Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Red wire, blue wire

Thanks to the national holiday, we've been watching a lot of movies lately. Top on the Netflix queue was "The Hurt Locker." Now, I will admit I already sort of liked the movie without having seen any of it because of one thing- Kathryn Bigelow beat ex-husband James Cameron for Best Director at the 82nd Academy Awards. I saw "Avatar" in theaters in 3D and felt cheated, the movie just is not that good. Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but I did like "Dances with Wolves" and felt Cameron just refurbished the plot from his earlier work. So I was glad when she won, even though the two are on good terms.

While watching I was impressed with the filming and sense of authenticity and wanted to know, "where was this filmed?!" Turns out Bigelow wanted to get as close to Iraq's look as possible, so filming was completed in Amman, Jordan. Explaining the sort of feel she wanted audiences to grasp, Bigelow noted the environment was one of infinite hostility. The New Jersey Newsroom quoted her as saying, "You don't know if the gentlemen up on the third floor balcony over your left shoulder is hanging out his laundry or calling in your coordinates for a sniper hit. So, as relayed to me by members of the military that have been on various tours of duty, it's a constantly threatening environment." And some of the tension in the region wasn't spared on the filming crew and actors.

Jeremy Renner's IMDb page has his take on the experience as plain awful. Heat of up to 120 degrees, Jordanian children throwing rocks at him, and no security for those working on the film. Wikipedia gives a nice overview of the sort of things that happened during filming. Well, despite the bacterial issues and food poisoning I'm sure some people suffered, the movie is well done. And I really appreciate the step away from making a political statement, politics get in the way of trying to show what all of our hard working soldiers go through (regardless of their religious, sexual, ethnic, or socio-economic background). Ok, now I can get off the soap box.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Remember, Friday is Leftover Pie for Breakfast Day so honor the day appropriately, I know I will!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Med School Learnin': Skin Grafting

Correction on my part, skin grafting was just an interesting in class side discussion for my fiance, he was really covering skin in general. Well, here is what I could force him to explain.

There are two kinds of skin grafts, as I understand it. One is called a full-thickness graft and includes both the epidermis and dermis, while a thinner split-level is sort of the variable graft that doesn't include both layers of skin. If you're getting a skin graft, depending on what doctors determine, having a thick graft is a desirable thing as the post-healing graft will maintain smoother skin qualities. With all great sounding deals, a full-thickness graft needs a lot more favorable conditions for it to heal correctly. On the bright side, it is usually used to graft on smaller areas... which is a silver lining right? You've been burned or have otherwise hurt your largest organ, but if you get a full-thickness graft at least that means the area needing a graft is smaller.

Again, as I understand what I was told, for large areas that have been damaged the skin can be meshed. And, yes, it looks exactly like you might expect. There are different tools that can sort of fishnet stocking your skin graft.
This is what one of the mesher tools looks like. Less high 
tech than one would image.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Possible Beginnings for Med School Learnin'

Alright, I like starting projects but sometimes I get distracted by the myriad of cool facts or connections. To make a commitment, I'm doing a quick proposal for the first (of many?) Med School Learnin' entries.

To start out I think I will cover skin grafting. My fiance covered this a week or two ago. I distinctly remember a sense of skin crawling while listening to him explain how doctors regrow skin in areas that have been damaged. The images we looked at were also very raw.

Here is an image teaser, and this illustration is fairly tame unless you have a weak stomach.

The Man Behind the Face

Starting a blog has given me some self knowledge. In case it wasn't apparent, I'm very interested in my food, because that seems to be the thing I look up the most.... or maybe I'm lazy and learning about food is just easier than other things. [Side Note: As my fiance is in med school there are a lot of interesting medical and biological things I'm learning, some of them graphic and shocking, and once I figure out how to expand on one of his tidbits I swear I'll write things on "med school learning."]

He was smiling... That's right. You know, that, that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn't know it 'fore, they could tell right then that they weren't a-gonna beat him. That old Luke smile. Oh, Luke. He was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he's a natural-born world-shaker. - Dragline, "Cool Hand Luke"

 Paul Newman was one sexy beast!

One thing is correct, Paul L. Newman was a world-shaker. If there is one thing I love as much as food culture, it's nonprofit-social-entrepreneurship-greater-good things! Here's innovation for you: Newman's Own. A for-profit food company that gives 100% of after-taxes profits to charities. But the greatness doesn't stop there. Newman's Own has products that are good tasting. Generally their pasta sauces are the lowest in sodium on the shelf, and I would know because we just ate pasta with some Newman's Own Tomato & Basil Bombolina sauce.

You might be wondering, isn't using celebrity status to promote a product a little chintzy. No, because the majority of Americans probably don't recognize Newman. His last pop culture movie was in "Cars," paling in comparisons to roles such as in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The company started like a lot of good ideas do- demand surpassed supply. The Wiki page on Newman's Own notes it started with salad dressings to friends as gifts, and the company has grown ever since 1982. Plus, one has to love how Newman's Own was a family friendly business with daughter Nell Newman launching Newman's Own Organic.

Even as a poor 20-something I never second guess buying Newman's Own products. There, that's my plug. Less guilty shopping, on any budget, for products you know are serving more than one purpose and good.

And, in other food learning [I don't intentionally do it!], I won another bet. Last night I ordered a Chocolate Amaretto Torte from a local gourmet cafe and bakery. IT IS SO YUMMY. My fiance ordered a Pumpkin Cheesecake, also yummy. His interest was in the citrus flavor present in the torte, which I said I thought (90% certain) might be his perception since Amaretto isn't a citrus liqueur. To lay all doubts to rest that I was correct I looked up Amaretto. The liqueur is made from apricot kernels, generally described with an almond flavor that is slightly bitter. After looking around on the interwebz, I decided I liked what About's Home Cooking section said about it. Birth of the drink is disputed, anywhere from the late 18th century to mid-16th century in Italy. Either way, I say cheers and enjoy!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I don't have mutant feet! I just don't!

Take a look at your feet. Go ahead and take off your shoes, slippers, or socks and get a good look at your naked digits. What do they look like? Is the second toe longer than your big toe? Is your second toe shorter than the big toe? Which do you think is "normal?"

Growing up my cousins always teased me that I had funny toes. My mother and I have the same hands and feet, so until they told me I was different looking I never thought on the shape of my feet. For women, foot "cuteness" can be a big deal as just another facet of the pressures to be beautiful. But I have never faltered in believing there is nothing unusual about my feet. If there was something off I'd probably also have small but unique genetically varied body parts- maybe my ears or my hands. Not exactly scientific logic, I know, but it has worked for me.

Well, my fiance in his ultimate show of support, also thinks my feet are funny (but cute, of course). He describes them as being pronged. There is my big toe, then the next three toes look as if they all belong on a flesh trident of the same length, and lastly is the pinky toe. His feet, what many people will call normal, follow a pattern in which the second toe is as long as or longer than the big toe with the rest of the toes scaling downward in size from there. So whose toes AREN'T mutant?!

I set out to see what the internet could yield. While reading a piece done by Dr. John McDonald, at the University of Delaware, I read about the genetics of toe length. But it seems the biological research leaves some grey area- the short second toe gene is not genetically dominant, but neither is the long second toe gene. S-Toes: 1, L-Toes: 0.

Toe variation has existed probably since the existence of man, so there are some ancient groups who have made statements about toe length which modern people now take as Divine Word, and therefore irrefutable. Thank you Greeks for your Golden Rule and standards of beauty... Your statues have given my feet a bad reputation. Short toe feet have been called Egyptian and the counterpart has been called Greek. Wikipedia has a nice cultural bit about how longer second toes have been associated with royalty even, blah blah blah something about aesthetically pleasing. S-Toes: 1, L-Toes: 1. Call me a jerk, but if Greek ideas of aesthetic beauty were the end all be all then men would feel more pressure to conform to standards of beauty, a larger of the male population would feel the need to be well sculpted and muscled to meet those statuary golden rules.

Despite its cultural dominance, long second toe feet only make up an estimated 10% of the world's population. S-Toe: 2, L-Toe: 1. And due to how it redistributes the body's weight Morton's Toe can cause much musculoskeletal pain. S-Toe: 3, L-Toe: 1.

Clearly, a short second toe in relation to the big toe, is better and definitely not mutant. Even New Age beliefs show that people who have long second toes are too self important, you all "have great vision but can be self-opinionated and like to be seen to be in charge." So there, it's officially set in stone.

Weird Weather Occurances

A few weeks ago I went on a tour for a grad school. During our actual tour of the grounds, I stared as some repair men were fixing a set of windows. The windows were blown in...out...apart, however you want to describe it. This was on a part of the building that had several windows, but the other windows within a 30 foot radius were fine. Such a select piece of destruction seemed odd to me. I wondered, amused, "Did one of the students break under pressure and build a MacGyver-style bomb and let loose the frustration?"

Nope. Our tour guide noticed my attention and said the school had recently suffered a microburst. A What? So I asked for more of an explanation which amounted to the person fumbling and coming up with this: a reverse tornado. Hmm, probably not. I did find a great explanation of microbursts on the Department of Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Illinois.

Essentially, a microburst is a strong rush of wind towards the ground. If the "body" of the wind is less than 2.5 miles in diameter then it's a microburst and probably will cause damages to whatever is nearby. The highest wind speeds occur during the initial decent towards the ground, but then once contact with the ground has been made the wind fluidly bounces back to curl around the original column of wind and pockets of extreme winds are created. This explains how the windows on the grad school tour got shattered, and in such a freak manner.

The web page about mircobursts created by the U of Illinois has some good diagrams and actual photos of the occurrence, check it out here.

Happy fall weather everyone!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh Hallowed Halo

Halo is sacred in our house. We own all but the newest game. Now, here's the part where I admit how much of a geek I am: Who loves Firefly?! I DO! Yea, I was heart broken that it got cut short. One close friend even has a spoof on the intro song that I sometimes can't get out of my head, which can be inconvenient as it's not a PG rated version of the lyrics. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for Captain Mal, maybe I just like the sci-fi cowboy atmosphere.

So what do these two things have in common? Everything.

Now here's a little test of your Halo knowledge. Did you know that Nathan Fillion, aka Mal, is a Halo fan? Or maybe the Halo developers are fans of Firefly... Fillion's voice is featured in Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo: Reach. You can enjoy his vocals in Buck in ODST and as Gunner Sgt. Buck in Reach.

I discovered this one day as I idly crafting while the fiance was playing ODST. My keens ears picked up on a beloved and familiar voice. This knowledge was confirmed when my fiance bet me it wasn't true, so I looked it up. Haha, I win. But the relationship with Halo and Firefly doesn't stop there.

Alan Tudky, aka Wash, also stars in ODST as the voice of Mickey, and generally as "marines" in Halo 3. And, AND Adam Baldwin, aka Jayne, voices for "marines" in Halo 3, as well as Dutch in ODST. Woah, geek overload here!

Use that trivia next time you're in a jam.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How's the weather?

One more quick thing. While recently wondering how a friend is doing, who is currently in Ranger school down in hot Georgia, I thought the heat there could be nothing compared to Afghanistan or other Middle Eastern countries. So what is the weather typically like?

Weather Underground tells me that at the moment, Islam-Qala is looking at a high of 82 F and a low of about 59 F. Baghdad has a temperature range of highs in the 100s F and a lows around 75 F. UV levels are at an eight and 9 respectively, which is alright if you're used to it I guess. The UV level where I live is currently one (out of sixteen). Both of those cities are way too hot for me.

Lazy Susan

I have no idea why I all of the sudden was thinking about Lazy Susans, but here I am. And slightly irritated. This is my original thought about the use of a Lazy Susan: a negative term society and the media gave to a kitchen invention which was meant to save women time... but any woman who couldn't do her duty and drudge to the kitchen to fetch whatever was needed was surely a lazy, and virtue lacking, woman by society standards. A bit of a feminist bent, I know.

So a search to learn more about this device must be undertaken, with only minutes to give this search as we're headed out to kickoff Octoberfest. Thank goodness for people who love learning! I found a website by a British man named Michael Quinion, who appears to like researching words. After reading his entry on Lazy Susan, I have decided this term still holds some historical contempt for socio-economic circles. The earliest American use of the word was in an ad in the Christian Science Monitor, dating from 1912. But Quinion suggests, since this is not a new invention, that its European term was dumb-waiter, and I'm inclined to agree with his findings. Check out what he has to say here. I will probably peruse his website just to learn the history and transformed meaning of several words and phrases when I next get a moment.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lacto-fermentation and fun with Yeasties

Yay for nerdy things that have to do with food. I love all things food, generally. There was one time when I agreed to try a Thousand Year egg and gagged healthily. It is an acquired taste, I assure you.

This morning I was reading the Washington Post's "Lean and Fit" column as I often like to do, and came upon something I'd never heard of per se- lactofermentation. The whole concept is pretty appealing to me and I think I'll add it to my "try canning food some day" to do list. In very basic terms you put some veggies or fruit in a Mason jar and seal it air tight, then some lactobacilli turn the sugars into energy to multiply. Think yummy kimchi or sauerkraut. Wikipedia does a great job explaining the technical, chemical process that happens.

It's funny because this isn't an unfamiliar thing for me, but naturally I'd never thought to learn more about it. My sister in-law is Native Alaskan and she used to get jars of pickled octopus legs from her aunts back up in Alaska. I'm not positive, but as that is a traditional recipe, I'm fairly certain they use fermentation to help preserve the octopus legs before they put in the veggeis and spices. I also have an aunt in-law who is Korean and she makes the world's best homemade kimchi. We always eat it at Thanksgiving with all the other trimmings.

I really like the idea of breaking out of the mold and fermenting other things besides cheeses and beers. Speaking of beers, our first porter is doing well. For whatever reason- the gravity was too high? the temperature wasn't low enough when we put the yeast in?- we had to pitch new yeast into the mash on Sunday. The porter "baby," as we often call our brews, is doing well with a strong fermentation going on. We're expecting to taste its goodness come December. Such a blessing since we moved to a part of the country that isn't as microbrew focused as the Pacific Northwest.

And here, is some Scandinavian herring treats for your contemplative pleasure...

Nabisco and Nascar, is it a "nah" thing?

Trying to be fairly healthy people, we don't have much junk food in the house. The extent of our junk food is a bag of dried cherries and a bag of lightly salted Kettle Chips. Some days a girl just needs a cookie fix. I've been needing a carbohydrate filled cookie fix for at least a week. Spur of the moment last night, appealing to his weaknesses, I asked if I should go buy some Nutter Butters... duh, yes.

While chowing through a good portion of them we both reflected that Nutter Butters always showcase something about Nascar. Why? Do Nascar drivers only eat Nutter Butters? And it's been happening for some time, I can recollect at least three years worth of Nascar plastered Nutter Butter bags.

It turns out the relationship is much older, dating back to 2003, when Nabisco and innovative, Michigan born supermarket chain Meijer teamed up to sponsor the June 2003 Nascar Busch Series race. What's not to love about sponsorships? I guess Dale Earnhardt Jr. won four races in a row at Daytona, and that is great advertising people.

What is a Koopa?

When we moved across country, my fiance and I rejoined the twenty-first century. At our old apartment we decided not to have internetz as we worked opposite schedules and were trying to save money anyway. Well, last weekend I told him to try hooking up the Wii to the wireless we have. Lo and behold, I was right that it would be fairly easy to do this. What resulted was my fiance spending $20 on buying some old Ninetendo games, Donkey Kong 2 and Super Mario World.

Now, I didn't grow up playing video games- honestly! So when I try playing Super Mario or any of the others it is not a trip down memory lane and I don't know any of the secrets. While failing miserably to beat a particular level I thought to myself, "What the heck is Bowser anyway?" The Super Mario Wiki tells me that Bowser is a Koopa, which is a turtle-like creature. Great, that's all good and fine since my generation has grown up with Super Mario and don't question why Bowser, or any of his eight children, are turtle-like Koopa Troopas that stand on two legs.

I went digging a bit further and found that at one short point in time someone gave Bowser a wife. Sweet! I wondered if it wasn't asexual reproduction or something since he has 8 kids and very few visible female characters. I mean, clearly, Princess Peach is chaste and waiting for Mario, so she couldn't be the mother.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Amazingly Patriotic Guy

Currently, doing some "homework" on an organization I will soon be sending a cover letter and resume, when I learned something that really made me chuckle- in an appreciative way.

Arguably, the most famous of our Founding Fathers besides good ol' George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, is Thomas Jefferson. (Honestly, I think the degree of fame is dependent on which coast you grew up on. Regionally, we all just have our personal favorites.) He was our third president, and I'll be opinionated in saying I think he was a pretty good one at that. The man's thinking still influences us today.

So how much more patriotic can you get than dying on July 4th?! Yea, that is correct, TJ tied at his dear Monticello on the Fourth of July on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration. Personally, I'm just impressed. Apparently, and no hard feeling for President Adams, he also died that day. What a strong sense of will it must have taken TJ to hold on until July 4th.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What on Earth is Blackstrap Molasses?

I can't get much fresher than the question my fiance posed to me seconds ago, "What is blackstrap molasses?" We're currently making our shopping list for his first batch of home brew porter. The best part of the whole situation is why he asked me in the first place.  My guess is that I'm the baking savvy one in this relationship so, naturally, I should know all things molasses.

Understanding blackstrap molasses requires some background info on molasses in general. (Thanks be to Wikipedia, which will probably be the first lily pad for most of the things learned about.) Molasses is basically sugar cane liquid that is boiled and reduced until the mixture is a thick form of sugar. Molasses can also be made from sugar beets, but only the end result is called molasses. Now, there are three grades of molasses: light, or barbados, from the first boil; dark, which is commonly used for cooking things like gingersnaps, and is from a second boiling; blackstrap is molasses that has been boiled three times, is thickest and darkest, and highest in nutritive value. So, blackstrap molasses is the darkest molasses you can get, and is probably pretty tasty.

There are two bottles of what I now know is dark molasses in my spices cupboard. Once they are all used up I think I might switch to using blackstrap for baking. As I learned from an article on wiseGeek, two tablespoons of blackstrap contain 10% of the copper, iron, calcium, potassium, and manganese I need in a day. Blackstrap also has a smaller percentage of magnesium, B6, and selenium. Huzzah! A good counter argument to the naysayers of eating sweets. Everything in moderation, and if it contains at least some needed minerals and vitamins, all the better.

Brer Rabbit, ahh it recalls fond memories of holiday spiced sweets.