Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years at Sara's

This is how we've been spending our time, mostly. Playing highly competitive board games, eating, going for walks, eating, drinking, reading...the usual. We picked up about 6 inches of snow overnight. So, as we took a walk today, it was all white outside and stuff - a big change from yesterday. Todd was able to join us - long time no see. Sara's brother Andy and his long time girlfriend Nicole came up, too.

Apparently, as I've been writing this, the clock kept on ticking and rolled over to the New Year. Hot Damn, 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Perfect Sunday

It's so wonderful to be at Sara's! We woke up fairly early, and once Sara put the finishing touches on the morning's sermon, we all headed off to the local diner for a fantastic breakfast. Then we wandered back up the road to church, where we admired the lovely Christmas decorations and watched Sara in her element. All her parishioners love her, and made sure to come up and introduce themselves to us after the service and tell us how great she is (we concur).

After church, Sara and Alex and I headed out into the woods for a long hike (Katie and Sean begged off due to having the wrong footwear). It is very refreshing to be back in a hilly landscape, our only regret was that Jasper wasn't along to enjoy the day! Upon our return, Sara fed us a delicious lunch of corn chowder and homemade bread, and then naps were had by all.

This afternoon we had some guest turnover—Katie and Sean had to head out ahead of the oncoming snowstorm, and Sara's brother Andy and his girlfriend Nicole arrived, along with a couple of Sara's Sky Lake friends who I remember from counseling senior high camp there in 2002. Todd and Rachel arrive tomorrow.

This evening there was homemade pizza, and everyone is now relaxing with computers, knitting, or trying out a new Egyptian-themed board game that Andy brought along. We're in for another very relaxing day tomorrow, and hopefully another long walk as well.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

On the Road Again

Hilary and I are on the road...again. This time, we have a dual-purpose trip. The first portion will take us to the boonies of New York, just north of the Catskills. Our college friend, Sara, has her parish there. Each year, a group of us college friends will get together for New Year's. So, we hauled ourselves back up to Minneapolis today, after sending Jasper back to doggie camp again. We squeezed ourselves into another tin can and took flight, this time to JFK. Why JFK, when Albany or Syracuse would be closer and less insane? I'll get there in a moment. After a nice aerial view of Manhattan, we waited around for over a half hour for our baggage to show up, then another half hour to get to our rental car. We opted to spend another $5/day to get a jetta with only 1500 miles on it. Over the next hour, we managed to battle our way about 15 miles away from the airport throught Brooklyn and the Bronx. We gave the rasperry to Yankee stadium as we passed. After that, the going was pretty easy going up I-87. We have just recently arrived at Sara's, and are looking forward to bed soon. We'll hit up the local diner tomorrow morning, then listen to Sara's Sunday sermon.

Tuesday, New Year's Day, we get to battle our way back to JFK for the second portion of our trip. We'll hop on a flight and, after a number of hours and time zones later, we'll emerge in Pisa, Italy. How has such a thing come about? The short version is that a friend of a friend of Hilary's father watches over a house in the heart of the Chianti region (no fava bean jokes, please), and wants to get away. So Hilary's dad will be caretaking for the next month, with Holly there for a long while, too. With the lodging taken care of, how could Hilary and I not take this opportunity to see Tuscany? So that's where we'll be for the week after New Year's. We'll post sporadically from Italy as we can.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

iPhone Troubles

Well, I suppose the other shoe was going to drop eventually. Hilary's phone ran into some troubles, and now mine has, too. The story of how it met its fritzy demise is too long to tell, so I'll summarize: it blew a fuse, probably in the literal sense. So, in the space of an hour on Monday, it went from fine to dead as a doornail.

But, hey, that's OK, because it was only a few months into its one-year warranty. Apple Tech Support agreed with me: dead as a doornail and no fault of mine. They offered me the choice of sending the phone in via mail, or seeking out the Genius Bar at the nearest Apple retail store. My guess, in either case, was that they'd take one look at it and swap it for a fresh iPhone.

The choice between mail service and waltzing into a store filled with Apple swag and speaking to a real was not actually as simple as it might, at first, seem. You see, the closest Apple store is in the Mall of America, which Hilary and I have scrupulously (and, some might say, conspicuously) avoided. It is a place that goes beyond the extremes of capitalism and all that is shallow in America - our own little Las Vegas. That, and the fact that it's an hour and a half away. Mail might not be so bad in comparison, particularly since I won't be using my phone next week in Europe. On the other hand, there's a transatlantic flight ahead, and I'll certainly be wanting my iPod.

