Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Need For Interns

(In a previous post I lamented that I needed interns to delegate some thinking to. This is what the title alludes to.)

1) Creatures have evolved many different mechanisms for eyesight. Is the same true for consciousness? Or do we all have the same mechanism, but at varying degrees of depth? I've observed my pets stopping to reflect before taking action. Something is going on in those little heads.

2) Can we tell which neurotransmitters are evolutionarily the oldest? To reverse-engineer something as complex as the mind/brain it seems best to start with the basics. Do "lesser" mammals have as many types of neurotransmitters as humans? It seems counterintuitive, but then I've been surprised before (i.e. we don't always have more genes).

3) What is currently the most self-sustaining community on the globe? What is the most nutritional dense crop that can be grown in WA soil? Is it more efficient to have crops for goats in this climate? How (and how fast) can soil be created? What is the best way to desalinate/purify water?

Sorry for the survivalist motif of the last one, but I get edgy when the price of gold spikes.


Debra said...

Of course something is going on in animals' heads.
As a species, human beings have a terminal case of exceptionalism.
Making soil : you do it by creating compost, and you do that by "cooking" all the veggie stuff that you discard, that's to say that you mix up the humid stuff with drier, more ligneous stuff so the whole bit won't rot to high heaven.
After about six months you get... new, and very rich soil. Magico presto. It works really well, and furnishes you with enough compost to do your own veggie garden without resorting to all those toxic nitrates that Monsanto would just LOVE to sell you. And... when you raise your vegetable garden, you can set aside part of your crop for NEXT YEAR'S crop, and DOUBLY get Monsanto right where it hurts...
(Of course you are NOT planning on using scientifically improved, doctored GMO seeds, because Monsanto has already ensured that THEY will be sterile.)
As for goats, dinky, I hope you have no close neighbors. Goats really STINK to high heaven. And after a while, you end up looking like the goats you raise. (This is what I've noticed, at any rate...)
I am quick to point out that I DO NOT hate goats. But.. their smell is a little on the strong side.

Thai said...

Hey guys, I'm back (Boston was fun but I think I had swine flu the whole time; was bound to happen after all the cases I have treated this last month).

I must say it is definitely nice to be here at Street Rat which is WAY less toxic than SD- sheeze! I go away for 4 days and when I catch up on my reading (on the plane)- yuck! ;-)

re: "As a species, human beings have a terminal case of exceptionalism."

My response: Well said!

I think I'll stay out of the pro/anti goat debate if you don't mind.

I like the Intern metaphor- indeed we actually have them at one of my hospitals... Indeed, if you will tolerate my boasting for a moment (really a couple of my partners deserves the credit...) my group was approached by 2 different residencies (Med Star AND Georgetown) to train their residents in pediatric emergency medicine OVER DC Children's hospital (both institutions thought we provided even better care and a better training experience to their residents, even though Med Star is literally across the street from DC Children's).

Anyway, enough boasting.

All I can say is interns have their pluses and minuses.

Would I ever say anything else? ;-)

Anyway, nice to be back, nice to chat.

Oh, I just ordered a new book from after reading this NYT article... You'd have to expect I would be very interested in any fractal modeling based on zero sum/conservation laws... ;-)

This is the book by the way.

Dink said...

I wholly agree that Monsanto is evil and dangerous. I believe that Sweden has some sort of seed bank buried in a vault with a store of normal seeds. I find this comforting.

But can you blame mankind for wanting to play with genes? They're so amazingly powerful! Some making organisms that can capture solar energy into a form that nourishes us, others making organisms that can capture solar energy that is useless to us but that can nourish goats. And then goat genes that change the useless stuff into stuff that can nourish us. Magico presto (when the trick goes as planned anyway)!

Goats are now vogue here in WA. Goat shepherds were hired by the UW as an eco way to clean up the overgrowth on campus. The little buggers can even eat blackberry bramble (which you may remember from your Walla Walla days as an unmanagable scourge). And as an added bonus they can give us cheese. Much more useful than cows.

Thai said...

I am a little on Monsanto's side so it seems we have opportunity for discussion.

Dink said...

"I think I'll stay out of the pro/anti goat debate if you don't mind."

We seem to have a pro-goat vibe going. And no goat-flu.

"to train their residents in pediatric emergency medicine"

Congrats! Man, that has to be a stressful specialty.

