Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

April 14, 2010
by yeslets

Pain & Punishment


My Wednesday reflection on service and my recent experience in the ER (from both sides of the curtain) got me thinking about pain.

Simply put my job as a physician can be boiled down to two primary objectives – 1. To treat treat/cure disease, and 2. To alleviate suffering. And, of course, in the application of each of these there is the ever present imperative to “benefit and yet not to harm.” Based on my observations thus far, there are three primary reasons people come to the ER – 1. They come for treatment, 2. They come for reassurance, 3. They come for pain pills.


It sucks to feel used, it is no fun to be lied to. It sucks to be in pain, it is no fun to be ignored. And thus the conflict that gets played out hundreds, nay thousands of times in American emergency rooms each day. The classic dilemma of distinguishing between those who are “drug seeking” and those who are in “real pain,” begs any number of questions. Who is to say they are different people? Whose right is it to determine or judge the level of pain another individual is experiencing? Is all pain bad? Does pain always need to be treated? Are narcotics over-used? Are narcotics under-used? Is it a doctor’s job to relieve patients of all pain and at what cost?

These questions and more have led me to a broader reflection on the meaning of pain in our culture. What follows is a collection of scenarios, quotes, and common sayings related to or inspired by pain. I am curious to hear what the topic brings up for you.

  • “No pain, no gain.”
  • Narcotics: Illegal, Prescribed, Controlled, Addictive, Pain-alleviating, Sleep-inducing, Potentially-lethal, Expected.
  • The brand name of prescription narcotics and muscle relaxants are also household names: Vicodin, Percocet, Flexeril.
  • Most people I know have been prescribed a narcotic for one reason or another at one point on their life.
  • The juxtaposition of a sweating writhing man passing a kidney stone rating his pain at a 6-7/10 and a young woman with a sprained ankle resting comfortably in bed rating it at a 10/10 and demanding narcotics.
  • “A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into an exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.” -Prefontaine
  • An elderly woman is dying. Her disease causes her severe pain even at rest and makes her feel as though she is suffocating. Morphine could help alleviate both, but she refusing saying, “I don’t want to get addicted.”
  • The husband of a young woman with chronic headaches threatens to kill an ER physician for not giving his wife more Dilaudid stating,”You are obligated to treat her pain.”
  • “Cutters” – inflicting physical pain on themselves to relieve existential, emotional, psychological distress.

Merely the body’s messenger of injury and imbalance?

Perhaps a villian to be slayed at all costs?

Or is it a virtue to be endured and even relished?


February 9, 2010
by Will

Naming Humans


So popupstorybook and I are having a baby. One of the many awesome/crazy/weird things we get to do together is name our baby. What does it mean to name a human? How do you choose a good name? I have no clue. The criteria that I have been using include: a name I like, a name that doesn’t remind me of someone stupid, a name with significance (family or otherwise), and a name that is within certain social parameters (i.e. a name that doesn’t invite ostracizing).

One thing I have discovered in this whole naming process is that people love to name! One of the first questions we get when people find out we are having a baby is, “Do you have a name picked out?” When that question is on the table we have a choice. We can a) deflect and say we haven’t narrowed it down or b) offer up a couple names on the shortlist and watch the person struggle to react in an appropriate way. [Side note: being pregnant affords all kinds of opportunities for social experimentation, like observing how many people will touch a stranger’s belly without asking].

Whether we go with option a or b, 90% of the time the person throws in their two cents. “I’ve always liked the name Chopper.” “Bukelele is such a cute name.” etc.  Why is naming such a kick? Even when I was a kid I was always jealous of Adam in the biblical story when he got to name all the animals. BTW, I think I would have done a better job–the deer mouse!? At least Spanish Adam had the sense to name it ratón ciervo.

I’m all up in it. So I thought I’d throw some of it into the cyber womb and see if it gives birth to any other ideas . . . Your thoughts?