So, up to the Mall we go, on December 26th. God in Heaven preserve us. Thankfully, the Apple Store is only about 100 feet from one entrance, so we were spared most of the insanity. It was about 8:45 before my 8:00 appointment came up, but once I got some face time with the guy behind the bar, it took all of five minutes to get a brand new iPhone into my hands. Swap the SIM card, and I was back in business. Remarkably good service, very pleased.

I'm still having great difficulties with syncing up my iPhone to my 4-1/2 year old computer. It's not the age really, it's more the fact that my computer lacks a USB 2.0 computer (USB 1.1 only). It sort of works, but USB 1.1 isn't actually supported. It's particularly painful because, rather than just an album here and there, or a week's worth of podcasts, it's as much of my library that I can fit. Oh the pain of it all!

Cut Free

Todd was kind enough to send these two shots from my recent brush with a stuck seatbelt. A nice little before and after of my knife work.

Not much to see in this first one, save that I am clearly in an uncomfortable spot.

Despite appearances, I am not cutting my fingers off. This was taken just after I had sliced the seatbelt, so I was in the midst of my usual one-handed maneuver to close the knife. Notice the shoulder loop behind Hilary's face has no belt going through it. My iPhone is on the seat next to me (more about that later today, I think).

These events happened on Saturday afternoon, and the San Juan airport post office was closed. Sunday and Tuesday were postal holidays. So, there hasn't really been enough time to tell if my dear knife has come back to me. I surely hope that it arrives today or tomorrow, before Hilary and I leave town again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Sorry if the image is a bit blurry - not sure why. Merry Christmas, everybody! After seeing everybody in Vieques, it's just Hilary and I for Christmas. Jasper's back, too, back from doggie camp.

We woke up today have waffles for breakfast (it's not quite like my dad's cinnamon rolls, but it'll do in a pinch). We've been snacking on cookies we've gotten as gifts since then. This evening, we're having a repeat of Thanksgiving dinner: tofurkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, squash with wild rice, and apple pie!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Some More Pictures

lookout postThis is one of the many lookouts built into the outer walls of Old San Juan. To me, it looks like something out of Myst.

A hibiscus that was blossoming just off the porch of La Finca. It would overhang someone seated in one of the many hammocks.

Sunset at Green Beach - our first foray out onto the sand.

Todd wrestling Steph back into the water.

Adding some diced red pepper to guacamole at the beach.

Dancing to Indigo Girls

Us four young'ens having a quick bite in Plaza Colon in Old San Juan.


This fella was probably the only downside we encountered at La Finca. He didn't belong there - our hosts speculated that he belonged to a farm across the way. As well groomed as he appeared, he was certainly taken care off. A cock of the walk, you might say.

However, attractive though he may have been as a rooster, as a time keeper he was about as useful as a stuck watch. Actually, even a stuck watch is right twice a day - I don't think we could give this guy the benefit of the doubt. He somehow got it in his head to crow, quite pathetically, at all times of the day or night. Hanging out in a tree just outside our window, Hilary and I were treated to being awoken a couple of times in the middle of the night.

He was a tricky little bugger, too. Hiding out about 8 feet off the ground in a tree, he was safe from the dogs - and from the caretakers. He managed to dodge a shot glass tossed at him at 4 am by Nelson.

He did, I think, finally realize that if he just fluttered back across the way, he wouldn't have to have crowing contests with his far flung competition. So, by the time we were on our way out, we think he had moved on.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Information Bankruptcy

Upon arriving at home after more than a week away, one is greeted with all kinds of information: emails both personal and professional, a stack of mail about yay high, newspapers, frequented websites and blogs. In some cases, people get so behind on catching up that they declare information bankruptcy - write off anything that has accumulated in their total inbox and try to get back on track. It is very similar to the concept of personal bankruptcy. In some cases, people just triage and scan the pending information they need to deal with - like negotiating with creditors to pay off only some percentage of the debt, while forgiving others. Still others figure out an extended payback schedule, and try to catch up over weeks and months.

