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December 30, 2005

Christmas Spoons

Finished with our exams, our shopping and our wrapping (well, as finished as we ever get with those), we took off for St. Cloud on December 21st for the first leg of our Yule-O-Rama. The first order of business was the celebration of our fifth wedding anniversary, which we accomplished in style at the pretty darn good restaurant Cafe Renaissance.


The menu was largely Greek and our food was presented by a very charming man of Mediterranean descent named Emmanuel. His charm was only accentuated by his ability to present his encyclopedic knowledge of our menu options with (to our ears) authentic Greek pronunciation of the specifics (“Moussaka” with the accent on the final syllable), while maintaining the overall characteristic patois of central Minnesota (“Okay, so. Dontcha just love dose appetizers? Not too bad, eh?”)


We were joined by Don, Mary, Kelli, and Erin Wurzberger, and Kelli’s fiancé Charles. Between hanging out with him on Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’re getting to be very good friends with Charles, whose kindness, good humor, and keen mind more than compensate for his freakishly overgrown left hand.

On Christmas Eve, we attended mass at the St. Francis Xavier church, where Kelli and Mary are members of the excellent and rocking Worship Ensemble (My suggestion that they rename themselves “The Papal Bulls” fell on deaf ears). And we rounded up the evening with an excellent meal of seafood pasta and asparagus.


No Wurzberger gathering of import is complete without the traditional spoon-nose-trick (a feat that my proboscis has always been two ample and broad to perform) from Don, the master, and Erin, the cheeky apprentice.


With his typical acumen, Charles quickly streamlined the exercise. No wonder America leads the world in worker productivity!

December 23, 2005

Update From the Depths of Christmas Vacation

I’ve been neglecting many things these past weeks: My health, my personal appearance, my personal hygiene, my commitment to making the world a funkier place (though the previous two desertions may have propped up the latter), and, of course, this weblog.

My excuses are the same as usual: schoolwork. There are things that I will continue to do during a period of intense studying- eating, drinking moderately, getting seven hours of sleep, and playing computer games come to mind- but blogging does tend to fall by the wayside. In this way, I’ve yet to hit my groove as a contributor to the Ever-Expanding Knowledge-Base of Humankind, or whatever the blogosphere thinks it is these days, and can only look on enviously as my friends spin out multiple quality yarns in a week.

Whinge nearly concluded. Suffice to say that the last three weeks of exams were grueling, but I did fine. Better than I expected (or, from a karmic perspective, deserved) in microbiology, a little worse than I expected in pharm, and a little worse than I hoped in pathology. The pathology exam was the last of the bunch, and the most cumulative, and I was pretty sick of studying when it came time to gear up for it. Too bad, really, as it’s still my favorite course.

Alright, whinge totally concluded. I’ve had an interesting life outside of studying this past month. We’ve been practicing physical exam techniques on each other, and I’ve been able to take another crack at a lot of techniques I’d supposedly been taught already. For example, when a student (or anyone) peers into your ear with an otoscope, the only way you can tell if they’re doing it wrong is if they really screw up and you feel your eardrum being ruptured. So, when it came time to demonstrate my skills for an instructor last year, I did what countless med-students have done before me: I faked it. “Do you see the fercudor?” the instructor would ask, and I’d peer into the otoscope’s tiny window at a blurry shadowy world of folded ear tissue and mutter, “Hmm... yeah. There it is. And there’s the... [wracks brain furiously] ... the little cockroach-thingy. The Grubman Complex! Right! That thing!”

But it turns out that, like so many other skills, it was just a matter of time and repetition before knowledge arrived, unbidden, into my brain. I was peering at my classmate’s retina through the ophthalmoscope (another exam technique that’s impossible for an outsider to judge whether you‘re actually doing it) muttering, “Hmm... yeah. There it is.... and... Wait! Holy Crap! There it is! There it really is! The fovea cup-lookin’ thingy! Ah, yeah!” My instructor, bless him, managed to stifle all but the smallest of snickers. And then I actually saw the structures of the middle ear. And, eerily, felt the edge of the liver slide past my fingers on an abdominal exam.

