Merry Christmas

Every Christmas is a little different, and my priest today made note that most likely, the story of Christmas in Luke’s gospel is invented. I’ll forgive Luke because he wrote one of the most beautiful pieces of prose ever, and even though I’m Catholic, the King James version is the best. Every year, I watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special just to hear Linus speak the words:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Theologically, Luke’s gospel is quite interesting. It takes place during the Roman census and involves a lot of fleeing, which seems very fine to us now, but was practically heresy at the time, for the Messiah was hoped to be a military king, a king of lands and armies, who would throw off the shackles of Rome.

But instead, he is a babe born to a carpenter and his wife. There is no room at the inn, so he is born in a barn. Luke is telling us that Jesus was not the champion of Israel to challenge the Roman oppression. He was not a king of the world, but a king of the heavens. He was out of place, and we can only find him if we look for him and search, and in the most bizarre of places sometimes.

And so, I find it a little simplistic when I see people praying to God for health or money or safety or happiness or luck or winning a game or whatever. In reality, I think that when we suffer, or we are abused or tortured or neglected or injured, we should be thankful. How lucky we are to be so tested. I have long believed that the trials and suffering of our lives are to test our spirit, and it is like gold in a crucible: in the fire we are purified. We should be thankful to suffer so.

I never pray for good fortune or happy things, or even good health. I do pray for my patients, but I don’t pray for them to get better. I don’t even pray that I do the right interventions or treatments. I simply pray that I may have the strength to do God’s work, whatever that may be. Because I can’t cure anyone, so let me at least do what I can, and let God do the rest. Penicillin can only do so much. There has to be something else.

What your coffee says about you

Whenever I want to get coffee, it's always a tough thing to coordinate with other people. Seems like getting a cup of coffee shouldn't be so hard, but in college I learned just how hard it could be to get a simple stupid cup of coffee.

Of course, Starbucks. You can't go to Starbucks. The pretentiousness isn't the problem. It's the corporate conglomerate nature of Bux, overpowering and outcompeting local small business, and taking money out of communities and draining the small towns. It is nothing short of evil.

Then, there's low brow coffee: Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Tim Hortons. You can't drink these. It's simple, unpretentious, without sophistication or class.

There are a slew of smaller national chains: the deer one, the beanery, blah blah blah. You can't drink them, because supporting them would be complicit to the strategy of Starbucks, and the national chain philosophy of the destruction of small town America.

So then, you must find yourself at local small businesses who serve what can be accurately termed as terrible coffee. There are many of these kinds of places, but they tend to go out of business on a fairly routine basis because (1) their coffee is terrible, (2) they try to be pretentious but the hipsters who promote their types of establishments don't spend money, (3) they sell coffee at fair prices instead of coffee drinks at fairly unreasonable prices.

So, whenever I call someone to go grab a cup of coffee, we have to navigate this immense, geopolitical, socio-economic landscape to figure out just what the other person thinks about coffee, before we can even decide where. It's more complicated than trying to figure out who someone will vote for.

So, I called a friend of mine, and we went to get coffee, and we had this kind of a pitiful conversation:

her: So... where do you want to get coffee?
me: Well, anywhere is fine. Someplace close.
her: Well, Starbucks is close, but so is Place A and Place B.
me: Starbucks is fine. Let's do Bux.
her: Okay, Bux it is.
me: I could give a rats ass about where we get coffee, as long as it's warm and has a bathroom.
her: Oh thank God. There's nothing worse than trying to figure out where we can get coffee, and worrying about what your coffee says about you.

And for the record, I don't like Starbucks, not because of the corporate greed or whatever else, but because they burn their beans, and their roasts go far beyond 'bold' and are more like charcoal. If you drink the latte's, then I'm sure you could care less, but if you're a lover of coffee like me, then it becomes a problem. I prefer milder roasts, unflavored. People make the argument that the bolder roasts are more flavorful, but I'm sure these are also the people who order in Starbucks lingo, and think that my cup of Tim Hortons is swill. Well, it's tasty swill.


