Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obama v. McCain?

Well my political hopes for Mike Huckabee have been dashed, Mitt "Mitty" Romney sounds depressed and is pulling adds after his loss in FL, Giuliani realized that no one likes him once they get to know him and quit, I think Fred Thompson fell asleep and was disqualified, and Ron Paul will never get above 3%. So that leaves the once improbable John McCain as the clear leader for the republican race. He has problems though. For one, the far right hates him. Rush Limbaugh is dead set against him, Michelle Malken wouldn't vote for him even if it is v. Hillary! (Yet...) There is even a new phrase for it, McCain Derangement Syndrome. Here is the video version:

So for the Democrats? Since John Edwards surprise exit yesterday it is all Obama v Hillary, Obama v Hillary. Now my last prediction fell flat on its face so I am going to go only a few inches onto a limb this time.

My view of it is that Obama does have the edge, but not by much. I think Hillary made a mistake by bringing Bill out so hard this late in the race. No mater what she says, he is not just her husband. Bill Clinton is the defacto head of the party and its elder statesman and by having him campaign so hard it has the effect of shrinking Hillary to a sort of co-president when the entire campaign has been built on her and her experience. Second - I am personally very annoyed at her decision to go back on her word not to campaign in MI and FL whos delegates have been stripped and where every one agreed not to campaign. Well she did campaign, and she won, and now she is looking to get those delegates back after the fact! It is political Calvin Ball and would be an awfully backdoor way to get the nomination. I am hoping she backs off on both fronts.

Also, Obama is coming to the Target center this Saturday at 1:30 and I will be attending with my friend and co-political junkie David. It should be fun!

I am very distrustful of the cult of personality that has been built up around Obama. Any comparison to JFK makes me cringe. No politician can ever be a savior, and I worry that like other populist leaders riding a wave of change he could hit a wall in about six months and crash and burn. But, I do see that he clearly has the power to motivate people and then use that power to further his politics. People focus all the time on the former, but enough value has been been placed on the latter.

I feel with Hillary, like John Kerry, we are doomed to keep fighting the Vietnam war politically (Especially if John McCain is in it). Hillary has been fighting that fight all her life and she is good at it, and passionate about it as well. But I believe we really need a new start, especially after the past eight years that has left the country broken on all fronts. We need a fixer more than an operator, and I think that is the choice between Obama and Hillary. Obama supporters see him as a motivator for change in a broken country, Hillary supporters see her as a skillful political operator in messy world. And I think they are both right. But we need change above all else. That is why I am supporting Barack Obama for president.

But looking ahead, say it is Obama v. McCain. Lets just take their fundrasing as one metric of how strong they are at this moment. In the month of January alone, Obama raised $32 Million. McCain has raised $29 Million - total. Thats since the start of the campaign. Ouch. Hillary has raised $90 Million total, Obama $80 Million. Ouch.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lucky 3?

So far in the past two weeks the car,
1: Froze
2: I locked the keys in the car.
3: Got a flat tire.

The tire was today. I put air in the tire last night and the little pin that holds the air in apparently never went back in, causing it to lose it all over night. I threw on the spare on the -2˚ morning and drove the flat down the street and left it with a shop, who found the problem and didn't charge me. But that left me with a fixed tire off the car and it was now 3 in the afternoon and -9˚. Since I certainly did not want to experience my hands being frozen off after they had just warmed up again (6 hours later) I decided to get my over due oil change in and have them put the tire back on! Over all, it was a good deal.

So I think those are the main three inexpensive-yet-stupid things that can go wrong with a car and the fix for all three was $0. Lets hope three is the lucky number!

Monday, January 28, 2008


Every January, I get a little nostalgic for Ecuador, where I spent January of 2005. So, here's a little photo tribute...

Our first stop was the lovely Bellavista Reserve in the cloud forest. Bellavista is famous for being the place with the highest hummingbird diversity in the world, and is a sort of mecca for birders.
A typical view of the cloud forest



I loved this guy's fluffy white pantaloons.

After a week in the cloud forest, we took a plane to the Galapagos. The Galapagos are the one place that we went that I definitely aim to get back to at some point in my life. Aside from being one of those places that all good biologists should go to pay homage to Darwin and evolution, you will never see another wild place where the animals simply have no fear of you.

