Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beer Tasting

Beer is a two-syllable word. Or so the Australians would have us think.

This evening I attended a beer tasting benefit for the local humane society. The owner of a local liquor business and his brother, the owner of a local large hotel franchise, hosted it. Our host and beer educator was from Merchant Du Vin, the sole importer of many craft European beers sold in the U.S. Pictured below is the spread, which was split among the four of us at the table. Alas, we left a fair bit of it on the table - given enough time I might have been able to drink my 1/4 share, but the tables were set for 8, so it would have been quite the feat even to do that much. It didn't help that the wait staff kept bringing out food to go with the beer. My stomach groaned even as I gave it more excellent stuff.

Our host was exceedingly knowledgeable. Apparently all he and his colleagues do, when not selling their wares to local retailers, is go from country to country and sample the best stuff around. Tough gig. He held forth for over two hours about the different kinds of beers, anecdotes about their development, and why European beer is so much different than American.

The lineup for the evening was:
Ayinger Brau-Weisse, and outstanding wheat beer that would have been even better in hot weather. Brewer's page here, for those that speak German.

Samuel Smith's Organic Lager, India Pale Ale, and Imperial Stout. The IPA was refreshing - it didn't knock you over the head with the hops, and instead was just downright pleasant. As our host put it to us, "Guinness is on the light end of stouts. This is on the heavy end." That should put it in perspective - it was like pouring chocolate.

Zatec, a Czech "Brilliant Lager." It is better to call it a pilsner (a subset of lagers), but the EU forbids any beer not brewed in Pilsn from carrying the name "Pilsner."

Orval Trappist Ale. Apparently, trappist ales are a very specific class of beer. To officially be a trappist, it has to be brewed by monks, in the monastery, to cover the monastery's costs, and 65% of the profit must go to charity. For some trappist beers, they meet their operating and charity quota mid-year, and just go out of stock until the next. This one was unbelievably aromatic in taste and bouquet, floral, with a very persistent head.

Westmalle Trappist Dubbel - this was in a 750-mL bottle, like wine. At 8% alcohol and very smooth, it is meant to be sipped like wine. As it turns out, our table had most of a full bottle leftover, which I was allowed to cork and take with me.

Green's Endeavor Gluten Free Dubbel Ale. This was of the same style as the Westmalle, but brewed with rice instead of malt, and some other changes, so that it contains no gluten, and is thus accessible to drinkers suffering from celiac's disease.

Traquair Jacobite Ale. The Traquair House is, apparently, the oldest habitation in Scotland, and belongs to the Stuarts. When the Stuarts fell, they shuttered the house until they reclaimed the throne. That didn't go so well for them. In the 60's, thought, the patriarch reopened the house and turned it into a brewery. This thick dark Scotch Ale is aged 10 years in oak casks and is to ordinary beer what cream sherry is to chardonnay.

Lindemans Peche and Framboise Lambics. These two are becoming trendy these days. Very sweet, low in alcohol, low in fizz, and very smooth, they are able to take the place of champagne in various functions. The host described women requesting cases or kegs of this stuff for their bachelorette parties. The Peche tasted just like peaches, and the Framboise like very flavorful raspberries.

All in all, I'd say I downed only a bit more than two pints' worth. Still, it was an awful lot to take in. Good thing I took notes.


Tonight, Rochester is experiencing its first real snow of the year. There's about a half an inch on the ground now, as we return from Jasper's evening romp. We'd been waiting eagerly to see how Jasper would respond, and as we'd hoped, he loves the snow! He ran around and around as usual, occasionally stopping to bury his nose in the chilly white stuff. He looked like he was auditioning for Santa Claus or Gandalf by the end of our walk. The scary inflatable snowmen down the block have deflated, so he can even stroll down the sidewalk unmolested. So, a step in the right direction towards Jasper the mountain dog. Maybe we'll even be out on skis soon!

We spent the evening at the local Radisson, which was hosting a beer tasting to benefit Paws and Claws, the humane society where I volunteer. I helped man the front table with shelter information and a couple of puppies looking for homes, and Alex bought a ticket and got to sample all the beers and goodies. There was a guy talking about each of the different brews, and Alex took many notes, so I'm sure a separate post is forthcoming. I did get a sniff of the raspberry one, and it smelled delicious!

