Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Now I've learned my ABCs


I spent all day up at the nursing school in CPR training class. It's a requirement for entering the upper-division sequence and rightly so. Healthcare workers take a more intensive form of the class, hence the eight hour length and my classmates and I were lucky to have a fellow nursing student as an instructor. Her stories and explanations were great.

Of course we covered the ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation), proper execution of CPR, and choking rescue, but also the use of automated external defibrillators. Those things are rad. In addition, I also learned a couple unexpected things today.

First is that a person with no pulse who isn't breathing is dead. We, the general public, like to think of a person who just slipped into this state as alive yet in serious trouble. Nope, they're dead. This is the basis for idea that when trying to bring this person back, there isn't much you can do to make them worse off. It's why cracking ribs while performing chest compressions is perfectly acceptable.

The second interesting thing is that the Heimlich maneuver, as a name, is losing ground in favor of "choking rescue". A quick on-line search reveals that Dr. Heimlich might have stolen the idea from a colleague, and that he definitely engaged in gross ethical violations by injecting malarial blood into patients with HIV in secret medical "trials" held outside the US. So associating a wonderful life-saving measure with a total wackjob (whose own son is a leading critic)? Maybe not so much.

Doonesbury on consumptive Creationism

I'm not a regular reader of Doonesbury anymore, but I happened to see last Sunday's strip posted on a professor's door and Gary Trudeau is still brilliant.

It's similar to the argument I have used against Creationist hypocrisy, but in Trudeau's hands it's succinct, pointed, and laugh-out-loud funny. Just as there are supposedly no atheists in foxholes, there are few stick-to-their-principles Creationists in doctors' offices.

What really put it over the top for me is that I just took my pharmacology final last Friday and tuberculosis meds were on it. Streptomycin for TB, ludicrous!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

New Wave Dance Party

get yr groove on
(Click the pic for more photos)

To celebrate the end of my toughest semester so far, I threw a dance party. Many, many fantastic songs were played and there was dancing, drinking, and the consumption of salty snacks.

First prize in the unofficial Attitude of the Night contest is Carole. Seriously y'all, she will totally stab you.

Carole is scary sometimes

My other favorite image of the night is Eric, the Sad Popcorn Hoarder.

breaks your heart doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Daily Show on the formerly craven Ford Motor Company

You might have heard that Ford Motor Company, bowing to pressure from a rather nasty conservative "family" group, is pulling initially planned to pull its ads from gay magazines. Ridiculous. Why is Ford worried about this group boycotting them? The same group was rebuffed by Disney and Kraft; they called off the Disney boycott after 9 years because it didn't work.

Thankfully, The Daily Show covered the issue in their inimitable style. Jon Stewart explained from which magazines Ford was pulling their ads, "The publications include and . Not affected are , , , , , , , , and of course, Gaywad McGee's Scrotum Lovers Quarterly."

Scrotum Lovers Quarterly

"Actually, umm, I umm, I should add that last one's really more of a trade magazine, for connossieurs of scrotums."

Thanks Jon & Company, you make me laugh about something that previously sent my blood pressure North. Crooks & Liars has video for the whole segment.

I debated whether to actually provide links to all the porn mags, but it was so easy - almost every one was the top hit on Google, not that Black Inches was a big surprise - and figured the cheap thrill trumped good taste. They're all kinda safe for work, depending on how your boss feels about your computer displaying a naked guy with a big yellow words obscuring his crotch.

UPDATE: As Americablog reports, Ford backed off on pulling it's ads and even stated that they would tailor them for gay consumers (I assume that means attractive homo couples sitting it their cars).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

American Analog Set and an offer easy to resist

American Analog Set 12/11/05 in Austin

Great night out Sunday night. I went to the show with MyBloodySelf and Jennifer despite my looming tests because it was rumored to be their last one ever. Near the beginning of the show, frontman Andrew Kenny guilelessly said, "Thanks for coming, it's been a long fall." Laughter all around since most everyone had heard the retirement rumor. "Oh. I should have said Autumn."

There was a total asshole near us constantly hoisting his drinks and yelling thinks like, "Whooo! You rock!" He was clearly a big fan (he knew most of the words), so why was he behaving this way for one of the most sedate, non-rockin bands ever? It would be like standing up during a Tchaikovsky performance and screeching, "Yeah, Scherzo a la russ & Impromptu in Eb Minor! I love this one. Whooo!"

Despite the jerk, it was an amazing show. They played beautifully and the flow of songs was perfectly paced. I don't think I've ever seen them so relaxed and confident. Near the end of the show, Andrew took some time to thank Austin for being their home and so good to them over the years. Hard to imagine I've been seeing them for over a decade. Some of the kids with Xs on their hands were still in elementary school when Amanset in started.

On the way home, we drove down Guadalupe past the UT campus. At a light, a cab full of college-age girls stopped and one of them slurringly invited us to a party. It was 1:45 AM. We demurred, Dan saying that he had to get up in the morning. She was persistant saying it was going to be great or off the hook or whatever the kids are saying these days. I offered that we were too old for them. The light changed and she made a last ditch effort, "They'll be naked poontang!"

Whoo-boy was she off-base. Our car? Two gay men and a straight woman. Uproarious laughter ensued. As the cab pulled away Jennifer yelled out the window, "You got the wroooong guys for naked poontang."