"All I can say is interns have their pluses and minuses.
Would I ever say anything else? ;-)"

Zero-sum interns... yes, it would have to be I suppose. Getting free data-miners seems like a win-win, but if their analysis is wrong or incomplete you could be missing a big puzzle piece. Sent tumbling down the wrong rabbit holes. Looks like AI is going to have to go into cloning for us to be satisfied.

A CIA fractal guy, eh? I saw that he had a TED lecture out there. Looks like an interesting book.

Debra said...

Congrats, Thai, on the quality of your pediatric ER.
I hope that my son, who is an extern, is NOT doing data collecting during HIS training.
Dinky, you sound like you KNOW Walla Walla ! Been there before ? How about those FIELDS, right ? (I drove a pea combine for ONE WEEK at the end of college before I bottomed out from exhaustion and fear (you can die in those mamas on a cold summer night...) The shifts were : 7AM-7PM, then... 7PM-7AM. Pea season is short, peas are fragile, and harvest is 24hrs/day.
Some recommended reading, Thai : a Swiss doctor by the name of Paul Tournier who was writing in the 50's or so, and has some excellent things to say about the effects of guilt on US (bodies AND minds).
Good to see you're back, Thai.

Thai said...

Deb, I am a little confused by your statement:

"I see NO ROOM WHATSOVER for history/temporality in your model, which seems to me abstract and, more importantly, universalist."

1. Why do you think there is no room?
2. Can you explain a little more what you mean by universalist?

Thai said...

And by the way, I also hope with you that your son "is NOT doing data collecting during HIS training."

This is a really big problem with the current system.

We have recently signed on a professional scribe organization to do this kind of work in our EDs so that we/I/our Interns are not so burdened with these tasks.

Of course the scribes are mostly pre-meds who are interested in getting ED experience to put on their resumes for med school applications.

So in a way it is just kicking the can down the hill a little further ;-)

Debra said...

The "collecting" of all sorts is the COMPLEXITY factor which is bringing OUR medical (and not only medical...) system down.
As you put it so well, the SCRIBE factor.
The scribe factor that makes it more important for nurses to write down STUFF in liaison documents, than to actually spend time with patients doing care.
This collection is mainly motivated by the... FEAR that something might possibly ESCAPE us, and be the cause for future lawsuits, complaints, whatever. And it is also motivated by the spiraling out of control of "communication" (God, I HATE that word...) based on written language, and not on speech. Remember Sappho ? Written language is set in stone in our minds, and speech... well we have always known it is ephemeral.
I'm going on intuitive perception of your difference with Hell.
When you talk about "fractals" (as I understand it...), you propose a model, a theory that, like statistics, eliminates INDIVIDUAL, PARTICULAR incidents in favor of the generalized, WHAT IT MEANS, or WHERE IT'S GOING. It's a question of point of view, again. I don't think you can be within an individual, particular, historical PRAXIS (and not theory...) AT THE SAME TIME as you are outside of it, and generalizing FROM the particulars.
See what I mean ?
This is the paradox that got Freud, eventually. He was trying to make generalizations about the human experience, about the human mind, and he could not account for... individual CULTURAL idiosyncrasies.
I would be interested in hearing what you say about my Leibniz comparison. I do NOT like to spend too much time on abstraction, so I will NOT read Leibniz... But he might interest YOU.

Dink said...

"I drove a pea combine for ONE WEEK at the end of college before I bottomed out from exhaustion and fear"

My composite construct of "Debness" just got rattled :) I could barely get Bournes Les Mimosas and Walla Walla to integrate, but when you add in the pea combine the whole thing explodes.

"We have recently signed on a professional scribe organization to do this kind of work in our EDs so that we/I/our Interns are not so burdened with these tasks."

I suppose in a perfect world everyone could just wear video cameras on their heads. Later the medical staff and patients could just sit back in the lounge and watch the various videos like they were watching a football game.

MD: That should have been enough "x", but you metabolized it way fast. You drink, eh?
P: True enough. But it was a really freaky thing to wake up to, none the less.
MD: I bet it was! But screw it, you lived.
P: Yep.

"the COMPLEXITY factor which is bringing OUR medical (and not only medical...) system down."

I've heard the term "bitch-goddess". The double-edged sword. Complexity benefits us extravagantly and complexity torments us viciously. We can not live with it or without it :)

"so I will NOT read Leibniz."

I don't think I've ever read one word that Leibniz directly wrote. But I have an affection for him and so would you if you read Quicksilver. Historical fiction or not, he was a genius that had the misfortune of living at the same time of a greater genius (Newton) who was also something of a maniac. Life itself is a bitch-goddess, no?

