Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Letter Home…

Image courtesy of

My son is still at camp, enjoying the 6th of 8 weeks away from Mom and Dad. Well, make that 7 weeks away, because I was up there in the North Woods myself a few weeks ago playing doctor.

My son is a bright fellow, but when it comes to writing home, well, we never get to see that brilliance in action. My daughter, who behaved exactly the same way when she went to camp, decided to do something about this behaviour, and she wrote the following:

We noticed you were struggling with the art of writing to your family, and so we thought we would include a sample of how the typical, loving, caring son, tackles this difficult task. First we will name the unacceptable forms of letter writing:

1. Empty Envelopes: Save yourself a stamp, an empty envelope says I’m thinking about you like (a friend of ours) says I have sympathy (In the dictionary, sympathy sits between sh*t and syphylis!)

2. Sending Food: Unlike at camp, this is not a hard to find commodity when at home. We have our own potato chips, thank you very much, but we do appreciate the offer!

3. Stick Figures: We are out of the Stone Age thank goodness! That means no loin cloths, no grunting, and NO picture writing!

Now that we have looked at the less than desirable forms, let us now examine the correct way to write a letter:

Step 1: The Greeting...Typically, a kind phrase or welcome is used here. This may include, but is not limited to the following examples: Dear Mom and Dad,Hey Family!What up, home dawgs?!Hiya Bubba, Bubba Senior, and Bubbette!

Step 2: The Summary...Usually following the greeting is an inquiry into the state of the family, followed by a description of one’s current state. Next, a list of activities, complete with details and opinions concerning the events, is given:
How are you? Camp is AWESOME! Today, I had a blast at canoeing- I portaged for 3.4 miles, using only one hand and blindfolded. Then, Bobby Joe and I went hiking on a nature hike, and caught a bear! We’re having a great time teaching it to dance and do tricks! I’m leaving to go on Isle Royal tomorrow- my pack weighs 150 pounds, so I think I might take my mattress and the toilet out of my pack so I can actually carry it!! I can’t wait to go on the trip though!

Step 3: The Wrap Up
Finally, after the letter is complete with information, you may gradually bring it to an end. The kind writer informs his reader he will soon be ending the letter, and uses a hope or promise (see example) to conclude:
Well, that’s all going on here! I hope that everything in boring South Carolina is going well! I promise to write again after Isle Royal with tons of stories about my trip!

Step 4: The Sign Off
This difficult skill is left out by sons at camps across America, however, it is one of the most important parts of the letter! Your family’s assurance of your well being lies in this lone signature. Typically, campers will precede this valuable information with an expression of emotion:



Haven’t showered in a week- I smell,

Mr. Jonathan B.

Hope this helps your writer’s cramp! Can’t wait to hear from you soon!

Your Family

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Virtual PET/CT: Dalai's Idea Validated!

I am often asked to lecture about PET and PET/CT to local groups, having ushered our state into the positron era. Of course, our state was the last to get a PET scanner, but I'm the one that brought it here! Anyway, my PET/CT lecture ends with the image above, a simulated combination PET/Virtual CT. Wouldn't it be nice if the bad stuff lit up like this?

I won't take credit for the idea, as I probably saw it somewhere. Still, I was thrilled to see a real demonstration of the concept in this month's Journal of Nuclear Medicine. In the article "Flying Through" and "Flying Around" a PET/CT Scan: Pilot Study and Development of 3D Integrated 18F-FDG PET/CT for Virtual Bronchoscopy and Colonoscopy by Andrew Quon, Sandy Napel, Christopher F. Beaulieu and Sanjiv S. Gambhir, from Stanford use a GE AW 3D workstation (oh well) to fuse a volume-rendered virtual colonoscopy (and bronchoscopy) to a volume-rendered PET. Here's the result:

Now, the paper and pdf versions of the article don't show the virtual fly-through, but I'll bet it's pretty spectacular. Great idea, huh?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

You Don't Need PACS For This...

While playing pediatrician at camp, I encountered a couple of tick bites, several dozen sore throats and runny noses, and other joys of having 200 boys gathered into one place. At 10PM on my last night in camp, I got the call that a young man had hurt his toe playing basketball. When he was carried into our little infirmary by his pals, the abnormality was rather obvious. I chose not to reduce this lovely little dislocation without better drugs than I had on hand, so I sent him on to the neighboring city. Better for him to hate the ER doc than me! Ah, primary care.

Monday, July 10, 2006

America the Porcine

Image courtesy of
I just finished my stint as camp doctor yesterday, and we flew home last night. On the last one-hour hop from the hub city to our average town in the South, I encountered some behaviour that troubles me greatly. Delta Airlines' web-site would only allow me to book seats 10A and 11A, window seats, for my wife and myself on this regional jet flight. You know the planes, the ubiquitous CRJ 50 passenger jobs. I actually prefer them for shorter flights, and find them comfortable enough with 2 x 2 seating. I have never noticed any particular difference in the aisle seats, or the window seats. (You get a little more legroom in an emergency exit row.) I figured we might be able to trade seats once we got on the plane. Really, who would refuse to let a married couple sit together? As it turns out, the occupants of seats 10B and 11B did just that. These were well dressed and well-spoken people, who were travelling alone. When we very politely asked if one of them would be willing to trade, they rather coldly refused. It seems they MUST have the aisle seats on that particular plane, and, no, neither would consider sitting in the window seat. Both very smugly noted that they had selected their aisle seats online, and that was the end of that. My wife and I looked at each other and shrugged. The week before, when we flew to visit our relative with cancer, another passenger was making a fuss about wanting to sit by a window on the same hop. My wife and I agreed to sit separately on that occasion to accomidate this stranger. Apparently, what goes around doesn't always come around after all.
Have you tried to make reservations for much of anything lately? You will find that everything is snatched up as soon as it becomes available. We have become a nation of hoarders, more bluntly, a nation of pigs (which is an insult to pigs). We will shove anyone else out of the way to get our hands on anything we think we want or deserve. Our lives have become a big race to get to the goodies before the next guy, and make sure we get our share, and his too if we can manage it. This behaviour is not borne of need, simply of gluttony, greed, and entitlement. It is the same basic instinct that drives people to want their CT's when they want them, be it 3AM or 3PM, and the same motivation that keeps self-referrers self-referring. I guess it isn't unique to Americans, but we seem to be very, very good at it.
I have no answer for the implied question of what to do about our porcine behaviour. Perhaps if we keep in mind where bacon comes from......