When I got home, I watched a little TV and heard this gem from David Cross (dripping with irony) on Comedy Central's Last Laugh 2005, "I'm not opposed to gay marriage, because I'm tolerant and rational. So it doesn't bother me?"

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I take it all back, Austin cold weather freakout-itude

Pure, unadulterated joy is such a great feeling.

Earlier today I was in the old UT main library studying with a friend for our exam tonight and the one tomorrow morning. Ugh. Then, a wondrous voice came over the PA system announcing that UT was closing and would remain closed until 10 AM tomorrow. All classes until then are cancelled because there will be some freezing drizzle tonight.

The library came alive with beaming faces and muffled cries of excitement. It was so cool to see how happy everyone was. My friend and I gathered up our notes and walked across campus to her car, smiling and laughing all the way.

Now, after studying so much last night, I get to take a nap as soon as I post this. Hoorah for overly cautious school administrators! Of course, shortly after I got home there were emails about rescheduling the tests for next week. But still.

UPDATE: UT cancelled class all day today (12/8) too! So that's a class presentation and another test postponed until Monday and Tuesday. Thank you UT, you've procrastinated for me. Usually I'd have to clean the bathroom and vacuum the house instead of studying to achieve this level of delay.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Stereotype unflinchingly maintained

Yesterday morning some fellow nursing students and I helped Project Transitions set up for their annual Holiday Swing fundraiser. Among the silent auction items were these three:

GI Joe action figure

Try me? Uh...

purple feathered mirror

Purple. Feathered. Mirror.

(one of the) GAYEST (things I've ever seen)
pink glitter doll

I fear this will haunt my dreams.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A day outside

Today I went with some friendly friends to take nature pictures. We were prevented from going to Bright Leaf by a locked gate, so we went to Wild Basin Preserve instead. It was rather brown with just a few splashes of red and yellow; Texas doesn't have many native species that sport interesting fall colors. Also it was hot. In December. Still, we had fun and enjoyed lunch after a bracing hike.

red berries

Better fall colors were to be found in my neighbor's yard.

fall leaves

Friday, December 02, 2005

Fruit bats are resevoirs of bleeding eyeball disease

Fruit bats! You are so adorable but, as recently discovered, three species of you carry the Ebola virus. To you, it is nothing. To humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas, it means severe flu-like symptoms and then bleeding out of the ears, mouth, and eyes. At least until death, and probably for a little while after.

I can't blame you hammer-headed fruit bat, Franquet's epauletted bat, and flying fox. You were just going about your business, eating fruit and hanging upside-down. It's our fault for eating you.

Damn those Monty Python boys and their fake scripture, "And the Lord did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals and fruit bats and large chu--" It's only a matter of time before we find out that excessive Spam consumption causes Jumping Frenchmen of Maine disorder.

Pictures of all three bat species. The hammer-headed fruit bat is particularly weird and cool.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. opens

Greenwood Space Travel Supply

recently opened in Seattle as the storefront for . Besides the obvious supplies like robot parts, bulk antigravity, and spare air, they also have . How frickin' cool is Dave Eggers and Co. for creating this series of non-profit writing centers for kids?

After a cursory search, it became clear to me that there wasn't a comprehensive list of all the 826 chapters in the country and what their "fake" storefronts are. So I made one:

The Store, San Francisco's only independent pirate supply store
(some pictures here)

, for all your superhero supply needs
I've been to this one. It's awesome. For Halloween, they re-decorated as the Villain Superhero Supply Store.

I don't think they have a storefront, which is too bad. I came across a newspaper story about the planning for 826 LA with this suggestion for the store from Dave Eggers, "A duty-free shop for a time traveler of the future who might be traveling back in time and need to buy, say, a torch and a battle-ax without paying taxes on it."

(Ann Arbor)
The International Monsters Union (opening soon)

The Boring Store, secret agent supplies (opening soon)

, "Space travel is all we do!"

I also saw a mention that there might be chapter opening in Pittsfield, MA, but that hasn't happened yet. Man I'd love to have one in Austin.

Gay jokes on The Daily Show

gay graffiti

Last night on The Daily Show during a segment on New Jersey's attempt to spruce up its image, new contributor Jason Jones interrupted Gov. Richard Codey saying, "So wait. You're not the gay governor? Okay. Umm, these are useless."

Jones was referring to a sheet of paper titled Funny Gay Jokes. I'm fairly certain that the camera shot of the paper was inserted just for freeze-frame fans. Especially since they had to blur a word in the third one. The jokes:

1. Two gay guys were in the shower together when one looked down and saw a puddle of white liquid.
He said to the other man What did I tell you about farting in the shower?

2. Did you hear about the two homosexual judges? They kept trying each other.

3. How can you make a gay man scream twice?
Fuck him real hard. Then wipe your dick off on the his curtains.

4. Why did the Greek boy run away from home?
He didn't like the way he was being reared.

5. Why do so many gays have moustaches?
To hide the stretchmarks.

There was a sixth, but it was cut off from view. The jokes seem like they came right out of an "offensive" joke book popular in the '80s. Especially the fifth one. Moustaches as a stereotypical gay thing went out with pink polo shirts, though they made be making a comeback (really not safe for work). A quick Google search confirms that these jokes have been bouncing around the internets for awhile. Numbers 3, 4, and 5 are almost always together in that order. Is it just me or is the premise of #5 just weird? According to the joke, gay men have substantially thicker dicks than the general population. Huh?