Usually, I'm a pretty Christmas guy. I enjoy the season, but not this year. I just can't get into the swing of the season. It feels a little hollow this year. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the weird life I've been living, but it all seems quite empty.

I miss being young, and all the wonderful joy of Christmas day, and surprises and presents and everything great, but now, Christmas lacks that innocence.

And it hurt this year that my Christmas card haul was only 8 cards, 3 of which were from schools or institutions. Shouldn't I have more cards? Why is it that I'm the only one who's capable of putting out Christmas cards?

Anyway, it's just another Christmas, and maybe that's a bad thing, but it just feels a little lacking is all.

The story of pharmacy girl

While I was on general medicine, there was a girl working with the pharmacy who I'll call pharmacy girl. She was very bright-eyed and cheerful, and had this ebullient personality which was so very attractive. I have to admit that I was smitten, and when I say smitten, I mean smitten with every possible negative connotation. I had some sort of bizarre, junior high, blushing cheeks and stammering speech infatuation that lasted a brief couple weeks, but then she was gone away to perform some other pharmacy related service, and I didn't see her again.

However, I thought about her and how she defied all of my previous stupid crushes. She wasn't haughty and dismissive. She wasn't emotionally unavailable. She smiled. She was friendly and outgoing. She was (dare I say it) somewhat normal.

So, I saw her again recently, and we talked for a bit while I was going over a chart, and we chatted pleasantly, and she had a negative left fourth finger test, and I thought to myself, "Ask her out. Give it a shot. Worst she can say is no." We seemed okay. We could have some chemistry. And so I scrounged up a little nerve.

Or I tried to find the nerve, and there was none there, so I said good-bye and left the hospital. And that is the end of the story of pharmacy girl.

Doesn't do anything for me

Trust me on this women. If you should meet someone who is a doctor, please avoid doing some specific things. If you don't have a steady job or aren't in school, then we have practically nothing in common, because I have been in school or in training every year of my life since preschool. At least pretend to have a job.

Most importantly though, do not tell me how cool it is to be a doctor. If you're trying to flirt with me, tell me about how wonderful a doctor I must be or some other contrived crap like that, but being a doctor is not cool. If you tell me how cool it is to be a doctor, then I will take that as implied consent to every disgusting medical story I have in my arsenal.

Because saying that being a doctor is cool is really no different from saying that it's cool to be a fireman. It's without any understanding of what it is to be a doctor.

WTF is wrong with me

So, I left the hospital at 6 PM, and I realized as I stepped out the door that I had no plans, nothing to do, nowhere to go. I stopped in the coffee shop near my house and did a little writing, but otherwise, went home. I didn't even eat dinner.

I didn't eat dinner because I've been feeling guilty about my weight and decided that I need to cut out about 700 calories from my diet. Sounds like a lot, but I take like 2600 kcal a day. So 700 is a drop in the bucket.

Anyway, I came home after 3 cups of coffee, watched some TV, goofed around on the comp, and now I'm going to bed. It's Friday though! C'mon! Shouldn't I be going out and doing something? Shouldn't I be living life to the fullest?

I need a life. I really, really, really need a life. I actually spent tonight listening to medical podcasts. MEDICAL PODCASTS! WTF.

Apparently, I'm a jerk

Patients LOVE me. I mean it. I'm not being facetious or pumping my ego. At least once a week, I have a patient talk me up, or try to get into my residency clinic. When I was still taking patients, I had to turn these people away out of fear that I'd be accused of poaching. Even today, a nurse told me that one of the patients I saw a month or two ago, this patient saw me in the hall, and the patient couldn't stop talking about me.

So, I was a little surprised to find out that apparently, I'm the jerk senior resident. I'm the guy that yells at the interns and is too critical. I'm always in a bad mood and never fun to work with. I make the interns work too hard. No one wants to work with me.

