Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday deals

Black Friday reruns

Quartzsite, Arizona is a small town along U.S. Interstate 10, and many just stop there for food and gas on the way to other places.

In the local cemetery is a small pyramid with a copper camel on top, marking the grave of a mostly forgotten man named Hadji Ali.

Very little information about his background is known. He was born in 1828 in what was then called Greater Syria (today that includes Syria, Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus). His parents were likely Bedouins. He was Muslim.

What is known is that he played a central role in what's now a mostly forgotten (but well worth remembering) episode of American and Canadian history.

The idea was first proposed in 1836, but wasn't taken seriously until 1848. Following the Mexican-American war, the United States found itself in control of a large desert, covering what's now New Mexico & Arizona, along with parts of Texas, California, Nevada, and other states. The U.S. Army needed to establish bases and supply lines in the area, both for the border with Mexico and the continuing wars with Indian tribes.

The railroad system was in it's infancy, and there were no tracks through the region. It's part of the largest desert in North America. The only way across was to use horses. But horses, like humans, are heavily dependent on water. This made the area difficult to cross, and vulnerable to attacking Apaches.

So in 1855 Jefferson Davis, then U.S. Secretary of War (later to become President of the Confederacy), put into action an idea proposed by several officers: buy camels to serve in the desert. Congress appropriated $30,000 for the endeavor, and officials were sent to Turkey to do just that.

Between 1856-1857 the U.S. Army bought roughly 70 camels, transporting them from Smyrna, Turkey to Indianola, Texas. To handle them they brought over 8 camel drivers, with Hadji Ali in charge.

The camels worked remarkably well... To a point.

They were perfect for the environment. The huge southwest desert didn't faze them. They led supply trains all over, from Texas to California. With their low need for water, and bodies specially adapted to arid environments, they easily crossed areas where horses and other pack animals couldn't.*

But there were problems. The Americans had envisioned combined forces of camels and horses, each making up for the deficiencies of the other. But horses and donkeys are frightened of camels, making joint convoys difficult and requiring separate corrals. The army was also unprepared for their intrinsically difficult personalities- camels bite, spit, kick, and are short-tempered. Horses are comparatively easy to handle.

With the start of the American Civil War, the U.S. Army Camel Corps was disbanded. Troops and horses were needed on the east side of the country, while camels weren't. Most of them escaped into the desert, and thrived there for a while. In an attempt to preserve them, the Arizona territory  outlawed camel hunting.

But the camel story didn't end there. One of the soldiers, Frank Laumeister, saw business opportunities in Canada. He bought a herd, and in 1862 took them north to British Columbia. The Cariboo gold rush was in progress, and pack animals were needed.

Canadian prospectors and a friend

The results in Canada were mixed. The camels were strong, and could carry twice as much as mules. But their broad feet, while perfect for the sand and dirt of the desert, were cut up by the rocky terrain of the Pacific Northwest. It became necessary to make special protective shoes for them (given their difficult nature, it's unfortunate that history hasn't recorded how they responded to having shoes put on).

The Canadians, like the Americans, discovered they weren't easy to handle. The same problems of difficult disposition and spooking horses came up. In addition, they found camels would eat anything they found. Hats. Shoes. Clothes that were out drying. Even soap. And so, after a few years, the Canadians gave up on the experiment, too.

But they weren't forgotten. A mountain range in British Columbia is called the Camelsfoot. The town of Lillooet has "The Bridge of the 23 Camels". A geographical basin is called "The Camoo".

Some camels were sold to farms. Others escaped into the wild. One was mistaken for a grizzly bear (WTF?) and shot, ending up briefly on a local bar's menu.

The last reliable sighting of a wild camel in Canada was in British Columbia, in the 1930's. The last sighting in North America was in Douglas, Texas in 1941- 85 years after the first ones had landed.

Two fiction movies have been based on the North American camel experiences: "Southwest Passage" (1954) and "Hawmps!" (1976). There's even a folk song called "Hi Jolly!" about them.

And what became of Hadji Ali?

His American hosts had trouble with his name, and pronounced it as a greeting: Hi Jolly! After the camel business shut down he decided to stay here, becoming a citizen in 1880. He tried his hand at several business, and married a woman named Gertrudis Serna in Tucson. They had 2 children. At some point he changed his name to Philip Tedro, but "Hi Jolly" is the name that stuck with him, and is on his Quartzsite tomb.

Hadji Ali and Gertrudis Serna

He prospected around the southwest U.S., occasionally working for the army. Once, when offended that he hadn't been invited to a friend's party in Los Angeles, he broke it up by repeatedly riding through it in a wagon pulled by 2 of his remaining camels.

He spent the last years of his life in Quartzsite, Arizona, dying in 1902. His adventures had impacted 2 countries and covered 3 continents. It had been 51 years since he'd left his native Middle East in one of the strangest military projects on record.

*Technically, it should be noted that camels are originally from North America. Really. Their ancestors evolved in North America 23-40 million years ago, but left. One group went west into Asia (then down to Africa), several million years ago, over the Bering Strait Land Bridge, evolving into today's camels. The rest migrated to South America 3 million years ago when the Isthmus of Panama formed, and became llamas and alpacas.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Scrolling through Groupon

While I have nothing against vibrators, or Groupon, I did get the giggles over how they're mixed in with more mundane household items.

They were also selling, on DVD, the complete TV series "Highway to Heaven." Regrettably, that pic wasn't next to one of these ads, or it would have been perfect.

Anna and Elsa know what they want for Christmakkuh...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tuesday afternoon

Mary: "Dr. Grumpy's office, this is Mary."

Mrs. Concern: "Yes, I need to make an appointment for my husband."

Mary: "Okay, we can see him next Tuesday at..."

Mrs. Concern: "That's not acceptable. We need to be seen urgently, this afternoon. We're flying to visit our children in the morning. It's Thanksgiving this week."

Mary: "Yes, ma'am, but we're entirely booked today and Wednesday, and closed the rest of the week. But next Tuesday we have..."

Mrs. Concern: "We can't wait until then. He's had a stroke."

Mary: "When was his stroke?"

Mrs. Concern: "Sometime during the night. He's had trouble using his left side today, and his speech is slurred. And now my back hurts, because with him like this I had to do all the packing for both of us."

Mary: "Ma'am, you need to take him to the emergency room. I know Dr. Grumpy is going to tell you to do that. Immediately."

Mrs. Concern: "Nonsense. They'll just do some expensive tests and put him in the hospital. We have a flight in the morning, and can't miss that. We're going to visit our children. I just want to have Dr. Grumpy check him over before we leave."

Mary: "You really need to take him to an emergency room."

Mrs. Concern: "Our internist's office told us the same thing. I can't say I like the attitude you people in 'modern medicine' have these days."

Mary: "I'm sorry but..."

Mrs. Concern: "I hope you realize you're ruining our Thanksgiving."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


This is from a letter an insurance company sent to one of my patients about having an MRI:

So, let's translate this:

1. It's okay with us if you have an MRI.

2. We may pay for it. Then again, we may not. We won't decide until AFTER you actually have it done.

3. If, after we get a bill, we decide not to pay for it, you will have to pay for it.

4. If we do decide to pay for it, you'll still likely have to pay part of the bill. How much this will be will depend on what we decide. We'll let you know after you've already had the test.

5. Once you get the test, you have absolutely no say in the matter. We, on the other hand, can change our mind at any time.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sunday morning, 3:48 a.m.

Dr. Grumpy: "This is Dr. Grumpy, returning a page."

Mrs. Wokemeup: "Hi, I'm a patient of Dr. Cortex. He has me on Ataxizon 500mg twice a day. Anyway, for the last week I've had a lot of balance problems. He did labs on Thursday, and said my Ataxizon level was way too high."

