Monday, April 27, 2009

"Surgery" Rotation

I am on my very last rotation of medical school. (Whoa!)

This last month fulfills a requirement for a 4th year surgery experience. Not being a very big fan of surgery (or some surgeons, or surgeons' hours), and wanting to do something that would be of some use in a family practice career, I scheduled a rotation in Maternal-Fetal Medicine (also called perinatology, or high-risk obstetrics). Since this is an OB sub-specialty, and OB-GYN is a surgical specialty, it fulfills the requirement.

The MFM doctors do three main things: they read a lot of ultrasounds, they see high-risk pregnant patients in clinic (such as women with diabetes or other chronic diseases, or women with a history of obstetrical problems), and they help supervise the Labor & Delivery ward.

My main goal with the rotation is to get more comfortable reading ultrasounds, and I am well on my way with that.

But today, I spent the day in Labor & Delivery. It turned out to be a very, very busy morning. The second of the scheduled C-sections got postponed due to an emergency when the poor woman was already anesthetized and waiting on the OR table! The OB residents were tied up in the other operating rooms, so the consultant I was working with decided that he would just go ahead and do the C-section. He insisted to the nurses that he did not need them to call a backup doctor, that he was perfectly comfortable doing the surgery with me as his assistant.

And so, we did. It was actually really fun, since I got to be more involved with a much better view than ever before (during my OB rotation last year, I was often the second-assist, and held the bladder retractor). The most exciting part was that I actually helped to deliver the baby—once the doctor made the uterine incision, the baby's head started to come out (still in the bag of waters! I could see him turning his head around just underneath the membrane!) and my job was to push down from the top of the woman's belly as the doctor guided the head out. Worked like a charm, the baby slid out, the doctor cut the cord, I handed the baby to the pediatrician waiting in the wings, and voila!

According to the nurses who were helping out in the room, this was the fastest C-section they had ever seen. Good to know, if your baby is in distress and needs to be out right away. And certainly not sloppy in any way, just very efficient. So, now I have been first-assist on a C-section (this will probably happen more in residency, but seems like a pretty big deal to me right now). And I don't have to feel guilty about having a surgery elective with no surgery!

In honor of hanging out with newborns, here is a reminder of how Brynna looked just shy of 9 months ago:

Quite a difference now:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend Snacks

Just two quick shots from this weekend:

Brynna enjoying a light snack.

Sunday night dinner: pizza made from scratch. Crust made by yours truly from flour and yeast. No tomato sauce on this one. Instead, this had a spread of onions cooked to within an inch of its life in red wine and thyme. The motz we didn't make from scratch, but we did grate it ourselves. I got some good mileage from oven stone and pizza peel. All in all, a scrumptious meal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More Sight Difficulties

So, after having my glasses break over the weekend, I was down to the "starter pair" of contacts that I've had for just over two weeks. They are only supposed to be worn for two weeks. But, hey, they're all I had, and it's not like I'd been wearing them all the time for those two weeks.

However, I did run into a real problem this morning, when the left contact lens evaporated. I can think of no better word. "Disappeared" doesn't quite have the right ring to it, since I'm pretty sure that I had it in my eye when it happened. By the time I had the right contact in, I realized that the left had gone. After searching every possible surface in the vicinity for it, I had to conclude that it had, in fact, evaporated from my eye.

So, I was down to a single eye's worth of corrected vision. This isn't quite as bad as it might sound. The brain has remarkable abilities to figure out how best to merge the visual information from both eyes into a single field of vision. In this case, it largely disregarded the heavily unfocused data from my right eye, and provided me with a workable view on the world. The right served mostly to provide some depth perception, so my condition was better than, say, a one-eyed pirate.

This situation continued until late morning, when I was able to get a break in a morning filled with things that needed doing and got over to the optometrist's. My full order of contacts and new eyeglasses are still on order (they would have called me otherwise), but I figured that they might be able to give me or sell me something to tide me over - another pair of contacts, perhaps. As it happens, I was in luck: my left-side contacts had arrived.

So, I am back to full, through not perfect, vision. If I can avoid losing my one-and-only right contact for a few more days, I should make it through.

Monday, April 20, 2009


We are having a blast with Brynna, who is learning how to play little games! She now plays peek-a-boo. This started with her responding with glee as we pulled something away from our faces, but has quickly evolved into her doing the actual peeking herself. I finally had the presence of mind to stop laughing and go get the video camera:

Also, if you close your hands around some small toy, she will pry your fingers apart and then shriek with glee when the goody reappears. And just in the last couple of days, she has started grabbing our hands and pushing them together to make a clapping noise.

In other news, Brynna is spending a lot of time walking around behind her push toy. The eating and sleeping have also improved: this week's big gourmet hit is yogurt. Last week we decided that it was time to start a green vegetable, and Brynna actually took quite well to peas. Her breastfeeding has cut smoothly back to the point that I don't even have to pump anymore: I nurse her when we get up, at lunchtime, when I get home after work, before she goes to bed at 8:00, and then a couple of times during the night. She bridges through the day with three nice meals of solid food: midmorning, midafternoon, and early evening. Plus lots of Cheerios.

