Sunday, January 27, 2008

The quality of light

Years ago, having received a 35 mm SLR cameras for graduation, I was shooting black and white film. I was bored with color, I see in color so it was not too exciting. But to see in black and white was different.
In the middle of a snowy winter, I woke up around one AM and looked out my bedroom window. I saw a white world lit by a brilliant full moon. I set the camera lens on the window sill to steady it. I could feel the cold radiating off the windows, falling down over my hands and arms. I adjusted the shutter to manual and snapped several shots. Now, it is instant gratification, click the button and see the digital image. But I was working very little and money was tight, so I had to wait to shoot the rest of this roll and one more to make it worth my money to send it off for developing. Ironically I sent it to Mystic Connecticut, which now lies just across Long Island Sound. Ahh, anticipation.
Sometimes I would even forget what I had shot on the roll.
The photos were blurred, except one. This picture looks like it was taken at noon on a sunny day.
Then, later, I was asked by several friends to shoot them in color and black and white. I thought they were some of the best work I ever have done. I learned about the "sweet light" that happens with the sun low in the morning or evening sky.
Lattitude makes a difference in quality of light, so does the time of year with where the sun is in the sky.
I went out last week, into a cold, windy night with a blindingly bright full moon. Poni fairly glowed with radiant light, luminescent as she sniffed around for the perfect place to relieve herself. Bugsy was still mostly invisible, but he cast a shadow that I could easily follow. Puppette glowed as if lit from several angles at once. The night sky was that amazingly clear that can only happen on a freezing night. The limbs of the bare trees cast uneven shadows on leaf and grass. The wind made the stubborn clinging leaves rattle against their trees.
Poni was anxious to get in, he thin fur coat is no help against the wind chill. Bugsy was trying to scent squirrels in the night, nothing could dissuade him. Puppette was contenet to sniff the news in the leaves and yard detritus.
The Moon light was streaming in the window next to the bed as we all settled in to sleep. It was in my face, lighting the room we sleep in.
In the combination of freezing wind, bright moon and winter shadows, I felt a bit of home, a piece of the past in another place meet with this place and time.
I was the last to fall off to sleep that night, the last to see the full moon, so bright it was hard to discern lunar feature, welcoming me to a new home.
Quality of light. Quality of life.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008


OK, so I learned a lot about the ideas behind bread making and some of the techniques.

I made a ferment. This is a flour, water and yeast mixture that sits in the fridge for a day or two or proofs for about 5-6 hours.
I made mine and then got sick, so it sat for 3 days in the fridge. Cold slows all chemical reactions, so it fermented slowly.
Then I made the dough and let it rise, then "punched it down".
Almost a kilo of flour makes one hell of a lot of dough.
I formed the baguettes like the book showed, but the dough was very tacky so it became a lesson in patience.
I let them rise and then ran into trouble.
I used fine semolina flour to make the bottoms slick so they could slide off the pan onto the baking stone. With the dough so tacky, they did not slide. I pushed them off and slapped them down on a 500 degree baking stone. That is really hot.
I hit the back of a knuckle on the door at one point. I hate the sound of sizzzling skin. Thank the maker for aloe

Proofing is when you let the dough rise. Then, you cut the top of the loaf so it can expand correctly. And, you add water to the oven to create steam so the crust does not form too soon.
So, I gave up on hte baguettes and made three boulle, one large, two small. The baking saw them rise in a wierd manner and they did not expand at the cuts like they should have. instead they balloned up from the base.

I cut a K into the big one, for my woman. The two smaller ones just puffed. They look wonderful.
Here are the baguettes

They look strange but they taste good.

So, I learned:
cut the recipe in half, I do not need to make a months worth of bread in one session
baking takes ALL FREAKING day between rising and resting...
I need a bread peel, so the dough slides off onto the stone more easily
find a better way to let it rise so the tops do not crust too soon and they puff out in all directions
a 500 degree oven makes the room really hot
artisanal breads probably are not the best to start with
working the dough by hand feels really good
fresh bread, even a learning loaf, is tasty

Wil, I am a long way from NY sourdough...

More experiments to come.......
Now for olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

La la la...

OK I did not get the banana bread made yet, the butter is softening as I type. Yes, with walnuts.

K keeps saying I need to post more pictures. OK, I could do that, but I do not carry the digital camera around with me that often.
I got a call from Hospital #2 so I get to go through another poke and prod and pee session next week. But I am getting closer and closer to working again.
Yes, Wil, I agree, San Francisco sour dough is the best, Seattle ain't bad. In reading three different sources on the matter, it is a longer process than I thought. Several days to make the ferment, sometimes up to 12 hours for rising and proofing. Wow.
I think I might just start with a whole grain bread, something simple to cut my teeth, as it were. The artisanal breads can wait a bit longer I guess. But the ferment is designed to reproduce and be "fed" every few days so you can bake often. But, when, in the American lifestyle, does one have time after or before work for a 2 hours rise and proof? Maybe I can find it.