For myself, I have declared as "unpayable" the two weekend and six weekday newspapers I missed while away on vacation. I will try an extended payback period for personal emails and blog posts. Most of my work inbox is probably unforgiveable, so I'll get on that first thing tomorrow. Being Christmas Eve, a lone monday between the weekend and Christmas Day, I will probably be one of the few people at my office. That should be just fine.


Well, Hilary and I are back from Vieques. Bummer. We were so enjoying lounging around in 80-degree, sunny weather. Now we're back in Minnesota, encountering teens and blowing snow. We are, however, extremely glad that we have this one last day off (Sunday) to regroup back at home before returning to school and work. We'll be posting more pictures from our trip as time goes on, but I'll post this one neat story from our return trip.

Most of you who read this blog know that I carry a knife with me regularly. Not just a small swiss army keychain knife with a nail file, but a 4" straight-edged lock blade made by Spyderco (the link is for the current model, mine's a few years old). I have carried one around since junior year in college, and find that its utility in my day to day life outweighs the odd remarks I sometimes get when I whip it out and flick it open it, one handed, in the space of about a second. I use it to open letters and packages, pull splinters, trim cuticles, strip wire, and as a fine probe. It has many other uses, including in emergencies.

Obviously, this isn't something that, even back in the day, would have been allowed through airport security. Therefore, it must be in my checked baggage, or I simply don't bring it on trips. I have actually had one disappear from my checked bag en route, but that's a different story entirely.

Anyway, suffice to say I had it with me on this trip - I peeled mangos with it, for instance, since the knives at La Finca left much to be desired. I won't get into all the details of our return itinerary, but in summary: us young'ens got back to San Juan airport in the middle of saturday morning, checked in with our respective airlines, and checked one bag apiece. Then we caught a cab to Old San Juan to kill a few hours before we went back to the airport to catch our mid-late afternoon flights.

The cab we returned in was in good repair, but my seatbelt was clearly having issues. When we pulled up to the drop off area, I found that I couldn't release the latch. Try as I might, it simply wouldn't let me go. The driver had no luck either. I could conceivably still extricate myself from the seatbelt by pulling some extra slack out and sliding underneath it. That is, I should have been able to pull some extra length out. However, the belt arrest mechanism, which prevents the belt from reeling out in an accident, engaged as I was playing around with the belt latch. Before I knew it, I didn't have enough slack in the belt to even continue play around with the latch. There are pictures of me in this predicament, which may or may not get posted in the future.

The cabbie was a good sport and, realizing that this was a serious problem, mentioned that he'd cut the belt if he had a knife. Well, as it so happened, I did have a knife and, after shimmying it out from my pocket under the seatbelt, whipped it open and sliced the belt. Freedom!

[As it happens, this means that my knife would be useful in case of a car accident - yet another good reason to carry it around]

By the time I got to the curb, however, I realized that the fact that I had my knife with which to free myself was a bit of a problem - we had already checked our bags hours ago! My knife had pulled me through in a real pinch, was I now going to have to relinquish it? Determined to keep it, I sought out the airport post office. You would think that, with the large number of items banned from airplanes, every airport would have a post office facility (or, at least, a self-serve kiosk) RIGHT NEXT to security, available for 24-hour, last minute shipping. However, this isn't the case. The San Juan airport has a post office but, alas, it is closed on Saturday and Sunday. What the Hell?

The airport does, however, have a Best Western Hotel and Casino. I was able to beg a hotel stationary envelope from the desk clerk and a few sheets of paper. Visits to three different souvenir shops yielded a place that sold postage stamps (at a 10% markup - is that even legal?). Next question: how much postage? It was a typical envelope, into which I was putting my several-ounce knife folded into a few sheets of paper (to keep the envelope from breaking). What's the postage for a several-ounce envelope? Is the postage from Puerto Rico the same as it is for the rest of the U.S.? I suppose I could have used my iPhone to look up the knife's weight online (from the mfg website), then the postage (from the USPS). But, I was in a hurry, so I just rounded it way up and put six stamps on it. Then, crossing my fingers, I slid it across the check-in counter at the casino/hotel and went back to find the rest of my group.

As it turns out, when I checked the USPS postage calculator this afternoon, I found that I was probably conservative by a factor of 2. That's fine - the extra postage is nothing compared to the replacement cost. We'll see if it makes it through.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Height of Geek

If only because I can, I am blogging from Sun Beach, on the south side of Vieques Island. I have here a picture, taken with my iPhone, that I am sending to Mooses of the North.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bio Bay a Bust

The highpoint of this evening was to be a trip out to the bioluminescent bay - a local attraction. Technically, it is called Mosquito Bay (with good reason), but is called Bioluminescent Bay because it is filled with a plankton that, when disturbed by, say, a passing boat, paddle, or swimmer, glows in the water. Hilary and her folks partook the last time they were here, and the effect was said to be amazing. They went out with a guide in open kayaks, and slipped over the side to swim around. The water dripping off their arms and legs would even glow a bit.

So it was with great anticipation that we drove down to Banana's bar in Esperanza this evening to meet up with our guide - Berito. With a couple of kayaks strapped to the top of is little Isuzu, he lead us on an increasingly-poor dirt road to our put-in point. It was 10-15 minutes of very dicey driving that in other places would be considered mild off-roading. In our rented Caravan, it was definitely an impressive bit of work on Holly's part to keep making headway.

The kayaks were, as I said, open - kind of like sitting on top of a hard-plastic lozenge. Tandems, too. We launched and headed out into the water.

Unfortunately, observing this faint bioluminescing phenomenon is premised on some good night vision conditions. With the moon hanging almost straight above past first quarter there was a fair bit of light about. The phenomenon is also, of course, premised on the conditions being right biologically. Alas, Olga has passed by a week or two back and churned everything all to heck. Plus, the tide was out, which affected things further. As it happens, these things were already known to us, and made our crew only five for this outing. We had tried to arrange things such that our six elders would get their tour from a pontoon boat, while us four young'ens would do the kayak thing. The pontoon boat tours are out for the next week at least, owing to the aforementioned waxing moon and spot of difficulty with Olga.

So, after paddling in a wide circle for 15 minutes or so, we (us four and my dad) had to admit that there wasn't anything really to see tonight. Bummer. We headed back to shore and pulled out. Our guide, Berito, was gracious with his apologies, and would not accept payment for a no-show show. But, for his troubles, he would accept a drink from us back at Bananas.

So, fifteen minutes of suspension flexing, oil-pan threatening, sidewall straining driving back to the paved roadway, and we were back in Esperanza. The round ordered, we sat around to learn that the world is, in fact, increasingly small. Berito's ex-girlfriend, as it turns out, is from my hometown of Rochester, NY, and so he had been there a few times. He's planning to get his first experience with snow next month by learning to snowboard in Colorado (Steph's current home).

And here, since I've got nothing else for tonight, is the previously promised picture of an iguana. Its buddy, at the time this picture was taken, was about 15 feet higher up, trying to scale the top of a telephone pole. Why? Only he knew.

Vieques Day Two

Another relaxing day on the island! We spent part of the afternoon in Esperanza, one of the two towns on Vieques. There's a nice walk by the water, and some shops with local crafts and other goodies. We ended the day at Sun Bay, where several of us went for a sunset swim. There was a bit of excitement when the van a) developed a flat tire and b) refused to start, but that was eventually all sorted out. Alex cooked us a wonderful dinner of enchiladas, and Todd wowed us with a test batch of chocolate mousse for dessert. Some photos below...and look out for the iguana as soon as we can persuade it to load.

four swimmers

footprint at Sun Beach

laptops and relaxing

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Coffee and La Campesina

The wireless network at La Finca Caribe and Blogger weren't wokring well together last night, so no pictures just yet. Soon enough Hilary will blog more fully.

After drying out for the 2-3days while in transit, and suffering the requisite caffeine withdrawal headaches, the first cup of coffee today hit me like coffee has not done for many years.

We shopped at three different places yesterday for provisions: a roadside produce stand, a supermercado, and the local health food store. The first was outstanding - it is great to reap the tropical bounty around us in pineapple, mango, avocado, and bananas. The supermercado was a little lacking in certain areas. For instance, Todd and Steph wanted to bake cookies for the group, but we were unable to find crystalized ginger (a long shot even stateside), nor molasses (wasn't there a time when they did nothing BUT?), nor chocolate chips. Interestiingly, there were plenty of packaged chocolate chip cookies from the Keebler elves. The health food store, bless 'em, was a small place that must be holding on by a thin margin.