Dr. Grumpy: "Okay."

Mrs. Wokemeup: "So he told me to lower the dose to 400mg twice a day. But my balance is still terrible, and I don't know what to do."

Dr. Grumpy: "So you're on 400mg twice a day of Ataxizon right now?"

Mrs. Wokemeup: "No, I take 500mg twice a day."

Dr. Grumpy: "Wait... I thought you said Dr. Cortex told you to decrease the dose because it was affecting your balance?"

Mrs. Wokemeup: "He did. But I wasn't sure if I should. I thought I'd see what someone else thought."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Home moments

Discovering your kids are playing Star Wars... and have dressed the dog up to be Luke Skywalker.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Dr. Grumpy: "Why are you taking Lithium? Are you bipolar?"

Ms. Valence: "No, I'm Puerto Rican."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crystal ball

Mary: "Dr. Grumpy's office, this is Mary."

Ms. Seance: "I need to get an appointment right away! I have a brain tumor!"

Mary: "Okay, we have an opening Thursday, at..."

Ms. Seance: "It's an emergency! I have a brain tumor!"

Mary: "Where did you have your MRI? I can try to get that report for the doctor."

Ms. Seance: "I haven't had any tests. Look, this is serious! I have a brain tumor!"

Mary: "Huh? You haven't had any tests? Then how do you know...?"

Ms. Seance: "My medium told me!"

Mary: "A medium told you..."

Ms. Seance: "Yes! And she's never wrong! The spirits told her that I have a brain tumor!"

Mary: "Okay. Well, we can see you Thursday, at 2:30. What insurance do you have?"

Ms. Seance: "CrappyCare, Inc."

Mary: "I'm sorry, we're not contracted with CrappyCare."

Ms. Seance: "But my medium said you are!"

Mary: "We've never been with CrappyCare. Let me give you some phone numbers..."

Ms. Seance: "This is my medium! She's never wrong! You must be!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Elevator talk

It's 5:15 a.m. The first group of docs is drifting in for the day. I grabbed a Diet Coke and got in the hospital elevator. The doors were closing when one of the hospitalists, trying not to spill his coffee, called for me to hold it. So I hit the "open" button.

Dr. Med: "Morning, Ibee. Thanks for getting that."

Dr. Grumpy: "No problem, Jack. Where you starting?"

Dr. Med: "Ummm, I guess 8 would be best. Can you push that? Thanks."

Dr. Grumpy: "Sure. Hey, are you going to send Mrs. Stroke home today? Her dopplers looked fine."

Dr. Med: "Yeah. She's on Plavix, and I'll have her follow-up with you in 2-3 weeks."

Dr. Grumpy: "Sounds good."

Dr. Med: "Recently I've been getting headaches, but only when I'm masturbating. Should I be concerned about that?"

Next time I'm not going to hold the door.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Run that by me again

Seen in another doctor's note:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lunch with Dr. Pissy

Having lunch with a rep selling migraine pills:

Drug rep: "Doctors, did you know that menstrual migraine affects up to 30% of women?"

Dr. Pissy: "And at least ten times that many men."

Pissy's nurse kicked him under the table.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Weekend reruns

Dr. Grumpy: "You look kind of unsteady today."

Mr. Woodstock: "Yeah, I smoked a few joints out in my car before coming up here."

Dr. Grumpy: "Why did you do that?"

Mr. Woodstock: "I was really nervous about coming in today."

Dr. Grumpy: "Why were you nervous? You've been here before."

Mr. Woodstock: "Oh, not about that. I've been drinking scotch all morning, and didn't want you to notice I was drunk when I came in. I've never been drunk to a doctor visit before, so I smoked some weed to calm down, because I didn't want you to think I'd been drinking."

Friday, November 14, 2014

Land of confusion

Dr. Grumpy: "Are your symptoms any better or worse?"

Mr. Vague: "I'm not sure. Maybe I don't understand what you're asking?"

