27 March 2008

How About an FO?

Since there's been a dearth of those around here lately (damned project monogamy), I offer you the following:

032508Toque 001
From down below

032508Toque 002
From up above (sort of)

This little made-it-up-as-I-went project has languished in a drawer at work for over a year now, so I finally got around to finishing it off. The yarn is Limbo Superwash from Halcyon Yarn. If you're thinking the bunny motif looks familiar, that's because it's the ASCII bunny from the Cute with Chris website (Rabbitch, no doubt, will insist that it's actually all about her, and I suppose that, too, is possible. That bunny is a little off kilter, after all.)

And a Bag of Chips

Quite a bit going on this week. I am currently working my second night in a row. Because I work 15-hour shifts, this is a rare occurrence, especially since it means not going home between shifts. With only 9 hours between them (or actually, a good bit less by the time all the paperwork and rounds and phone calls are done), I just can't afford to spend two of those hours on the road. As it is, I only got 6 hours of sleep here before I had to get up and get ready to do it all over again.

Ideally, the workload between the two nights would be divided up fairly evenly, particularly since it's midweek in what is still our "slow" season. At the very least, one would hope for it to be busier on the first night, when one is a bit fresher, than on the second. Apparently, though, that memo got lost, because my caseload tonight has been over twice what it was last night.

I will be glad to leave here.

And the reason I'm working back-to-back nights is that I am leaving today - for lovely Northern California. This will be the first time in nearly 14 years that I've visited that part of the country. I'm nominally off to a weekend symposium on veterinary hospice care at UC Davis. I figured that because I do the end of life talk so often (twice so far tonight), I might be able to take away some useful information from it. Mostly, though, it's an excuse and an opportunity for me to visit friends - some of whom I haven't seen for years, and some of whom I've only ever met online.

Stephen tells me that Monday night is knit night at the Three Dollar Bill Cafe, so I am definitely going be there. Monday is a play day for me before I come home, so I'm planning on heading down to the San Francisco Bay area for the day. I'm hoping I'll have time to visit the Muir Woods, and maybe visit the Scharffen Berger factory.

The wedding vest will be traveling with me, but rather than risk having it taken away by the TSA goons, it'll be going in my checked baggage. Since I'm looking at 10 hours of travel to get there and 11 back, I expect I'll be either sleeping (often not possible for me) or picking up the Hindi textbooks to catch up on those studies a bit.

I expect there'll also be a bit of fretting happening. When I spoke to David this evening, he told me he'd finally talked to Landlady Wendy about our proposed purchase of the house. After many, many months, she and Landlady Paula have finally settled on an asking price. The only problem is that it's about $50K more than I had figured we could easily afford, and they're not really inclined to negotiate.

I'm pretty sure we can do it. It's within what the bank pre-approved us for last month. And we do really love our little house and would rather be building equity than just paying rent. And they'd sell the entire parcel with an easement, so that whenever they decide to stop using the pasture behind the house, I could get myself a little flock of Shetland sheep. And we could eventually put up a wind turbine and go off the grid.

But it would mean coming up with an extra $400-500 per month over what we're currently paying for rent, which is just a little nerve-wracking to contemplate. Except that that amount is less than we've been setting aside each month for the wedding.

So maybe it won't be that difficult to manage, after all. But at the moment, thinking about it is making me want to puke.

Only 11 hours until I get to run away from it, though.

25 March 2008

Tofu Chocolate Pie

No photos because we ate it all, but this is yummy and super easy to make. And everybody knows tofu is healthy, so no guilt! Well, at least I don't feel guilty about eating it.

  • two 12oz. packs of firm silken tofu (The silken part is very, very important. Regular tofu has the wrong texture for this.)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • soy milk (1/4 cup, give or take)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate (60% cocoa Ghirardelli chips work well)
  • one 10" deep dish pie crust or two 9" crusts, prebaked (My preference is graham cracker, or a crust from those folks who make the yummy black and white cookies.)

Put the tofu in a blender, add the syrup, vanilla extract, and just enough soy milk for the tofu to puree well. Blend everything until nice and smooth, but still fairly thick. You may need to stop the blender and stir a little bit to get everything nice and uniformly blended. Melt the chocolate (in the microwave - stopping to stir at 30 second intervals - works well, or you can use a double boiler), pour into the tofu mix and blend thoroughly. Pour into pie shell(s) and chill to set.

