Monthly Archives: April 2006

Gas prices these days…

The funny thing about this picture is that a couple years ago, these prices would have been high! Although I usually avoid the realm of political commentary on this blog, I couldn’t help but write about the current “gasoline crisis.”

Maybe this comment will come back to haunt me years down the road when I’m running for elected office, or maybe it will simply reveal my invisible hand tendencies, but I simply don’t have too much pity for today’s motorist. So gas prices are pushing, and in many places have exceeded, three dollars per gallon. Does this actually come as a surprise?

I read that there are more V8 automobiles on the road than four-cylinders. Even my own two dear sisters drive SUV’s when a simple family sedan would probably suit their needs just as well. The collective mindset of America seems to be that oil is an unlimited resource, and that makes whining about gas prices and oil-industry profits particularly annoying.

First to address the oil-industry’s profits. I don’t claim to understand the economics of this (e.g., that companies like Exxon have to make huge multi-billion dollar investments that affect the course of the company over 10 or 20 years, hence quarterly performance indices are less relevant). But I do recognize that America and even the world is a free market. Developing economies, notably in South and East Asia, compete for the same oil that suburban Americans need to commute 30 miles daily to work. Because the supply is fairly rigid, an increase in demand will riase the price of the oil. And as far as “price gouging,” that would require illegal cooperation between oil corporations. Governmental agencies are not always swift and nimble (one might think about FEMA here), but c’mon, the SEC surely has to have a few folks focused on the oil industry. I think simple economics are the greater force at play here. Katrina knocks out refineries and the supply decreases, so the price increases. Those oil companies able to continue to provide make a profit. That’s the way it works.

And now–the whining. I don’t see rising gas prices entirely bad. A physician whom I heard last fall lecture on the problems with Medicare made the point that when there is much at stake, the tendency is to wait until a state of crisis until drastic changes are made. Clearly when gasoline was $1.50 a gallon, investors weren’t lining up at the doors of ethanol research labs. Perhaps it takes a bit of a pinch on the pocketbook to grab the attention of the sluggish and often-stubborn collective American mindset. “Perhaps we should look into alternative fuel sources. Perhaps we should have done this 10 or 15 years ago, but oh yes, we just weren’t that worried about fuel prices back then. And oh yes, perhaps drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve could possibly damage an irreplacable resource all for a few drops of oil. And now that we think about it, perhaps we should defer that $100 government check and apply those resources toward alternative fuel research and development. In the meantime, you can find us carpooling to work, and even exploring lifestyle adjustments like riding public transportation.”

Comments welcome.

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One more picture


Here’s one of Central Park I liked, taken from an overlook on Central Park West Avenue. One thing I noticed when I came back to Texas was how green everything was! Spring comes much earlier in the South.

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Back from New York

Well, my long weekend in New York is over, and I’m back to the fast-paced life of Hematology-Oncology. I have another three-day work week, since I was traveling on Monday, and I’m taking Good Friday off.

Highlights from the trip include…

  • Exploring Columbia University’s campus. (The subway stop here is far cleaner and brighter than most other stations!)

  • Walking from Columbia to Juilliard, that is, the entire length of the Upper West Side. (Here’s a view of Lincoln Plaza from Alex’s dorm room.)

  • A few strolls through Central Park

  • Visiting the Guggenheim with an old classmate, Mike
  • Emanuel Ax playing Beethoven at Carnegie Hall
  • Hanging out in Battery Park City with Hansen
  • Visiting Redeemer Presbyterian Church on cold, sunny Palm Sunday. I don’t have a picture of the church, but here’s a little church I found in Washington Heights.

  • And lastly, this a shot taken from the balcony in the new Time-Warner building at 59th street and 8th Avenue. This is the southwest corner of Central Park as seen through the huge front window.