Dr. Grumpy: "Well, last time you were here we were talking about your leg pain. Does it hurt more or less since then? Or is it about the same?"

Mr. Vague: "That's a really hard question. I'm not sure what you want me to say."

Dr. Grumpy: "Just tell me how your leg feels."

Mr. Vague: "Are there any easier questions? Like what I'm allergic too, or the name of my dog?

No, folks, he wasn't cognitively impaired.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Happy pills

Dr. Action Potential has made no secret of her battles with anxiety and depression, and the fact that she takes Lexapro.


Absolutely not. I commend her for speaking out on it. Personally, if my doctor has a problem, I'd want them to be getting care for it.

Why do psychiatric disorders get "blacklisted" as a human condition? Insurance companies don't want to pay for them. Employers don't want to give time off for them. Relatives often don't believe in them ("Oh, she just needs to get over it. She's fine.").

The lady who has a heart attack and requires coronary artery bypass surgery gets time off from work, medications and doctors covered by her insurance, and cardiac rehab to help her recover. But the guy who has severe, nearly suicidal, depression? He may get a few days off work by calling in sick ("I have a cold.") He likely won't find help from a psychiatrist because his insurance doesn't cover them, and if he can't afford to pay cash he's SOL. If his boss learns what's really wrong with him he'll probably get fired.

His internist will try to help with some Cymbalta or Wellbutrin, but doesn't have the knowledge on what to do if those fail. Nor does she have the time to spend with him at his appointments because, as a primary doc, she's got a packed schedule.

So let's go back to your doctor being on Lexapro (or whatever) for their mental health. Does this bother you? Why? If your doctor was a diabetic wouldn't you hope they're taking their insulin like they're supposed to? Or blood pressure medication? A doctor who takes care of their own health issues is (hopefully) going to be around longer and capable of practicing better than one with out-of-control blood sugars or hypertension.

Yet, many people who learn their doctor was being treated for a psychiatric condition would probably run like hell from them. Why? If, like treating any other condition, it makes them better able to function, what's the problem? Wouldn't you want that?

Apparently not. Even though doctors battle the same demons as everyone else, AND are in a profession with one of the highest rates of depression and suicide, no one wants to hear that their physician may be on "crazy meds."

Insulin, Sotalol, Coumadin, Xarelto, Amiodarone, Herceptin, Tysabri, Cellcept, and many other potent meds for serious medical conditions - no one cares if their doc takes them. But Prozac? Hell, maybe you shouldn't be in practice.

So here's my confession: I'm on Zoloft (sertraline). I've taken it for 20 years. Don't like that? Think that means I suck as a doctor? I don't give a shit.

I've battled depression since I was a teenager (yes, for the doubting assholes out there, it's a real disease). I also have OCD. Not the personality type, but the actual disorder. Left unchecked, a circuit fires repeatedly in my head causing me to do pointless activities endlessly- checking light switches, counting to certain numbers repeatedly, walking in & out (and in & out) of a room. Those of you who don't face this have no fucking clue how awful it feels to know your repetitive actions are insane BUT YOU CAN'T STOP DOING THEM no matter how hard you try. Imagine being my wife dealing with that.

So, I take Zoloft. It's not a miracle drug for everyone, but in my case it works quite well. It keeps my wife from killing me for flipping the lights, or shower, or whatever, on & off too many times. It lets me focus on figuring out what's wrong with you, or playing basketball with my daughter. Got a problem with that? Go find another neurologist.

We might treat you for a mental illness, and wouldn't hold it against you, so why would you hold it against us? Or a lawyer, or decorator, or veterinarian, or politician (there's a lot you CAN hold against politicians, but this shouldn't be one of them), or plumber, or nurse, or accountant..., or anyone else for that matter?

I also take Lipitor for my cholesterol. Does that bother you? I doubt it. But I bet Zoloft would make you think twice about coming to see me. Why?

