Tuesday, July 28, 2009

To market

To the farmers market, on the bike, with a bike trailer. That earns me some pinko Amsterdam points for sure.

With a load the trailer still rides great. You have to get used to the odd things it does to momentum, like when you are cruising on flat you just keep going, but going up hills is much harder. Object in motion, gravity, and all of that. But I can still speed if I need to, and it doesn't affect the handling of the bike otherwise.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Trailer part 2

My test trip with the trailer taught me a few things, that I corrected today. The wheels couldn't come off, the bolts that hold the wheel attachment on still get stuck on doors and corners, and there was also no spot to attach bungees. I solved the first problem with a long piece of scrap copper that I cut and screwed into the frame, and then ground down the screw heads so they were flush. I then took a radial sander to the copper to smooth it out, and ended up sanding the entire frame! It looks better than new now, and I coated it with spray sealer to keep it that way. I removed some wood from by the wheels and now there is space for them to come off, and I drilled some holes in the bed to attach my bungees.

The whole thing rolls great! The connector is smooth and can bend more than the bike can turn. I am looking forward to a nice big grocery run.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rotation #6: SAM-A

My last rotation block was actually a vacation (which we still need to blog about too!). We spent half of it up north, and half out in Seattle. I got to attend two days of the AVMA national convention, which was gigantic and awesome and a little overwhelming. We got back Sunday night at midnight, and at 8 AM Monday morning, I was at school for my first day of Small Animal Medicine (SAM). Small animal track students have to take four rotation blocks in SAM. The first one is called SAM-A, where they give us a little more leeway in terms of how efficient we are, how thoroughly we take histories and physical exams, and how well we know our way around the hospital. The other three are called SAM-B, and the standards are higher for SAM-B students.

The Internal Medicine and the Surgery services see the bulk of patients that come into the teaching hospital. In a nutshell, if an animal's problem can be fixed surgically, it goes to see the Surgery department. If it's a nonsurgical issue that doesn't fit into some other specialty (like Cardiology, Dermatology, or Ophthalmology), it goes to the Internal Medicine department. Over the past two weeks, I worked with patients who had:

-Anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease that infects white blood cells. The hallmarks of anaplasmosis are low platelets and a really high fever. These dogs can come in really sick and need hospitalization, but thankfully the treatment is a widely available, inexpensive antibiotic. Lots of people know that ticks carry Lyme disease, but Anaplasma is another nasty disease that can be prevented with good tick control (i.e. topical spot-on products like Frontline).

-Leptospirosis, a bacterium that is spread through urine. Most dogs get exposed by drinking water contaminated by wildlife that were infected with lepto. Lepto causes liver disease and renal failure. Dogs who make it through the initial infection but are never treated can become lifelong carriers and shedders of lepto. Lepto is a zoonotic disease (you can catch it from your pet), so careful handling and thorough treatment are important.

-Blastomycosis, a fungal disease endemic to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys. Both humans and dogs can be infected with Blasto, but dogs are about ten times more likely than humans to get infected (likely because the spores are in the soil, and dogs are about ten times more likely than humans to be snuffling around in the dirt). Blasto can infect the lungs, skin, bones, joints, eyes, brain, and just about anything else in the body. Many dogs diagnosed with blasto don't survive long enough to make it out of the hospital. Of those that do, their owners have to be willing to take on a long-term committment to very expensive therapy with an anti-fungal called itraconazole. For a large dog, itraconazole can cost $400-$500 a month, and therapy can last over a year. Blasto is evil.

-a puppy with more congential defects than I've ever seen in one animal. She had open fontanelles (her skull never closed completely), hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain), retained baby teeth, luxating patellas (the kneecaps slip out of place), and congenital hypothyroidism. About the only thing she didn't have was a heart murmur. There is no way to fix most of her problems. It was a good reminder that, no matter how cute that puppy in the window is, please don't buy a pet store puppy.

