Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dastardly Doings

Someone this morning made off with both of the keys to our ladies' bathroom, which usually hang in the waiting room. Why?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Must Be A "Blue" State

I went over to Smallish City Hall with Girltuesday yesterday at lunchtime, to do early voting and avoid the lines and general hassle of election day (which is next Tuesday, foreign readers.) However, there was quite a long line even for the early voting-- apparently there are indications of record turnout for this election (i.e., possibly at least 40% of eligible voters will vote.)

Part way along the hall the line was snaking through, the city clerk's office had posted a computer-printed sign reading "WE DESPERATELY NEED REPUBLICANS TO WORK AT THE POLLS ON ELECTION DAY. PLEASE ALERT CLERK IF YOU ARE AVAILABLE."

Girltues and I had a good laugh at this. Is it a trick? What do they do if you alert the clerk that you're a Republican? Rip up your ballot after you leave? Or perhaps they take you straight out back to the firing squad?

Anyway, it almost seems like a place where they are "desperately" trying to locate just a few Republicans is probably a place where we could just give the campaign to the Democrats and save the expense of casting ballots altogether.

Nice Things Patients Have Said This Week, 2

At the private practice: "I just want to tell you how much I appreciate the way you listen to me. I really like you. And if someone can like a psychiatrist, well, you know, that's saying a lot."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Crossing The Line

So this is what it's come to: after 11 years of rather determined saving and what seemed like fairly conservative investing, as of today I actually have less money than the sum of what I've put in. A less costly investment strategy would've been to spend 10% of my disposable income on heroin and stash the rest in paper bags in the cellar.

It begins to feel like the only reason for being employed is that a paycheck can offset, partially, the extravagant expense of owning mutual fund shares. Increasingly there is a company-store quality to this economic life that is quite unsettling.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Winter Virgin

My current temporary housemate is a native of a warm state, descended from parents of even warmer nationality, and attended medical school in a tropical foreign country. In short, he’s had no experience whatsoever with “winter” (which he believes has already arrived in the Smallish State) and is completely fascinated by the whole idea.

Almost daily, he comes up with new questions for me about winter. During his first week, he was very interested in Turbopalace heating system, and I got to tell him all about steam radiators, boilers, etc. Later I overhead him on the phone with his wife, saying “… and they burn oil to heat the houses, so every house has some sort of big tank to hold the oil in the cellar… I don’t know how the oil gets into the tank…”

Later, he was curious about “how you get the snow out of the driveway”. He asked how many days it is, following a snow storm, that people generally don’t go to work. He was particularly interested in my collection of ice brushes/scrapers for the car; he found it hard to believe these would be necessary (“Can’t you just turn on the defroster?”), and also thought they’d work better if made of steel, rather than plastic (probably true.)

This morning he noticed a couple of ice-axe pick guards I’d left on a chair while tidying the gear-storage area, and asked what they were. I explained, but his puzzled look never really went away.

Last night it was about 40F out. Housemate came in from parking his car wearing a look of half-excitement, half-terror, and stated “It is fucking COLD out there!!”, in a volume and tone of voice that locals reserve for times when the temperature is in the vicinity –15F range. “You can SEE YOUR BREATH!”, he added, for emphasis.

I don’t think he knows yet about snow tires. I’m thinking that if I use Tom Sawyer techniques, I might be able to get him interested enough in that topic that he will do the labor of putting them my car, while I supervise.

Scientific Poll

I was about to start a rare political rant, but then thought better of it (I may change my mind later) and decided to take a poll of SoF readers instead.

Question: Who do want to win the upcoming U.S. presidential election, John McCain or Barack Obama?

Feel free to post your vote anonymously. Votes eagerly accepted from foreigners, if you have an opinion. And yes, this is basically just an excuse to post more charts and graphs here later.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Hmm... thinking about taking on a winter project. Purely for the detoxifying health benefits, of course. Nothing to do with the incidental full-body warmth.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Golden Touch

Have come to Florida for Favorite & Only Nephew's fourth birthday party.

This morning F&ON came to snuggle with me (on my Aerobed, in the livingroom) and asked me to read a book to him. He brought over a beat-up "Golden Books" picture book entitled King Midas, copyright 1969, which was probably mine.

The final line of the book is: "And last of all he touched the royal sausage, and touched the royal grape juice." I am not making this up. I just about spat up on myself.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Still struggling with what my policy should be for clients who don't show up for appointments, or cancel at the last minute. This week a new client didn't show up for his second meeting with me; I called him, we rescheduled, but he didn't show up for that one, either. He called me later, rescheduled again, and finally made it (albeit rather late) on the third try. This is frustrating.

So far, the policy has (on paper) been a 50% charge for cancelations with less than 24 hours notice, or 75% if you just don't show up at all and leave me waiting around the office for you. Unofficially, there's been a one-time-per-person-per-year general amnesty (based on the Smallish City's one-parking-ticket-annually-forgiveness), and beyond that I've also doled out freebies for various "good excuses" (sick kids, stuck in foreign airports, car accidents, dog ate homework, etc.) But as I think about it, these really add up into the many thousands of dollars out of my income, over a year. In light of the Wall Street Journal's suggestion that we may soon be working for $5 an hour, this deserves consideration. Also, I really don't like having to judge whether people's excuses are "good" or "bad".

