Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekend Off

While it was my intent to seek my highest level of amusement for shabbat, I had also intended to see patients in the hospital on Sunday.  It was my good fortune, though to have nobody new to see other than a gentleman that I called in about on Friday night and who seemed to have something that can wait the weekend to sort out so I spared myself the round trip on Sunday.  Three more came my way on Sunday afternoon so I will be playing catch-up but the extra day to myself felt at least welcome if not deserved.

For shabbos I convinced Irene to attend services with me at Beth Tfiloh in Baltimore.  I try to go twice a year, usually only make it there once.  It never disappoints.  Bar Mitvah boy read the entire Parsha Bereshit, all 146 p'sukim largely error-free and with a nice early teenage voice.  Rabbi Wohlberg crafted a sermon that drew on multiple sources to expand his theme.  Even the Hazzan, who had been largely perfunctory on my previous visits, demonstrated why he holds a position in a large Orthodox congregation when most mechitza congregations no longer support them.  A fair amount of what they do there can be incorporated into the ordinary function of AKSE but the sense of pursuing excellence does not seem to be there nor does the Rabbi  seem to have a vision for what that might be.

I always wanted to visit the Boordy Winery on my way home.  Once I stopped by but they were having a Festival of some type that I did not want to spend the money to attend.  This time it was an ordinary tour day.  For $5 they gave you a glass and enough samples to want to have the Maryland Police perform breathalyzers on the visitors as they returned to the public roads.  For the first time, I declined to proceed with the full tasting after about six pours but Irene enjoyed the full spectrum.

Home in time to watch Mizzou lose.  A rebuilding year.  Shabbos concluded so after three days sans computer due to Yom Tovim and shabbos, I caught up with Facebook and e-mail, then off to sleep while the Cardinals were having a slugfest in Game 3 of the World Series.

Sunday had its own agenda.  Irene wants to make the downstairs presentable.  I want to make my bedroom a sanctuary, in not exactly a man-cave.  My finances need some major attention.  The sukkah has not yet become a temporary structure.  I need to learn the haftarah and shacharit for next shabbos at AKSE.  Some loose ends need to be tied up prior to vacation in only two weeks.

I ended up doing all the fleishig dishes, most of the essential laundry, made by living room desk nook functional, removed clothing intended for donation from the living room, deposited funds to my office account to pay the remaining bills, bought and installed a lamp for the bedroom, set aside some of the clothing I plan to take on the trip aside so I can put the rest of the summer clothing in a storage bag, and worked on the upcoming haftarah.  While enough other stuff still need completion, this remains one of my more accomplished Sundays.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It's only midweek.  Despite a few decent night's sleep I am finding it hard to get going in the morning but once at work my energy manages to return at least until quitting time for everyone else but usually with a few patients still to be seen for me.  I'm deprived of R&R which will arrive in a few weeks.  Before that the undone chores accumulate, most to remain undone until my return to action in mid-November.  This past weekend I got a table for the dining room assembled and the plumber fixed a major leak at the washing machine.  Hospital billing got caught up.  My unopened mail got opened and largely transferred to the recycling bin.  More to do but limited motivation to act.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Sukkot.  This year finds me less motivated than in the past.  I feel worn out, disappointed with the experience of my shul, maybe down a few rungs on the ladder of observance from a year or two ago.  I bentsched lulav on Day 4 of 7.  Our sukkah came out well, definitely worth the purchase of a pre-fab.  Bringing a harvest to Jerusalem in Temple times may have been the precursor of what we think of as vacation.  Getting away for a few days, maybe a little travel, getting deprived of some of your money in exchange for some satisfaction.  Not having to go to work but only a half day in shul without all the shabbos restrictions of the other days off.  Here it takes on something similar with anticipation and preparation to build the sukkah and acquire Four Species.  Between Bond Appeal and synagogue appeal the week before some of one's funds have already been reduced. No tfillin the entire week.  I must say, though, waving the lulav never really inspired me in a serious way and the final day of Hoshana Rabba I've always regarded as cult-like.  It rarely comes out late enough in October to usher in the changing weather and changing clocks of autumn.

For the students it introduces exam season.  They've attended classes for 4-6 weeks most years and therefore it's time to assess what has been retained.  For Federal workers Columbus Day provides a real day off.  For many of us we encounter Open Season when we can adjust our employee benefits.  Those things often pre-occupy us, making the festival of Sukkot almost an afterthought were it not for the necessary preparation beforehand and the more gala Simchat Torah night to follow.

For me, the season also marks the approximate mid-point of my six semiannual projects.  I took Board exams, made slow but serious progress on making the bedroom my sanctuary, have not yet made the blog interactive, not done any estate planning, my skill with the iPod has not advanced in three months and my weight is up a few pounds from July.  My disposition has gotten a little better though.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Erev Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur comes out on Shabbos this year.  No exotic preparatory efforts, up early to make simple dinner, put my depleted supply of socks into the washer and dryer, enjoy some coffee, read about the Parsha which diverges from the weekly Torah cycle.  I will be carrying the beeper and cell phone for this, the first time since my fellowship that I am subject to communication on Yom Kippur, but there is very little that cannot be managed that way.

While this has been a traditional transition point, reflecting back, making corrections, preparing to move onward without actually moving onward, I've been too preoccupied with other things to regard this as a meaningful break for me personally.  That usually comes at mid-year and late-year when I do my semiannual goal setting.  Still there is a benefit to having a communal break point, one stacked with good intentions, interruption of animosities justified and not, a remembrance for people close to us who are no longer at hand.  One day out of a lot of days to escape meal preparation, to trade the pageantry of work for a more traditional formality, to not have chores that cannot be postponed until the sun sets the next day.  While this is not vacation, it is a diversion that separates yesterday from tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ABIM Recertification

It's the following morning.  Six hours in front of a computer answering questions.  Don't know whether the score will meet threshold or not.  Whatever the outcome, this time the questions seemed more in keeping with what I actually do in the office.  I probably did well on the questions asking for a response to lab data, not as well on things involving karyotypes and genetic disorders that I rarely see.  There were a lot of questions asking about lab features in a specific situation.  I could usually exclude three of the five choices so if I get half of those correct I stand a fighting chance of not having to do this again.

For a profession that largely runs on the honor system, the security seemed excessive.  Nothing in pockets except drivers license and locker key,  no watch.  My wedding ring has gotten too tight to take off easily but they let me keep that.  They took a photo and a print of each palm that had to be verified each time you went into the computer room.  They replaced my handkerchief with three tissues taken from a box at the doorway.

I have a pledge not to divulge questions, not that I remember all that many, mainly the ones I wished I had studied for but didn't.  I spent a fair sum on preparation, attending a review course and purchasing a question-answer book from the Endocrine Society.  Surprisingly little from the review course made its way to the actual questions.  Many of the points in the sample questions appeared in other forms.

At this point, sitting in front of a computer for six hours has taken its toll.  By the third two hour session I just wanted to get done.  My analytical skills and ability to extract details from the questions had waned and response time was slower.

It's done now, at least until the scores arrive.  Life was put on hold for a while.  But right after signing out I headed off to the Motor Vehicle station a few miles down the road to get my car inspected and renew my registration, then a trip to the gas station that sells my favorite iced coffee at a bargain price, then some light shopping, then to Stanley's Happy Hour for a pint of Yardley brew made in Philadelphia while watching the playoffs and creating my October to-do list which does not differ all that much from what was never accomplished on my July to-do list.  No debauchery, just an attempt to unwind and restart what had been set aside.