Sunday, June 29, 2008

Market Bounty

Things are really starting to pick up at the Farmers' Market. This weekend we picked up a ton of delicious stuff:

Many, many strawberries, as you can see! Some for strawberry shortcake, but most were chopped up and frozen for the rest of the year.

The rest of the goodies were very helpful in dictating our menu for the week. There was beautiful chard for the first time this year, which we had tonight (Pasta with White Beans and Swiss Chard). Lovely tomatoes from the Amish farmer (which will be turned into another pasta dish, along with some of our own basil and sprigs from the new parsley plants). Also a few early carrots, which will spur me to finish up the rest of the carrots left over from last fall (Gingered Carrot Soup with Cashews). We're still getting some asparagus (Asparagus and Shiitakes with Tofu). More of my favorite spinach (yummy salads). Some cilantro, while we're waiting for own stock to grow up a bit (Thai Tofu with Soba Noodles, with the remainder getting tossed into Quinoa Medley with Beans and Corn).

change in medicine cabinet

Well, I haven't made much forward progress with the medicine cabinet the last week or two - mostly progress sideways. I've spent a fair bit of time at it, and made an awful lot of oak turn into sawdust. At the heart of it is my inability to find hinges that will work well with the design, which has led to a significant design change.

The medicine cabinet I am replacing (and the commercial cabinet we intended to use originally) had three doors. The use of three doors is that you can open the left and right doors and get a sort of U-shaped mirror that gives you side views of your stylin' do. Of course, this means that none of the doors have their hinges on the vertical sides of the cabinet frame. Instead, the hinges are attached to the top and bottom of the frame. Believe it or not, finding a hinge that works well in this situation is really hard. A complicating factor is that you don't want the cabinet doors to bind up on one another as they open, so some cleverness is involved.

Really, what I ought to have done was buy hinges before I designed the rest of it. As it was, my first choice, while functionally appropriate, was far too large and bulky to work with the relatively thin bezel I was putting around the mirrors. My second choice was mechanically simpler and more compact, but required me to make some rather large cutouts in the cabinet frame and shelves to allow the doors to swing freely. Of course, in both cases, I got about 2/3 along before deciding it wasn't workable. I'd have to backtrack, scrap some pieces, and start again.

So, change in plans: to heck with three doors, I'll just do one large one. I can use just a plain ol' set of hinges for that, get one large continuous mirror instead of three segments, and overall just get a cleaner finish. I'm now more than 2/3 into building this, and I still like it.

Cutting glass is really neat. It amazes me that you can get something like glass to break predictably along a nice clean line, using a tool the size of a pencil.

Now comes a long process of sanding, staining, finishing, then assembly and installation. But, at least I know there aren't major design problems ahead. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back to Blogging

So, we've been a bit lax about posting over the last's been so busy, even with both of us at home, that we look at each other around 11 PM, say "what happened to the time?" and collapse into bed.

A few quick updates:
-We road-tripped to Chicago so that I could do the clinical skills portion of the Step 2 licensing exam. This was about as fun as I would imagine a root canal to be, involving 7 hours of graded interactions with standardized patients. I found the time limit difficult to deal with, but did remember to drape each patient modestly and to wash my hands, so that's something. The first couple of nights after the exam, I kept waking up thinking of all of the questions I should have asked and physical exam maneuvers I should have performed, but that's stopped now and I will just cross my fingers that when the scores come out in a few months, I will have passed.
-I started my community pediatrics rotation, which is wonderful. It is quite a change to introduce myself as a fourth year rather than a third year! I've had great preceptors so far and am learning a lot. We're doing a lot of well-child visits, which is a good opportunity to create a picture in my head of what healthy kids of different ages are doing developmentally (having a baby will help me out big time in this regard as well). I'll have two more weeks in this rotation.
-Alex is hard at work on the medicine cabinet. He's altered his design plans slightly, but I'll let him post on that at a later date. We won't have a hole in the bathroom wall for too much longer! The painting that he did while I was away looks fantastic.
-Jasper continues to enjoy the summer, bouncing in and out of the stream several times on our evening walk. He's doing very well with the loose-leash walking and "come," which are our current areas of focus. He's even let us sleep until our alarm the last couple of days, which is delightful!
-The crumpet has continued to be a very cooperative kiddo, not waking me up at night but nice and active during the day. We drove up to the Cities today and picked up a rocker/glider and footstool that we found on Craigslist, which is a baby gift from Art and Denny! It's going to be great, and I'll post a photo soon. My friend Beth also hosted a wonderful shower for us today, so look for pictures from that in the next few days, as well!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Crumpet's Registry