December 12, 2005

Our Apologies to Clement C. Moore ...

Twas a couple of weeks before Christmas, when all through the flat
Not a creature was stirring, except a small cat.
Her owners were hung up in their books,
In hopes that their luck would not them forsook.

The pre-child was nestled all snug in her womb,
While kick-boxing actions fortold bladder's doom.
And Mama in her maternity clothes, and I in my office mess,
Were working up our brains for a long winter’s recompense.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the computer to see what was the matter.
While Mama snoozed on through all the ruckus,
I threw open the door and yelled, “Argh! Bupkis!”

Our neighbors, moving furniture, all cross the floor,
Echoed - scratching and scraping - over the front door.
When, what to my wandering thoughts should consider,
But a review of recent events, some choice, some bitter.

Like a lab class that near made me sick,
That taught us to make skin stitches, by times quite a trick.
But for our fine sensibilities, the profs cared not a fig,
And so I pulled skin together on the foot of a pig!

Or our micro exam, a subject not small,
Which was handed to us with impudent gall.
For while micro is neat, it can be quite a bummer,
To pluck forth facts that you learned back last summer.

But these dark thoughts like windblown leaves fly,
Hurled ‘gainst a wall of joy are thrust up to the sky,
A wall built by our lives, so cheered by the new,
With bricks made of friends, and mortar of family… um, ew!

Just last weekend, our young friends were triumphant
In their play of Charlie Brown, the applause was near-constant.
Our friends Stephen and Jill tirelessly directed,
And a darn good play for one and all was erected.

Our love of theater seems instinctive, conditioned,
And so, undaunted by stress, for another play we auditioned.
It was a whim, a fancy, a last-minute thought,
And now we’re doing a show, in art’s web again caught.

That last stanza, you may feel, was not the most strong,
And indeed, maybe we’re all finding this contrivance a bit long.
But hang on, do your best, it won’t take all day,
Just grin and bear it, there’s a little more to say.

At last check, EthelRed seems quite well,
Cozily escaping her parents’ pell-mell.
Daily kick counts totaling about thirty an hour,
We wonder who is this lass with all the power?

What more is to say of our latest, Dear Friends,
But, I believe we have reached a satisfactory end.
Rest assured, our lives are chock full of joy and happiness,
So with a nod and a wink, we’ve leave you with this tenderness:

With hearty proclaiming,
and traditional belaboring,
We’ll wish you and yours,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

December 2, 2005

Hooked Up

Cartoonist: Tom Hachtman

Remember back in 2001 when the state of California was facing an energy crisis? This cartoon appeared in the New Yorker's February 19th, 2001 issue, lampooning John Steinbeck's 1939 portrayal of the Joad family and their escape from desolate Dust Bowl Oklahoma to California's fertile promised land.

This week, South Dakota, in a showdown with Old Man Winter, faced cold temperatures and fierce winds that blew across the prairie, iced over roadways, drifted snow into foot-high banks, and made the going treacherous. All week long, schools, universities, and workplaces have been closed as many homes and businesses have lost power.

Still, nobody's talked of leaving for greener pastures.

Without heat sources, without running water, and without everyday conveniences, life on the prairie is beginning to mirror the experiences of our nineteenth-century pioneer forebearers. Solid German and Scandinavian stoicism in the face of high winds, icicles, and snowflakes are virtues out here. Without complaint, we've all bundled up, snuggled in, trying to make the best of a situation that defeated Per Hansa and forced the Ingalls family to move to the safety of the big city (De Smet, South Dakota).

Well, I say, we all, but really don't mean Joel and I ... We've been snug and warm in our little house all week, discomforted only by rescheduled exams, end-of-term, early morning clinicals in Sioux Falls, and burnt toast.