Thursday, August 28, 2008

Measure twice, cut once

So after consulting with my supervisor about a patient, he recommended administering the Criminogenic Thinking Profile, and he emailed me the test. Naturally, after printing the test, I took it myself and put my results in my Gmail status (40th percentile overall, if you care or if it means anything to you).

Because Gmail does not allow you to annotate emails, I often reply to myself and include relevant comments. Because the email from my supervisor only said CTP, and not the full name of the test, I posted my Gmail status message with the test's full name into a new reply to send to myself, so it would be included in the conversation and I could search for it in the future. Of course, as you'd so intuitively gathered by now, I sent my results to my supervisor. Lucky for me he's got a sense of humor and a natural curiosity. His response- "Not too bad. Any high [subscale] scores?"

This are trying times...

This are trying times my friend when I and my patients begin to feel irredeemable but there is hope, yes there is. listen

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More psychosis in the news

See my original post on psychosis here.

I've been following the sad story that unfolded July 29th on a Greyhound bus traveling in western Canada. Without any apparent provocation, Vince Weiguang Li calmly and repeatedly stabbed Tim McLean to death before decapitating him, displaying his head to other passengers (who had fled the bus), and eating parts of his body.

When arrested on the bus, Mr. Li said "I have to stay on the bus forever." Since his arrest, Mr. Li has declined to speak; aside from acknowledging his guilt, he only spoke when asked by the judge if he wanted a lawyer. Mr. Li shook his head and quietly said, "please kill me." Mr. Li was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and has since been admitted to a secure forensic psychiatric ward. Though he declines legal assistance, Legal Aid Manitoba stepped up to represent Mr. Li.

Following the case, I've encountered many comments on blogs and news sites condemning Mr. Li's actions and calling for Canada to reinstate the death penalty in his case. Many are dismissive of "this mental illness BS" and point to the fact that Mr. Li knew what he was doing. (Of course he knew what he was doing, but he was not doing it in the reality we experience- he acted according to the demands of another world entirely.) They think he should be thrown in a hole or deported back to China after revoking his Canadian citizenship. There are also those who recognize that Mr. Li cannot be considered fully (or at least criminally) responsible for his actions and that we should reserve judgment until more facts come to light.

In my last post on this topic, I expressed sadness at the horrors that can befall the mentally ill, their families, and bystanders. This time around, I'm saddened by the intolerance and misunderstanding still prevalent in many people's perceptions of mental illness.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pedalling in the rain

Soon after starting off (without having checked the weather, of course), I saw heavy clouds and lightning over New Jersey, but I decided not to head back. I like to change my routes, because they're tracking me, I mean, to explore new areas of my neighborhood I couldn't (or wouldn't) on foot, and to get some variety. Here's today's ride:

It started to rain on the last leg of my trip, and I put my legs to work (uphill) to get home. I had my bike safely in the vestibule and sat in the rain on my stoop, guzzling water and waiting for my heart to slow down a little (and for my jelly muscles to get it together, man!). Tough workout, but good to get moving. Also nice to finally get inside and plop down listening to the thunder.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Words for the Wise #4

Today's word comes from the newest book on my wishlist, "Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages" by Ammon Shea.

acnestis (n.) The area of an animal's skin where it cannot reach to scratch itself.

From the Greek, using the negative prefix /a/, it literally means "unscratched." Consider yourself that much more enlightened for having clicked your way here

The other words in this series can always be found here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Today's Ride

I had to drop off the dry cleaning up the hill, so I thought I'd go into the park to practice mounting and dismounting my bike. See, with the saddle properly adjusted, the knee is only slightly bent when the pedal is at the 6 o'clock position. This maximizes pedaling efficiency and prevents injury. Problem is, that makes the saddle really high up, and your toes only graze the ground.

During my last ride, I realized I needed to figure out the proper way to get on and off if I don't look like a flailing platypus trying to get on and I don't end up unsafe and fraught each time I want to stop. I was headed to the park to get the hang of these basics on the grass so I could avoid showing up to my sister-in-law's wedding with embossed asphalt on my face (and having it preserved for posterity in her album). Turns out these techniques are really rather simple, and I got the hang of them by the time I got to the park, so I enjoyed my ride and got back in time to move back from alternate side parking.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On the Velocipede (or, with apologies, Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance)

So I bought a used bike on Craigslist. My last bike was stolen when I was in 11th grade and I've been wanting a new one more and more in recent years. I could use the exercise, and I could use the activity to help with the doldrums of an isolated summer at home trying to make progress on my Master's thesis (more on that another time, maybe).