So, people have been asking us whether we have registered anywhere for baby goodies. It's taken us awhile to get our act together, but the answer is finally yes!

My mom found this great site where we could register things from many different sources, and also include notes about our preference for secondhand goodies when possible: Alternative Gift Registry. We're searchable under either last name, or Crumpet. And then we added some things from the Twin Cities Green store in Minneapolis.

According to the wonderful Baby Bargains book, the only things that we have to get new (for safety reasons) are the crib, the car seats, and the breast pump. Everything else we'll be trying to pick up used. Good thing it's garage sale season!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jasper the Great

Jasper was such a star on his walk this evening. I wanted to have him on the leash at the beginning of our outing, but he is often excited and pulling at the outset, which is not good for my back these days! (Alex has mostly taken over holding him on this part of the walk.) So I loaded up my waist pack with treats and the clicker, and set out to see if he remembered his loose-leash walking skills. We had never practiced at the beginning of a walk before, but he figured it all out right away and happily wandered down the sidewalk right next to me, getting periodic munchies and not pulling at all. What a champ!

Here he is with his new short summer cut (see, he DOES have eyes!):

In other news, we had a checkup with the midwife today. The crumpet is about 33 1/2 weeks and is measuring well, with a very good heartbeat. Everything seems to be going fine...she is nice and active (but still quite cooperative about letting me sleep) and just continuing to grow and grow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I am thrilled to be back in Minnesota! It's a delightful 40 degrees cooler (75 instead of 115) and so very green.

After a long day of travel (up at 4 AM after about 3 hours of sleep), during which the only snag was ponying up $50 to Northwest due to my overweight bag, Alex and Jasper picked me up at the airport in the middle of the afternoon. Jasper, I am pleased to report, has not forgotten who I am.

Alex was hoping to take the rest of the afternoon off with me, but another part for the knee walker turned out to be finished, so he headed back in briefly to see to his project. Jasper and I curled up for a nap and didn't wake up until Alex returned.

This evening, we're just settling back in to being together. Alex is outside working on the medicine cabinet, I made dinner (how nice for there to be two of us again to split these tasks!) and am about to make up the guest room to serve as our bedroom for the next couple of months, at least until the crumpet arrives. Jasper has been back and forth checking up on both of us. We'll take him out for his evening romp in a little while. And then there will be local strawberries for dessert!

Ah, normal life. Love it.

A couple more photos from the Dartmouth trip:
With John in front of the Hop:

Two (and maybe three) Dartmouth generations in front of Baker Tower:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Last Night in Scottsdale

I am very excited to be heading back to Minnesota to join the rest of the moose family tomorrow!

My big task of the evening was dealing with my recycling...the apartment complex does not recycle, but I have been saving all my containers anyway. A couple of weeks ago, I found the Scottsdale recycling website and emailed them to find out whether there was some sort of drop-off point.

So tonight, I loaded everything into the car and headed off to a fire station a few miles away, where I'd been told I could find some large city bins. It was 105 degrees at 8 PM! Nonetheless, I was slinging all my bags into a bin when—CRASH—the glass bottles fell through the bottom of their bag and several shattered all over the pavement.

I was just starting to pick up the pieces when a couple of firemen who had been working outside came over with a broom and took care of the whole mess for me. Very kind and helpful!