Debra said...

Two ways of looking at the pea combine deal :
I was VERY COURAGEOUS to have even attempted this brief foray into proletarian life (!) or I was a spoiled and pampered bourgeois brat who just couldn't handle the proletarian life for one minute (gives you food for thought about how WE would survive the 19th century working day, doesn't it ???).
Coming back here to react to a comment on your last link on SuddenDebt, Thai, I think that it illustrates where I see the difficulty in the way scientists are currently using their methods to draw their conclusions.
I rather take exception to the idea of making this direct conclusion about the relationship between economic downturns and health of the POPULATION. The conclusions are GLOBAL ones about the POPULATION, and do not consider the individual.
And they do this with no qualms whatsoever.
To me, this is the generalization factor. And it is where I politely part ways with this way of seeing the world.
For you, Dink, AND Thai, I seem to remember your "cri du coeur", Thai, about Rousseau over there on Sudden Debt a while ago : BUT, OUR century has attributed thoughts and sayings to past writers that they never thought, and never said. And, for no person is this SO true as for.. Rousseau.
I bet Leibniz is in the same boat. We have gotten rather used to having our thinkers/philosophers prechewed and digested for us by others (I saw this in the French psychology fac, where we were not even supposed to have read Freud... !!!) who put their bread on the table by prechewing the bread of others.
This is what I earlier called the glose business. All those intellectuals gotta put their bread on the table by doing something, right ?
But if WE went back and read some of this stuff, instead of intellectually abdicating on it, we would be in for some surprises.
I think that you would have to look hard to find a man as intelligent, curious, and open as Rousseau. People like him don't come around all that often.
Then and... NOW, by the way...

Debra said...

Another perhaps unintentional effect of the fractals theory, Thai is that it seems to me to discourage... ACTION on our parts.
What incentive is there to ACT FOR any cause in a zero sum framework ?
And, if you think in advance that your action will be countered by an opposite reaction, then your sheer depression will discourage you from acting, no ?
While the theory may be... TRUE, (whatever that means...) it is psychologically... deleterious.
And that's a big argument against it.

Thai said...

Deb, for once I agree with everything you say

You are absolutely correct to point out that I have never read Rousseau.

And one small side point, if you read the article on the stunning jump in longevity in the first few years of the great depression a little closer, you will see the authors make the exact point you are making near the bottom of the link- e.g. what is good for the population as a whole may be horrible for some individuals.

... Indeed, knowing my views on zero sum, I would be surprised if this were not true. ;-)

Deb please understand, I am on the front lines of our health care system- a health care system that is clearly broken because the people using it are broken.

And while my first responsibility is always to my patient in front of me, still there is always a kind of fuzzy logic existent within this responsibility. For if I get seriously backed up caring for the patient in front of me, there can easily be a guy in the waiting room with a heart attack that suffers greatly due to a delay in care.

Remember your french compatriots recognized this and invented the word Triage (which I would love an etymological peek into your OED if I had one).

Deb, FWIW I strongly believe the human mind has built in safeguards to prevent people from recognizing what I recognized and if this helps at all, I also strongly think these safeguards are a really really good idea.

I stupidly just let my curiosity get the better of me in my endless quest for the truth and my faith that it could be used it to make things better.

Boy how naive I was...

Of course I also found faith and cooperation so is it entirely a bad thing? (remember I am an atheist)

I do have faith in you and Dink, honest.

Be well

Debra said...

Thai, I suspect that the zero sum theory astonishingly resembles what Lacanian thought puts forth to be the "goal" of psychoanalysis, the "traversée du fantasme". What this means is that the goal of Lacanian psychoanalysis WAS (the Lacanians are getting a little smarter on this one...) total lucidity.
But... the DANGER of "total" luciditiy (if indeed it is NOT just another... "fantasme" is... MELANCHOLIC breakdown.
Not exactly what anyone likes to live through (I know, I have lived through at least two melancholic breakdowns...). Not exactly synonymous with a full, vibrant life (where suffering and pleasure are intricated).
Triage : from the French trier, to pick, to cull. (14th century) The action of assorting according to quality. First appearance in English in 1727, talking about separating out qualities of wool.
In France, one of the habitual uses is in the railway system : la gare de triage, a separate area on the tracks where the wagons of a train are removed, and trains reassembled. There are different tracks to permit this.

Dink said...

"The conclusions are GLOBAL ones about the POPULATION, and do not consider the individual."

