Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some Small Satisfaction

I, like most of my peers, have loans left over from my college education. Well, earlier this week I achieved some small satisfaction by closing out the smallest of these. It wasn't a whole lot - a Perkins loan for a few thousand serviced by ye olde alma mater. I think it was a supplemental loan to cover the extra costs when I spent a term in Berlin. I'd been plunking down about $50 a month since I left college - more, occassionally - and just last month the balance reached zero. On monday I received from the bursar's office the original promissory note, which means we're through. Wahoo!

I did say, however, that it was a small satisfaction. My parents and I still have many thousands more we'll be paying on for some time to come.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Upgrade Cycle, part II

As they have done every tuesday this year so far, Apple announced some product upgrades today. Some of the upgrades have been below-the-radar stuff, like the next version of Aperture, or the price cut and size increase in the iPod shuffle.

Today, however, they released something I was waiting for - upgrades to the MacBook Pro lineup. With the upgrade comes the introduction of the latest Intel mobile processors (45-nm, power sipping processors formerly code-named Penryn), power-saving LED-backlit displays, a bump in default memory (2 GB) and hard-drive space (200 GB, to start), and the addition of multi-touch trackpads that debuted with the Air.

Ok, so many of you probably don't care. But, since I've had my eye on this upgrade for a while, it was welcome news to me.

Now I just need to figure where to get the funds.

Other interesting tidbit - a new version of the iPhone firmware which, on the face of it, doesn't actually do anything besides bug fixes. On the other hand, many have noticed that it is a rather large bit of software for just bug fixes, and many are speculating that it introduces support for 3rd party applications via the as-yet-unreleased SDK.

Psych Rotation

I am at the midpoint of my second-to-last clinical rotation of the year: 4 weeks of psychiatry. The first two weeks, I was assigned to the "medical psychiatric unit," which generally serves older patients who tend to have a lot of medical issues in addition to psychiatric ones. I chose this particular team because I know that I will have a significant elderly population in my family practice, and wanted to become better acquainted with the "three Ds": delirium, dementia, and depression. These three conditions are quite common in the older population and can all mimic each other, so I thought it would be important to get some experience at telling them apart. It was an interesting couple of weeks, but as the patients tend to stay in the hospital for awhile, there were not too many new admissions for me to interview and get to know. I did become much more familiar with a lot of the psychiatric drugs used on the unit, particularly some additional classes of antidepressants and then a bunch of the antipsychotic drugs and mood stabilizers.

I've just started my second two weeks, which will be on the consult/liason service. This is the psychiatric team that serves any patient who is in the hospital for a medical issue but needs to see psychiatry. Some of the common reasons we are called in to see a patient are depression and anxiety, particularly in the context of new or worsening medical illness, investigations of capacity to make medical decisions, and helping the primary team differentiate drug or illness-induced delirium from other neurologic or psychiatric conditions. I LOVE working on this service, because I get to go off and see patients on my own, take as much time as I like interviewing them, write up my findings, and finally present the patient to a resident and then the attending physician so that we can make final recommendations. It's a lot more independence and responsibility than on virtually any other rotation this year, which is very enjoyable! The residents trust the work that I am doing, but are also there as backup in case I have any questions, which is a perfect balance.

After this rotation is over, the entire 3rd year class will come back together for 3 weeks. We have some public health courses, some "back to basic science" lectures, a few experiences in the simulation center, and our Advanced Cardiac Life Support course where we learn how to participate in and run cardiac arrests in the hospital. Following that block, I have six more weeks of research time, then it's off to Arizona for surgery to finish off the year. It's hard to believe that the end of third year is in sight!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weekend in the Just-Barely-Frozen North

The promised break in the weather has arrived, it's been balmy 20s and low 30s for the last couple of days!