The rest of the night will be spent packing up the rest of my belongings, other than the things I took to the hospital today to be shipped back up to Rochester on the clinic's dime.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Water in the Bathroom

...which is exactly where it is supposed to be. Not on the floor, not on my clothes, but in the bathroom nonetheless. After finishing off a second coat of paint on Saturday, this afternoon I installed the new vanity, sink, and faucet. There were some small difficulties encountered - like the fact that the floor tile was cut around the footprint of the last vanity, so I had to shim the back of the cabinet up to be level, or that I had to cut out part of the back to get the cold water supply to fit in.

With the painting done, I can do some more tasks to get the bathroom back to normal, like removing the masking tape, bringing in the shower curtain, replacing the linen closet doors, and reinstalling the toilet paper dispenser (very important). The medicine cabinet is coming along, but there's still a fair bit left to be done there. I'll keep you posted as it comes together.

Knee Walker - Mark II

On Friday I delivered the second version of the oversized knee walker. New and improved! One of a kind! Now with swiveling front wheels for easy steering, extra bracing for improved rigidity, no-twist or -wobble handlebars, and additional seat height capacity.

Again, for a sense of scale - that part I'm sitting on is where the patient's knee goes. No word yet on customer satisfaction - but I hope to hear something from this weekend's first use.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dartmouth Day 2

I must say, as pathetic as I felt getting the pregnant lady room (1st floor, right by the class tent, a single with its own bathroom), it's actually fantastic. No 3 AM trips down the stairs to pant up...though the haze of marijuana smoke outside in the hallway earlier was perhaps not ideal for either my lungs or the crumpet's. It doesn't seem to have percolated through the door, though, so that's good. Ah, the joys of being back at college!

The girls and I all met up for breakfast this morning, splitting our allegiance between the Dirt Cowboy Cafe (iced chai! blueberry muffin!) and the Bagel Basement. Then we had a walk around Occom Pond.

My parents took us out for lunch at the Canoe Club, very elegant! Here's a nice shot of our group (me, Katie, Lauren, Sara, Kristin, Dad, Mom, Rachel):

I totally did not see this coming, but it actually turned into a mini-shower for the crumpet! I got photos and descriptions of several goodies that are on their way to Rochester (how did they know that my duffle bag can't take much more?). Sara is knitting us a baby blanket, and was very disappointed that baby-soft wool does not seem to come in Dartmouth green. It's a lovely blue-green instead, though, which I'm sure the crumpet will love. Here she is working on it:

Lauren also made us the most wonderful baby scrapbook by having a copy of Goodnight Moon re-bound with extra blank pages inside to write on and attach photos to. So creative!

I also picked up a little pair of baby socks at the Co-op today. I couldn't resist, as they say "Dartmouth" and have a little moose pattern all over them.

Later in the afternoon, after Dirt Cowboy chai #2 of the day, I headed out to visit Panache, who is really having a lovely retirement in Norwich. I groomed him for a little while and got a chance to catch up with Lisa and Don as well. Less fuzz fell off than last time since his summer coat is basically in by now, but he was very itchy from bug bites and so appreciated the attention with the curry comb very much.

This evening there was a dinner down near the river, and the after-party is now going on full blast outside my window. I'm hoping that I'll still be able to get to sleep pretty's going to be a long week of traveling and taking exams, and I don't want to go into it too tired!

Lest The Old Traditions Fail

How many other nights at Dartmouth have ended like this, with EBA's at 1 AM?

Reunion Day 1 has been lovely. I've been able to spend time with several of my best girlfriends, and the weather is just spectacular. Hanover is looking particularly green compared to the arid Southwest! I've had a chance to catch up with many familiar faces. However, I am sticking close to my friends, as venturing afield alone results in me noticing people looking at me like I am a complete our next reunion, many many people will be pregnant or toting babies, but for now it's quite an oddity.

The only thing that would be better is if Alex were here, too. But the crumpet and I will be headed back to Minnesota in just a few days. For now, we're enjoying an interlude in the other place that I consider home!

