Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stormy Skies

Epic sun set tonight after the storms. Here is just a peak off to the west from our second story perch. We also had at the same time tonight: bright sun, pouring rain, and the tornado siren you see here going off. What a night!

Winnie Loves Weddings too!

In an effort to keep our main blog free of wedding talk for those folks who read it for the vet stuff, politics, cars, or the benefits of forest fires, we present a new parallel blog:! Watch this spot as we figure out how to do this whole wedding thing and please post thoughts and comments and anything there!

Friday, May 30, 2008

We are Engaged!

Yup we finally did it! After five years, two schools, living apart, and living together we got engaged on a chilly north woods night under an amazing starry night sky. It was a spontaneous surprise for both of us! My plan (and Megan guessed too) was to wait until later this summer around our anniversary, but everything just lead right up to it and there wasn't much I could do about it. I got the ring early thanks to my Dad (who was an unwitting courier from Grand Marais), got the ring back from having the center stone set the day we left, I had it in my pocket, and the stars were out in numbers that we have not seen since nearly five years ago on the night we fell in love. And I realized that I couldn't wait a moment longer than this!

So there on the dock, with Winnie guarding us from the woods monsters, I asked Megan if she would marry me. Several times. And she said yes every time! She asked me several times too :)

We enjoyed the weekend hiding out in the woods and had every imaginable kind of weather. It was sunny and warm in the day and then fell into the 30s and it snowed. It rained and thundered and then got sunny. So we went for lots of walks and took a trip across the lake to see the roaring waterfall and got to sit around and read by the fire. Winnie went feral for a while but did real good and we gave her lots of freedom to run where she pleased.

Then it was time to come back and great the world with our news. We both had fun sitting on a swing in Grand Marais alternately calling family members and friends. And now we are "Facebook official," meaning our relationship status changed to "engaged." This is some kind of wedding 2.0 here.

We will write more later, including possibly setting up a side blog, but here is a slide show of our trip for now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We're Back!

We left in such a hurry that we never mentioned that were leaving!

I think Winnie is looking at something in this picture. What could it be?

More later...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How much is college worth

Megan found this letter to the editor in the U's newspaper about the poor value of going to college (emphasis mine):
Despite all that I am left, like many students, with a sizable debt. I could just accept that, pay my more than $40,000 back over the next 10 years. I could think positively about my debt, as the University loan exit interviewers suggested. But then I think, is my degree really worth almost half a million dollars? What did I pay for?
Apparently not much.

On a serious note, there has been discussion on the blogsphere lately about the value of a college degree. The bottom line - "there's never been a worse time to be a college graduate. But there's never been a worse time not to be a college graduate." Cue Kevin Drum:
  • 1973: high school grad makes $42K, college grad makes $55K.
  • 2006: high school grad makes $31K, college grad makes $61K.
The skill premium hasn't gone up because a college degree is way more lucrative than in the past. In fact, it's only slightly more lucrative over the long term and completely stagnant among recent grads. Rather, the skill premium has gone up because the value of a high school degree has cratered.
And add to that, to gain that premium almost always requires a large amount of debt and the risk that goes along with it. In the 1970s you could get a college degree and have no debt. Good luck doing that now without money in the bank or large scholarships. Here is a graph of average wages for a college grad since 2001, and you can see the drop. 

Look on the plus side, equality in gender pay is getting closer together! But not because the women are going up, the men just keep tanking. Drat. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Hey all, a few people have checked in to make sure I'm okay after hearing the story about the chemical leak from the school's digester. We're all fine here, and I actually didn't know anything was wrong until hearing a story about it on MPR. School is business as usual!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Big Oil, Meet Big Wind

I ran across this story about the largest wind turbine order ever and it struck me as big deal. The deal, worth $2 Billion will build 667 wind turbines in northern Texas and produce 1,000 Megawats of electricity.

To compare, the Comanche Peak Steam Electric Nuclear plant in Texas produces about 1,150 Megatats of electricity and cost $11 Billion in 1993. Or about $16 Billion in todays dollars. And this is just the beginning of an extended four part project that will be able to produce 4,000 Megawatts by 2014 for a grand total of $11 Billion.

