fast, sketchy post

July goal: To push out a full first draft of the new novel, which is currently at 33,000 words. As usual for me in this stage of the game, the book starts slow and ends fast, the second half is only sketched in places, and the first half is less sketchy but also in need of trimming and shaping to improve the pace. In four weeks, I could get the ms. to 53,000 words, maybe 60,000, which is good for a word-count goal. Word count isn't everything, but if I'm at or near 60,000, I'll feel good about having a complete draft by the end of the year. I don't think this book is going to nudge over 80,000 words, and the last 25 percent usually comes in a big rush anyway.

Other goals: Tighten the first half. Finish the sketchy bits.

What did I learn from this stage of the process last time? Buy paper and use it. Print stuff out, use notebooks to sketch scenes, and avoid the screen, with its high-stakes aura, for composing.


If I am not mistaken, you were not disinclined to me

"If I am not mistaken, you were not disinclined to me, Lugones, and you would have liked to like some piece of my work. That never happened..." - Borges, Dream Tigers


Medical Training & Empathy: A study

Saved for later: Empathy Decline and Its Reasons: A Systematic Review of Studies With Medical Students and Residents, published in June 2011 issue of Academic Medicine.

Abstract: "Empathy is a key element of patient-physician communication that is relevant to and positively influences patients' health. The authors systematically reviewed the literature to investigate changes in trainee empathy and reasons for those changes during medical school and residency. The authors conducted a systematic search of studies concerning trainee empathy published from January 1990 to January 2010, using manual methods and the PubMed, EMBASE, and PsycINFO databases. They independently reviewed and selected quantitative and qualitative studies for inclusion. Intervention studies, those that evaluated psychometric properties of self-assessment tools, and those with a sample size <30 were excluded. Eighteen studies met the inclusion criteria: 11 on medical students and 7 on residents. Three longitudinal and six cross-sectional studies of medical students demonstrated a significant decrease in empathy during medical school; one cross-sectional study found a tendency toward a decrease, and another suggested stable scores. The five longitudinal and two cross-sectional studies of residents showed a decrease in empathy during residency. The studies pointed to the clinical practice phase of training and the distress produced by aspects of the "hidden," "formal," and "informal" curricula as main reasons for empathy decline. The results of the reviewed studies, especially those with longitudinal data, suggest that empathy decline during medical school and residency compromises striving toward professionalism and may threaten health care quality. Theory-based investigations of the factors that contribute to empathy decline among trainees and improvement of the validity of self-assessment methods are necessary for further research."


The Ganzfeld Procedure

A curious short film that suggests the difficulty of representing empathy, at least in film: To show it, we seem to need to caricature it -- at least in this form and medium.

From BBC Electric Proms.

A. C. Doyle & Sherlock Holmes

Rare footage in which Doyle explains the connection between Sherlock Holmes and his training in medicine, with a curious digression on psychic phenomena.


Tidbit du Jour

In English, "plumber's friend" is a euphemism for a plunger.

But if you are in a Parisian hotel with wonky plumbing for which you request a "plongeur," you are likely receive a visit from Greg Louganis and a lesson on French faux amis, of which plongeur is one, and not just for the plumber.

So, in Paris, if you have the need, request a ventouse, and leave the plunging to the Olympians.

By which I do not mean the immortals on Mt. Olympus, but today's useless tidbit was in fact, and strangely enough, inspired by "Il Tuffatore" of Paestum, the only example of Greek tomb painting that includes a human figure. He is plonge-ing into the afterlife.

Is it a death, or a rebirth? Intriguingly, "ventouse" is also used to describe suction-aided baby deliveries. So,on second thought, be careful about asking for a ventouse, at least in obstetrical contexts.