still give him hell about it). VPLs are never good and are a sign you should go up a size. If you're new to the scrubs-buying game, go to your local scrub outfitter and try on about six different brands until you find the one that works for you. After that, buy in bulk.

Fashion and Beauty Tip The Second: Keep your hair out of the way. Second only to ripped pants is the sudden sinking feeling when you realize that you've dipped your luxurious locks in a puddle of piddle or poo. My hair is mid-back-length and I wear it (variously) in a bun, a braid, or a loose pony tail that I can be sure won't flop over my shoulder.

Fashion and Beauty Tip The Third: Good shoes, good shoes, good shoes. Cute is an option if you're lucky; if you're not, pop those paws into something supportive and well-fitting. Avoid marketed-to-nurses cheap-ass shoes and go for the Birkenstocks, the MBTs, the Danskos. You're on your feet for twelve hours, and you only get one pair of feet.

Corollary to The Third Tip: Take care of your feet. Pare down callouses with reasonable frequency, keep those nails short, and use plenty of lotion after your shower. Corns and bunions should be dealt with by a reputable professional, not by you with a razor blade.

Fashion and Beauty Tip The Fourth: Take care of your hands. Dry skin and cracked cuticles aren't just crappy-looking; they're avenues for nasty skin infections. You could spot a WWI nurse back in the day because of the scarred, twisted nature of her hands; they got infections in their hands from a combination of cracked skin and nasty bugs. Don't let this happen to you.

Corollary to The Fourth Tip: The posessor of the most beautiful hands I've ever seen is also one of the least self-conscious people I know. If *he* can do it, so can you. No excuses.

Fashion and Beauty Tip The Fifth: If you wear makeup, please do so with skill and aplomb. And not too much. Once upon a time, I worked with a woman who wore crazy hair, tons of paint, and bright-red claws to work. (She did GYN exams, for Frog's sake.) Do not be like her. If you look like Siouxie Sioux, even the brain-damaged folks on the unit won't want you near them. I wear concealer, mascara, light-brown eyeshadow, and draw my eyebrows in before I go off to Sunnydale, and that's plenty.

This tip goes for perfume as well. Normally I am not a fan of perfume on nurses, though I'll make the occasional exception for something that smells clean or citrusy. Let's be sure, though, that somebody else can only smell it on you when they're on top of you (so to speak) and that you're not asphyxiating the people a block away.

Fashion and Beauty Tip The Final, And I Can't Believe I'm Having To Say This:


You should be clean. Your scrubs should be clean. Your fucking shoes should not have fucking grass stains on them or dog shit on the soles or be all beat-up and raggy looking (I'm looking at you, Vinnie). Your hair, for God's sake, should not be greasy. You should not roll into work at six ack emma wearing the remains of last night's makeup. Lab coats (if you wear one) should be relatively white and free of stains, cigarette burns, and the remains of a burger from two weeks ago (I'm looking at you, Doctor Skippy).

If you're one of the unfortunate few who still has to wear whites, invest in a good color-safe bleach, some Borax washing soda, and a good hot-water detergent. Use those regularly. Chlorine bleach will yellow your whites and make the fabric weaker. See ripped pants, above.

And unless you poop rainbows and fart cotton candy, you should be wearing antiperspirant. Don't give me that crap about how sweating is natural and beautiful. Yes, sweating is natural and beautiful, but not at work. There's never an excuse for looming over a patient with pitted-out, stinking, stained scrubs. If you sweat *that much*--and I do--wear a T-shirt under your scrub top and seek out clinical-strength antiperspirants. It took me years to find a roll on (Mitchum unscented, by the way) that would keep me from knocking my patients over with my funk. Yeah, my armpits are probably going to peel off in the next ten years, but it's worth it not to have to put non-rebreather masks on everyone I come into contact with.

Oh, and brush. your. fucking. teeth.

Thank you, and good night. Enjoy being just as bright and shiny a special snowflake diamond as I am, and be sure you carry a little vial of smelling salts for those who are knocked out by your physical attractiveness.

Saturday morning music.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Brother has the sunny spot, so I shall cover my face with my hind foot.

Click to encuten.

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For.

What I've Learned From Six Years Of Blogging About Work, Clothes, Makeup, Boys, Family, Cats, Dogs, and What I Ate For Lunch (the Thousandth Post):

Every time you post about something horrible, the intrinsic goodness of people comes out.

