Thursday, November 27, 2008

RSNA Survival Kit No. 6

I'm flying off to the RSNA meeting in 2 days. Besides the usual clothes and anti-boredom gear, I'll be taking along the two presentations I'll be giving there.

After working like a slave on these presentations for the past two months, I'm taking extra measures to insure that they make it safely to Chicago with me. This is a whole lot easier than it was in the days of academic yore, when 35 mm slides ruled the earth.

I'll be putting digital backups of each talk on my laptop, several USB memory sticks, a university SFTP server and in my shiny new Dropbox account. To my computer, Dropbox looks like a 2 GB memory stick, but resides out somewhere in Amazon's S3 server cloud. The clever gnomes at Dropbox have created versions for Mac, Windows and Linux that all work the same way.

I've been storing stuff in clouds (servers) of my own for many years, so this is no new concept for me. What is new is the extreme ease of use and the deep intelligence that the Dropbox dudes have rolled into their product.

Since I'm a radiologist, I'll use a visual metaphor. Suppose you want to make a cup of coffee:


Alas, most network storage solutions look like this:

You know you want a cup of coffee, but how the hell do you get this thing to make it?

By contrast, Dropbox works like this:


The other thing I like about Dropbox is the several intelligent things it does to quietly keep me from fubaring my files. I can't improve on Rands' well-written account of this: Dumbing Down the Cloud.

(via Daring Fireball)

RSNA Survival Kit No. 5

I'm probably not the only radiologist who has longed for some virtual way of chewing their leg off to escape the trap of a truly boring presentation. I therefore did something a little wacky 2 weeks ago, while assembling my RSNA Anti-Boredom Countermeasures Kit™:

Most items in this kit have so far been extremely practical. The latest addition is there purely because I thought it would be cool. After eyeing ads for the MyVu Crystal video goggles for a few months, I took the plunge and bought one for my iPhone.

I should point out that this is not a picture of me. However, if you spot one of these headsets on someone in the meeting crowd, it might be me. Introduce yourself and find out.

So far, the Crystal works as advertised, and displays a virtual 640 x 480 TV screen of acceptable clarity, brightness and color. In a quick test, the virtual screen appeared about 30% wider than our 27" home TV screen when viewed from our living room couch. The audio quality for the built-in earbuds is also quite acceptable.

One caveat for myopic users: if you normally wear glasses, you will also need to order their Myvu Clip-on corrective lens kit. Otherwise, it will be like watching a TV from across the room with your glasses off. Their clip-on kit comes with -2 and -4 diopter options, as well as a blank template you can use to get a custom prescription from your eye doctor.

If I don't see you at the meeting this year, I now have a whole new excuse...

RSNA Survival Kit No. 4

The latest addition to my RSNA Anti-Boredom Countermeasures Kit™: a battery extender for my iPhone.

I must say that my iPhone battery life has been pretty good so far. On my last flight to Chicago, I was able to watch 3 hours of videos and still have plenty of power left. On the other hand, surviving a whole day of tedious presentations is going to take a lot more juice than that.

I was therefore delighted when my new Richard Solo 1800 arrived 2 days ago, just in time for RSNA. This creature has enough power to give a nearly-depleted iPhone a complete charge.  For some reason, it also includes a built-in LED flashlight and laser pointer.  No feces.

The next logical step: start looking for a bladder extender...

(via Daring Fireball)

Radiology Needs a Hot Dog Cannon

OK, this video frankly has nothing at all to do with radiology. I don't care.

On the other hand, a lot of next week's presentations would be hugely improved if RSNA had an official mascot break up the tedium by firing hotdogs (and better yet, emergency espressos) up into the crowds of captive radiologists.

(via Daring Fireball)

Exploding Job Offers

How well does a radiology residency prepare you to negotiate for fellowship positions and jobs? Not too darned well, I'd say.

Joel Spolsky speaks to this in his latest Joel on Software post. His advice is aimed at college students, but is also extremely relevant for any young physicians trying to claw their way up the food chain:
If you’re a college student applying for jobs or summer internships, you’re at something of a disadvantage when it comes to negotiation. That’s because the recruiter does these negotiations for a living, while you’re probably doing it for the first time.

