Sunday, March 30, 2008

Getting Stuff Done

Yay for the combination of the second trimester energy boost and a relatively light schedule at school! In addition to spending hours trying to groom the dog, we've been getting some other things done, as well.

This past weekend, we finally celebrated the crumpet's half-gestation day...only a couple of weeks going out to eat. I was very excited to get to wear one of the maternity-friendly dresses that Beth helped me pick out a couple of weeks ago. (No, no pictures. Every time I think I'm looking cute in my maternity clothes, or someone else tells me I'm looking cute, I have Alex take a picture...then I look at the picture, scream, and make him delete it. Sorry. If a good one ever shows up, I'll post it. Otherwise, you'll all have to visit and see the cute baby bump in person.)

Anyway, for this event we explored a new restaurant in town which will definitely be added to our regular list of favorites! There are not that many great restaurants here, particularly vegetarian-friendly ones, and though I had heard of Prescotts before, I had assumed that it was full of steak and veal like many of the other fancier restaurants in town. Then, a few weeks ago, the local paper ran an article about their vegetarian chef that absolutely had me drooling. And indeed, the food was wonderful! We had a great hummus as a starter, which was specifically labeled "vegan" on the menu. I'm not sure I've seen the word vegan on a menu except at a vegetarian restaurant before, so that was a treat. The waitress took the opportunity to specifically inform me that even though the salad dressing looked creamy, that it was also vegan. Then I had a butternut squash ravioli with roasted yummy! There were also two vegetarian entree options, so it was lovely to have a choice, even though the ravioli was the clear winner. We stuffed ourselves so thoroughly with the first three courses that we didn't even have room for dessert. They seem to have a nice wine list as well, so we'll have to return post-crumpet so I can enjoy that.

We've also been watching a lot of basketball. Go Huskies!

As promised, here are our crocuses:

I'm hoping they will survive the storm we've been having for the last 24 hours, a combination of rain, sleet, and heavy wet snow.

We finished our taxes (mostly Alex, I just read numbers off pieces of paper while he plugged them into the computer), and submitted my federal and school financial aid applications. We happily discovered that we can list the crumpet as a dependent on those applications, since they are for the upcoming year, and that this has dropped our "estimated family contribution" a lot.

I spent much time wrestling with the new online travel booking system that the clinic has in order to book my flights to Arizona and then ask for reimbursement...I'll believe it when I see the check show up in the mailbox!

I got my eyes checked and ordered new contacts. Miracle of miracles, the optometrist actually had IN STOCK almost all of the lenses that I needed. My vision is so bad that usually they have to be ordered in. Last time I got glasses, they told me I'd better spring for the expensive thin lenses because the old-style thick ones would have to be so thick for me that they would look ridiculous. Poor crumpet is not getting the best eyesight genes from her parents...but at least her dad will be able to teach her to engineer a really good trap for the lion trying to sneak up on her.

Yesterday, Jasper and I went off to the vet for a check-up and some vaccines. We're starting obedience classes with him (more on this to come) and he needed a few shots first. He had blood drawn to check for heartworm, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis (those last two are tick-borne diseases like Lyme). He had shots to vaccinate for distemper (whatever that is...oh, wait, just looked it up, and it is an RNA virus in the same family as measles that can be fatal to dogs) and Lyme disease. They dripped the bordetella vaccine down his nose, which he was remarkably good-natured about. The vet said he looks very healthy, and he's up 8 pounds from when we got him (61 pounds now), but doesn't look too large. We go back in a month for a second dose of the Lyme vaccine...with all the hiking we intend to do with him, and the possibility of him spending lots of time in Lyme-infested parts of New England, and the wretchedness that Panache the wonder horse had to go through when HE had Lyme, I was very excited to find out that dogs can be vaccinated for it.

There used to be a people vaccine for Lyme, too, for a few years, but the manufacturer got tired of getting sued for side effects and stopped making it. Getting-up-on-my-soapbox warning: VACCINES ARE GOOD! CHILDHOOD VACCINES ARE PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT! (Though the adult ones like pneumococcus and influenza are also great, and save thousands of lives every year.) The flu shot does not give you the flu. Vaccines do not give you autism (if there was any chance in the world of me voting for John McCain, which there really wasn't, it ended the moment that he mentioned in a speech that there were still serious concerns about this issue). Not vaccinating your children not only puts them in danger, it reduces herd immunity and puts everyone else in danger as well. It will take me awhile to figure out how to address this issue with parents in my practice. Some doctors refuse to care for families who refuse vaccines. I don't want to go that route, since I think taking time to discuss the issue with people over time might actually lead to a change in their attitudes, which is better than slamming the door on them, but I can understand the impulse.

