Sunday, August 30, 2009


After 7 1/2 hours of solid driving by myself, I'm back home-- where the soybean fields line the highway, the cicadas chorus endlessly, the screen doors slam, the acorns drop all over the sidewalk, the lawnmowers can be heard droning several streets down, the traffic is sensible, and the people wear hoodies and flip-flops without feeling underdressed.

Mmm, it's good to be home. Big cities on the East coast are all well and good, but I really am a Midwestern girl at heart.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

my life as a smuggler

Bringing my contraband coffee brazenly into semi-forbidden areas of the hospital. Oh, the excitement! The danger!

(What? Extra caffeine is necessary when you get up at 4 AM.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

picture this

"See that?" Jack pointed out as we drove by a tower on the base. "That's where the President gets his healthcare."

(Please excuse the weird slanted-ness of the fence and buildings. I don't know what happened. In real life they're normal and vertical.)

"The whole tower?" I asked.

"Well, it's used for other things too. But when the President gets healthcare, that's where it is. He doesn't have to go sit in random doctors' offices."

I began to giggle at the imagery. "I guess that makes sense. It would be kind of awkward. Can you imagine?"

But then as I began picturing it, it made me realize that-- aside from the paparazzi issues or other fame-related things-- the things that would be awkward about the President being in a doctor's office or a hospital are the exact same things that are awkward about being there for anyone. We just notice it more when we imagine it with someone all high and important.

Picture this scene:

The setting is the waiting room in an internist's office. Barack Obama is here, sitting on one of those ubiquitous chairs with wooden arms and ugly upholstery, flipping through a 3-month-old copy of People magazine (if he's lucky) or Golf Digest (if he's not so lucky). The tired-looking woman a few seats down is trying to console her whiny toddler, while the guy on the other side keeps looking at his watch and sighing loudly in an irritated manner. President Obama's appointment was scheduled for 2:30 PM, and he dutifully arrived ten minutes early. It is now 3:05.

A 23-year-old newly-minted nurse, in a cute pink polka-dot scrub top, appears at the door. She glances at the manilla folder in her hand, then looks up toward the waiting room and calls, "Barack?" Letting his breath out in relief, the President stands up and follows her.

The smiling young nurse leads the President through a maze of hallways and directs him to stand on a scale around one corner. He does so, and she fiddles with the metal weights, then reads the number aloud before writing it down, commenting, "Two pounds more than last time." He can't help but notice that at least three other people he can see were within easy hearing of this.

Okay, let's play the game of See How Many Things Are Wrong with this little scene.

For one thing, why should ANYONE have to wait so long? I mean, I certainly understand-- more than many people, probably-- that doctors can run behind after a complicated patient earlier in the day, but sometimes appointments run consistently 30 minutes late (or more), and that's just ridiculous.

The name issue was actually pointed out to me by a standardized patient my first year of med school. Why do 20-something healthcare workers feel free to call strangers, 30 or more years their senior, by their first names? Seriously, in what other field is this acceptable? Do, say, customer service representatives call your 68-year-old neighbor "Rose?" No, they call her "Mrs. Henderson." Do lawyers call their clients by their first names? Do businesspeople immediately use the first names of people they want to make deals with? They wait until they're INVITED to do so, people.

And finally,
I know it's not really a HIPAA violation unless people can hear personally identifying information about you, but seriously, who wants their weight broadcasted to everyone in the immediate area?

Picture the scene continuing on and I'm sure you could think of more to add!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Every day I walk back from the metro station through the Navy base to our hotel. And every day I am mystified by this:

Yes, it's some kind of door into underground tunnels (like a sewer manhole or something).... which always, 24/7, has copious amounts of steam billowing from it.

I mean, seriously, what is going on down there? I've tried and tried to imagine it, but I just can't come up with anything. Giant, terrifying basement laundry facilities? Secret mad scientist labs? Steam-powered generators with amazingly huge leaks in their pipes?

The best, though, is the accompanying sign:

What? You mean I shouldn't enter the BOILING UNDERGROUND WELLSPRING OF DEATH?? Oh, I'm so glad you said something, I was going to jump right in.