Those bastard manifolds keep cancelling each other out.

"We have gotten rather used to having our thinkers/philosophers prechewed and digested for us by others"

Guilty, but have some sympathy for the devil. The volume of data out there is overwhelming. We can not "drink from the fire hose". And the opportunity cost of going in depth on one subject is to miss out completely on another subject. More curiosity than capacity. Tragic, really.

"What incentive is there to ACT FOR any cause in a zero sum framework ?"

I do completely understand you on this, Deb. I think you have to choose your manifold and be willing to defend it. I seem to face it with my parents/in-laws a lot (i.e. a couple more kids on the planet isn't going to hurt anything("i.g.t.h.a."), a hamburger igtha, throwing away instead of recycling igtha).

"because the people using it are broken."

It seems many patients put full responsibility for their health in the doctor's hands. As if even when they don't comply with doctor's orders, its still the doctor's responsibility. Perpertual children expecting their parents to construct their worlds for them.

"Of course I also found faith and cooperation so is it entirely a bad thing? (remember I am an atheist)"

We have pure motivations. No ulterior intent of getting heaven credits. There was a song 15-20 yrs ago from "They Might Be Giants" where one of the lyrics was "I'm the nicest of the damned". It still tickles me ;)

Thai said...

re: "the goal of life..." + "you have to choose your manifold and be willing to defend it"


I too have viewpoint on what I would like the world to look like and have come to a certain acceptance of consequences if it is ever achieved.

The best I can come up with as a justification in the moral/justice manifold is that I am at least not less moral than anyone else.

And if it happens than from my own viewpoint I will have lived a full life.

And before we let this get too melancholic (it is a big wide garden we play in after all and the number of manifolds is infinite), I really was originally just trying to help Deb understand some of the (economic) discussions on SD a little better.

Especially why so many commenters are so passionate- they are often correct from their viewpoint, etc...

Anyway, I think it is time to move to a new manifold!

I have shared my secret and I think you all see it clear enough; reject it, accept it, I have shared it and that is enough.

Combines and Dink's parents are far more real and interesting.

Let's move on

Debra said...

Thai, as it happens, I DID see that fine print at the end of that article.
One comment on it : my shrink training has given me a certain insight on one of our most interesting traits : in our thinking, we will give lip service to "the other point of view", JUST TO PROVE HOW RATIONAL, HOW INTELLIGENT, HOW PERSPICACIOUS WE ARE... BUT... we are doing this in order to disqualify it AT THE SAME TIME, because we don't really believe it.
This is the impression I got from that article.
If we were REALLY all that concerned about the individual, our society these days just would not look that way it does.
Trust me on this one.
I also think that there is a "drive" to be right, a "drive" to acquire knowledge. And that acquiring knowledge has its drawbacks, too.
My psychoanalytic theories go pretty far in helping me understand why people are so passionate on Hell's blog, Thai.
The same way that people are so passionate in my spychanalytic association, too, by the way.
I have not "solved" the lucidity problem, by the way.
But... the lucidity problem can make life REALLY REALLY lonely sometimes. There have been periods where I have seen people around me get all passionate, act, etc etc and their motivations have appeared to me as transparently as though they were themselves transparent and I could see inside. (This is not really magic ; if you are a GOOD clinical observer you can train yourself to SEE lots of things, you know...) Fortunately those days are receding A LITTLE BIT now...
And one of my most vertiginous discoveries ?
When we have a PROBLEM with something, when we need to work on it... we constitute it as an object and shove it outside of ourselves to... STUDY IT.
Pretty interesting, huh ?
Careful, I do NOT say that it is BAD to have a problem with something. But... WHAT we discover about our constituted "object" WILL bear the mark of the initial context of our "problem".
Diabolically logical, right ? lol
I think it's time for some poetry.

Thai said...

... There is no internet blog communication equivalent to let someone know that they read them and are nodding agreement/hear them

In real life conversation, this is the largest part of communication.

In blog communication its equivalent is silence and that could me anything.

Debra said...

Well, the smileys at least are an attempt...
I don't agree about silence.
THAT can mean... ANYTHING.

Dink said...

"I don't agree about silence.
THAT can mean... ANYTHING."

Ah, we want the applause of the audience, but all we hear are the crickets ;) Such is life. There have been many times when I meant to respond to something one of you had written, but forgot to.

That comment "I'd rather stick my hand in a blender" made me snort.

And I had to google "cri de couer". I am actually quietly paying attention here in my backwater time zone ;)

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits