Monday, October 31, 2011


We started celebrating Halloween on Friday, when one of my attendings hosted a pumpkin carving party. Since it was indoors, Brynna got to try out her originally planned Halloween outfit: ballerina!

Well, Jedi ballerina. 'Cause who can pass up a lightsaber?

Alex carved this AWESOME pumpkin:

With all the cold and the snow, though, tonight's actual outfit ended up being a little more layered.

 And, heck, why not add some alligator boots and some fairy wings?

Happy Halloween to all!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow in October

You may have heard the reports: we had snow last night. Not just a little, we had what would have been significant even in February, but is downright ridiculous in October. I haven't seen official numbers, but I would estimate about 12" of heavy, wet snow.

The weather has been cold for days. We have waited in vain for the numerous green tomatoes and peppers in the garden to ripen up. But considering that it has been about as cold outside as it is inside our fridge, we didn't get far with that. Saturday morning was the final (outdoor) Farmer's Market for the season: stock up on potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, and onions.

Knowing weather was on the way, Hilary and I decided to make a mad dash to clean up the back yard and put the garden to bed. The leaves are only half down, but Hilary raked the yard. I pulled up all the remaining shreds of plant life in the garden, emptied half the compost bin into the beds, turned the soil, planted some garlic, and covered it over with the rakings. Take down the swings. Add some guy lines to keep a section of godawful fence from collapsing this winter. Spread some grass seed. Move the porch table and chairs into the garage. Clean up the random trash from the backyard.

American Gothic it is not.

In the final five minutes of that work, late in the afternoon, the flakes started to fly. They continued all through the night and into the morning. We awoke to this:

The remaining leaves on the trees were like nets capturing and retaining the snow. The snow weighed down the branches, the branches broke. We lost power intermittently in the night. Come morning, we had some downed branches in our backyard:

A little damage, but nothing I can't fix in the spring. That's nothing compared to what my neighbors woke up to.

Theoretically, the weather will warm up a bit this week and all this snow will melt away. Let's hope so: Halloween is too early for it to be winter.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Not long after we started this blog, now some four years ago, I wondered who was reading it, and where. I could fairly assume that I personally knew every person reading it, but I wanted some way to know. Blogger at the time did not have any way of gathering or presenting this information (still doesn't as far as I know). But there are a number of ways of gathering analytics, as the buzzword-inclined would call it. They all work by inserting a bit of extra code into a certain webpage (in this case, the blog template), that sends off a small capsule of info from each visitor. This information can be cut, dried, spliced, diced, and sorted any number of ways. We use Google Analytics.

People tend to use this information largely for search engine optimization, figuring out what search terms lead people to their website, and how they can best draw in traffic and keep them there for longer. Since we don't sell ads on this blog and don't pay for any search terms, this information is largely irrelevant to us (more specifically, to me; this is definitely a geek's pursuit).

What is interesting information to me are the number of pageviews per day, and where they come from. Here is a snapshot of this kind of data:

As you can see, we have quite a fanclub in Rochester, NY (hello, my adoring audience!).

Then there's some location data that is just plain weird. For instance, my blog receives about one hit a day from this or that foreign country: India, China, Latvia, Brazil, Paraguay. I appreciate your interest, dear readers from afar, but I do have to wonder what brings you here (let me know in the comments).

And who are these people that flatter us with their attention? A lot of Apple users: 50% are on OS X, another 15% on iOS. Roughly half of our visitors use firefox, about a third use safari. A bit less than 10% are Internet Explorer (encouraging, but what are you all thinking?). An equal number are using Chrome.

Other information: what are the most popular blog posts. Generally, people come to the main page:, and don't delve into specific pages with specific addresses. Some, however, are just so oh so special:

A steady trickle of visitors go directly this post about the construction of our raised beds. A friend of ours in Minnesota linked to it from a blog she contributes to. In that one day our blog's daily readership went from dozens to hundreds of hits.