But I digress. The other great thing we did this past weekend was attend the local symphony's "To Heaven With Mozart" concert. They performed the 3rd Violin Concerto and the Requiem, and it was wonderful. We kept joking that it was making the crumpet smarter by the second (as opposed to some other composer, of course...none of that inferior Bach or Vivaldi).

Favorite crumpet books for the week: Aunt Kate sent along a wonderful set, including two of Alex's favorites, "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble," which I had not heard of, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," which is fantastic, and one book new to the both of us called "Pancakes Pancakes."

This was a huge hit, as it is all about where food really comes from (grain, cows, chickens, and so on). The crumpet was kicking along merrily throughout. We also read two great books from Sara, "Old Turtle" and "The Shape of Me and Other Stuff." Old Turtle has really, really beautiful illustrations, and The Shape of Me is just classic Dr. Seuss.

I love children's books!

Spring Cleaning for the Dog, Part 2

This weekend was phase 2 of Jasper's de-fuzzing. We started by setting him up on the porch table again and brushing for a long time, removing many more clumps of hair. Then we broke out the clippers and touched up some areas, particularly the super-long and wooly hair over his shoulders. We may have done too good of a job on his legs, as there are definitely some almost-bare patches! They'll grow back fast, though, I'm sure.

Then it was into the bath. This past week, I finally got smart, went to Home Depot, and bought a hose/sprayer attachment for the shower. This made the whole bathing affair MUCH easier, and certainly much gentler on my back. Previously, I had been dousing him with water out of a couple of Tupperware containers, which required a lot of back-and-forthing from tap to dog. This time, I was able to do most of the scrubbing and rinsing sitting on the edge of the tub. Alex did the lifting in and back has generally been behaving very well, and I'd like to keep it that way!

Jasper dried off pretty quickly (even resisting the temptation to shake all over the bathroom) and is generally looking quite trim and athletic. There are still some wispy fuzzies on his shoulders and parts of his legs, but I think those will come off as we continue to brush him and as the weather continues to warm up. He doesn't seem cold at all, though temps have remained in the 30s and 40s. We'll see if the vet falls over laughing tomorrow at the unprofessional-looking grooming job that we've done...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring! Or Not.

Walking up the steps this evening, we were greeted with two crocuses just opening up in the front beds. Hurray! There are also many other little green shoots that bode well, and the very tips of what I think may be tulip leaves.

Forecast for tomorrow: 4-5 inches of snow.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jasper on the Go

As we suspected pre-time change, it is indeed the morning light that seems to be inspiring Jasper to be up and active earlier and earlier. This morning he was particularly determined to awaken us, alternately jogging over to Alex's side of the bed and panting in his ear, then returning to the middle of the room and thwacking his rope toy against the floor. Gee, how nice that he's learned to play with his toys like a real dog!

He's particularly insistent that it is not OK to hit the snooze button on the radio and roll back over for another 9 minutes of sleep. Perhaps he just wants his MPR fix earlier?

We're not quite sure what to do. We really like it that he spends part of the night sleeping upstairs with us, as it's all sociable and pack-like, so we don't want to just shut our door when we go to bed. I thought about getting a treat-filled toy ready at night and then tossing it onto the floor to entertain him when he tries to wake us up too early, but then I realized that would just encourage the behavior. Ideas, anyone?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fourth Year, Here We Come!

Now that I'm feeling a bit of that second trimester energy burst, and have some free-er time (with the didactic block and research time that will take me through mid-May), I'm trying to get a bunch of things squared away.

One of the big things is my fourth year schedule. The fourth year of med school comes with a bunch of requirements. We need to do 3 weeks in any field of medicine (this basically means not-surgery and not-pediatrics). I have chosen endocrinology, so as to focus on treating diabetes, something I will do a lot of in family practice, and then picking up another three weeks in outpatient psychiatry as well. Then there's 3 weeks required in surgery. This one is up in the air right now, as I was planning on an obstetrics elective that has just been disqualified as counting as surgery. Another requirement is 3 weeks in pediatrics, which I will do in the general community clinic. We have to do a month in the emergency room, which I'm really looking forward to. The most time-consuming requirement is a sub-internship: a month on a hospital inpatient service where we are supposed to function like interns (first-year residents). Most of my classmates will do this in internal medicine, but I am actually going to do mine in pediatrics, since peds is equally applicable to family med. I had such a great rotation in pediatrics this year, and I also think that they will be a bit more accepting when the crumpet shows up to breastfeed during lunchtime teaching conferences or at dinnertime when I'm on call. Then there are a few more week-long classes/rotations that have to fit in as well.