Sara read her favorite book to the crumpet this evening: Elephant Elements, which she discovered during her term abroad at Oxford.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bathroom shaping up

I have managed in the last day or two to get the first coat of paint up in the bathroom. The color, according to the paint producer, is "Cracked Wheat." It is a light shade of yellow-gold, which you can see against the white primer below. I have to admit that it appeared more subtle when looking at the color swatch. I had some angst that it would be too much, too bold, a color to put in the bathroom. Would it play nicely with the (existing) light green trim? How about the finished oak of the vanity and medicine cabinets? How would it look under the soft-white of the vanity lights (which are currently sitting in the corner. I suddenly felt out of my depth.

But, now that all the walls are covered and dried, I think it will be alright. The yellow-green combination of colors is a favorite in hobbit clothing, if that is any comfort.

And yes, the gaping hole in the wall is still there, and still gaping. I won't be able to fill it until the painting is done and the cabinet it finished. I am making some progress with that, though. I recently got the hinges I need in the mail, although laying out holes and cuts to make them fit and line up right will be tricky. That's a job for the weekend.

Monday, June 9, 2008


No, that's not some play on "What Would [D] [C]?" It stands for World-Wide Developers Conference, Apple's annual week-long conference for people that write software for the Mac. For the last several years, the major focus has been on whatever is coming in the next version of Mac OS X. This year, there are rumors that there will be a preview of the next release, 10.6, which some are code-naming Snow Leopard, which might be released next year sometime. But, for the first time, there will also be a major track on developing for something other than the Mac - the iPhone. At the end of the month, apple will release firmware version 2.0, which will bring the capability to run (legitimate) third-party applications, and support for many features desired by corporate America. So, developing for the iPhone will have a lot of airtime.

But both of those are overshadowed by the number one rumor surrounding Steve Jobs' keynote address - the next generation of the iPhone. Those who follow these things feel that an unveiling is all but certain - there have been many strong indications that it is imminent. The biggest anticipated change is the addition of 3G wireless, which is a much faster cellular data network than EDGE, which the current iPhone uses. EDGE feels like the bad-old days of dial-up internet access, but is available most everywhere you can get a cell signal in the US, and requires relatively little power. Most of the iPhone's applications - weather, maps, email - have been optimized to work well even with the relatively slow speed of EDGE. Surfing the web, however, can be somewhat painful, especially if you need to find some information now. For that, you are better off using the built-in WiFi, but only when you can find it.

3G is comparable to broadband, is available in most metropolitan areas of the US (and most of Europe, Japan, and Korea), but is more expensive to implement and burns through battery power a bit fast, which has stifled its adoption in cellphones until recently. iPhone users have demonstrated a much greater appetite for wireless data access than other smartphone users. While hardly the first smartphone to take advantage of it, a 3G-iPhone will certainly speed adoption of this technology.

Others anticipate that the iPhone will have a built-in GPS receiver, allowing it to know where it is located to within, say, ten meters. Right now the iPhone can very generally work out where it is, based on the closest cell towers. The best I've ever seen that work is to within a couple hundred feet. Good enough to tell you what the closest restaurants are, not good enough to give you realtime directions to find them. There are tremendous amounts of "location-aware" applications that will blow your mind, most of which haven't been invented yet.

Others expect a better camera (myeh), more storage (always a plus), a slimmer (or thicker) profile, etc., etc. Other question marks abound. For myself, I just hope for a trade-in/upgrade program :-) If nothing else, you can expect to hear about it. For those interested in the blow-by-blow, you can get live blog coverage from the event.

In Phoenix Again

Taking some much needed R&R, I've been visiting H and the crumpet in Scottsdale this past weekend. Really, one could describe the whole weekend in that one sentence. But, since this is not Twitter, but an actual blog, I'll elaborate a touch.

I showed up late Friday after a flight as pleasant as one can hope for these days. Saturday was spent largely hanging around and escaping the heat. We had a really neat dinner at a vegan restaurant called, simply, Green, and enjoyed a tasty meal and Tsoynamis for dessert while working our way through a baby names book. Don't expect to hear much about names from us until the crumpet actually arrives. I will say this - many of the entries in that book are clearly made up. I ask you, have you ever met a girl named Parslee, or Schmoopie? I won't even go into the bastardized spellings of popular names these days.

