Friday, August 24, 2007

so full

Oh man. After two days of fairgoing, I am full and exhausted. I need a trip up north just to detox from all the greasy wonderful goodness.

I got to spend four hours yesterday snorgling these little guys, a litter of 8-hour-old piglets, while they napped in between meals. Large animal medicine wouldn't be half bad if they stayed this size (although then I guess it wouldn't be large animal, would it?).

In non-fair-related news, our little Pipkin is facing a health challenge. Two days ago, he was completely normal. Yesterday, Chris went to feed him and noticed that he wasn't acting right. Overnight, he developed a full-blown head tilt (like the bunny in the photo). Head tilt in rabbits is fairly common, and can be an indication of an ear infection, tooth problems, tumors, neurological issues, spinal problems, head trauma, or a number of other things. We brought him to the vet today, and thankfully it looks like it's just an inner ear infection. Treatment is usually pretty lengthy, but the prognosis is good- as long as he is eating and drinking well (which he is), antibiotics should knock out the infection. At 7 1/2 years old, Pip is getting to be an older bunny, so we're keeping our fingers crossed that he's healthy and strong enough to fight off this infection. Please keep Mr. Pipkin in your thoughts! I hate that we have to leave him during such a hard time, but he's under the expert nursing care of my parents at their house. Feel free to send any oat-and-banana care packages there.

I might blog again before we leave, but I might not. If not, have a good last couple week of August everyone!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Summer part two

I completed my internship at the WRC yesterday, and today is my last day of work before the school year starts, so tomorrow marks the first day of my second summer vacation! We'll be celebrating by going to the State Fair on Thursday (of course), then heading up north this weekend.

To answer the question that arises every time the fair comes around- what's new to eat this year?!- here is a list of the new foods:
  • Coca-Cola cheesecake dipped in chocolate on-a-stick (Apple Lil's)
  • Soda fountain funnel cakes (Apple Lil's)
  • Sloppy joes on-a-stick (Axel's)
  • Peanut butter hot dogs (Blue Moon Dine-in Theater)
  • Children's menu (Epiphany Diner)
  • Pork knuckle sandwich (Famous Dave's)
  • Kool Aid pickles (Famous Dave's)
  • Rocky road scones on-a-stick (French Meadow Bakery)
  • Grapes, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, strawberries, pineapple, apple, banana, kiwi, peaches, cherries, pears, and watermelon batter-dipped, fried, and on a stick (Fried Fruit)
  • Dixie wings on-a-stick (Green Mill Pizza)
  • Corned beef and cabbage on a stick (O'Gara's)
  • Calamari (Old English Fish and Chips)
  • Buffalo Chips and Cheese (Potato Skins)
  • Breakfast bread bowls and breakfast jambalaya (Ragin Cajun)
  • Uffda brat (Norwegian sausage wrapped in potato lefse) (Sausage Sister and Me)
  • Butterscotch cake (cake filled with cream and dipped in butterscotch) on-a-stick (Scotch Eggs)
  • Spam burgers and spam curds (Spam Burgers)
  • BLP (bacon, lettuce, and pico de gallo) quesadilla (Tejas)
  • S'mores on a stick (Ultimate Confections)
Tomorrow looks a little cool and a little rainy, but certainly not the worst weather we've ever faced at the fair. Last year Chris drove up from Northfield for the Fair just in time to avoid having his car destroyed in a hail storm, and then we got trapped in Empire Commons when the skies turned black and we thought we might get taken away by a tornado. Not tornados, but we got stuck there long enough for me to break down and buy a school bag from the Duluth Pack store that I'd been eyeing all day, and then it got cold enough for Chris to buy a sweater he'd been eyeing all day. See, even lousy weather is good for the fair!

On my list of foods to get are the classics (hot dog, milk shake, chocolate ice cream cone), the things I get every year (cream puff, deep fried oreos *drool*, corrrrrrn!!), and maybe something new. I also need to hunt for school supplies (free pens and pencils) and try to find that super-duper doggy-hair-remover that we should have bought last year.

AND, from 5 to 9, I'll be volunteering in the Miracle of Birth Center. I'm not sure what I'll be doing yet (my volunteer role was listed as "student"). I hope they'll let me hang out with the chicks and bunnies, since I still know pretty much nothing about the rest of the farm creatures (er, cows have a four-chambered stomach?).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sad day for the CVM

I learned this morning that one of the incoming vet students was murdered in Chicago this weekend. Dana Mangi was just about to start vet school at the U of MN. I didn't really know her, although I sort of met her when we went to dinner with a bunch of the incoming students at the Mall of America. Other than that, our only interaction was online via Facebook (Winnie was dog-friends with her dogs via Dogbook, too).