I might even make carrot ginger soup with apples to serve with the bread.
Interesting idea, making a meal around a bread....

I gave in yesterday and bought an eastern bird book. I had a western book for years, and I know many more of them. But out here, different. I have seen yellow shafted flickers, little wood peckers I have not identified, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals. Hawks are in absence, seagulls are scarce despite living on a peninsula. I think I know where my cheap binoculars are, the good ones are some where, packed for the mini van, but lost in the current house keeping.
I miss the dark eyed Oregon juncos, I haven't seen a towhee.

The dogs are asleep all around me, Puppette is out of the covers, the wieners are burrowed. It is cold and will stay cold for about 10 days or more. They tell me January is the worst and this one has been extremely mild. We shall see, we shall.

Be well.
Do one kind thing for another person today for no reason and with no expectation of recognition and or reward. And smile.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


OK, I openly admit that I am from part of the instant gratification generation. I like new things, That is not all bad.
For my anticipation of passing the license exam, and for just taking it, I ordered a new toy.
It arrived yesterday.
Prior to its arrival and delivery by our nice UPS man who always gives Puppette a huge doggie bone, I cleaned the kitchen. I cleared counter space.
I opened the box to find three boxes. One held new kitchen implements, a spatula, an ice cream scoop, a balloon whisk, a can opener and a vegetable peeler.
The second box held my new, imperial grey stand mixer complete with dough hook, paddle and whisk. Ahhh. The third box holds the ice cream maker for the stand mixer.
I made a batch of hearty breakfast cookies. Yummy! Cut down on the peanut butter just a bit, about 3/4 vs a full cup. With my smoothie this morning, it made a great repast.
Today it will be banana bread.
I am looking at breads next. I might even chase after the crown jewel, sourdough.
I even bought a great book, Crust.
It comes with a fantastic DVD that demonstrates a great technique I can't wait to try.

OK, me buckos, I am off to make bread and enjoy my last days of leisure before starting work.

Be well, all.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Done and done!

I called the state department for licensing and updated my address.
Then, the phone menu offered:
"If you would like to check the status of a license, press 1"
"C was issued a license on January 11 2008. It is valid from January 2008 to December 2010."
I was so shocked I had to listen to it a second time.
I thought it was telling me my interim permit was approved.
But that permit is only for 6 months.
I had to listen a third time and write down my license number.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I passed my test.
I am now officially licensed to practice in the State of New York!
Thank you for all your support, good thoughts and prayers.


Peace, finally.
And then, back to work.

Be well.


Friday, January 11, 2008

And the thunder rolls...

No, no Garth Brooks meanings here.
It started last night with a big flash and a distant rumble.
Then another noticeable rumble at about 4 am.
Now, 7 am brings a flash so bright I see it with my eyes closed.
Puppette is uneasy, Bugsy barks and Poni could care less as the thunder rolls over the house like a breaking wave.
The flood gates open and the rain hits the bathroom skylight like a small drum with an irregular rhythm to start my day.
Up and out with the dogs into the wet morning. I try to keep the umbrella over Poni. No, not to spoil her, I can't find her rain coat and she won't pee if she feels rain on her ass. Would you?
We come back in and I start to exercise a little, get the bones moving. the rain is a gray mist outside, it falls so hard. the drum in the bathroom is loud enough to be heard over my work out music. I see day light pale flashes of lightning and count the seconds.
I read it is 5 seconds per mile, not three per mile as I was taught as a kid. Either way the storm is coming closer.
The lights flicker, Poni decided to bark her defiance at Odin's hammer being thrown about upstairs. I sweat out the aerobic part of my movements and count seconds to distract me from the burn in my legs, shoulders.
I love a good storm.
I wrote my very first short story about a thunder storm.
How cyclic.
I am going to watch the lightning.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008


No, I typed that correctly.
I have debated with my self if I should ever write about any of the patients I have worked with over the years.
The Federal Government (sorry for using such an ugly word, people, but you gotta call things by their rightful names) in its highly questionable wisdom passed the HIPPA law. This is the Health Information Privacy Protection Act. It was passed to help protect health care information from falling into the unscrupulous hands of the unscrupulous. ( I just love that word...)
I have been reading other blogs of health care workers and of Waiterrant and see how they white wash people to make them as anonymous as possible.
That being said, I thought I'd share a story from the start of my career. Some of you have heard it, so just bear with me.