February 8, 2010
by Will

Snarky Grafitti


How about:

Stay home, don’t have kids

Follow underground fashion, act-wierd

Walk on the grass, read a book

Spend your money, spray illegal grafitti

Repeat after me: I am Free


Let teachers think for you, know your kids’ behavior is determined by DNA

Buy only what’s available to wear, act as everyone else

Walk where the road goes, watch regularly scheduled programming

Do what you have to to survive, you are forced to obey the law

Repeat after me: I am not free

I don’t know why I bother . . .


February 6, 2010
by Will

Out of the Closet

pierrepoint-hicks-neckties-mackers-0-150x150Over the past couple years I’ve had a growing enthusiasm for fashion.  Mostly, I’m having fun keeping up on certain trends and crafting a wardrobe that helps me explore the stories that shape my life.  Popupstorybook recently asked me why I don’t write fashion posts that showcase pieces I like.  This blog post is part of my answer: no good reason.

One of my favorite parts of preppy is the neckwear.  A while ago I discovered Pierrepont Hicks, A New York based company that makes dynamite ties and bowties.  Peirrepont Hicks is run by a couple that got into fashion to follow their dreams.  All of their products are American Made. Hot.


Be sure to check out my personal favorites . . .

The Giles

The Hobbes

February 1, 2010
by rekonstruct

Avatar and Heidegger

Yes, I waited this long to see the film. And no, this isn’t another blog post about it’s amazing visuals and juvenile plot. I Avatar Movie actually liked the film and it’s plot.

First off, I found myself responding to the film in ways I didn’t expect. Avatar wasn’t a story about how amazing it is to switch consciousness between bodies. If it had been, I’d have been bored for 3+ hours. Instead, I found myself getting drawn into a world that still had some “green” left in it.

This was a compelling story line, not because it reawakened some smoldering environmentalism in me, but because it invited me into another possibility of world.

I couldn’t help but read the film through the lens of Heidegger’s language of Enframing. In a Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger suggests that the posture of human being has been taken over by technology. We don’t see the world anymore when we look at it, we can’t. Rather, in the place of trees we see lumber. Rivers become hydroelectric power. Animals become meat, etc.

This Enframing extends even to human being: as we grow accustomed to ordering the world (into what he calls a “standing reserve”) we begin to re-order ourselves as well. If we’re not careful, we become resources too.

countryside According to Heidegger, this is our destiny. Cameron challenges this outcome, not by disagreeing with Heidegger, but by offering a vision of a different world. This vision serves as an interruption to our frame. It creates the space for us to shift our posture toward the world.

The question remains: what frame do we choose for our world?

January 31, 2010
by rekonstruct
1 Comment

Existential Prices

Calcolatrice Piu Sexy Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s all the student loans that have somehow attached themselves to the piece of paper that says I kept going to school after I graduated college…

Maybe it’s the fact that I just turned thirty, or became a father. I’m not sure, but something has got me thinking a lot lately about what I’m worth. And I’m not just talking about the life insurance policy that I keep putting off.

Everywhere I look, it seems that I’m quantizing things. Twenty cents for the hummus I just washed down the drain. Two dollars for letting the bananas rot in the fruit bowl. Fifteen dollars, one cubit foot of waste, thirty-two minutes, forty wipes, and 1/8 tube of cream for a box full of diaper changes.

It doesn’t stop there. Units of time, Interactions, relationships, they feel more and more like sortable data.

So I can’t help but wonder, am I a quantity? Is that what my life has been reduced to? Fifity years and their corresponding earning power?

That’s what I wonder when I should be sleeping.

January 6, 2010
by Will

Your Personal Fashion Police

Huki police, 1955

I recently went to sell some of my clothes at the Buffalo Exchange in Seattle’s University District. I took with me two full bags of clothes–shoes, shirts, pants, sweaters. Before the woman behind the counter sifted through the goods, she informed me that she would only be taking what the store currently needed, and that the store only traded in the most current styles. Fine with me.

I left the counter, browsed, and came back to find that she had only selected two items. A pair of shoes and a cardigan from Urban Outfitters. I got $22 store credit. Fine with me. Before I left though, she said, “You have some good basic styles, but we are looking for the most current versions.” This was not fine with me.

