Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dog Snuggie

Before you judge, look at this picture:

Walter loves it, and even though people look ridiculous in them, I think he pulls off the Snuggie with a quiet dignity. He is currently snuggled in it on the couch, loving the warmth it provides when combined with another blanket. (The slightly crazed eyes are just because I pulled the blanket off of him and took his picture...)

Dad, Jodi, Jake, and Cosmo, consider this your thank-you note from the dog!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A real break

Now that the holiday crafting, baking, and driving are finished, the real break begins.  Apart from some AMSA work that needs to be finished this week, and some crafting goals that will let me start fresh for the new year, I have nothing on my calendar!  The dog even recognized this and slept until 8:30 this morning.  It was amazing.

I hope everyone had a happy holiday, and is gearing up for an exciting new year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So close…

I am almost done with my gift crafting. I’ve let go the idea that I will send out holiday cards before the Solstice, since that was yesterday, but am still hoping to finish them up tomorrow. Today was my first real day off – I finished grading yesterday – and it was truly wonderful to knit, sew, and snuggle the dog all day. Alicia has accused me of spending my day documenting where the dog is sleeping and taking pictures of my knitting. She is closer to correct that I would like to admit…

Today he found some sheets waiting to be laundered and decided they did not yet contain enough dog hair:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa’s Sweatshop*

Now that classes are over and almost all of the grading is complete, I’ve turned myself almost entirely to the crafting of Christmas/Solstice gifts for friends and family.  Though I have been diligently knitting many of my gifts since July or August, there remain a number to be sewn/knitted/crafted.  I am pleased to report that there are only a few remaining items, and that I will be completely done before the holiday.  I may even send out holiday cards before the New Year!

*I would like to note that I actually take labor practices very seriously.  My crafting is only like a sweatshop in that I have set somewhat unrealistic expectations for the amount that I will get done in the amount of time that I have, and in that the lighting is not the best in my study.  Otherwise, I am taking plenty of bathroom breaks and have relatively little fear of being fired.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Weird stuff found on the bus…

I am hoping that this won’t become a series, but when I got onto the bus a few days ago and saw this:

I was puzzled. I mean, you aren’t supposed to have any food or drink on the bus, and I’m assuming that includes beer. Add to this the fact that it was not quite 2pm and it becomes even more bizarre. Add to this the fact that it was finals time, and perhaps all is explained, but I'm not sure. I’m glad I wasn’t on the bus to see the person drinking it (as I tend to become irrationally angry when I observe others blatantly breaking the bus rules). I'm also glad I wasn't on the bus when some weird girl was taking a picture of beer cans on the bus, as that would have also seemed strange but blog-worthy...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Wonderland?

I don’t know how much longer I can take these wild fluctuations in temperature. While it’s nice that it gets warmer periodically, it makes for truly messy dog-walking, and an unattractive landscape. Everything is browner than it should be at this time of year. I think it freezing rained last night, so now there is a layer of crunchy slush on the ground. It is quite unsavory…

Here is a picture of Walt, attempting to navigate last week after a little melty snow/rain/wintery mix.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A chilling twist of fate…

I enjoyed November.  It was cool and even a little bit sunny, and I even went so far as to call it the fall I didn’t get in September and October, when it was downright hot.  I even got excited about the snow earlier this week.  I prefer winter over summer, and would rather wear layers of clothing than sunscreen.  As a direct result, I’m sure, it is currently 12 degrees Fahrenheit outside.  It is slightly sunny (which I appreciate a great deal), but it is windy, and it is cold.  This leaves only one appropriate description: “the skin-burning cold.”

Every year I forget about the skin-burning cold as anything other than an entertaining story with which to terrify new students from warmer climates.  Every year I forget that there really is no fabric on earth that can stop this kind of wind.  Every year, I get cocky and do things like not putting the liner in my coat even though I have been informed that the high for the day is the same as the low for the previous night, which was approximately 18 degrees.  And then, every year like clockwork, I’m shocked to feel the biting wind on my face, the bizarre feeling of the condensation on my eyebrows (blown up from my scarf) freezing, and the irrepressible urge to close my eyes to keep the delicate fluid inside them from freezing too. 

But take heart, dear readers, as not all is lost.  I have great plans for new knitted goods for just this sort of day, and within days, I’ll have enough free time to actually start/finish them.  That should make the winter just bearable enough that over the spring, summer, and fall, I forget how awful it really is.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


It snowed a little yesterday, but nothing that really stuck. It’s coming down tonight though, and I got a picture that makes it look sparkly and nice.

Also, a cute picture of Walt chewing his ropes…

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Solstice Decorating

I haven’t wanted to celebrate Christmas, per se, for quite some time. I love giving (and wrapping) gifts, enjoy spending time with family, and although I could do without the stress the holiday season seems to bring with it, overall I like celebrating, I just don't like the Christian part of the holiday. Don't get me wrong, Jesus was an amazing person, but that's about as far as I go. Over the last few years, I've been more decided about celebrating the solstice, and welcoming the (too slowly) lengthening days and shortening nights.

Since I've had a place to decorate, I’ve only been variably good about doing so. This was due in part to ambivalence, in part to being really really busy around this time of year, and in part to being overall less than thrilled with the Christmas-iness of the decorations. This year, I've hardly had second thoughts. After deciding that the tree is a lovely symbol for the coming solstice, and the decorations decidedly wintery, secular, and crafted by generations of family crafters, I put them all up.

By the door, there is the jingly Rudolph with a surprising sprig of holly coming out of his forehead. To the best of my recollection, this was crafted by my paternal grandmother, and I like the bells just inside the door.

On the wall is the amazing advent calendar created by my maternal grandmother during her Sequin Period. Some of the ornaments have been lost over time, and this year the 21 remaining are perfect for a countdown to the solstice.
The star ornament has long been lost so I use my favorite one, fondly termed the-many-eyed-bunny as the top of the tree. His lovely sequined face makes him look a little bit like he was exposed to a lot of radiation in utero, but he's so sparkly and cute anyway.

Finally, I set up the little tree I got from dad and Jodi when I started college. I managed to wrap the beautiful tree skirt mom (somewhat preemptively) made for me a few years ago when I started medical school, and it makes the whole area look more festive. It's sitting with some little snowmen, two made my Grandma Rita, and one from Alicia's mom several years ago. They look so wintery and happy that I almost (but only almost) want it to snow.

Happy December!

Friday, December 04, 2009

I passed!

Things I have learned this week:

1. Do not send e-mails under acute stress.  Something will be wrong with them.

2. Do not compile important pdfs under acute stress.  Something will be wrong with them.

3. Even if every little thing that could possibly go wrong does, it is still possible to pass and feel like a good person. 


Thursday, December 03, 2009

A moment of panic, not a moment too soon…

My prospectus defense is tomorrow, and I realized, incredibly fortuitously as I was answering another e-mail a moment ago, that I had not, in fact, sent my entire committee the lovely revised draft (with my name on it, and the pages numbered, all of those little things) of my prospectus.  I am now mortified, but at least it’s out now and they have more than 24 hours to look at it.  Thankfully not much has changed since the draft went out a few weeks ago. 

My heart rate is starting to slow…

Monday, November 30, 2009

Forgot the camera…

but the phone did a decent job! Here we are at the Thanksgiving Day Parade, 2009, all bundled up. You may notice that only one significant other made it out, and this was his first year in attendance. Alicia was home sick (with Nurse Walter), but I don’t know that she would have been up for it even with out the dreaded cold virus she’s been harboring.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Desserts

I am in charge of desserts for Thanksgiving, so here is a little narrative of my Wednesday-bef0re-Thanksgiving morning and afternoon. I started early, making the peach and blueberry filling on Monday night, and the crust dough on Monday night and Tuesday morning. I assembled the first pie Wednesday morning, and it smelled amazing as it baked.

To roll out my crusts, I used the amazing sheet my mom gave me for Christmas last year. It has incredibly helpful circular measurements in the middle, and is also the right size to cover most of the area that would be dirtied by the rolling.

Here is the pumpkin pie, right out of the oven. It still looks a little fluffier than it ended up, as it hadn't cooled and relaxed yet. I had a bunch of filling that didn't fit in the pie crust so you can see that in the photo below.

Also pictured here is the baked crust for mom's mincemeat bars. This was the final Wednesday morning photo, and then I went to teach and also to buy mincemeat...

Several hours later, I finished an apple crisp to bring to Alicia's mom's, and also finished up the mincemeat pie bars, shown below.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I’ve been so good…

at posting all through this semester, but it’s getting to the exciting time now.  It’s getting to where I can actually see the end of the semester, and it’s a beautiful thing.  Thanksgiving seems late this year, and the semester seems to end early, which is a recipe for both disaster and wonderfulness all at once.  I think I’ve overcome the disaster (and feel relatively good about defending my prospectus Dec 4), and am looking forward to the wonderfulness…

Wish me happy sleeping…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Whitmore Lake Yarn Company

A couple of weeks ago, Cindy (Ash’s mom) e-mailed me to let me know that she had discovered a new yarn shop (new to us, at least) in Whitmore Lake, MI. I quickly invited myself for an excursion that took place yesterday. I think Ash is probably relieved that it’s over, as she’s been hearing from both of us how excited we were for the last few weeks. Sorry Ash!

The Whitmore Lake Yarn Company is a really lovely little shop. They are incredibly friendly, and even have a little girl who likes to greet patrons at the door. I’m under the impression that she’s not employed there, but is a regular shopper/shopper’s companion. Yesterday she was picking out blue yarn for a hat. At any rate, everyone was chatty and it seemed bustling for a Tuesday late-morning-early-afternoon. (Though it is a small shop, so it doesn’t take many people to make it feel full…) I happily found some yarn for a project that I cannot reveal here, due to the potential readership and kin of readership of this blog, but trust me that I’d been hoping to find it for a long time!

Thankfully, the shop carries more of the basic fibers and colorways I love. They had a great selection of Plymouth Galway, Brown Sheep Worsted (and Bulky, I think), Cascade 220 and 220 Superwash, as well as some other yarns I hadn’t seen before, most in lovely solids and heathers. They also stock a great array of baby and child appropriate yarns, with nice acrylic/wool blends that will wash and dry without much distress.

I think this will be a nice foil to Knit A Round, which as many of you know, does not carry the same variety of solid and heathered yarns. I’m pleased to report that this year seems to show an upswing in yarns that I like, but it is notable that almost everything I like ends up in the sale bin, suggesting that their primary clientele love other things. (Ultimately, this works well for me when I’m in a pinch, but results in me buying yarn elsewhere for lots of projects.) I’m excited to have another local option for yarn, and look forward to returning to Whitmore Lake when my yarn budget is once again replenished.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just get started?

I read a post on the Career Center’s blog about PhD candidates looking for non-academic jobs (for general interest – that’s neither a plan of mine nor something I’ll be dealing with for quite a few years), and they had an interesting post about conquering “job search apathy.” As I read it, it occurred to me that these three steps cover the best way to get going with just about anything:

1. Just start, just do something

2. Break it down into manageable pieces

3. Do something every day

This makes so much sense, and is something I’ve been doing (on and off) for a long time, but is something I think deserves constant reminding. My most recent need of a reminder was this:

A full draft of my prospectus!!! It’s been a crazy semester, with all of the teaching and travel, but I finally have at least a draft of what I’m proposing to do, which sounds like it should be written entirely in some sort of distant subjunctive tense, though I know that it will be “time to just start” on actually doing the work soon enough. And for those of you wondering, I did, in fact, take a photo (with my phone) of the finished draft printed and sitting in my advisor's mailbox...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

GLMA Press Release

It looks like the AMA is catching up to AMSA on a few things…  GLMA said it well, so I’m just going to paste it here:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 10, 2009

James Beaudreau | jbeaudreau@glma.org

AMA Says Gay Marriage Bans
Contribute to Health Disparities

Gay and Lesbian Medical Association Praises AMA Policy Declaring
Same-Sex Marriage Bans to be Harmful to the Health of LGBT Families

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) today praised the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) adoption of policy declaring that gay marriage bans contribute to health disparities for gay couples and their children.

“We hope the newly adopted policy will inform future debates about expanding the right to marriage to gay and lesbian couples,” said GLMA Education and Policy Director James Beaudreau. “The science on this issue is clear: the health and well-being of gay couples and their families is directly affected by the right to marry, and denial of that right has many serious health related consequences.”

As part of the newly adopted policy, the AMA “supports measures providing same-sex households with the same rights and privileges to health care, health insurance, and survivor benefits, as afforded opposite-sex households.”

A 2008 report published by GLMA, Same Sex Marriage and Health, documented evidence about the affects of same-sex marriage bans on the LGBT community. The report noted that:

  • Access to health insurance through a spouse is an important component of obtaining quality healthcare;
  • Research indicates that being married can contribute to overall health and longevity;
  • Hospital visitation and decision making rights conferred by marriage are important to the quality of care; and
  • Children of LGBT parents benefit when their families are respected and accorded legal protections.

“As members of the medical community, we must bring our knowledge and understanding to the conversation about marriage equality and its positive effects upon health and wellness,” said GLMA President Rebecca Allison, MD. “We know that denying lesbians and gay men the opportunity to marry denies them multiple benefits of marriage that support relationships and promote health. As an act of discrimination, it compounds stigma against LGBT people in our society that has been linked to psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression.”

The AMA also adopted policies requesting a repeal of the U.S. military’s 'don't ask, don't-tell' law. The AMA said ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ creates an ethical dilemma for LGBT service members and the healthcare providers who treat them by putting service members in the position of having to choose between forgoing appropriate medical care by lying to their physicians or risking discharge, as well as healthcare providers in the position of having to choose between documenting the care they are providing incompletely or inaccurately or risking the service member's discharge.

– 30 –

GLMA's 2008 report, Same Sex Marriage and Health, is available at www.glma.org/MarriageEquality.
GLMA is the world's largest association of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) healthcare professionals. Since 1981, GLMA has been working to ensure equality in healthcare for LGBT individuals and healthcare professionals through advocacy, education, research and referrals. Please visit our website at

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Before and after

Here is Walter on the couch. In all fairness, this is actually the after picture, but it also illustrates what he looked like before the other picture was taken as well.

Here is the after picture, with his cute little head sticking out of the blankets. Not pictured: horrifying gas that prompted him to stick his head out for air in the first place. Dogs are gross. But so cute...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


So I’ve discovered that when I actually do everything I’m supposed to do (instead of putting some of it off until who knows when), I’m sort of tired by Monday afternoon and exhausted by Tuesday night.  And still 2.5 more days to go before this proposal is due.  It’s mostly done, and I did the references this evening, which are by far my least favorite part, but I’m still tired and am wishing that I would magically have lots of money to support myself and my research rather than having to apply for it like this.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween Part 2: Wearing

Once the costume was finished, I was quite pleased. Overall, it came out fairly clear (I think) that I was a financial index, and I didn't get a lot of weird looks or questions...Alicia helped me to find all of the logos, so all 30 companies were represented, even on the sleeves.
There was one minor issue: I didn't realize that while I was ironing the front, I was also ironing the back onto the kitchen table. This is why a small portion of the Dow Jones logo is missing. I managed to scrape it off of the table fairly easily, and I don't think it affected the shirt terribly.
I couldn't convince Alicia that being a toxic asset was a feasible costume, so she went as Mario. She looked pretty awesome.
We were quite the pair, and overall had a nice time last night, both over at a friend's house and then out at The Bang!
Here we are (looking serious) out later in the evening.
Next year, having aquired a variety of hats, we may be the Village People...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

A historic accomplishment

Watch here to hear President Obama talk about signing into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  This law adds sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and disability to the protected categories covered by hate crimes legislation.  This allows the federal government to get involved when necessary to assist local law enforcement with hate crimes investigation and prosecution.  It saddens me that it has taken so long, but at least we have it now, thanks to the tireless advocacy of people like Judy Shepard and countless other advocates for the protection of all people from crimes motivated by hatred and bias. 

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that a comprehensive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) will be soon to follow!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Top Chef… and the social value of television

I didn’t watch a lot of TV as a child.  I would, overall, characterize this as a good thing, as I learned to love to read more than I might otherwise have done.  I didn’t have a television in college either.  Ash and I would occasionally venture down into the MCB basement to watch movies (often obscure Spanish-language films for my classes), but mostly we were entertained by conversation with other residents and between ourselves.  Alicia and I didn’t have a television for the first several years of graduate school, but it was at that point that I started to realize some of the social benefits of having a limited number of televisions.  My friends would invite everyone over to watch either Top Chef or Project Runway, and everyone would bring snacks and built up resentment of school from the previous week, all to share.  This became a lovely ritual, and though it got a little rough while my friends were third years, and has been less regular now that they are interns, it has continued.  The group of people attending has varied slightly over the years, but it has remained a bright spot in my evenings for quite some time.

