Signs of Anecdotage

I remember when we were kids, we used to get gifts of fruitcake from well-meaning older ladies in our church. I think that’s where I first learned how to lie. If my little brother and I didn’t praise the weaponized loaf of glazed, syrupy candied fruit studded with rotten walnuts, we caught hell from Mom. Lying gets a bad name, I know. But if you don’t learn this essential social skill early in life, you end up with a sore backside from the paddle in the corner of the family room. Ironically, the paddle was a repurposed paddle ball toy we got for Christmas—which was always the time the old ladies from church would gift us with fruitcakes from outer space, obviously via wormhole vortex.

Speaking of friends, we occasionally had dinner with an older couple, RellaMae and Ray, who owned a gargantuan mongrel dog, part bull mastiff and part mastodon. His name was Moose. When he was tied to a post out in the back yard, he spent a lot of his time barking and snarling at anything living that passed by, especially the paperboy. On the other hand, he played like a puppy with me and my brother. At the dinner table, he would lay his head on my knee, mournfully staring at every forkful and leaving a pond of drool on my pants.

RellaMae was tickled to death with her old Chrysler which had a push-button transmission. I bet you thought that was a modern invention. I know next to nothing about cars, but Chrysler made some of these in the 1950s and 1960s. We went for a drive in it and I half-expected it to fly. It was pink, if I recall correctly. Ray was a cab driver with bad heart disease who chewed on but did not smoke cigars the size and consistency of Black Angus bull turds. The cab dispatcher where he worked had a singular talent. The phone was always busy but because she was the only dispatcher, she had to make her bathroom breaks very speedy. The legend was that she could be in and out in less than a minute.

The push-button Chrysler reminds me of a car my wife and I owned for a while sometime in the 1980s to 1990s which talked to you. I believe it was a New Yorker. It said things like “A door is ajar” which everyone made jokes about (When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar). Har! That chatty car got me across Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio when I was interviewing for residency. I got stranded along with a lot of other motorists at a rest stop on the way back from Ohio because of a snowstorm. That was brief, uneventful, and we were on our way after the plows went through in a couple of hours.

But that does remind me of another time I got stranded in Wyoming on my way back home from college in Texas. I traveled by bus back in those days and me and my fellow passengers were stuck in a hole in the wall sandwich and gift shop at the bus depot. A couple of us sat at one of the tables and were entertained by what sounded like tall tales from a couple of local guys bragging about their criminal exploits. One of them finally pushed up his sleeve, exposing his arm which was covered with about a half dozen or so wristwatches—which he hinted were stolen and he was trying to sell.

You can tell when somebody is in his anecdotage. Anybody out there with a story?

Snow Today

It’s snowing today, starting this afternoon. It’s not a blizzard. It comes down slowly and peacefully. Occasionally I see people and their kids and dogs out walking in it, likely grateful for the fresh air. It’s hard to be stuck indoors, self-isolating because of the COVID-19 epidemic. We play cribbage.

Sena tried the grocery pickup thing in order to avoid crowds. She ordered yesterday and picked up this afternoon. For the most part, the shoppers did OK. We noticed that as she was ordering, items would be sold out even before and sometimes after (we found out later) the ordering was done.

But we were able to get toilet paper.

This epidemic changes your life in many ways. I’m in the latter stage of phased retirement and I’ll go back on the consultation-liaison psychiatry service in April. I expect it to be busy, but I’ll likely not do as many face-to-face interviews, depending on the situations in the emergency room and the general hospital.

I probably won’t carry around my camp stool, which I use to sit with patients when I interview them. It’s just another item that the coronavirus can stick to.

We’re told not to wear neckties because they’re germy, but I gave that up a long time ago for banded collar shirts. But now I’ll have to remember to keep my arms bare up to the elbows.

We’re also reminded to avoid elevators so as to maintain social distance (6 feet or 2 meters, roughly). I’ve been taking the stairs for years. Many people avoid the stairs.

I’ve gotten used to handwashing because I’m a hospitalist. I’ll wear masks a lot more frequently as well as don and doff personal protective equipment as needed more often.

I’m older and I worry a little bit about belonging to a higher risk age group for COVID-19 and being exposed more. On the other hand, I’m pretty healthy compared to a lot of patients younger than me.

I’m glad the next generation of doctors will be taking over, though.

I usually never notice how pretty the snow is.

National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative “Quarantine Curriculum” Starts Tomorrow

I was just notified about the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative (NNCI) “Quarantine Curriculum” this afternoon–the program starts tomorrow. It’s a 14-day program. It’s free and all you need to do is register (also free) to log in so they can track usage.

The Zoom web-based conferencing app will be used to facilitate the program. It’s being launched in response to the COVID-19 challenges to providing classroom teaching, one of which is to prevent spread of the virus by cancelling in-person classes. The course description and the Zoom link is here.

The recommendation for social distancing to reduce exposure is leading to school closures (I can hear children playing outside; it’s an all–day recess), and recommendations to find alternative ways to approach the didactic component of medical education. The Quarantine Curriculum is one way.

NNCI is designed by medical educators to meet the need for building a strong neuroscience knowledge base for residents across many disciplines in medicine and psychiatry. I think it’s an excellent platform and one of our faculty members is on the NNCI executive council.

NNCI makes learning neuroscience fun. Check it out!

Cribbage Book Arrives

I finally got DeLynn Colvert’s book Play Winning Cribbage yesterday after it traveled a circuitous delivery route starting in Missoula, Montana, and seemingly stopping at several U.S. Postal Service carrier facilities along the way—some of them in the reverse direction from the destination.

The book is the 5th edition, updated as of 2015 (not 2018 as Amazon advertises). On the cover is, presumably, an illustration of Sir John Suckling, (who invented cribbage almost 400 years ago) holding a tournament cribbage board which was designed by Colvert himself. We have one in our small collection. He not only wrote the book but did all the illustrations as well. It was originally published in 1980. In a sense, it’s sort of a vintage item (like the old calculator next to it in the picture).

Tournament cribbage board

As the cover indicates, he was the No. 1 Ranked Player for 26 years, a 4-time National Champion, and was inducted into the Cribbage Hall of Fame in 1989.

I’ve just started reading it. It’s pretty entertaining. A cribbage master named Frank Lake once said cribbage is 85% luck. That’s from an Oregon news item published on line in 2005 in The Bulletin. Frank was 83 years old at the time and the story mentions Delynn Colvert who played cribbage with Frank for 20 years. Colvert said Frank was a good player although age was starting to take a toll on his game.

I’m not sure whether Colvert would have agreed with Lake’s opinion about how big a role luck plays in cribbage. He has many tips for improving skillful play and even came up with a special “Twenty-Six Theory” about the game. If applied consistently, the theory is said to improve a player’s winning average by 6%. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re into tournament play, it is the winning edge. I haven’t read that chapter yet and I don’t have aspirations to be a tournament player.

But perhaps you do?

%d bloggers like this: