Doctor Jedi’s Blog
Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light.

Sep
03

The seat of fatigue lies not in the neuro muscular junction by in the brain.

So said one of the few good physiology instructors I had as a fresh faced medical student constantly disappointed by the sad quality of teaching that I got at my medical school/college.

And he proved it. He got one of us in the group to pull on a weight suspended by a pulley until he claimed he could pull it no more out of fatigue and then asked a pretty girl to ask the guy to do it once more. And once more. And once more. And once more. You get the drift …

So, to come to the point.

Dr. Jedi is tired these days.

The seat obviously lies in the brain, rather than the any of my hundred thousand or so neuro muscular junctions.

The brain, I sometimes feel has lost its sharpness, its drive, its thirst for new knowledge and experience.

The mundane – ness of the job and life in general drags me down.

Wake up, work, home, sleep repeated in an endless cycle with the odd movie thrown in between or watching Two and a half men while lying in bed pretty much sums up my life these days ( well, for the last month atleast). Add to it the fact that the last three weeks have been pretty hectic at work with more than a usual quota of on call commitments thrown in. That has added in an extra dimension of badness to this fatigued existence.

So, what does a man do when faced with such insurmountable odds.

Blog, of course.

Where else to vent this pent up frustation, for my dear readers, if you are willing to share in the joyous experiences and the not so philosophical musings that I post on this blog, then surely you should be willing to wade through the quagmire of my self pity and whining that I am in the process of creating right now.

Nothing suxseeds like suxsex u know. And misery loves company. And so on and so forth.

Sometimes I wonder, what would it be like to engage in a job that entails a bit of creativity. Rather than the protocol driven, top heavy job, thankless that I do these days. For those not in the know, I practice anaesthetics. Or anesthesiology, if you are of a North American disposition.And medicine/anaesthetics these days, demands perfection. And perfection comes with endless repetition. And repetition precludes creativity by definition. Hence my original point.

So this is my new fetish these days. To exercise the imagination, to try and imagine if a life devoted to creating value through means other than altruistic devotion to promoting the health of my fellow human beings might be worth pursuing. I think of writers, composers, mathematicians, artists, directors, actors, photographers etc etc and try and imagine how their work might be different from mine. And it looks bloody alluring. The grass being greener and all that.

So, the big question being, is this a temporary phase? Will I slowly but surely give in and accept the daily grind as something I will have to compromise with for the rest of my life. Or will I have the courage to strike out into the unknown and take up a vocation that will allow me to use more than the 2 neurons I use for my job these days. I am in no way saying that what I do is not challenging, but clinical work demands perfection. And perfection demands practice. And practice demands repetition. And repetition precludes creativity. Wait, I am repeating myself here, arent I. So this post is not very creative then. And therefore, is not really fulfilling its intended purpose.

Bah

Perhaps,I should stop this futile exercise, and go back to day dreaming.

Two morbidly obese patients on the list for tomorrow.

Arent I lucky.

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Aug
18

I can see why twitter is such a big hit. It requires no prolonged thought and planning to cobble together a coherent few hundred words conveying an idea others might be interested in.

Its all about instantaneous gratification.

You might wonder why I am starting a post on the eternal city with a gripe on instantaneous gratification.

Be patient dear reader and all will be revealed.

August is not a good time to visit Rome. If visiting rome means nothing to you other than ticking off another city on your travel list. Or if you dislike the heat. Or crowds. I came because I wanted to visit rome and experience the history and the theology associated with the place. and this might ve been the only oppourtunity I would have got to travel with the other half this year. And while it was hot and very crowded, nothing  spoilt the experience for me, for rome has lived up to everything it promised and then delivered more. The fact that I was in the midst of reading Gibbons Decline and the Fall of the Roman Empire was fortuitous as it made the city come even more alive. When we had visited Paris, I had mused on this blog whether a knowledge of history adds more meaning to visiting a certain place. If anything my visit to Rome has only affirmed my belief in this adage.