I've got a tentative schedule all entered into the computer. The beginning of the year is the most important part: I end 3rd year surgery in Scottsdale on June 20 (yup, I will be almost 34 weeks pregnant at that point), then return to Rochester and try to cram two rotations into those last 6 weeks, ending the Friday before the crumpet is due. I'm also trying to figure out whether, if I have not gone into labor yet, I can start another rotation and then pick it back up after my maternity leave. I've got 6 weeks blocked out at home with the crumpet, and I want it all to actually be with the crumpet, rather than hanging around at home waiting to deliver!

The rest of the year is highly dependent on whether this early admission to the Dartmouth family med/MPH program works out. If it doesn't, I'll have to shuffle a lot of things around to take time in the fall to go on residency interviews. If it does, all I need to figure out is that goofy surgery elective.

Finally, I also have to take both parts of the US Medical Licensing Exam Step 2. This is not as stressful as Step 1, which my class took at the end of second year. It is kind of a pain, though! There's a multiple choice component (Clinical Knowledge, or CK) that is computer-based like Step 1. We're allowed to build 2 free weeks into our 4th year schedules to study, but I've mustered all possible free time for maternity leave, so the current plan is to study for Step 2 over the two weeks I'm taking off anyway to visit family at Christmastime. Then there is something called Clinical Skills (or CS for short), which is a fairly new addition to the testing regimen. It's a whole day of observed scenarios with standardized patients (actors). It's basically to make sure that you can speak English and not be a total jerk to a patient. For the privilege of taking this exam, medical students from all over the country have to get themselves to one of five places: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, or LA. So that can cost a pretty penny. Then there's the actual test fee, which is over $1000. Nice racket they've got going there!

After talking to a couple of residents, I was advised that it would be much better to go and take this test before the baby arrived, even if I was waddling-ly pregnant. Though it is possible to get special approval to bring in a breast pump, there might not be enough time to do that, and I probably wouldn't be allowed out of the test site to see the crumpet either. So, in the last week, I've done the registration and paid my enormous fee and then started looking at the schedule. Chicago is really the only site that makes sense for me, especially approaching the crumpet's due date. I really don't want to (and, realistically speaking, cannot) travel at all after 36 weeks, leaving me a whole 2 week block after returning from surgery in Arizona to find a time to take this test.

Well, Chicago was a total shut-out. Philly? I have friends in Philly! Shut out there, too. Atlanta? Then I could visit my cousin! Nope.

Yours truly is currently scheduled to take this test in Houston. Five days after flying back to Rochester from Arizona. Niiiice. I'm also on an email alert list for openings in Chicago and Philly, so please keep your fingers crossed that something better opens up for me!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jasper-Shearing Day

Happy Easter, everyone! We celebrated with our annual Bread Bunny from Great Harvest:

Then we got going on the work of the day: clipping Jasper. Since we're on our fourth day of snow in four days of spring, we first set up the space heater to warm up the porch. To be a little kinder to our backs, we also decided to work on the table instead of on the floor.

Here's very fuzzy Jasper before we got started:

We brushed him out, then started clipping. Here he is after a first pass over half his body (left side of photo still fuzzy, right side clipped).

To get at his belly, Alex had to hold him up. Jasper is mustering an enthusiastic face for the camera but generally didn't enjoy this part too much.

We used a combination of clippers and scissors, depending on the angle we needed, the consistency of the hair, and Jasper's level of tolerance for the whole affair. Most of his head and neck were scissored, along with most of his legs. Lucky for him, most of his walks come in the evening, so there shouldn't be too many other dogs about to laugh at our incompetence as groomers.

Here he is as we were finishing up for the day, almost four hours after we started. He had so much extra hair (and some matting, despite our best efforts with the brushing all winter) under his ears and around his throat and neck that having it cut away has really changed his whole shape. I'm still trying to get used to his new face!

See, we told you there were eyes under there!