Trolls, in addition to being lacking in the reading-skills department, are as flinty and irascible as the bridges under which they live.

A post about mascara will get more responses than a post about tragedy.

A post about cats will get more responses than a post about mascara.

A post about phlegm will get the most responses of all.

Neko Case is perfect blogging music.

Sometimes my recipes really do come out right for other people.

People new to this blog tend to read back to 2004, the first year, and draw my attention back to things I'd forgotten. This makes me happy.

Getting angry is fine; *staying* angry is what'll kill you.

Dogs are always good subject matter when you can't think of anything else.

Burnout is okay. It passes.

Contrariwise, sometimes you have to post six times in a day, just because you think of crazy shit that happened at work.

The worst things that happen to you personally (like divorce, breakups, a malicious boss) are the catalysts for the best things to happen to you. No, really.

Some things you can't recover from.

There are things worse than death. GVHD is one of them.

Brain tumors make people say weird, weird shit.

Parents (specifically mine) may not understand why the hell you chose to do this with your life, but they're proud and amazed and sometimes favorably impressed by it.

I'm a better writer sometimes than I thought.

Other times, I look back at what I wrote and cringe.

Life is more like Through The Looking-Glass than anybody will admit. Sometimes you really do have to run as hard as you can to stay in the same place. Luckily, believing six impossible things before breakfast is a talent of mine.

I've made a number of mistakes in my life. Most of them I've written about here. All of them have to do with saying "No" or "Goodbye".

The people you notice the least (housekeeping, pharmacy, nurses' aides, the guy taking tolls at the airport) are the most important people to get to know. They are the people who can make things happen, and without whom the world would stop turning.

There is no excuse for disrespect. Unless they disrespect you first.

Sharpening your tongue is as important as brushing your teeth.

Blogging is all about letting things go without editing. Dooce would probably disagree with me, but that's okay: that's why she has zillion-dollar contracts and I don't.

Blogging is all about stealing ideas from other people.

The Internet is for porn.

My best friends are people I haven't met. Yet.

*** *** *** *** ***

If it weren't for the readers of this blog, I would not be typing this at 0403 on a Friday.

Six years ago, this blog started as a response to a statement Beloved Sister made: "You're really smart. You should write this stuff down." In the six years I've been typing, the responses I've gotten about posts, about style, about content, have made continuing to type a rewarding and challenging thing.

When I'm wrong, there are plenty of people who are quick to correct me. I hope I've been as quick with the mea culpas. When I'm sad or stressed, there are always personal emails waiting in the Jo-Box (no snickers from the Peanut Gallery, please) that give me courage. When I'm right, or when I post about something that I've never seen before, there are people who've done or seen the same things, and make me feel less alone.

What I'm tryin' to say, here, in my sleep deprived state, is that readers and commenters are the reason I blog. It's no longer some huge ego-driven thing; it's more about hearing what other people have to say about experiences that might or might not be common.

Six years on the InterWebs has gotten me friends, boxes of foods I can't get in Darkest Texas, one lover, two cats, and a hell of an email inbox. I've been very fortunate in ending up with some of the smartest, ballsiest, most compassionate commenters I've seen.

Thank you. Thank you.

Onward, then, to the second thousand posts.

In which Jo whores out other bloggers.

Dr. Grumpy remains a perennial favorite at Casa Del Gatos Locos. Somehow, he manages to post multiple times a day and yet see a full roster of patients.

I wonder if he's actually my shrink in disguise.

Whoopee, written by one Antonia Cornwell, is the blog Beloved Sister would write if she were English and just over being pregnant with the world's largest baby, and with a man in possession of a truly impressive moustache. Which, since she is none of those things, this blog will have to do for, for now.

Rob over at Abilene Rob (a permalink) has a lovely post up about what happens when you try to show somebody you love them while letting your own ego get in the way. I gave TGILed a valentine of sorts, in the form of something that only he would get the significance of, about two months before I ran off. A lot of it had to do with my own ego, as in, "Look! I have the wherewithal to get this thing made!" I wonder what happened to it. I hope it's in a drawer somewhere; I would hate to think of it being an object that would remind TGILed of regrettable stuff.

Asystole Is Stable is the blog of a nurse-turned-medical-student in Ireland (how much must that suck, now really) that I enjoy.

And, of course, for all your leftwing-liberal needs, there's always Drugmonkey over at Your Pharmacist May Hate You. The Drugmonkey abides.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Slightly more serious: the talk with the boss.