I had dinner last night with nurse practitioner friend B. and her husband M. B. works in a private psychiatric clinic. The policy there is-- you miss appointment, you pay $75. No discussion. And, if you need a prescription called in between appointments, that's $25 (no charge for this at the Turbo clinic.) Another local shrink I know has a policy that you have to pay ahead of time for an initial evaluation-- and if you don't show up for it, he keeps your money and doesn't allow you to reschedule. Harsh, but apparently effective.

It's all complicated by the rather large proportion of my clients who don't actually pay their own bills. In some cases, one person is the patient, a second person (e.g., mom) is responsible for getting patient to my office, and a third person (e.g., divorced out-of-state dad) pays the bill. Then it gets messy.

Ah well. At least my just-canceled 8:30 appointment today has left me time for coffee and blogging this morning.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nice Things Patients Have Said This Week

Patient #1: "You look like the best-dressed man in Smallish State." (Really? Just because I put on a tie that day, for the first time in months?)

Patient #2: "Thanks, doc. I usually don't like talking about things. But you make it really easy to talk."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Yesterday I had to go to the jail on professional business. I had an appointment to see a particular person at a particular time, and arrived a few minutes early. I was wearing a tie, for a change.

The front door of the jail was obvious-- the only apparent way in, with a big sign over the door reading "SMALLISH COUNTY JAIL"-- but once through the door, things became confusing. I found myself in a oddly-shaped polygon of a room, cinderblock walls, a few windows to the outside, a few chairs, squares of linoleum tile for a floor. There were six or seven doors leading off from room, which were windowless. One had a sign reading "NO ADMITTANCE. OFFICIAL PERSONNEL ONLY". Two others were labeled "MEN" and "WOMEN". The others were unmarked.

No one else was there. There was no apparent receptionist, office, "customer service desk", or telephone. I saw no notices or instructions on how to proceed. I walked around a bit and waited a couple minutes. Then I tried all the doors, starting with "MEN", and ending with "NO ADMITTANCE", but they were all locked. Panicking briefly, I tried the door I'd come in through, and was relieved to find that one was still unlocked. I went outside, examined the area around the door for instructions, but found none. I went back in. The whole place seemed abandoned.

Suddenly, a feeling of familiarity came over me. I'd encountered puzzling situations like this before... often... somewhere, long ago... in childhood... ah yes, that's it... playing Dungeons & Dragons. It was always like this: your character wanders into a crypt or cell of some sort, with many doors leading off it... all locked... there is no indication of how to proceed. But you know that the Dungeonmaster is watching, is in control, and has devised some clever mechanism by which you can open one of the doors. Usually there is a loose cinderblock that conceals a secret lever... or one square of linoleum that's a different color than the others and which, when you step on it, unlocks one of the doors. I tried these approaches-- no luck.

Eventually I noticed that part of one wall seemed to be made of a black material that might be glass. Pressing the eye close to it, one might imagine that there were some shadowy figures in the distance on the other side-- but it was hard to say. I tried rapping on the glass-- no effect. The figures, if such they were, did not appear to move. I paced the room again, waved my arms in case there was some sort of motion sensor, looked for but did not find a surveillance camera to smile up at.

I pulled out my cell phone to call the attorney who had sent me on this mission, thinking perhaps she could tell me something. Only then did I notice, tucked in a corner, about waist-level, a small steel grate. Above the grate was a very small steel button, and next to the button a very small label, reading "PUSH FOR ASSISTANCE".

Pushing the button, a voice immediately replied. A metal drawer under the black panel, which I had not previously noticed, opened, and the voice spoke to me through it, asking that I pass through my driver's license. It became abundantly clear that multiple people had been watching me through the black glass for quite some time, probably laughing their heads off, quite possibly timing me. At roughly five minutes and 20 seconds, I hoped that I had performed better than the average visiting shrink.

Eventually they let me in and things went more smoothly from there. Except that it was challenging to interview someone in an environment where guards kept screaming things like "GET YOUR FUCKIN' ASS OF THAT TABLE BEFORE I DO IT FOR YOU!"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stock Market & Celestial Bodies

For no good reason, I was browsing through a list of all past exceptional closings of the New York Stock Exchange. Many were pretty mundane: blizzards, heat waves, blackouts, strikes, fires, end-of-war parades, moving to new building, etc. Many closings for deaths or funerals of ex-presidents and other politicians. In earlier years, British royalty (deaths or coronations) also were also recognized. Quite a few momentary closings for notable losses, some of which seem telling (example: one minute of silence when MLK was assassinated. But two minutes for RFK.)

In the pre-digital age there were many, many closings for "paperwork crisis" or "to allow offices to catch up on work". Wednesday, Apr. 10, 1974 marked the first trading interruption due to "computer malfunction" (it lasted 26 minutes), which became a common event during the 70's. And, of course, there were several days of closure after 9/11/01.