As Hilary will tell later, we had an excellent dinner at La Campesina, a fairly new place that surely will be a great success - if they can get their telephone hooked up.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day One in Vieques

We had a wonderfully relaxing first day on Vieques yesterday. Everyone slept in just as late as they pleased, then tracked down some breakfast in the kitchen before finding spots on the porch. Most of the rest of the day was taken up with reading, sleeping, and needlework.

In the late afternoon, a group of us decided to head to one of the beaches for a sunset walk. After half an hour of driving on extremely bumpy and puddle-filled dirt roads, we ended up on a deserted Playa Verde (Green Beach) just as the sun was going down.

We ended the night with a spectacular dinner at La Campesina. The restaurant is under new ownership, and everything from the drinks to the food (homemade hummus) to the desserts (chocolate brownie waffle!) was just spectacular. The setting is lovely as well. The group that got here a day before us had already eaten there once, and enjoyed it so much that they wanted to go back, so we can highly recommend the place. They put together a very tasty off-menu vegetarian dish for me, as well. They may see see us again on Thursday, as the Key Lime Creme Brulee was sold out by the time we ordered dessert, and Todd (and the rest of us) would really like to try some!

Live from Puerto Rico

All this week, we'll be posting from a funky little shack in Vieques, Puerto Rico. We've got a pre-Christmas family gathering going on here: my folks, Hilary's folks and grandfather, and some school friends. Vieques is an island a ways off the main island - part of it used to be a firing range for the US Navy until a few years back. Since then it has slowly been developing, but is still fairly rustic. Hilary and her folks have been once before - the notable change from last time is the addition of wireless internet access at La Finca (the shack we're staying at). Although it's a bit slow, it is amble to allow a few postings of the goings on.

Saturday we dropped Jasper off at the dogsitter's in 10 degree weather. We drove up to Minneapolis, flew to Orlando, and then on to San Juan. We arrived a little before midnight, local time, and made it to our room at the Hotel Milano around 1 am. It made for a long day, to say the least. But what a change from that morning - it was 80 humid degrees in San Juan as we made our way to a late sleep.

The hotel is situated in the southern end of Old San Juan, and we planned to spend part of sunday touring around. We met up with my folks, who had stayed in the next room over on Saturday night, and toured the two remaining forts that made up the bookends of San Juan's fortifications: San Christobal in the east, El Morro on the western tip, overlooking the inlet to San Juan bay. The Spanish built up these fortifications starting some 500 years ago. They were attacked at various times by just about everyone, including the US during the Spanish-American war in 1898. The US army even used them during WWII to keep an eye out for German U-boats.

We headed back to San Juan airport in the mid-afternoon. We were to meet up with two schoolmates of ours: Todd, coming in from his parents' place in new Jersey, and Steph, coming from Detroit. Both ran into problems due to weather at their departure points - Steph was sitting on the tarmac in a snowstorm for nearly an hour and a half. As it happened, she hadn't yet landed when we had to leave SJU, numbering only five instead of six, in our hired van to Fajardo to catch the last ferry to Vieques at 6 pm. We tried valiantly to make a reservation for her on a puddle-jumper to Vieques leaving at 5:30 on Vieques Air-Link. Unfortunately, I don't think that they have nearly enough staff - my half-dozen calls to their desk went unanswered, even after 15-20 rings. Thankfully, Steph was able to make her own arrangements when she landed, and even beat us to Vieques by nearly an hour.

Those of us that took the ferry had a bit of an adventure in transit. The wind was up and just off the port bow. The seas were choppy, making for an undulating ride for those of us on the upper deck. As the bow came down, it would shoot up spray that would immediately be carried downwind. At first, nearer to shore, the spray passed us by. When we got out to open water and the wind picked up, we got hit by wave after wave of spray that soaked us nearly to the bone, and got into our luggage here and there. It was a group of drowned rats that Mark picked up at the Dock that evening. But, a change of clothes at La Finca and a long meal of pasta and catching up soon remedied that.

We'll continue posting as the week goes on. Expect pictures soon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Technetium-99 Shortage

My work involves being knowledgeable about both medicine and technology. Sometimes it allows me to totally get my geek on. Just yesterday I delved into the realm of nuclear chemistry to find out information about a worldwide shortage of technetium-99. You may heard about it in the news - it has been having an impact on the practice of nuclear medicine for the last couple of weeks.

