Saturday, September 29, 2007

Self Expression and Blogging

I read these paragraph this morning, from Matthieu Ricard's book, "Happiness." He's the Buddhist monk I mentioned a few posts ago.

It may be true that "expressing ourselves," giving free reign to our "natural " impulses, gives us momentary relief from our inner tensions, but we remain trapped in the endless circle of our usual habits. Such a lax attitude doesn't solve any serous problems, since in being ordinarily oneself, one remains ordinary. As the French philosopher Alain has written, "you don't need to be a sorcerer to cast a spell over yourself by saying 'This is how I am. I can do nothing about it.'"

We are very much like birds that have lived too long in a cage to which we return even when we get the chance to fly away. We have grown so accustomed to our faults that we can barely imagine what life would be like without them. The prospect of change makes us dizzy.
Any thoughts on how this relates to self-expression and blogging (or just talking)?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pars Plana Vitrectomy

That's the name of this procedure. The jelly in the back chamber of the eye is called the vitreous, and in some circumstances, like bleeding into the vitreous from diabetes, you want to take the vitreous out -- "vitrectomy" it. Right adjacent to the cornea, on the white part of the eye (the sclera) there is an area that is a few millimeters wide that doesn't have any retina behind it. This area is called the pars plana. It's a perfect place to insert instruments. If you insert an instrument further back, where the retina begins, you put a hole through the retina and cause a detachment. Not good. So, this is a pars plana vitrecomy.

The tube on the left is connected to an elevated bag of fluid that keeps the eye inflated so it doesn't collapse like a squished grape when you make your other incisions. Those two metal things on either side of the cornea and short hollow tubes that go through the pars plana into the vitreous chamber. We use these two tubes to place instruments through. Usually one hand has a fiberoptic light so you can see what you're doing in there. The other hand has an instrument, like a cutter, or a pick or a laser, or whatever you need at the moment.

It used to be that you would make an incision and just push the instruments in and out of the eye through the cuts. With this new "hollow tube" technique, you just stab the tubes in, do the surgery and then take them out at the end. You don't even need to put any stitches in. It's very cool surgery.

The little lens suspended above the cornea is actually attached to a huge operating microscope. The microscope usually focuses light onto the cornea, but this lens allows you to focus it further back into the vitreous.

Oh, and the big metal thing is a lid speculum. When I operate, people often tell me they're afraid they'll close their eyes. Not to worry. We just pry them open with metal instruments.

One more subtle, but important detail. In the lower right corner of the photo, above the eyebrow, next to the blue drape, there is a purple arrow. That arrow says "operate on this eye." It's bad form to operate on the wrong eye. Especially if you're doing an enucleation. (Look that one up. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.)

I do have to say that I love my job!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Joy of Drugs

You never really appreciate the little things in life, like narcotics, until you really need them. I drove down to the football field on Monday to thank Jason for the opportunity to try out for the National Team, and to let him know that I was bowing out due to the injury, and the family needs. Mara bought ice cream in celebration of my "return."

By 9 PM I could not move my leg, and I stood with my head against a wall, tears streaming down my face from the pain. I'm reading a book right now by a Buddhist monk, and he says that even suffering has value if we use it to be more compassionate to others who are also suffering. It didn't take the edge off, but it was an interesting thought at the moment. I took some Tylenol with codeine and fell into a drug induced sleep.

I woke up yesterday morning, still with searing pain and drove to the ER to make sure nothing was broken. Nothing was broken. The doc told me to take anti-inflammatory pills every six hours no matter what, to try to quiet things down -- 800 mg of ibuprofen, for a total of 3200 mg a day. If this didn't work, the plan was to take oral steroids. I also got a prescription for some more Tylenol with codeine.

After 24 hours of the anti-inflammatory meds, I can walk with only a slight limp. It's really amazing, the power of modern pharmaceuticals. Someone who had sustained this injury 100 years ago would have been in pain for weeks. Heck, even now, someone who has no access to basic medicines suffer needlessly.

So it looks like this saga is coming to a close for me.

I ran into someone last night who said they heard about my injury and what a pity it was because the word was out that I had a good sense of the game and was a decent player. Now that was the most unexpected part of this whole thing for me, mostly because I disagree, but it was nice to receive the complement.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Well, it looks like my rise in National Football circles has come to a halt. Although my time on the field yesterday was rather tame, by the time I went to bed, I could barely move my right leg because of pain around my hip. I took Motrin through the night, and didn't sleep much, and hobbled around any time I got up. I was thinking of going to the ER, or at least finding a pair of crutches from somewhere.