No Galapagos photo album is complete without a blue-footed booby.

Frigatebird following our yachtAwwwwww...

The famous Galapagos tortoises! The tortoise on the left got caught in a lava flow... Ouch.

We left the Galapagos for Quito, then took a plane to a bus to a boat to another bus to another boat to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, a working field station where people are busy studying primates and spiders and... well, biodiversity.

View of the sunrise from a birdwatching tower

The super pretty shiny ones are always dung beetles, for some reason.

Don't eat me!!!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Beware of groomer

I think I finally have a good hypothesis about why Winnie got so sick. With a little help from our dermatologist, we decided that Winnie probably experienced something called "post-grooming pyoderma", or "post-grooming furunculosis", defined by JAVMA as "a distinctive, acute, and fulminant subgroup of deep pyoderma precipitated by bathing or grooming". I had never heard of it, but now will never forget it (oh please let it show up on board exams!).

I never mentioned on the blog that while Win and I were waiting for her bloodwork to be run, I noticed a half dozen or so bumps on her head and behind her neck. Since I just happen to be in derm class right now, I can say that they were pustules (not papules or macules or any of those other skin thingys). They were full of pus and painful to the touch. Her vet didn't seem too concerned, and thought they were probably little injuries from playing with another dog or cat.

Over the next day, though, the pustules grew and spread down her back. She also started losing her long black guard hairs by the handful. It was totally unlike any shedding I've ever seen before.

Wondering if the pustules and shedding were connected with Winnie's fever, I had quick talk with my professor after derm class. She said it sounded like a classic presentation for post-grooming furunculosis- Winnie was groomed on Saturday, had a fever on Monday, and developed pustules on Tuesday. So what happened?

At groom shops that dilute concentrated shampoo in a separate bottle, that bottle can eventually get infected with bacteria (usually a strain of Staphylococcus or Pseudomonas). During the bath, the bacteria gets introduced to the dog's skin, and during brushing, tiny microtraumas caused by removing hair allows the bacteria access to hair follicles. The next day the dog comes down with a fever, and within a few days develops painful little zits along the back. Any hair follicles that get infected become damaged, which results in profuse shedding.

It sounds like Winnie got off easy, because thankfully the antibiotic that her vet picked is exactly the one that would be used to treat furunculosis. Dr. Torres said that she's seen dogs go to the ICU with it. Scary! We can't really definitively say that Winnie had post-grooming furunculosis, since we didn't culture the pustules (remember, pustules are precious- they only last hours!) and didn't culture the shampoo bottle. But, it's a good thing to be aware of in case your dog gets sick within a day or two of being groomed. So far it's only been reported in the literature in dogs that have thick, firm hair, like terriers (or corgis, apparently), not dogs with soft or fine hair like poodles.

I don't have any good suggestions on how to avoid this problem, except that it seems to occur in shops that dilute their concentrated shampoo, and in shops that have self-service bathtubs. Psuedomonas is a nasty bug that can survive not only in shampoo, but in antibacterial shampoo (yikes). I suggest bringing your own bottle of shampoo.

Other than Winnie's saga, my life is the same old same old. Next week is the start of our first "hell week" of the semester- Friday is our Neuropharm final, Tuesday is a derm exam, Wednesday is cardiopulmonary, Thursday is reproductive bio, Friday is a day off to attend the MVMA convention (yay), and Monday is clinical pathology. Eek. We had our obstetrics final on Wednesday, so we have one class down already...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

More video

We had our first lecture for Surgery, Anesthesia, and Critical Care yesterday... Here's how the professor introduced the anesthesia portion:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

great video

My favorite is the twelve-year-old :)

Edit: Chris - I also love the 15 year old (he never quite hits the drum) and the 59 year old who looks like Gandolf from Lord of the Rings. Also, I want to talk like that 89 year old when I am that age! Bonus - 87, "Stop banging!"

a sick corgi is a sad corgi

Winnie is still a pathetic excuse for a corgi, so she is off to the vet this afternoon... Will update everyone on her prognosis when we get home!

Update: After a thorough examination they have determined that Winnie is... sick. She has a high white blood cell count, indicating an infection somewhere. She doesn't want to eat, so she might have a tummy infection, but she's also peeing a lot, so she might have a urinary tract infection. She got sent home with some general antibiotics, easy-on-the-tummy food, and a lower fever than yesterday.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Car unfrozen

Many you know that this last cold spell froze my car to death but I can now report that it has been unfrozen and feels all better now. It sputtered to life tonight after I put some all purpose cleaner in the gas tank yesterday to try and get what ever was frozen unfrozen in the fuel line or filter. It was not a happy sound though, I think it was running on one cylinder for a little bit! But now its back to normal after I filled it up with premium gas and drove it around on the highway for a while.

Poor car, being outside in winter is hard on it. The only other time it has failed to start in the cold was at Megan's parents last winter when it was outside on a similar cold night. I am very happy to have it back!

Sick Bear

Poor Winnie is under the weather. She was a little subdued last night, and went to bed without eating any dinner. This morning she didn't want her breakfast, and I took her temperature and found she's running a fever. Her temperature has come down a bit since this morning and she finally ate a little chicken soup broth, so hopefully after a day of rest and TLC she'll be back to her old self soon........

EDIT: Pooh's temperature is down to 103.1, from a high of 104.5 this morning (normal for dogs is about 101.2). She is a looking a little brighter-eyed, but still mostly wants to stay in bed.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kevin Kling

Back in October, we went to see Kevin Kling at the Fitzgerald tell stories from his book The Dog Says How. I just discovered that they have the whole show available to listen to online. If you're looking for something fun to do this afternoon, go have a listen!

Not much else to say, except that school is keeping me busy. Thursday's Holistic Club talk went well, and hearing some evidence about how whole foods are very different critters than isolated nutrients has made me even more skeptical about the idea of feeding solely kibble-based diets. Somehow we've bought into this concept of a "complete and balanced" diet- that a kibble can provide all the nutrients an animal needs to live a long and healthy life, and that the addition of "people food" can unbalance the diet and set the animal up for nutrient excesses or deficiencies. It seriously conflicts with the direction that human nutrition is heading (how many doctors encourage their patients to eat fewer fresh foods and more processed foods?). It also implies that we have complete knowledge of nutrient requirements, which is untrue for humans, so is almost certainly untrue for companion animals.

Pet food companies love to point out that pets are living longer today than ever, and love to credit "better nutrition" as the reason. Aside from the facts that pets are also getting better veterinary care than ever, getting more preventative care than ever, and tend to be indoor pets rather than outdoor pets now, I think the onus is on the companies to provide evidence that a kibble diet does as well or better than a fresh food diet.

Anyway, if I had to sum up my current philosophy on pet food in one word, it would be skepticism. I hope that someone finds the grant money somewhere to do independent studies on companion animal nutrition...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rock Tenn is on fire!

Our neighbor Rock-Tenn Recycling is currently on fire. I was on my way home which takes me along its east side and saw lots of flashing lights and lots of steam/smoke. Well that's normal because the place always looks like its on fire but just then on the radio I hear that its a 2 alarm fire.

So, our neighborhood smells like you would expect when you burn 100 tons of wet cardboard. Kinda gross.

EDIT by Megan: Here's a photo I took of Rock-Tenn in October. Like Chris said, it sort of always looks like it's on fire.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