And although I'm not trying to make it big in search engines, I am also interested to know what search terms direct random traffic to my blog. What's the big winner? Alas, none of my carefully worded posts (and the occassional rant) about energy or politics, nor Hilary's experience in med school and doctoring. Nope, the number one search engine destination for our blog is a post debunking a chain email purporting to show a Smart car crushed between two dump trucks. Depending on the search terms, it's the #1 or #2 hit on the subject. Our place in history is secure! Slightly more satisfying: a few people find their way to our blog by searching on "oversized knee walker", and end up reading about this little bit of work I did at my last job. Search engine traffic accounts for only about 10% of all visitors.

So I guess we're not getting famous doing this blogging stuff. In truth, I think we can live with that.

Little foodie

I was on "short call" this evening in the hospital, and arrived home just after 9:00.

B, instead of being fast asleep, was just climbing down from her footboard after turning on the lamp. After restoring soothing darkness, I asked her about her day, and then inquired about what she had eaten for dinner.

"We had beets. And keen-wa" [which is indeed the proper pronunciation of quinoa, a South American grain]

"And pistachios," she continued. "I gave one to M. He's not a fan of pistachios, but I gave him one anyway."

At this rate, she's going to be ordering in fancy French restaurants pretty soon...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


One of the wonderful things about being back in New Hampshire is that we're only an hour from Dartmouth, so it was easy for us to drive up for Homecoming on Friday night. I really wanted to go, despite being on call all weekend, and it was absolutely worth it. We drove up after a quick dinner and didn't leave Hanover until 11 PM! It was awfully fun to wander through Baker with Brynna at 10:30 at night, looking for the new King Arthur cafe. (Which is very tasty, by the way.)

Here's the gathering on the Green. I must say the speeches lasted MUCH longer than I remember!

Brynna tried out a higher vantage point.

And here we go!

Brynna was in awe.

And wanted to join in:

And is down a layer, cause it was HOT!

Use the Force, Brynna!

Hanging out in front of Dartmouth row. With a lightsaber. Awesome!

Yeah, I chopped my hair off. But not with a lightsaber.

"I love it at Dartmouth," Brynna said to me as we were sitting there together. Us too, little B!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rachel's wedding

Alex and I had a truly, wonderfully, spectacular, outstanding time at a dear friend's wedding a few weeks ago. We dropped B off with my parents and then drove down to Atlantic City. Timing was getting a little tight, so I ended up doing my hair in the car, and taking photos of the back of my head while I tried to get it all pinned right!

After whirlwind formal-wear-donning, Alex escorted his two dates (Sara and me) through the casino to find seats for the outdoor ceremony. There was a beautiful chuppah and many, many elegantly dressed people! The ceremony was lovely and Rachel was absolutely glowing.

Dartmouth '03! Plus Marc, who is now adopted into the group.

The reception was a gala event...the dance floor was set up over a pool, and there was a swinging 10-piece band.

Lots of between lots of eating of delicious food!

All us Dartmouthians, plus dates, were at the same table. It was a great flashback to good times in Hanover!

And it was really fun to have some grown-up party time.

After we closed down the reception, we moved to one of the bars in the casino, where we got to spend some more time hanging out with Rachel and drinking yummy things. It was a delight of an evening...mazel tov, Rachel!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Corn maze!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just a Theory

This was going to be a letter to the editor back in late August, when Gov. Rick Perry was the new hotness in the GOP presidential field, and had just concluded his first sweep through the Granite State. I set it aside for later editing and polishing (and cutting down to 300 words or less), and BAM! six weeks pass. Rick Perry is down, Herman Cain is up, ever-flexible Romney just keeps chugging along. For the purposes of this letter it doesn't matter much: the entire Republican field, more or less, has demonstrated great disdain and naivete about science.

According to Rick Perry, global warming is an unproven theory created by scientists to secure grants, and evolution is "just a theory that is out there" with a bunch of gaps. In these statements, Rick Perry has shown not only a profound ignorance about science, but also his disqualifications to be President.