Jasper and his pile of fuzz:

So, Phase 1 is complete. Phase 2, which will occur sometime this week or next weekend, involves a good scrubbing in the bath and further tidying up and trimming on his legs and neck.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wasteful Packaging

This past week, I had plenty of opportunity to rant and rave at the wastefulness of commerce. Sure, capitalism is supposed to eliminate waste and make everything more efficient, but that can sometimes take a back seat to expediency. Waste, to an engineer, is anathema. To an environmentalist, it is a cardinal sin. In this rant, I am referring to packaging waste.

Allow me to elaborate. I recently ordered a copy of TurboTax from, because it is that time of year again. I am not a particular fan of TurboTax - it is not a superlative program in terms of ease of use, they have a nice racket going in terms of the state packages, it's overpriced for what it does (year after year, 95% of the program is identical), and the sweetheart deal they (and just about every other tax prep software) have with the IRS to charge fees for E-filing is nothing short of corrupt. But, it does the job, and I prefer it to doing it by hand.

But I digress. For years, TurboTax has been packaged in the standard-sized software box. The size of this box is a holdover from the days from software consisted of a stack of floppy discs and a thick printed manual. For at least the last five years, this has been entirely superfluous. Software today is just one optical disc. Printed manuals disappeared a decade ago. The size of a software box, however, has largely stayed the same. Maybe they like the large canvas it provides to catch your eye on the shelf. On the other hand, when buying software online, the size of the box and the canvas its provides to marketers is likewise superfluous.

The good news is, however, that TurboTax has this year changed their packaging to put the disc into a DVD case - much smaller. Amazon, however, hasn't seemed to have gotten the message. When it arrived in the mail, this DVD case arrived in corrugated cardboard box measuring 12x9x4 inches. Think about that. Take a DVD off the shelf, and set it on a letter-sized sheet of paper, now project a height of four inches. That's about the size of the box that this disc came in. What is more, the case was shrink-wrapped to a 8.5x11 sheet of cardboard. I was speechless at the example of absurdity and waste sitting in front of me.

I contact Amazon about this. I informed them how ridiculous it was to use such a large box to send something, essentially, the same size of a DVD movie - which Amazon has optimally-sized boxes for. Packaging and Shipping has to be one of their largest costs, especially since I didn't pay them anything to ship this order, so you would think they would try to use as little material as possible. The response I got was a form email, probably chosen by some heuristic algorithm that examined keywords in my email (I doubt any human eyes other than my own ever read it), that really didn't even come close to addressing the issue. But, if my package arrived damaged due to a packaging error, I know exactly who to talk to. reminded me that their packing materials are recycleable, but that's hardly the issue. It is better to not use something in the first place than to use and recycle it.

So, that's story number one. Story number two relates to the holster for my iPhone. So that the sound can exit from the bottom of the phone and reach my ears (like when the phone rings), the bottom of the holster is a woven plastic mesh. All well and good, except that the mesh started pulling away and fraying almost as soon as I bought it. Now, six months in, I start to worry that my phone is going to slip right out the bottom. I count myself a decent tinkerer, and Hilary can tell you plenty of stories of items long past their useful life that I obstinately refused to give up. But, this time, I didn't see a good way to fix this do-hickey. Thankfully, the device has a lifetime warranty, so after a brief phone call, a replacement was in the mail.

That replacement arrived this morning. It's the small black thing in the above image. Yet another example of wasteful packaging. This holster is hardly larger than my iPhone itself, yet it, like so many other consumer products these days, comes with a tremendous amount of packaging to ensure that it looks pristine on the shelf - contained in a perfect volume of crystal. At least it wasn't an unopenable plastic clamshell. But, rather than wrap this bullet-proof bit of packaging in some paper, or even a manilla envelope, to speed it on its way to me, they felt that it needed a whole stack of plastic peanuts and, you guessed it, a large cardboard box. My broken holster will get far less nice treatment. Even if it were intact and had a long usable life ahead of it, I doubt I would have done more than shove it, unadorned, into a padded envelope.

Now, when it comes to commerce-by-mail, the amount of packaging is hardly the full story of environmental impact. There is the shipping involved, which is usually cross country, and goodness knows how much manufacturing. But, suffice to say, whether I drive down to a store and buy something, or else order it online and have it arrive a week later (I usually opt for the slower shipping - I can deal with delayed gratification, and I'm too cheap to shell out for 2nd day), the item eventually arrives in my home. Is it better to have the item bulk-shipped with thousands of its brethren 98% of its long journey, housed in a climate-controlled asphalt jungle of a mall, then the last few miles in my car? Or is it better to have it bulk-shipped 66% of its journey to a warehouse, then individually packaged in a cardboard box with the mail for the remaining 33%? I guess it's bad any way you consider it.