I also like that the danger apparently isn't related to the frightening amount of scalding-hot steam which would presumably fill the tunnels. No, the danger is that it's a "confined space." Claustrophobics beware! But the rest of you, just get your permits and climb on in.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

character sketches

Remember when I mentioned the wide variety of people one sees on the metro? Well the other day I was bored on my daily commute (iPod batteries had gone dead, if you must know) and began looking around and writing down descriptions of my interesting fellow passengers. So here's a real-life list of some of the people who were riding the red line at 5:30 in the morning, and here's what you might have noticed if you were on that train:

1) A man in his 50s or 60s, reading the newspaper, with a truly amazing gray comb-over across an almost entirely bald head, and a mustache that looks like it belongs on a sheriff in the Old West

2) A middle-aged man in an unexpected combination of baseball cap, short-sleeved button-down shirt with a tie, elbow brace, wire-rimmed glasses, hiking-type shoes, and a briefcase on his lap-- and is that a pocket protector, or does it just look like it from here?

3) A 40-something woman in a rather stylish suit and-- literally-- rose-colored glasses, her hair dyed an unlikely shade of burgundy with lipstick to match, complete with lip-liner carefully drawn just outside the actual borders of her lips

4) A pretty Asian girl in a cute lime-green top and carrying a Coach purse, bravely applying mascara on a moving, jolting train-- an impressive feat

5) A trendy-looking, college-age Latino guy with gelled hair and a cigarette tucked behind one ear, wearing Nikes and a t-shirt that reads "chicks dig boarders" or something similar, dozing in his seat

6) A middle-aged man in a plaid shirt and hair that clearly hasn't changed a bit since he styled it after his favorite rock stars in the 80s (except for going gray)

7) A 40-ish guy in black jeans and a bright purple Oxford shirt, with a mustache, his hair cut into a flat-top, and carrying a red backpack

8) A 20-something girl with somewhat frizzy hair, in scrub pants and an oversized pullover, creepily looking around at the other passengers and scribbling in a small notebook-- oh wait. That's me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

down-home fun

This past weekend we went with our friends Mike and Emily to the Montgomery County Fair. I haven't been to a county fair in years, and I forgot how much I enjoy them.

The animals are usually my favorite part.

This cow (I forget what kind it is) came over to us and let us pat her on the nose:
(Actually, I'm not sure it's a cow. It might be a bull or steer. I don't know.)

Some alpacas, which I think are oddly graceful with their long necks and long eyelashes:

Miniature horses, which apparently to qualify for the breed have to be less than 36 inches high at the shoulder:

And a cow with her four-hour-old newborn calf (aww!):

Then, despite the fact that I find county fair rides to be somewhat terrifying in their rickety-ness, we had to take a ride on the ferris wheel. Because seriously? To go to a county fair and not ride on the ferris wheel? Travesty.
The view from the top:

Then we went home. (The fair was open until midnight, but we were all nervous about missing the shuttle back to the parking lot and how awkward and unpleasant that would be.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Some of the metro stops have very long scary escalators.

I am not particularly afraid of heights, but these escalators always make me slightly dizzy. I feel like, "What if I leaned just a little too far forward?" I would tumble to my death, that's what. So I always grip the handrail probably a bit more tightly than necessary. And if I have to move from the right side to the left side, I can't just casually step across. No, I have to stretch out my arm and grab the left-side handrail before letting go of the one on the right.

Also? The handrails move faster than the steps. I'm not sure how that's exactly possible, since I'd guess they're run by the same motor, but there you have it. If I were to start at the bottom with my hand on the moving handrail right next to me, and didn't let go for the whole ride, by the time I reached the top, my hand would be a good three feet ahead of me and I'd be leaning forward on a diagonal parallel to the escalator itself.

Monday, August 17, 2009

a short piece of advice

If you're ever in DC on a Sunday, you should go to church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It's apparently the largest Catholic church in the Western Hemisphere, or something like that, and it's beautiful.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

sittin' on the dock of the bay

(Though I think technically it may have been a harbor, not a bay.)

Last weekend Jack and I drove to Annapolis, where we walked around, saw the boats and water, relaxed, and got mildly sunburned.

It seems so funny to be on a (rather large and well-known) Navy base like Bethesda, and have the ocean be nearly an hour's drive away. We figured we had to get some salt air into our lungs at some point during this trip. So we did do quite a bit of dock-sitting, watching the people on their sailboats and idly wishing we had enough money and time for such a hobby.