Sunday we had brunch at a place called The Mandala Tearoom, in the artsy district of Scottsdale. That's where this hear horsy fountain is located. In the afternoon we saw the latest Indiana Jones movie. I could perhaps write a review, but instead will sum up by saying that if you go into it looking for entertainment and fun, though not quite as good Raiders of the Lost Ark, then you'll not be disappointed. Some of the adventure sequences are over-contrived, but clever nonetheless.

And now I am hanging before my flight back, while Hilary begins a week rotation through the ICU. I'll be spending this week, like last, splitting my time between the knee walker at work and the bathroom at home.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Knee Walker - not done yet...

Since I last posted about the knee walker, a fair bit has happened. For one, we've finished building the thing.

Here's an end-on view of the disc brake mounted up to the rear axle. I just like the symmetry of it.

The rear axle mounted up to the underside of the frame. The red and black thingamajigger is the disc brake caliper. As things have progressed, using this stop bike part was a good call. It was a little tricky making sure it got mounted and aligned just right, but it will provide great stopping power, and saved a lot of time and effort in designing some other braking mechanism.

We took the whole thing over to the bike shop last Friday when we picked up a brake cable and housing. They got a kick out of seeing the finished product. When I ordered the brake assembly from them, I could only give them a hand-wavy description of the project, because I was still in the middle of designing it!

The wheels we are using have what are called "split rims," - symmetric left and right halves that are bolted together with the tire in the middle. This is unlike the wheels on your car or bicycle, which are one-piece and have the tire pried over the rim. The tires also have an inner tube. What it all means is that, if one tries to unbolt the wheels before deflating the tires, you'll get about halfway before the 50 psi in the inner tube blows the two halves apart. I should have known this beforehand, but instead learned it the hard way with quite a surprise. Hence the warning label we added to the frame.

This is how the finished device looked when we brought it over to adjust it to the patient and have him try it out. Keep in mind that this guy is big - over seven feet and nearly 600 lbs, so it looks much smaller next to him. The time spent having him try it out was well worth it - I was able to pick out some things that we'll need to change and adjust before he uses it full-time. So, after that brief time over at the hospital, it has been back in our Shop for revision.

One of the major changes will be swapping out the front wheels, which are fixed, for swivel casters. It seems obvious that you would want to be able to steer something like this, but we were initially told that the front wheels should be fixed. The PTs and docs we were working with were concerned that, like the commercially available knee walkers that have handlebar-steered front wheels, the device would be too tippy. Well, without some amount of steering, the device is too difficult to maneuver, making it a good bet that he simply won't use it at all, which is a bigger concern than it being too tippy.

Next, the arms that the front wheels attach to need to be shortened up, because the hallways in his house aren't as wide as we thought.

The uprights for the seat need to be lengthened, because even with the seat all the way up, it still needs to be an inch or two higher.

The handlebar stem needs to be a bit longer, too.

The attachment for the handlebar stem needs to be beefed up, because we was able to twist it around much too easily by leaning into it.

The frame, although strong enough for the load, needs to be stiffened. As it is, with a full load on the seat, the frame twists a bit more than I would like to see.

So, that's what has been keeping me busy 12-14 hours/day for the latter half of the week - designing these changes, putting together drawings of new parts for the Shop to make, and assembling the new parts together. With luck, that should be complete by the middle of next week, and we can give it another go with the patient.

We've been told by his doctor and family that, once this guy's leg heals up, we should think on how to build him a bicycle!

Front Steps Finished

The rails were installed earlier this week and the caution tape taken away. The anchoring seems solid - a huge improvement over the old steps. I'm quite pleased with the results.

So, that's at least one house project that's finished - an advantage of paying someone to do a job, rather than relying on nights and weekends of your own sweat equity.

Dispatch from the trenches

In the few hours a day when I am at work, sleeping (not nearly enough of that), or just plain dealing with the world, I have been painting in the bathroom. At this point I have the walls well coated with white primer and ready for painting. It hasn't exactly been a cakewalk getting to this point, however. I have learned that, due to more false advertising in the dimensions of the new vanity cabinet, it is a touch narrower than the existing cabinet. As a result, in order for the paint job to look right, the vanity had to come out so I could paint behind it. On course, with the vanity went the sink (I tried to conjure a bathroom sink joke, but came up with nothing). So, ever since last Sunday, I've had no bathroom sink. Ah well.