The pediatrics inpatient service is going wonderfully. I really like the team that I'm working with, and we've seen some very interesting patients. The consultant supervising the team this week is fantastic—he is very encouraging and also gives great feedback about how to improve, and he spends at least 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, with us students every day answering questions and quizzing us about patients and important pediatrics concepts. I had a good overnight call on Tuesday, with about 5 hours of sleep out of the 34 spent at the hospital. I'll be on again overnight on Saturday, the bummer is that I don't really get a weekend, since I'll be there from about 7 AM Sat to noon or 1 on Sunday. I'm sure Alex will delay the Sunday waffles until I get home, though! Knowing that Puerto Rico is coming up at the end of this stretch makes all things bearable.

More from Alex soon, I think. We'll see if we can get some snow pictures of Jasper, maybe Sunday afternoon if it sticks.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jasper on the Go

We had a beautiful sunny day today, and decided to take advantage of it by heading out for a long romp with Jasper. We went to Quarry Hill Park, and he got plenty of off-leash time when there weren't other dogs around. This gave us a chance to practice his commands, especially "come." He's getting better!

Here's Jasper in full bound, heading towards Alex's call. Look at those ears!

Resting for a moment:

Enjoying some scrambling (practicing for the mountains):

Jasper is so much fun, and endlessly entertaining. Now he's snoring away after his exciting afternoon, and I'm eating pumpkin pie and watching the UConn women beat Duke. All is well in our household!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jasper's New Toy

When we were out and about running errands today, we stopped at Petco to pick up a couple of things for Jasper. He does not have many toys, because he doesn't play with them often. I think I've written before about his tennis-ball toy that he doesn't chomp hard enough to squeak. Besides that, he has a rope toy that he has gently gnawed the loose strandy ends off of, and he just finished totally shredding one of Alex's old T-shirts. We've contemplated getting him one of those toys that you put treats inside, and then when the dog chews and plays with it, the treats fall out. However, most of them are made of hard rubber, and we just don't think Jasper would chew hard enough to get the treats out. Today, though, we saw a toy that looks like a little football but with lots of holes in it, and it's made out of very soft rubber. So we bought it, brought it home, stuffed a few pieces of peanut-butter bone in there, and put it down next to Jasper. He has nudged it a couple of times and is currently contemplating it about 6 inches from his nose. We'll see how it goes.

Other excitement today: a realtor came to do a walk-through and give us some ideas of things to do before we put the house on the market waaaay in the future. Apparently I don't get my bathroom upstairs. Bummer. Also, we turn out to have way too many books and are supposed to make our bookshelves more "decorative" than functional before we start showing the place. How weird is that? She was very appreciative of Alex's beautiful work refinishing the floors, however.

And finally, we went and tagged a Christmas tree at the cut-your-own place on the outskirts of town. We're going to be away from mid-December until the 22nd, and then again starting on the 29th, but I really wanted a tree since we have so many wonderful ornaments and this will be our first actual Christmas spent here in Minnesota. Alex is indulging me, though we might come home from Italy to find all of the needles on the floor! It's quite against my family's tradition of procrastination to pick out a tree this early, but we figured it'd be easier to do the choosing now, rather than in a month when the lot has been picked clean. It should be easy for us to pick it up and put it up on the 23rd...accompanied by hot drinks and Handel's Messiah, which has become our decorating tradition. I'm hoping to pick up a wreath at the farmer's market this weekend, too.

Jasper is profoundly unenthusiastic about the decorations going up around the neighborhood: some folks down the street have big inflatable snowmen in the yard, and Jasper HATES them. It took me ten minutes to get him past them on our way back from our run yesterday. He kept leaping into the street to get away from them, and then I had to pick him up and put him back on the sidewalk. He's not that excited about the bright blue blinking snowflakes on one of the other houses, either. Poor guy.

Friday, November 23, 2007


This post was supposed to have some pictures of our Thanskgiving Day spread in it. But, alas, I managed to botch copying them onto my computer, and then further bolloxed it by deleting them off the camera. Now, the images are theoretically still there - the data is still on the flash card, but there are no longer any references to them. Undelete programs exist, even ones that specialize in recovering photos from cameras. For a pair of run-of-the-mill photos, though, it didn't seem worth the $20-40 and hassle to pay for such recovery software.

