Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Red wire, blue wire

Thanks to the national holiday, we've been watching a lot of movies lately. Top on the Netflix queue was "The Hurt Locker." Now, I will admit I already sort of liked the movie without having seen any of it because of one thing- Kathryn Bigelow beat ex-husband James Cameron for Best Director at the 82nd Academy Awards. I saw "Avatar" in theaters in 3D and felt cheated, the movie just is not that good. Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but I did like "Dances with Wolves" and felt Cameron just refurbished the plot from his earlier work. So I was glad when she won, even though the two are on good terms.

While watching I was impressed with the filming and sense of authenticity and wanted to know, "where was this filmed?!" Turns out Bigelow wanted to get as close to Iraq's look as possible, so filming was completed in Amman, Jordan. Explaining the sort of feel she wanted audiences to grasp, Bigelow noted the environment was one of infinite hostility. The New Jersey Newsroom quoted her as saying, "You don't know if the gentlemen up on the third floor balcony over your left shoulder is hanging out his laundry or calling in your coordinates for a sniper hit. So, as relayed to me by members of the military that have been on various tours of duty, it's a constantly threatening environment." And some of the tension in the region wasn't spared on the filming crew and actors.

Jeremy Renner's IMDb page has his take on the experience as plain awful. Heat of up to 120 degrees, Jordanian children throwing rocks at him, and no security for those working on the film. Wikipedia gives a nice overview of the sort of things that happened during filming. Well, despite the bacterial issues and food poisoning I'm sure some people suffered, the movie is well done. And I really appreciate the step away from making a political statement, politics get in the way of trying to show what all of our hard working soldiers go through (regardless of their religious, sexual, ethnic, or socio-economic background). Ok, now I can get off the soap box.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Remember, Friday is Leftover Pie for Breakfast Day so honor the day appropriately, I know I will!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Med School Learnin': Skin Grafting

Correction on my part, skin grafting was just an interesting in class side discussion for my fiance, he was really covering skin in general. Well, here is what I could force him to explain.

There are two kinds of skin grafts, as I understand it. One is called a full-thickness graft and includes both the epidermis and dermis, while a thinner split-level is sort of the variable graft that doesn't include both layers of skin. If you're getting a skin graft, depending on what doctors determine, having a thick graft is a desirable thing as the post-healing graft will maintain smoother skin qualities. With all great sounding deals, a full-thickness graft needs a lot more favorable conditions for it to heal correctly. On the bright side, it is usually used to graft on smaller areas... which is a silver lining right? You've been burned or have otherwise hurt your largest organ, but if you get a full-thickness graft at least that means the area needing a graft is smaller.

Again, as I understand what I was told, for large areas that have been damaged the skin can be meshed. And, yes, it looks exactly like you might expect. There are different tools that can sort of fishnet stocking your skin graft.
This is what one of the mesher tools looks like. Less high 
tech than one would image.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Possible Beginnings for Med School Learnin'

Alright, I like starting projects but sometimes I get distracted by the myriad of cool facts or connections. To make a commitment, I'm doing a quick proposal for the first (of many?) Med School Learnin' entries.

To start out I think I will cover skin grafting. My fiance covered this a week or two ago. I distinctly remember a sense of skin crawling while listening to him explain how doctors regrow skin in areas that have been damaged. The images we looked at were also very raw.

Here is an image teaser, and this illustration is fairly tame unless you have a weak stomach.

The Man Behind the Face

Starting a blog has given me some self knowledge. In case it wasn't apparent, I'm very interested in my food, because that seems to be the thing I look up the most.... or maybe I'm lazy and learning about food is just easier than other things. [Side Note: As my fiance is in med school there are a lot of interesting medical and biological things I'm learning, some of them graphic and shocking, and once I figure out how to expand on one of his tidbits I swear I'll write things on "med school learning."]

He was smiling... That's right. You know, that, that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn't know it 'fore, they could tell right then that they weren't a-gonna beat him. That old Luke smile. Oh, Luke. He was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he's a natural-born world-shaker. - Dragline, "Cool Hand Luke"

 Paul Newman was one sexy beast!

One thing is correct, Paul L. Newman was a world-shaker. If there is one thing I love as much as food culture, it's nonprofit-social-entrepreneurship-greater-good things! Here's innovation for you: Newman's Own. A for-profit food company that gives 100% of after-taxes profits to charities. But the greatness doesn't stop there. Newman's Own has products that are good tasting. Generally their pasta sauces are the lowest in sodium on the shelf, and I would know because we just ate pasta with some Newman's Own Tomato & Basil Bombolina sauce.

You might be wondering, isn't using celebrity status to promote a product a little chintzy. No, because the majority of Americans probably don't recognize Newman. His last pop culture movie was in "Cars," paling in comparisons to roles such as in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The company started like a lot of good ideas do- demand surpassed supply. The Wiki page on Newman's Own notes it started with salad dressings to friends as gifts, and the company has grown ever since 1982. Plus, one has to love how Newman's Own was a family friendly business with daughter Nell Newman launching Newman's Own Organic.