When I want to buy something, I research it to death. On Craigslist, my options are more limited, but I ended up buying a really good used hybrid bike I wouldn't otherwise be able to afford new. Of course, I also had to research to death a helmet, multi-tool set, mirror, bell, kickstand, lock, cyclometer, etc.

There's a hole-in-the-wall bike shop down the street from me where I went to pick up some parts. My experience corroborated the refutation of the fallacy of of of of of... HELP! I'M MIXING UP ACADEMIA AND MY BLOG!

Well, what I was trying to say was that some people believe that abundant options are an indicator of happiness, or freedom, or fresh breath or something. We talk about "Freedom of Choice" and about not being constrained by limited options. In America, one can choose to do or be anything they want! In actuality, people are easily overwhelmend by an abundance of choice, it causes anxiety, panic, and uncertainty (a source of anxiety).

So I realized that though Amazon might make available 218 types of bike lubricant, I can be much happier and at ease deciding between the two brands in my local bike shop (LBS). What's more, I can be out on my way that much sooner.

Using the awesome videos at (including one on "How to Choose the Right Lubricants" - I guess that guy would be the Lube Guru, helping anxious, confused, unhappy people make the right choice), I quickly learned my way around the morphology (uh-oh, it's happening again!) and maintenance of my bike. I got my hands dirty and felt like a real bike mechanic. So, I was ready to ride. Today, after the thunderstorms cleared up, I climbed in the saddle and took off to the Hudson River Greenway. Here's the round-trip route I took:

Now, early on I came to realize what starting off a ride in Washington Heights means- you better be sure your brakes work for the initial steep downhills, and that your knees and thighs don't give out on the return's uphills. Here's an elevation map of my trip:

I'm proud of myself, but also realized I have a lot yet to re-learn about biking.
Any suggestions for saddle-soreness? I'm hurtin!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Words for the Wise #3

Well, I am guilty of profound cunctation in my philological series, so to make up for it, here's a doozy:

deipnosophist \dyp-NOS-uh-fist\ (n.): One who is skilled in table talk.

At the age of six his future as a deipnosophist seemed certain. Guzzling filched apples he loved to prattle. Hogging the pie he invariably piped up and rattled on.
- Ellis Sharp, 'The Bloating of Nellcock
Deipnosophist comes from the title of a work written by the Greek Athenaeus in about 228 AD, Deipnosophistai, in which a number of wise men sit at a dinner table and discuss a wide range of topics. It is derived from deipnon (dinner) + sophistes (a wise or clever man).

Unfortunately, in the Jewish world, rampant deipnosophistry (and pseudodeipnosophistry) is responsible for many a cunctative and thus curtailed Shabbos nap.

The other words in this series can always be found here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

More Fire Safety

Sometime after my earlier fire-safety post, I received an email with this video about how to properly extinguish a grease fire. I'm posting it here (and yes, I vet all email forwards on Snopes or similar) for further dissemination.

Here's what happens when you try to extinguish such a fire with water- the water, being denser than the oil, sinks to the bottom of the pot where it instantly becomes superheated and vaporized. This newly created steam rises up with intense pressure, blowing the burning oil up and out, filling an enclosed space with a fireball. Different but similar results occur when trying to use sugar or flour to extinguish the flames.

(courtesy of Lisa S.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Aural Fixation

I've been pining after these computer speakers for some time. I splurged and bought them on sale (a wee sale, but a sale nonetheless). They arrived this week and I had them set up in time for ל"ג בעומר (Lag Ba'omer), when we bring back the music sweet music. I have to say, I've owned some serious music equipment before (or at least gear that took itself seriously), but I've never owned anything like these. One of the first tracks I queued up was this one:

It's from "New Shabbos Waltz," Andy Statman and David Grisman's awesome follow-up to their stupendous "Songs of Our Fathers." (Please don't mistake my enthusiastic endorsements for hyperbole.) With these speakers, I feel like I'm in the studio with these bearded Yidden. No, scratch that- it sounds like the studio is in my head. With such clarity and fidelity of sound, I'm enjoying my music on another level. (I haven't heard with such sensitivity since an ear-wax-removal incident I won't further elaborate in your polite company.)