Next came the long process of scraping loose paint and sanding around the rough edges. In the process, I learned that the walls have a skim-coat of plaster over the much harder, horsehair-reinforced plaster over the rough slats. Sanding the created a tremendous amount of dust, as you can well imagine. I set up a fan in the bathroom window to try to help suck it out.

Next came the primer - first around the edges with a hand brush, then in the main areas with a roller. Considering the relatively small amount of square footage involved, both seemed to take a lot longer than I would have expected. But, I now have gleaming white walls and a firm foundation to take up the off-white paint I'll put up next. It's a little tough to get an accurate read on how the dramatic color change (speckled dark green to gleaming white) has affected the tone of the room, since it is missing sink, medicine cabinet, shower curtain, and blinds.

Painting the bathroom was really the whole impetus for this whole project - replacing the vanity, sink, and faucet seemed a good idea to take care of at the same time, while replacing the medicine cabinet seemed necessary to match the new vanity. I am also considering replacing the lighting fixture above the medicine cabinet, also to ensure it matches. At the least, I'll redo the wiring between the switch and that lighting fixture, because it was held together with just a wrap of electrical tape. I have set the medicine cabinet aside while waiting for hinges to come in the mail, and for my glassblower colleague to clean up the edges of the mirrors I cut. At this point, I'll focus on wrapping up the painting and getting the new sink in before H comes back in a week and a half. Medicine cabinet she could do without - a sink would be a bit tougher to deal with.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Weekend with Dad

This weekend we had a digital camera and tried to take some advantage of it! So here's some proof of my continued existence, despite the lack of blog posts. Dad arrived on Thursday and we've been having a wonderful time just hanging out.

I have gotten through another week of surgery (mainly more hernia repairs and gallbladders). I have one more week of actual surgery coming up, which will probably be quite busy. More getting up at 5 AM, unfortunately. Then a week in the ICU and a couple of days of anesthesia before heading back to Minnesota. Alex will visit next weekend, which will be wonderful. I've been so lucky to have so much company to break up my time here!

Thursday I left the hospital at a reasonable hour and we went for falafel sandwiches at Pita Jungle, then got gelato next door. Alex and I had discovered both of these places when he visited last. Here I am eating, which is something that I spent a LOT of time this week doing.

I think the crumpet might be having a growth spurt, as I have been hungry all the time. I eat breakfast at home just after 5, then again during the 7 AM conference, and usually a nibble or two in the middle of the morning as well to bridge the gap to lunch! I bring some food in every day, and there are also snacks (some healthy and some not) in the resident lounge, and then I have a small food allowance to use in the cafeteria as well.

Yesterday, we had a great vegan meal at Green, where they make their own ice cream. I had the yummiest dessert, which they call a tsoynami, with the ice cream, mint and chocolate syrups, and chocolate cookie bits in it. It is the vegan answer to a Dairy Queen blizzard and I want one every night!

Today, we went to see Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's camp that is just a few minutes from my apartment. We had a wonderful two-hour tour from a fantastic, interesting guide.

They gave us umbrellas for shade!

Here's an outdoor view:

The drafting studio and dining area from the outside:

The living room:

Dad in the living room. The entrance is directly behind him: all the doorways are very short, and then once you enter, the rooms open up. To the far right of the photo is a mosaic-ish piece. Clare Boothe Luce made that from stones and other natural objects she found on the property when she came to visit.

I love this little door, it makes me think of a Hobbit:

This one's for you, Clara: a dragon standing guard on one of the posts in the garden. Wright was a huge collector of Asian art, and it's scattered all throughout the property.

The weather continues to be sunny and hot. I think it hit 100 today, and though it is a dry heat, that's pretty warm! I'm never outside during the hottest parts of the day, though, and things are pretty climate-controlled in the hospital. I would definitely miss the four seasons if I lived here all the time. Besides, it would be way too hot for Jasper!