I went to watch Top Chef last night, and though I’m exhausted today, I had a lovely time.  (As an aside, I wish it would be on earlier in the evening…  10-11pm is much too late for me!)  It’s really wonderful to be able to (re)connect with friends from medical school, and be reminded that there is a job on the other end of this lengthy graduate school trajectory.  Also to be reminded that a leek is not, in fact, a protein, which was mostly what I took away from last night’s show.  I’m sleepy, so this is rambling, but mostly I’d just like to express how thankful I am for friends, and to some extent for television that’s given us an excuse for weekly reunions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cannot get a handle on this weather…

I’m sure that the trip to Arizona made this adjustment more complicated, but the weather this October seems more finicky than usual.  Yesterday I was too warm and had to take off my jacket in the afternoon, so today I wore a short sleeved shirt with my jacket and I was cold every time I went outside.  What’s a girl to do?

I know the real answer is to layer, but then I end up carrying around a ton of different things and the potential to lose them increases exponentially with each item I’m carrying.  I have enough to worry about (and enough to carry) without a bunch of clothing draped over my arm as I run around campus. 

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will just stay cool from here on out and I’ll be fine in my sweaters and long-sleeved shirts.  I prefer them anyway and they give me a much broader range of dressy clothes in which to teach.  I know that some of you will be cursing me for that wish, and I’m that sure soon enough I’ll be longing for the warmth of this bizarre interjection of spring/summer in October, but right now, all I want is a constant chill.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When you find yourself seated next to a knitter on the plane…

…you should not make comments intended to suggest that what she (or he) is doing might simply be a waste of time.  Comments like “well that’s a lot of work for just a dishcloth” simply do not have responses!  They lead only to awkward justifications of knitting as a hobby/calling/whatever, and if you don’t already understand that I make dishcloths because to me they are fun and beautiful, and not because it is efficient and money/time-saving, you won’t even after I’ve explained it.

Apart from this somewhat odd interchange on the plane, my trip to Tempe, AZ was fantastic.  Jack and Linda were the kindest hosts a person could hope for, and it was wonderful to see them.  We had delicious Indian food, and went up to the top of South Mountain Park, which according to the website has lookouts at 2,300 ft. and 2,600 ft.  We drove up just past dusk and saw a bit of the sunset and then the lovely sea of lights that is Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun at night.  It was beautiful!  Next step: find a way to visit in the winter when it is most terrible here. 

The conference was also pretty good, though my talk was attended only by a small group of folks.  (I was scheduled opposite someone much more well-known than I…)  I nonetheless got some good feedback about my work, which was the purpose of the conference in the first place. 

Overall it was a lovely weekend, and it allowed me to miss a few days of rain and cold for sunshine and warmth.  I’m glad to be home though (and that I’m not traveling for at least a few weeks more), and am settling back into fall.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One more thing…

I forgot to mention in my last post that I will also be seeing Uncle Jack and Aunt Linda while I’m here in Tempe, AZ.  This is very exciting, and makes much of the traveling worth it.  Yay for having family in warm, beautiful places that host conferences. 

October… You nefarious month…

October this year has been crazy.  I was at GLMA at the beginning of the month, the Point Foundation Regional Leadership Conference last weekend, and am now at the Annual Conference of the North American Association of Computational Social and Organizational Sciences.  (As an aside, I think social sciences folks like really, really long acronyms.  You will recall that I attended NCPSSSH last year – the National Conference of Physician Scholars in the Social Sciences and Humanities…)  As much as I love to travel, this is crazy – 3/5 is not an appropriate fraction to represent the number of weekends I’ve traveled in a given month.  It should be at most 2/5 or 1/4.  In the middle of the semester that’s even pushing it, as I’ve learned.  And yet, here we are.

On the positive side, the conference has included some interesting speakers, and the weather is amazing.  It’s currently about 75-80 degrees here, and the sun is shining.  Not to rub it in the faces of those of you in Michigan, but I happen to know that it’s raining and cold there.  Take solace in the fact that you are seeing the height of the beautiful fall colors and here all of the trees are plain old boring green. 

I think conference attendance is an art.  It requires a number of critical skills, including abilities to:

1. determine ahead of time which sessions will be well done and which ones will be presentations of the authors’ previous night’s rambling.

2. apply disparate research and theory presentations to your own life and work.

3. network efficiently, even with sometimes socially awkward academics.

