Friday, September 28, 2007

Fairwell to the Jazz Image

This post is a bit delayed since I did a wedding last night, but right now Megan and I are listening to the last episode of the Jazz Image on the Current. It was announced in July, but I didn't find out about it until this week. Leigh Kamman of NPR's the Jazz Image is retiring after 60 years of being on the radio. I didn't always listen to his show, but I have always heard it. And every time it comes on I always say, "he has the best voice in radio." And he has always been there - to the point that I never thought he would leave. I first remember him coming on at the cabin on Saturday nights, with the always beautiful "Manoir De Mes Reves" by Gerry Mulligan as his intro song. What he managed to do with is voice and his music is take you some place if you wanted to go. Paris, 1949. New Orleans, 1972. The Dakota Jazz Club, last Sunday. His deep calm voice carried the you and the music on effortlessly in a way I have never heard before over the radio, and it will be hard to match.

There is an archive of his shows going back to July 2005, but as of now it is just a list of what played on that date. Hopefully they can change that with some streaming content later. There is a great documentary on there that you should all watch!

So thanks Leigh, for all that you have done for the landscape of the twin cities nights all these years. Good luck on your future endeavors, we will miss you!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Net Neutrality example

Here is an article in the New York Times that highlights what is at stake in the Net Neutrality debate. Does a network provider have a right to control what is transmitted over that network? In this example, Verizon blocked abortion-rights group Naral from sending text messages to members over their network saying it had the right to block “controversial or unsavory” messages like this:
End Bush’s global gag rule against birth control for world’s poorest women! Call Congress. (202) 224-3121. Thnx! Naral Text4Choice.”
They have since backed down but the thing is, they could if they wanted to. They are saying that data is not neutral. This data is "bad data" and you can only see the "good data".

What if Qwest could decide what was good and bad data coming into our apartment? Say they made a deal with Amazon's video service. Thats good data while a competing service that didn't make Qwest a deal is bad data - so you don't get it unless you pay Qwest a 'roaming' fee for 'non-partner' content. You get the idea.

Holy Apples!

Holly Apples! Yesterday was my luxurious wednesday off and I spent it taking Winnie to the vet and picking apples. This was the result, 209 lbs of apples from Megan's parents over productive tree. Add to that the apples from the last time we went and thats a total of 230 lbs.

So, we can either make about 100 pies, get really really sick of (and from) eating apples, or make cider! Of course I am going for the latter. Right now I am working out the specifics, but the apples are living in a garage waiting to be pulped and pressed. My estimates show that we have the potential to make 16 gallons of cider.

Here is the process:
1: Pulp the apples using a garbage disposal (new of course, $50)
2: Press the pulp in an apple press to get the juice. Hopefully ours works, it was made in the late 1800s!
3: Divide into batches of 5 gallons. One will be naturally fermented using the wild yeast in the apples, one will be spiced, and one will be flavored (think raspberry cider).
4: Wait for 3-6 months.
5: Bottle in wine bottles for still cider, add sugar and cap in beer bottles for sparkling cider.
6: Wait another month, then drink!

Also, that tree has the potential for another 2-3 hundred pounds of apples still on the branches. Its too much to handle!

PS: For instant satisfaction I am also going to keep some as fresh pressed cider for immediate drinking! It will be non-pasteurized and I have heard that the flavor is totally different. None of the apples have touched the ground, so there is virtually no threat of of e-coli.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Clean teeth, drugged Pooh

Winnie got her teeth cleaned today, so she's back to having pearly whites, instead of crusty yellows (ew). Unfortunately I can't actually look at her nice clean teeth, because her mouth is so tender that she doesn't want me to mess with it. She's wandering aimlessly around the apartment now, looking pretty pathetic and still a little woozy from the sedation. Poor corgi!

She says, "Harumph. My teef hurt."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Animal myths, part 1

I feel like I've be debunking a lot of animal-related myths lately, or at least encountering enough people who believe in them to make me a little uncomfortable. So, here's my attempt to clear up some confusions about animals.