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Monday, November 28, 2005

What I do in biology lab

Someone recently asked me what I do in my anatomy and physiology lab. I brought my camera along tonight and was delighted/horrified that in this lab session we were comparing sheep uteruses with and without lamb fetuses inside. There was a lot of sad girls in my lab. Click the photo for much, much, much more graphic photos.

female reproductive anatomy

Monday, November 21, 2005

A 6ths singers autograph collection

Years ago, in the first blush of my Magnetic Fields/all-things-Stephin Merritt fandom, I started to collect the autographs of the singers on the first 6ths album. The genesis was when singers Barbara Manning and Georgia Hubley were on the same tour, Barbara opening for Yo La Tengo. After that, it was just a matter of going to see the singer when they were touring and asking nicely.

6ths: Barbara Manning, Stephin Merritt, & Mary Timony autographs

6ths: Mac McCaughan and Georgia Hubley autographs

6ths: Lou Barlow autograph

6ths: Chris Knox & Claudia Gonson autographs

I'm still not done, though I've became pretty lazy about it. I only just got Lou Barlow to sign this year, and despite many opportunities I still haven't got Dean Wareham. I figure I have a good shot at getting Jeffrey Underhill and Mark Robinson if they ever tour again, and Mitch Easter if I ever visit his recording studio. I doubt I'll ever get the ones living outside the US, though Amelia Fletcher might be tour again. If I go to new Zealand like I plan, I'll make a stab at tracking down Robert Scott.

I never bothered with the singers on the second 6ths album even though Momus and Sally Timms have come to Austin. A couple years ago I was in DC and went to see Bob Mould DJ at a club. I briefly regretted not having the liner notes with me, but (unintentionally) rubbing up against him on the dancefloor made for a more memorable experience anyway.

In 2000 when Chris Knox came to Austin, he made good on a promise to sign the liner notes made several years before during a phone interview. Per my request, he drew a caricature of Stephin Merritt as well. The depiction and word choice are both inaccurate - Stephin is cuter and doesn't speak New Zealand English - yet it still captures a certain essence of Stephin.

Chris Knox caricature of Stephin Merritt

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Avenging Unicorn Play Set? Don't mind if I do!

Have you ever had the feeling that your prayers had been answered, but you didn't even know that you had been praying? That's how I felt when I saw the Avenging Unicorn Play Set. From the Archie McPhee website:

Avenging Unicorn Play Set
"Everyone wants an imaginary unicorn friend that they can call forth to smite their enemies. The Avenging Unicorn Play Set has everything you need to use the power of the unicorn to rid your life of irritations. Put the posable, 3-3/4" tall, hard vinyl unicorn on a flat surface and then impale one of three 3-1/8" tall, soft vinyl figures included (businessman/boss, new age lady and mime). Also includes four interchangeable horns (classic spiral, chrome, glow and pearlescent)."

In other Archie McPhee new item news, I now know what I'll be keeping my schoolwork in next semester.

Creepy/cool photos

I walked around my nursing school today taking pictures of anatomical models and a display of antique medical equipment. Yay for creepy/cool!

antique brass tracheotomy tube

ether mask

paper anatomical model

baby skulls & momma pelvises

More photos here.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Gut-stabbed guy, a total jerk

One night while I was working at the hospital, a guy comes in by EMS with a stab wound to his gut. The medical staff is tending to him with care and haste, but he decides to be a dick. Every question is met with a smart-alek answer. Every attempt at treating his wound brings on loud and voluminous complaining. He even smacks a tech because "that hurt!"

I realize that he was in pain with a possibly serious wound and that requiring him to be a model of civility under these circumstance may seem out of line. I can only answer by saying that in my admittedly limited experience, people don't act much different when they're ill. If you are normally a strong, resolute person, in all likelihood you're not going to scream at a nurse drawing your blood when you're sick. Conversely, self-centered, whiny people are soooo ugly in the hospital.

Gut-stabbed guy is a picture of douchebaggery. He stubbornly refuses to answer the doctor when asked what he was stabbed with. This might be because a cop is right outside and something illicit preceeded the stabby-stab, but it's still important for the doctor to know if it was a clean, serrated knife or a rusty soda can. When told he needs to go to surgery, Paranoid Von Bitchy accuses the staff of trying to rip him off with unnecessary and expensive procedures. This despite the fact that he doesn't have insurance and, given what I later learned, isn't likely to pay his hospital bill anyway. Exasperated, one of the techs blurts out, "Dude. You got stabbed!" Since he's been whisked off to the operating room immediately, I don't have to interview him for registration. Whew.

The next day I was working the check-in desk when a woman comes in saying that there's a guy outside with no shirt on and an IV port still in his arm. She tried to convince him that he should go back inside, but he told her to mind her own business. A couple of off-duty police officers (they moonlight as security for the ER) go outside and manage to coax the guy inside. Lo and behold it's gut-stabbed guy. He still has a surgical dressing on his wound and, despite the painkillers, the same horrible attitude.

The officers are trying to explain that leaving the hospital the day after getting stabbed is a bad idea, but he's having none of it. "You can't keep me here!" and "I am leaving!" are his responses. Technically, he's right but dude, you got staaaabbed. One of my favorite nurses enters the fray giving her best medical opinion on what will happen if he leaves, to no avail. He demands that she remove his IV port. She explains that he's going to bleed if she doesn't get some gauze and tape on it.

