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November 29, 2005

Giving Thanks Minnesota-Style

This year, our Minnesota family Thanksgiving celebrations were incontestably traditional:

At an overnight retreat to the Miron farm, west of Bemidji, we admired the horses’ winter coats, dined on roasted turkey and Joel’s sister Phoebe’s pumpkin pie, chatted on the telephone with our Nebraska and Florida relations, and enjoyed an evening of perusing back issues of the Bemidji Pioneer and Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker
in the midst of post-meal snores and farts of Bruce the Greyhound, Taffy the Labrador, and Hunter the Labrador.

The following morning, we ventured south to share the holiday with the St. Cloud Wurzbergers, which included all the usual tricks and treats: pre-supper Trivial Pursuit game (Game-Winning Question: “What San Francisco 49ers wide receiver celebrated a touchdown catch by autographing the ball and handing the ball to a fan?”), turkey-and-trimmings feast, post-supper movie (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), and post-post-supper ribaldry …

Flashback to Thanksgiving 2004 ...

After Don and Mary stumbled off to bed on Thanksgiving-eve night, Joel, Kelli, Aimee, and Erin mischievously decide to make all of Don’s Thanksgiving wishes come true and turn the Wurzberger kitchen and living room into a Winter Wonderland. After setting up the fake spruce tree, decking the halls with blinking lights galore, and posing for Christmas Card style photos with the raw and damp-from-brining turkey (Joel’s whiskey-saturated mind came up with that brilliant idea), Kelli and Aimee craft a clever plan that ices this already pungent holiday fruit cake: Bring the animatronic, illuminated deer that stand in the front yard, inside! The moving deer found a place of honor atop the kitchen island and peacefully stood, bobbing their heads up and down to the beat of Frank Sinatra’s Let It Snow!, when Don and Mary woke the following morning and ambled into the kitchen for their first cup of coffee. Hilarity.

This year, following our viewing of Harry Potter, Don and Mary’s holiday season was similarly greeted. After months of careful planning, we successfully planted an animatronic, illuminated polar bear on the kitchen island. Hilarity.

It should also be noted that we celebrated Thanksgiving with a new member of the Wurzberger clan this year, Aimee’s sister Kelli’s fiancé Charles, who had a hand in helping the polar bear gag come to its hilarious fruition. On first meeting him, Charles may well be the perfect man: funny, tall, and exceedingly kind. We are very happy for Kelli, and look forward to celebrating their union next year.

To adequately prepare for upcoming exams, we drove home to South Dakota on Saturday morning to the rhythm of Minnesota state highways and questions from Pathology: Did You Know Disease Would Be This Much Fun? For example,

A 6-year-old child puts the contents of a bag of peanuts in his mouth and then takes a deep breath with the idea of blowing the peanuts out all over his sister. However, he aspirates a peanut during this maneuver. One day later, he has slight difficulty breathing. What gives, man?

(A) Smoking-induced emphysema
(B) Cholera
(C) He's got a peanut lodged in his bronchus
(D) Occasional difficulty breathing is to be expected in a boy of this age

We’ve arrived home safely and are all nestled in for a long, snowy, windy week of winter weather …

November 19, 2005

Joy

I was studying away at pathology this afternoon when I came across this sentence: “Diarrheal diseases of the bowel make up a veritable Augean stable of entities.”

This is the sort of moment that makes me quietly believe in magic. Being a human means being a thinking animal. Why do we think? It’s hard to say, but I believe we think as an accidental byproduct of language. Someone smarter than me described consciousness as the warmth and hum given off by the turning of our mental gears. Now, while this might seem decidedly un-magical to most people, the idea that my ancestors accidentally evolved language, found that it helped them survive and therefore had it stick, were driven by the positive feedback between more and more complex language and more and more complex neural hookups to begin actually thinking, and that an end product of that evolutionary moment is Vinay Kumar, MD in the 7th edition of Robbins Basic Pathology, (and here you must imagine my speech spilling out with heightened speed and excitement) comparing the diversity of disease that causes diarrhea to a stable out of Greek myth that was so filthy that Hercules had to divert a river to clean it up, and that the singular weirdness but simultaneous perfection of this metaphor will cause me to feel real love for learning about human disease for almost an entire afternoon, for me, for a moment, proves the fitness of human civilization.

No matter that I had to go and look up the Augean stables, or that Kumar undoubtedly threw the allusion in to make himself look smart. In fact, that’s one of the points, that language is so beguiling and delightful that its display is essentially joyful, whether giving or receiving. Kumar labored to please himself with a cultural allusion, and I labored to please myself in uncovering his meaning. If there is magic, for me it comes like this: words (and, I suppose, pictures and objects formed with the intent of creating meaning) open doors in our heads and somewhere happiness strolls in.