No matter, I'm moving on. You'll just have to take my word that it was a nice looking spread. Quite large, too, considering that it was just H, Jasper, and myself this year. A tofurkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, squash and wild rice medley, and two pies. Two pies for two people (and a dog) seems just about right.

We considered having some classmates over, or otherwise making it larger, but really ended up liking this smaller affair. No timetables - we just cook and eat when it suited us. Heck, we even ate on the couch! We popped in The Lord of the Rings (Extended Edition) as we started cutting veggies at 10, and finished it about 12 hours later.

It has taken a turn for the chilly here in Minnesooooota. It was in the teens as I strolled into work this morning - one of about 10 in my office of 50 that came in today. Being a bit of a quiet day, I worked on something out of the ordinary. We have a $100,000 hi-speed video camera, the same kind that are used at White Sands for missile research. I was using it for something far more mundane. I may post videos at some point. In the meantime, check out what other people have done with those cameras.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Triumphs in the Emergency Room

Working in the emergency room is great. I feel like the patients I see are really mine, since I do all of the initial workup, and that is very satisfying. The consultants have been excellent preceptors, and the residents very helpful and willing to teach as well.

Last night I had two particular triumphs. One of my patients was a teenager who had a one-sided sore throat and swelling. On examination, she had one enormous tonsil, which was actually pushing her uvula over. Now, if you've been to medical school, you are jumping up and down right now and yelling "peritonsillar abscess! peritonsillar abscess!" This is a classic finding, and I had read about it but never seen it, and it was SO satisfying to recognize what the problem was and to be able to tell the consultant so with some confidence. As I've written about before, third year is full of feeling dumb, and it was nice to actually diagnose something. (Other than viral upper respiratory infections. We do a lot of that in the emergency room.)

The other nice moment involved an infant with...drumroll please...a viral upper respiratory tract infection. That part was pretty obvious, but when I looked in her ears, I thought that one of her eardrums was a little redder than the other. Now, she was really squirmy, and 4 month olds have tiny little ear canals, and there was some wax in the way, so I was in no way SURE that this was what I saw. It's really tempting when I have an equivocal finding like this to not mention it, and just let the consultant draw her own conclusions from her own exam. However, I have also realized that the only way to get better at detecting physical exam findings is to mention them and then see if I'm right, so I did tell her. And it turned out that that ear DID look a bit redder than the other one.

So, good times in the emergency room. I have one more shift tonight, and then a four-day weekend. There will be plenty of studying during the weekend, but it will be a nice chance to gear up before starting the inpatient service on Monday. We have a very quiet weekend planned. I'm just looking forward to spending time with Alex—since I've been in the ED from 4PM -midnight, and he's at work from 7:30 to 5:30, we've only been catching each other for a few minutes a day when I come home and he's falling asleep. Jasper and I have been spending some quality time together in the mornings, but we've actually had really poor air quality here so no running the last couple of days. We did drive up to Minneapolis yesterday to hunt and gather a Tofurkey for Thanksgiving. Very odd that our co-op here in town didn't have them, but it gave me a chance to pick up more of Jasper's vegetarian kibble, too.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jones Seminars and Energy

One of my favorite things back when I was at Dartmouth (particularly in my later, heavy-engineering years) was the Jones Seminars at the Thayer School. Friday afternoons, at the end of a long week (usually with a long weekend ahead, too), we'd gather in room 100 for coffee and cookies and a lecture. Yes, this is a geeky way of kicking back.

These were general interest lectures in science and technology given by distinguished guests or Dartmouth professors. Some of my more memorable ones were about the Columbia Accident investigation, bio-engineering a yeast to produce complex human hormones and proteins (now the focus of a successful Dartmouth spinoff), some interesting futures in robotics, the two-mile time machine, high-efficiency solar cells, and so on.

This fall, the subject of all the Jones Seminars are on energy, climate change and, most importantly, what can we do about it. Being a mostly-engineering audience, the focus of the interventions are things like cellulosic ethanol (another dartmouth spinoff) and carbon capture and sequestration. But, consistent with the Thayer School's mission, there were have also been speakers from non-profits and, just yesterday, from BP. There was a tie-in to an energy symposium put on the by the Thayer School as well.