I want to warn you about one trick that’s very common with on-campus recruiters: the cynical “exploding offer.”
In a nutshell, recruiters make time-limited offers to pressure recruits into taking a job. I got this kind of pressure when I was job hunting, and it still goes on. According to one of our recent applicants, a competing radiology fellowship director gave her 45 frakking minutes to make a decision. To her credit, she turned that job down.

Read Joel's post for several great tips on dealing with this kind of sleazy behavior. I wish I had known this stuff years ago.

RSNA Survival Kit No. 3

Another tactic for surviving the RSNA meeting: getting some exercise.

One of my favorite ways of exercising in Chicago is to visit the Chicago Barn Dance Company's great Monday night contra and square dance.

After a long sedentary day at the meeting, a group of us are planning to go and shake the McCormick Place dust off our feet by dancing to hot, live, old-time fiddle music at the Bethany Church hall. As the Barn Dance site suggests:
Start the month off right by dancing to the fine old-time fiddling of Aubrey Swift, leading Grand Ol' Aubrey. Jo Mortland presents a mix of squares and contras guaranteed to lower your brain age by years.
Newcomers session is at 7:30 pm. Hope to see you there.

RSNA Survival Kit No. 2

I'll be asking a lot of my iPhone at RSNA this year. Besides the usual anti-boredom countermeasures, I'll be testing whether several new apps will make my brief visit to Chicago a bit easier.

Restaurant Apps

I'll be eating out most evenings in Chicago, so restaurant applications will be handy.

One of my favorite restaurant apps is Urbanspoon, which I mentioned previously in Dining Out for the Indecisive. It's worked pretty well for me here at home, but I'm looking forward to testing its away game while I'm in Chicago next week.

A test just now for cheap food in the Magnificent Mile area wants to send me to Heaven on Seven, a Cajun cuisine spot on N Wabash. I might just give that place a try.


Another restaurant app I've got my eye on is OpenTable, which will let me find and book open tables at restaurants all over the country. A quick query for a downtown Chicago steak quickly offered me the following 3 times at Morton's:


General search app:

One could just use the Safari browser on the iPhone for general searches. However, the Google Mobile App does a nice job of optimizing Big Google for the phone's smaller screen. Besides, the Google gnomes have just added a very cool new feature: Voice Search. This feature uses the iPhone's proximity sensor to trigger a voice search when you hold the phone up to your ear.

As a test, I said "Gino's East, Chicago" -- one of my favorite Chicago-style pizza places. The app toodled when it was through listening, and sent the following waveform off to Google central:


A few seconds later, that screen was replaced by this one, with just the place I was looking for on North Wells:


Now it's all very well to play with this stuff thousands of miles from Chicago, when there's nothing at stake. However, as Helmuth von Moltke put it:
No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.
I'll let you know how these apps hold up under battlefield conditions, when 30,000 famished radiologists simultaneously duke it out for dinner next week. Wish me luck.

Friday, November 21, 2008

RSNA Survival Kit No. 1

A meeting as large as the Radiological Society of North America involves lots and lots of waiting -- for planes, trains, buses, food, lectures, friends, cabs, bedtime, etc.

This year my iPhone will be a major part of my anti-boredom kit during all of these interludes. I'll have it full of books to read, games to play, and applications to make my stay in Chicago a tad more comfortable. This post begins a series on some of things I'm stuffing into my RSNA Survival Kit this year.

The following YouTube video will make 4:34 of some delay a little more tolerable:

(via kung fu grippe)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Samurai Radiologist Interviewed by RSNA News

In a shameless bit of self-promotion, I now point you to the latest online edition of RSNA News.

The News interviewed me and several other gadget hound/radiologists about our favorite techie tools. Mine, of course: the iPhone.

Besides quoting radiology alpha geeks, the article also lists some morsels from the upcoming RSNA meeting in Chicago. Look for me and other discerning attendees at Wii, iPhone, and podcasting talks, while the great unwashed masses are off hearing about barium and billing.