God, I love a good hard workout after a frustrating day. I lifted today, and I mean *lifted*. Roman chairs with 20-pound weight plates. Triceps. Biceps. Quads. Pecs. The works. Heavy weights, done to point of exhaustion, will do more for a bad mood than cabana boys and beer.

If ever I get sent back to the Neolithic, I'll let all you long-limbed, gracile folks chase down the antelopes and spear them. If a grizzly bear shows up, I shall wrestle him to the ground using only my lower back, then strangle him with my inner thighs.

Anyway. The Talk With The Boss happened, and here's how it went:

1. There is no guarantee that I can get a day shift any time soon, regardless of what was promised me when I was hired. Therefore, I basically gave my month's notice, saying "If you can't get me on to days, I'll work PRN days here and in postop and all over, but I won't be a dedicated CCU nurse."

2. I made it clear to Boss that I am not safe when it comes to working nights, and also that my mental and physical health are suffering.

3. I did not bring up the scary racist guys on nights. Here's why:

Everybody knew that I had a meeting with Bossman. If I had discussed with him the Scary Triad of Men, he would've had to do something immediately (things have gotten, if it's possible, even worse since the last happenings). If he'd said anything to any of them, they would've easily put things together and figured out that I was the one complaining.

I have to work with those guys for the next month. No *way* am I putting myself out there when I'll still be dependent on what little goodwill I have from them. Turning in oily little Nazis for being oily little Nazis is all well and good, but there's a point at which your own safety and efficiency have to be considered, and this is that point.

In the meantime, I'm still writing everything down. Dates and times and situations and all; that way, when I do get out from under the cloud of the Triumvirus (thanks, friend Kathy, for that word!) I can turn it all in to the Boss and HR at the same time, and damn the torpedos. As I said before, I'm not interested either in changing their hearts and minds or in getting them fired; all I want to go is get them to shut the hell up about politics and race and gayness and being female and so on when there are other people around.

Now I'm going to go take a really, really hot shower and admire my hamstrings. Because truly? They are things of beauty. Bring on the grizzly bear, boys.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Grouchy, WTF?? Girly Post: Get Offa My Lawn Edition

Kids these days. Sheesh. They'll buy anything. I was at Target today, picking up necessities like new teethbreesh and a rubber bathtub mat to keep me from flashing the boys across the alley (it's the suction-cup kind; I stick it to the bathroom window, which otherwise acts like a window in a peep show: BOOBAGE) and some socks, and I saw...well. You'll see it later.

First, though, this: from the Sundance Catalog, perhaps the most ill-advised skirt I've ever seen for One Hundred And Thirty-Eight smackers. It looks as though the model's bottom half has been eaten by a jellyfish. Or a sea cucumber. Or something.

Yeah, the engineer boots are cute, but who wears Fryes in the springtime with a short skirt?

Next, we have two items from the Jean-Paul Gaultier collection for Target. I was excited, a little, about this, figuring it might be kind of a cool mix of fast fashion and punk.

I was wrong.

Item the first: an adorable-looking striped dress. Unfortunately, it's that nasty sort of slippery polyester that doesn't breathe, that gets pulls in it like a pair of nylons, and that pills up the minute you put your face close to it and say "WASHING MACHINE" in a stage whisper.

Plus, that swagged bit would make you look like one asscheek is six times larger than the other, not something anybody needs.

So very disappointing. And so very sweaty.

Next we have a mustard-yellow halter dress.
Worn over, apparently, a pile of Ed Hardy's vomit.

As I was walking up to the checkout counter, I clamped lamps on this puppy and stopped to run the fabric through my fingers. The resulting expression on my face made the woman at the counter look quizzically at me and ask if I were okay.

Not only is the color even worse (and not marginally worse, but exponentially worse) than in the photograph, but it's PARACHUTE MATERIAL WITH WARTS ON IT. Big warts. Big, pressed-in, textural froggy warts that are only accentuated by the crinoline that is sewn under the skirt (nice touch, actually, that crinoline).

This is, without a doubt, the worst thing I have ever seen. Not the worst dress, not the worst fabric, not the most ill-conceived design, but a flaming combination of all of the above. I can't even express how nasty it is. And it's mostly sold out at the local Target, which means I'll have to see it ON people every time I go to Hot Topic (joke).

Some of you might be thinking, "Jo, you wear pajamas to work and have never been seen outside of work in anything but jeans and a selection of V-neck teeshirts. What makes you an expert on cutting-edge fashion?"