The patient came into the extended care facility (the better word for nursing home) responsive to pain only. This person had been hit by a car.
I was with the patient 5 days a week for about six weeks.
You start out moving the person, passive range of motion in all joints, so muscle shortening does not limit their ability to move. Then you advance to rolling stomach to back and return them. Next you, and another therapist get them from stomach to on all fours, then up to kneeling. We advanced to standing with three people in support, long leg braces on both lower legs so the knees do not buckle. Them you progress to walking, again with three people in support and long leg braces.
I learned about head injuries. How a person can appear normal but then have out bursts of word salad where not one word makes any sense, inappropriate responses to stimuli. This person was sitting in a room one day with many of the other residents and proclaimed ( I am not making this up) "You are probably all wondering why I called you here tonight.) It was a therapeutic recreation show where, if I remember, people were coming in to dance and sing for every one's entertainment.

I was not there the day of discharge. I missed saying good by to the family which I had gotten to know well with two 45 minute treatments a day for a month and a half.

I saw this patient six months later walking through the mall parking lot. The gait was still off in some clinical ways, but look good overall. Holding on to each hand was a grand child. There were smiles all around.
In that moment, tears in my eyes. I felt more satisfied with the world, myself, all things, than I had since I was a young kid with no greater care than which toy to play with.
In that moment, all the hell and hard work I put in to graduate was paid in full.
The Patient and spouse came back to the facility after a year. I walked up and introduced my self. The spouse remembered me, with a big smile. he patient apologized and said they had no recollection of me.
I learned then that this is not unusual. Head injured patients, patients you treat in ICU/CCU some times have no memory of the staff that help them. It is nothing personal, ever. It is a chemical mix up in the healing body and brain.

Taking the exam reminded me of what I get out of this investment.
Paid in full.


Friday, January 4, 2008

It is done.

I woke up with K.
Kinda hard not to when 2 out of 3 dogs wake up and pace, shake, scratch, yawn loudly (Bugsy) and walk on your face licking up your nose and over your eye lids (Bugsy again). Poni would not be stirred. They needed to go out into the deep freeze to relieve themselves.
I made a safe breakfast and had some tea. It is a one hour drive to the town where the test center is.
The time to leave rolls around. I bundle the dox in their new coats and take them out into 7 degree, -2 degree with wind chill, weather to give them one last pee before they are boxed for the day.
I make three false starts. I forgot my passport for ID. I forgot the GPS navigational device. I forgot the letter from the FSBPT. (do not worry about that last acronym, it really is not important)
I go to start my truck and get three very low sluggish whirs and then the dreaded rapid fire click. The cold has turned my oil to sludge and the poor 9 year old truck battery, unaccustomed to such frigid abuse, has not enough "crankin' amps".
There is no room for panic. I just will not allow it today. I must stay calm and focussed.
I drive a stick shift and I live on a hill. Problem solved.
No difficulties following the navigation thingy to my destination. The LIE (Long Island Expressway) is blocked with an overturned semi just past my exit so the traffic slow down does not affect me.
I had planned to eat a nice salmon lunch at a nice restaurant. The navigator tells me the restaurant is 20 minutes away. OOOPS. So I pick a nice looking little diner and they have Norwegian salmon. OK. The waitress asks me how I am and I tell her tired and on a schedule. I tell her about the test and she takes very good care of me. She even asks if I want a refill on my water or if I am afraid it will make me need to pee during my test. I tipped her well.
K calls as I leave the restaurant, so does my sister. Each ask how I am and wish me luck. As my sister goes to sign off, her two boys, my oldest nephews, start singing the Olympic Fanfare for me loudly. How can one not smile.
The testing center is quiet, security is very high. I am thumb printed and they use biometrics to assure I do not leave and a stooly takes my place. The man signing my in to the test area responds to mention of "Fizzbin" and we talk Star Trek trivia while we perform the legalities and necessaries. Always nice to find a fellow Trekkie.
I took the test and felt good about it.
I am under legal agreement to not mention any part of the test or its contents. That is fine.
Another test taker was leaving as I was and I asked him to jump start my truck. He was great and did so with a smile and wishes of good luck.
I have to wait for the FSBPT to score my test. Then they send the results to the state License board, then the State will tell me my score.
So I wait.

I had forgotten how much I know.
It is almost a compliment to take such a test because I can prove I know this. My brother told me to enjoy this because it is not often one gets to take such an exam. In some ways he is very right and to think of it as a rare happening, it shifts you out of fear, anxiety and apprehension.
I am knowledgeable about so many areas. I can think through the tough questions. I had shot in the dark answers on about 10 questions out of 200.
It is a relief to be done.

More on this another time.