Under cover of getting the supplies, she calls upstairs to check out what the hell is going on. While he's being being escorted outside, I quietly explain how he came to be our patient. The nurse confirms that he left the hospital AMA (against medical advice) and then goes outside to take out the port. Afterwards, practically everyone in the waiting room - medical staff, officers, and patients - is shaking their head in annoyed bewilderment.

Four hours later, he's back. Seems the pain meds wore off and it started to hurt. Really? Funny how that happens. He didn't even have the decency to act contrite. What an asshole. Worst. Patient. Ever.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Meteor showers rock

On the way home tonight I saw a brilliant meteor flash across the sky. Given the amount of light pollution in Austin, it must have been quite impressive to anyone seeing it way out in the country. It broke up as it entered the atmosphere with thin streaks coming off the main one. Really beautiful and it perked me up for a good hour afterward. I checked when I got home (thanks internets!) and we are indeed in the midst of the annual Leonids meteor shower which should peak on Thursday.

Two memories of meteor watching come to mind. When I was 14, my Boy Scout troop (yeah, I am yet another gay Eagle Scout) went to Florida Sea Base in the Keys to earn scuba certification. We happen to be there during the Perseids meteor shower and due to the distance from any cities, the viewing was bound to be good. In my typically spazzy way, I told my troop about it and was answered with a resounding thud of indifference. Looking at meteors was apparently not cool, even for the academic nerds that made up a good portion of my fellow scouts. As the prime viewing time approached, I settled myself on the sand volleyball court to enjoy the show.

Imagine my surprise when a couple guys from the uber-macho Varsity Scout troop that was also diving at Sea Base joined me a few minutes later. Their nickname among the teaching staff was The Airwolves for the way they quickly huffed and puffed their way through airtanks while on dives. Where my buddies and I could stay down around an hour, these guys breathed their tanks dry in 25 minutes. Maybe it was all that muscle. They were intimidating to all of us skinny guys, at least until we whipped them at volleyball. Tall and gawky is preferable to short and pumped on a volleyball court I guess.

Anyway, these guys had heard me passionately describing the wonders of meteor showers to my troop and, perhaps secure in their sense of personal coolness, decided to see it for themselves. We spent the next hour or so staring up at the night sky in relative silence save for the oohs, aahs, and "did you see that?!"s that come inevitably in response to a lively meteor shower.

The other memory I have is of a near-perfect evening I spent with my friends Amy and Carole. The night started with a bracing swim at Barton Springs pool during free hour. As often happens, we were ravenous after swimming and so stopped at Sandy's for burgers and frozen custard. Sandy's food isn't the best, but it's damn cheap and the look of the place is classic. Eating out back at the picnic tables, it was just right. I can't remember what we talked about, but I do remember laughing a lot. We lingered over our food, unwilling to end a great night too soon. Then I remembered the meteor shower.

Knowing we needed a darker sky than we could get in Austin, we decided to head west on 290 towards Manor. We pulled over at some sort of utility installation that lacked floodlights and spread out a blanket on the ground. Shortly after stretching out, we saw our first streak. Once every several minutes we'd see another one. As meteor showers go, it was relatively unimpressive in both number and quality with only a few long, bright streaks. Still, it was a great reason to keep a wonderful night going.

Meteor showers rock. I wish I had the photographic equipment and knowledge to take some pictures on Thursday.

Demetri Martin on The Daily Show

Last night on The Daily Show, Demetri Martin appeared as the new youth correspondent. It doesn't mean he'll stick around - off the top of my head I can think of five who only made a handful of appearances - but I hope he continues with his "Trendspotter" segments. It was funny and very much in the vein of his stand-up work. The show repeats today at 9 AM, 1 PM, and 7 PM (CST), catch it if you can or it might be added to the online archive (if not there, clips are often available elsewhere).

Previous post about Demtri Martin (and where is that comedy album he was taping?)

UPDATE: The Trendspotting segment is available here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My favorite song for the past several hours

I have a tendency to get fixated on certain songs. When a song gets under my skin, I'll listen to it on repeat anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. That time can be spent jubilantly dancing to "Move Your Feet" by Junior Senior or wallowing in depression to The Smiths' "Oscillate Wildly" (that's the two hour one).

Tonight I became entranced again by a song I've loved for years, White Town's "Your Woman". It's the very definition of a one-hit wonder. A fantastically catchy pop song come out of nowhere, zooms up the charts, and then vanishes. Nothing I've else I've heard from Jyoti Mishra (the sole member) comes even close to matching the sheer brilliance of this track.

After listening to it some 30-odd times and riding the gush of endorphins that flowed from my head to suffuse my whole body, it's forever more going to be lodged in my personal top 25 songs of all time. Rationally, I know it objectively can't be that good of a song, but why would I care about objectivity right now? There's a really, really good song playing.

Recorded on an 8-track at home, it's a marvel of ingenious production. The elements make me shiver: a '30s-era horn sample, the stutter-roll synth bass, the Buggles-esque vocals, the Casio-beat breakdown, the relentless handclaps. And then there's the great you-done-me-wrong lyrics with the clever twist of a man singing a "woman's song". Sure Stephin Merritt does that too and is an admitted and obvious influence on Mishra, but Merritt himself cited this song as the best of 1997 in his list of the best recording of each of the past 100 years.