Maybe next time I'll prepare my taxes by hand, and sew a holster for my phone.

And speaking of packaging waste, don't even get me started on the bag-packing habits at the local supermarket!

Jasper and the Goose

We took Jasper out for a long walk last weekend. Since it was very damp and just above freezing, we skipped the local dirt/grass trails in favor of a sidewalk loop around Silver Lake. Silver Lake is home to its own species of giant Canada geese, which live there year-round thanks to heated water emitted from the city power plant.

Jasper and I have run around the lake many times in the past, but that was always on a short leash, staying focused on the exercising task at hand. We had him out on his extendable leash this time, so he was doing a fair amount of wandering and sniffing. Finally, we reached a point on shore where a gaggle of geese were clustered. Most of them squawked and flew away into the lake as we approached, but one very large goose just kept strolling along the bank. Jasper walked tentatively in his direction, receiving an indignant honk for his attention. Quite taken aback, Jasper paused, and then in a flash, dropped into predator mode and sprinted flat out at the goose.

The goose started running, but not fast enough—before it could get off the ground, Jasper caught up to it and snatched a tail feather! He returned to us, prize in mouth, looking very pleased with himself. We have never seen him do anything so brave!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Many celebrations

Happy birthday, mom!

Happy anniversary, mom and dad!

Happy Match Day, 4th year medical students! Today is the day when medical students all over the country found out where they will be spending the next few (or many) years completing their training. Alex and I just returned from an all-school Match celebration. The first through third year students all chipped in so that the fourth years could drink free at one of the downtown clubs, and the entire crowd was partying hearty when we slipped out. One 4th year matched in family med (29% to primary care residencies overall, but that probably includes a lot of people who will end up being subspecialists after their initial training in internal medicine or similar). Most popular specialties from our med school? Internal medicine, diagnostic radiology, pediatrics, anesthesia. 35% will stay within this hospital system to train as residents. And that's probably enough statistics to bore you all with.

And finally, happy spring! I almost forgot that one because after a beautiful sunny day, there's now a winter storm warning and we're supposed to get 4-8 inches of heavy wet snow by the end of the day tomorrow. I'm very concerned about our crocuses, which have just started poking their stems above the soil in the last few days. Apparently the snow is going to melt off quickly, though. I am really ready for spring...especially after finding two cute spring dresses when maternity shopping with Beth the other day!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gaelic Storm

Hilary and I are great fans of the Irish band Gaelic Storm. We've seen them twice before. They just so happened to be finishing their most recent tour at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis - on St. Patrick's Day. Hilary and I simply had to go. We also had the pleasure of the company of one of Hilary's classmates and her longtime friend.

There are musically adept groups out there, and there are entertainers. It can be rare to find a group that combines both - and Gaelic Storm is one of them. They put on a great show with great music and hilarious stories (you've not heard Johnny Tarr until it's done as country-western). They also did a few numbers from their upcoming album due out this summer. Being St. Patrick's day just made it extra nice. Speaking of which, they recently had their tune "Kiss Me I'm Irish" included in a St. Paddy's Day Hallmark card. It was probably just the tune, however, since the lyrics have a fair bit of drinking and other debauchery.

This is the best my iPhone's camera could do in the touch lighting conditions

The Guthrie itself is an amazing venue - only recently finished in the last year or two, a replacement for the old Guthrie theater. From an upper balcony (the outdoorsy kind, not in a performance hall) you could look down the Mississippi River at the building site for the replacement I-35W bridge. They host some pretty high-brow stuff. We were very bummed to miss out on recent performances of the Royal Shakespeare Company doing King Lear, with Ian McKellen in the lead. It's a rather posh venue, too, compared to Gaelic Storm's usual. As their guitarist, Steve Twigger, said, "I feel like they've steerage up into first class."

The Face, or the Computer?

From TechCrunch:

Viewers of the Charlie Rose show tonight were stunned to see the normally composed Rose looking like he’d just been in a bar fight. He has a very bad black eye and a bandage over part of his forehead. I contacted the show’s producers to hear what happened. Earlier today, they said, Rose tripped in a pothole while walking on 59th Street in Manhattan. He was carrying a newly purchased MacBook Air and made a quick (but ultimately flawed) decision while falling: sacrifice the face, protect the computer. “In doing so, he pretty much hit the pavement face first, unfortunately,” they said.

Luckily the MacBook Air survived the fall. “The Macbook Air is fine, he showed us the blood stains on it this morning.”