Saturday morning we rambled up to the local coffee shop, giving Jasper a nice long walk but keeping him on the leash so that he wouldn't leap into the river after the geese. We spent most of the afternoon sunning on the porch, then went for a ski on the golf course before it got dark. Our forced bulbs did some sunning too:

The artistic highlight of our weekend was a local symphony performance. It was all Russian all the time: Tchaikovsky's "Slavonic March," Borodin's "In the Steppes of Central Asia," Prokofiev's "Symphonic Suite from The Love for Three Oranges" (shockingly, even though you have probably never heard of this Prokofiev piece, you almost certainly HAVE heard the Marche from it, check it out on iTunes if you don't believe me), and Shostakovich's 5th Symphony. I am not a Shostakovich fan, but despite my pleading, Alex said that we couldn't just leave at intermission and skip the symphony. It turned out to not be too bad, but I am much more excited about the next concert, which is all Mozart.

Today, in addition to spending lots more time reading on the porch and doing the normal weekend household chores, we headed down to the Root River Trail in Lanesboro for a longer cross-country ski. Here's a photo of Alex...since he's usually the one taking the pictures, I wanted to make sure to get one of him today:

Jasper is slowly getting more used to the skis and poles, and he just loves any opportunity to get out in the snow! He does quite well with the extendable leash, only running circles around me once or twice an outing, and today gave me quite a tow as he went chasing after a family of wild turkeys who crossed our path. He is turning out to be quite a sensible outdoor dog: here he is taking a rest at our turnaround point today (yes, there are eyes under all that fuzz, we promise).

He seems to be resigned to the booties, which definitely make him more comfortable on these longer treks. This evening, he's been pretty zonked out, though he did just wake up long enough to give Alex the pleading eyes and get a piece of apple pie.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Power of Passive Solar current outside temperature: -9 (windchill -25)

What are Jasper and I doing as I write? Lounging on our south-facing, unheated porch, sharing a bag of chips. I—the queen of being cold in just about any situation—am very comfortable in jeans and a fleece. It's probably 70 degrees out here, thanks to a brilliant sun all day.

MPR says that last night might have been the last really cold night. I'm not sure if I believe them, as they said that last weekend, and it wasn't true! It would be great just to have a few weeks in the teens and twenties (above zero, if you please), so we could go play outside in the snow a bit more.

But the days are most definitely growing longer, so I suppose it will be spring eventually!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dead Boots

Behold! These were my boots for many years. Purchased in the spring of 2000, these babies went with me most everywhere - a summer at Philmont, a winter and summer in Germany, Spain (twice), Greenland. Across the Dartmouth campus a few thousand times. Up, down, and across the Whites and Adirondacks. With these boots I hikes the 52 miles on the Appalachian Trail from Dartmouth to Mousilauke in 26 hours. These boots also took me long all 30-some miles up, down, and across Mousilauke itself - in a single day. Hilary and I had our first not-quite-date hiking up Mousilauke with these boots. With these boots I helped portage a canoe to the summit of Mt. Washington. These boots protected me from snow, rain, and cold for the first year or two here in Minnesota.

But, for the last few years, their deficiencies as footwear have become increasingly apparent. The main problem is that I've worn the vibram soles clear through to the undersole, and in on place on the ball of the foot, through the undersole to the inside of the boot. Were I to take these boots out into the snow now, I'd get bit galls of snow backed up between the layers of the sole. The complete lack of tread is a real downer, especially since the uneven wear got to the point of affecting posture. The laces have broken and been retied in about 5 places. I've considered sending them back to EMS, to let them do a post-mortem.

In the summer of 2006, before a trip to Alaska, I decided that I really needed some better footwear. There would be mud to traverse, trails to hike, mountains to climb. I would have loved to replace these EMS Summit GTX with the same boot. Alas, in the years since I bought them, EMS went and changed the design, softened them with suede, removed or wimpified the shank, and basically made them nice-looking boots for wannabes. I looked around for a close analog - the Vasque Sundowner - but couldn't find it at any shop around town. I ended up with a rather different boot from Vasque. Not bad, but not quite what I wanted. The fit works, but isn't quite right.

So, perhaps these new ones won't be with me long enough to get worn down to nothing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pregnant "Fashion"

The other night, I got to the gym for spinning class, tossed my outer layer in a locker, glanced in a mirror, and did a double take. What was that thing under my shirt? Suddenly, I am convex where I used to be rather flat. It's very strange.

I suppose this should not come as a surprise. A couple of weeks ago, I realized that my regular sized pants were quite uncomfortable around the waist. I do have two suits the next size up, which are still nice and comfy, so I've been wearing those a lot and just changing tops. If the weather ever gets out of the single digits, I will break up the monotony with some skirts!

