Sunday, September 30, 2007

More of the Harvest, pt II

In case anyone wonder what one does with two shopping bags full of freshly harvested basil, see the image at right.

More of the Harvest, pt I

So, it's the weekend again. Weekends start with the Farmer's Market first thing Saturday morning. This week, as in the past few weeks, we've been picking up stuff to store away for the winter - peppers and butternut squash. Also, with some more ingredients, we make ourselves some lovely salsa. I had a request for the recipe we use. In truth, I haven't got one, really, it's more a conglomeration of fancies. But, for those interested:

5-7 ripe tomatoes
2-3 sweet peppers (I have been using red bell and poblano, but you could experiment with Jimmy Nardello, banana, etc.)
1-2 jalapeno peppers (or other, hotter varieties)
1 large onion
4-6 cloves garlic

Olive oil
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (about 1 cup chopped)
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, to taste
1/2 tsp ground pepper, to taste
1/2 to 1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp brown sugar or molasses

Quarter the tomatoes, remove the stem, de-seed, and dice into a large bowl. Dice the sweet peppers and onion and place in a separate bowl. Halve the jalapenos, remove the seeds and white flesh (or keep it, if you like it hot), dice finely, and add to the sweet peppers. Mince the garlic and add to the “pepper” bowl.

Chop the cilantro down and add to the tomatoes. Stir in the salt, pepper, cumin, and sugar. Add 1/4 to 1/3 of the diced veggies to the tomatoes.

Heat a skillet over med-hi heat. Add enough olive oil for sautéing. Saute the peppers, onion, and garlic until they begin to soften. Add the sautéed veggies to the tomato mix. Done.

ps - all this chopping goes easily with a freshly sharpened kitchen knife. Thanks to our generous benefactors (you know who you are).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Fling With Neuro

As most of you know, I have been planning for awhile now to go into family practice.

However, this week I am definitely having a fling with neurology! The consultant that I'm working with is an expert in movement disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, so I've gotten to sit in on a couple of sub-subspecialty consults on patients with parkinson-family disorders. It's absolutely fascinating! I'm enjoying the general neuro too, but for whatever reason it's the movement disorder stuff that's really appealing.

Neuro was my favorite class in first and second year, so it's not a shock that I like the rotation so much, but it has been a bit of a surprise to feel like I could do it all day every day for the rest of my life and be really excited about it.

So, we shall see. Tomorrow is my last day in the outpatient clinic, and then it's two weeks on the hospital services. I could very well hit the inpatient part next week and think "no way!" If not...well, I'll keep you all updated.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We Voted Today! And a neuro update.

When we arrived home from work, we discovered on the front page of the newspaper that there was a city vote on funding a new elementary school, so on Jasper's evening walk we headed over to our polling place. Though I can't vote for school budgets at home in Woodbury anymore, at least I can do my part here!

If you're looking for some amusement, take a look at Sappycards. Just flip through the various card options, but not if you're at work and laughing out loud would give you away! I got the link from a daily eco-email that I subscribe to called The Ideal Bite.

My neuro rotation is going well. I really enjoy working with the consultant (Mayo-speak for attending, or staff physician) who I'm paired up with this week. We're doing a combination of general consults for a variety of different neurologic problems, and screening appointments for patients who have come to see neurosurgeons. Today I did my first solo evaluation (don't worry, the consultant hears my presentation and then sees the patient himself before making any recommendations!). As always happens, what was supposed to be a fairly straightforward eval for headaches turned into a much more involved and complicated appointment which covered intensifying low back pain and a bunch of other medical problems. To top it all off, the patient, who was delightful, was also very chatty! I love talking to patients, and am happy to do it for hours, but one of the things that I'm working on this year is redirecting patients when they go off on tangents, since efficiency is important, too. Also, the consultants don't like it when you get them too far behind schedule! Anyhow, I was pleased to emerge with some exam findings that made sense in light of the patient's MRI (which I hadn't looked at beforehand) and were confirmed by the consultant. All in all, a valuable experience!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Patrons of the Arts

We just got our season tickets to the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale! Though we'll miss my classmate Tom, a violinist who was our #1 draw to the RSOC but is studying elsewhere this year, we're still excited. We went to almost every performance last year, so figured that we ought to go all out and get season tickets this year. We even won an iPod shuffle at the kickoff event, so that turned out to be a good decision!