Dude. I know what's ugly, okay?

Therefore, a palate-cleanser. Gaze and be renewed. Thank Frogs for Jimmy Choo.

Won't somebody please throw a garden party?

Fluevog OMG.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

With apologies for the meter, rhyme, and scansion.

The Sunday Sonnet deadline's drawing near,
And yet I cannot find a thing to post.
The sonnet is a form that I hold dear,
The subjects, though, are what I hate the most.
From Petrarch down on through Louis MacNeice
They deal with death and loss and sorrow, too.
I'd like to read a cheery one, at least,
Or something silly. Is that hard to do?
Sing me a song of puppies! Sing of shoes!
Write lines about the bathroom being clean!
For God's sake, you have nothing there to lose
If, for once, you're cheerful. Don't be mean.

But not one sonnet will throw me a bone,
And so I sigh, and shrug, and write my own.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Two stories, two songs, one bottle of wine.

This is not something you're going to hear a lot of people say, but I love free flaps.

(For the non-medical folks, a "free flap" is where a chunk of fat, skin, and blood vessels is hacked off of one part of the body and sewn onto another. Okay, maybe not "hacked", but it looks pretty awful for the first couple of days. Anyway.)

Free flaps are what our plastic surgeons use when they have to take half of somebody's face off, usually due to skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma is the culprit in these cases (see your dermatologist regularly!) and the patients are mostly men in their 70's. Flaps usually come from either the chest or thigh, and they're put in very, very carefully, with all the arteries and veins reanastamosed and zillions of tiny stitches everywhere, along with the faded ink of the sterile markers the surgeons use to outline the donor site. It's way cool. Trust me.

Anyhow, you have to check the pulses in these flaps every hour for the first two or three days, to make sure that it's getting blood. That means you get to know your patient pretty well, as you're in there waking him up every hour.

I got lucky. My patient was a thoroughly charming man, a retired musician and orchestra conductor, and we got along famously. He was extremely good-natured about being awakened every hour or so for pulse checks (you use a Doppler machine for that, and it's like Christmas every time you hear the whoosh-whoosh of a good pulse). We talked music and politics and discovered that we both are seriously annoyed by Garrison Keillor, except for his joke show.

Which led to a joke-off. I think I won; I told him the joke about the Australian explorer, tea shop, and koala bear that I've only told to four people before in my whole life. The punchline's kind of obscure, so I approach the joke with trepidation if I'm not totally sure of the audience. He told me the one about Eve being created with three breasts; I told him the one about the baby seal walking into the bar. He recounted the story of the two blondes on opposite sides of a river; I rejoined with the question of what to do with an elephant with three balls. It was a good night. He went home late this week, just in time to catch the annual joke show on PRI.

And so, a very pretty song with a weird set of lyrics.

Graft-versus-host disease is not something you ever, ever want to see.

Especially not in a young woman who's gotten a bone marrow transplant from a related donor, in whom everything should've gone fine, except for the weird viral infection she somehow picked up while at Holy Kamole.

GVH (again, for the non-medical folks) is what happens when you get a bone marrow transplant--or really, any transplant--from another person. The transplant itself has a more robust immune response than the body into which it's transplanted, so the transplant starts to reject the body. Essentially, it's the opposite of what happens if your body rejects a transplant: the transplant goes crazy and starts rejecting *you*, and it's truly awful.

Seriously: in the world of Do Not Want, this is up near the top.

I knew something was going awry when I saw that the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet had turned bright red and the skin had begun to slough off. That's the first sign: your skin sloughs off. At the same time, your *insides* are sloughing off, too, leading to things like diarrhea that can be measured in multiples of liters per day. This particular patient was already intubated, so thank God we didn't have to try that, with no platelets and no immune system and an already-friable trachea.

She was my patient for three days. Everything that could possibly go wrong with her did. I transfused platelets until the blood bank was reluctant to give me any more; she was using up the whole hospital complex's supply. I ran steroids IV, in an attempt to suppress the immune response that was eating her alive. She yanked the oxygen supply off her ET tube, so I reconnected her and started her on propofol (what the OR guys call "The MJ") in an attempt to keep her down so she wouldn't have to work to breathe. I transfused blood when it became apparent that the whacked-out immune response of her transplant was eating up red cells.