See? Super easy. And have I mentioned how good it tastes? Seriously, you could feed this to a confirmed tofu-hater and they would never guess unless you told them. If you're careful to look for vegan chocolate, you can also make the vegans (and the lactose-intolerant) in your life very happy. I also plan to try making a crust with gluten-free chocolate graham crackers, since we are expecting to have both vegans and a gluten-allergic friend at our wedding and I'd like to have a dessert they can all enjoy (since the cake will be neither).


VUBOQ asks, "Does it matter if the soy milk is sweetened or not?"

MollyBeees asks, "Did you use flavored soy milk?"

I used vanilla Silk, since that's the brand David prefers and therefore what we have in the fridge at all times. Really, though, I didn't use very much soy milk, so I'm not sure that using something else would have a huge effect on the flavor. As to MollyBeees other comment about this being "semi-diabetic friendly", I expect this could be very easily adapted to be sugar-free - switch to unsweetened soy milk (no maple syrup), use a bit of Splenda, fructose-sweetened graham crackers for the crust, and sugar-free chocolate.

22 March 2008

Up for Some Do-Goodery?

Photo by James Wainwright on Flickr. Image reposted under Creative Commons license.

So unless you've been living under a rock, you're aware of the current situation in Tibet. Jean's son, James, was in Lhasa when the rioting broke out and his account of what he saw can be read here. Of course, he does admit that the situation made it difficult for him to walk around the city freely or to get a complete view of the situation. It's also not unreasonable to think that the Chinese forces would take a more measured approach if they thought they were being seen by a Western journalist.

News trickling in from other sources paint a much more grim picture. Joy has been chronicling the lives of many of the Tibetan refugees who end up in her little corner of India, which gives just a glimpse into the ongoing oppression that led to the rioting in the first place. Yesterday's post reports specifically on the current uprising and the backlash it has caused, especially now that Westerners have been effectively removed from the region. Media reports on the massive influx of Chinese troops lend credence to what's been finding its way out.

Anyway, the point of this is that the steady trickle of refugees into Joy's little corner of the world is likely to increase, and I was noticing that their little medical assistance fund has barely anything in it so far this year. If you go back through her archives, you can see some of what they've been able to do for people with that little fund. The refugees who actually survive crossing the Himalayas into India often arrive with some serious medical problems, and that fund can mean the difference between life and death for some folks. So take a little time to go to Joy's blog and click on the donate button to help out a little. Even if all you can manage is $5, a little really does go a long way in a place like India, and that $5 may buy the antibiotics that saves someone's life.

A cup of Starbucks, a couple bags of chips, a sandwich, or a human life. Seems an easy choice.

20 March 2008

Spring? Spring!

Although the weather is kind of crap out (cold, drizzly rain at 35F), we are at the vernal equinox, meaning that spring is technically here. And to prove that it really is (and brighten the mood), I offer this photo taken in front of my house Monday afternoon.


These are my reticulated irises, which grow from bulbs rather than rhizomes and bloom much earlier than standard garden irises. These even opened 12 days earlier this year than last. Here's proof.

18 March 2008

Reason #241 Why I Hate People

We'll call this little dog Gem.


Gem came into the clinic on Sunday along with a sob story about how she'd been adopted in Alabama and the family had just moved up to this area recently and they had thought she was spayed but then came home to find her tied with their male, etc., etc. And now she was in dystocia (medspeak for difficult labor) and the owner had actually pulled a leg off of one of the pups trying to extract it. And they had no money.

So some calls were made, and a rescue group was found that agreed to take her in and cover her medical expenses (to which I also applied some of the leftover funds from Phoebe donations) and find her a new home. Which is good, because the rest of Gem looked like this:


Even before she got into such rough shape, I'm not quite sure how she was managing to walk. But it was pretty clear that she needed to go to surgery fairly quickly. When I did open her up, this is what I found:


I made a notation on the Flickr page, but there was gas in her uterus. This is never a good sign. It turned out that at least half of the 8 puppies inside her were decomposing, meaning she had likely been in labor for at least 24 hours and her former owners had simply done nothing to help her until she was half dead. Of the pups, only 3 were still alive, but two of those were in such a weakened state that they also succumbed. The remaining pup is doing well, however, and Gem has been spayed so that she won't ever have to go through this again.