Now, if we could only persuade her that it would be much nicer to sleep through the night in her crib instead of snuggling up with us in bed...

Nope, I can't figure out how to sell that one, either.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Good Timing

Little known fact: I've been trying out contact lenses for the last two weeks. Never used 'em before. I've gotten past the weirdness of poking around in your eye to get them in and out (though I'm not nearly as fast as Hilary, who's got about 15 years' experience on me). I find that I can't get the same level of correction from them as I do with my eyeglasses, so they probably won't ever become and everyday sort of thing.

Still, I've never denied that they would be useful in certain situations. For instance: I swam in high school - all four years. In that time, I never could see the clock or other swimmers properly, because my eyesight is terrible. Hilary and I are training up for a triathlon in a couple months, so we're doing laps once or twice a week. Last weekend at the pool I saw properly while swimming for the first time ever - what a revelation! For those useful situation I'm getting a supply so that I'll have them available.

I had a follow-up visit with the optometrist on Friday, who likes to check to make sure the contacts are seating properly and all that. I used the opportunity to order myself the contacts and a new pair of glasses (I've got excellent vision coverage in my insurance, and want to use it up before we leave). It's a good thing I did: on Saturday afternoon, while cleaning a smudge off my glasses, the nosepiece snapped.

Yup, just like that. And these were the zippy Nitinol frames that can bend and twist like mad, too. Still, superelasticity can't prevent metal fatigue, and I guess this pair had, after five years, just about had it. Metal fatigue, for those unfamiliar, is what allows you to break a paperclip after bending it back and forth a few times.

My new glasses aren't ready yet - the combination of new frames and terrible eyesight mean the lenses will take a few days. My contacts are on order; likewise a few days.

Still, I guess it was good timing all in all. I still have the starter pair of contacts I've been wearing for the last two weeks. They're at the end of the rated life, but they are the only thing keeping me from bumping into walls.

There is also the possibility of wearing half a frame - a sort of monocle with an earpiece. That kinda works, except I can only see out of one eye and appear a bit off-kilter. From the location of the break, taping isn't an option, although it might boost my geek cred. Ocolus Reparo, anyone?

Saturday, April 18, 2009


In my work as an engineer, I come across a lot of cool stuff. I scan the gadget blogs and slashdot, and ever now and then come across something that The kind of thing that you look at for a moment, then realize the brilliance, and take your hat off (figuratively) to the inventor. Unlike idiotic patents for things like swinging on a swing, a peanut and butter sandwich, or the murky realm of business method patents, these kinds of finds truly deserve a patent and all that comes with it.

Case in point:

To compensate for daylight savings time, just tip the clock, which moves the 12 o'clock position by one hour forward or back.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


That job interview early last week, despite the difficulties with the travel and all, has panned out nicely. Late last week they extended me an offer, and I have accepted.

Because of the nature of the company, the fact that a lot of their work is done under contract for other companies, and just prudent blogging practices, I'm afraid I'll have to be oblique about my new employers and my new job. It's a medium-sized company of a few hundred, with excellent resources and a lot of smart people to learn from. They do engineering R&D for hire, some of it pretty high profile, and a lot for medical device manufacturers. This dovetails nicely with my current job. I'll have a chance to get back to doing electronics and controls, something that I have decent training but little professional experience in. Their contract work, and the ongoing royalties they get from it, gives them the financial stability to take on riskier projects.

In stark contrast to my current job, it seems that jeans and non-dress shirts are the unofficial dress code. My suit-wearing days are numbered.

It isn't all sun and rainbows, though. The move will come with a 10% pay cut to start, though with good prospects for growth and profit-sharing. I'll have a 20-minute driving commute, rather than my current 15-minute walk. The atmosphere at this place is much more intense than my current job - more like a startup - and so it could mean some pretty long hours at times. On the other hand, so long as the work gets done, no one seems to care exactly when it gets done, so there is good flexibility. In the grand scheme of things, this reads more like a list of quibbles. It's a solid job with a good company doing good work, at a time when there's plenty of people unable to find work of any sort.

So, in spite of all the current uncertainty, we have lucked out on the two biggies: we've sold our house, and I've got a new job.

Now there's just that matter of moving halfway across the country...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


It's the biggest news to hit Washington, D.C. all week. The Obamas have finally gotten a dog!

While we are happy for the first family, we are disappointed by their choice in Mr. Bo. You see, succumbing to the public consciousness (and the Humane Society), the Obamas sought to get a rescue dog from a shelter. Malia's allergies meant most mixed breeds were out. Still, as we can attest from personal experience, delightful non-allergenic rescues can be found. While we're sure that Mr. Bo is a very nice puppy that will be very well taken care of, he did not come from a shelter, but rather from a purebreeder. Ted Kennedy has a dog from the same litter, and sorta gifted Mr. Bo to the Obamas. Sorry, the fact that Mr. Bo was returned by his first owners does not exactly qualify him as a rescue.