And as much as I'd like to deny it... it's TRUE! I'm a jerk! How dare I make the interns work, and demand that they meet a standard of excellence? I'm such an asshole. I am the Dr. Perry Cox of my institution (except I'm nice to patients). If you're an intern, let me tell you how to stay off my shit list.

  1. Don't lie about your skills. Nothing pisses me off more than an intern misrepresenting his skills. I've had interns tell me they were experienced with central lines, only to find out that I was supervising their first attempt at a CVC. Not cool. I don't mind teaching a procedure, but I need to know that you don't know.

  2. Don't complain about working. I've had interns complain and whine and bitch about doing FOUR OR FIVE admissions. Christ! Who the fuck complains about that? Compared to my intern year, these guys are getting off light. I've got absolutely no sympathy. If you didn't want to work hard, you should've become a janitor.

  3. Mistakes are okay. Stupidity is not. Not knowing which antibiotic to use, that's okay. Not knowing which stress test to order, fine. Not being able to write an H&P, that's a big fucking problem.

  4. Fucking up is okay. Being lazy is not. You're an intern. You'll make mistakes. That's FINE. What is not fine is not doing something because it is inconvenient. I have actually stood at bedside and made interns do rectal exams on patients when indicated, because not doing one when it's indicated is practically criminal. I've been so adamant about this that several interns think I have a butt fetish.

  5. Don't help unless you know that your efforts will actually help. True story. I put in a central line, showing the intern how to do it. While I was sewing it down, he tried to clean up my sharps. I didn't notice. Then he gets paged away. I turn around and I can't find the guide wire. SHIT. SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT. By the time he got back, I had a 911 page out to vascular surgery and super stat portable x ray.

I had a coworker in college. I was applying for a student supervisor position at the job, but he begged me not to do it. Why? "Ifinding, you're a good guy, and you would be awesome at supervisor, and I have no doubt that you'd get all kinds of stuff done, but it's a part time college job for beer money. You'd never let us be lazy. You take this too seriously."

I think the same is true now that I'm a senior resident. I demand a standard of excellence from my interns, and I'm not talking about technical proficiency. I'm talking about integrity, honestly, respect, humility, and compassion. These are requisites to being an excellent doctor. And if you're not interested in being an excellent doctor, I'm not interested in teaching you.

Coffee for two

In an effort to commune with the world and counteract my hermit tendencies, I have taken to camping out in coffee houses. This is, for the most part, entirely without point or purpose. I haven't yet met or talked to a single person who I didn't already know.

So, I'm not sure that this strategy is really an effective one, but I'm trying nonetheless, and I think the next step may be to join a gym or something like that. That may work, or it may just be another thing to waste my time.

But in the course of wasting my life in coffee shops, I've been privy to some interesting goings on. I've seen a lot of people studying, and most of them are studying medical things: students, pre-meds, residents, and even an attending or two. There seems to be a surprising amount of medicine going on in coffee shops.

Even funnier though is a conversation that I overheard between two girls about how to snag a doctor. It was absolutely ridiculous, and absurd in that they were surrounded by people in the medical field, in one way or another.

I've witnessed a few first dates (or half dates, depending on how you wish to view it). A lot of meetings from eHarmony or going off with several hitches and a few bricks. The world going by in coffee houses is a little bizarre in many ways, and the $2 cup of coffee is well worth the admission price to the show.

But it also points to the deficiencies in my life. Case in point, there is a pretty girl sitting not two tables away, typing away on her laptop, sipping her coffee, and here I am, doing the same thing, and I will pack up my computer and go home without another glance, and probably there was nothing there anyway, but still, how typical of me.


friend: C'mon, there are some single girls in the program, you know... we need to have something to gossip about.
me: No, I'm not interested. I thought about it, but no.
friend: Are you sure? That would be a good match, I think.
me: No. Really, I thought about it, and no. I don't think we match at all.
friend: You say that like there's a specific person...
me: You and I both know that you're referring to a specific person.
friend: Well, just for fun... to get the ball rolling!
me: How would going out with someone I'm not interested in be fun?
friend: You can't say then that you don't have opportunities.
me: Quite honestly, I think I have conceded defeat.