-diarrhea and vomiting. These two problems are truely the bread-and-butter of veterinary medicine, partly because they are uncomfortable for the pet but mostly because they are really inconvenient for pet owners. The list of what can cause diarrhea and vomiting is ridiculously wrong, from something as benign as eating a bag of potato chips to more serious problems like Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency or a Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

-cancer. I saw lots and lots of cancer. Dogs and cats can get all the same types of cancers that we can get (including those associated with smoking, if they live in a house with an owner who smokes). Often, cancer in pets starts with really non-specific signs like diarrhea or weight loss, so they come to see the Internal Medicine service. Oftentimes, an abdominal ultrasound is all we need to do to find a large mass somewhere in the abdomen. Some owners opt for more thorough imaging like a CT scan or MRI. If an animal has a single mass, we might send them over to surgery to have it removed. If there are multiple masses or if the mass is in a location where it can't be surgically removed, they visit with the oncology department to talk about options such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In animals, our goal with cancer treatment is never complete remission as it is in humans. The goal in veterinary oncology is to prolong quality of life rather than to extend quantity of life, so we generally use lower doses of chemotherapeutic drugs than is used for humans. Humane euthanasia is also often a very kind and reasonable choice for an animal with cancer.

All in all, SAM-A was a challenging but educational rotation. There were a lot of sad diagnoses, but less euthanasia and more happy endings than I saw in my emergency and critical care rotation. Next up, Dermatology!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bike Trailer

I was walking Winnie and over behind the security alarm building, and there is this little section of scrub that people just dump their typical urban junk in. There is a refrigerator, a car tire, a shopping cart, and a few days ago there was a torn up InStep Quick-n-Lite bike trailer. The same kind we bought last summer for winnie, which was fun but she kind of hated it. So I dragged the trashed one home, sold Winnie's for $40 (same price as we bought it) on craigslist, and started to convert the busted one to a bike trailer by ripping off all the fabric and coverage parts.

It was missing its bike attachment part, so I towed it to work by wrapping the end with an old bike inner-tube and attaching that to the back which was good enough (barley, and it somehow managed to flip completely over at one point). Then I took off the wheel attachments and inverted them so the wheels would be inside the frame, which makes the entire thing more narrow and easier to maneuver. Also this way, the wheels are protected should the trailer strike anything. I then cut down some aluminum rods to lay down down the center so it can support weight. These I attached with bolts. To make the connector, I used a quick release attachment normally used for pressurized air, that just happened to screw into the soft aluminum at the end of the connector arm. The piece on the bike is a small drilled steel plate, with an eye-hook bolted onto it, that is attached to a piece of PCV pipe with steel rope, that is attached to the quick connector. I might have to re-do this part, because it is kind of huge! But it works great, so I can't complain.

And here is the finished product! Now I have to figure out how to attach a load on it, like groceries, and also figure out what to use it for! I also have to make the clearance between the wheels and the trailer bed wider, so I can remove the wheels.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Palin Circus

I could have much to say about the latest Sarah Palin circus, but really it has all been said about 1000 times by now so why bother. But don't let anyone tell you that resigning from the Governor's office is a shrewd, calculated, or brilliant move. It was dumb, amateurish, and petty which pretty much sums up Palin's political career so far. And I think this is the end of that short political career. Her best bet now is to use her fame to re-make herself as a kind of Alaskan Glen Beck or other conservative personality.

If there is some pity for her absurd situation, I would say that she never asked to be in this position. Rather it was the Republican strategist's (and John McCain's) desire for another super star, another Ronald Reagan, that pulled her into the spotlight. She seemed to have the rough outline in place so they could just fill in the colors however they wanted. That of course, did not work and the experience seems to have made her far more fragile, and paranoid, than ever before.

But I wanted to leave with this beauty of a quote from her, during a recent ABC interview about those frivolous ethics charges that never the less managed to drive her out of office after just two years, and why the office of Vice-President (or President) would be different. Go ahead and unpack this piece of Palin Zen for yourself:

"I think on a national level your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we've been charged with and automatically throw them out," she said.

There is no "Department of Law" at the White House.