  • Myth #1: Cows always produce milk.
A handful of my classmates experienced the wrath of the public during their volunteer shifts at the Miracle of Birth Center at the state fair this year. Why? They happened to be there after the birth of a calf- and when people discover that calves don't actually get to drink the milk that their moms make (aside from the colostrum), they get really upset. "Why are you taking the baby away from the mom? Doesn't he need to eat?" Well... Cows are mammals, just like humans. Female humans don't make milk until they have a baby. Cows are the same way- they won't make milk until they have calves. If we let the calf drink the milk, then what exactly would end up in the grocery store? After they consume the colostrum, calves get bottle fed a milk replacer, and cows make milk for the human food supply. It isn't healthy to make milk all the time, so after a certain amount of time, the cow gets "dried off" (stops being milked) and gets a vacation before she has her next calf and cycle starts again.

  • Myth #2: Since organic farmers can't use antibiotics, organic dairy cows aren't treated when they get sick. They keep getting milked, so the reason that organic milk tastes creamier than conventional milk is due to all the extra pus in it from those sick cows.
First, ew. Second, it's not true. Just because organic farmers can't use antibiotics preventatively doesn't mean they can't use them to treat a sick animal (obviously, it would just be cruelty to leave sick animals untreated). They also have a much longer period after antibiotic treatment before that cow's milk is allowed back into their products. Finally, organic milk has to fit within all the same health criteria as conventional milk, which includes landing within a certain "cell count". A certain number of cells in milk is normal, but elevated levels indicate that there are white blood cells in it, which means the cow has an infection in her udder. Milk with elevated cell counts isn't allowed to be sold, whether it's an organic or a traditional dairy. Milk from grass-fed cows has a different fatty acid ratio than milk from grain-fed cows, which is probably what accounts for the different texture.

  • Myth #3: Domestic dogs and wolves have identical digestive tracts.
I don't understand the logic behind this one. The myth usually takes the form of "Our dogs may look different from wolves on the outside, but inside they are indistinguishable. Thus, we should be feeding our dogs the same as we feed wolves." I'm not sure why this is so widely believed. How could you look at a pug, acknowledge its obvious external physical differences from wolves, but believe that selective breeding somehow left the GI tract untouched? One simple example compares large breed dogs to small breed dogs. Large breed dogs have a digestive tract that weighs about 2.7% of their body weight. Small breed dogs have a digestive tract that weighs about 7% of their body weight. That's a big difference! The size of the GI tract is proportionately different in small breed dogs.

If selective breeding could alter the size of the GI tract, I don't see why there couldn't be a ton of differences we simply can't recognize yet. The important thing to pay attention to is what the selective pressures have been on dogs. Early in domestication, the dogs that could survive on human garbage had a selective advantage. More recently, as diets shifted to kibble, dogs that did best on a kibble-based diet had an advantage. Kibble might only be 50 years old, but when you consider how many canine generations that is, that's a lot of time for breeders to be selecting (intentionally or not) for dogs that do well on kibble. A wolf that can't handle the bacterial load of raw meat simply dies. Dogs haven't had the same selective pressure placed on them- when Winnie had awful diarrhea after my attempt at raw feeding, I just put her back on kibble, no (long-term) harm done.

Anyway, my point is, there's almost no way that the GI tract escaped being altered throughout the many many many years of canine domestication. There's nothing wrong with that, and it addresses the important point that while wolves may be well-equipped to deal with raw meat, our dogs aren't always armed with the same protective mechanisms (that's a long way of saying that yes, dogs can get infected with E. coli and Salmonella- and keep in mind that those pathogens exist primarily in our domesticated livestock, and not as often in freshly-killed prey items in the wild...).

  • Myth #4: The life span of pets has been decreasing over recent years due to [insert paranoia of choice here].
First, no one collects data on pet life spans, so no one has been tracking this. Second, it anecdotally doesn't appear to be true. Vet clinics today are routinely seeing cats age well into their 20s, something that was remarkable a few decades ago. The same goes for dogs- one of my professors had a 16 year old Boxer (!). So I can't say for sure, since there's no real data, but I think the vast majority of animal professionals would say that pet life expectancy is longer today than ever.

