Site update

I finally updated my site to a new version of wordpress and gallery. This will finally let me deal with the comment spam problem and get me to start blogging again. I also made the switch to dreamhost given their cheap fees and great service. So far the new wordpress seems much better. I am even writing this post from the iPod touch wordpress app. Pretty cool.

Riding Rails

I have to build a book trading site for school. I’ve heard a ton of good things about Ruby On Rails so I figured I’d give it a try. I’ve been very impressed so far. I’m using Aptana IDE, MySQL, and a lot of cmd windows. It’s great. It’s easy to use and I’ve built a lot of content in a very short period of time (and it will run on either windows or linux). Now that I am finally comfortable with basic Rails stuff I am going to dive into Ajax and SOAP in Rails. Should be pretty cool once it is done.


I am reading the book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande.  This book has been a real treat so far.  Dr. Gawande’s vivid writing has really pulled me in.  He spends a lot of time talking about specific life experiences and how doctors analyze them to improve their practice of medicine.  His writing gets the reader to think about complex topics in a way that could bring about individual improvement.  My favorite paragraph so far is in the introduction: “Betterment is a perpetual labor.  The world is chaotic, disorganized, and vexing and medicine is nowhere spared that reality.  To complicate matters, we in medicine are also only humans ourselves.  We are distractible, weak, and given to our own concerns.  Yet still, to live as a doctor is to live so that one’s life is bound up in others’ and in science and in the messy complicated connection between the two.  It is to live a life of responsibility.  The question, then, is not whether one accepts the responsibility.  Just by doing this work, one has.  The question is, having accepted the responsibility, how one does such work well.”  This quote really highlights a fundamental challenge of medicine that he is trying to address; that is trying to always help patients in spite of fundamental human flaws.  He gives nice insight into how to evaluate one’s life and actions with the goal of being better at whatever one does.  It’s a great book.  I would recommend it to everyone, medical and non-medical.

GPS == Love

I carried my GPS everywhere on my recent skiing trip out to Winter Park, CO.  In my opinion, the results were pretty awesome.  I was able to finally do some analysis on my skiing and also map out where I took my on mountain photos.  It was great.  Here are what the daily totals look like:

The best part is that I was able to generate a great kml file (for google earth) that shows my skiing tracks by day and has pushpins for all of the photos that I took on the mountain.  The pushpins are clickable and show each photo right in google earth.  It’s great.  The web version of google maps is also capable of displaying the kml file (just put the kml url into the maps search bar and hit the search maps button).  If I was less lazy I would have the map shown here but I am lazy and also don’t want this post to slow all blog views down.  Hopefully they will eventually allow me to import kml into the My Maps feature rather than having to do everything by hand (or by coding js).  Here is a link to some screenshots from google earth and garmin mapsource if you don’t want to pull it up for yourself.

My little GPS is totally sweet.  The hardware is great and it does almost everything I need.  I find the software to be a little weak when it comes to skiing though.  It does not do a good job calculating total descending vertical feet or run length and average speed.  It also won’t do any geotagging of photos and really falls down when trying to work with multiple session files.  So I started working on a little project in my free time.  Here is a screenshot:

The app still has a long way to go (and is dependent on a full release of the msft virtual earth 3D sdk) but it at least got me some of the info I was looking for.  Here is a quick rundown on what the app does:  The items in the treeview are gpx files with tracks below each file entry.  The box in the lower left is a vertical feet summary for all selected tracks.  The top chart is a vertical feet vs. time chart with active time/altitude hover.  The middle chart is an hourly descent/ascent/total chart.  The map at the bottom is a virtual earth 3D control with all selected tracks and associated photos plotted.  I also am going to change the middle chart to a bar chart and add some cool analytics to the top chart.

Spring Break

Kate and I spent spring break (last week) with the U of M Wilderness Medicine Society out in Winter Park, CO.  It was a blast!  We took the scenic route on the way out and visited Mount Rushmore.  I was really impressed by the park and would like to go back during the summer.  At Winter Park, I skied four days covering a total of 77,000 vertical descending feet.  We skied some amazing trees, steeps, and moguls.  It was a riot.  I also recorded some amazing GPS data (which will be the subject of my next post).  We also had two lectures from one of the docs at the two mile clinic (the clinic at the base of Winter Park).  He spoke on high altitude sickness and trauma (we learned how to reduce fractures and dislocations).  There were some really nasty pictures of broken femurs and spiral tib-fibs.  We had a safe trip home and I am still pretty sore.  All in all it was an amazing trip!!!

Winter Park Pics Here

Mount Rushmore Pics Here

Verbal Judo

As we get more skilled at interviewing patients, we discover that some patients are very easy to interview and some are very hard.  The really quiet and really talkative patients are always the most challenging because they don’t provide us with the easiest flow of information.  Very talkative patients are especially interesting to me.  Without any encouragement the interviewer will quickly learn about what that person had for breakfast, how many pets they have, and why they are mad at one of their friends.  While learning about another person’s life is a wonderful and fulfilling experience, we unfortunately only have about 20-30 minutes to cover all relevant medical information.  Our teachers encourage us, in these situations, to gently guide the patients back on to relevant topics in order to learn as much medically relevant information as possible.  It occurred to me that this is a lot like verbal judo.  Judo uses the momentum and strength of an opponent to achieve one’s desired end.  While the physician-patient relationship is not an adversarial one, it is one where this theory of guided momentum can be used.  The physician wants to take the chatty patient’s momentum and guide it towards a productive direction without impeding the volume of information that the patient is willing to provide.  Wikipedia says,  “The word Judo is composed of two kanji: “jū”, which means gentleness, and “dō”, way or road (the same character as the Chinese “tao“). Thus Judo literally means “the gentle way”, or “the way of giving way”, and may also be defined as “the way of suppleness”, “the way of flexibility, or “the way of adaptability”.”  Given the name’s meaning, it seems even more fitting.  I can only hope that someday I will possess those traits and the ability to be a verbal judo master.