I’m working on all of these skills, as well as on finishing a last minute presentation myself for tomorrow morning.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A week of purple vegetables

I went to the farmers market yesterday with only two things on my list: cauliflower and eggs. I had $5, so I hoped I’d be able to pick up something additional from my favorite vegetable stand (Frog Holler Organic Farm). When I arrived, I saw that they didn’t have cauliflower, but that the stand across the street had the most beautiful gigantic cauliflowers I’d ever seen – and they were purple! (To be fair, they had white cauliflower too, but who wants white cauliflower when you can have purple?) I was so excited, and after buying my eggs and noting the $2 price tag on the cauliflower, I went back over to the Frog Holler booth to see what I could get for my last $1. Looking over the list, I realized that it had to be a week of purple vegetables…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Knitting with Stainless Steel

On a whim, I purchased some Habu A-21 1/20 silk stainless B (in color 4, which is brown) when I was at Nina, a posh knit shop in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. I’d seen a few projects knit with it online, and it just seemed so cool. I also got a skein of super fine merino (in color 56, which is grass green) to run with it – largely because after starting the lovely purple lace scarf last year (which continues to languish in my knitting bag), I vowed to never attempt to knit anything out of lace weight yarn again. It is simply too skinny and I don’t understand how anyone knits with it. I love lace with fingering-weight yarn, lace with DK, lace with worsted, even lace with bulky, but not lace with lace-weight.

I started the shawl – the same Ishbel pattern I knit for Jess a while back – last week, and it’s really coming along beautifully. The green and brown mix in a lovely way (that occasionally looks a bit like seaweed, but I’m okay with that) and the steel gives it the most interesting texture. (I even wound the yarns together into a single ball to make my life easier... And now I have the most parenthetical statements of any post I've ever written...)

No other point to this post… I’m just excited to finish it so that I can wear it – I’m working on expanding my wardrobe through knitted goods this year…

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A short addendum – and more pictures

Mom reminded me of one more thing about having a dog as a student (or any sort of busy person):

Having to leave your new pet alone at home is difficult. Walter cried for 20-30 minutes in his crate each time we left the house for the first week or two that we had him. It was heartbreaking, and also nerve-wracking as we didn’t know at what point the neighbors would think we were torturing him (or complain about the noise). It didn’t take long for him to realize that we were always coming back, but feeling like I couldn’t leave the house was a horrible experience… Now he’s pretty good, and we’ve learned that for a treat, he will settle into his house and be perfectly happy sleeping for hours, so life with Walter is pretty good.

Most recent ridiculous undertaking: Walter created a nest out of some pillows and unused bedding that was sitting in the corner. We’ve moved it out of his reach, but he loved it for the 1-2 days before we cleaned it up.

Here is Walter helping Alicia to make the bed...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Reflections… and gratuitous cute Walter photos

Many people have asked me whether it’s feasible to have a dog (or any other kind of pet) while in graduate or medical school, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Hearing others’ thoughts on it this weekend (at the GLMA conference) made me think about it again. Reflecting on our first nine months with Walter, I think the answer is clear: it depends.

My schedule has changed substantially over the course of my program. I have significant flexibility in how long I am out of the house, though I know that this will change when I go back to medical school and am on the wards. Alicia’s schedule has been relatively constant through all of this, with a few exceptional days, though this may also change when I go back to medical school and lose any semblance of control over my schedule.

Conclusion #1: Sole responsibility for anything other than a fish isn’t something I would have undertaken or plan to undertake at any point in my life.

Caveat #1: If you can pay someone to help out, conclusion #1 is null and void. We discussed the possibility of hiring a dog walker to take Walter out in the middle of the day to give him a chance to relieve himself and play outside. This ended up not being necessary, but may come back into consideration in a few years.

In spite of the altered schedule, I have been impressed with the anti-stress benefits of having Walter around. I think I laugh even more now that he is constantly hiding in the blankets or trying to lick my face. I definitely walk more since I’m obligated to take him outside once or twice each day for half and hour or so. I’ve been able to listen to more podcasts/books on tape, and find that the time away from work makes me more productive.

Conclusion #2: Having a pet forces you to slow down, and for someone like me, this is a good thing.

Caveat #2: Getting a pet during finals was probably the worst possible time, as I was crazy and there was nothing stress relieving about having to take the dog out when I had an exam due. I’ve figured out his schedule now, but I’d err on the side of a calm time if I had the opportunity to do it again.