Jasper's backpack

This was one of those weekends when we realized that we'd accumulated enough errands to run in Minneapolis to venture the hour-and-a-half drive north to the Twin Cities. So on Saturday morning, after Alex visited the farmer's market while I took Jasper for a run, we hit the road.

Our first stop was our favorite breakfast place, the French Meadow Bakery. Vegan blueberry-corn pancakes, yum! We also made a quick stop at The Wedge Co-op to get Jasper's vegetarian dog food and some other goodies that aren't available at our local co-op in Rochester.

Then onward to REI. We intend for Jasper to do a lot of hiking with us, so we wanted to find him a good backpack so that he can help carry some of his own food and water. REI had several options, a couple of which we brought outside for Jasper to try on.

As we suspected he might be, Jasper was extremely unhappy with this turn of events. He has a distinct dislike of bags of any sort, and his feelings were not improved by close proximity! I had to hold him tightly while Alex strapped the first one on, and as soon as we released him, Jasper started whirling in circles trying to get away from this very scary contraption. After about 10 seconds, he calmed down and we were able to go for a little stroll.

We eventually decided on the Ruffwear Approach II, which you can see Jasper modeling in the photo.

He wore it...most reluctantly...on our evening stroll last night. We'll keep having him practice with it, hoping that soon he won't look quite so skeptical about the whole affair.


I've had an iPhone for over a month now. It is such a slick device! I greatly enjoy being able to get information from anywhere, anytime. The screen is beautiful for whatever I'm viewing; the multitouch interface is a wonderful step in intelligent design. It is smaller than my old (3G) and recently-deceased iPod, and replaces my run-of-the-mill clamshell cellphone, which I always found a pain in the ass and unreliable.

One example of its coolness and utility occurred shortly after I got it. I was coming out from a haircut, and feeling a bit peckish, and felt like getting some takeout. So, I look up the listing of a chinese/thai/combodian place I know in google maps, which leads me to their website, which leads me to their online menu. Go back to the google maps listing, tap the button with their phonenumber, and place my order.

I have started to get into ripping movies to put on the device. To stay on the less-shady side of fair use, I am restricting it to movies (and TV series) that I actually own. It is a simple enough process, although much more time consuming than ripping CDs. The iPhone's preferred video format is called H.264 which, although it compresses things down nicely, is very computer intensive. My laptop (see below) can crawl along at about 3 fps while encoding - 1/10th realtime. My work computer manages to encode at just-about realtime, so two hours for a feature-length film. A brand new desktop, I am told, could probably pull off 2x-4x. It results in about 500 MB/hour of video. So, while I could conceivably fit the entire extended edition Lord of the Rings trilogy onto my 8 GB phone, it probably won't happen soon.

The ease-of-use and beauty of this device is difficult to describe short of a hands-on demonstration. Gripes, on the other hand, I can put into words:

* The first is that, although my company has a wonderfully ever-present WiFi network, I am unable to access it. The wireless network, like the wired one, requires authentication (a username and password) before it'll allow a device to access it. For my company's wireless network, this is accomplished using something called LEAP, which sort-of acts in parallel with encryption technologies like WPA. While LEAP is supported by my Apple laptop, it is not supported by the iPhone. This may be because of past wrangling between Apple and Cisco - LEAP's owner - over the trademark of the name "iPhone." It is my hope that support will eventually be added through a firmware upgrade. In the meantime, my company does have a parallel, less fast, guest wireless network that I can access. Unfortunately, however, it requires me to go through a sign-on page in Safari (with ridiculously verbose terms of use) before assigning me an IP number. This can become a pain in the arse pretty quickly, because I need to do it just about every time I use the network.