We arrived close to midnight on Saturday ( yeah thanks BA) and it was a long trudge to the hotel from the airport. Crashed immediately on arriving and woke up the next morning around 10 am. We had Sunday free … as in nothing booked on the sunday so that we could get some rest and walk around on our own. Which we did. Visited the obvious attractions as in the Pantheon, the Piazza Novana, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi fountain etc etc.

Monday arrived and we embarked on our skip the line tour of the Vatican Museums. For those not in the know, the Vatican City is what remains of the once huge Papal Estates covering most of central Italy. Today, it remains as a independant city state with an area of around 44 hectares. Though the Popes lost most of their territory to Garibaldi in 1870s during the wars of the Italian Reunification, they still retain all of their treasures. Arts and artifacts collected through the last 2 millenia. Today,the Musei Vaticani lay claim to being the most visited museums in the world. A claim hotly contested by the Louvre and the British Museums.

We had booked tours with a company called Dark Rome Tours. Our tour guide was a Irish girl called Rachael. An archaeologist by training and seemingly a catholic in belief.I have hardly ever met someone with so much passion for the job. She knew the answer to every question and explained every minute detail of the various rooms she took us around. A lot of time was spent in explaining the frescos Michaelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. 20 feet up in the air, the ceiling boasts scenes from the book of Genesis from the Old Testament. Scenes depicting God creating the earth and the commission of Original Sin amongst others.  I was suitably impressed, the wife even more so. Amongst the other fresco paintings, I especially loved those in the Constantine room. Much more so as I had just finished reading about him in the book a few weeks ago.

I am going to take a small detour here and go into the fine art of fresco painting. An art practised mainly in the middle ages, it entails applying fresh plaster on a wall or ceiling and then the artist paints on the still wet plaster with coloured pigments. The pigment gets absorbed into the drying plaster and once fully dry, the painting takes its final form. The artist needs to be very accurate. Any mistake means chiselling off the dried plaster and starting from scratch. It is an art that has pretty much died out today. In this age  of instant gratification, this ancient and beautiful art has pretty much died out. It took Michaelangelo 4 years to paint the Sistine Chapel. Most works of art today are created in a fraction of that. Who has got that much time today eh.

St. Peters Basilica was probably one of the most impressive buildings I have seen. Commissioned by Pope Jiliius the Second and built by Michaelangelo, it stands on the supposed spot where St. Peter was crucified upside down after the fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Legend has it that Emperor Nero wanted someone to blame for the fire and he set his vindictive eyes on the nascent christian community of the time.

Right above the spot where St. Peter is supposed to have been crucified stands the Papal Altar. And covering the papal altar is the Baldachinno. A giant canopy made of solid bronze. Around 10 tonnes I was told. And it is this that I am going to talk about. All this bronze was taken from the Pantheon. The oldest and the most complete ancient  roman building surviving to date. Probably because it was one of the earliest Pagan temples to be consecrated as a Church during the later days of the roman empire. Bernini, who built the baldachinno (one of the famous architects and sculptors of the Italian Renaissance) was given permission to remove all the bronze he needed from the Pantheons pillars and dome by Pope Urban the eighth. ( He hailed from the Barberini Family, and was responsible for the saying … what the barbarians did not do to rome, the Barberinis did).

The museums and the Basillica/Baldacchino were definitely the highlight of the day. The afternoon, we spent visiting the other three major Basilicas in Rome. Which were good, but nothing special after what we had seen in the morning.

Day three  led to the culmination of one of my long held desires.  I finally got to visit the city of Pompeii. The ancient Roman town completely destroyed and buried by an eruption of the nearby active volcano Vesuvius in AD 74. Scientists say that the eruption lasted 2 days and buried the entire town under approximately 20 feet of volcanic ash. The town was excavated in the 16th century and these excavations are still being carried out. Much of the city however is open today for public viewing for a small fee that provides funds for continuing excavations and mantainance of the ruins.

The initial heat blast caused by the eruption killed a lot of people as they were going about their lives. The subsequent rain of volcanic ash mummified their bodies for posterity. Some of the more memorable and macabre things that we saw were a man sitting on a latrine, frozen for eternity in the squatting position. A mother playing with her two children. Macabre indeed. A dog that probably did not die instantly, but was left tied to the stake as the master tried to flee the destruction of the volcano. All mummified and converted into objects for people to look at and wonder about the intransience and unpredictability of human existence.