The corollary to this is "Pets are developing more cancer today than 10 years ago due to kibble/flea control products/overvaccination/etc." We are seeing more cancer now than ever, but the vast majority is because pets are now getting old enough to develop cancer- and, as pets are moved out of the backyard and into the house (then the bedroom, then the bed...), owners are far more aware of their pets' health. A lipoma that an owner would never have noticed on the backyard dog is now not only noticed on the 'furkid', but called a "cancer", and results in a trip to the vet.

Monday, September 24, 2007

First exam of the year is over...

... and I hope they aren't all like that... :-P

Here's to nicer exams and/or more efficient studying the rest of the semester!

For now, an lolcat:

Ti Book almost obsolete?

According to AppleInsider Apple has set the minumum requirements for OS X 10.5 "Leopard" just one model below my trusty TiBook at 866 mhz. They also say that 10.6 will be intel only, which is not a surprise. Still, for a computer who is running the clock to its 5th birthday in a month, and still gets 3+ hours of charge on its original battery, thats not bad! I started on 10.1 after all.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Winnie the...?

Oh my.

Winnie has been invited to a birthday party for one of her best daycare dog-friends.

But it's not just any party- since her dog-friend's birthday is in late October, it's a costume party.
So let's hear it: what should Winnie be for Halloween??

The goal is to come up with something as adorable and creative as the famous Corgi School Bus costume...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Net Nutrality

There has been lots of discussion on line at least about "Net Neutrality." Currently the internet is regulated by the government so that service providers must deliver any data from any point in the world to you just like any other bit of data. It is blind.

The big providers (ATT, Verizon, probably Qwest) don't like this. They argue that they should be able to provide "premium" web service to their content at the expense of their competitors. I think this is an awful idea and would do nothing to bring the US up to speed in world where we are falling far behind - something that really bugs me. The US down to 15th and get an average of 1.9 Megabits pr Second average. Japan and Korea get 60+ average. Given they are lots smaller and more dense but good luck finding a single 60 Megabit connection anywhere in the US.

Anyway, Net Neutrality can be a funny idea, but I found this photo that some one made showing the dystopia of an unregulated internet.

I think they just cut and paste a cable TV ad, but thats the idea. Say goodbye to the internet as we know it.

Of course, John Stewert describes it better than anyone. Here is a classic clip:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dropping like flies

I'm getting a little nervous that the class of 2010 is cursed. Last year we had two students drop out, and this year we have two students who are taking a leave of absence for at least a year. Plus, we've had a least three students since the beginning of the school year (two weeks ago!!) who have gone to the hospital for various reasons- both animal-related and non.

So I'm watching my back, and being extra careful... :-/

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Woman Who Thinks Like A Cow

Tomorrow, Chris and I get to go hear a lecture from Temple Grandin, the author of Animals in Translation. She believes that the way she perceives the world as an autistic person is the same way that animals perceive the world- she thinks that both are unable to combine little details to form a big picture. Instead, she (and animals) are very aware of details and can't filter out things that normally we wouldn't notice. That's why autistic people often go into "sensory overload" and can't handle environments that normally aren't that stimulating, like the grocery store. That's also why she says that cattle will balk at something we would never see, like a leaf in their path or a coat hanging on a fencepost. I'm really excited, since Temple is one of the most influential people in animal behavior and in particular, in cattle behavior. Before she entered the cattle industry, working with cattle was all about force and fear. She basically single-handedly revolutionized cattle handling and husbandry- an impressive feat for an autistic woman.

The BBC made a great documentary about Temple that's available on YouTube... this is the first section, and it links to the other 4 parts:

I'll give a review of her talk tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You know its Vet school when...

You know vet school is back when you pull a muscle just because of the weight of your book bag. Just an observation. 

Saturday, September 15, 2007

vet language

We finished our first full week of classes today, which included five days of pathology. Pathology is our major class this semester, taking up 7 credits (compared to the 5 credits of anatomy or physiology last year, classes that pretty much consumed the bulk of the year). We have path lecture every day of the week, and both lecture and lab on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The main challenge right now is learning the language of pathology. Example:
  • fibrous
  • fibrinous
  • fibrosis
  • fibrin
  • fibrinogen
  • fibroblasts
  • fibrosing
  • hematoma
  • hemangioma
  • hemangiosarcoma
... all mean very different things! The ultimate goal of pathology is to be able to look at a lesion and describe it, then use the description to decide what might be the cause. In practice, it means looking at dead animals, or parts of dead animals, finding the thing that don't look right, and deciding what that thing could be. It's been pretty interesting so far. It feels like a step closer to working with actual animals, since unlike the creatures we dissected in anatomy lab, the pathology specimens have known histories, ages, and owners.