* A related difficulty is that, even when using my home WiFi network or the slower-than-moles'-asses-in-january EDGE network, I cannot access my company email or intranet. This is hardly surprising - my company has taken great pains to keep that all behind a strong firewall. I could access through that firewall using a VPN client, which I sometimes do on my laptop. The iPhone even comes with a built-in VPN client. Unfortunately, my company's VPN system uses IPSec, which is not supported by the iPhone. Again, I am hoping that an eventual firmware upgrade will fix this, but it is only a hope.

* Syncing. My computer is a four-year old 12" Powerbook G4. It has always been a very capable machine for me. Unfortunately, however, its USB ports are only v1.1, not the more widespread and higher speed USB 2.0. As a result, I have been having increasing difficulties getting my computer and iPhone to talk to one another. I suppose getting a new computer would help fix that, but it's hardly a sensible solution, even if my computer is starting to show its age. I'll post back when I've had a chat with Apple's support.

* Ringtones. I am not one to go crazy looking for that one perfect ringtone - the one that not only announces an incoming call, but announces something very special about you to everyone within earshot. Even if I was into it, I would never actually pay for a ringtone. I know there are various utilities out there that would, in the past, have allowed me to bypass the $3.99/tone racket the phone companies and RIAA cartel have put out there, but honestly I never cared enough to bother. Now, with the advent of iTunes 7.4, I am able to put ringtones on my iPhone, but only after paying an additional 99 cents for the privelege of using a 99-cent song I've already purchased. Never mind using music I have ripped from CDs I own, or music I have (hypothetically) recorded in a jam band. Sites like engadget and slashdot have posted a number of articles, and very lengthy discussions, about these issues, so I won't bother to get into it further. I was pleased that Ambrosia software came out with a helpful utility for using any AAC-encoded track as a ringtone, but it appears that itunes 7.4.2 has killed that backdoor. We'll see how it pans out.

* Price. Everyone now knows about the dramatic price drop in the iPhone. It bugged me a bit at first, because it happened one months after my purchase, and barely two months since its release. One expects price cuts in technology, but a 1/3 reduction so soon after release did seem like a kick to the face of early adopters. Ah well - I am not complaining much. It was worth it to me to spend $600 at the time (although, had I known this was coming, I certainly could have waited). It was a gift from a very generous person, too, who was quite happy to bestow it. The $100 Apple credit is nice, though, and I'll find a use for it before too long.

In the meantime, I am having a blast with this-here amazing piece of work. I imagine a demo at the upcoming family reunion will be fun.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rotation's End

This is my first attempt at actually posting, so here's hoping that it works!

Today I finished my second rotation of the year, OB-GYN. The highlight was definitely my second delivery, which went very smoothly and was actually a woman I knew, which made it even more exciting. I was able to stay with her for a long time while she pushed (the residents don't usually have that luxury), and then do the delivery, and it was an amazing experience!

The whole rotation was six weeks, and I spent three weeks on labor & delivery, one week in gynecologic surgery, and two weeks in outpatient obstetrics and gynecology. L&D was the most intense part of the rotation: I stayed overnight every fourth day, participated in vaginal deliveries and c-sections, and helped triage some pregnant patients who presented to the hospital with various concerns.

I was dreading my surgery week because I generally prefer my patients nice and awake so that I can talk to them, but I ended up being on a great team with a very kind consultant and residents who were willing to answer questions and teach. It was very busy, with 7 surgeries one day and 9 the other, and packed clinic days in between. I mainly saw hysterectomies, both open abdominal ones (a great chance to review some anatomy) and vaginal ones. My main job in surgery was to hold retractors, suction, and sometimes close the skin on the incision. I got to do some suturing after c-sections on L&D, as well. All in all, my running subcuticular stitch, which started out at a snail-like speed, approached tortoise-like by the end of the rotation.