The next day we went on a walking tour of ancient rome. The central square of Ancient Rome (the Forum) still survives and though in ruins, still evokes visions of the majesty of the ancient empire. Various temples survived the ages having being consecrated as churches early on.  The secular buildings, unfortunately were used as quarrys during the middle ages and contributed building material to the new buildings being built by the Popes. An early example of recycling one might say. A sad compromise between preserving the old city and living in the new. The highlight of the trip was the grave of Gaius Julius Cesar. The dictator of Rome and the destroyer of the Republic. The heralder of the Imperial age in Romes Hisotry. I stood at the spot where Marc Anthony  is said to have made his famous speech. Immortalised by Shakespeares “Friends Romans Countrymen …”. Exciting times indeed.

If anything, next attraction was even more impressive. We visited the Colosseum. The site of the gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome. 1900 years since it was completed, it still stands today as a testament to Roman engineering skills. Having survived earthquakes, fires and the medivial ages when it was used as a quarry for construction materials and metals used in its construction. Russel Crowe shouted … ARE YOU ENTERTAINED after defeating his opponent in Ridley Scotts Gladiator. I sure was … suitably so.

We also visited Florence,the city at the centre of the Italian Renaissance. The birth place of Leonardo da Vinci and the site of many museums .Got to see David, Michaelangelo’s famous statue.. An interesting incident was when we ran into the local chapter of the Hare Krishna sect of Hinduism dancing on the streets of Florence. It made for an amusing spectacle watching italians decked out in sarees and saffron robes clothes dancing to the tunes of Hindu Devotional Music. Drew quite a crowd.We also got a very good lesson on market capitalism, but I ll write on that later. After all, modern investment banking was invented in Florence during the middle ages … heh heh.

The rest of the days, we spent walking around Rome along the Tiber. Discovering the modern roman haunts. Clubs and eating places etc. Had some good Italian food, which is very different from what passes as Italian in other parts of the world. Definitely different from the Palak Paneer Dominos Pizza that you can get in my hometown back in India.

And yet, the Rome kept its most intriguing secret from us until the very last. We thought of doing one final tour with Dark Rome before we left. Looked up their website and booked one called the Crypts and Catacombs tour. Apparently, only 2 percent of the tourists who visit rome go underground. And most of this trip took place underground.

We started off at the  Basilica of St. Clementine, the third Pope.  This basilica was built in the 12th century, a modern building in a city that traces its origins to 2500 years ago.  The interesting thing is that excavations showed that this building was built on top of an exact replica that dated to the 4th Century AD. And this in turn was built on a Pagan Temple dedicated to the God Mythras dating from the 1st Century AD. And this in turn was built on … who knows what, the priests ran out of money to sponsor any more excavations. And they were scared that if they dug any more, the entire structure would come crashing down anyways.

The river Tiber flooded annually depositing huge amounts of silt in the city of Rome. Over the last 2000 years, 90 floods were recored that almost destroyed the city completely. After most such floods, the enterprising romans would demolish the damaged buildings upto the first floor, fill the space with rubble and use this block as a foundation to build the same building up again. Romans call their city a Lasagna. Layers upon layers of history exist one on top of the other. Apparently, 62 percent of ancient Rome lies beneath the ground. An interesting anecdote, inspite of trying for the last 20 odd years to extend the Metro Rail to the centre of Rome, authorities have been unable to because every time they make an attempt, they discover yet another important archaeological building and have to stop construction work.

The next stop was the catabombs. The ancient underground burial sites of Christians, Jews and the Pagan Necropolises. Dug into volcanic rock by expert diggers called Fossores ( Note the similarity to the word Fossil), they house close to 500 million graves. Apparently, the Tusa rock ( comprised of volcanic ash) is ideally suited for this purpose. As it is soft to tunnel through, but on exposure to air, gets oxidised and becomes very hard. Hard enough to house tunnels thought be be almost 25o kilometers long in one complex alone. And archeologists have excavated around 5 of these complexes.