As Wired's news blog noted, you could sacrifice the computer: it might not break, and it'll have a cool battle scar. Or, you can sacrifice your face: it might not break, and it'll have a cool battle scar.

As for myself, I was once confronted with a similar dilemma, and I chose the third road - sacrifice both. It's definitely cooler. One time I was rushing to catch a parking lot shuttle at the Manchester airport, slipped on some ice, and went sprawling. It was the start of spring break in New Hampshire, after all, which means plenty of ice. I was on my way to sunny southern California.

I ended up checking in and heading through security with my pants torn rather bad at the knee, and feeling blood dripping down my shin. After I passed security, I cobbled together a bandage of kleenex and scotch tape (wrapped around the outside of the pants, which were a lost cause anyway). These materials were what I could find from a newsstand.

And yet, despite my troubles, my computer still got bent out of shape, literally. Remember that it had a metal frame and case, and one corner of it was bent up towards the screen nearly a centimeter. I couldn't get a disc in or out until I'd bent back flat over my knee. (and yet, despite that abuse, it continued working just fine to this day, only recently retired).

So, Charlie, count yourself lucky.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reading to the Crumpet

As we mentioned in a post a little while ago, fetal inner ear bones ossify around 18 or 19 weeks, allowing them to hear. So we figured this is as good a time as any to start reading to the crumpet before bed!

So far, we've done Hippos Go Berserk (Sandra Boynton), Consider Love (Boynton again), The Shape of Me and Other Stuff (Dr. Seuss, courtesy of Sara), and Good Night Little Bear (Richard Scarry, thanks Beth!)

The thing that I am perhaps most excited about when it comes to being a mother is introducing the crumpet to wonderful children's books. Once we've done Moo Baa La La La and Frances and Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny and Ramona, there's even Harry Potter to look forward to, all over again!

By the way, happy halfway point, crumpet! According to our first ultrasound, which set our dates, we were 20 weeks along yesterday, out of an average pregnancy length of 40 weeks. Only 5% of babies are born on their due date, though, so think more of a "due month" extending from 38 to 42 weeks, centered around that August 4 date.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Poker night!

We realized that we need a plan to pay for the crumpet's college education.

So, here it is:

We'll probably need to work up from class poker night to the big tables in Vegas, but we've got to start somewhere. Considering that this was my first poker game ever, I probably have a long way to go! But it was a lot of fun, and Alex and I walked away with $8 of our $10 total buy-in ($5 each) at the end of the night. I even won the last hand.

That's a bottle of cream soda, people, don't worry. We're not introducing the crumpet to gambling AND boozing all in one night.

And yes, my belly is getting big. We had to go back to Target today for further maternity pants shopping, as I only had two pairs of pants that I could wear, and the low-rise jeans aren't going to last much longer. I did find a pair of maternity jeans and a pair of belly-paneled cargo pants that aren't half-bad, but I also made the mistake of trying on some shirts.

First, I had to wade through some truly hideous bright pattern-printed things to find plain black T-shirts and tunics. Then I went into the dressing room and put on the first one, one of those empire-waisted things that are the classic pregnancy top. Suddenly, I went from cute little baby bump to gigantic gestating elephant. Seriously, I looked 8 months pregnant! I can't imagine how many months along I will look in one when I AM 8 months pregnant. Perhaps twelve? I wonder if the crumpet felt the warp in the space-time continuum. So I pulled my jaw up off the ground, discovered that the other top wasn't any better, threw back on my regular old T-shirt and ran screaming out of Target with just the two pairs of pants.

We'll deal with tops later, I guess.

The Continuing Adventures of Jasper the Water Dog

Last night, we took Jasper out for his customary evening romp, which is getting gloppier and muddier by the day as all the snow melts. The air temperature was probably about thirty degrees, so it was feeling very warm to us since much of the winter was spent about forty degrees colder.

Jasper clearly thought that this was just too hot for his fuzzy winter coat. On our way home, he bounded down the slope to the creek. At first, I thought he was just going to get a drink, and both of us started calling him back up to the bike path. Then his front paws were in, then the back ones, and then, tail wagging madly, he continued to stroll on in to the rushing water until it was covering virtually his whole body.

The water, naturally, is snowmelt, so had to be at about thirty-three degrees. But there was Jasper, happy as a clam, nose and tail (still wagging) out of the water, enjoying an almost-springtime bath.