Absolutely the best part about all this is that these lectures, which were always videotaped, are now available as video podcasts, too. I can remember a few years ago wanting to watch one of these lectures again, and having to wait four weeks for the videotape to be post-produced and available through the library (not on the shelves, even). Now, the post production is done in a day or two, and the video can be downloaded and watched by anyone, anywhere. They are available in large video format (640x480, approx 100 MB / lecture), small video format (QVGA, about 60 MB), or just straight audio. Unfortunately, they need to be transcoded (i.e., reformatted) to fit properly on my iPhone. The transcoding is kind of slow, so mostly I just watch on my computer.

Although these series are given to a mostly engineer audience, they are accessible to most folks. The focus this term on energy and what we can do about it is, I believe, particularly important. These are very informative and entertaining lectures given by very intelligent people, and I encourage all our readers to check them out.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Weekly Round-Up

I thoroughly enjoyed my week in the newborn nursery. We had four babies to take care of on my call night. I took all of them straight from the OB's hands and helped check them out. One of them was only 33 weeks old, and he needed some breathing help, which I got to do with a mask and some oxygen. Also spoke some very out-of-practice Spanish with the parents when the interpreter wasn't around!

As part of my rotation, I gave two presentations this week, and both went well. Friday morning, the consultant supervising the nursery team also watched me do a head-to-toe newborn exam, and he thought that I was doing a good job, so it seems like I'm acquiring the skills that I'm supposed to be on this rotation.

This coming week, I will have some shifts in the peds emergency room. I actually have Thursday through Sunday off, which is fantastic and way more than I expected! After that, my three weeks on the inpatient service start, and that will be much more intense hours-wise, with call every fourth night.

Jasper has begun spending more of the night upstairs in our room. He won't come near the bed, and he won't let us approach him up there, but when the alarm goes off in the morning, we can hear him chewing gently on his tennis ball toy. (This toy would squeak if he chomped on it hard enough, and we've tried to show him that, but he's never looked very enthusiastic about that noise, and I think if he ever made the toy squeak, the next thing we'd hear would be Jasper's head hitting the ceiling.) When one of us gets up out of bed, he leaps to his feet and runs downstairs, wagging his tail. This enthusiasm doesn't quite translate to getting out the back door efficiently...he's much better about that than he used to be, but we still have to put the leash on and coax him a bit.

He and I ran almost every day this week, since I was home around noon each day. Mostly he did well, though one very windy day freaked him out completely. He really is a lot like a pony sometimes, in terms of the things that spook him. He also has decided that he would really like to chase the geese at Silver Lake, who are all about as big as he is. "Heel" is an ongoing project. Though it definitely increases my pace when he's dragging me towards a gaggle!

Other than that, I've been able to do some more reading for pleasure. Last week was a nonfiction week, I finished up Once Upon A Quinceanera by Julia Alvarez and also God's Harvard. The Quinceanera book is about the Hispanic coming-of-age celebration, almost a mini-wedding, that is held for girls on their 15th or 16th birthdays. Julia Alvarez (no relation, teaches at Middlebury in Vermont) is one of my favorite writers. She's written several semi-autobiographical novels and a couple of wonderful books of poetry, and in this book she follows several girls through the leadup to their ceremonies. She explores the origin of the Quinceanera and spends a lot of time discussing whether these celebrations are good for the girls (a chance to collect everyone from the community who is invested in the girl's well-being) or bad (many of the girls end up pregnant in that next year, seeing their coming-of-age as permission to become sexually active, and also many families go deeply into debt to throw the parties).

The God's Harvard book was also very thought-provoking. It's about Patrick Henry College, which is a conservative Christian college in Virginia. Especially from my vantage point as a philosophy major, educated in courses where debate was required and no assumption was too basic to be questioned, it was really odd to read about an institution where certain viewpoints were simply not up for discussion. It's totally antithetical to my whole idea of higher education. Though, admittedly, Dartmouth's goals for its students are very different from Patrick Henry's.