And then there’s winter. Monday was a beautiful autumn day, with the usual crisp multi-hued leaves swirling about while children in sweaters quickly worked up a sweat sprinting around for the helluvit. Then, with an almost audible “wham”, winter arrived. The temperature dropped from 60 to 10 degrees overnight. Snow billowed in on the back of 30 mph winds. Trees became encrusted in ice, birds froze in mid-air and dropped to the ground in mid-chirp, fire hydrants cracked from the sudden contraction of their metallic tissues and emitted geysers of water that within minutes described hideous alien sculptures of ice. Lovecraftian phrases like “an icy gale of otherworldly doom” and “very cold” came out of people’s mouths as they struggled to grasp the enormity of what had befallen them: It is now necessary to wear a coat to the bar.

Now in places like Portland or, I dunno, Shangri-La, wearing a coat to the bar is no big deal. In fact, if you’ve got a snazzy coat you like, maybe you look forward to it. But in South Dakota, if you don’t smoke like a fiend you might as well take up the habit come the cold weather because your outerwear, and soon, it seems, all of your worldly possessions will become redolent with the stale reek of Marbs. Of course, this isn’t an issue for Aimee and I, as our pregnancy and penury have kept us out of the local taverns since August, but part of my medical training is Full Contact Empathy, and so I shake my head sadly when I see shivering Co-Eds doff their coats, leave them in their cars, and scuttle into the Pressbox. It’ll be a lot colder come closing time, ladies.

November 16, 2005

Le Pamplemousse

grapefruit.jpg

There’s no better way to herald the dawn of the wintry season than a celebration of that tart, ruby red wonder: the grapefruit.

During my junior year of college, shortly after I’d made the transfer from a modest college of Norwegian heritage in northeastern Iowa to the diverse city-stylings of the University of Minnesota, I received a surprise birthday package from Joel in mid-November. I pulled the brown wrapping paper from the box to reveal a collection of blushing, gravid grapefruits, smelling of sumptuously of sunshine and refreshment. I secreted my prize upstairs to my room, keeping the fruits hidden from the eager, nutritionally-starved mouths of my housemates, who subsisted on diets of Ramen noodles and Jägermeister. My cache of vitamin-infused, pulpy produce was a tonic that year of frigid wind chills and crushing final exams.

With Ruby Reds lining the produce aisle in our local grocery, Joel and I were tempted to return to the grapefruit to celebrate my birthday again this year. The following recipe reenergized our palates with a cheerful zing ... Enjoy!

CITRUS SALAD WITH ARUGULA AND FENNEL

Bunch of arugula
1 fennel bulb, shaved/sliced into strips
1 red grapefruit, peel and pith removed, segmented
1 orange, peel and pith removed, segmented
½ cup of flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon of grated, peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons of lime juice
2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons of fresh grapefruit juice
½ teaspoon of course salt
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Toss arugula, fennel, fruit, and parsley in a large bowl; set aside. Whisk rosemary, ginger, juices, and salt in a large bowl. Whisking constantly, pour in olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Pour dressing over salad to taste. Serve.

(This recipe is courtesy of the December 2005 issue Martha Stewart Living magazine, with a couple of our own variations added in for good measure …)

Warning! Our responsibility to our profession urges us to caution any of our audience members who might be taking prescription blood-thinners or anticoagulants to omit the grapefruit in this recipe before eating this salad ... I know it's the focal point of this entry and terribly inconsiderate of us to make your mouth water in this way ... Sorry.


November 12, 2005

An Ode to My Sweetie

Today is my twenty-eighth birthday, and Joel has joyfully pranced about all day making generous allowances in his daily routine to honor the birth of yours truly. This morning he awoke me with all the cheerfulness of a Labrador, shoving a new, crimson pair of haus-schuhe onto my snoozing feet as he bellowed, “Ready for Coffee?”

I must admit the celebration of birthdays are as important to me today as they were when I was a young slip of a girl.

The Big D and I on my seventh birthday.

To me, there’s something about the sacredness, the significance of the exact day of a person’s shift from sixteen to seventeen or ninety-two to ninety-three. It’s the celebration of an origin or a commencement, when people magically and mysteriously move from an idea to a reality. On some matters, we humans are inflexible, and birthdays fall high on the list for me.

Joel, on the other hand, is perfectly content and pleased to pass the annual date of his birth without so much as a peep of well-wishes from loved ones (always excepting that all-important rite of passage that happens at midnight on one’s twenty-first year), preferring to celebrate with cake, booze, and presents when the mood and convenience strike.

It’s tough to say where our differences developed, but perhaps it’s enough just to say that they exist …

In years past, I think that I may have been a bit of a bother or a downright annoyance to Joel in my insistence on candles and felicitations on his birthday, July 24th, especially if that day happened to fall on a Monday or an Exam Eve or friend’s wedding celebration. In years bygone, I know I have been disappointed if I’ve had to wait to celebrate my birthday until the 15th or, even worse, celebrate my birthday early.

