Category Archives: commentary

IF I HAD A FOOD BLOG….

Have you any idea of how bad a food (or travel) blogger I would have been? People would have called my posts ‘flogging‘, akin to vlogging that people do to realise the cost of the webcam they bought (originally to do the dirty things the internet supposedly encouraged but they never found courage for). Do taste the flavor of my flogging, once you repeat after me, “Long Post Alert!”

I have been known to enjoy my holidays, and have blogged about them before, and a not-too-past trip to South Africa was outstanding in every way.

 So, you could say I was spoiled there with good food like braised lamb shanks.

DSC01879

I even loved the exotic steak meats like the crocodile and the ostrich.

DSC01214

DSC01215

The fearless gourmet in me even dared to sample the kind of foods even those bred on eating meats would baulk at—sample the typical jerky-style dried beef, ostrich, deer, antelope, and bigger game. 

DSC01485(These jerkies would go well with beer and a game of football, the Africans would have you believe.)

At Cape Town’s famous restaurantDSC01499 Mama Africa, I chickened out of 

DSC01629the invertebrates in the menu!DSC01502

And all the exotic food and drink were enjoyed in backdrops that are the stuff of dreams and hallucinations.

DSC01754DSC02048DSC02050

Don’t miss the author’s celebrated feet as he savors his cheap and excellent South African wine in the midst of the Kruger while watching elephants mate (or whatever it is that they do when not taking gigantic craps).

DSC02183

So (hello, readers, are you still there?) with this African experience not having entirely receded from my mind, I ventured off recently to Thailand with minimal expectations.

I had been to that country several times before, and what would be different this time? Leela was very kind when giving me a list of places to eat, and I thought I would somehow endure the few days of holidaying in Bangkok and Phuket.

As my cynical mind suspected, I was spot on.

In Phuket, the weather was gloomy, as we saw from the hotel.

DSC02754

 The room had only two verandahs with ocean views, and only one of them was air-conditioned! Gasp, I thought, what has this world come to!

DSC00001

In addition, there were little animals in the room, which kind of competed for space in the tiny suite provided.

DSC00006

The nearby events in Samao and Indonesia were reminders of how perilously perched our world often is.

DSC02783

The Thai Engrees made things more fun.

DSC02788(helloo! Can you hear me?)

DSC02784

DSC02785

(come in side, but chill out side, geddit? Hopefully, the verb meant a form of leg movement!)

In Phuket’s Jung Ceylon mall, there is an excellent food court, with Wine Connection (a restaurant that serves the most incredible chocolate moose mousse and caramel custard,  unfortunately un-captured in photographs as they had incredibly short table lives) standing out for class. The KFC in there (and in other places) has a Thai curry-style fried chicken that is an experience! Such a spicy and delectable chicken dish is really unusual! My son had it every day (I kid you not), not heeding my stern warnings about trans fats and atherosclerosis.

In Bangkok, as Leela had recommended, I decided to have dinner at Cabbages and Condoms. However, I had not reckoned with the awesome traffic.

DSC00088

In fact, bikes and scooters were riding gaily on the pavements, a la India. 

DSC00090

 At the restaurant, the starters were exceptional, specially the prawn with peppers, the tom yum goong, and the catfish salad (it has spiced raw mangoes in it).

The restaurant, in spite of its name and its social purpose (they serve condoms in place of mints), is tastefully designed.

DSC00108

I was wondering what the heck the fried thing in the salad was, though the name said it was catfish. It was as if egg fritters were fried in hot oil. Delicious and unique. The chicken tom kha soup I had was good, but slightly sweet. Not bad at all, but I love a more creamy tom kha.

DSC00105

The entreé of deep fried pork in garlic pepper was disappointing (they burned the garlic, I think), but the chicken in lemongrass was excellent. In the pic, you can see the pork and the jasmine rice (including a unique red variety) in the background, and the chicken in front.

I must say I had planned to eat Tab Tim Krob, the delicious water chestnut sweet, after Leela’s post on it. I was not disappointed. This was in one of the Be Siam (or some such) restaurants.

DSC00069

Bei Otto:

DSC00120

Another evening, it was time to try Bei Otto, a German restaurant (possibly the only good one in Bangkok)  located in Sukhumvit. 

DSC00123

A simple grill platter of German bratwurst, pork chops and veal cutlets, served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes, was enough to sate three of us, though I had, gastronomically speaking, a relative off day. Dessert was mangoes served with cream and ice cream and a light filo pastry. Amazing. Definitely worth a visit every time!