There turns out to be an actual solution for this growing-out-of-your-clothes problem, and it is called the Bella Band. I won two of them on EBay last week, and they just arrived Friday. They will smooth over the unbuttoned waistband on my too-snug pants, allowing me another few weeks in my regular dress attire. (After my psych rotation is over in three weeks, I will not need suits regularly again until I return from my surgery rotation in mid-June. At that point, I will be pregnant enough to get away with basically any attempt at business wear.)

We also went to Target last weekend to check out their maternity clothes. I'm not big enough yet to fill out those stretchy-waisted pants (though the BellaBand can assist with snugging those up, as well), but I did buy a pair of black pants that fit the rest of me nicely, and a tunic that I liked and thought might not be there if I went back for it in a couple of months. Too lazy to model those tonight...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jasper the Fluffy

We have let Jasper grow out his voluminous coat for several months now - it provides him invincible protection against the cold. But, the longer it gets, the more maintenance it requires. Plus, he is starting to leave little bits of fuzz around the house - the carpet in our bedroom, the edge of the couch, etc. So, ever now and then, we drag him out to the porch and comb him down with an implement that can best be described as a hand-sized rake. Not only does it pull a fair bit of loose hair off him, it smoothes out his matted bits, and causes him to approximately double in size.

As far as we can tell, it doesn't actually hurt him at all to have his fur tugged at until the tangles yield.

Oh yes, see how he suffers.

En Garde!

We went about some of our usual Saturday errands this morning. Hilary, mercifully, was relieved of going in to round on psych patients, so she got to come to the Farmer's Market for the first time in a long while. The selection this time of year is about what you'd expect for Minnesota in February. Still, we have a reliable supply of onion, potatoes, and apples. The cheese people had the cheddar that Hilary really likes, but we were stymied in getting some fresh mozzarella - it was too cold in the cheese house, apparently, to pull the mozz. The cheese house needs to get up to 75 to make the job of drawing up mozzarella balls palatable, and they couldn't make it happen this past week or two. Bummer. We did manage to get some unidentified greenhouse-grown greens, and a few tomatoes that will ripen up in a paper bag in, oh, about a week.

We still pine for outstanding European-style bread available through someone local. The Great Harvest has wonderful American bread - dense, wheaty stuff good for sandwiches and peanut butter. But for a typical crusty baguette (let alone Ciabatta) that you can put olive oil or hummus on, our best source around here is still Panera - the franchise. Bummer. But, at least we can have some fun with our food.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Ever since we moved here, we have faithfully subscribed to the local paper. Its political stance is sometimes questionable, and we never, ever read the Bill O'Reilly syndication, but it's a good way to know what's going on in town.

It also, of course, has a comics page. We both have our favorites...Alex is partial to Doonesbury, and I've been particularly enjoying this week's pro-breastfeeding storyline in Stone Soup.

But, if you ever see me rolling on the floor laughing because of one of the strips, put your money on it being Pearls Before Swine. I think Pearls is probably a bit of an acquired taste, but try it for a week or two and see what you think. I'd be a little afraid to meet the artist, who in person might be hilarious but also might be a total jerk, but he sure does draw a wonderful comic.

If you are a graduate student or have ever been one, check out Alex's cult favorite, Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD). If you get really into it, let us know, as we have the two books of published strips.

This last one isn't really a comic strip, but is darn funny. Ill Will Press has short flash animations of a neurotic squirrel mocking various aspects of modern culture. The best ones are Small, Medium, Large (lower right of the vault) and Tech Support (the first one...there are now four). Caution! The language is very foul, so you might not want to blast these out loud at work.

The Triple ByPassers

On Monday, the medical school women's basketball team (the Triple ByPassers) scored another big win, finishing the regular season ranked #2 in our league. I didn't play this week, deciding that my changing shape and posture might not be very conducive to a good defensive stance or a quick run down the floor.

This let me cheer from the sidelines and admire the very talented play of my teammates. It also made me turn to Alex and say, "If we have a daughter, I hope she plays sports like these girls"...that is to say, hard-charging, all-out, but still having fun.