What a very sad way for the Class of 2011 to start out their year :(

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Reason no. 392...

...why Thomas Friedman should not be taken seriously. Via Atrios this is a 2003 interview with him that if you listen to today, you get the feeling that you are listening to an insane man. He is our modern day "Quiet American." To sum up his logic from this interview for why we needed to invade Iraq - it was to burst a "terror bubble" (his term) that had built up during the 90s. Or even shorter, 'we couldn't just sit there and not blow stuff up!'

Here is a good quote from about 5:00 in that shows his skill at being a serious, thoughtful person.
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"

You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow?

Well, Suck. On. This.


That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

He goes on to say that, well duh I knew they were lying about WMD - I wish they had not done that - but my cause was so good that it was worth it to let them trick every one into war because ultimately it would be worth it!

He should have been laughed out of town for this but it is 2007, and four years later he is still one of America's predominant thinkers.

UPDATE: Here is the clip I was talking about:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Power!

We have been getting constantly high electric bills since moving in, and in doing some research I found that we are using above the average electrical usage for Xcel. They say average is 650 kWh, High is 1,000 kWh - and our last bill was 820 kWh. For a 940 sq foot apartment.

We have turned the temp up to 78 all the time, instead of 74 when home/ 78 when away. That saved 95 kWh so obviously AC is a huge draw. But what else could run things up that high?

I went to the Xcel energy analyzer page, and they estimate that pr year AC should cost $40, lighting should cost $66, the refrigerator should cost $60, the stove is $67, and all other is $140. That is $373. Our monthly bill have been around $100 since we moved in.

Having never owned a home, or seen an electric bill before (our landlord just told us in northfield, and that included electric heat and water) I have a feeling that this is a rip off.

There is also a addition on our bill for a $.035 pr kWh"Adjustment factor" that really kicks the bill into high gear. Looking at the Xcel page again, 100% wind power is an adjustment of $.0113 kWh! So what kind of super fuel are we using?

To complicate things, our bill comes from "CONSrve" billing that just is a middle man for Xcel. They have no web page for us, just for apartment landlords and such.

So what gives? What do you pay for electric?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pooh's poos

Poor little Pooh Bear has been battling with diarrhea for over two weeks now. I finally had to give up my pseudo-diagnosing and take her in to the vet today after she had a second accident in the house and seemed sleepier than normal. $80 later, we found out that she's got a Clostridium infection. Clostridia is a bacteria that is normally present in the small intestine, but certain changes (i.e. a change in diet- probably what happened in Winnie's case) can cause it to produce a toxin, which in turn can cause diarrhea.

So, Boo is stuck home from daycare for a few days while her antibiotics knock out her infection. Come visit her and give her some love!

Rant Chaser

Hate to have such a rant as the first post (Direct TV sucks! Sorry couldn't help my self) so here is a cool Wednesday chaser. Reverse Graffiti! The basic idea is that the artist uses soap and a brush to selectivly clean the grime caused by pollution, advertising, or what ever and write your message using that negative space. Its legality is in question, but obviously it is far more legal than using paint. Over time, (as shown in this photo) more grime covers up your work. And the only way to "clean up" the wall is to wash the dirt off! So Dirty = Clean. Clean = Dirty.

"Banksy" is one of the big names in this in the UK, and here is his web page.

Also, Here is an NPR slide show of some of his work.

Direct TV is the worst company in the world

I just want to give mention to the fact that Direct TV has to be the single worst company I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with. I have spent hours and hours of time on the phone with them in a sad attempt to cancel our account. It all started when we got a 60 day free trial through multiband, our building Internet/phone/cable provider who uses direct TV as there cable provider. They have been very good through this entire process, even if they can't seem to get things done either.

Here is the time line:

• Cancel in mid June, order a "recovery kit" for the set top unit.
• No recovery kit arrived, get a bill for another months service.
• Call to ask what is up, am told that the account is still active! Told I can't get a recovery kit. Told I have to pay $130 for early termination (despite the contract that says I don't) and threatened with a debt collector if I do not pay for the month + fee.
• Call multiband, and do a 3 way, 45 min, conference call with one of their reps and Direct TV. They cave and order me a recovery kit to waive the fee.
• As of today, still no kit. I call Direct TV and they have not ordered the kit yet (!!!!!!) and their computer won't work. I get sent to another dept where a rep orders me a third kit.
• I called multiband and they are pissed. They called their Direct TV rep and now I am getting a kit in 1-2 days not 3-5.