Does anyone understand when I say this song gives my auditory cortex an orgasm?

Listen again: White Town - Your Woman

Here's the lowdown on the horn sample, the meaning of the lyrics, and other explanations straight from Mishra.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Bad bandaging

bad bandaging

My roommate dropped a glass lid and cut her foot in two places. This is the terrible job I did bandaging it, though I'm not responsible for the bit of black cat fur stuck to the tape. Hopefully I will learn to do a much better job next semester.


The People's Vending Machine

The People's Vending Machine

The People's Vending Machine

This machine is in the editorial offices of The Daily Texan, student newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin. The "tool of the capitalist pig-dogs" is the regular vending machine a mere four feet away. Compared to The People's Vending Machine, it's a total rip-off. Many are the times a quarter's worth of People's Vending Machine peanut M&Ms has sustained me.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Texas officially enshrines bigotry

graphic respresentation of Texas' homophobia

Even though gay marriages/civil unions were already illegal here, Texas had to make sure that bigotry, ignorance, and fear were enshrined in our state Constitution. I knew this would happen, but it still burns me up. 76% of Texans, fuck you.

Austin/Travis County is an oasis in the political desert of Texas. This graphic is one of the reasons I will never live anywhere in Texas but Austin. At least Mainers rejected discrimination.

Mr. Drop-of-Water's sadness

Mr. Drop-of-Water is sad about the lyrics of "Rapper's Delight" by Sugarhill Gang. I really like this mural.

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Tower Records murals

In addition to the Varsity Theatre murals I posted about earlier, the building also sports a series of new artworks by FE DE RICO that were added to Tower Records not too long before they closed. I couldn't find any info on FE DE RICO, though I'm fairly certain I've seen his work elsewhere.

Johnny Cash mural
Tower Records mural
More photos here.


The Varsity Theatre murals

Lack of posting due to tests and my Mac freaking out. Hopefully the Mac freak-out is behind me.

I took some photos of the facade on the former Tower Records a couple weeks ago. These are examples of the older murals painted in 1980 by Carlos Lowry back when the building was the Varsity Theatre (Tower took over in 1990).

Varsity Theatre mural
Varsity Theatre mural
More photos here.

Also, great photos of the Varsity in 1936, and a theater manager's experience during the Charles Whitman Tower shooting. The manager mistakenly calls the street just West of Guadalupe St. Red River when it's actually San Antonio.

Also a nice set here on the artist Carlos Lowry's site with clickable images that identify the characters and films pictured in the murals (I swear I notated the photos on Flickr before I found this site).

The Austin Chronicle ran a good article about murals in Austin which includes the Varsity murals.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

No radiation, but melted plastic is kinda nasty

So that radiation quarantine I was in last week? Turns out it all started because of plastic lab utensils melting in a dishwasher.


The above referenced article also clued me in that the building failed to meet fire codes last year.


ESB was going to be demolished and rebuilt, but UT didn't get the bonds it wanted from the Legislature.


Calexico, Iron & Wine, Texas Book Festival, and the end of my newspaper writing

Last Friday saw the publication of my last two articles for The Daily Texan, at least for a while. One is a preview for the Calexio and Iron & Wine show that happened at Stubb's last night. The other is a preview for the Texas Book Festival that was held this past weekend.

The amount and difficulty of my schoolwork, my responsibilites in the student organizations of which I'm a member, my other job (officiating volleyball games), and a serious lack of sleep are all contributing factors in my decision to drastically reduce my writing for the paper. All of these are more important than writing for the paper. Yes, even volleyball.

Volleyball pays $9.50/hour to do a relatively easy job. And sometimes a team doesn't show up, meaning I'm getting paid for just showing up in uniform.

Writing for the paper pays $8/week with the expectation that I will average one article or a couple reviews a week. An article takes about six hours to complete when you figure in research, conducting and transcribing interviews, and the teeth-gnashing process of writing it. Reviews aren't as labor intensive, but I still have to read the book or listen to the CD multiple times before I write about it, so six hours is a minimum. Even adding in the fact that I get into the show for free and keep the book or CD, I'm not even making minimum wage.

On second thought, it's wrong to compare the two solely on economic grounds. Getting to talk to bands and writers I like is really frickin' cool. Also, going through the process of writing - as frustrating as it can be - makes my future writing better (at least I hope so). Those benefits can't be quantified.

Still, schoolwork and sleep are much more important in the long- and short-term, respectively. And I didn't even get to go to the Calexico and Iron & Wine show because of school and sleep deprivation. I went to the Texas Book Festival, but didn't have time to finish a wrap-up article about it (sorry Texan editors) for the same reasons. Sigh. Some day I'll finish and post the Lemony Snicket interview/show review I did.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Zak Sally, ex-Low

Zak Sally, ex-Low

I just heard the sad news that Zak Sally, bassist for Low, has quit the band. I'm not terribly surprised given the history, but it still makes me sad.

Low is my favorite band (tied with Magnetic Fields). Just as Zak spent his whole adult life in the band, I've been following them since I was a freshman in college. I've seen them more than any other band with the exception of Spoon (with whom I actually went to college), once roadtripping through Texas to see Alan, Mimi, and Zak play five times in five days. I've got almost everything they've released and lots of live shows too.