Then I read articles like this: Female Ref Refused. And then I feel really bad for girls who are living in what, to me, sounds like the Middle Ages. Also for the boys who attend that school, who are probably in for a rude shock in the real world!

Even though I'm done with basketball and the weather is not so good for running (still snowing, still well below freezing), I'm still trying to get plenty of exercise. In addition to Jasper's nightly walk, Alex and I have been trying to get to the gym three or four times a week. We're big fans of the spinning classes, which are a great workout (though the disco ball takes things a bit over the top). I've also been doing a lot of yoga, since my back is protesting the change in curvature as my abdomen starts to expand.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No, they can't

There is hardly a serious video on YouTube that is not, in short order, spoofed to some degree or other. Face it, there are just too many people in this world with lots of time on their hands for anything to be sacred and revered for long.

In that spirit, a number of videos have been crafted in the style of Will.I.Am's inspiring ode to Barack Obama. First, let us examine the John McCain take on it:

Obviously, this video is not sanctioned by the McCain campaign.

Next, consider this music video in favor of Hillary:

This video, while probably not the direct output of the Clinton campaign, is at least purportedly done by her supporters [UPDATE: here's the source - a Silicon Valley exec and Clinton supporter]. In that case, you have to wonder: are they out of their freakin' minds?!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Family Medicine, Here I Come!

Last Friday, I finished my two-week family med rotation. Now, the fact that the only required family medicine in our curriculum is two weeks in the second year and two weeks in the third is a bit ridiculous, but this couple of weeks came at the perfect time to confirm my career choice.

And confirm my career choice I did. I absolutely loved the rotation! I spent both weeks at a rural clinic about 15 miles outside of the city, working mainly with the family med residents but also with the consultants who do a lot of the resident teaching. I saw lots of patients, ranging from little babies to the elderly. At this time of year, it's a lot of upper respiratory tract infections. One afternoon, our schedule looked something like this: 1. cough 2. cough 3. cough 4. cough 5. knee 6. cough 7. knee. So I spent a lot of time every day listening to lungs, reassuring people that they did not have pneumonia, and sending them home for symptomatic treatment of their viruses (Rest. Fluids. Chicken soup.) There were some kiddos with possible ear infections thrown in there, and I got better at my pediatric ear exam. But we also saw some more complex things—plenty of chronic medical issues, a rash that was probably due to vasculitis, a superficial thrombophlebitis...

All in all, I realized that yes, indeed, I do love the enormous range of ages and conditions that family med covers. I loved watching physicians work with patients whose entire families they treated. One day, in fact, I had mom, dad, and two-year-old all in for a combined visit with a variety of symptoms. Chaos! But also lots of fun. I love that I'll be able to do some quick and satisfying procedures—joint injections, casting, skin cancer blasting/biopsying—but also spend time getting to know patients over many years. I cannot imagine a more wonderful way to spend my working day. So, a family doctor I shall be!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chomp, Spark, Solder

Jasper has some odd habits. He is not a pathological eater - he mainly keeps his nose out of trouble. He hasn't wrecked any of our shoes or belts, he doesn't gnaw on the furniture.

But, he has managed to chomp his way through two computer power cords. One a few months ago, which (alternately) powered our two mac laptops, which we replaced with two after-market models. One of those replacements bit the dust (or, rather, was bitten into dust) about a week ago. We feared that Jasper might end up with an obstructed bowel, because we couldn't find the connector for half a day. There appears to be no provocation on the part of the defenseless cords - Jasper must have been biding his time for the right moment.

For better or worse, he has suffered no ill effects from his bold appetite for PVC and tinned copper strand, because both times he did this the power cords were not live. No voltage, no shock, he could chomp it into little bits with impunity.

Just yesterday, however, while Hilary and I were lying on the couch, we heard the undeniable sound of sparks, and discovered that Jasper had taken a chomp from our remaining power cord, which was definitely live at the time. Just one chomp, which means he either got a shock and learned his lesson, or else we caught it in time. What a dweeble!

In any event, a single bite is something I can actually fix. The previous two power cords were lost causes because the connector was mangled in the process. So, off to the electronics lab on a Sunday morning for a little surgery.