Your doctor, like me and Action Potential, is just another person, made up of the same organic chemical soup as you. We're going to have the same issues that you face (given the nature of this job, possibly more). And if we're willing to be treated for that, I personally think that's good. It let's us concentrate on taking care of you.

Which is, after all, why you came to us.

Your doctor can't help you unless they take care of themself first. No matter what their health problem is.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mary's Desk

Mary: "Okay, so we have you down for next Tuesday, at 4:15."

Mr. Argue: "I'll be there. This is so exciting! I've always been stuck seeing general neurologists, and I'm so thrilled to finally be seeing someone at the famous Binswanger's Clinic."

Mary: "Um... we're not part of the Binswanger's clinic."

Mr. Argue: "Of course you are. The person who gave me your name said so."

Mary: "No... The Binswanger Clinic is in south Grumpyville, about 5 miles from here."

Mr. Argue: "But I want to be seen by a Binswanger neurologist!"

Mary: "Okay, but Dr. Grumpy isn't part of that institution. We're happy to see you here, but we don't have any affiliation with them."


Mr. Argue: "Then cancel my appointment. I'm tired of settling for neurologist wannabes."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day, 2014

Corporal Chester Nez, U.S.M.C.

Buried under headlines full of election-year vitriol, fighting in the middle east, conflict in Ukraine, ebola, comments by a basketball team owner, nuts with guns killing police officers and civilians, religious nuts with bombs killing anyone they can, and other cheery items... were 2 obituaries. Odds are that they didn't even make it into your local paper, or newsfeed, and even if they did you probably skipped them.

On June 4, a 93 year-old man died in Albuquerque of kidney failure. He was born in 1921 in Chi Chil Tah, New Mexico. Never heard of it? Join the club. It's an unincorporated area of land on an Indian reservation in western New Mexico. He could have been anyone's father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather, from that remarkable Greatest Generation.

But Chester Nez was so much more.

He was the last living member of a group of 29 men who were critical to the Allied victory in WW2.

They were the original Navajo Code Talkers.

You've likely heard the story to some degree. American forces needed an unbreakable code to fight their way across the Pacific. There was a successful one already in use, but it required a long time to transmit, receive, and decode at the opposite ends. And time, in the rapidly changing situation of combat, is one thing you don't have.

The U.S. had used Choctaw and Cherokee code talkers, with great success, in WWI (you probably didn't know that, either. Maybe I'll tell that story another time). In the buildup to WW2, however, the Germans were aware of this and sent anthropologists to the U.S. to learn as much about the native languages as they could. As a result they were used only on a small scale in Europe, with Comanche and Meskwaki talkers serving at Normandy and in Africa, respectively. Seminole talkers served in both Europe and the Pacific.

Navajo is a complex language. As of 1942 it hadn't even been set on paper, and was only known through oral teaching. It has a different grammar structure from other North American native tongues, and is indecipherable for those not familiar with it.

Philip Johnston, who'd been raised on the reservation in a family of missionaries, was one of the rare non-native speakers. In 1942 he approached the army with the idea, and they began quietly recruiting Navajo men. In tests under simulated battle conditions they found the talkers could relay an operational message in 30 seconds - compared to roughly 30 minutes using the standard encode-and-decode system. The cipher they finally developed was an odd combination of phonetic alphabet, straight words, and approximations (for when there wasn't a Navajo equivalent for English). Bombers became buzzards. Submarines were iron fish. Tanks were tortoises.

Codebooks to teach the new system were developed, but carefully watched and never left classrooms. Testing by U.S. codebreakers unfamiliar with Navajo showed that, to a non-speaker, it was unintelligible gibberish.

The Navajos were rapidly deployed. At Iwo Jima, home of one of the world's most iconic photographs, 6 code talkers operated continuously for 48 hours. They called in fire support, updated positions, relayed new orders, and allowed the commanders to quickly adjust to changes ashore. Major Howard Connor, commanding the Marines' signal division, later said that, without the Navajos, the island wouldn't have been taken.