Overall, I love having Walter around. There’s nothing like having the dog snuggled on the couch to make a nap even more inviting, and I’m constantly entertained by his antics. Clearly, however, it’s a balance. If I were responsible for all of his care, I’d probably go nuts, and if we had a dog that required 10 hours of walking and intensive playing every day, we’d all be unhappy. But I’m not, and we don’t.

Conclusion #3: It depends.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

AIDS Walk Michigan!

I didn't get a chance to post about the AIDS Walk, and don't have much to say other than thank you to everyone who donated and to Alicia for walking with me. Walt also walked, and looked quite dashing in his bandana...


I missed the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association conference last year, or this one would have been my fifth.  At this point, I’ve been to enough of their conferences that I can say that this was one of the best in terms of programming.  Though some of the sessions can seem a bit repetitive (largely because there are health issues that we just can’t seem to successfully beat, like HIV and smoking), this year there were some new perspectives and lots of excitement. 

I attended a number of talks by healthcare providers and activists who are thinking about the delivery of transgender healthcare in interesting ways – whether working with insurance companies to demonstrate that trans-inclusive policies do not actually end up costing companies much extra money at all, or working loosely with the standards of care to create an informed consent model that gives patients a greater degree of autonomy and control in their care, they are pushing to make the world a healthier and safer place. 

I also heard more sessions this year dealing with intersections of identities (like age, race, and sexuality, among others) and how those intersections affect health in unique ways.  I was heartened to see some discussion of the resiliency of youth, while I was saddened by the continued realities of high rates of depression and suicide among our young people. 

It was also lovely to touch base with the UMMS BGLAM folks again – I tend to get a bit out of touch since I’m not physically in the medical school right now.  In addition, I got to see Liz Eaman, illustrious UMMS alum, family medicine resident, and GLMA board member.  She is always inspiring and wonderful, and it was great to see her again.  Rounding out my social calendar were Tanya, Brian H., and Aaron P., all of whom are interns this year, seeing patients, saving lives, and sleeping when they can. 

Overall, it was lovely.  I returned home feeling inspired (although wary of the volume of unaddressed e-mail in my box) and ready to get back to work…

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taco Tour!

Alicia and I rode in the Taco Tour on Friday, which was definitely an interesting experience. It was organized by Bike Ypsi, a group of enthusiastic and eclectic cyclists from Ypsilanti (and a few from Ann Arbor like us). The weather didn’t look overly promising, but we pushed onward, having been assured by cyclists who participated in last year’s event that it was more fun in a torrential downpour. It ended up only raining lightly for a little bit toward the start of the ride.

Because we were riding through lots of parts of Ypsilanti, the traffic and road quality varied, though the organizers did an incredible job of selecting lovely roads for us to use as we biked between taco locales. Overall, I think the ride was about 20 miles, with only a few hills. I was tired by the end and, as always, resolved to bike more during the week to avoid the weekend exhaustion/weakness.

The tacos were clearly the highlight of the tour. We started at Los Amigos, which served a hard shelled taco with lots of shredded cheese and cilantro. I had a bean taco, and enjoyed it. The shell wasn’t great, but the cheese was delicious. After a long-ish trek out to Ypsi Township for
Los Amigos, we headed back into town for Dos Hermanos, a Mexican market in Ypsilanti that carries an amazing array of delicious goods. I thought their tacos were the best – small fresh tortillas with spicy beans and pico de gallo. After several other places that fell somewhere in between both geographically and in terms of their food, we arrived at La Fiesta Mexicana, a restaurant I know and love right near Depot Town. They served a delicious potato taco in a freshly fried (and thus hard shell) tortilla. Anything that has been recently fried is delicious, which I thought gave them a rather unfair advantage in the voting.

Finally, we headed back toward the start of the ride and united at the Corner Brewery for some chips and salsa beer brewed specially for the Taco Tour. It was not delicious. Alicia rightly suspected that it would be awful and ordered one of our old standbys. I made her share with me, and help me drink my small glass of really spicy beer. I’ve concluded that beer should not be spicy. It is not refreshing to have your drink leave a hot burning taste in your mouth, especially when you can’t bring yourself to eat something salty with it because you’ve already eaten six tacos…

It was a great day, and we left with spoke cards and t-shirts to show off around town.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Baby Bunnies

My neighbor pointed me in the direction of these tiny bunnies yesterday morning, though my ability to take good photos was hampered by my dying camera. You can still tell how cute they are though! Later in the day I only saw two of them hopping around the grass. I’m choosing to believe that the others found a less conspicuous hiding place…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Does balance exist?