The construction is simple enough: a two-conductor stranded coax cable. So, I cut above and below the damage, strip back the insulation on either side, solder the inner conductor, wrap that with electrical tape, solder the outer conductor (in three places), then slide a layer or two of shrink tubing to replace the insulation.

It's ugly, but the fact that my computer has power to relate this all to you indicates that it works.

It is refreshing to know that, even though I do very little in the way of electronics these days, I still can wield a soldering iron from time to time.

Skiing on a longer leash

We got ourselves an extensible leash for Jasper. It turns out to be just the thing for taking him skiing. It allows him to keep a comfortable distance from the crazy sticks, but lets us pull him back if people are around.

We got a couple of fresh inches Saturday morning ahead of yet another arctic blast, and so we gathered up the skis and hitched Jasper up for another fine time out of doors.

Don't worry, the crumpet is fine! Jasper doesn't pull hard enough to topple H over. He did give her a little boost uphill a few times, though.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Introducing...The Crumpet!

Round about August, we will be expanding to FOUR mooses of the north. No longer just a gal, her pal, and a fuzzy black dog, we will need an entirely new blog tagline (in addition to a crib, some baby clothes, and the complete works of Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton).

And here is the new star of our show:

No, we can't tell which end is which, either. (We can pretend that's a head on top and a torso on the bottom.)The still photo can't show the coolest thing about having this ultrasound, which was seeing the heart beating. Improved pictures will be had in early March, when we have our big fancy "anatomy ultrasound."

Until then, we have secured an exclusive interview with the crumpet, who has agreed to answer some questions in return for more chocolate and naps:

DP (doting public): Do you still look like a blob?

LC (little crumpet): NO. That photograph is entirely out of date...that was Christmas Eve, and I was only 8 weeks old. Haven't you got something more recent on file? I am now much bigger...about four inches. I have fingers and toes and a face. I move around, though Mom can't feel me yet. Seriously, there are a lot of changes going on in here between 8 and 15 weeks. This week I'm going to be working on eyebrows and making a fist.

DP: Are you a boy or a girl?

LC: I plead the fifth (Grandma F- taught me about that). Mom and Dad are still talking about whether they are going to find out. I am playing my cards close to the vest, Mom has no intuition whatsoever on this subject. (If she claims it retrospectively, don't believe her.)

DP: So, "crumpet"? Where did that come from?

LC: Apparently I was the "proto-crumpet" well before I even existed. "Bun in the oven" does seem a bit objectionable, I suppose. "Croissant" was out, as the French are rather out themselves these days (Freedom Pastry?). "Broetchen" was suggested by Dad, but Mom could not pronounce it. "Scone" was in the running, but "crumpet" was cuter. So, crumpet I am, at least for the moment. I hear rumblings of name discussions occasionally, but nothing is remotely settled. There was a beautiful moment when they had decided on "Ethan" for a boy, only to realize the next day that their old New England name is now #4 for American boys, so that's been scratched. (Then they contemplated alternative spellings like Ythan and Ethyn and, just kidding, they did no such thing.)

DP: How are you staying warm out there in Minnesota?

LC: Mom is doing a good job of keeping me warm, even though sometimes it is at the expense of her fingers. She's been wearing a lot of layers. She spends a lot of time curled up on the couch, sleeping.

DP: What does Jasper think about you?

LC: The more time Mom spends sleeping on the couch next to him, the happier he is. So he's pretty happy these days.

DP: We saw those pictures of your mom on Vieques and in Italy. She was holding some suspicious-looking drinks. What was in those?

LC: Mom and Dad have been safeguarding against underage drinking. It's been nothing but tropical fruit juice for me. (And soymilk. And tea. And lots of acqua naturale.) Mom keeps talking about something called an "apple martini" that she wants after she comes home from the hospital, but I don't know anything about that.

LC: I think that's enough for now, I must return to gestating!


An engineering acquaintance of mine, living in SE Minnesota, set about designing and building his home a few years ago. As the project developed, it became known as Licht-N-Stein (he's from Germany, and the name translates to "light and stone", but is also a play on the tiny principality in Europe). He created a home that was off-the-grid, off-the-well, and off-the-furnace. In short, he set about completely freeing himself from fossil fuel usage at home.