So in celebration of my special day, I’d like to honor my own dear valiant heart who sacrificed a Saturday of alimentary canal study (and World of Warcraft) to make me blueberry waffles, indulge window shopping downtown, play a round of Settlers of Catan, and to take in a foreign film.

I know that his effort must have been great … I just found him deep in sleep, at three o’ clock in the afternoon.

All a-snooze, all a-bed.

November 8, 2005

The Veil Briefly Lifted

Ten days ago we went for our 19-and-a-half week ultrasound to see how EthelRed was coming along. The contrast from our first ultrasound was, of course, breathtaking. Our fetus leapt upon the shadowy screen with obvious anatomy, vigorous movement, and, at times, a convincing portrayal of someone reacting to outside stimulus. Aimee and I both did a lot of cooing, “Oh look, vertebrae! And a bladder, right in the middle! Oooo, look at that heart, look at those symmetrical chambers!” Eric, our ultrasound tech, did another outstanding job of pointing things out to us, telling us what signs of normal development he was looking for, and providing immediate feedback when he found said signs. To sum up: EthelRed is developing fabulously! Which is to say, completely average. To un-sum up: EthelRed has normally formed ventricles in the brain, a regular spinal column with perfectly typical vertebrae. All of EthelRed’s organs are ordinarily perfect, and measurements of the limbs all revealed a commonplace flawlessness.

Aimee delighted in EthelRed’s activity level. It seemed like our fetus was in constant motion, hammering at the walls of Aimee’s uterus with little hands, kicking, and rolling around. This is pleasing, as it lets us know how, even though Aimee has been feeling tiny murmury taps on her abdomen for a couple of months now (the strongest of which I can just feel with my hand), EthelRed is still very active even when nothing can be felt.

Towards the end of the exam, Eric turned to us and said, “And would you like to find out the gender of your child?” We both nodded enthusiastically, and he went looking. It was tricky to discern, as EthelRed was a little tucked up, but we eventually concluded that….

Ahem: Spoiler Alert. If you, dear reader, would rather not know EthelRed’s gender, we fully support your inclination. Many people prefer to keep these things as a surprise, and we would hate to impose our philosophy (or, actually, a lack of philosophy) about this issue upon you. So, why don’t we all enjoy an ultrasound image of EthelRed while you think about things. Also, if you conclude that you’d really rather remain in the dark, we urge you to read future entries with caution. There may be many entries that won’t be about EthelRed at all, which you can enjoy without worry. But we will start using a gender-specific pronoun after this entry, so surf carefully.

ERinprofile.jpg

So, EthelRed is….


A girl! We’re pleased and excited and wriggly with delight!

November 7, 2005

Do Not Resuscitate This Website

Early in October, our family of weblogs (or, from a different perspective, the colony of remorae attached to the underside of foldedspace.org) suffered some kind of data earthquake, the result of which is that all of our databases were corrupted. Now, I don’t entirely understand what this means, but it seems the upshot was that our weblog was there, but it couldn’t be accessed by anyone, whether to compose, comment, or even spam. Toads-in-the-Hole was locked away from the world; it was breathing and living, but it had become catatonic.

JD assured us that, while Toads felt no pain, the damage was irreparable beyond even the most heroic of measures. The time had come to move on, to build anew. I suppose that, superficially, this webspace seems much like the old. We have the same name, a lot of the same links, and our authorship hasn’t varied, but for us it is obviously a new place, gone are our personally molded butt-shaped divots on the virtual couch. But the best way to make a new home is to live in it, so here goes.

(Tangent: If you read the occasional science fiction novel like I do, you’ve probably run across the idea that pretty soon we’ll be able to transfer our consciousnesses into pure data, transcend our bodies, and become godlike computer people. No? Haven’t picked up on the whole post-human theme? Well, bear with me while I gripe. I know very little about computers in specific and information processing in general, but in light of our recent catastrophic dataquake, it doesn’t seem like I’ll be jetting out to Alpha Centauri as a stream of conscious particles of information any time soon. I mean, what kind of godlike existence goes like, “Behold, I am pure data! Immortal and capable of living a thousand life times in a second! I have risen above my mere meat shell and ERROR 400 BAD FILE REQUEST CONNECTION REFUSED BY HOST TERMINATING FUNCTION. Oh, crap.”)

November 4, 2005

Back in Business?

Hello Dear Readers!

It's been awhile, hasn't it?

We had a bit of a malfunction back there in October ... But with the crunch of yellowed leaves underfoot and the brisk frosty chill in the air, November brings with her a potential for a Renaissance.

Presently, we are attempting to familiarize ourselves with a not-entirely-new-but-different-enough publishing system, so the weblog will be shifting and changing often as we build and solidify our site. Mind you, we'll be working day and night (inbetween class, clinicals, homework, and socializing) to bring you a restored and improved weblog experience!

Special thanks to our friend Jd, at foldedspace, without whom this day might not have come ... Thanks, Jd!

Jd.jpg