Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Good Thanksgiving

Today is the American holiday Thanksgiving, the traditional day when its celebrants give thanks for the things that they have. The day is normally spent with family, enjoying a large meal, and watching football on the television. We've added another tradition in my family, one designed to pass on the spirit of the day to our almost 5-year old son. Today is the day when he goes through all of his toys and packs up those that he no longer uses to ship off to Goodwill, a charity organization for those who are in greater need.

Five year old boys aren't very keen on parting with their things so its a struggle to get him to put his past treasures in a box to send off to someone else. The struggle is the learning processes here, the realization that someone else in the world isn't lucky enough to have an Optimus Prime robot, and that the plastic toy may bring some other little boy as much joy as it did him. Before long the spirit of the exercise takes hold and my son enthusiastically scours the house for things to give away. It's a good Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Random Thoughts From Of Caracas

A Stormy Caracas skyline

Just back from Venezuela. I forgot the interface cable to my camera so I wasn't able to post anything while I was there. Thoughts and observations on Venezuela:

  • The entire country has no concept of personal service. The Bolivarian revolution has bread a generation of workers that believe they're fully entitled and thus have no motivation to provide a quality product or service. They get paid one way or the other.
  • While Hugo Chavez rants about empowering the poor, the Presidential Palace is surrounded by his homeless countrymen (and women) sleeping in cardboard boxes on the streets.
  • While a complete loon, President Chavez is by far the most entertaining head of state there is. His multi-hour press conferences are just one long entertaining stream of consciousness that often delve into song, comedy and poetry.
  • The Caracas skyline is marked by tall concrete buildings that now provide housing for the poor; sort of sky-rise slums.
  • The Venezuelan military is probably the finest looking military I've ever seen. Soldiers, weapons, and equipment all maintained to a very high standard. As an ex-soldier I couldn't help but be impressed.
  • At pennies for a gallon of gas Venezuela has the largest collection of 1970's massive V8 sedans that I've ever seen. It's not uncommon to see a Buick Riviera taxi cab.
  • Motorbikes are everywhere, helmets are required. People wear bicycle helmets as they speed in and out of highway traffic at breakneck speeds. I have to imagine that motorcycle-related death is the leading cause of mortality in Venezuela.
  • Venezuela has contributed more Miss Universes than any other county. That's the national trivia question asked by every taxi cab driver.
  • The Latin diet will not get an endorsement from the American Heart Association.
  • The parks are full of runners, cyclists, and bladers. Something that was unheard of 10-15 years ago.
  • The Wonder Bra company must certainly be based in Venezuela.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What A Great Job

I've been away for a bit, taking an Emergency Medicine course in Indiana. At one point I found myself doing an ambulance ride along one night with an EMT and a Paramedic. We got called to the home of a woman who had suffered some sort of cerebral event and had fallen down a small flight of stairs and now could not move. Her 20-something year old daughter called 911, and we soon arrived with flashing lights, boxes of medications, monitors, oxygen tanks, and an assortment of other cool gadgets.

I took a moment and looked into the daughter's eyes and recognized absolute terror as her mother lay helpless on the floor. The young girl was panicked, wanting to do anything and everything to help her stricken mother, but was unable to do anything. Once the paramedic began his care I watched the weight of the world lift from the frightened daughter. She was still visibly nervous but finally help had arrived and a wave of relief swept over her face.

In 24 hours the paramedic and the EMT won't even remember the call to this woman's home, it being subsumed by dozens of other recent and similar calls. The daughter, on the other hand, will never forget it for as long as she lives. It's amazing to have that affect on the lives of random people. What a great job.