Winnie the Pooh went to her vet yesterday for her annual checkup, and passed with flying colors- except for her teeth. She'll need to go back in in a couple of weeks to be anaesthatized and have her teeth cleaned. She also gets to get two of her least favorite things done while she's under- get her shots and have her nails clipped. I'm sure she'll come home groggy, but at least she won't have any idea what happened while she was sleeping! I got to brag about Winnie's Boundary Waters adventure, and the vet complemented Winnie's 90-beats-per-minute heart rate (a low rate for small dogs, especially considering she gets so nervous at the vet's office!), and said Win must be in very good shape. Good girl!

Friday, September 14, 2007


I have been cleaning up my personal web page and portfolio at and added in the "recent work" portion that has been missing since the re-design. I also updated my bio a bit, as well as the resume to reflect my new position at Mac. and the end of my time at St. Olaf. There are also new loader bars on the higher bandwith portions of the page, so you know what is going on.

I also am going to be in a very brief and informal faculty show at Macalester on Monday. I am staff but its just a get-to-know-y0u kind of event that will last a day or two so I am going to sneak in. It should be fun. I want to show Rabbit Logic if I can, but the space might not be set up for that kind of show. My second bet would be PNAF because I don't need any tech to set it up. I will post pictures.

Things at Mac are going swimmingly. With school starting things have certainly picked up but I feel comfortable there and have lots of support. I find it funny that the week after I finish my commute to and from St. Olaf I have logged about 25oo miles for Macalester. First via air to Austin TX, and then via car to St. Johns for a meeting. Thats more miles than I traveled to St. Olaf all summer! But the big difference is that I didn't have to pay for any of it - and I got frequent flier miles to boot! Life is good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Never good when class starts like this

This is how our prof introduced pathology today:
I have to warn you- the second lecture is going to be molecules, molecules, molecules. It's going to be like an interstate intersection- the spaghetti-like intersections. And that's probably how your head is going to feel. You can kick and scream, and sometimes that helps. You can whine- I respond very well to whining, because I'm a mother. Sometimes a lot of crying is the background in my house- and sometimes I respond to that.

Oh nuts.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Two Winnie adventures

Winnie had two big adventures this year at the cabin. The first happened just as we were getting ready to leave on our camping trip. Before we could leave, Chris needed to dump out the guts from the lake trout that his uncle had caught the day before. He got in the canoe with this drippy bag of guts and started paddling out to the middle of the lake. Winnie, wearing her lifejacket, watched him from the dock and got more and more anxious the farther away he paddled. She started whimpering and carrying on, until finally she half-fell, half-leapt off the dock and started doggy-paddling her way out to the canoe! So now Chris had to handle a drippy bag of guts, a paddle, and a corgi who really wanted to get in the boat. He made it back to the dock with only a little bit of fish smell in the canoe, all the water dragged in by hauling in a wet corgi, and a very pleased Winnie. That's the story behind the picture of "Winnie's big rescue" in the slide show.

Her other big adventure was a visit to the neighbors' cabin- by herself. Winnie met the Alexanders' and their 17 year old dog Moose last summer, and we had a huge dinner of Swedish meatballs at their cabin this year just before we left on our camping trip. Sometime a couple of days after we got back from camping, we learned that Winnie walked herself over to the Alexanders' to say hi to Moose! Apparently Moose's mom was looking out of the second floor of their cabin and noticed Winnie sniffing around their driveway. She watched as Winnie trotted up to their cabin door and nosed at the screen. She let Winnie in, and Win walked into the bedroom to wake up Moose. They touched noses and said hi, and Winnie went back to the screen door to ask to be let out again. She trotted down the driveway, then turned down the path back to the Schommer cabin and walked herself home.