Restaurants apart, even the food courts in the many malls of Bangkok offer uncountable treats for the foodie. I had sushi like I have never had before. Cream pastries. Cakes. Miso soups. Pad thai. Oh, I am already tired, with so many foods I have yet to list!

The street food is eclectic. You can find incredible junk, and you can find delicious local specialties like grilled bananas. I believe they sell frog legs but I never got to eat or see that!

DSC00092

 So, in summary, I hope I have convinced you that Thailand is one country I am definitely not planning to visit in a long time, till next year, anyways. Especially considering that I gained ten pounds in eight days.

The only reason that I can think of is it might, just might, get me a guest post in some celeb blog like  http://www.shesimmers.com. Or maybe not. Once bitten, twice Thai, I mean, shy!

THE LINES OF HADES

After the minor display of irritation shown by some local youths in Lahore (that the world perversely perceived as a terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team), the ripples are rolling like the surface of a hijab blown by the wind. Cause: comments by the Brits.
Now, we all know how crazy they are.

a159313_0002_optimised-1
(pic: the Jugum penis-UK, 1880-1920, device to prevent incontinence and masturbation)

Look at some of their historic medical devices– a large number being designed unsuccessfully to prevent men from becoming master baiters. They had too much time (and some other things) on their hands. Now, is it not obvious that Chris Broad is as crazy as the rest of them? At least that is the opinion of the 100-odd people in Pakistan who can tell the difference between a bazooka and a mashooka (most people in that peaceful country think they are both names for bombs). Former Pak cricket captain Mr. Javed Miandad, that high priest of reason, has called for Mr. Broad to be banned. A broadband connection is not difficult to make in Pakistan, these days, apparently.

Mr. Younis Khan, current Pak captain, is of the same opinion. Any reasonable man would realise that the world, recession-hit and with free time in hand, is plotting to give a bad name to Pakistan, whose reputation is right up there with Michael Jackson. Mr. Khan has said that “On top of that, if the kids here stop playing cricket when we become pariahs, they will become terrorists”. Which, Government sources say, would be a big deterioration from merely marrying into their families.
All sane men who carry assault rifles to the toilet understand this reality. The problem, as the Government sees it, is how to make the world understand that it (the world) is like a drug addict that needs to wake up.
Elsewhere in the world, Sanjay Gupta refused the offer of US Surgeon General because he wanted more time for watching pornography and self abuse (the technical term he used was ‘marriage’). He was puzzled to note some missed calls from Bill Clinton.
In an interesting coincidence, the New England Journal of Medicine published a paper showing cultural differences in sexual education and the ‘first time’ the young learn to have sex. The ‘Conclusion’ section is reproduced below:

American youth first learn to do sex when they lick ice cream cones or try charging iPods with their asses. A small minority learn sex around the same time they can pronounce the word ‘innocent’.
Indian boys first learn slapping and kicking, while the girls learn to deliver and breast-feed babies and get addicted to K serials, by which time they begin to understand how things might work.
Rich Indian-American boys learn the ‘withdrawal method’ first.

Mr. Sanjay Gupta will soon be doing a live program on this important subject, according to a spokesman identified only as a Mr. Larry K.

THE NAUGHTY IPHONE!

(This article was written for the New York Times but David Pogue couldn’t take the competition, so he got the story assassinated. RIP.)

You want to buy the iPhone because you want to look hip? Or because you actually think it is the coolest accessory for anyone wanting to be taken seriously? Or because it is arguably the ultimate mobile device for man or woman?
Sorry to say this, but these reasons are now as passé as bell-bottom pants. You may be amazed at some of the reasons for which people are using and buying the iPhone. Hitting the top of the charts is the wildly popular iFart Mobile (“There’s something in the air” is their line), which, hold your breath, creates fart sounds on your iPhone (for 99 cents). Apparently, you can distract terrorists by suddenly letting your iPhone rip one out behind a jehadi (if you are near one), thereby scaring the shit out of him. Critics are sniffing at the sound quality of this app, and are pointing to rival app Pull My Finger, which has fallen off the popularity charts. In fact, the creator of the iFart has already sold $100,000 of his product already, says Silicon Alley Insider. What next, people ask, an iBelch or an iVomit?

i_love_you1

An audacious new app is ‘I am a Man’. Innocuous though this sounds, this app helps you keep track of your partner’s menstrual cycle and mood. Not only that, you can keep track of the periods of several girlfriends. To top the audacity of this, even if your girl accidentally opens your list, she will find only her name, as the other names are hidden and password-protected!
User reactions have ranged from outrage to good-natured chuckles. Some have even regretted not having this application before, as it has cost them the odd relationship. Clearly, this is an application for a uber-modern society.