After about an hour of limping around this morning, things seemed to feel a bit better, but I still had signifcant pain. I saw Michael Thomas this morning. He asked me where it hurt, I pointed, and he said, "Ah, yes. The psoas muscle." Apparently this is a common soccer injury since it's the muscle used for kicking and sprinting.

Now that I've been sitting again for a bit, I'm in excrutiating pain when I move. This feels like it's going to take a while to get better. I'm bummed.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Football Continues...

We had our third practice on Friday evening, which went well enough. There were no sprints.

Today we had our first game, playing against the Saipan Thai Team. We lost 1-2, but no goals were scored while I was on the field. We played three 30 minute periods and I was on for about 20 minutes. Nothing spectacular and nothing disastrous. I just wish I were quicker.

We have practice tomorrow evening and again on Thursday and at that time Jason will make the cuts to form the team. As much as I'd like to make the team, the reality is that it's hugely taxing on my family. Mara keeps encouraging me, saying that if I make the team, it's only a six week season. But I see the strain on her and the four kids, so I have a decision to make this week.

I will say that I think Jason is a great coach. He's firm and lays down the law when needed (like today), but he does it in a way that is respectful. He also encourages good play and brings out the best in everyone.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Football Tryouts Day 2

I made it throught the second practice, but it wasn't pretty.

The Good: I passed much better, with better form and technique. I scored a goal in our four member drills. I was able to execute the "thigh-thigh-foot-header" juggle drill twice. My stamina was decent.

The Bad: Dribbling. I still don't get those turns and fakes. I read something that if you didn't develop good dribbling skills by age 17, you're out of luck.

The Ugly: The sprints. Oh, it was ugly. I was a millimeter away from just sitting down and saying "thanks, but I'm done with this National Team thing." As I fell further behind, my stomach quesy and my heart pounding, there just wasn't enough air in the atmosphere to sustain me. I imagined laying face down on the ground sucking molecules of oxygen from the grass. One or two people were walking, and that inspired me to just keep going. I ran as fast as I could, which eventually slowed to just barely a jog, but I managed to keep going. I guess 3 mile runs in the morning now need to be supplemented with some sprints.

Tonight's another session, then exhibition game on Sunday at 4PM, and cuts after the game.

Monday, September 17, 2007

An Excellent Practice!

Tonight was the first practice/tryout for the NMIFA Men's National Football Team. After some mind bending warm ups, and dribbling drills, the visiting EAFF official from Japan put us through a couple of small team exercises (which probably saved us from sprints that Coach Higgins must have had planned). We finished up with the Tunnel of Love, which was rather enjoyable, and a nice alternative to the infamous Circle of Death. No one vomited. I like Coach Higgins. In addition to being a nice guy, he's a good teacher, and sane.

I had more stamina than I expected. Angelo and I have been running 3 miles every morning for the past week, so I chalk up my ability to make it through the practice to that little bit of training. We're off for our run again tomorrow morning at 6AM.

I'm a lousy dribbler, and the dribbling drills confused me. I need this stuff in slooooow motion.

Overall assessment: I made it through one practice! See you all on Thursday evening.

Editor's Note: I changed the title from the original one so as not to tempt the Fates. Happier now, Brad?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tomorrow's the Big Day

At 5:00 PM, Monday, September 17, I, David Khorram, am going to walk onto a soccer field to try out for the Mariana Islands' Men's National Football Team. I've played an extraordinary 8 games of soccer in the last 20 years. But hey, this is Saipan. Anyone can do anything. My goal is to make it through the first practice. This really is the tryout for the National Team. And National Team really does mean National Team. Think "Team USA" or "Team Italia." (Or think Jamaican Bob Sled Team.)

My hope is to pick up some soccer skills over the one week tryouts to carry over into the rest of the season. It's taken quite a bit of arranging for me to get a pass for the Monday, Thursday and Friday evening practices. I would like to thank my lovely wife, Mara, for her never-ending support. (Though, if by some fluke I actually make the team, I'm sure the never-ending support will evaporate quicker than you can say, "But, Honey, I'm really enjoying it," at the prospect of having me away from home for three evenings a week.)