Be well all.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A secret

Many of you know Puppette.
For those that don't, Puppette is a highly trained, very social, amazingly intelligent golden retriever that has been my work partner in the Hospital for 6 years.
I never taught her when to get involved with the terminal patient's spouse who is sobbing on the roll away bed in the ICU. I could never have taught her to sit at the side of a wheelchair being still so they could pet her and then stand and act normally for an able bodied person. She taught me that when she was done in a patient's room, she would turn her back on me and face the door, inching a step closer to the exit every minute I lingered talking to a patient or their family.
I did train her to come on command, to lie down and stay until told other wise.
She can hold a down stay outside a room on the insanely busy cardiac care unit or outside a room on the critical care unit while I work in the room, out of her sight, for up to 45 minutes and she will not move. We have a working vocabulary of over one hundred words and over twenty commands.
People always ask me if she is a normal dog, does she do doggy things. Is she happy?

OK, time for a secret a few of you know intimately.
My dog is a ham.
No, really, a thinking buffoon.
We walk out the door to the yard. She sits down and looks around for a minute and then flops over backward to wriggle on the grass, all four big blond feet up in the air, waiving like rabid fans at a sports event. Then she stops, holds the 4 legs up position, snorts LOUDLY, and gets up as if nothing happened. The other day I look out of the corner of my eye, keeping tabs on the wieners, and she was chasing her tail. I have tried to get pictures of this. But I swear when she sees me looking, she stops.
So this beautiful, brilliant, lovely girl of my heart topped herself last night.
We went out for the last pee before bed, all dogs should have a bowel and bladder schedule, makes life a bit easier, believe me. She stops in her tracks and I hear her growl. This mop has let a 6 year old boy fall asleep on her tummy, has sat in bed with patients hooked up to so many machines, has been calm when rushing gurneys, industrial carpet cleaners and massive portable x-ray machines rumble by in the busy halls of a hospital.
She growled.
Being such an uncommon noise, I looked at her, not verifying if Poni was peeing or not, and saw her hackles were up. ( I had a Maglite flashlight so I could see just fine, thank you) Looking across the street, I tried to see what had her up in a tizzy.
Back in November, just after Thanksgiving, our across the street neighbors put up their Christmas lights and decorations. On their lawn, near a tree, is a lighted white frame reindeer with a red velvet bow around its neck.
Puppette bobbed to her left and growled, letting it mature into a low bark/howl sound.
I stopped her at once, it was 11:30 after all, and got ehr under control. She was circling, just getting ready to go to the bathroom and she saw this minion of hell , in the same place it has been for a month, and decided it was here to end our days. She elevated us to red terror alert, defcon 4, Osama had brought jihad to Puppette's 'hood.
Poni peed and I brought my brood back in to the house. Puppette's hackles were still up when we got to the bed room.
I did the only thing I could do.
I told her that she was a good dog and that we were sufficiently warned to the danger and thank you for keeping us safe.
She sniffed loudly , jumped up on the bed and turned her back to me, sighing loudly.
My dog is the greatest.
My dog is a goof.
I love my dog.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Holiday Wrap up

For many years, K and I really have not celebrated Christmas. We both volunteered to work at the Hospital so someone with kids could stay home and make merry memories for themselves.
And, neither of us has spent Christmas with family in a very long time.
So why was it different this year?
It seems just a bit strange to me but this year I was homesick and wanted to be near my family.
It came to mind that it is distance.
Have you ever bought a book, or a tool, or pieces for a project thinking that "some day" you would have time to do it? It is the potential for possibility, I think. When I was closer to family, I knew I could get to Mom of a brother in hours, a sister by hours in an airplane. So it was the potential ease that was comforting.
This year it is thousands of miles and many hours to get to them.
We spent a wonderful Christmas day with K's family and her in-law's family. There was only one melt down when oldest nephew got mad that some one else was playing with one of his toys first and made it do it's special thing before he got to. He crashed for a nap and the adults and the baby nephew just enjoyed a calm evening.
K was sick with some gawd awful sinus crap that made her tired and made her head hurt.
In bigger families, and parties, I do not have much experience. It has always been smaller groups for me. So present opening was scattered and personal on a one to one basis, but not what I was used to. It was not, by any means, a bad thing, just different. Vive la difference, but I need some more known routine just now.
K worked New year's eve and New Year's day, I am at home, studying because I sit my License exam on Thursday.
I really do not care what the average range is for blood pressure for a one month old infant is, and had never heard of Brunstrom! What the hell is a de-rotational brace and how many test questions do they need to ask about anterior cruciate ligament rehab?
So I continue to look at the practice exams and wonder if I ever knew some of these trivial facts... Today I need to re-familiarize myself with the bones of the wrist, specifically the carpals, and know what other bones they articulate with, I need to brush up on enervations and dermatomes and memorize Brunstrom's stages of recovery. I need the rule of nines and gait patterns with device. AAARRRGGHHHHHHHHH!!! Did you ever see Shawshank Redemption where Andy's student lost his cool taking the test? That is where I feel I am at.
Breathe... just breathe.....

So, go forth, in this new year, so young and innocent in its infancy.
May the very best day of 2007 be your worst day in 2008.