The last stop on this amazing tour was the Crypt of the Capuchin monks. The word cappuchino derives from their name, but thats another story and probably an urban legend.  These people used to decorate their chapels with the bones of their dead bretheren. Weird indeed. Gross, some might say. But the end result was one of extreme beauty. Entire chapels are covered with religious mottos and themes depicted by human bones. The last one engraved with the following lines.

What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be

More material to contemplate the impermanence of human existence.

—-

Two thousand words should be enough to test the patience of the most dedicated readers. I will call it a day now and come back for more later. The Rome trip provided enough food for thought.

Do come back. And if you comment, it provides encouragement.

Ciao … and do visit again.

Your very own

Dr. Jedi

Jul
28

What can I say. He has said it all.

Jul
21

God knows where it all goes.

Jul
03

Hunger is the new satiety, penury is the new wealth and debt is the new asset.

So proclaimed my facebook status a few days ago.

The thought came to my mind as I was lying on the couch staring at the sea thru the window.It is duality that makes life worth living.

Let me put a back ground to this. Last year, we lived in a very nice flat.In an old building full of character,of a good size and right next to a tube station. Excellent transportation links, leisure centre/cinema/supermarket all within a five to ten minute walk. Life was good and we were very sad when we had to leave.

So we moved down to the sea for a year. And now its time to move back to the big smoke. And none of the things mentioned  appeal any more. All we want, is a view. And that is something our present accomodation afforded to the hilt. The living room looks across to the atlantic in all its glory. And the city as well, lit up at night. The bedroom has views across to the greens of the rolling hills of the south east. The walk to work is suffused with the fresh air that comes from the sea. I just dont want to leave.

Sigh.

It was with these emotions that I lay grappling with the other evening and had the epiphany that I posted on facebook. Those who have never known hunger do not value satiety. Those ignorant of penury cannot appreciate wealth and so on and so forth. I would never have known what I would miss in the big city had I not lived down by the coast.

The year also brings fruition to an ambition I had held ever since I graduated from medical school. Having attended college in a sea side metropolis, I had always desired to live by the sea and this year gave me a tick in that box atleast. One more item off the bucket list.

But back to the original idea and the bushes in the vicinity.

Its the lack of something that makes us appreciate its presence more. Or vice versa. There is no pleasure better than the relief of pain. Lets just say the negative experiential stimuli reset our baseline for appreciating what we have.

Having said all that, I wouldnt recommend actively seeking out these negativities to make life seem better. Just looking at other people  helps a lot. After all, all empathy is narcissistic in nature. We can never really appreciate someone elses discomfort. The best we can do is project our own selves into their experience and take it from there. Mark Twain must ve been thinking about this when he proclaimed travel to be fatal to prejudice,bigotry and narrow mindedness. And perhaps it is partly because of this reason that travel and taking “gap” years is so highly regarded in this country.

I heard a story recently, probably just an urban legend about a german medical student who was failed in his final exams as he couldnot tell the examiner the name of the opera playing at the local theatre.He was admonished for his lack of worldly knowledge and asked to spend a year doing things other than medicine before he sat his exams again. Mark Twain again comes to mind with his quip about never letting his schooling interfere with his education. ( whats with me and mark twain today eh).

So whats the point of this post. Just re-iterating that what is common knowledge, or SHOULD be common knowledge. Looking at it through the prism of my own personal experience.  And summing it up with one of my all time personal favourite quips.

Those who never leave home, never know the joy of  return.

Jun
22

Heh, as a follow-on to the last post,  found this during one of my random surfing sessions. This seems to be the hot topic online these days.

Jun
13

I am afraid I have become addicted to trivial information.

Random web surfing on sites that cater to infotainment. I read around six online newspapers regulary. And I am not even saying daily. Its more like hourly. If not more. The i-phone and wifi access in the hospital I work in has fuelled the ever increasing frequency of my log – ins to  the likes of The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independant, The New York Times, The BBC, The CNN, The Times of India, The Tribune, The Economic Times, The Financial Times and so on and so forth. The realisation that I was addicted came one day recently when I caught myself feeling a bit disappointed at not getting to read any new piece of NEWS and then realised that I had logged in only 10 minutes ago.