One week down, 19 to go

I have officially survived the first week of the hardest semester of vet school... only 19 to go! Here's what I've been learning so far:
  • Skin and Adnexa: Otherwise known as Dermatology, Skin and Adnexa is all about what can go wrong with the skin, hair, hooves, and other stuff that covers the animal body. So far it's been a review of last year's Histology class and a vocab lesson about the difference between a pustule and a papule, a macule and a nodule, a patch and a plaque, a crust and scab. Lots of gross pictures in this class. Our professor is awesome simply because of her devotion to derm. The evidence? Her favorite lesion is a pustule (essentially a zit), because it is "so beautiful and precious."
  • Clinical Pathology: The follow-up to last semester's Gross Pathology. Clinical pathology is about what you'll see in the body of a live patient in response to disease. So while Gross Path was about what to look for on necropsy (i.e. you can't really help your patient at that point), Clin Path is about what to look for in that live critter standing in front of you. Much less depressing! So far we've been learning about the values that you get when you run bloodwork, and what it could mean if they're abnormal. Yay for clinical applications!
  • Neuropharmacology: Nerve drugs. How drugs can block sensations so you can do surgery, or keep animals from feeling pain. Nerves are always interesting, and I've always liked pharmacology, so I'm enjoying this class so far.
  • Cardiopulmonary System Diseases: Everything that can go wrong in the heart and lungs. So far we've been focusing on cows and horses, and since horses are such athletes, it's a pretty important system for them. So far the most important thing I've learned is that you should listen for sounds in the larynx before listening to the lungs. I'm not sure why yet.
  • Veterinary Imaging: X-rays, ultrasounds, CAT scans, and MRIs. Lots of time spent in a very dark lecture hall looking at X-ray images and talking about physics and photons and all. The most interesting thing so far was learning that you can tell a diamond from a cubic zirconia on an X-ray.
  • Reproductive Biology: Sex class. This class has harkened back to my days as a biology major, learning about why sex is evolutionary advantageous, why some species can get along okay without having sex, and all the different things that can go wrong genetically when chromosomes don't divide right. Our professor adds in all sorts of great vignettes about non-veterinary species, like that there are really inbred tribal communities in New Guinea that have such a high rate of a certain type of hermaphroditism that they believe there are three sexes, not two.
  • Obstetrics: Super James Herriot class, all about how to pull calves out of cows. So far the key lessons on obstetrical manipulation have been, "Gentle. With care. And lots of lube."
  • Medical Management of Zoo Animals: At first I wasn't go to take this class, since it's an elective and I'm really not planning on going into zoo medicine. Then I sat in on the first lecture and found out that all you need to do to pass is show up and listen to Dr. Farnsworth (in the photo to the right) talk about his life as a zoo vet and what he's learned. Sign me up! He's a great lecturer and has so many good stories to tell.
So far that's all we've had. There will be more classes starting up in a few weeks, so I'll comment on those later.

I'm already way behind in studying, so I should really stop blogging and get back to it........

Friday, January 11, 2008

Congratulations Markisa!

Aw, baby orangutan...

Hooray for Dr. Trent performing one of nine orangutan C-sections in the world!

EDIT: A video!

My favorite quote:
"Joy, the Como Zoo’s dominant female orangutan, is headed to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., with her 8-year-old son, Willie, because she keeps homing in on Markisa’s baby.

“She brings every object she has [to Markisa], trying to trade for the baby,” Trent said."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Clinton wins NH. Back to the drawing board?

EDIT: Atrios has it, "The big winner of last night was, obviously, me for having the sense to mostly keep my trap shut about the whole thing over the last few days."

One big positive for every one here, is that the Minnesota primary might actually mean something this time! The same goes for California, New York, North Dakota, and the rest of super-duper tuesday....

New Hampshire Day

Well, politics up date. When I last left my presidential prediction hat, Hillary was winning, Obama was struggling, Mitt Romney and Rudy were doing fine, John McCain was tanked and Huckabee was a "Dark Horse."

Oh how things have changed. 

For the republicans things are still very up in the air. NH is going to matter a lot here, especially for John McCain where NH is his strong hold. But then South Carolina comes next and Huck is going to win that too. So, we might not know anything until super-duper tuesday February 5th. And you know, Huckabee does have a chance! People said he didn't before Iowa, they say he doesn't now, but people just like the guy. He has a wonderful ability to connect with a crowed and to toss off criticism with a quick wit and kindness.  But the Republican establishment can hardly keep their outright contempt of him hidden away! This might be worse than Ron Paul for them. So, go Huck! 

Now for the Democrats. Wow, Iowa changed everything. We won't know until tonight, but Obama has it in my opinion. People seemed to be resigned to Hillary because she was inevitable but deep down want something really new. And when Obama showed that he could win and win big, every one just allowed them selves to get behind him. It was almost natural. I knew it was over for Hillary when her message became, "Don't believe in false hopes." Who would say that? 