A year or two ago I overheard two faculty members discussing the start of another busy semester.  One said to the other “Every semester I think it will get better, but it never seems to.  I find myself with just as much work, even though I vowed to cut back.”  This is a bit of a paraphrase, but you get the idea.  These were not junior faculty.  They were not disorganized faculty.  They were not unaccomplished faculty.  In fact, they were the kind of faculty I aspire to be when I grow up.  Which brings us to today’s question: is balance between work and family/life/play really possible?  The answer has to be yes, but at what cost?

Some doctors I’ve spoken with choose to prioritize their lives outside of clinical work, and often make conscious decisions to be excellent clinicians while acknowledging that they will neither be experts in their field, nor will they publish papers about their work.  They see patients, often in generalist clinics, enjoy their work, and lead happy lives.

Others, who hold both research and clinical positions, manage a small generalist clinical practice while engaging in collaborative research projects.  They are able to prioritize their lives, but often at the expense of being organized and having a sense of control over their lives.  This is my sense, at least, looking in from the outside. 

Few even manage to truly escape for a few days or a few weeks in the summer and really rest and recharge with family and friends.  Returning to the “real world” after that seems almost impossible however, and things are missed. 

Nearly everyone that I’ve talked to has struggled with balancing their work lives (whether research based, clinical, or some combination their of) with their personal lives.  The two options I’ve described above are simply two strategies for carving out time.  It’s clear to me that the hours in the day are finite, and that the opportunity costs of any choice are high.  I suppose what it comes down to in the end, however, are priorities.  Where do expertise and prestige fall in comparison to sleep?  How do children and home life compare with patients and paperwork?  What kinds of work are reimbursed in what ways, and how does that limit the choices we make?  Are there other rewards that motivate us beyond fame and fortune?  Apart from family and friends?

There is no easy answer, and I’m finding this term as difficult as any other.  What must unite us all, however, is that we keep struggling.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009



11-12 Lunch with students

1-2 Discussion

3-5 Coffee time with students

5-6 Meeting about the class

6-6:30 Meeting about my observed class time

?:??-?:?? My work

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The first day of fall…

The tiniest tinge of fall color...

Having googled autumnal equinox, I’ve discovered that fall in the Northern Hemisphere actually began at 5:19am this morning. The link will lead you to an enthralling National Geographic discussion of what equinoxes are, and will also explain that “the true days of day-night equality always fall after the autumnal equinox and before the vernal, or spring, equinox…”

Official or no, it does NOT feel like fall. Last week we had some lovely crisp days and chilly nights. This week, it has been muggy, thunderstormy, and terrible – it’s like we are getting the bit of July that we missed earlier in the summer. Temperatures are forecasted to be in the upper 70s and low 80s this week, but I’m hopeful that it will cool down after this.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tour de Troit

As promised, Alicia and I rode in the Tour de Troit today. Aside from a little frustration due to a riders angering our police escort by riding on the wrong side of the road, and some slowdowns due to who-knows-what, it was wonderful. The weather couldn’t have been better, and we both had a great time!

The ride started in front of the old train depot – long abandoned, and tragically empty-looking. I’ve heard that there are talks about how to best use the space, and I hope that they are able to keep the original building intact and repurpose the structure as it stands.

We rode through a lot of different neighborhoods, guided by the numbered list of sights to see on our map of the route. Notable among them were Corktown, the Ambassador Bridge, the Heidelberg Project and the remains of the old Tiger Stadium. It was sad to see how empty so much of the city is, even on a Saturday afternoon, but there were a decent number of folks out watching the riders. I heard that there were 1800-2000 riders today, which is amazing!

About halfway through the ride (~17 miles), we stopped at F. Gabriel Richard Park, which is right across from Belle Isle. It seemed a lovely symmetry, given that we started our summer of Detroit biking around that lovely little island. We ended the ride (~30 miles) back at Roosevelt Park (outside the train depot), loaded the bikes back into the car, and had lunch courtesy of a number of restaurants in Southwest Detroit – Organaman’s Catering (delicious burrito – sorry, no website) and Moo Moo’s (black bean patty and corn/something salsa).

Overall, it was a great day, and a fitting finale to our Summer of Detroit.