I'm going to miss the way Zak would spend a good chunk of their shows with his back turned and head down. The way he quietly sung "la la la la la" at the end of "Closer". The way he'd smile at some weird thing Alan would say on stage. The way he got to cut loose on their louder, faster songs. The genuine appreciation when he'd get a gift from a dorky fan (that'd be me).

Dang dang dang.

I think I'm going to have to listen to some Low tonight and cry a little.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wayne Coyne would love my eyes today

I woke up this morning with a burst capillary in my eye.

Just like it says on the back of my (slightly out-of-focus) Flaming Lips hat:

Of course the front of my (rather out-of-focus) Flaming Lips hat says:

It has nothing to do with the rest of this post (as opposed to this one), I just cherish it so.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

It's (probably not) a radiation vibe I'm groovin' on

As I type, I'm sitting in a classroom at UT-Austin, effectively quarantined for now.

At about 6 PM smoke was noticed in the Experiemental Science Building (ESB), which houses biology and chemistry labs. For some reason, the fire alarm didn't go off immediately and a UT police officer came to our lab and told us to leave the building. We gathered outside and took our lab quiz while waiting for the all clear. Apparently the smoke alarms did go off a full half-hour after smoke was first noticed, a rather discomfiting situation given the nature of the work that happens in the building.

Within a couple minutes, several firetrucks, an ambulance, and a Hazmat truck came down the street lights and sirens going. We were moved across the street and asked not to leave the area. Our lab teaching assistant valiantly attempted to go over some of the classwork so we wouldn't get behind as more and more emergency vehicles arrive. Later, our student IDs were collected by UTPD.

After another hour or so the officials on the scene gathered the roughly 150 of us to update us on the situation. While a UT police officer was in the building, their radiation dosimeter detected something (who knew UTPD routinely carried such a thing?). Later, when the firepeople were in ESB, one of their radiation dosimeters malfunctioned showing a reading as well.

All the firepeople were scanned on their way out of the building with nothing detected, but there was still we students, faculty, and staff. We lined up at the North entrance of Welch and were scanned one by one before proceeding to the classroom where I now sit.

The mood in the room is good. Most people are chatting with their classmates or on their cell phones. There's a spirited game of Charades going on in the front of the classroom and a smattering of students are reading or tapping away on their laptops like me.

Officials from UT and the Fire Department just went over the details with us again. All the potential radiation sources in the building were checked and they were not responsible for the probable almost surely false dosimeter readings. We're to be dismissed shortly.

I knew I should have brought my camera with me today.

UPDATE: The area was roped off by standard yellow caution tape, but as I was leaving I noticed that the affected building itself was surrounded by red HOT ZONE tape. Haven't seen that before and would prefer not to again.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Pumpkin carving

My roommates and I had a pumpkin-carving party on Friday night. We had lots of snacks including pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin ale. While watching The Thing (John Carpenter version) and The Grudge (American version), we massacred around twenty pumpkins. Thinking back on it, maybe we invited too many people. Floor space was hard to come by and it was difficult to hear the movies what with people chatting and the pumpkin gutting. Still it was fun.

I made a Flying Spaghetti Monster pumpkin.

Flying Spaghetti Monster pumpkin

More photos here.

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Occupation: Dreamland Q&A

Last week I interviewed documentary filmmaker Garrett Scott about his film Occupation: Dreamland for an article to run in The Daily Texan. My laptop started to act up though and I lost the article. So I had to retranscribe the tape and due to lack of time, it ran as a Q&A. I generally don't care for Q&As as I think they're lazy with the exception of the way they're done in The Onion AV Club.

Anyway, the film is about a squad of the 82nd Airborne stationed in Al-Fallujah shortly before the Marines arrived to level the place. In the film, the squad go on missions and while away the hours in-between. It's not a groundbreaking film in form or content, yet it's still an important contribution to the historical record.

Enough people went to see it last week, so it's still showing at Alamo Lamar.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Sports-related drop in ER visits

A study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine (which I need to start reading) found that hospital ER visits in Boston drastically fell during important Red Sox games. Although sports-related drops like this have been found before, the Boston researchers were the first to chart a direct correlation between the time of the games and the exact volume of ER patients.

From the New Scientist article:
One explanation for the startling correlation is that while people are watching TV, they are sedentary and fairly safe. “People are at home watching the games so they are probably not getting into trouble,” explains Brownstein.
Huh. That's a really interesting idea. The article goes on:
Another is that people who attend ER are often not experiencing a medical emergency in the true sense of the word. “There is clearly some discretionary component that explains the timing,” says co-author Kenneth Mandl of Harvard Medical School.
Now that's more in line with what I thinking. I'm fairly certain that when most people think about emergency rooms, they're thinking about car wrecks and snake bites and heart attacks. All true, and then there's the vague abdominal pain, migraines, and minor lacerations that aren't rush-you-right-in emergencies. The latter are what fill up ER waiting rooms.

At the hospital I worked at, Mondays are typically very busy and it slows down a bit as the week progresses with another bump up on the weekend. This makes sense when you consider that doctor's offices and some public clinics are not open on the weekend and usually booked up at least several days out, so any problems people experience over the weekend will bring them in on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

Then I noticed a curious thing. Whenever Monday was a holiday, that Monday wasn't very busy. However, Tuesday would be slammed. So I conjectured that some people didn't want to interrupt their three-day weekend with a visit to the ER. That's the "discretionary component" one of the Boston researchers cited.