Even as a poor 20-something I never second guess buying Newman's Own products. There, that's my plug. Less guilty shopping, on any budget, for products you know are serving more than one purpose and good.

And, in other food learning [I don't intentionally do it!], I won another bet. Last night I ordered a Chocolate Amaretto Torte from a local gourmet cafe and bakery. IT IS SO YUMMY. My fiance ordered a Pumpkin Cheesecake, also yummy. His interest was in the citrus flavor present in the torte, which I said I thought (90% certain) might be his perception since Amaretto isn't a citrus liqueur. To lay all doubts to rest that I was correct I looked up Amaretto. The liqueur is made from apricot kernels, generally described with an almond flavor that is slightly bitter. After looking around on the interwebz, I decided I liked what About's Home Cooking section said about it. Birth of the drink is disputed, anywhere from the late 18th century to mid-16th century in Italy. Either way, I say cheers and enjoy!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I don't have mutant feet! I just don't!

Take a look at your feet. Go ahead and take off your shoes, slippers, or socks and get a good look at your naked digits. What do they look like? Is the second toe longer than your big toe? Is your second toe shorter than the big toe? Which do you think is "normal?"

Growing up my cousins always teased me that I had funny toes. My mother and I have the same hands and feet, so until they told me I was different looking I never thought on the shape of my feet. For women, foot "cuteness" can be a big deal as just another facet of the pressures to be beautiful. But I have never faltered in believing there is nothing unusual about my feet. If there was something off I'd probably also have small but unique genetically varied body parts- maybe my ears or my hands. Not exactly scientific logic, I know, but it has worked for me.

Well, my fiance in his ultimate show of support, also thinks my feet are funny (but cute, of course). He describes them as being pronged. There is my big toe, then the next three toes look as if they all belong on a flesh trident of the same length, and lastly is the pinky toe. His feet, what many people will call normal, follow a pattern in which the second toe is as long as or longer than the big toe with the rest of the toes scaling downward in size from there. So whose toes AREN'T mutant?!

I set out to see what the internet could yield. While reading a piece done by Dr. John McDonald, at the University of Delaware, I read about the genetics of toe length. But it seems the biological research leaves some grey area- the short second toe gene is not genetically dominant, but neither is the long second toe gene. S-Toes: 1, L-Toes: 0.

Toe variation has existed probably since the existence of man, so there are some ancient groups who have made statements about toe length which modern people now take as Divine Word, and therefore irrefutable. Thank you Greeks for your Golden Rule and standards of beauty... Your statues have given my feet a bad reputation. Short toe feet have been called Egyptian and the counterpart has been called Greek. Wikipedia has a nice cultural bit about how longer second toes have been associated with royalty even, blah blah blah something about aesthetically pleasing. S-Toes: 1, L-Toes: 1. Call me a jerk, but if Greek ideas of aesthetic beauty were the end all be all then men would feel more pressure to conform to standards of beauty, a larger of the male population would feel the need to be well sculpted and muscled to meet those statuary golden rules.

Despite its cultural dominance, long second toe feet only make up an estimated 10% of the world's population. S-Toe: 2, L-Toe: 1. And due to how it redistributes the body's weight Morton's Toe can cause much musculoskeletal pain. S-Toe: 3, L-Toe: 1.

Clearly, a short second toe in relation to the big toe, is better and definitely not mutant. Even New Age beliefs show that people who have long second toes are too self important, you all "have great vision but can be self-opinionated and like to be seen to be in charge." So there, it's officially set in stone.

Weird Weather Occurances

A few weeks ago I went on a tour for a grad school. During our actual tour of the grounds, I stared as some repair men were fixing a set of windows. The windows were blown in...out...apart, however you want to describe it. This was on a part of the building that had several windows, but the other windows within a 30 foot radius were fine. Such a select piece of destruction seemed odd to me. I wondered, amused, "Did one of the students break under pressure and build a MacGyver-style bomb and let loose the frustration?"

Nope. Our tour guide noticed my attention and said the school had recently suffered a microburst. A What? So I asked for more of an explanation which amounted to the person fumbling and coming up with this: a reverse tornado. Hmm, probably not. I did find a great explanation of microbursts on the Department of Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Illinois.

Essentially, a microburst is a strong rush of wind towards the ground. If the "body" of the wind is less than 2.5 miles in diameter then it's a microburst and probably will cause damages to whatever is nearby. The highest wind speeds occur during the initial decent towards the ground, but then once contact with the ground has been made the wind fluidly bounces back to curl around the original column of wind and pockets of extreme winds are created. This explains how the windows on the grad school tour got shattered, and in such a freak manner.

The web page about mircobursts created by the U of Illinois has some good diagrams and actual photos of the occurrence, check it out here.

Happy fall weather everyone!