Aram Harijan

Much ado about nothing

Month: February, 2009

Political Implication of Benjamin Button the Movie

Brad Pitt Facial Transformation (Ed Ulbrich. TED Talks: How Benjamin Button got his face)When I watched “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” I thought that they did a remarkable job with to make Brad Pitt look old. So imagine my surprise when I learned this morning via TED podcast that the old Brad faces were actually computer generated. What they did was a remarkable feat. Phosphorus marker was used to map out a basic set of human facial expressions (in this case, of Brad Pitt) which was then superimposed on an older facial model.

Besides the obvious entertainment applications, this holds a great political implication. Any head of a political state can now be recreated on the computer with his/her willing consent. For instance, this may be something that aging dictators (i.e. KIS of N. Korea) might want as a backup plan to keep the masses at bay. Osama bin Laden may have uses for this.

Granted, this is not possible in the immediate future. The technology is still in its infancy and is too expensive when compared to a body double. You’d need banks of computer to store and process. This may become an application for a routine public service announcement within ten years. There will be a need for public policy and law against the use of this technology for the purpose of deception, broadcast impersonation, identity presumption, etc.

Though this is no news, we do live in a brave new world.


The Clinic Visit: Four tips for a Successful Interview

Clinic visits are stressful. Here are four tips to help you get the most out of your ever-shortening visit with your doctor.

1. Prepare to be organized

Your visit starts on the night before your clinic visit. Have all the necessary information with you. This may mean checking your medication list or bottles. Do you need refills? Write them down. Do you keep a daily record of blood pressure, blood sugar levels or symptoms? Make sure it’s in your purse or bag with your house keys and wallet. Do you have questions? Write them down!

2. Cut down on thinking time

If you pay close attention to your doctor, you may have noticed they usually have a script of questions:

What happened? When did it happen? Where on your body? How did it happen? How bad is it? What makes it better or worse? Any other symptoms? Did you have these before?

Before your visit, try to answer these questions yourself. Draw a timeline if you need to. You will save time answering these questions and also help your doctor understand your situation more clearly.

3. Stay focused

In the 20 minutes, a doctor can only address 2 issues thoroughly. This rule is all the more important for patients who have too many medical conditions. Of course, your physician will try to accomodate for all your needs in the given time. However, addressing 5 medical issues during a single visit may lead to miscommunication and medication errors.

If you have more than 2 medical conditions which need attention at each visit, it may be that you may need to see your physician more often.

4. Write everything down! (again)

Now that your doctor has asked you the questions and examined you, he should share his insight into your questions and problems. You will listen. You will understand. You will go home and forget. Writing down helps you to remember. One caveat is that many physicians now have print outs for common conditions. In this case, writing down general information is not necessary – just specific details which apply to you.

In addition, many physicians prefer to speak in Medicalese rather than English. If this is a problem for you, let the good doctor know you have no clue what he/she just said. Mis-spell the terms in the most obviously horrible way.

My American Dream #40 or something: An Unlikely Couple

During my last year of medical school, I had a chance to visit San francisco as a student. I stayed at 16th and Mission which was about 20 minute walk to San Francisco General.

For two weeks I woke up at 5 am and walked thru the cool November bay air listening to Ginsberg. Work was pretty grueling, but it was really cool to see how medicine was practiced differently from the East Coast.

This one morning, like other mornings, I showed up to the third floor and made rounds with the residents and other students. I was gathering patient data on the fourth floor nursing desk.

“Can I have a Popsicle?” asked a little, old black patient from the bench facing the station. In her left hand, she was holding the skeletal remains of what was a red Popsicle just few minutes ago. An old Asian lady next to this black lady was just finishing her own Popsicle.

“No, ma’am,” replied the male Asian nurse sitting next to me.

Her unkempt hair reminded me of the homeless just outside the hospital. Her eyes, the white of it being yellow, fixed pleadingly at the nurse, who avoided eye contact with her. Soon, her toothless smile slowly turned gray as she slowly began to realize no more Popsicles will be given. Her yellow eyes started glistening saffron yellow from the tears, “I want another Popsicle!”

“No, you cannot have another popcicle, Mrs. Bonnie,” the nurse set the tone of conversation and also gave Mrs. Bonnie’s tear glands the “go” signal. “You just had one. We can’t give you another shot of insulin just so you can have another Popsicle.”

Tears came forth and down her cheeks, which left trails as it washed away the street make up of dirt and dust. It was clear in her expression that she was neither willing nor capable of accepting the fact that she cannot have what she wants. Her mind was like a child. She wanted another Popsicle.

She started bawling. And the nurses began to chuckle. I began to chuckle, too. It was funny.

We also felt bad inside. I wished I could give her another Popsicle, but that would require another insulin shot and maybe a longer hospital stay. I wished she could understand, but innocent as her mind was, it was probably no longer pliable like that of a child. We wished a lot of things.

As we sat there behind the nursing station, chuckling and feeling bad about ourselves, the unthinkable happened. The Asian lady put her arms around the black lady and began to console the poor woman.

In Cantonese.

She patted the diabetic patient on the back. Her consoling words were incomprehensible to all of us, including the crying woman.

How human was it to try to console a hopeless, albeit funny, situation. Her gesture was purely from compassion, her wish for the woman to be well.

The woman stopped crying. She wiped the tears from her face, which left her skin face look as if camouflaged.

It was a fleeting effort on the part of Guan Yin, disguised as the Chinese lady without teeth. I am not sure; the black lady will probably be begging and crying again. To the end of her days, she will be unsatisfied in her condition.

Yet, for some reason, I felt better inside. It seemed as if the world was not such a bad place. I had witnessed a human miracle, which transcended language, culture, and time. Though I am not sure how, I am a better person for the brief, nameless company of those two patients in my life.