To say that a scientific theory is "just a theory" is as understated and naive as saying that the Presidency is “just a job”; as though such labels carry no weight. For a theory to be labeled as such, it needs to withstand considerable and continuous rigor. A theory is a comprehensive body of work. It is a self-consistent explanation of observed phenomena that allows us to both understand and predict how the world works. This is an important distinction from the oft-conflated term hypothesis, which is a tentative explanation that has yet to be thoroughly tested and verified. Theories are never fully proven: they become established over time by consistently standing up to evidence. The more places you can find that evidence, and the more places you can apply the theory, the better. Theories can be modified and extended without forfeiting their essentials. Theories needn't be gap-free to be accurate statements. Newton's Theory of Gravity, for instance, is not a wholly accurate theory for black holes, nor did he posit a mechanism for action at a distance. Nevertheless, Newton's gravity is excellent for predicting the motions of the planets or landing on the Mars.

If Governor Perry thinks that General Relativity is just a theory, I ask him to hand over his GPS. Try explaining to an earthquake victim, or the entire oil and gas industry for that matter, that Plate Tectonics is just a theory. If Quantum Mechanics is just a theory, well, please give up all your electronics. If evolution is of no use, please sit by the bedside of someone dying of MRSA.

Theories can be falsified: we have formulated, accepted, disproven, and discarded more theories than we have kept. But neither evolution nor global warming have been broadly disproven. That is not just my belief: that is what the overwhelming weight of the evidence and majority of the global scientific community says.

Much of our present strength rests on science. Our future as a nation and global society will be determined, in no small part, on science and technology. You don't get to pick and choose what science to believe, and what science to casually reject. Nor do you get to enjoy the benefits of past science while blithely ignoring the consequences of present science. If Governor Perry thinks so little about science, then he is simply not qualified to be President.

Anyone else wish we could see a science debate in 2012? I won't hold my breath.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Slice, Chop, Repeat

Although we try to eat with the seasons, and eat locally where possible, we still use 1-4 peppers a week for much of the year. In winter, they come from greenhouses in Mexico and Holland, and that just doesn't sit right with us.

But it's not quite winter yet: it's harvest time. Even though peppers are supposed to be a summer crop, here in New Hampshire they don't start turning colors until mid-September. We've still got a whole slew that are racing the end of the season with lots of green still showing. But, amazingly enough, we have gotten some from our garden already, and have stocked up when possible at the Farmer's Market. We cut them and freeze them for later use. Break out the whetstone - I like a sharp blade for this kind of work!




I haven't got an iPhone 4S, and probably won't have one anything soon. Hilary's contract is up sooner, she might get one to replace her aging 3GS. I am, however, very intrigued by the neat addition: Siri, the voice-recognizing, speech synthesizing personal assistant. Ask her a question in natural english, get an answer. It's not a new idea (a mainstay of sci-fi for the last 75 years, I'd say). It's not new to personal electronics (Android has had something similar for a few years now). It isn't even new to Apple (my powermac G3 in college, sporting OS 9, had a short list of speakable commands). But this appears to be the most sophistocated and natural implementation to date. David Pogue has a good writeup here.

But, of course, it wouldn't be new whiz-bang technology without being (mis)used for lowbrow fun and entertainment. I present you with this compilation of odd conversations Joshua Topolsky has had with his iPhone recently. Example below from his blog:

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Almost as soon as Alex got back from the Pyrenees, I was off to Orlando for the family medicine chief resident conference, which is held in conjunction with the American Academy of Family Physicians Scientific Assembly.

My co-chief Shauna and I got to meet with more than 200 other chiefs—which was great—as well as attend many of the sessions at the continuing education conference. But the highlight of the trip was an evening that the AAFP rented out the Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios...which includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Shauna, who is not a huge Harry Potter fan, was a really good sport about the whole thing.

We started off with a great dinner in the park:

Heading into the exhibits:

They had these lights up on many of the big walls in the park. It was a good night to be a family doctor!

Here I am with my butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks. It's like really, really sweet cream soda with a marshmallowy head on it. Brynna is going to LOVE it when we eventually bring her.

In Weasley's Wizard Wheezes wiht an extendable ear:

Though there are no photos, I swear I spent most of my time in windowless rooms discussing leadership and brushing up on a variety of medical topics. And I ran a 5K race at 6:30 in the morning, cause it was too darn hot to have a race at any other time of day.

But the day we left, I decided it was finally time to sit out and have a drink by the pool. The hotel even had a Lazy River to float inner tubes on!

Good times. But I bet it'll be even better the next time I go to Orlando, cause I hope it'll be with Alex and B!