RSNA Looms

The giant, annual intergalactic conclave of radiologists known as the RSNA moves relentlessly towards us. This juggernaut transpires November 30 - December 5, and I have to go.

Every year after Thanksgiving, hapless planetary radiologists fly off to Chicago to spend a week wandering around an overpacked convention center, sweating in overheated buses, and eating overpriced food. Then there's the weather -- even the Chicago tourist board can't say much good about this time of year there. Good times.

Then, there are the technical exhibits. These last two words don't well convey the huge radiology bazaar that unfolds in McCormick Center. Imagine a double-sized warehouse store, packed with imaging gear and populated by the denizens of a Star Wars bar. These alien creatures will dress in three piece suits and lie in wait on every aisle, all ready to buy your soul. Looking for bargains? Guess again. This is medical equipment, so think CostMo, not CostCo. First-timers tips: read this book, know your escape routes, don't make eye contact and keep moving.

On the plus side, it will be a chance to see a lot of old friends, learn what's new in my field, and visit some of the great Chicago museums and restaurants.

I'm giving two RSNA presentations this year, which explains much of my silent running on this blog for this month. In preparing these talks, I am handicapped by wanting to do a really good job. Sadly, greatness requires a lot more work than mere competence, so I've been focused pretty intently for the past few weeks. However, a little work-avoidance behavior is good for the soul. I've therefore resurfaced briefly for a few posts, and then it's back to the PowerPoint mill for me.

Osirix App Now Available for iPhone


OsiriX , the wonderful open-source Mac image viewer, just announced the availability of an iPhone version.

Like a lot of imaging software, OsiriX lets one look at X-rays, ultrasounds, CT and MR images. Besides merely viewing, it also lets one reconstruct 3D images and rotate them around.

Unlike most imaging software, OsiriX is written by radiologists who also happen to be clever programmers. Also unlike most imaging software, OsiriX doesn't require a second mortgage. The full Mac-based version is free, and the iPhone app is $20.

Why should a non-physician care about Osirix? Because this little app will let you carry around a library of your own personal medical images. Even in my prior life as an internist, I always urged patients to keep their own copy of their more important images. The OsiriX app finally makes this easy and portable.

In the radiology biz, we call prior imaging exams "old films", and they can be staggeringly useful to a patient and their physicians. One of my patients once avoided having a risky lung biopsy simply because he happened to have an old film at home as a curiosity. This old film showed us pretty convincingly that the potential lung cancer we saw on his new film was actually a benign granuloma, and was unchanged over the intervening decades.

How do you get copies of your own images? Ask your local radiology department to burn you a CD in DICOM format. Most departments will also include free image-viewing software on the disk. If you're a Mac owner, download a copy of OsiriX, which will read virtually all of these disks, even if written by PC's.

If you're a geeky radiologist, you're probably already playing with the new app. If you're a non-geek, ask your teenager or local radiologist to put it on your phone for you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Maple Leaf Rag Played by Scott Joplin

The YouTube comment on this clip states simply:
Maple leaft Rag, recorded on Pianola Roll actually played by Scott Joplin
I first heard this Joplin classic at a college friend's home decades ago. After dinner, he sat down at the family pump organ and played the heck out of this tune.

The tune's ability to blow me away remains undiminished. Hearing it from its author's own hands is an even greater treat. I'm going to smile a lot more today.

(via kung fu grippe)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Weird Body Quiz

In a desperate attempt to take my mind off the "E" word today, I stumbled across The Weird Body Quiz at the New York Times site. It's probably a good thing I went into radiology instead of specializing in weird body facts -- I scored a paltry 60%.

This quiz is taken from a list of unusual medical questions compiled by a surgeon and her teenage daughters called "Why Don't Your Eyelashes Grow? Curious Questions Kids Ask About the Human Body". Sounds like just the place to get some just-in-time CME on boogers, hiccups, pee and farts.

Monday, November 3, 2008

All Ballot's 'Een

Two very topical black & white Dan Piraro cartoons really nail how many of us are feeling this evening.

(via BizarroBlog)

Lay Research

The latest PartiallyClips strip suggests an intriguing second life for some of the high tech gear we've got lying around our radiology department. So many possibilities, so little time...