Ultimately, with this and some other recent acquisitions, I hope to begin recording this summer some of the music I've written in the past eight years. In honor of these plans, I've added a new guitar tuner to my blog page (check it out on the lower right).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Playing with fire

מועדים לשמחה
Last week, I went to burn our chametz behind a local shul where, as every year, they have set up a couple garbage can bonfires. (When I used to work near the UN, I just threw my chametz into the East River.) I hung around after tossing my 10 rye bread cubes into the inferno because it wasn't much of a conflagration and needed some help. The fires were so confined and so many people's chametz just choked the flames.

I understand people throwing in their dried out lulavim as kindling, but last year's afikomen? A few people tossed in the remains of their Chanukah paraphernalia, wick holders and wax candles. Most infuriating was the person who threw in moist, raw dough. All that does is put out the fire, it'll never burn.
Most perplexing, though, was the pair of BVDs. Huh?

So I stayed around to try to keep the flames alive and keep people safe (leave the plastic bags out of the flames, please!). Maybe we Jews are just pyromaniacs at heart. I conclude with a cautionary video of a biur chametz from two years ago. Thank God, no one was hurt, but those in attendance learned that water sometimes spreads fuel rather than extinguishing the flames. Be careful out there.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Black, it's the new piety

In very religious neighborhoods in Israel, you will see signs posted in the street requesting that women honor the sanctity of the community and dress modestly. This sign (pashkevil) was seen posted in Ramat Aviv Gimmel, a very high end secular neighborhood of North Tel Aviv. It was posted anonymously to an Israeli forum. (You can click on the picture for a larger, more legible version.)

With the help of the blessed brand name,

To those who pass through our neighborhood! We emphatically request: Do not pass through our neighborhood if you are not dressed stunningly.

Stunning dress includes: A Dolce & Gabbana poncho; touches of pink on the collar; a short, asymmetrical Gucci jacket with fur; Chanel high heeled shoes.

Please do not disturb the sanctity of our neighborhood and our lifestyle as dedicated consumers of the holy brand names!

-Neighborhood Salespeople, Institutes of Shopping and Kindness, Community Council

(courtesy of A Time of the Signs)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spring fever

Well, the weather is finally warming up, and we're all feeling a little restless. I just had to share this one. Enjoy!

(courtesy of Mom)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


If you should find yourself below the Mason-Dixon you may want to check out these events. The Anti-Defamation League compiles a list of upcoming extremist events coming soon to a trailer park near you (I'd call 'em white trash, but am refraining out of respect for the ADL's mission).

Don't forget to RSVP for the National Klonvocation, White Christian Heritage Festival, Adolf Hitler Memorial and BBQ, and Passover Gathering 2008(?!) - I'll see you there.

(courtesy of Padmini I.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tragically neglected

I know it's been a while, and things are still busy, but I just wanted to give y'all a quick update of what's been going on (some of them atavistic to this time last year).

First off, our trip to Israel (with a jaunt to Jordan) was awesome and successful. I hope to write more on that later.

The day before we left, T.'s back went out again, though not as bad as last year. The El Al agent was able to give us a three-seat row with an empty seat so T could stretch out during the long flight home. Thankfully, her back much better now.

I went through the externship application rigmarole again (including a more compassionate, less stressful version of last year's bird-in-the-hand/two-in-the-bush dilemma). I ended up accepting an position (which was offered on the spot!) at a geriatric outpatient/partial hospitalization clinic. Who knew there'd be so many elderly people there?

Last week, I developed an intensely painful infection in one of my wisdom teeth. Long story short, I lost several night's sleep, had all three wisdom teeth extracted, and am recovering decently, having just returned to eating solid foods (mostly). I will miss the pizza smoothie, though.

More to come, I promise!

P.S. It's actually not rigamarole. Go know...