A little history first (hey, I found this stuff out, so now you get to hear about it, too). Technetium, element 43, is the lightest element that has no stable isotope. That is, any form of technetium either already has or soon will decay into some other element. That is why is was not conclusively discovered until 1937. However, using the power of his invention, the periodic table, Dmitri Mendeleev was able to predict both its existence and some of its material properties decades in advance. Due to its location on the table, he figured it would be similar to manganese, and so called it ekamanganese. The reason it is called technetium today is because of its greek root, which means "artificial." Technetium was the first synthesized element - it was isolated from a molybdenum target used in early cyclotron experiments.

Nowadays, technetium is a workhorse in nuclear medicine. It is injected into patients in various forms and compounds, and emits radiation from the inside out that is used for bone density scans, determining the extent of a heart attack, and other diagnostics. The particular isotope, Tc-99m ('m' for metastable), undergoes a reshuffling of the protons and neutrons in its nucleus, settling into Tc-99, and spitting off a 140 keV gamma ray, which is soft enough to be picked up by X-ray equipment. The slightly more stable isotope, Tc-99, is a run-of-the-mill beta-emitter and gets excreted from the body pretty soon thereafter, limiting the total overall dosage. Tc-99 gets used in radiation calibration standards.

The decay from Tc-99m to Tc-99 has a half life of about 6 hours. That means that it doesn't stick around too long once it is made. Not long enough, even, for it to get transported. Its precursor, Molybdenum-99, however, has a half-life of nearly 3 days, which is ample time to transport it, extract the desired Tc-99m, and inject that into patients before it decays to diagnostically worthless Tc-99. Hospitals typically receive once weekly shipment of Mo-99 in what's called a technetium cow.

Working our way back up the supply chain, it is worth asking where all the Mo-99 comes from. As it turns out, nearly all the Mo-99 used in North America, and a fair portion of that used worldwide, comes from a single source: a heavy water nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario. There are a handful of other sources worldwide, but Chalk River is the heavy lifter, and not only for Mo-99, but also other isotopes used for diagnostics and treatment.

As it happens, the reactor was shut down on Nov 18th for five days of scheduled maintenance. Once they got started, however, they realized there was other maintenance that they really ought to do then, too. So, rather than five days of downtime (roughly two half-lives of Mo-99), the hiccup stretched into weeks. The projected restart for the reactor had gone out as far as mid-January. That works out to about 23 half-lives of Mo-99, meaning that 1 gram of Chalk River Mo-99 that was out there in mid-November would have decayed to about 0.1 micrograms of Mo-99, a few nanograms of Tc-99m, and 0.999 999 grams of Tc-99.

To put it another way, the extended downtime of the reactor meant that the supply of Tc-99m was inexorably drying up (or, more specifically, decaying). Effects varied here and there, but by and large it meant that some tests were delayed, patients were put in a priority queue, and diagnostics were done with lower dosages (and hence, yielded poorer results). By some accounts, it was a mounting crisis.

Enter the Canadian Parliament and the Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Yesterday, as I was doing this research, the Parliament passed legislation ordering the reactor to start up again. The startup was ahead of schedule and against the advice of Canada's nuclear regulators. Still, a crisis is a crisis.

With the reactor ramping up again, the production of medical isotopes and reach full capacity within a week.

I wish I could come up with a nifty epilogue to this story, but that's about all I've got. I suppose this even could strengthen calls for additional redundancy in the supply chain - create the ability at other nuclear reactors for medical isotope production. If nothing else, with was a fun bit of research in an otherwise ordinary day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Electronic Failure!

I had the afternoon off today, which was delightful. It gave me a chance to finish up most of my studying for the end-of-rotation exam on Friday. I also took Jasper out for a long walk while the day was at its warmest. Within the first five minutes of leaving the house, I pulled out my ringing cellphone, lost it through my mittened hands, and watched it splat open on the sidewalk. After I stuck all the pieces back together, it still refused to work. So then I turned on my iPod...which promptly died, probably because the very old battery was unhappy in the 20 degree weather. Jasper then enjoyed my technology-free full attention for the remainder of the hour or so that we were out! He had a wonderful time romping in the snow, and he's getting very good at running full speed for me when I call "come!" Though he doesn't always stop once he gets to me. Once today, he grabbed his treat and took off again, which I suppose fulfilled the letter if not the spirit of the command.