It remains, to this day, the only spoken code that was never broken.

Not that the Japanese didn't try... Early in the war, at Corregidor, they captured Joe Kieyoomia, a Navajo serving in the army. Joe subsequently survived the Bataan Death March. He was viciously beaten by the Japanese, who thought his facial features meant he was of Japanese descent, and therefore a traitor. Eventually he was put in a concentration camp outside Nagasaki with other soldiers.

When the Japanese suspected the code was an Indian tongue, they tried to have Joe translate for them. He recognized the words, but since he didn't know the arranged structure and phonetics he couldn't understand it. As a result they tortured him even more viciously, then made him stand naked in snow. His feet froze to the ground, and when they shoved him back to his cell, the soles tore. Somehow surviving that... he went on to live through the atomic bombing, too. He died in New Mexico in 1997, and you probably didn't see his obituary, either.

Edmond Harjo, the last surviving Seminole code talker, died this year, too, on March 31, 2014. He was 96. He served in more territory than most, sending and receiving messages at both D-Day and Iwo Jima.

And the man I started the article with, Chester Nez, returned after the war and eventually became a painter at the Veterans' Hospital in Albuquerque. When he died on June 4, 2014 he was the last survivor of the original Navajo code talkers, who served with such great distinction far from home.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The nature of medicine

On call this past weekend, I was down in ER. They brought in a young guy who was killed in a bar fight. Massive head injuries. There was nothing that could be done.

And he was wearing a green T-shirt with a picture of a shamrock on it, that said "Today is my lucky day!"

A nurse commented this is the only field on Earth where such things are funny. She's probably right.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Question of the week

"Doctor, how do I know if I'm having a headache?"

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I'm just here for the knives

Seen in a surgeon's note:

Thank you, Glen!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November, 1932

This week in 1932, a war was fought... One that would see the Australian military suffer what may be the most bizarre defeat in the history of armed conflict.

In the midst of the worldwide depression, Australia's Summer wheat crops were attacked by a marauding hoard of roughly 20,000 emus. The birds found it was easier to eat grain off cultivated rows than forage for it, and settled in.

"Our ancestors were Tyrannosaurs. Who's going to stop us?"

Emus are not small objects. After its cousin, the ostrich, it's the second biggest bird on Earth. They can't fly, but can kick viciously and run at over 30 mph. Their claws easily shred wire fences, and they're big enough to jump over or knock down most wooden ones. They can grow to a height of 6'6" and weigh up to 125 lbs.

In summary, they're not going to be threatened by a scarecrow. Or much else.

The farmers appealed to the government, and the Minister of Defence, Sir George Pearce, felt this was an excellent way of both assisting the farmers and getting his troops some target practice. Machine guns had helped break the Western Front stalemate in 1918, so would be ideal for mowing down a few overgrown sparrows.

They were just birds. What could possibly go wrong?

Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Royal Australian Artillery was the man tasked with boldly leading the expedition. He was given a group of soldiers armed with the latest machine guns, plenty of ammo, and orders to eradicate the birds.

He was also told to bring the feathers back for hats.

Upon arrival, the farmers and Major Meredith set up an ambush, hoping to kill most of the birds in one stroke. The farmers drove the huge flock toward where the soldiers were hiding... Only to have the emus break up into multiple small groups instead of staying in a large one.

Out of thousands, the machine guns killed... only 12 birds. More were wounded, but the soldiers found that shooting an emu didn't necessarily slow it down. In fact, anything short of hitting a vital organ just made them mad.

"Don't fuck with us, you overgrown monkeys."

Undeterred, Meredith courageously set up another ambush, this time cornering roughly 1000 birds near a dam. His men opened fire at close range... again with only 12 dead birds after much shooting. And one of the pricey machine guns broke.

An ornithologist later wrote that "The machine-gunners' dreams of point blank fire into masses of emus were soon dissipated. The emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of military equipment uneconomic." In other words, the birds quickly scattered, and were damn near impossible to hit.