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My apartment search

After being in New York for about 48 hours, I’m not certain that I’m any closer to actually finding an apartment for next year. However, I have definitely accomplished a few important things:

  1. Ruled out several parts of town not to live in. These sub-neighborhoods, predictably, are in places like Washington Heights and Harlem, though there are certainly parts of these neighborhoods that are quite nice and live-able.
  2. Realized the importance of being in proximity to a subway stop. It’s one thing to time the subway ride–station to station. However, commuting includes time from my door to the station, waiting on the train, and then the actual ride. Thus, a 20-minute subway ride could lead to a 40 minute commute if it takes 10 minutes to walk to the station, and another 10 to wait on a train. The hospital, fortunately, is at a subway stop.
  3. Obtained a better sense of timing. Early April is simply too early to lease an apartment for June. Mid-to-late May might be ideal; however since I’m on wards then, I will plan to return in early June.
  4. Gathered useful information from the hospital’s and university’s housing offices.
  5. Perhaps most innovatively, determined a new standard for remotely evaluating a particular neighborhood. This is a tool that exceeds even Google maps and Google Earth in utility, because photographs of rooftops don’t necessarily portray the metal grates that come down and the shady folks that come out at night. I call it: The Starbucks Method. It’s a corollary to the idea of gentrification. Take the particular address you have in mind. Go Starbucks.com, and enter in the zip code in the store locator. A map with a collection of store location flags will appear. The more flags you see, the better the neighborhood. Although not yet proven, I imagine this method could be refined by adding in a Barnes & Noble or Borders’ composite.

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Of maggots and men

A morning of delight and ebullience! While tracking down a patient for my medical student to interview today, an attending referred me to one of his inpatients…a gentleman with chronic intravenous drugs abuse who’d been injecting in his leg presented to the hospital with a gangrenous ulcer of the lower exremity. Evidently he’d failed antibiotic treatment, so a novel approach–one that’s been used in Britain for several years now–was tried…

Maggots. Sterile maggots. Wiggling, squirming, chomping away at necrotic tissue under his dressing!

At the risk of offending my readers with a weaker constitution, I’ve elected not to include pictures of maggot therapy. But for the brave, check out this link! It’s impressive!

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Life’s little coincidences

Have you ever learned a new word, and then you notice it all the time? For instance, while doing one of many crossword puzzles with my cardiologist attending in January, I learned a three-letter verb for “mimic” is to “ape.” I’m certain I’ve read it at least three times this week in the newspaper and online.

Or another example: My Dictionary of Disagreeable English informs me that the correct idioms are “to doubt whether” and “not to doubt that.” (e.g. “I doubt whether it will rain today,” but, “I don’t doubt that he’ll be late.”) I hear people use the wrong phrase all the time now. I doubt whether they appreciate my correcting them.

More recently, after seeing a consult in the emergency room this afternoon and waiting a full thirty minutes for my oncology attending to return my call, I waited another thirty minutes or so before I remarked to a fellow resident that I’d been waiting an hour for her. I’d just commented that perhaps complaining about the wait would precipitate her arrival, when she rounded the corner into the doctors’ workstation!

And just yesterday I was trying to remember the name of a classical work by Schubert. Originally for voice, the piece has been arranged as a virtuoso composition for solo violin. The only time I’ve heard it was a year and a half ago on a Leila Josefowicz c.d.. Sadly, iTunes’ Josefowicz inventory is sparse, and I was unable to find the piece. I turned on the classical music station this evening, though, and the first thing I heard was the original vocal arrangement! I quickly navigated to that station’s homepage and was able to easily find the name of the piece that was still playing! (By the way, it’s track 11 on this c.d.)

And the last anecdote of the evening has less to do with coincidence as it does with pure, beautiful, unintentional, unadulterated pun. A physician assistant was describing to my oncology attending her situation with a difficult and less-than-honest patient who was demanding more pain medicine for her “rectal pain.” The physician assistant, a somewhat serious middle-aged woman with curly hair, stated, “I told her she’d have to see a gastroenterologist, because if she’s really having pain, we need to get to the bottom of this!”

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