Now on my ranked lists of useless activities, u d find reading newspapers at the end, if that. I have always prided myself on having an above average knowledge worldly affairs. Ask me to expound on the current crises and the stuttering recovery and I am sure I could spout figures no end. Be it the sub prime crisis in the USA or the current PIGS ( Portugal Ireland Greece Spain) crisis affecting Europe to the ugly Maoist Insurgency poking pins in the India Shining Dreams of all Middle Class and Above Indians and i can give you a view, though not necessarily an intelligent one at that ( now thats only my modesty rearing its ugly head). But there is a difference between a healthy curiosity about world affairs and the state that I am in.

Now the question is , does this activity enhance my existence at all. Does it add any value to my life experience or to that of those near and dear. I fail to see the gain if any. And yet I am hopelessly held captive by this orgy of infotainment that consumes me via my computer and phone.

Not only that, this new affliction has distracted me from my other hobby … reading.

Reading used to be my favourite past time over the years, and yet off late I find myself reading less and less (books I mean). And this is inspite of quite a lot of free time thatI have at my disposal. Most of my free time is spent surfing aimlessly online jumping from one website to the next. And apart from the few DIY projects that  I got off you tube and helped me save a few hundred quid on labour costs and fees, I cant really pin point any other big benefit I have had from this new found addiction of mine.

If anything, it is becoming troublesome to concentrate on anything for a long time. Apparently, you can download software off the internet which will tell you how often you click on links or open up new web pages. The average figure is 6-10 new pages every minute.Most stuff on the internet is designed to be consumed in quanta anyways. Sitting and reading long pages detailing complex information is not really what the web is meant for. Books still rule the roost when it comes to that.

These realisations trouble me some and then more. And whats more,these concerns are troubling enough to engage the attention of the high and mighty as well. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/technology/07brain.html?.pagewanted=1&hp

The above links to a nice article in the NY times detailing the effects of being constantly online are having on our mental lives. ( Does any one else think that nytimes is one of the best newspapers around).

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/opinion/11Pinker.html?scp=1&sq=mind%20over%20mass%20media&st=cse

This link provides good counterargument to the assertion that the internet is making us stupid. Again from nytimes. Probably the best newspaper in the world. I wish someone would come up with a quality Indian daily as well.

Anyways, thats it for now.

Hope all my regular readers, all three of you … haha … are keeping well. You will hear from me soon. I promise.

May
23

Why do we have inflation/deflation. How is it that a unit of currency today is worth less a year from now. What has changed.

How can something meant to be a unit of value, be devalued itself.

Its like every second, the duration of the second itself is decreasing. At a rate determined by whether people want to laze around or work hard. So that every subsequent minute has more or less  seconds than the one that preceeded it.  Or the kilogram tomorrow will be composed of 1002 grams rather than a 1000 depending on whether the food supply is increasing or decreasing and whether people are trying to lose or gain weight

True, the comparisons are not really valid given the change from the physical to the economic realm but all complex systems in this world are supposed to be self similar, I thought.

As far as I understand it, money was invented to function as a measure of value. A lowest common denominator. A means of exchange where based on mutual consent, we could determine that two finished shirts were equal to ten units of currency which were equal to four bushnels of wheat or corn or whatever.

I cant really fit in the whole concept of  “interest” into it either. Its almost as if rather than using money as a “evaluator” of goods and services, we use it as a commodity in its own right. The sale and purchase of which can give rise to more money.

If anyone can suggest a basic book on economics that can explain this stuff to me, I will be much obliged.

Yours truly,

Doctorjedi

May
23

And yet again today we had the privilege of paying money to eat food that turned out to be fatty,greasy, unhealthy to say the least and horribly overpriced at that. The said place  was situated on the terraces of a reputed harbor town and ranked highly on internet reviews that I checked before going there to sacrifice my hard earned money on some lunch (the after effects of which are being felt even now.)

The head hurts, physically and emotionally at this recurring pattern in my life now. Go out to yet another “reputed” restaurant, order some decent sounding food and balk at the utter rubbish that gets served in some of these places.