With the marauding emus showing no signs of leaving, Meredith changed tactics. In a burst of inspiration (likely from that great American strategist Wile E. Coyote), he borrowed a truck from a farmer, mounted a machine gun on it, and sent it racing into the flock

Sounds like something from a comedy flick at this point, huh?

"Trust me. I'm a professional."

To the Major's horror, the birds were easily able to outrun the truck. And, as they drove over the uneven landscape, the vehicle bounced so much that his men were unable to aim, or even properly work, the gun.

This experiment in motorized warfare came to an abrupt end when a heroic kamikaze emu turned around and ran directly into them. It's body jammed the suspension, causing the truck to spin out of control and destroy a farmer's fence. History didn't record who paid for the damages.

After a few days of similar front-line combat, Major Meredith sent a report estimating 200-500 birds killed, though the number was likely closer to 50. He also credited his opponents, who were able to keep running in spite of multiple wounds. "If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world" he wrote. "They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks."

He also noted that his own forces had suffered no casualties.

One soldier later gave this assessment of the enemy's strategy: "The emus have proved that they are not so stupid as they are usually considered to be. Each mob has its leader, always an enormous black-plumed bird standing fully six-feet high, who keeps watch while his fellows busy themselves with the wheat. At the first suspicious sign, he gives the signal, and dozens of heads stretch up out of the crop. A few birds will take fright, starting a headlong stampede for the scrub, the leader always remaining until his followers have reached safety."

The good Major withdrew in defeat, but was ordered back. This time his forces were somewhat more successful in culling birds... But still unable to seriously dent their numbers, or get them to leave the area. Some basic number crunching found that, on his best day, it took an unsustainable amount of costly ammunition to bring down 1 emu. It was a war of attrition, and the emus had the numbers. Faced with being beaten by birds, Defence Minister Pearce ordered a withdrawal and wished the farmers good luck.

Eventually, as news of the heroic military operation got around, there was a debate in the Australian government. It featured this memorable exchange:

Mr. Thorby: "Who is responsible for the farce of hunting emus with machine guns mounted on lorries? Is the Defence Department meeting the cost?"

Prime Minister Lyons: "I have been told the Defence Department will not be paying the bill."

Mr. James: "Is a medal to be struck for this war?"

Another minister later commented that if such a medal were struck, it should be awarded to the emus.

Although the farming community would request military intervention against the birds in subsequent years, the lesson had been learned and no further emu wars were launched.

Today, along with the kangaroo, the emu is one of Australia's national symbols, showing just which side came out ahead in the brief conflict.

"Primates! You know where you can stick your opposable thumbs?"

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Overheard in ER

Nurse 1: "I need another urine sample cup for room 17."

Nurse 2: "Didn't you just give him one?"

Nurse 1: "Yeah. I gave him the cup and a Betadine swab. I told him to wipe himself first, then put it in the cup. So he wiped his dick with the swab, then put the swab in the cup."

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween memories - epilogue

For those wondering after reading Friday's post...

This, in memory of my grandfather, is the tie I wore. He bought it as an honest-to-God ordinary tie that he wore to his job. It is truly one of my most prized possessions, because, let's face it, ties this hideous aren't easy to find.

Sure, you can buy lots of gag ties that are intentionally horrid, but what makes this thing so awesome is that someone designed it in the 60's-70's as a serious tie for men to wear to business meetings, Bar Mitzvahs, whatever. And my grandfather paid good money for it and DID JUST THAT.

The day I found it in his closet, I knew I'd stumbled on something rare and worth keeping. Someday I'm sure one of my descendants will do the same.

The picture doesn't do the bright colors justice. The vibrant reds, oranges, pinks, yellows, golds, whites, and a few previously undescribed hues make a pattern so striking... It looks like Roy G. Biv threw up.

Also, it's so wide at the bottom that you could wear a midriff shirt and no one would notice.

Yes, I really did wear it to work. Be jealous.
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