What he created is, from my perspective, and engineer's dream project. Off-the-grid is a fairly common term these days, and indicates that he gets his electricity from renewable sources; primarily a 1-kW wind turbine, though that will be supplemented with photovoltaics. The windmill and PV dump power into a lead-acid battery bank, which powers a 110 V inverter to power the rest of the house. Off-the-well is an uncommon thing these days, but was once quite common in this area and others - he doesn't have a well for his water service, but rather collects rainwater into a several-thousand gallon cistern in his basement. His roof is sheathed for easy collection, and 1-inch of rain about half fills his tanks. The water gets treated before use, but it doesn't take much. Off-the-furnace means that, rather than heat his home with natural gas, as many in this area do, he heats it with a combination of passive solar and gorgeous wood-burning fireplace (a so-called Russian Stove). His hot water comes from a combination of solar-thermal and the fireplace. The wood is deadfall from the several acres the house sits on. The floor of the main level is a 6" concrete slab that provides a substantial thermal mass that prevents the wild temperature swings common in 1970s passive solar homes. He has a large hot water tank in the basement, with heat-exchanging coils that allow bring heat in from the solar-thermal on the roof and from the fireplace, and takes heat out for the hot water service and radiant in-floor heating. At the moment, because he doesn't have the photovoltaics installed, he supplements the wind turbine with a propane generator. He can also boost the hot water with an on-demand water heater. When all is said and done, however, the only fossil fuel usage he anticipates using in the house is a trickle of propane for cooking.

Now, to be clear, he is not a granola hippy content with showering once a week and living in the dark. His home has all the accommodations that you would expect a new home to have: comfortable living space (about 2000 sq ft), lots of light, a really sweet kitchen, an impressive home theater, wired and wireless networking, a dishwasher, laundry, two-car garage, etc. He likes his comforts, as do we all, but he went about it in a way that drastically reduces his carbon footprint.

He had a number of motivations to do it this way. There was an economic motivation: an electric grid connection to his lot would have been $10,000+, and required an easement from a cantankerous neighbor; his off-grid electrical system cost him about that much. Living atop a bluff, he would have needed to drill a well several hundred feet down to be able to access very hard water laden with nitrates from the local agriculture. His rainwater collecting gives him ample water, already soft and 99% clean, and cost less to install than sinking the well would have done. He does want to live a green lifestyle, and wanted to show that it doesn't involve as much sacrifice as people think. He is showing that it is possible to live a comfortable Western lifestyle using a fraction of the electricity, water, and heating that a typical new home does. He wanted a closer connection to his environment: he is far more aware of the weather and changing of the seasons. He also used local materials and green products as much as he could, and got to know a lot of really interesting regional businesses as a result. Everything from certified lumber to Minnesota limestone to recycled-plastic deck lumber to milk/chalk paints to pressed-sunflower-husk cabinet panels. He put in a lot of sweat-equity into the home, partly because he wanted a close connection to his home, partly because it was cheaper to do so, partly because there wasn't local expertise in these systems do it for him, and partly because he's an engineer and likes to tinker. Being able to build a home like this requires a fair bit of detailed planning, but provided him ample time to design the overall flow and feel of the house - to be acquainted with it before he even broke ground (the not-so-big-house philosophy).

He has been pretty successful in his endeavors, too. He's lived in the house for over a year now. His lights stay on, he has a hot shower every day, and the house remains a balmy 65-75 F even at the winter solstice. The house cost a bit more per square foot than typical new construction, but that has less to do with the "off-the-" systems and more to the amenities he added (for instance, the fireplace has a few tons of limestone in it, and probably cost $20k in itself, but could be done more plainly for a third of that).

In short, he has done precisely what Hilary and I desperately want to do in our lives. Perhaps not on a bluff in Minnesota, but rather someplace in VT or NH. Maybe a different mix of wind and solar. Maybe the addition of geothermal. Perhaps the rainwater collection won't be necessary (although would be useful for a grey-water system, and for watering the horses). Granite instead of limestone. Still, as a piece of systems engineering, it is a marvel that I hope to emulate. As a way to live, it is an inspiration to the both of us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Go Vote!

If you live in one of the many, many states where there is a presidential primary or caucus today, go vote!