Meanwhile, we had no idea that she'd even left. Shows how observant we are! It's nice to know we have a neighborly dog.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

One week done, 35 to go

The first week of second year is done! This time, everything feels a little more laid back than last year. Rather than starting with a dump of new information, our profs are trying to get us to remember concepts we learned first year, then linking those to new things. Here are my impressions so far:
  • Pathology: pretty easy so far, as all we've covered is how cells respond to injury (three main ways: adapt, blow up, or collapse and die). I can definitely see how this class will take over my life once we get to more difficult concepts- it's like a culmination of anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology from last year.
  • Clinical Skills: very excited for this one, as they've revamped it since last year. We'll spend the year doing two hour "mini-rotations" through different parts of the hospital, and get to see real clinicians doing real procedures on real patients. We're supposed to get experience doing certain techniques (like taking a history, doing a physical exam, etc) that we learned last year, which will of course be handy. We also started intro to surgery, in preparation for our first surgeries next semester (eek!).
  • Professional Skills: sometimes a tedious class, this semester's installment feels a little more connected to the real world than last year's. We started out with a discussion comparing the ethical obligations of human physicians towards their patients and our obligations towards our patients/clients. Much more stimulating than talking about opportunities in government work!
  • Bacteriology: our professor is no Ted Johnson, but I still love bacteria. I hope the lab gets more challenging, as they spent a good portion of our first session teaching us how to use a microscope. :-/
  • Parasitology: Mike Swift imbued me with an undying love for invertebrates, including the parasites, so I think I'll like this class too. Look at little Giardia, isn't he adorable?
  • Zoo Topics: this is our second semester of zoo class. I still really enjoy it- where else would you hear the phrase "His puncture wound would be healing up faster if he'd stop digging his finger around in it."?
  • Epidemiology, Pharmacology (Antimicrobial agents), Swine Core: we don't start these until later in the semester.
I've taken the bus every day this week, and it's really very convenient. I pick it up in front of the apartment and it drops me off closer to school than I would get if I drove and parked. My total commute time is about 10 minutes. Not bad! Now, anyone want a kinda crummy old purple Saturn SL1?

One last thing- I had this kinda funny conversation with a first year this week.
Me, to another second-year: I thought I remembered a second-year teaching me how to do a physical exam of a horse to fulfill his Clinical Skills requirement. Do we have to teach a first year how to do a physical?
First year who overheard: We've already learned how to do a physical exam.
Me: Right, but I think we have to teach you, too, so that we get teaching experience.
First year: Oh, I guess they taught us officially so that we wouldn't be left at the mercy of you.
Ouch! Dissed by a first year during the first week of class. This does not bode well.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Last day at St. Olaf

Today is my last day at St. Olaf. It is kind of a funny thing, every one else's last memory is of graduation, saying goodbye and taking off in the spring time. I have lingered, through the apprenticeship, through work, and through this summer. So now it is my time to go, only it is the fall and I am the only one left. The halls here are full of new students. I just walked by color design to hear Wendel saying "to call it blue is not enough.." just like I heard five years ago. Everything seems so familiar now, but yet totally different.

For years the drive down to St. Olaf has become a blur. A time to listen to NPR and zone out as you pass countless trucks and landmarks. But this time down I was aware, more so than I have been for years. I remember driving down in the 4-runner before week 1 with my parents and my stuff for College. I remember riding in the back seat down highway 19 and leaning forward, eager for what St. Olaf had waiting for me. Now I drive out and it is a good thing. My life on University ave is great, and my new position at Mac is fantastic. But I will also miss my time here, and the place here, and the people here. St. Olaf was more than just school - it was a home, a studio, a community and a job. So as I fade away I think there is something nice about a quiet goodbye.

Tonight I also get on a Northwest flight to the land of Austin TX for a 32 hour visit. Mac is paying my way to this mini conference for visual resources and I get back Sunday for lunch. I am going to get to see Zach who is driving down from Dallas.

New adventures await!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

And on a less bitter note

For all the kitty fans out there!

Not getting any sympathy on VIN for this...

... so I'll whimper about it over here...