But the bigger deal than all of this is who is funding it. The billionaire and conservative Oklahoma Oil man with just the right the name for the business, T. Boone Pickens, Jr. When the big players at the top start shifting their resources from the discovery and exploitation of new oil resources into projects like this they are not doing it for any environmentalist reasons, they are doing it for the money. And money is a far more effective motivator!

EDIT: A YouTube Bonus for anyone who has seen "There Will Be Blood"

EDIT II: T.Boone Pickens is a really interesting, and incredibly smart fellow. He has a May 6th 2008 interview that you can watch here. It is quite long.

Best quote on how he made $255 Million from $4 Million in a year.
What I did was for the first time I wrote down the steps to do this, as I did them. And I just kept doing those same ones over and over again. In the past when I made money I would forget how I did it.
He also talks about the future of American energy in great detail.

Ok, just one more. Boone relating a story about about the "ugliness" of wind turbines from an old man who is going to have one built on his ranch, "I tell you boon, I cant see as good as I used to, but I can see money, and those turbines look like money." Thats it, isn't it?

Of course, coming from St. Olaf I think they fit in the landscape far better than anyone gives them credit. They can be awe inspiring!

Friday, May 16, 2008


And now on to the general election! I saw this new McCain ad today and I thought it was a spoof. Sadly, it isn't.

Weekends: Longer
Ice Cream: More Delicious
Rainbows: Bigger

Look for future traction on McCain as the yarn spinner and story teller vs Obama the truth teller.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Ever since I got back from Montana on Monday morning I have been really busy so I wanted to post what I have now before it gets too late!

The drive was great. We had the ipod hooked up and so had our pick of music to rock out to. The drive becomes really beautiful after Bismarck, and quite fun to drive too with lots of big curves and an open open road. We stopped at a park to see the painted canyon at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and took a 45min hike through it. You would never know its there off the freeway until you walk up to it, then it is huge! The first day we made it to Billings 850 miles away. This allowed us to take it easy the next day and look for some apartments for David. We ate really well, hiked up to the top of Mount Helena City Park (yes, a 1,300 ft tall city park) and generally toured what we could.

Davids parents made me feel right at home for the short time I was there and left me with a survival sack of food for the train. I am sure my seat was the envy of my Amtrak fed neighbors. The train itself was great. I just spent most of my time in the observation car, which is like a big rolling glass lounge where you can sit and look out or spread out on dining tables. It makes for quite an office! I must say though, that getting dropped of on a train and saying goodbye is by far the most emotional way of departing. Get in a car and you are just driving, get in a plane and you are in a hurry, but on a train you slowly speed away.

The best part was arriving in St. Paul, and walking the two blocks to home! Winnie came out of her depression and my whirlwind loop was complete. So now, pictures!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reflections on second year