(We will be making a quick dash to the MN Caucus at halftime of the UConn-Rutgers women's basketball game.)

I feel like I should put up some Hillary thing to keep the blog balanced, but I'm at work, so no time. Not 100% committed for tonight, but it looks like our family might be splitting 50-50. (Jasper has no opinion as there do not seem to be any presidential kibble policies). I don't think there's a bad choice for us DFL-ers, so that makes me feel better in my indecision!

Yes, we can

This is what you get when a bunch of celebrities get together to pull for a candidate they love. It has a warm and fuzzy "We Are the World" feel to it, which quickly turns to chills running down your back at the strength of his oration and inspiration. The speech Obama is giving was the one he delivered on primary night in New Hampshire - a primary he lost, mind you, and yet this is what he's able to produce (original, full-length speech here).

iPod Update II

Yes, of course, within a week of our purchase of a replacement iPod for Hilary, Apple comes out with just what we had been holding out for - a 16 GB iPhone model (and a 32 GB iPod touch). Well, the only consolation is that the upgrade is not quite at the same price point, it's a $100 bump apiece. And, no word on a 3G iPhone - it's just a memory bump.

Still, I wonder if we could still get a return, though...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Some YouTube Links

Some fun for Saturday. Here are some random, though amusing, YouTube videos:

Pancakes II: Pancakes for your Face
Mmmmm...pancakes. The nifty thing about this is that, rather than ordinary video, this guy stitched it together from a bunch of still images, but fast enough to look more or less like video. What's so cool about that? Well, it allows you to have Force-like powers that enable you to open the fridge and levitate milk out from it.

Balancing Point

Here's a guy that, while out in really cool-looking places, piles up precariously balanced stone cairns...and then knocks them down. Why is that cool? Well, if you play it backwards, it allows you to have even cooler Force-like powers, like summoning stones from far off. For anyone interested in ruining the illusion, here's the same video reverse-reversed, so that it plays normally.

Barcode Battler Review (attempted)

Some of the videos this guy puts up are reviews of cheap knock-off electronic games. You may have seen them being sold on street corners - the thing that looks a lot like a Playstation Portable, but only costs $10 because it isn't actually a PSP and is made in some horrible third-world hellhole. This particular monstrosity allows you to do battle with different characters, the idea being that you scan barcodes to define the strength and capabilities of your fighter. Yeah, it's actually worse than it sounds.

Medieval Help Desk

I don't know what the original source for this is - it came from Norwegian television (a commercial? comedy sketch?). Anyway, with the help of subtitles, we find a hilarious premise: what would tech support be like for when people upgraded to the new system of the book.



Alex returned from the winter farmers' market this morning with something even more exciting than the scones that I was pulling out of the oven: tomatoes!

We're not sure how the farmer managed to pull it off, but apparently this is his one winter harvest, so Alex got a good number of the tasty red treats, along with the first lettuce we've seen since October. So we had an incredible dinner: big fat slices of tomato topped with slices of local mozzarella cheese, drizzled with the olive oil we picked up at the neighboring farm in Italy. All of that on top of a nice baguette, and then some pepper and salt sprinkled on top. A little taste of summer in the midst of winter!

Our local food plans are turning out quite well. We've been using a lot of the frozen veggies that we stowed in the new chest freezer: butternut squash for pastas and a wild rice dish, red pepper for a bunch of recipes, leeks for potato-leek soup, zucchini and green beans and pesto for Steph's black bean soup, salsa verde for enchiladas, and berries on our Sunday waffles. Our un-frozen bags of garlic and shallots are holding up nicely, as are the potatoes. The onions aren't doing quite as well...some are sprouting despite being in the root cellar. We may not bring as many home in the fall next year, since plenty are available at the winter market and the farmers seem to be doing a better job of storing them than we are.

We do still buy some produce at the grocery store: the occasional spinach, celery, or fresh fruit like pears or bananas. We try hard to make sure it's at least from the US, rather than being shipped all the way from South America. In another eight to ten weeks, we should see the first local spring greens, like asparagus and maybe some early lettuce, from the farmers with heated greenhouses.

In the meantime, the miraculous tomatoes, and the balmy outside temperature of 26 degrees, give me hope that winter is not actually endless!