Also, the creationist, not-believing-in-evolution thing drives me crazy. I'm a scientist, and part of being a scientist is accepting the best explanation of a phenomenon that we can discern from looking at the world around us. It's ruthless and often uncomfortable, but it's brought us delightful things like vaccines and antibiotics (and that's just in medicine, I'm sure Alex could come up with a bunch more physics/engineering examples). Besides, genetics is so intricate and awe-inspiring that it's a much cooler backstory than six days of finger-snapping.

Alex was telling me some interesting stuff about universities being hesitant to grant degrees to earth science PhD students who are six-day creationists, even if their theses deal with another topic. Now that's an interesting question about academic freedom...

Enough ranting for the evening! It snowed a little this morning, but not enough to stick. We're really hoping for a good skiing year, there are lots of great golf courses for cross-country. We're trying to figure out if skis would scare Jasper, or if he could come and romp around with us.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Almost As Disturbing As The Kinky Witch

Alex sent me this link, and as soon as I stopped laughing so hard that Jasper was concerned for my safety (and sanity), I decided to share:

1977 JC Penney Catalog

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Disturbing Decorations

Hilary and I pass this decoration on our way to work each day, and we
find it frightfully disturbing. I ask you: do you find anything wrong
with a Halloween decoration featuring a witch, hands bound over her head with
chains, tied up to a tree, and smiling?


(click to see full-size)

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another week, Another rotation

On to week two of pediatrics! This week, I'm working in the newborn nursery. This is a delightful job, combining the opportunity to play with babies with a short schedule that has me out by noon most days. The consultant overseeing the nursery seems to be very good, and he took some time today to talk to each of us about our goals for the rotation, which sets things up nicely for the week. My main goal is to get more comfortable with the newborn physical exam, so that I can tell a normal baby from one who is having trouble.

Tomorrow night I'm going to be on call, which means I'll go to all the high-risk and C-section deliveries during the day and overnight. I'll be working with one of the second-year pediatrics residents, and may well see a classmate on the OB rotation down in the delivery room.

So for now, I'm relaxing with Alex, apple pie, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Jasper is happily shredding one of Alex's old shirts and awaiting his evening stroll. He's already been out running with me today, when I came home around lunchtime. He leapt up and headed for the door, wagging his tail, as soon as he saw me come downstairs in my running clothes and start putting my sneakers on. What a smart, happy pup!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bedraggled Jasper

Bath time for Jasper! As promised, we took a few photos this time.

On the way to the tub:

Getting wet:

Lathering up:

Jasper bore all of this with a long-suffering air, and has been looking quite put out all evening. But every time he shakes, he looks a little less bedraggled as his hair starts to fluff out again.

We have given him some apple pie to improve his spirits. It seems to be working.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Date Night!

We had a very productive work-around-the-house day: hit up the farmers' market and the bread store (warm cinnamon raisin bread, yum), chopped up a ton of broccoli to freeze, ripped out all the dying annuals from the front flowerbeds, planted the new iris, got the leaves from the yard to the city compost lot, and worked on changing the dormer in our room upstairs from a study nook to a reading nook.

Once Alex got home from a quick trip into the lab to check on a spinal model-in-progress, we decided to celebrate our productiveness, or our dating anniversary (a couple weeks late), or the first week of my rotation, or some other yet-to-be-determined occasion, by heading out to dinner and the symphony.

We called the Redwood Room, our favorite spot, and were excited to hear that there was no wait. By the time we arrived 20 minutes later, though, the wait was up to 45 minutes, so we had to try elsewhere. We eventually had a delicious, if slightly rushed, dinner at City Cafe. Falafel, actually, which made us reminisce about the last time we had falafel, which was at the state fair (even though it wasn't on a stick, so I'm not sure it counted as official state fair food).