I have spent FAR more time on the phone stressing over this than I watched TV while I had it. I think if I have to pay that extra month I might just do it because I am feeling so defeated by Direct TV's inept bureaucracy.

So what else to do about it? Google bomb!

... My review of Direct TV Review. A review Direct TV DirectTV Review bad awful evil don't warning bad bad bad Direct TV sucks sucks sucks Direct TV sucks review. :D

Monday, August 13, 2007



Being a kid who grew up on a steady diet of PBS (oh Square One, how I loved you) and Nickelodeon (back when it was good), I've always been a little suspicious of the new wave of children's television: Baby Einstein videos. Turns out my suspicions might be justified, as this article came through on ScienceBlog the other day:

Despite marketing claims, parents who want to give their infants a boost in learning language probably should limit the amount of time they expose their children to DVDs and videos such as “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby.” Rather than helping babies, the over-use of such productions actually may slow down infants eight to 16 months of age when it comes to acquiring vocabulary, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

It's an interesting little research project. They compared the vocabularies of groups of kids who were exposed to Baby Einstein videos, "normal" educational baby TV (like Sesame Street), "junk" baby TV (like SpongeBob), and adult TV (like Oprah). The babies who watched educational kid shows, non-educational kid shows, or adult shows were all about the same, but the babies who watched Baby Einstein videos knew six to eight fewer words for every hour per day they spent watching the videos. Here's why they think there's a difference:

“The results surprised us, but they make sense. There are only a fixed number of hours that young babies are awake and alert. If the ‘alert time’ is spent in front of DVDs and TV instead of with people speaking in ‘parentese’ – that melodic speech we use with little ones – the babies are not getting the same linguistic experience,” said Meltzoff, who is the Job and Gertrud Tamaki endowed chair in psychology at the UW.

“Parents and caretakers are the baby’s first and best teachers. They instinctively adjust their speech, eye gaze and social signals to support language acquisition. Watching attention-getting DVDs and TV may not be an even swap for warm social human interaction at this very young age. Old kids may be different, but the youngest babies seem to learn language best from people,” Meltzoff said.

Of course, when I was little, we did lots of reading and listening to music and all that other kid stuff too, which is probably a more important factor than what was on TV. I wonder how the TV-watching babies would compare in vocabulary to those who don't have a TV in the home?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tough Book?

My computer is rounding the corner to 5 years old and is still kicking amazingly well. I had time to think about this when I came home to discover that it had fallen off its laptop desk and onto the floor, about a 3 foot drop. Fortunately it was closed but it put this nasty dent into the corner, a small crack, and now the battery compartment is effectively welded shut. The paint scuff is from before.

Also, the screen casing had cracked a few months ago and I had it held together by some tape but it was getting worse so I broke out the handy super epoxy and gooed it up. As good as sort of new! Nothing says award winning industrial design than shoddily applied epoxy.

Also, some pixels on the screen "dance" some times, and the CD/DVD drive only reads DVDs and don't even think about burning stuff. (I have an external drive I use for that)

BUT, that is with 5 years of nearly daily use and highly mobile use at that. And intensive use still with photoshop and flash. The original battery holds up for 3+ hours still. So nock on wood and three cheers for my trusty Ti Book!

UPDATE: I guess I have a lot more wear and tear to go through before I can really start to appreciate it!

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma a few days ago, and have been mulling it over ever since... It's really a good read, although sometimes slipping into an over-the-top journalistic style that I didn't care for, and sometimes bending the truth a little (i.e. stating that cows naturally seek out certain plants based on their antibacterial properties if they aren't feeling well... a nice thought, but not true). Overall it's well-written, and the fact that it's gotten me thinking about how and what I'm eating at every meal since sure says something.