I'd love to see more research done in this area to nail down the specifics of why this drop in visits occurs. Is it because patients are choosing to do something else instead of going to the hospital, or is it because what they're doing is keeping them relatively safer?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Now it's official

Yesterday I received notification that I am officially a nursing student. Some of you might be thinking, "Wait, I thought he already was a nursing student." Well, I was officially a pre-nursing student. Lemme 'splain.

Unlike most other schools at UT, in the SoN you are classified as Pre-nursing while taking prerequisite courses for a couple years. Then, you apply to be admitted into the upper-division sequence. It's competitive and roughly 40% (at this time) of those who apply are not accepted. The average GPA of those admitted is around 3.40, so a B average is usually not good enough. The students who don't make it in have one more chance to apply the next semester, then they have to leave the school.

It's harsh, but there's only so many slots in clinical classes and they want to make sure only the students with the best prospects are taken. Also, the SoN is a top-ten nursing school and they want to stay there, so standards are high. The students who don't make it in transfer to another university or change their major.

Yes there's a nursing shortage. At this time though, the bottleneck to getting more people into the profession is not willing students so much as it is the lack of nursing faculty and the availability of clinical sites at which to study. More alarmingly, the existing nursing faculty is rapidly retiring. Which is why the UT SoN faculty are always dropping hints about students progressing through to PhD and becoming faculty themselves. I just found out that if I go right into the Masters program at UT when I finish my Bachelors, they waive the GRE requirement and the application fee.

Nifty, though I won't be doing it. Anyway, as soon as I finish this semester with Cs or better in my classes, I'm officially a nursing student. Yay.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Queer movies and four Vietnamese lunar New Year's

I wrote a couple pieces that were published this week in the school paper.

This one has reviews of several films screening as part of the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival.

This one is a CD review of Four Tet's Everything Ecstatic with a bit about his live show coming up tomorrow evening in Austin.

Yo La Tengo at Emo's

Yo La Tengo 10/6/05

On their way out to play the Chinati Foundation annual event in Marfa, TX, Yo La Tengo stopped in Austin for a packed show at Emo’s. They haven’t played a venue this small in Austin since I began seeing them in 1994, so it was somewhat momentous.

My recently joined-at-the-hip concert buddy Amy and I arrived a bit late to the show and mercifully missed opener Jad Fair’s set. Jad’s artwork is cool, but his music is rather bad. It’s entertaining for a couple songs, then gets progressively more annoying as it goes on.

Yo La Tengo played a good show, but not as great as many I’ve seen before. This is at least partly because I’m a bit jaded about seeing them perform sprawling, mesmerizing versions of “Blue Line Swinger” and "From A Motel 6", but also due to the bland Extend-O-Jams in which they indulged at times. Still, it was enjoyable.

Ira explained that they had recently played at a friend’s wedding and so had learned a bunch of covers, hence the large number of unfamiliar songs they played. I’m not enough of a music wonk to identify them all, but there was a Zombies cover, a Sun Ra cover (not “Nuclear War”), and a song dedicated to Sterling Morrison (ex-Velvet Underground).

Jad Fair & Yo La Tengo

They also brought Jad Fair out to perform some songs off their collaborative album. It was a much needed blast of fast, rocking numbers that invigorated the show even after Jad left the stage.

The best part of the show was when Ira noted that Henry Rollins had done a spoken word show in Austin a couple of nights ago. In honor of this, James gave a dramatic reading from one of Henry’s books. Watch it here (taken down).

A friend and I were discussing the cost versus the length of the show. We decided that at $0.17 a minute, it was worth it. Then went on to talk about the possibility of a band peep-show booth concept where you keep pumping in quarters as long as you’re enjoying the show. My friend was taken with the idea that the band had to keep on playing as long as you had the quarters, possibly leading to exhaustion of known songs and the spectre of amphetamine abuse.

Right after this conversation, I noticed the guy in front of us with “Jesus is Lord” tattooed on the back of his neck in big block letters. Huh. If he’s serious, I can’t imagine that this would endear you to fellow Christians and prospective employers. If he’s not serious, I… Dude! An ironic “Jesus is Lord” tattoo on your neck?!

More photos of the show and a Yo La Tengo video game.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

The one about the Air Force recruiter

This entry was supposed to have a clever title playing off the Air Force motto. Then I looked it up and realized that nobody would know what I was talking about. The mottos are (there are two) "No one comes close" and "Uno Ab Alto" (One over all). Not exactly "Semper Fi" or "Army of One". Oh well. Kinda goes with the general feel of the Air Force, it being the branch that doesn't have to advertise as much.

Today's meeting of our nursing student association was sponsored by the Air Force. And by sponsored I mean they bought us tons of pizza and soda. Always a good way to get college students to show up. After the business portion of the meeting, the recruiter and her cohorts hit us up with the spiel.

Honestly, it's a pretty good deal if you don't mind the moving every three years, the structure, the uniforms, and - depending on your orientation - the sexual witchhunts. Oh, and possibly working in a war zone.

In order for the recruiter to document that, in her words, "I did not eat $400 worth of pizza all by myself," attendees were asked to fill out a survey form. I left out some key info like phone number, e-mail, and Social Security number because I really don't want them contacting me or acquiring a credit card in my name.