The symphony was spectacular this evening! This was our first chance to use our season tickets, since we were away for the opening concert, and we were happily surprised by how good our seats are. Tonight's program was titled "Best of Enemies," featuring Brahms and Tchaikovsky, who shared a birthday but apparently loathed each other's work. Maestro Lantz had chosen Brahms' Concerto No.2 for Piano and Orchestra and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, and both were wonderfully played. He always writes great program notes, which makes the music extra interesting. (Sorry, I am not as clever as Alex at this computer stuff and so do not know how to link to these two pieces in iTunes. I can tell you that in addition to the amazingly fast piano work, the Brahms has some beautiful cello. The Tchaikovsky featured a lovely horn solo and then some oboe in the second movement. But you'll have to find them yourselves.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


This is what the seeds from six pomegranates look like. These are very curious fruits, with a very curious heritage. I highly recommend giving them a try. We use these in one of our favorite recipes. It is a bit of work pulling the seeds from the husk, though. Pomegranates are in season now, more or less, so we bought these to pull the seeds and freeze them, so that we can enjoy it into the next year.

We try to be very consciencious shoppers, especially when it comes to food. We like to think that our purchasing habits matter in the grand scheme of things. Hilary is vegetarian (with vegan tendencies), I'm more or less vegetarian by extension. We buy from the farmer's market as we can. We have cut up and frozen lots of food from that market for the winter, on the belief that the energy used to keep it frozen is less than the energy used to grow, process, package, and transport the store-bought produce it offsets. Purchasing local is better for the local farmers, too.

It doesn't work for everything, though. We still eat chocolate, I still drink coffee. We bring back large quantities of Vermont maple syrup each time we visit the alma mater. Pomegranates are a tricky case, too - they certainly don't grow around here. The ones we just purchased were from southern california. Like I said, we try to be consciencious shoppers, but it doesn't work for everything.

Ashcroft on Wiretapping

Now, most readers of this blog are probably of a like mind to H and myself when it comes to the government's warrantless wiretapping program (past, present, and future). It is extremely sketchy at best, and downright unconstitutional in the main. One aspect of the whole case that is now making its way back into the headlines is the culpability of the telecom giants that assisted the government in this program. The latest FISA reform bill would have given those companies retroactive immunity for their participation. That bill has been held up by Chris Dodd, and so has settled to the background again for a while.

However, chiming in on the debate was former attorney general John Ashcroft. In an op-ed piece in the NY Times the other day, he lays out arguments for why this immunity should be granted.

On the other hand are a number of responses to the NY Times, including one from Russ Feingold. It all makes for interesting reading that a well-informed citizen should catch up on.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


My pediatrics rotation started yesterday. Like our other core rotations, it is 6 weeks long. This week, I am getting a subspecialty experience with the pediatric gastroenterologists. Next week, I'll be in the newborn nursery. The third week, I will be doing shifts in the peds emergency room. Then I'll finish up with three weeks on the inpatient hospital service (back to every-fourth-night call).

Peds GI is actually going to be quite applicable to family practice, since in addition to seeing rarer diseases such as childhood-onset Crohn's (an inflammatory bowel disease), I'm seeing some basics such as constipation and diarrhea. I've also gotten to work with some teenagers, which is an age group I really enjoy.

The doctors have been very good preceptors, taking plenty of time to explain their thought processes to me and refer me to useful journal articles. There's a resident on the service who has also been great about showing me around and sharing the interesting cases!

I'm trying to stay active even though I'm back to a clinic schedule and it's getting really cold and dark outside! This morning, I was actually up at 5:30. I had a migraine last night, which doesn't happen too often, but when it does, the only thing that really works is to go to bed, so I was asleep around 9:00. Since I had some work I needed to do, but couldn't bear to look at a computer screen last night, I got up early this morning to get that stuff done. Then I took Jasper out for a run before Alex and I headed in for an 8:00 start.

Jasper and I just got back from our evening walk, a short but very active romp along the bike path. Once we let him off the leash now, he takes off like a shot, and loves to run circles around us while we chase him and play with him. Then we practice "sit" while he's all worked up. He's really doing well and is getting more and more responsive to us. His response to "come" has improved drastically in the last week or two, he's willing to approach head-on at a dead run as long as I'm squatting down. Standing up, it's still a little too intimidating, it seems!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Weekend Activities

My, weren't we productive this past weekend! The weather was gorgeous - a definite encouragement to be out and about. Considering that the temperature is on its way down below 30 and the winds have been gusting up to 30 knots today, the weekend's nice weather, though chilly, may be the last for a bit.