My social life has come to a somewhat of a screeching halt. I was dating a bit in my intern year, but not since then, and not without some opportunities, as my friend was apt to point out. I've actually had women had expressed this sort of vague interest in me.

The problem is that I was not interested at all in these women. And it's not entirely me trying to date thin, attractive, chesty, blond 19 year olds. It's just that I can't talk to these women. It's a one sided conversation. There's no spark, no chemistry.

The arguments that I should 'have fun' and date 'just to do something' have been made to me, several times by multiple people in fact. But I can't bring myself to do it. I can't see wasting two people's time and money on a venture destined for failure. And I've done the leg work. I've talked to these women, had some legitimate conversations, but all going nowhere.

Even worse for me is that there are girls who I am interested in, but for the most part, they want nothing to do with me for one reason or another. This is not necessarily for malicious reasons, mind you, but boyfriends, fiancés, husbands, lesbian, or (the most dreaded) a patient.

I used to believe quite honestly that this whole nice guy routine was an effort that would pay off in the end, but I see now that being a 'nice guy' has really very little to do with dating. I mean, of course, it has an affect, but there are a variety of factors conspiring against me. For your pleasure, I will list them.

  1. I am Asian in the heart of the Midwest. I am, quite literally, the only Asian person whom most people around me know. I am a curio. I am not dating material for the same reason that you don't have a spot picked out for hanging up a Picasso: you've never considered the possibility of owning a Picasso. Similarly, women I've asked out display not contempt or disdain or even scorn, but surprise at the thought of an Asian boy asking her out. How can this be?

  2. I am, essentially, a hermit by nature. I don't enjoy going to clubs or bars or large social gatherings. I hate meeting new people, and like most introverts, such events are draining rather than 'fun.' I'd rather work. And like most hermits, my friends are also hermits, and we connect infrequently. I have tried to expand my social circle. I have reconnected with some friends. But all in all, I still would rather sit at home reading a book than go clubbing.

  3. I am seriously out of shape. I need to lose some weight, yo.

  4. My standards just might be bordering on ridiculous. What I want in a woman is not a trophy wife. I want someone smart and intelligent (not the same thing...), classy and graceful, eccentric and funny, with interests and passions. Now if this woman were to be 19, blond, and chesty, I wouldn't complain at all. But I've met a lot of women who were physically stunning, and mentally vapid. That's not what I want.

  5. I am tremendously shy. I am. What can I say. I've tried to be more 'open' but I'm pretty shy still.

  6. Apparently, I come off as mean. This will be a whole nother post at some time.

So, for now at least, I've given up on romance. I have other things that I'm worrying about, and it's not that I'm all sobbing about it like in med school. I'm not all 'woe is me, I'll never find true love. Boo hoo!' bullshit. But my life does feel palpably empty, like something is missing, and I don't really know what to do about that.

Music to my ears

Lately, I've been going to a lot of classical music performances. Part of it is that I actually know some of the people performing, but lately, my musical tastes have changed... radically.

Anyone who knew me in college knew that I had no taste in music. None. Absolutely zero. I owned all three Backstreet Boys CD's. Oh, I would go to see local music and junk, but my CD collection was still an atrocity, a crime against music.

In medical school, I got into this weird alternative kick. I was listening to Puddle of Mudd, Hoobastank, Everclear... (you might note, still listening to crap). Then, I began to develop some taste. I got into emo. Dashboard Confessional. Guster. Jimmy Eat World. Get Up Kids. Saves the Day. The captains of emo.

And now, sort of out of the blue, I've been listening to jazz and classical music again, which I haven't listened to since I was a child forced to listen to classical music. But I actually enjoy it now...

It's weird how things can change without even trying. And yet, some things, no matter how hard I try, never seem to change at all.