The isolated case of Mr Bo and splitting hairs about what qualifies as a rescue probably wouldn't warrant ink (bits?) on our blog, except for the fact that the current publicity will probably mean that there will be a rush to breed and adopt more portuguese water dogs, many of which will end up in shelters, waiting to be rescued.

Candy Corn in Space

During some of his "downtime" on board the International Space Station, astronaut Don Pettit did little experiments here and there for the hell of it. One would think that spending most waking hours keeping a space station running and squeezing in a little scheduled science would be enough, but this guy just didn't quit.

One experiment was an interesting large-scale demonstration of how soaps and surfactants work. He took a blog of water and inserted candy corn into it. The fat end he first coated with oil - so that it would not sink all the way in. See the results below:

Monday, April 13, 2009

In Her Easter Bonnet...

Brynna had a lovely first Easter. It was a bright spring-y day here in Minnesota, and Mom and I had a delightful time at church this morning (Brynna was napping, which was too bad, as she would have really enjoyed the music) and then everyone had a great lunch with Beth and Matt.

We got a quick photo with B in her Easter bonnet, which she much preferred chewing on or using to play peek-a-boo:

And here are a couple of video clips of her with her special Easter basket:

We hope all of you had a wonderful Easter, too!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

On the Move!

Brynna has been very inspired by a visit from her Grand.

She has learned how to lean over the upside-down laundry basket and push it across the floor, and yesterday she greeted Alex and me by crawling over to the edge of her playpen and pulling straight up to stand.

Then today, when presented with her brand new (well, brand-new to her, thank you consignment store) push toy, an amazing thing happened:

(Yes, we think maybe she broke into her dad's birthday champagne a little early.)

Happy birthday, amazing father of the amazing little B!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Things worked in my favor and I have returned home. I'm too tired to elaborate further.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Traveling...Yet Again

I am writing this while in the air, somewhere over the upper Midwest. [Though, of course, I don't have internet access up here (thank God!). I suppose I should say I am composing this in the air, then uploading it at my next opportunity].

It has been a rather busy 36 hours, which has brought me yet again to New Hampshire.

And what could be the reason for this trip, now that my family is back in Minnesota? Surely there isn't something else in New Hampshire that demands my in-person attention. As it turns out, there is a very good reason: a job interview. It is perhaps best to not mention who it was with or for what job. Suffice to say that they seem pretty serious: they paid to fly me out on short notice, after only an hour's phone call and looking at my resume.

Those of you keeping score will note that this is my 6th round trip to the Northeast since mid-December. I shudder to think of the carbon footprint. Believe me, I'll be happy when this one is done. I pray for an end to days when my time is so thoroughly out of my hands. This trip hasn't been quite as arduous as driving the whole distance, but it hasn't been a picnic, either.

The flight out there yesterday actually wasn't that bad. There were some delays, but I ended up in Manchester more or less on time. I spent the night at our place in Concord, then had the interview this morning.

When I arrived at the airport to come back, I noticed on the flight board that there was a lot of yellow and red: delayed and cancelled flights. Some bad weather had been passing through the area - it was a torrential downpour when I arrived. So, my flight leaving Manchester was delayed for over an hour. That chewed up most of my layover in Detroit, so as soon as we touched down I fired up the iPhone and looked up the status of my connecting flight. Ah, no problem. It, too, was delayed about an hour.

But there was a problem. Because we only have one car in Rochester at the moment, I took a shuttle up to MSP on Sunday. Likewise, I was scheduled on a shuttle to get back Monday night. The delay in Detroit meant I'd miss the 9:00 shuttle I was scheduled on, and instead must take the 10:30. This happens to be the last shuttle of the day.

But, at the moment, even this is looking doubtful. That hour delay in Detroit quickly grew. It took longer than expected to load the passengers, then some mechanical problem kept us at the gate for a while. By the time that was cleared, the flight crew's allowable work time had maxed out (their day had started at 4 am), so we needed to wait for a replacement crew. Then we had to wait while taxiing for our slot in the departure queue.

So, here I am flying, wondering if I shall miss the last shuttle from MSP tonight. That's happened to me before, and it resulted in a white knuckle drive on snowy roads, in a blizzard, in a rented economy car with racing slicks, driven by a woman from Salzburg. We careened off a snow embankment and guard rail just before reaching Rochester...good times.

In fact, thinking on it now, of those six round trips to the Northeast in the last few months, I've had serious airline problems in three of them. One of those round trips was driving, which means that the airlines are two-for-five. That might be good in baseball, but hardly for transportation. One of those bad trips resulted in an entire lost day!

As things stand, I estimate I'll have 20 minutes from touchdown to the shuttle departure. I'll need to deplane, walk an indeterminate length of terminal, collect my checked bag (alas, it was unavoidable - too much stuff to bring back from Concord), and get to the shuttle. That's probably impossible. I will call the shuttle when I touch down and ask them to wait a bit longer. Being the last shuttle of the day, they might do that.

The backup plan is for Hilary to drive up and get me. I really, really hope that doesn't come to pass. We were in touch while I was on the ground, so she knows the flight and knows to check the flight status. Seeing the expected arrival time and doing the math I've just done, will she already be on the road when I touch down?