After a few seconds, he finally minded our calls (which were slightly muffled by laughter at this point) and trotted up to join us on the path. I leapt out of the way just in time to avoid the flying water as he shook himself off and continued on home, completely unfazed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Didactic Block

With the psychiatry rotation behind me, I have now embarked on what the medical school is calling our third-year "didactic block." The best thing by far about these three weeks is the opportunity to catch up with classmates, who have been scattered throughout various rotations since July 1.

Today, I completed my certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, which means that I could now support myself by yelling "clear!" and "push the epi!" on some medical drama on TV. Well, not quite, but it does mean that, theoretically, I now have the skills that I would need to run and/or participate in a code (a cardiac arrest) in the hospital. We learned how to use a manual defibrillator, rather than the semiautomatic ones that are available everywhere these days, what rhythms require defibrillation and how much electricity to use, what drugs to use in what sorts of rhythms, how to cardiovert patients whose hearts are running too fast and pace patients whose hearts are going too slow, and a general approach to acutely ill cardiac patients. It was lots of fun, and something that I've wanted to learn ever since I started my EMT training about 10 years ago.

That's pretty much going to be the highlight of these three weeks. Other than that, there's a mildly interesting public health course, a very useful clinical pharmacology class that I am taking with the fourth year students because I may be away when my class does it next year, and some random and thus far not very useful "basic science" lectures from physicians who do a lot of research. Since a lot of my classmates will probably be subspecialists and may themselves do a significant amount of research, I suppose this makes some sense, but as a future primary care physician, I get a bit annoyed when I listen to a ninety minute lecture about all these experiments that have been done, only to be told at the end that none of the theoretically useful measures work when applied to actual sick patients. Ah, well, it's just nice to have some low-key weeks, even if parts are a bit boring.

The weather has turned beautiful, I think it actually hit 50 today! The snow is melting like crazy, leaving giant puddles everywhere on our morning walk into work. Alex had to escort me up onto a snowbank today to help me get around one.

So, that's pretty much what's going on in my life these days. More interesting posts to come soon, I hope. The crumpet is continuing with the gymnastics, but still not hard enough for Alex to feel...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hallo, crumpet!

The crumpet is 19 weeks along today, and according to our book, should be able to hear us right about now after ossifying the inner ear bones. (I certainly hope our baby will be a Husky fan, as there's been a lot of UConn women's basketball to hear the last couple of days.)

We had an ultrasound last week, which was wonderful! Since there was a student ultrasound technician first, the whole thing lasted about half an hour. Crumpet was very active, kicking and waving and talking and swallowing the whole time. All the detailed anatomy measurements look great. We (and more importantly, the obstetrician who signs off on everything) could see the brain ventricles, the heart and great vessels, the kidneys, and all the large bones of the extremities. Here's a profile shot (that's head to the left, face-up). The clarity of the actual ultrasound was much higher than these scanned photos of thermal-print images.

I can also feel crumpet kicking and somersaulting quite frequently, several times a day at least. It's getting stronger, but unfortunately still cannot be felt from the outside. One of these times that I wake Alex up in the middle of the night to feel, I'm hoping that crumpet actually obliges with a good hard kick!

New Laptop

I've had a few days to play around with my new machine, and I love it. It's so sleek, so zippy, and so capable. It exhibits no hesitation whatsoever, even when I have many applications open at once. The larger screen is nice, and is incredibly bright compared to my previous machine. The keyboard is essentially the same, which is good, because it feels smooth and types well without fatigue. I have yet to really tax the battery, but I imagine that it would outlast my ability to write about it at least. The Migration Assistant built into OS X made transferring and setting things up pretty easy. I can probably avoid filling this new hard drive for a good long while. I have no need to do a raindance to get my iPhone to sync up.

It is certainly a larger machine - not nearly as compact as my previous. That's mostly OK, because my portability needs aren't as great as they were when I was in college. We'll see how it handles on an airplane, but that probably won't be for a good long while. I have most of my old apps moved over to the new machine, and a few new ones, too. For instance, I have Keynote, apple's answer to PowerPoint, which I will tinker with a bit in the next few weeks.

My previous computer, when I first received it and it was new and fast and not full and had a good battery, I christened "Shadowfax," because it was silvery and fast (and because I'm a lifelong Tolkien fan). I feel pretty good in transferring that name to my new machine.


Well, I have to admit that we have been remiss in our duties to our dear readers. So, today, we've got a a couple of things to show off.