The majority of second year is over- 32 credits behind me, with only 4.5 left to go (Avian Core next week and Integrative Medicine the week after). I'm not quite a third year yet, but I think it's okay to start reflecting on this year and how much has changed...
The really big deal is that we've survived what's supposed to be the worst part of vet school. Second year seems to be a beast no matter what vet school you go to, and it's also the awkward time after the novelty of being a vet student has worn off, but still a year away from entering clinics and getting to finally put all the theoretical knowledge into practice. It was an endurance test of how many flashcards you can learn, how many sleepless nights and tedious weekends of studying you can tolerate, and how long you keep aiming for good grades before you give in to the apathy of a stressful semester. If you can survive second year, you can survive anything (so they say). Now it's time to choose our tracks, start sniffing around for externships, and decide which clinical rotations we want to take. The next two years are gonna fly by.
We also survived our first surgeries, and all of our patients did too! Some people had patients that really challenged them- cryptorchid neuters, old fat labs in heat, even a kitty with an abdomen full of ectopic fetuses. Some students adopted their surgery patients, while the rest went back to the Animal Humane Society to find homes. If anyone needs a sweet little black kitty, head over to Golden Valley to meet Baby :)
We've all become more comfortable using the language of medicine, which consists primarily of making big words out of little ones, or turning things into acronyms (illustrated nicely here- beware of some colorful language...). I almost never need to pull out my medical dictionary anymore. Our professors are trying to encourage us to start thinking like doctors, but more than once they've also had to remind us to not lose our common sense in the process. The other theme of this year has been "You'll see this on boards..."
Money has been a big topic all year as the economy has weakened and as tuition is rising even more next year. The large animal folks are more stressed than the small animal, since rural vets make an average of $40,000 per year- that salary plus a nearly $2000 per month student loan payment leaves little to live on, even with the lower cost of living in rural areas. The burnout rate of large animal vets is high considering the risk involved, the exhausting work, and the crazy hours, and the pay just isn't cutting it for most of them anymore. The AVMA is trying hard to lobby for loan forgiveness programs for rural vets... Hopefully they make progress. I'm a little less worried since I'll be going into small animal medicine (and since I'm lucky enough to only be paying in-state tuition), but pets are one of the first things to get cut out of the budget when the economy goes sour...
There's also been a lot of talk about the role of the vet besides just being a doctor. We're mandated reporters of animal/child/spousal/elder abuse, business owners, mentors to aspiring pre-vets, public health agents on the front lines of recognizing agro-terrorism and zoonoses, and advocates for animal welfare in general (I'll bet you every vet, whether an equine practitioner or an urban feline-only-holistic-housecall specialist, was asked what s/he thought about Eight Belle's demise at the Kentucky Derby). We sometimes get way more information from clients about their personal health problems than their own MDs get (not that we can do anything about them...). We are therapists, we are grief counselors, and we learn ways to tell children what "putting Spot to sleep" means. Vet school can only do so much to prepare you for all this.
I guess if I had to choose one overall theme of this year, it's that no matter how much we study and learn in school, we have so much left to learn after graduation... But for now, "you'll need this for boards."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Coming back down

I think the hardest part of the semester (and second year!!) is over... and we spent this afternoon learning how to do goat physical exams in the lovely sunshine. What a contrast from the rest of the week! Will post more later...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Obama wins the Democratic Nomination

First I was wrong in my previous post. It's over. North Carolina was a huge win and Indiana looks like it will be a very narrow victory for whoever gets it. So I give you Obama's victory speech in North Carolina to finish this off. Enjoy!

EDIT: Flash back to January 8th on this blog:
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.
You can read the entire Political arc under the blog label, "Politics"

More arbitrary predictions

Yup people are voting - again. This time it is in Indiana and North Carolina.

My predictions have been going well and I base them on one metric only, what could possibly be the most confounding outcome possible.

So I say Obama takes North Carolina 54%-46%
And Clinton takes Indiana 54%-46%

Of course, nothing changes. Then Hillary wins big in West Virginia next week and again in Kentucky after that (Appalachia is extreemly pro-Clinton) while Obama wins Oregon. Hillary wins Puerto Rico on June 1st and then its all over on June 3d with Obama winning Montana and South Dakota.

Using loose estimates of that tally, Obama needs 95 more super delegates to get the nomination, or 34% of the remaining undeclared pool.

EDIT: Matthew Yglesias has an even more detailed idea:
...clearly the universe is conspiring to make this primary last as long as possible. So what's going to happen is that (of course) Clinton will win Indiana and Obama will win North Carolina. But Clinton will win Indiana by a larger margin than Obama wins North Carolina, and Clinton's supporters will note in somber tones that Obama lost the white vote in NC. At the same time, because NC has substantially more delegates than Indiana, Obama will actually make a small gain in net delegates

Monday, May 05, 2008

Getting closer...

This week is going to be a rough one... See you on the other side!

15 more days of class until I'm a third year.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The entire Democratic race ... in 7 min.


1 Year on University

Where were we one year ago? Well here of course! The anticipation was killing us. The U-Haul transmission nearly exploded on 35 driving north so it was 35 mph on the shoulder with smoke pouring out the back. School was still going in full swing, Smidgen had her weird eye problem, and the Ham Lake fire was about to start. I had not heard that Macalester was hiring. Winnie was still having anxiety problems. 

Now it is a year later and we are much more settled and secure with lots of questions answered, and more yet to be. Winnie loves it here and we do too. We are looking forward to another summer and the end of the school year. I can't wait to see what another year brings!