I have very little lung capacity, so I'm going to shave the two pounds of hair off of my legs to give me an aerodynamic edge.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Winner of Caption Contest Celebrates in Cat Costume

One of Saipan's newest bloggers, Tamara, has won the Gory Eye Caption Contest with her winning entry, "When making Cream of Eyeball soup, one must use only the freshest of ingredients! (Eww)"

She'll be sharing the full recipe soon.

Skip over to her blog, "Seaweed, Sand and Sunsets," to see her celebrating in her cat costume.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Poll

This may be the first poll in the CNMI blogosphere that actually has some real world value. Okay, so granted, that value is only to me, but that's a start.

Help me out. I've got two choices on the table for the title to the book I've completed. The book is a collection of my columns from the Saipan Tribune.

Here is what the book is about (from the back cover). Believe me, it took a long time to figure this out, but your comments helped formulate the description.

This eclectic collection of stories and insights from an eye surgeon in the South Seas combines wit, wisdom, care and compassion to make you laugh out loud and invite you to ponder life’s big questions. Expect to gain perspectives that will lead you to healthier, richer, more meaningful living.

If you have other suggestions for titles, fire away. The purpose of a title is to accurately reflect what's inside, and to get someone to pick the dang book up. The shorter, the better, which is where my current choices are a bit weak, but the columns are so diverse that I haven't been able to come up with just one or two words.

Your opinion matters to me, so let me know your thoughts. And vote! The poll is there on the right.


For the past year or so, I've been mulling over my approach to the world. I used to live by the credo (which I still like) that "The best way to predict the future is to create it." I certainly believe that this has truth to it, insofar as it points out that you have to take some steps to go down any road. The part that I'm coming to terms with is the part that implies that you can control what happens in the future. I'm more in the belief now that you can certainly influence it, but the biggest influence you have is actually on yourself and on your response to the future.

One of the best thing things I've read on this subject is actually in today's Saipan Tribune, written by my friend Walt. Here's what he as to say:

Many people are frightened by the prospect of change because they fear losing control, but that's only because they've mistakenly bought into the illusion that they even have control. The truth, however, is that the only thing you have complete control over in this life is how you respond to the things you have no control over. You cannot control people, the situations they create, or anything else, but you can choose how you will respond to those people and situations.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Why do I feel kinda weird?

This here is a picture of my simian arm. I've never had a number on my arm until Saturday morning. You get a number on your arm if you run a race. That's how I got this number -- I was the 120th person to register for the annual SIS 5K run at Banzai Cliff. My first race ever.

I didn't think of doing this until Friday afternoon, when Russ mentioned it to me. He's got a gimpy hip, so he's down a few notches from his winning triathlete days, and I have a gimpy everything, so we decided to do the run together. It's the first time I've done one of these races. We ran a leisurely 10 minute mile pace, and finished in just under 30 minutes. I got to grab a cup of cold water from one of the race supporters, drink it down while running and throw the cup on the ground, just like on TV!

I never thought I'd be able to run like this. Since my early twenties, I've had problems with my shins. When I'd run more than 5 minutes, or even walk briskly, my shins would cramp up, blood flow would decrease to my feet, and I couldn't lift my feet at the ankles. They'd just sort of flop. I talked to an orthopedic surgeon who told me that the fascia (the sheath) around the muscles had gotten tight, and that if I wanted to run again, I'd have to have a fasciotomy -- splay the fascia open, like a fish (see post below). Recovery time: six months. Apparently, the last eight weeks or so of playing soccer must have loosened up the fascia, because I can run a few miles without any pain or flopping feet. Hooray for soccer. Soccer has given my life back to me. Now, I'm going to give my life to Soccer.

After the race, I came home to find that there was another power outage -- no shower available. So I got my cleats on and headed down for the "mix-up" co-ed soccer tournament. I opted to play forward, and got a few shots off on goal, but didn't manage to score. Our game finished around noon, and I ran out to pick up one of our kids who was in a class.

As I got home and drank some water, I realized that I felt kinda weird -- sort of in a daze. My vision was a bit blurred, sounds were a little distant. It couldn't have been the run, which wasn't too bad. And the soccer game wasn't unusual in any way. And then I realized: I forgot to eat breakfast this morning. This is the buzz of a hypoglycemic brain. I ate a bunch, but was out of sorts for most of the afternoon, even after eating two fistfuls of really good chocolate from Expressions. I hadn't eaten chocolate in about 3 years.