What next, we ask? Ideas have already come in: an iFake (one that recreates a noisy female orgasm) seems to be a hot suggestion, in more ways than one! After these, the Flirt Tester (you and your girl put your thumbs on the screen, and the iPhone tells you whether you are in for true love or a one-night stand!) and the Love Letter (it creates a romantic letter for you based on what you choose as your basic template for the occasion) look right down primary school stuff. An application similar to the latter is the imaginatively titled app called ‘I Love You’ which helps you create romantic emails and gives your pathetic love life that much needed edge!

If you and your partner are not having a stable relationship, maybe your communications with each other needs to improve. Designed by a ‘PhD Relationship Expert’ this, ‘Gps Talk’ is an application that shows you ways where you and your partner need to improve to take your relationship into more convivial territory.
In more ways than one, the iPhone is finding a place deep in the personal lives and bedrooms of users. The world of the iPhone is changing, and so are we!

Postscript: As a Mac fan, I am very disappointed with the iPhone: it is way too primitive in non-web, non-media applications like sms, camera, etc. You can’t send a group sms, and if you get a call while writing an sms, your message disappears! Plus many other suck-worthy points.

WOMEN ARE CHASTE, MEN ARE ROGUES, AND OTHER FAIRY TALES

The suggestively titled magazine More has found in a survey that “one in four young women has slept with more than 10 people, compared with one in five men who had done the same”. The poll was held in the UK, as you can read from this article. The new article was mistakenly printed in the New Cars section.

The article does not say how many of these ‘people’ are themselves or their pets, but that will be the contents of another one with 5000 Diggs.

Critics of the survey are quick to point out that while the article says “half of those questioned admitted they had been unfaithful, whereas only a quarter said they had been cheated on by a boyfriend”, it does not specifically say whether the respondents felt they had cheated on themselves by bonking their neighbors’ pets.

The survey also found that most young women would rather sleep with their MacBooks than with the men they married, because they did not believe in sex within marriage and sex with love. For that, they had themselves or their cheat-shits.

Scientists estimate that the average British woman surrenders her virginity as soon as she gets her first iPhone or iPod, which is around infancy, but say that these other events are “mere epiphenomena”. A venerable journal of social science, the Son Sun, recently reported that men with condoms stuck on the outside of their shirts were more potent and fertile than men who were more conservative, as deduced from their “wearing underwear over their trousers while catching the Tube.”

A spokesperson for the British Sluttistical Institute claimed that, by the yardstick of the More survey, most people in Britain have had sex with every other. The Secretary of the Institute, Mr. Bansi Lal, stated that the survey needed follow up to prove an exciting new hipothesis that “Indians in UK are the only Indians really getting laid.”

When questioned about the hipothesis being contradicted by the high birth rates in India, Mr. Lal said, “Arrey, that is because we are getting [bleep]ed by those Pakistani [bleep]ers!”

(Indian) Union Health Emperor Mr. Ambumani Ramadoss could not be contacted. His office said he is busy on a mission in the UK.

Ex-Home Minister Shivraj Patil was also unavailable, as he was busy generally [bleep]ing around.

HURRICANE IKE DISASTER MANAGER REPORTS

(Readers, I present the first guest blog here. Dr. Kenneth L Mattox is a world-renowned leader of trauma and cardiothoracic surgery and a key coordinator of disaster management in hospitals. He is one of the editors of a leading textbook of surgery (Sabiston’s Textbook of Surgery). His laurels are far too many to detail now. Here is his perspective, as a leader of Disaster Management at Ben Taub General Hospital, the referral center for Hurricane Ike victims at Houston, Texas. Note that his attention is largely on the disaster management aspect of the event, based on his experience with Hurricane Katrina.)

Houston is the 4th largest city in the US. The Houston/Galveston greater area has upwards of 4.5 million people, depending on just where you draw the line. It is safe to say that NO ONE in this area is untouched by this storm. NO ONE. Galveston was totally under water from both the gulf and the bay. UTMB and its famous burn center was evacuated. Bolivar Island is still “off limits” to anyone visiting it. The beach houses of West Galveston Island were under water and many destroyed. The famous Balinese Room of Galveston is GONE. The Galveston Sea Wall is 17 feet above sea level and the sea ran over it. This was a wind and SEA SURGE storm, not particularly a wet storm.


