Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ghostly occurrence

man in strange wooden mask; taken by: Benjamin Miller; source: freestockphotos.bizTime now for this year's Halloween special. 

A certain man had just died and left his house unoccupied. My cousin, who lives right at the US border and some of his friends decided to take a look inside at night. Among whatever else they might have found, they discovered a book of black magic. To have a better look at it they swiped it and buried it in an empty lot somewhere for later perusal. When they came back for it a couple of days later, the book was gone. They went back to the empty house but found it now guarded by a police officer.

This happened back in the 80s. My cousin told me about it not long after and I stayed with the story all this time, retelling it from time to time and probably adding some of my own and forgetting some other parts.  You know how it is with these stories where it is always a cousin, as in this case, or a friend of a friend that has the adventures. These people consistently seem to have more interesting lives than one does. Well, unlike the friends of friends that are unreachable by the degrees of separation, I could contact my cousin anytime. I decided to corroborate the facts next time
i saw him.  If I got full confirmation, or better still, more details, I was sure to submit it to the Hometown Tales podcast. My opportunity came in 2005 at my brother's wedding. There, I took my cousin aside and had him listen to the story told back to him which he heard with amusement. He chuckled at the buried book bit and when I pressed him to verify what I had just told him, he paused for a moment, solemnly pronounced that something of the sort did happen and said no more.

You can read last year's special here

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Better by Gawande book review

title:surgeons-during-an-operation; taken by john crawford; source:
Surgeon Atul Gawande has also a fine penmanship. After reading his book on when things go awry in medicine, Complications, I was eager for more and immediately began reading  his next book, Better.

Better is the inside view on how doctors, and medicine as a whole, tries, and often succeeds in  getting better results: less deaths per thousand cases, more with less, new approaches to old problems.

Despite its engaging stories, Better is not a mere continuation of Complications. It has more insight and footholds on which our minds can work upon making it a companion of sorts to Talent is Overrated of which we talked last time.  Probably one of the greatest interest for us, lay readers, is how we ourselves can get better at our own particular endeavors by looking at a generally veiled field, that of medicine, which not only relies on performance but which has lives on the line as well.

Besides the performance and ingenuity sections there is also one on doing right which explores the ways how doctors not only have  to perform well, but also do what is right simultaneously, which can and do conflict with one another.  Nudity, negligence and malpractice, insurance companies and compensation are explored here.

Gawande has two more books to his credit, The Checklist Manifesto and Being Mortal.