Three days ago, I was thinking the same thing.  These thoughts pass through my head at least 10 times a month and yet so addicted I am to eating out, that I cannot stop myself forever living in the  perpetual hope that the next meal at the next restaurant will be the best one of my life. Its not that there is no food at home. Many times it has happened that the wife has cooked a perfectly decent meal at home and yet we have gone out to some place or the other to satisfy our insatiable culinary desires.

These experiences have led me to think about this phenomena of modern westernised existence. Of “eating out”. This outsourcing of the most domestic  and sacred of all civilised activities. The preparation of food.

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, food was cooked at home. The woman of the house would cook for the entire family. Or if you were rich enough, the cooks would do it for you. And then you would sit around the table or even in front of the TV and partake the meal over conversation with your significant others.

But this simple model is no longer enough for modern existence. Dal Rotti ( Lentils and pancakes for my non indian readers) is no longer enough to satisfy the gustatory impulses of generation Y ( yours  truly included).

The ethical and moral pros and cons of the situation, I will leave for the experts to debate.

What troubles me the is that while most of the capitalist model works in the favour of the consumer, this business of eating out is heavily biased against us. While one wouldnt think twice about returning a faulty piece of electronics or a dress that doesnt really fit or turns out to be somehow not up to the mark, its very difficult to return a dish that you do not find appeasing to the tastes. Its a seperate matter if you find it teeming with human hair or rat faeces, but I find returning a cooked dish to the kitchen something that I m loathe to do.(Perhaps this stems from the ethic instilled in me by my parents to eat whatever was served at the table)

One can try clothes on before you buy them. Every thing else comes with a guarantee of statuory rights. Perhaps restuarant food does too, but I cant really go back to this place tomorrow and demand repayment of my bill just because I was feeling queasy all night.I certainly cannot return whatever is left of their food to them either as tempting as it might be to take a dump at their door step.

Perhaps this is the reason why people partake alcohol before the meal in most restaurants… to dull the effect of what is going to follow.Add to this all the butter/margarine the cooks put in their food to make it more palatable and what you are left with is an ever increasing midsection and an ever dissatisfied hypothalamus. A Sisyphean feeling rolling the rock uphill knowing full well that satisfaction, far from being guaranteed is unattainable.

As you can tell, dear readers, I am a thoroughly dissatisfied man today. Disappointed as well, at my inability to stay away from these places much as I hate them now. Maybe, tomorrow will bring a new dawn with a wizened Mr and Mrs Doctorjedi deciding to forego their thrice weekly foray into the world of restaurants. Or maybe, just maybe, they will find that elusive hidden gem, that pot at the end of the rainbow serving food that will taste like manna from heaven.

And wonders will never cease. And men will live in peace with each other. And with their own selves as well.

Amen.

Apr
02

I first heard of Simon Singh when I read his book titled “Fermats Last Theorum”

Loved his writing so much, that I endeavoured to read most of his works, including The Code Book.

In addition to appreciating his writing, I also respect him for all that he is doing for promoting scientific debate via his website

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/

Needless to say then that I was HORRIFIED to hear about the libel case brought against him by the British Chiropracters Association for writing in an article that  their claims of curing childhood ailments (asthma, excessive crying, colic etc etc) were not based on any kind of scientific evidence.

It only adds to the respect I have for the man that he decided to go ahead as an individual and contest the libel case rather than backing down. Inspite of losing the first hearing, which cost him 100k in GBP, he went on to contest further in higher courts and todays newspapers printed the jubiliant news that the man has won his case. (the fact that he has a couple of international bestsellers added to his ability to take a principled stand. )

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/apr/01/science-writer-wins-libel-appeal

Apparently, the wider issue here is that of british libel laws. Which apparently are very harsh on the media. And you can be taken to court for anything you might say thus empowering organisations to bully individual journalists no end. The case of the Danish Newspaper vs the Icelandic bank is also a case in point. (google it if you wanna know more).

But I am not a lawyer and nor am i a journalist so cant shed more light on that. You d have to ask google.

I am very happy though.

Well done Mr. Simon Singh.

Hats off to you.