These last two weeks have been in the outpatient clinic. Most days I had a half-day in OB and a half-day in GYN. In OB, I did lots of fundal height measurements and finding of fetal heart tones, and got some more experience with the ultrasound machine. There is nothing like giving a couple the first glimpse of their baby! In GYN, it was all about chasing down that elusive cervix as I practiced the speculum exam...

So, overall, a great rotation. I would really like to do OB as part of family practice. This rotation also confirmed some things that make family practice a good fit for me: I really thrive on variety, I absolutely love continuity of care (seeing patients at multiple visits or over a long period of time makes me much happier than just one-and-done), and there is really no desire in me to do surgery, as cool as it is.

Today we had our national "shelf" exam in the morning. Everyone who was on a core rotation this block took this at the same time, so it was a nice chance to see some classmates...we've really been scattered to the four winds since clinicals started on July 1. Then I had a brief oral exam this afternoon.

I have already returned my OB-GYN review and question books to the library and taken out the set that I will need for my neurology rotation, which starts on Monday. It lasts 3 weeks, and I'm looking forward to it since I loved my neuro courses in the first two years. I'm planning on a little reviewing over the weekend, as I've got to see a patient first thing on Monday morning and am expected to do a decent approximation of the neuro history and physical exam, which can take up to two hours! I will apparently get to learn how to properly use the fancy-schmancy tuning fork and$100 reflex hammer that I just signed out from the library.

Happy weekend!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mad Basil

What started off in May as two small packets from the Seed Savers Exchange, and gradually became seedlings in window boxes, have now created a veritable basil bush outside our porch. For a time in July and August, when the weather wasn't too screwy, I would go out on a Saturday and harvest a salad-spinner's worth of fresh basil leaves. Now that the plants have gone rampant, that's more than two spinners' worth (compare the before and after, at right). There really is only so much pesto one can deal with, even when storing ahead for winter.

That is only part of our lay-in for the coming winter. The farmer's market is in full harvest swing now, and we are starting to gather what we hope will be the bulk of our produce for the coming winter. We aren't quite so ambitious to try canning, so we are instead freezing a great portion of it. We figure that getting locally-produced food and storing it in an energy-efficient chest freezer is probably a darn sight better than February imports from Chile, New Zealand, or even California. Butternut squash, zucchini, and green beans are only the latest installment. We have also prepared and frozen salsas fresca and verde, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and red pepper. Potatoes, more squash, carrots, and parsnip are coming. Onions and garlic will hang in the cellar. We will hopefully have better results than last year's lay-in: we had many a whole squash slowly rot on the shelf in the cellar, while the potatoes softened and the onions sprouted.

UPDATE 9/23/07: How much pesto, you ask? I took stock of it yesterday - most of it is in the freezer. In various containers and bags we have 3-1/2 quarts frozen. Over the summer, we probably ate our way through 1-2 quarts. So, consider a half-gallon milk carton, then multiply that by three, then imagine them filled with pesto.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Canoeing with Jasper

As an inaugural post for this blog, allow me to relate the tale of this past Labor Day, when we took Jasper on an afternoon canoe trip down the Root River outside Lanesboro. We got rental and transport to the put in from the Little River General Store. It took some coaxing to get Jasper in the canoe (read as: he had to be carried in and set down), but he was mostly game once we got going. The Root was still swollen from recent flooding, and we moved along quickly.

He was more than a little skeptical of this craft that swayed underfoot, however. While I rummaged through our dry bag (no longer dry due to a thoroughly cracked Nalgene), I set my paddle a little too close for his comfort. With nowhere else to hide from the flat-bladed teror, he decided to take his chances with the river, and made a hasty acrobatic escape. Thankfully, Jasper is a natural swimmer, and we got a quick hold of his leash to keep him from floating away. He was, even after his most recent clipping, a most bedraggled sight when we pulled ashore to load him back in.

That was, however, the worst of it. The cracked Nalgene was a total loss, emptying its entire contents into the now-wet bag. However, our wallets and phones, though perhaps a bit more humid than usual, were able to dry enough in the afternoon sun that there was no permanent damage.

We would call this a successful outing - hopefully the first of many.