Pediatrics is wonderful. I really enjoy the patients and my coworkers, and have become very excited about the pediatrics part of family practice. I'm also pleased to report that I have now finished my last on-call night of third year! The only rotations I have left in the spring are family practice (2 weeks), psych (4 weeks) and surgery (6 weeks in Arizona). I'll also have 9 weeks of research time to work on the anxiety/defibrillator project.

Right now I'm really looking forward to finishing up the peds rotation, getting the exam over with, and heading off to meet up with our families and some friends in Puerto Rico! Jasper is going to go to puppy camp—he'll be staying at the dogsitter's house and playing with her dog until we come back to Minnesota just before Christmas.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Rough Week

How wonderful is the weekend! Hilary has this rare day off in the midst of her peds rotation, and I certainly can use the break myself. We certainly need the recuperation - it's been a rough week (hence the relative lack of blogging).

It started, not surprisingly, in pediatrics. Hilary (and, we later learned, one of the residents) came down on Sunday morning with an awful GI virus. You probably will recognize the symptoms - exhaustion, fever with chills, joint aches, a generally unsettled GI tract and, of course, gut wrenching, tie-you-in-knots vomiting. It laid Hilary flat out for all of Sunday and Monday, which she wisely called in sick for. All contemplation of food was banished - even saltines seemed out of the question. She was feeling well enough on Tuesday to return to work, but took every opportunity to sit down, and had another bout of vomiting once she returned home.

Things were looking up as she returned Wednesday for an overnight, just in time for me to come down with the same ailment. I guess that was inevitable. I struggled through a long meeting that morning, trying to hide occasional shivers, and then somehow survived until an early afternoon meeting before throwing in the towel. During the hours in between, I tried to remain focused enough to be productive - compose a few emails, write debrief notes from the morning's meeting, prepare for the afternoon's - but it just wasn't happening. My joints ached enough such that sitting was uncomfortable. As I passed the secretary's office on my way out to announce my departure, she commented on how pale I looked. That was my cure to walk back to the bathroom for the second time that day to, well, you can guess. I finally came home and crashed for a few hours in bed, only to wake up and crash for a few more hours on the couch. I fared a bit better than Hilary, however, and was feeling well enough to return to work the following afternoon.

Although Hilary and I have been functional since our respective recoveries, we would hardly consider ourselves fully healed: we're still tired a lot, food's appeal comes and goes, and we're still trying to catch up on fluids.

So, it is very well indeed that we have this day to try and get our acts back together. It's a good day for sticking around the house, too: temperatures started off below zero, with approximately zero chance of sunshine.

Back to the gatorade.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Jasper Hates the Snow
Jasper Loves the Snow

Over the weekend, we had ourselves a nasty bit of weather. It started off well enough - some light snow on Saturday, which made for a lovely backdrop for the trip to the farmer's market. However, by the end of the day it had turned to sleet and freezing rain, which not only made the roads treacherous, but soaked into the snow and froze over into a solid shell. Walking Jasper out among this mess on Saturday night was hardly fun for either of us. Being the distrustful sort, he didn't know what to make of this glazed, slick surface that he would often punch through. What is more, the big woof (me) made an awful commotion with each step, because I definitely did punch through with each step. Therefore, Jasper hated it. Oh sure, he made a valiant attempt at his usual romping, but it didn't last. The following morning when I let him out, he didn't get any further than the patio - so fearful of a glazed backyard he was.

Over the next two days, Jasper had even more reason to dislike the ground conditions as the crust got broken up by boots, snowblowers, and plows. I worried for his paws - walking over these broken chunks of ice couldn't have been good for him. In the meantime, the banks of the creek where we usually walk had consolidated to a very slick slope, so much so that Jasper couldn't venture down to the water's edge, as is his wont, for fear of not being able to get back up.

Today, however, we received 5-6 inches of fluffy powder. With this lovely cushion, Jasper was back to his romping, playful self. Now he loves the snow. It's so much fun for him to run through, slide to a stop, spin around, and run some more. The fact that there's snow on the ground doesn't stop him from sniffing everything around him - it just gets his muzzle dusted. Now the only worry I have is the snow that galls up between his pads. He doesn't seem to mind it too much, though.