Item 1 - these paper-white narcissi that have graced our living room for the last week or so. They started as bulbs from the White Flower Farm, which we only got around to forcing a few weeks ago. The yield has been pretty good all the same - about 80% of the ones we planted in vases of rocks amount to something. We hardly need anymore white in our lives these days (we've had snow cover now for over 100 days), but these are at least pretty and aromatic while being white.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Computer and Virus

"Computer" and "Virus" are generally two words you don't like to hear in combination. However, in my case today, it wasn't what you might think. Yesterday afternoon, I started feeling a cold coming on - the virus in this pairing. By Jasper's (late) evening walk, I was a runny-nosed, fevered, sneezing, and thoroughly exhausted fella. Things hadn't really improved by this morning; rather, the virus had merely entrenched itself. It is a rare thing that I get sick, so getting hit twice in a few months is a real drag.

So, I - gasp - didn't go into work this morning. I dozed in bed for a few hours while half-listening to yesterday's primary results on NPR, then get up to doze a bit more on the couch. This is when the silver lining of my illness appeared: I happened to be home when the FedEx guy pulled up and delivered my new computer! Yup, with a little shuffling of the finances, and a little assistance (thanks, Dickie!), and I was able to order myself a shiny new MacBook Pro this past weekend. I checked the FedEx tracking over the last few days as the machine made its way from Shanghai, to Anchorage, to Memphis, and finally to Rochester late this morning. I figured it would arrive sometime tomorrow, and I'd have to rush home from work to go out to their warehouse in the evening. Instead, because I was laid low, I was able to be there to receive it in person.

The laptop was stone cold, however, so I have yet to do so much as boot it up (that's next). There's a relatively lengthy process in migrating to a new computer, and getting things dialed in just so. I didn't want to delve into that until I had enough time to do it properly. I don't do well just sitting around the house waiting to get well, either. So, I ended up back at the office for the afternoon. That might have been pushing it.

I will be writing much more about my new acquisition in the days to come, but suffice to say this thing is one sweet piece of work. In a word, it is just more - more screen, more memory, more processing power, more battery life. More more more!

Ok, I'm over myself now. Now if only I can get over this cold, too.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Funny ad


I have never heard of this guy. But now I want to move to Colorado and vote for him.

And whoever came up with this ad deserves a bonus.

Jasper the Weirdo

Over the last week or so, Jasper has become increasingly insistent about waking us up in the morning. For the last couple of months, he has spent the last hour or two of the early morning snoozing in the middle of our bedroom. When one of us gets up with the alarm (usually Alex), Jasper leaps up and runs downstairs to be let outside.

But over the last few days, he has started wandering around the sides of the bed—particularly Alex's, which tends to have less of a jumble of things next to it for Jasper to be scared of—sniffing around and breathing loudly. He has started this earlier and earlier. At 5:30 yesterday morning, he poked at Alex, and when rebuffed, laid down and chewed through the closest power cord. Yes, this was on Saturday morning. Saturday. We were not pleased.

This morning, we laid really still when we heard him coming (movement seems to encourage him that we might be wake-up-able), and after a few cursory sniffs, he settled down on the floor for a longer nap. He did leap around the room with joy when I finally got up at 8 to let him out, but it was otherwise a quiet morning. He didn't chew anything up. We got another hour of sleep while he was outside. Then, as we were settling in and maple syrup-ing our waffles, we let him back inside. He wandered through to the living room, turned around to watch us getting our breakfast ready in the kitchen, and vomited all over the floor. Nice.

The rest of the day has been generally uneventful. We'll see if he does anything weird on our walk this evening.

Perhaps he has us in training for the crumpet?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Lunch on a Saturday

Hilary and I had an excellent lunch today, the second time in the last month or so we've been able to enjoy it. Fresh french bread, sliced mozzarella, fresh and local tomatoes, and outstanding olive oil. Think of it as bruschetta al fresca. We could perhaps have had basil leaves, too, but we didn't put any keep any whole ones from the massive pesto wave of this past fall.

Yes, a remarkably simple meal, and yet not so at the same time. The bread, while an excellent European style, still comes from a Panera franchise. The mozzarella was from a (organic, wisconsin-farmed) block from the super market (alas, it has still been too cold for the cheese people at the farmer's market to pull their own fresh motz). The tomatoes were indeed fresh and indeed local, purchased from our farmer's market (which means it was grown from within 50 miles), but have spent the last two weeks in a paper bag ripening up on our kitchen counter. The olive oil we had to travel to Italy to get.

And yet, the fact that we could do have such a meal on a still-cold-and-snowy March 1st in Minnesota, is itself a small miracle.