But the two most intriguing closures were:

Jan. 24, 1925 (Sat) Opened at 10:45 am. Eclipse of sun. [Because it was bad luck? Or what??]


July 21, 1969 (Mon) Closed – National Day of Participation for the lunar exploration. [And the stockbrokers participated how, exactly??]

Spice Systems

Okay, here are the early results of SoF readers' spice collection contributions. Still hoping for more photos from a few of you.

I particularly like N.'s "pounder" jars of cumin and sesame seeds. I like how J. has a little brass man who protects her spices from evil. V. seems to employ her feline for the same purpose. One common theme, so far, is that everyone has at least one of the generic round-glass-jar-with-white-lid. But a divergent theme is that some people prefer to identify their spices from above, by label, while others prefer from the side, by appearance. And: can you guess which spice collection belongs to people genetically related to me?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Components Of The "New Frugality"

1) No more store-bought cat toys for Max (not really a hardship-- he prefers leftover foam weatherstripping.)
2) Turn off the hot water burner when I'm not using it (has already become a habit.)
3) Seal off the kitchen as winter "bunker", with insulated curtains in the doorways (have already put the sofa in the kitchen.)
4) Cancel tentative plans for sailing in the islands this winter.
5) No ski pass.
6) Not going to fix the dent in the Subaru.
7) Start using the breadmaker again.
8) Sign up for Clynk
9) Start growing vegetables in my lead-infested yard, so I can feed them to my kids, if any, thus ensuring that they (kids) will not get into college.
10) Give up lattes (okay, some parts of this "New Frugality" are clearly far-fetched.)
11) Start brewing my own beer again?
12) Give up the idea of building a roof-deck, for now.
13) Try again to get the city to review the (outrageous) property valuation for the TurboPalace. Change name to TurboShed, first.
14) No miniature electric Vespa scooter for Favorite And Only Nephew this birthday (sorry, guy-- we'll have to find other ways for you to be as cool as Uncle Turbo.)
15) Cut back on spice use.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I've been listening to some of FDR's "fireside chats" from the 1930's (you can find them on YouTube.) The intelligence, forthrightness, and confidence in these speeches is remarkable, especially in comparison to what we have today. It's sort of like hearing in your mind the wise, knowledgeable voice of your parents telling you that no, there aren't any monsters under the bed (or the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi reassuringly saying "Use the Force, Luke.") Even when talking about epidemic economic failure, completely unheard-of governmental actions, the need for massive national sacrifice, and the threat of Nazis controlling the world, FDR managed to sound convincingly calm. It also seems, back then, that people wanted reassurance that their national leaders were smarter than the average person. Nowadays, it seems rather the opposite: Americans don't think their politicians have their best interests at heart, so they want politicians no smarter (or, even, dumber) than than they are.

Anyway, I think we could use a guy like that, now. I don't care if he did go to Groton, Harvard, and Columbia. I'd risk letting a smartypants run the country again.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Try to imagine that you're an oncologist, and suddenly one week everyone's cancer gets worse, all at once. Or you're an endocrinologist, and one week everyone's blood sugar goes through the roof. Yeah, it's kind of like that out here...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mental Economy

The Wall Street Journal ran a good article this morning on relationship between economic and mental depression (discussed in these pages last week.) Scary, overall.

But please-- don't get too many ideas from the scenario in the article, where Ms. Jones negotiated her psychiatrist's fee from $180 a session to $5. I mean, most of us aren't in this business as a hobby while we are fabulously independently wealthy on the side. And $5 doesn't even cover the malpractice insurance I need to buy to see you for an hour.

Spices, Con't

Okay, clearly I am a bit of an outlier on the spice organization. I was thinking it would be fun to see everyone else's collection. So, how about sending over a photo of your own spice drawer/rack/shelf/hammock/heap? Include your cat in the photo, if you like. Then I'll make an artistic montage of the entries (no names, of course) and post it back here. Email to shrinkorfade at gmail...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Does "Black Pepper" Go Under "B" or "P"?

Exciting construction at the Turbopalace today-- I added two more rows to the world-envied spice drawer. This made room for a bunch of new additions, with a few empty slots for future expansion. Some call it "obsessive"... I call it "organized". Truly, I don't understand how anyone can survive without alphabetized spice storage.

Is It Broked, Doc?

Out on the boat this weekend, I had just dropped the anchor and was hurrying back to the cockpit when I stubbed my little toe something wicked on a chainplate. It didn't feel too bad at the time, but it started throbbing in the middle of the night, and felt none too much better when I put shoes on this morning. Don't think it's a skeletal injury, but it's going to make the walk to work a bit unpleasant for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lessons From "Breakfast At Tiffany's"

Do NOT let a woman get in bed with you 23 minutes into the movie of your relationship. Especially if she just unexpectedly came through your bedroom window, in a bathrobe, via the fire escape. No no no. Bad idea.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Want Ad

By the way, I'm looking for a new housemate, as of November. So if anyone out there knows anyone, send them by.