Sunday, June 29, 2008

What I'm eating

French food – The first day I was here was a national holiday in Venezuela (celebrating an important battle in Venezuelan independence) and my host loves to cook. This is partly due to the time he spent in cooking school in France when he was learning EUS. He invited me to his family’s home and we all cooked, and then ate for several hours. The menu included root vegetables with homemade b├ęchamel sauce and gruyere cheese, vermicelli with homemade pasta sauce (tomatoes, bacon, fresh herbs, etc), a mushroom and beef stew, fresh salad, and grilled pears with homemade chocolate sauce.

Bottled water - even the locals don't drink the tap water.

Coffee - Yep, I'm actually drinking coffee. Venezuelan coffee is really good. I normally hate coffee, but the coffee here is pretty good, especially with a lot of milk and sugar.

Scotch – something else I also don’t like. Granted, I only had one scotch and water, but it was way better than the Dewar’s my grandmothers used to drink.

Arepas - cornmeal rolls that have cheese, meat, or other toppings. Very tasty and available everywhere. A staple.

Empanadas- like the ones in the US, but bigger and made with cornmeal

TGI Fridays – Not kidding. The menu is very similar to to the one at home (I think, as I don’t eat at Fridays but I do see the ads). American food is everywhere. McDonalds, Wendy’s, etc. Today I saw a billboard for a Wendy’s ‘Baconator’. Like the Terminator of all burgers, with bacon.

Hablo espanol poquito

How much do I wish I’d taken Spanish in high school? But no, I took French, which has not turned out to be helpful in my career as I haven't had a single French-speaking patient. The 2 years of Spanish in college were useful, but I’ve lost a lot of vocabulary since I don’t use it in B’more. Now, however, I’m rediscovering the language, thanks to my time in Caracas. My reading and listening are going ok, but speaking is coming along very, very slowly. I just can’t compose sentence very quickly. I'm definitely getting better getting through a conversation, but background noise or other people talking really throws me off.

Hola from Venezuela

I’m in Venezuela doing endoscopic ultrasound with a doctor who does a huge number of cases each week. He does more alone in one week than all the EUS docs at Hopkins put together. He’s also a good teacher and has interesting research ideas.

Caracas isn’t exactly a traveler’s paradise, so I pretty much work and hand out in my hotel room studying EUS. The doctor I’m working with and his family have been extremely kind and have also entertained me. Actually, everyone I’ve met (with the exception of the hotel desk clerks) has been really nice. People on both my flights down here (connected through Miami) warned me about how unsafe Caracas is and gave suggestions like – don’t wear a watch, don’t let people see you at an ATM, don’t go anywhere alone, don’t wear jewelry, don’t show your camera. Very kind of them to warn me, but it’s a bit disconcerting to hear these things.

The buildings in Venezuela are interesting – it’s like nothing has been updated since the Carter administration. Not the hotel rooms, building styles, etc. The people and cars look modern, but many of the buildings look old.

The hotels are pretty bad – expensive and poor quality. Looking at a few travel websites, 75% of the reviews are complaints about how much a particular hotel sucks. Including the ones that are >$350 per night (I’m not staying in one of these). Things here are expensive, $1 = 2 Bolivares Fuertes, the Venezuelan currency. So it’s like being in Europe, but with a greater chance of getting robbed, kidnapped, or giardiasis.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cuddly is only plush deep

Matt Kirkland goes inside some animatronic toys. Just pictures, with intriguing and horrifying moments.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tiger Woods is ridiculous

It's really absurd. It's not enough that he's won 14 major tournaments, that he's won every major tournament that he has led or been tied for the lead going into the final round, that he's had dominating stretches of consecutive regular tournaments, etc, etc. Now, just for variety, he has knee surgery, doesn't play for two months, double-bogeys the first hole three times, birdies the final hole to extend the tournament - twice! - and wins the US Open in sudden death. I mean, congratulations and all that, but it's really a bit much.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Do you see what O sees?

The answer to the titular question may well be "no". Last evening, he managed to find two white objects against white floors and walls in a darkened bathroom.

I've read that babies have fully developed vision by about six months. Nonetheless, given the large amount of brain given over to visual processing, it's impressive to me that he should be able to see so well, particularly in comparison to other seemingly simple actions (eg, clapping, walking, moving food from table to mouth).

PS: One of the found objects was the pull cord to the mini-blinds. This called to him with dual dangers - pulling the blinds six feet down on to his head and wrapping the cord around his neck - so, admittedly, it's a slightly lesser testament to his visual skills.

Owen among the Brobdignagians

Kerry, I, and others frequently comment on how big Owen is. And while it's true that he's big relative to his own recent past, he's certainly not big on a more general human scale. This is instantly clear when he climbs the stairs. He's very good at it, mind you, but watching him clamber up thigh-high steps, he actually looks rather tiny. (I'm sure that he would appear even smaller if I were at the base of the stairs versus one step behind him, but it would be hard to see him through the heart attack.)

Life with a mischievous Smurf

One of Owen's favorite hobbies is proving Dad wrong. He likes to wait until I've made a pronouncement about his behavior, then do the opposite. So it's no surprise that, within 48 hours of my declaring the decline of "gukh", the word again dominates Owen's speech. We're tuned into WGUK, all gukh all the time.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Life with a Smurf

For about a week, Owen's word was "gukh". About half of what he said was "gukh", often quite emphatically and definitively. We couldn't figure out exactly what it meant; given the amount he said it, I have to figure it had multiple meanings, depending on context. "Gukh" was "smurfy" for Owen.

This is written in the past tense, as Owen seems to have moved beyond "gukh". (His quick changes make timely blogging difficult.) Indeed, in the past couple of days, his vocabulary has expanded a startling amount. He's making all sorts of new sounds, finding new combinations of vowels and consonants, and mimicking us as well.