Oh, one very cool thing. Before the race, there were about a dozen dolphins swimming off of Banzai Cliff. They were entertaining the cheering racers, doing flips and everything. I ran over too late to see the flips, but it was a nice sight just seeing them bobbing in the water. It's the first time I'd seen dolphins in Saipan waters.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Carnival of the Blue

My daughter Nava took this picture of her fish dissection at school.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Law of Attraction

One of the things that I battle is my own internal skepticism. About six months ago, someone gave me a DVD called "The Secret." It was a promo for what is now on the top of the bestseller's list, a book by the same title. It's basically about the Law of Attraction. The premise is that the universe will respond to our wishes. It points to the ancient genie in world lore and states that the genie, the "magic lamp" is really the Universe that is always standing ready with "Your wish is my command." The Law of Attraction states that if you ask, you will attract the answer. If you envision it, you will attract it. If you take some action towards a goal, the Universe will open the way. I'm so skeptical, especially when something seems so easy, that I doubt it all. I'm more likely to just chalk things up to coincidence than to some positive Universe responding to my insignficant wishes, thoughts and efforts. It seems too magical. But little by little, as I put this to test, I'm coming to believe it, even plan based on it.

On Monday I put the word out (to the Universe?) that I was trying to find the author of the "chilled mango salad" comment. About an hour later I'm driving down Navy Hill and I see someone I've met walking down the hill, someone I've never seen walking in this area before. I get to the light at the bottom of the hill. It's red, so I sit and wait. The walker catches up, and though we've talked to one another on a couple of ocassions, we're not close friends. For no good reason, I decide to roll down the window to say hello. He says, "Hey, are you going to be able to use the chilled mango salad blurb?" I think he must have just read the post on the blog and knows that I can't use it unless I find the author. "I don't know. I'm still looking for the author," I say. He points to himself, not knowing that I was looking for the author, and says "It was me. Be my guest." It was Mike Ernest.

I'm starting to lose my skepticism and chalk such occurences up to the benevolence of the Universe, the Law of Attraction. Thanks, Mike.

Monday, September 3, 2007

"Like a chilled mango salad"

Someone recently posted a comment that my writing is "like a chilled mango salad." I love this quote and would like to use it, but I need to know who you are so I can attribute it to you. Unfortunately I can't use an anonymous comment. Please send me an email. My address is available through the "About Me - View my complete profile" link over there on the right. I'd love to use your quote.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Can you see Anatahan?

It's there. Look carefully.

Today seems like the first clear day in weeks. A few of us hiked up from the Korean War Memorial up to Suicide Cliff as part of the Beautify CNMI project to mark a set of trails that will link the northern end of the island to Lake Susupe. When we reached the top, off in the distance, Anatahan was visible. I remember the first time I saw it from Saipan, years ago, I was shocked at how big it is. It's been about a year since it's erupted enough to cloud Saipan's skies. Can you see it?

Here is another unlikely scene you could have witnessed if you were there.


If you ever want to feel better about yourself, just ask a bunch of people to say good things about you. I'm serious. For the past week, in response to my last post, I've had all sorts of people sending me email telling me great things about me and my writing. "Wow, really!?" was my most common reaction, "I never knew that." I think that most of us live with some nagging self-doubts that usually come down to "Am I good enough?" (to be loved). Even those of us who outwardly seem to have it all together are plagued by self-doubts. I often get stuck because of this. A while back, one of the other bloggers who seems to have it all together confessed that he often gets overwhelmed and shuts down.

I've been away from blogs for the past week or two, and so it was serendipitous that as I was getting my self-doubts dissolved by praise from people, Boni suggested a kindler gentler blog community and suggested that we write good things about one another. I peeked at a couple of the lists of kind words that some of you had put together, and I could tell it must have been painful to switch from the edginess and witty sarcasm in which we all engage, to the open-hearted praise. Well-done to everyone, and kudos to Boni for calling us to a higher standard of love -- that's what it is -- at least for one blog entry!.

Now, if you want, take the bold and vulnerable step of posting a "Say some nice things about me" entry.

For some reason this reminds me of a quote I first heard in the movie, Akeela and the Bee:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? . . . We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us."

Marianne Williamson's from A Return to Love