Apparently Annapolis is famous for their seafood, especially crab, so we got some of that. Here's the view from our table at the restaurant where we got lunch (no, we did not order the all-you-can-eat buffet):

We got ice cream. I insisted.

Well, okay, technically I got ice cream. Jack was weird and-- eschewing the 50-plus flavors of cold creamy deliciousness-- ordered a milkshake.

We walked around some charming neighborhoods:

We walked onto the Naval Academy campus and looked around.
(It was really, really pretty. And there were fancy houses where Admirals live.)

And then we drove back to DC, satisfied that we would not be ocean-deprived for our entire month.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hooking like there's no tomorrow

Lately I was reminded of a post I read on another blog awhile ago. (Dang, I guess it was a year ago.) (And yes, that is a knitting blog.) So if you didn't already click on the link, click. Read the post. It's short and funny, so you won't regret it. I'll wait.

*hums tunelessly*

Okay, back? Now, just to clear things up (this is for you, Jack), knitting is done with two needles. Crocheting is done with one hook.

So I've been knitting for about seven years now and was perfectly happy with the craft I'd chosen. Oh, I knew enough crochet to make a chain of stitches, but only because it was occasionally required by knitting patterns.

But then? I saw this. And I fell in love. And that? That is a granny-square blanket, 100% crocheted.

Now, I learned how to crochet long ago. Well, sort of. My sisters tried to teach me the basics when I was a wee tiny little thing, but A- I never really learned how to get past one row, and B- I kept forgetting how to actually do it.

So I bought this book. (Don't laugh. Its sister book was how I learned to knit.)

And I've been crocheting it up!

And though I still think I'm definitely more of a knitter than a crocheter, I'm learning that crochet actually has its place. I don't think it's as nice for clothes, since knitting tends to make a softer, stretchier, more flexible fabric. But crochet is wonderful for more structured things, and actually gives you a lot of freedom to do whatever you want with it.

So although I'm still loyal to the Knitting?

Shh... I'm loving the granny squares.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Come on, baby, do the locomotion!

So in Ohio? There's no public transportation. Oh, I mean, there are usually bus systems in fairly large cities, but no one who can afford a car actually uses them.

Well in DC? It's different. Lots of people do use cars, true, but lots of people also use the metro. (That's, like, DC-speak for "subway," except part of it is above-ground.) So for my month here, I've been joining the crowd and taking the train to work. You know, "when in Rome" and all that.

The most amazing thing to me about the metro is how, even though I get on the train at 5AM (having to be at the hospital at 6 will do that to you), the cars are already at least half-full. It's crazy. I actually had to wait for people to stop using the escalator before I could get a picture of it without feeling like the paparazzi. (I know it's just an escalator and you know what escalators look like, but humor me, okay?)

One thing I've learned about the metro station escalators in DC? "WALK LEFT, STAND RIGHT." Even I, who have been a commuter here for only one little week, feel enormously irritated when someone stands on the left. And it is always a tourist.

The other amazing thing about the metro is the variety of people who use it. You'll see businesspeople reading the newspaper and looking important, trendy twenty-somethings reading the latest New York Times bestseller, angsty teenagers with iPod headphones permanently implanted in their ears, blue-collar workers carrying hard hats under their arms, retired men wearing black socks with shorts who sit pleasantly not doing anything at all... not to mention tourists. Though I guess I did mention them. (The other day I saw a young Asian guy reading a tourist book called "USA," where everything but the title was written in Chinese.)

Even when I took this picture at 5AM, there were already (besides me in my scrubs) several suits, at least one twenty-something, and a whole mess of construction workers.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Guess where

Apologies for the blog hiatus, but I've been pretty busy. This week I started a new rotation, but far far away from Toledo.

I'll give you a hint. Here's the view from one of the windows on the floor where I'm working:
That domed building in the middle look familiar?

Here's another:
If you squint hard enough, you might recognize the tall monument in the middle. (It is far away... it might be easier if it were closer.)

Yup... we're spending a month working in our nation's capital. Jack actually got a rotation at the Navy hospital in Bethesda at the same time, so we're here together!

More later.