I've spent a couple of months organizing a crew of 5 vet students to volunteer at the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine convention in October. In exchange, the AHVMA covers our hotel room, most of our meals, and our registration fee. Good deal, right?

One of the students who signed up discovered that she would have to miss an exam to attend the convention. She emailed her prof about taking it earlier, and he said that because the convention is not an emergency, the answer was no (the only ticket out of his exams are emergencies, apparently).

I'm a little cheesed, but not because the prof was unwilling to make an exception for her. Whatever, it's his course, that's his right. But I'm grumpy because our Professional Skills course has emphasized more than once to go to conferences, attend symposiums, go to wetlabs, get out there in the professional world NOW, don't wait until you graduate! So on one side we have profs pushing us to attend these things, and on the other side we have profs that keep us from being able to. With one, two, sometimes three exams in a week, there is almost no way to attend a conference (in a topic of your interest) that doesn't conflict with an exam.

If the college wants us to believe that conventions are important to attend NOW, they should find a way to allow us to get there. If they won't let us get there, then telling us how important conventions are just makes us feel that much worse when our profs keep us from being able to go.

Hmph. At least my professor is willing to let me reschedule the exam that I'm going to miss.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cabin slideshow

I'll leave it to Chris to fill in the details, but here are the basics of our camping trip from last week:
  • The route- East Bearskin, Moon, Deer, Caribou, Clearwater, Mountain, Moose, North Fowl, South Fowl, Royal River (east side), Royal Lake, Royal River (west side), John, East Pike, West Pike, Clearwater, Deer, Moon, East Bearskin
  • The length- 44 miles, three days of moving, two nights of camping
Best part... pictures!


As Chris wrote earlier, today was the first day of classes. It's strange- this is the first time I can remember not having to fight off the usual "back to school" sluggishness. It feels like we just had a long weekend, and now we're back at it. I'm happy that I don't feel like I've forgotten everything already, but a little nervous that I'm going to feel tired of school sooner than usual.

So, what's up for this semester/year?
  • Parasitology
  • Bacteriology
  • Professional Skills 3
  • Clinical Skills 3
  • General Pathology
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Clinical Epidemiology
  • Swine Core
  • Mini-rotations! We start learning our way around the hospital in short 2-hour blocks, in preparation for real rotations 4th year
  • Surgery! We'll be performing our first surgeries next semester (spays and neuters on shelter animals, to make them more adoptable)... yikes!
Last year was all about learning the "normal animal", the animal that is perfectly healthy and anatomically normal. This year, we start learning about what happens when things go wrong. They are already emphasizing that this year is the year to "start thinking like a doctor"- how would you conduct that physical exam, how would you take that animal's history, what would pop into your mind as possible causes of that animal's limping/vomiting/drippy eye?

The best quote of the day? "We don't like it when you miss a number of lectures due to a disease that we inflicted upon you." ~Pathology professor, warning us to wear gloves in the necropsy lab

I'm sure this year will bring lots more stories! Wish me luck...

Year 2, day 1.

Congrats to Megan for starting year no. 2 of Vet School! Winnie and I got to drop her off and snag some bagels at the morning breakfast and Winnie got TONS of attention and loving. She likes being famous! It remided me of something one of my favorite profs Charles Taliaferro said about his dog. To paraphrase,
No matter how successful you are, how much you have published and taught, when you are walking down the street with your dog you are aware that you are in the presence of greatness. People come up to you who would walk right by you just to touch and talk to your dog. Why can't they do that to me!'
In other news, Pipkin is doing much much better than we left him thanks to some serious love and care by Megan's mom and his antibiotics. He got to spend several days up north too hopping about in the grass and that did him lots of good. He is cleaning him self again as well as eating hay and generaly acting normal. His left eye was all goopy and crusted from not being able to shut all the way, and megan cleaned that out last night which made him look worse (it removed some fur around that eye) but made him feel better I am sure.

Also, I can't forget to say congrats to our friend Sarah on her first day of Vet School! Good luck and I hope you got a good seat :)

Sunday, September 02, 2007


We're back, with lots of dramatic tales to tell, but for now it's bedtime. A better update will come tomorrow!