(pic: National Geographic)

From Galveston to Houston one travels Interstate 45, and that is the route that IKE took. The areas of NASA, Kemah, Seabrook, are yet to be fully assessed.

Over 95% of the area lost electrical power in the entire greater Houston area, and most are still without electricity. NO HOME or yard is without some sort of damage, either shingles, an entire roof, glass broken, fences down, or trees fallen and limbs broken. I do not mean just any tree. Many huge Oak trees over 100 years old are broken like match sticks or up rooted. The many faithful health workers were at work despite their homes being blown apart.


(pic: BBC)

First, I must give tremendous credit and recognition to thousands of individual health heroes who were here at the Ben Taub General Hospital and many other hospitals for many hours straight. They gave and gave and then gave more of themselves so that others would have a place to receive health related attention.

Second, I was impressed by the leadership of the State Government both during Gustav and IKE in the days before the storms hit, in creating a 5000+ person 2-3 times a day conference call to address known course of storm, local needs, evacuation, gas, search & rescue (SAR), and recovery. Both State, County, Local governments were on this conference call as well as other assets such as hospitals, EMS agencies, etc. It appeared that most items were covered and addressed. It was obvious that jurisdictional turfs existed.

At the LOCAL area, different jurisdictions set up in different locations: Galveston, Transtar (Harris County), HEC (City of Houston) and assets of the State, such as Texas Task Force 1 set up in several different locations. Ownership of various assets was under different, but communicating agencies. What we did not have during IKE, but did have during Katrina was a region wide JOINT UNIFIED COMMAND. We really needed that during and for the first 2 days after IKE hit.

At the hospital and emergency room level, every hospital in the area did their part, but all entered the hours of the storm with full ICUs. We (and everyone else) had patients ready to be dismissed from the hospital, but we would have sent them to an area of high risk of flooding. That would not have been good, but we did need their bed for new ER patients. No local “medical” home health care type shelters were set up in the Greater Houston area. We must address this next time. In my view, this would be an excellent role for DMAT teams, to be both up front for some few minor problems and to establish an up-to 500 bed “medical” observation shelter as opposed to a “clinic” or hospital. We really do not need mobile hospitals, what we need is the intermediate “medical” shelter to unload the existing local hospitals.


(pic: Huffington Post/AP)

By 12 hours after the storm had cleared the area, the mass property destruction was noted and people began to clear their property (including using chain saws they had never read the instructions on) and climbing ladders. We had lots of falls. Also many hospitals wanted to “evacuate” merely because their rooms were warm and humid as they were only on emergency generators. The water for the entire community was feared to be contaminated due to low water pressure. Therefore, we were requested to receive patients with relatively minor conditions, such as a need for a lower-temperatured room and nasal oxygen in an elderly patient. Some such patients came by outside the area contracted private ambulances who knew nothing about the working of the local EOCs (Emergency Operations Center?- Ed.), although those were multiple. We really needed the DMAT type run medical holding area shelter for these type of patients, who never needed to come to the hospital to use the hospital as a shelter. One of more DMATs were set up in the Greater Houston area, but initially coordination with existing Trauma Center facilities was sparse. If there was coordination, it was with one of the many supervisory silos.

It became interesting to me that within 24 hours after the storm cleared, many of the persons in each of the silos (including representatives and press people, who by now were very tired) began to point fingers and to try to get credit for what was done right and dodge when there was a criticism for what went wrong. I could write a book on this subject.

In the 5 state area around Texas there is a fantastic trauma network among the trauma centers and trauma surgeons, headed up by Dr. Ron Stewart in San Antonio. This excellent integrated disaster network is as sophisticated as ANYTHING I have seen from the well funded federal programs, and it costs NOTHING. The doctors and nurses on this network and the network itself are well known to each of the federal, state, regional, county, and city EOS silos in the 5 state region. However, neither for planning, implementation, evacuation, or recovery do these silos utilize this very mature sophisticated trauma network. It is almost as if the hands on trauma personnel who in at least 6 of the cities of the network (Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, New Orleans, Oklahoma City), who have a composite experience of active involvement in more disasters than any group that I know about in the country are purposefully omitted from the government run silos. In my humble opinion, this disconnect between the governmental mandated EOS silos and the JCAHO (Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) mandated trauma center communications led by the American College of Surgeons and their trauma center and disaster committee MUST somehow get together as has happened in the state of Connecticut.