In the comments section I was tempted to write, "By the way, you didn't ask but I'm telling: I like guys kind of a lot. So..." I resisted the temptation, but since the form was pink I drew a big upside-down triangle on it. Hee.

Upon reading an earlier version of this post, Joolie made me a graphic:

Gay Force

She's so cool (and trademark-violating).

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Weezer was at least partly right

Some of us are on drugs. I don't take pleasure in the often debilitating drug habits of others, but damn sometimes it makes me giggle in dark region of my heart.

A few more quotes overheard at the hospital:

Patient says to the doctor, "Please don't take my Ambien away. Please! I won't abuse it. I promise. Just give me one. Okay two."

Patient to nurse trying to give him pain medication, "Pills?! If I wanted pills, I would have bought them on the street. I need a shot. And I am not a drug-seeker."

Patient to doctor, "I'm not a crack addict. I just started smoking it last week."

Nurse to patient, "Are you taking any medications on a regular basis?"
Patient hands nurse his list: 140 tabs Lotensin†, 5 coricedin†† (sic), 3 Aleve, 2 doses night quill (sic), 12 24oz beers, crack - I don't know how much, and 2 Tylenol PM.

He'd almost have to smoke crack to offset all the depressants he's taking, though he really should keep track of his dosage. Maybe he should get one of these:

† Lowers blood pressure
†† Coricidin Cough & Cold, also known as Triple C, is sometimes taken recreationally which can seriously fuuuck you up to and including death

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Voxtrot, The Bellrays, & The Octopus Project at Emo's

Last night I saw a fun show with two local bands outside and one touring band inside. I was surprised but impressed that they all were able to draw a near sell-out crowd at Emo's. Everyone played well and you should definitely go see them if they're playing near you.


The Bellrays

The Octopus Project

More pics here.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Bat-poking, not a good idea

Just got a university-wide email from the Director Environmental Health & Safety at UT-Austin.
"If you touched a bat near E.P. Schoch (EPS) on Tuesday, September 27, 2005, you need to immediately contact the Austin/Travis Country Health Services at 972-6055 or The Texas Department of State Health Services at 254-778-6744. If your phone contact is outside normal working hours, please leave a message and phone number. State 'you were exposed to a bat Tuesday at UT-Austin and were advised to contact them.' These messages are monitored and calls returned every few hours."
Sigh. Suffice to say, touching bats is a bad idea. Bats on the ground are usually wounded or sick. Wounded or sick mammals can bite defensively (though apparently bats mostly don't). Animal bites transmit rabies. Ergo...

Bat Conservation International has a great page that answers questions about rabies transmission from bats (it's rare). Also on that page is the text of a 1999 resolution from the North American Symposium on Bat Research. It outlines the symposium's opposition to the idea that all bat contact incidents be medically handled as bites, i.e. rabies shots, based on an evidence-free "undetected bite hypothesis".

This whole thing is fascinating to me as a person deeply interested in public health, emergency room treatment, and bats. Two more things to love about Austin; home of Bat Conservation International and North America's largest urban bat colony. Oh, and hospitals.

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Lots of medical pics, but text only. So don't freak.

Aw yeah. I just found a Flickr photostream called Clinical Cases and Images. These x-rays and pictures are cool, kinda gross, rather nasty, and quite foul. Sadly, the photos stop at the beginning of the summer (probably used for a class), so I went looking and found the x-ray photo cluster which led on to related subjects. Clusters was a great idea for Flickr.

A guy started a site called Hot or Not?-style rating site for scars, Scarmageddon. There are check-boxes on the side to show scars that are still bleeding, open wound, stitched wound, fully developed, or ScarSafe (very tame). Of course I would argue that the first three categories are not scars at all, merely potential ones, but don't let that get in the way of giving yourself a raging case of the willies.

The current top voted pic is this weird scar from a rattlesnake bite. Eeesh. The full story of the bite is here and the dude has some seriously cool/ball-retracting pics (suitably hidden behind a warning) of his arm during surgery. Like skin cut away and muscles exposed. Wow.

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Not sure if I want some of these kids as colleagues

X-ray of a collapsed lung

Today in Anatomy & Physiology class we discussed air pressure as it relates to the lungs. To inspire, or breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and creates negative pressure in the chest cavity, which causes air to flow into the lungs.

We're going over material already presented in the textbook and the professor asked the class of roughly 75 students what happens when a person is stabbed in the chest, puncturing a lung or the lining around them.

Cricket, cricket.

So I finally spoke up that the person can't breathe in; the pressure in the lungs is already equalized by the open wound and the lung is probably collapsed. Professor nodded and asked the class what this is called.

Cricket, cricket.

She looked back at me and I, rather annoyed by my classmates, responded, "Pneumothorax." C'mon people! This is basic stuff for even a casual watcher of ER.

Seriously, give a medical vocabulary test to my class and fans of Trauma: Life in the ER and the couch potatoes would kick the students collective ass. I shudder to think of the timidity and shaky hands of my classmates when we practice drawing blood on each other. Sure, everybody's got to learn, but the fear and lack of enthusiasm is kinda depressing.

If you are into such things, the Trauma: Life in the ER website has an ER simulation game where you can pretend to be a doctor. I haven't played it yet, but it looks fun. The intro doesn't say, but I assume you can simulate what it would be like to commit negligent homicide or manslaughter, if you are into such things.

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