The surgery wasn't the end of her troubles, though. When she was being readied to go to a day practice yesterday morning, she vomited a large volume and appeared to have aspirated some of the fluid into her lungs. She is reportedly doing much better today and set to go home, but I was worried about her. Oh, and this is what she looked like post-op (she lost over 1/4 of her body weight):


It turned out, not surprisingly, that the former owner's story wasn't exactly true. It's possible that the dog may have been acquired in Alabama, but there's no indication that they were under the illusion that she'd been spayed. Particularly since he'd been seen selling puppies at a local fleamarket before. Also, judging from her degree of mammary development, I'd suspect that she's had several litters before this one, and judging from her teeth, I'd suspect that she may be older than was reported. In any event, they'd had two months in which to do something before she ever went into labor, and even then waited until her condition was very dire to do anything. The only thing that can be said in their defense is that they didn't let her die at home.

The Current Situation Chez Nous

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Thanks to Norma for this.

Meeting of the Mo's


Thanks to a tip from textillian I found the Big Mo' bar at Joann Fabric when I went there last Friday to get some fabric for curtains (photos of those once I'm finished). There's not much to distinguish them aside from the (presumably unintentional) double entendre of the name. The whole milk-chocolate-with-peanut-butter thing has been done before, and while I like it well enough, it's not something I'm likely to go out of my way to find.

12 March 2008

Just in Case...

...you've not been paying attention.

(click for bigger, links to the Salon.com page)

Tom Tomorrow is my hero.

11 March 2008

A Little Progress

There's not been much to report around here over the past week. It's been my long week at work, so the majority of my time has been spent working and trying to sleep. I say trying because I've not been as successful as I'd like in the sleep category lately. Some of it may be late winter blues, though I've not particularly felt like SAD has been an issue this year and haven't been nearly as bothered as some by this winter's heavy snowfall.

There has been a bit of progress on the knitting front. The wedding vest is going slowly, but I'm nearly through one full vertical pattern repeat. I'll need to get through a bit more than two, increasing as I go, before I'll be ready to begin the armhole steeks, at which time I'll be starting to decrease for the armholes, followed by the V-neck, and then the back neck steek, all of which will hopefully speed things up nicely. This photo is of the center back panel, so that you can see how the main pattern is reversed on either side.


I can generally only manage two or three rounds at most before my hands start to cramp, which has slowed things down a bit, but I try to do at least one round a night, which I figure should make up for the slowness. I love the way this pattern is knitting up, and it seems to be coming out to gauge, or at least close enough that it won't look like a sack on me (I hope).

In Other News

The other big thing I've been up to of late is looking into graduate programs. After my last attempt fizzled out, I still wanted to pursue a degree in epidemiology, but I knew it would have to wait until I were in a better position to be able to complete my studies. As much as I enjoy emergency work, I don't think that I can keep doing this physically for the next 20+ years. Besides, disease at the population level fascinates me - why do things small?

So I've been doing a bit of investigation into distance learning programs that will allow me to pursue a degree on a part-time basis online while continuing to work. The University of North Carolina, which has a very well-respected School of Public Health, has an online certificate program in field epidemiology, the coursework for which I can then use towards their Master of Public Health in that area.

So over the next few weeks I plan on compiling application materials to start that in the fall, with a course that I actually took at UNC ten years ago during my first go-round in the graduate world. The refresher will be nice, and at a leisurely one class per term, it should be no sweat to fit into my current schedule. And then in a few years, who knows?

04 March 2008

Tongue Dyed

One of the techs here at work brought in some leftover cake from her son's first birthday party. For some reason (we haven't asked) she decided that the cake, shaped like a pig face, should be a deep fuchsia. Not that any of you need proof that cake dyes are good for dyeing protein, but I thought I'd share the results.


Imagine if it had been wool, instead. One of the receptionists discovered another effect of the dye, but I'll spare you, dear readers, from a little TMI.

02 March 2008

The People One Meets

Except One wasn't me in this case. David has been at an alpaca event in Saratoga Spring, in Upstate New York, this weekend (while I've been working for The Man). He phoned me just after starting his return trip to let me know that he'd just met Annie Modesitt, who just happened to be at the same venue for an unrelated workshop with Saratoga Needle Arts. She bought one of his sweaters for her husband.

Apropos of Nothing