We are approaching 48 hours since it has been able to move around after the storm. There is lots of frustration and depression. Criticism that the government did not move fast enough to clear the roads, turn back on the power, “bring me water”, etc. is distressing. Even by FEMA rules, such response is not required until 72 hours. If there is gas available, and if the electricity is back on, many complaints will disappear.

I have tried to write concurrently with my frank feelings and observations of the real time. Sometimes I was more frustrated than others. On the whole I have been very proud of my local community, proud of the citizens, and so very proud of the FANTASTIC TEAM OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AT THE BEN TAUB GENERAL HOSPITAL. This team could put a man on Mars in a week. This team seeks to be a resource to take care of the sickest of the sick, that no one else wants, especially during a crisis. This team could reach the illusive peace in the Middle East in 5 days. Congratulations to the many many unsung heroes at every unit level of this team.

IS BIN LADEN DEAD?

On yet another anniversary of the epochal 9/11 attack by the al Qaida, it is time to take stock of the multi-billion dollar war on terror.
The first and foremost question to be answered is: Why has Bin Laden not been killed or captured? Where is he?
The answer is clearly difficult. It is guessed that he is in the North West Frontier of Pakistan. He is clever: not only does he not use telephones or other devices that could allow him to be tracked, but also has a very loyal close circle who have not yet betrayed him in spite of the bounty offered for information about him.
The area where he is likely to be living is not easy in terms of intelligence-based tracking operations. To the Americans, most bearded tribals of the region would look similar from a distance, I have no doubt. Over and above that, there is no good intelligence that is paying off.
A recent spurt of American attacks in Pakistan, including the Waziristan region, based on a combination of human and satellite intelligence, has resulted in the deaths of the wives and children of the terrorists, and has precipitated a crisis with the Pakistani army. Similar tactics have been more successful in Iraq, if reports are to be believed.
So, back to the question: is bin Laden alive?
It is inconceivable that Laden is alive without medical care, suffering as he is from advanced kidney disease. His medical care could not be available without the connivance of the local Pakistani authorities. Therefore, if he is alive, it is unlikely that he will be found, as he would be protected by the Establishment (read ISI). If he is dead, we will soon know. In a day or two, a video showing the al Qaida leader should be telecast from al Jazeera. If it doesn’t come through, chances are he is dead.
Even if he is alive, it is possible that he may not be found till he (and many of us) is an old man. History repeats itself, from the time of the Nazis till the recent arrest of Radovan Karadzic.
The worst scoundrels always seem to escape for the longest time.
For an interesting discussion on this subject at the Washington post, click here.
Read my previous posts Harry Potter and the Cave of Osama and Bin Laden is Dyeing!.

HEART SCANS: GOOD OR BAD?

The New York Times has carried an excellent article on the rampant use of the CT scan for diagnosing coronary heart disease in patients. It gives a balanced picture of the pros and cons of a healthcare system which thrives on modern and expensive investigations.

The basic argument in favor of scanning your heart would be to detect the plaques (deposits of fat) in the coronary arteries and document any narrowing in the passage of blood supplying the heart muscles, thereby warning the cardiologist and the patient of the need for aggressive treatment like angioplasty or bypass surgery.

On the other hand, each scan costs a lot of money, causes radiation exposure equal to a thousand x-rays (thereby increasing the risk of cancers), and may not be as effective in helping detect the specific case of the cardio-vulnerable patient.

In India, all the premium city hospitals, led by the Apollo group, have procured the 64-slice CT scanners that cost nearly a million dollars. These hospitals aggressively position themselves to patients as leaders in preventive cardiac care, which is just an effective way of marketing the cardiac CT scan.
Additionally, they also position the CT-angio to doctors through CMEs, cocktail-dinner seminars, etc.

The ‘cardiac CT’ has taken center stage along with coronary angioplasty and bypass surgery as major revenue earners for these hospitals. The strategy is to screen patients through executive health checkups and diabetes and hypertension screening camps across the rural-urban divide (through peripheral clinics), get them referred to the center with the CT scan, and following the detection of some lesions in the CT, get the patients ready for the expensive angios and bypasses.

The entire delivery system is now well-oiled, and the number of procedures is rising every year, as are the revenues to these hospitals.

Patients are also benefitting, by and large, though there are (unspecified numbers of) patients who are being scalped or milked by the system. Isn’t it always so?