The basic premise of the book is that Michael Pollan, the author, attempts to trace four different types of meals from producer to plate. He starts with the industrial food chain, which is heavily based on corn, then moves to big organic (Whole Foods Market, Earthbound Farms, Cascadian Farms, etc), then small organic (locally produced and not shipped any farther than a farmer's market), then a "hunt and gather" meal that he made himself, mainly by hunting a wild boar in California and foraging for morels. He touches on so many aspects of food that it's impossible to comment on all of it here, but these are my favorite bits:

"From 1992 to 1997 Gene Kahn [founder of Cascadian Farms] served on the USDA's National Organic Standards Board, where he played a key role in making the standards safe for the organic TV dinner and a great many other organic processed foods. This was no small feat, for Kahn and his allies had to work around the original 1990 legislation, which had prohibited synthetic food additives and manufacturing agents outright. Kahn argued that you couldn't have organic processed foods without synthetics, which are necessary to both the manufacture and preservation of such supermarket products. Several of the consumer representatives on the standards board contended that this was precisely the point, and is no synthetics meant no organic TV dinners, then TV dinners were something organic simply should not do... Kahn responded with an argument rooted in the populism of the market: if the consumer wants an organic Twinkie, then we should give it to him. As he put it to me on the drive back from Cascadian Farm, "Organic is not your mother."... The final standards simply ignored the 1990 law, drawing up a list of permissible additives and synthetics, from ascorbic acid to xanthan gum."
Pollan gives a very nice review of the history of organic foods, and how Big Organic has now squeezed most of the original philosophy out of the organic movement so that it can fit into an industrial market. Industrial organic farms are often just as large as any other industrial farms... They just don't use pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Better for the environment for sure, but the original organic movement aspired to be something more than that. People wanted to be more connected to their food. Is it a stronger connection to buy organic asparagus from Mexico, or to buy traditionally-raised apples from Northfield?
"Even if the vegetarian is a more highly evolved human being, it seems to me he has lost something along the way, something I'm not prepared to dismiss as trivial... We have been meat eaters for most of our time on earth. This fact of evolutionary history is reflected in the design of our teeth, the structure of our digestion, and, quite possibly, in the way my mouth still waters at the sight of a steak cooked medium rare. Meat eating helped make us what we are in a physical as well as a social sense. Under the pressure of the hunt, anthropologists tell us, the human brain grew in size and complexity, and around the hearth where the spoils of the hunt were cooked and then apportioned, human culture first flourished.

This isn't to say we can't or shouldn't transcend our inheritance, only that it is our inheritance; whatever else may be gained by giving up meat, this much at least is lost. The notion of granting rights to animals may lift us up from the brutal, amoral world of eater and eaten- of predation- but along the way it will entail the sacrifice, or sublimation, of part of our own identity- of our own animality. (This is one of the odder ironies of animal rights: It asks us to acknowledge all we share with animals, and then to act toward them in a most unanimalistic way.) Not that the sacrifice of our animality is necessarily regrettable; no one regrets our giving up raping and pillaging, also part of our inheritance. But we should at least acknowledge that the human desire to eat meat is not, as the animal rightists would have it, a trivial matter, a mere gastronomic preference. By the same token we might call sex- also now technically unnecessary for reproduction- a mere recreational preference. Rather, our meat eating is something very deep indeed."

I know this little excerpt sounds like the usual meat-eater's justification of carnivory (we evolved to do it!), but trust me, he explores the question of eating animals much more thoroughly than that. I just liked this paragraph because he gives meat eating a more complex value than I've ever given it. I will say that our obligatory food animal courses in vet school have made me seriously question eating pigs.

"Perhaps because we have no such culture of food in America almost every question about eating is up for grabs. Fats or carbs? Three squares or continuous grazing? Raw or cooked? Organic or industrial? Veg or vegan? Meat or mock meat? Foods of astounding novelty fill the shelves at our supermarket, and the line between a food and a "nutritional supplement" has fogged to the point where people make meals of protein bars and shakes. Consuming these neo-psuedo-foods alone in our cars, we have become a nation of antinomian eaters, each of us struggling to work out our dietary salvation on our own. Is it any wonder Americans suffer from so many eating disorders? In the absence of any lasting consensus about what and how and where and when to eat, the omnivore's dilemma has returned to America with an almost atavistic force."

Pollan describes the omnivore's dilemma as having the evolutionary advantage of being able to eat just about anything, but the disadvantage of having to figure out what's good to eat. I think about it every time I go to the co-op and see great food right next to a giant aisle of pills and supplements. How can Whole Foods extol the virtues of eating fresh, organic foods while at the same time offering magic missing nutrients guaranteed to prevent cancer, capture free radicals, and do the laundry? Somehow Americans aren't satisfied with getting everything we need from food.. There must be more, right? Acai, mangosteen, dark chocolate. What hole in nutrition are we trying to fill?