I don’t care about the clothes’ fashion classification, but it seemed she was trying to make me feel better by giving a stamp of approval.  Don’t feel bad, the Buffalo Exchange employee says that your clothes have good basic style. Well guess what? Your mom has good basic style. We just can’t accept her because we trade only in the most current versions.

This mild annoyance got me to thinking about where we get our sense of success or failure when it comes to fashion. I’m not talking about function, like, “these underwear prevent my burlap shorts from giving me a rash.” I’m talking about the social cues that lead us to say “damn, these burlap shorts look fly! (This rash is so worth it).”  And don’t tell me that you came out of the womb with a fully developed sense of what looks great. I have some photos of your feathered mullet  (your emo fedora) to prove it.  So how about it? What are the voices in your life that help you decide what (not) to wear?

Built in liner

December 12, 2009
by rekonstruct
Comments Off on The End of the World (Wide Web) as We Know It

The End of the World (Wide Web) as We Know It

Obama has been a disappointment to me in recent weeks. The president-of-hope has failed to have the courage to deliver a health care reform bill that matters. Most people who need health care won’t even be touched by all this moderate compromise.

And now that his top-secrety-international-copyright-treaty is leaking like the titanic all over the internet (maybe that’s why he wants to kill it), he’s putting himself in the position as the man who might kill the internet.

This is perhaps the most egregious sin that I could imagine a president committing. The world wide web is perhaps the single greatest achievement of the human race to date. Wow, did I just say that?

Project 365 #28: 280109 The Cook Principle Hyperbole aside, if this treaty passes, I see three options, all of them with big lose potential.

1. In three months time it will show itself to be completely and utterly unenforceable.
2. It gets overturned in a year by the supreme court for violating almost every intention of the bill of rights and the constitution.
3. It succeeds, and the internet as we know it dies a cruel and unusual death.

Stop the insanity folks. Pirated movies and music, DRM, and other anachronistic copyright fears are not worth the possibility of losing the single greatest platform for the freedom of speech and information, for the dissemination of knowledge network known to human being since the history of human being. Oh, and did I mention the fact that its also a nearly instant and global network for communication and business and entertainment?

Hands off folks. There are other ways to get your inner Big Brother off. ‘Nuff said.

Here’s a list of links to sites that talk about it in more detail. Please peruse before the bill is passed and all links go dead…

An open letter to the EU

Michael Geist Blog

Boing Boing

Kiwi Blog: A New Zealand perspective

Senator Bayh Responds on ACTA: From Electronic Frontier Foundation

If you have any other interesting links, or care to share feedback, feel free to respond.

November 9, 2009
by Will

Ticketed for Not Speaking English

Rare black Range Rover Vogue - powerful presence in Geneva's Old Town Section! A striking contrast to the historic architecture! 02/11/2009!

Here’s a “fun” little story from the New York Times: Dallas police officers have cited drivers for not being able to speak English 38 times in the past three years.  So here’s the thing, there is no law in Dallas requiring drivers to speak English.  The other thing is that 44% of the population is Hispanic.

This means that these six officers somehow got the genius idea to start using their power to penalize people for speaking a different language.  I haven’t been able to find any justification for this great plan, besides the fact that they thought it was a legitimate offense.  In fact, it is clear from the last person to be issued such a ticket, that she could (and did) communicate with the officer.  It was just done with bits and pieces of English.  So, he must have given her a ticket because she didn’t speak enough English.

I don’t really have that much to say about abuse of power, or racism, or IQ, or Texas.  But this story did give me some great ideas for some things that should warrant a traffic ticket.

  • Having a shiny bald head
  • Thinking too quickly while merging
  • Parallel parking too easily
  • Possession of concealed glutes
  • Possession of lawless abs
  • Absence of crouching tiger
  • Overabundance of hidden dragon
  • Unsupervised SWS (Sticky Wicket Syndrome)
  • Texting while asleep
  • Cruel intentions
  • Basic Instinct
  • Quoting Beowulf in a school zone
  • Judging people in a residential zone
  • Limerick in a construction zone
  • Car rear looks too much like a face
  • Drive by cruising
  • Cruise by rolling
  • Drag racing while not wearing drag
  • Not being able to speak Old Earth Elvish

    I invite you to add your own.