And to throw out another prediction, President Barack Obama is less than a year away. The only person who might be able to beat him is John McCain, and even that is a long shot. The photo to the left is a button Megan gave me when Barack was running in 2004. 

We will know more soon! 

Friday, January 04, 2008

Ski trip!

We're home! We had a great time in our yurt in the woods. Our trip started with dropping Winnie off at my parents' house, which was a little sad since it was the longest that we've both been away from her at once since we got her. She was a trooper, though, and only barked twice after we left the house. The drive up was pretty uneventful until we got to Grand Marais. We stopped for a few last-minute supplies at the Trading Post, including (another) new headlamp and a most amazing new pair of gloves for me (Lynnie mittens- so warm!). We started up the trail just before dusk, and right around the time that everything along the side of the road looks like a deer or a moose, we saw our first moose of the trip! We saw three more along our drive, plus a fox, which is the most wildlife I've ever seen along the road up there.

We arrived at the B&B around 5:30, and were pleasantly surprised that because it was New Year's Eve, Ted and Barbara were serving dinner for their guests as a special treat. We had a great little party in the woods with the other guests and the B&B owners, with lefse and smoked fish, chicken wings, hummus, and champaign. Somehow it all went together perfectly!

After a nice sleep at the B&B and an incredible breakfast of stuffed french toast and poached pears, we put on our skis and made a 3k trek out to our yurt. Our supplies were snowmobiled out there for us, and after we got the fire going, we skied back out to the road to meet up with Chris' aunt Joan. She met us with a wonderful birthday present for me, that can only really be appreciated when it's 15 degrees and you're about to go out into the woods - a giant bag of gorp. Yum! Joan took us to Poplar Creek trail a few miles from our yurt, and I went on my first for real ski trail. I started out a little rough, but I got the hang of it after a while, and after we'd gone 5 miles I really felt like a pro :)

We got back to the yurt and got to work heating the place up and cooking up our beef and barley soup for dinner. We also started heating up the sauna (pronounced sow-na if you're Ted) to complete our ski day in true Finnish style. Our first night of sleep was a little choppy, since Chris had to get up four or five times to add wood to the fire. It would have been worse if we hadn't gone to bed before 9 and gotten up sometime after 8 the next morning.

On Wednesday, we drove out to Bearskin Lodge and got passes to ski on their trails. We skied all the way to the cabin to check in and see what it looks like in the winter. It's pretty different! Definitely looks like it's hibernating. We stopped for lunch and within the first few minutes of sitting down, we spotted a little pine marten cruising under the bird feeder. When it saw us, it ran around the cabin, took off up a tree, gave us a dirty look, and made an amazing leap onto the roof of the little cabin to safety. We didn't stop long (stopping means getting cold), and took the road back to the lodge. Chris swapped out his classic skis for his skate skis and took off to do the Bear Cup World Cup ("challenging uphills and screaming downhills" said the description of the trail) while I warmed up and relaxed in the lodge with a book. I'll let him talk about that experience...

We got back to the yurt around dusk and caught the sunset over the nearby lake, then started the whole fire/soup/sauna routine again. We figured out how to keep the fire warm (feed it way more than you think you should!) and got the yurt really comfortable for our final night. The winds picked up to around 30 miles per hour sometime around midnight and the temperature dropped, but thankfully with our perfected fire technique we stayed really cozy.

The winds were still bad the next morning, and we were really happy we didn't have another day of skiing ahead of us. We skied out to some hot cocoa at the B&B, and our supplies followed on the snowmobile. On the drive out, Grand Marais had the same winds as we did up on the trail, making for some amazing waves on Lake Superior! We got some good pictures out on Artist's Point, then stopped by Joan's house for sandwiches and headed back to the cities.

Winnie forgave us immediately for leaving her behind, but we had to promise to bring her with to the cabin next time :)

More pictures to come! 


While I work on a post about our trip, here is Winnie's first loldog!

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Thursday, January 03, 2008


We are back! Lots more to come with some great pictures.

But for now, we had a great time, we traveled far, we learned a lot, and we ate well.

And we also didn't freeze, we didn't crash, and we didn't blow down!