A snippit of a conversation that I caught yesterday, between a woman dropping off a critter at the rehab center and the vet:

Woman: My mother-in-law's dog got giardia, and her vet told her that he picked it up from the wild rabbits.
Vet: Well, it's possible, but-
Woman: So, are all of our wild rabbits running around suffering from bloody diarrhea? Why aren't we treating them for it?!
Vet: Wild animals often harbor parasites that would make us-
Woman: *getting more frenzied* Did someone introduce these diseases from a foreign country?! Why isn't the media covering this?! WHY is no one doing anything for our wildlife?!?!
Vet: ALL wildlife carries parasites! They evolved to live with them. They don't get sick from them like we or our pets do. Besides, your dog more likely got the parasite from another dog.
Woman: Oh. Well, thanks for your help, you sound very knowledgeable.

From Chris: I found a photo of these killer rabbits that the media wont report. Beware...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

National Night Out

Yesterday was National Night Out and another get together on the rooftop deck. Mostly the same characters as usual but we got to meet a few more of our neighbors. Megan came late and missed the obligatory hot dogs but did catch the watermelon. It was fun!

Not much blogging from me as of late, I guess things are in the middle of the lazy days of summer. Brother Cletus was in town last weekend and got to visit the apartment, and the next day it was a snuggle fest with Aria. Here is a photo of her adoring uncles. She is getting big! I also managed to feed her almost all of her dinner. She wanted to feed her self already too, grabbing the spoon and shoving it in her mouth. You have to be careful she doesn't eat too much of it!

I am also wrapping up my time at St. Olaf. I just have about six more days left! Now I am training in my replacement and wraping up some loose ends. Thats just 600 miles of driving to go. The Volvo is still up to the task. With its new alternator it is running like a champ now with 271,347 miles on it no less! That is like driving around the globe 10.9 times. I have also put on 13,000 miles since I bought it last may.

Tonight is a dinner with Dan and Dave - tuna steak, garlic mashed potatoes, and greek salad. Yum!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pet food (yet again)

I stumbled upon the Dolitter vet blog a few weeks ago, and have enjoyed reading through her thoughts and experiences as a vet in Miami. She has a series of posts about vets and pet food companies (part 1, part 2, and part 3) that are worth a read if you have some extra time. I don't agree with her views completely, but she does a really good job of pointing out some of the things that make me uncomfortable about the relationship between vet schools and pet food companies.

The question remains, how do we break those ties? Who will come in to provide the funding that currently comes from Hills/Iams/Purina?

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Last night, I went to see the Minnesota Orchestra with Bjorn and Jeanette. Before they started their planned concert, the conductor announced that they wanted to perform a musical response to the bridge collapse. They played Edward Elgar's Nimrod, "not because it was written in sadness, but because it was written in celebration of the power of friendship, love, and hope." Here is the Chicago Symphony's version:

Thursday, August 02, 2007

In the midst of all this seriousness...

... an lolcat that made me giggle this morning:



Being a St. Paulite, I was having a hard time picturing where the bridge was, as we travel mainly by 94, 494, and 35E. Then I found this photo from our trip back from the cabin in 2003. I took it from the bridge, since it's one of the best views of the city. You can see half the Metrodome on the left side.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


This has been a surreal afternoon. I just heard on TV the news caster saying that this does not seem like our city. This is the kind of thing that gets reported far away from earthquake zones. But no, its that bridge that we as Minnesotans travel all the time. Every one has been on it. 150,000 people a day travel over it. Now it has fallen killing and wounding many people. It has such an emotional impact because virtually anyone in the Twin Cities could have been on that bridge. Its just the way you go. Thats why cell phone service was virtually shut down due to the massive number of calls - every one thought that their friends or family could have been on that bridge.

Here is a map the way traffic is going to go for the next 2-3 years. The blue dot is our apartment, so suddenly we live next to the freeway. It is going to make it a different neighborhood.

Before and after

Before and after. I had no idea that the bridge looked so, cheap..


You probably have heard now of the horrific and crippling bridge collapse on 35W as you leave downtown Minneapolis, cross the Mississippi and arrive at University Ave. Megan, Winnie and I are ok. I was listing to music on the radio and a stunned DJ came on, telling me to turn to the news NPR and that a bridge collapsed.

So, we will see what happens after this. It is a traumatic tear to the very fabric of this city, and it is going to take years and years to recover.

This photo is a shot I took off the live feed on