Eventually, I connected what is delicately called a "fecal containment device" to a three-liter drip bag, and only had to empty it twice during a twelve-hour shift.

She was fifteen years younger than I am.

It became clear that there was nothing in the world we could do for her. Her sister, her only living relative, gave the go-ahead for us to take out the tube. She couldn't be in the room, because she was pregnant, and some of the drugs we were using are not good for pregnant women to be around, so I was the only one with my patient.

She died very peacefully. I broke every rule in the book and took off all my isolation gear, took off my gloves, and cuddled her as she finished breathing. There wasn't, strangely enough, any struggle. She didn't fight to breathe; I think she knew it was done.

Her sister, the one who'd donated the marrow that ended up killing her, watched us through the window. After it was all over, she told me, "I used to always call my mom or my sister twice a week. Now I can't call either one of them." She walked away. Her eyes were blank, but dry.

So, Kaylee, this one is for you. I would change the last line of the last verse if I could.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday night Fabulous

Warning: This is a PDF file. But it's totally worth it.

(Star Wars meets Goodnight Moon. Yes, I am a geek.)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

About last night

My friend and colleague Elizabeth, who is a convert to Islam, asked me what I was eating.

"Hominy" I said.

It was hominy with browned onions and a whole bunch of spices I get from the local Middle Eastern grocery (not to be confused with THE INDIAN BAZAAR AAAR AAAR ALL YOUR INDIAN FOOD NEEDS IN ONE PLACE ACE ACE RIGHT IN DOWNTOWN LITTLETON ON ON, as the radio ads would have it). Anyway, it had a variety of spices in it, and some juniper sprinkled on top. It's sort of soupy, and it's what I make when I don't have foul medammas (fava beans) on hand.

Elizabeth said, "That smells familliar."

I said, "Well, it does have spices from Ali's Bargain Bin in it."

She said, "Oh. So it's Muslim, then?"

I said, "Yeah...I guess so."

"So it's Ayatollah hominy*."


*** *** *** *** ***

A Faithful Minion who prefers to remain anonymous informed me at 3 am (or, rather, that's when I opened the email) that there is a whole website devoted to the popping of zits.

I am aghast. Because, really? Ew.

I can tolerate a lot of things and enjoy even more. The recreational draining of sebaceous cysts is not something I can get behind, though.

*** *** *** *** ***

Faithful Minion Molly writes that the single best way to cook artichokes (ten for ten bucks!) is in the microwave, after you rinse them, for seven minutes. I'll let her tell it:

"Take a healthy-looking artichoke. Put it top-down on the counter and bear down on it until it opens up a bit, then run it under cold water.

Place it in a bowl large enough to hold it and cover with a plate.

Put it in the microwave on high for seven minutes. Let stand for a minute while you melt some butter, and you'll have the best artichoke money can buy."

Molly is right.

*** *** *** *** ***

*The Supreme Leader of Iran has a name that, said quickly, sounds like "hominy."

*** *** *** *** ***

Edited to add: when I came home today, there was an adolescent red hawk sitting in the tree that overhangs my yard. She was squawking in the way that young hawks do; it's a sound between a rusty door hinge and an angry cat.

I stood at the kitchen window and chirruped back at her. She looked over her shoulder, curious to find out what had made that noise.

So I went outside. And I spent ten minutes alternately squawking and chirruping at a hawk, who eventually came over the fence on her chosen branch to look at me, first with one eye and then the other, trying to figure out what the hell kind of weird bird I was. She was ten feet away from me at one point and never showed any fear.

Her leg feathers were fluffy and well-developed, and she was beginning to show the bright red-brown of a mature red hawk. She had the yellow stripe under the eye that shows that she's becoming an adult. She still had that teenaged curiosity, though, and harpled along the branch, shifting her feet, until she could get me into good focus. "What the...? That bird has no feathers!"

Eventually she got fed up and left. She was replaced with a breeding pair of sparrowhawks which, according to the neighbors, have nested in their burr oak for five years. Sparrowhawks are no less impressive than red hawks on the wing, but when they're roosting, they quarrel like an old married couple. Every other bird in the area goes silent when they show up.

Red hawks dive, stalling right before they grab their prey on the ground. Sparrowhawks stoop and dive in midair, striking their prey (a bird on the wing) at up to 70 mph, blowing their brains out without warning. They then execute a perfect midair stop and grab the carcass.

I'm not sure which bird I admire more.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Submitted without comment

...courtesy of The Daily What...