We started off with the Farmer's Market. This was the first weekend of the Winter Market, which means that it was in a building at the fairgrounds. In contrast to last year's Winter Market (the first time it'd been held) this week was a wildly good time. There were folks at the door giving out coffee and pastries. A few vendors still had fresh produce (perhaps the last for a while, given that frosts are coming in more frequently now). We picked up a store of goods to lay in for the winter: broccoli (for the freezer), shallots and garlic (to hang in the cellar), leeks for some hearty soup. The market was bustling with activity. I hope that it remains popular - although it is difficult to think there'll be the same level of activity in February, when it's -15 and blowing.

One of my activities this weekend was putting together another set of bookshelves, as Hilary has been requesting for months now. They're not terribly exciting from the picture, I know, but still darn useful. It is a little tricky doing this kind of work with the tools I currently have, which are a far cry from the facilities that I got started with at Dartmouth. It helped a lot that I finally put together a cross-cutting jig for my tablesaw. The design is a replica of a set of shelves Hilary has had for years now - very quirky, too. The space for the bottom shelf is 10-1/4", for the middle it's 10-1/2", and the upper is 10-3/4". I like to think I could have done better, but opted for matching selves instead of better shelves.

I also raked the leaves. Ah the joys of home ownership. I truly love the large maple we have in the back yard. But, honestly, it drops so many leaves. How many? Examine the pictures below. The pile of bags is from two rakings we did in the last two weeks. Hopefully these'll be the last - the tree hasn't got anything left to throw at us. While outside raking, we like to let jasper out, and open the gate between our yard and the back-neighbors, so that he and the border collies can run around like crazy. A border collie is a marvel of nature - a perpetual energy source that seems to have no endurance limit. These two really don't get enough exercise, so they are naturally very rambunctious. While Jasper doesn't like to play fetch (he runs away from anything you throw at him) he does love to chase after the collies.

We also had one of Hilary's classmates over for dinner on Sunday. She cooked us some wonderful indian food, and we provided a chocolate-peanut-butter pie for dessert. In preparation for company, we did a blitz cleaning, including vacuuming the rug. Jasper, as you can well imagine, doesn't like the Roomba at all. He does like his waffles, though.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Who's That?

My class had a Halloween party this evening. (A six-week rotation block ended this morning with a big exam for a lot of people, so we had to celebrate a bit late.)

About half an hour before we were going to head over to Matt's house, we finally turned our attention to some sort of costume. Alex was wearing his Google T-shirt, so I suggested he just go as a softwear engineer. Then he realized that if he just borrowed one of my black turtlenecks and waved his iPhone around, he could go as Steve Jobs!

I went as Jen Rizzotti, with my UConn women's basketball shorts and a number 21 duct-taped on my T-shirt. Old hero worship dies hard.

Speaking of iItems, check out this hysterical sketch on YouTube: iRack.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cross-Country Speeding

Wired has an article I was reading while in transit to Maine about a person named Alex Roy who attempted, and succeeded, to break the unofficial coast-to-coast land speed record. He took a souped up BMW from Manhattan to the Santa Monica pier in an insane 31 hours, 4 minutes. Do the math and that works out to an average speed of about 95 m.p.h. That's average speed. In order to make the average that high, you need to put the pedal to the metal when you can (up to 150 m.p.h.) to make up for time lost getting gas, in traffic, and pretending to be an average driver when passing speedtraps. That's why the speed record is unofficial - making it official would probably land you in jail pretty quick. The article has all kinds of interesting asides about the meticulous planning, his failed previous attempts, how he got started on this in the first place, and - most importantly - how one avoids getting hammered by the cops.

Reasons to Hate Cellphone Carriers

Wired has an article entitled "10 Reasons to Hate Cellphone Carriers." Without any difficulty they managed to stretch it to 14, and the comments at the end include many more. I'd say that, yes, cellphone carriers suck. Everyone knows it, everyone's experienced it, everyone's effected by it. Even if you are saying to yourself, "Gosh, my cellphone (and, by extension, carrier) doesn't seem all that bad," you should be aware of all the things that can be done with cellphones in other countries, for substantially less money than in the U.S. Most people don't know how backwards it is here.

As a way to fight back, I suggest backing Sen. Amy Klobuchar's (D-MN) bill that would substantially improve consumer rights when it comes to cell carriers.