On the Kindle

For Christmas this year, my parents got us a Kindle. For those who haven't paid attention for the last several years, this is an incredibly popular ebook reader. It's popularity seems to be for several very good reasons. First, it's screen really looks like paper, and not at all like a screen. It's actually a bit creepy how successful they were with that. Also, it has wireless capability, so you don't need a computer in order to download new books from online. Unless you live in rural Kenya, but we sure are looking forward to utilizing that feature when we're back in the US.

But my primary fascination with the Kindle is the same as my fanhood of Mutopia and NoiseTrade. Namely, that there are tons of things available for free, largely because they were published before 1923, and are therefore public domain. Now, some people couldn't name 3 books prior to 1923 that they would care about reading. After all, this is prior to John Grisham and Barbara Kingsolver. It's even prior to CS Lewis and Graham Greene. But in my opinion, there is still an amazing wealth. Examples:

What I have already read on the Kindle:
-The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie)
-Heretics (GK Chesterton)
-Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards
-Pinocchio (by Collodi, the original)
-The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)
-Parts of the ESV bible
-the free sample of Velvet Elvis (Rob Bell)
-the free sample of God, Medicine, and Suffering (Stanley Hauerwas)
-Currently reading A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle)

Other things I have downloaded, but still looking forward to: Thomas Hardy, Dickens, Bronte, other Sherlock Holmes stories, other Agatha Christie, 3 books by PG Wodehouse, Kipling, Walter Scott, George MacDonald, Baum's Oz stories, The Wind and the Willows and other Grahame stories, Hawthorne's short stories, the Man in the Iron Mask, Secret Garden, Beauty and the Beast, the Idiot, other Chesterton...

In short, something amazing has happened. About 1 1/2 years ago, I had to get rid of my library. I kept a few boxes, which are now graciously stored in my parents' attic, but I got rid of hundreds of books. And now, with the Kindle, I'm getting them back. Not all of them. And I can't exactly loan them out to friends who don't have a Kindle, but still. And it's portable, so I can take it with me.

Thanks much to my parents for this gift, which is being heartily enjoyed.

If you have an ebook reader, and don't know Project Gutenburg, you should.


Seaweed Glue?

My job description got a bit stranger today. I got a page at lunch and called the number.

Daktari? We are trying to pick out an agent to treat the cockroach problem in nursery.

Well, that sounds like a good idea.

Could you come up and give us your opinion on the safest chemicals to use?

Hmm... (I have no idea.) Sure. I can come up in a bit.

--See, the issue has been around for a while, really everywhere in the hospital, but recently a family in the nursery has complained, and thankfully, a solution is being sought. The only trouble is that I have no idea which chemical might be problematic for 2 lb preterm infants. Probably all of them, I guess.--

Daktari, thanks for coming. Here is the man.

(She introduces me to a very young man in a black suit who is apparently the sales rep for the insecticide company.)

Nice to meet you, daktari. Can I show you one of the products?


(We go down the hall, and he pulls out a small purple container with a couple of air vents on top, with a distinct smell of lilac. It is, to my eye, an air freshener.)

This gets rid of cockroaches?

Yes. It is a repellent.

(I read the label. It talks only of how it will emit a pleasant odor for the next 2 years. I read the ingredients. It includes a few things that sound very non-insecticidal.)

You see this ingredient, "seaweed glue"? It chokes cockroaches, mosquitoes, and something else that I can't remember.

It chokes cockroaches?

Yes, but it doesn't hurt people.

--At this point, I advised the nurse in charge that anything that was airborne and choked cockroaches was probably not advisable for our NICU. She agreed with me, and therefore told the rep that we would buy some for public areas, like the restaurant, but not for patient care areas. And I guess having pleasant-smelling public areas is not a bad thing, but I'm not thinking we're making a lot of headway on the cockroach problem. I went and googled "seaweed glue" and, not so surprisingly, only found references to it as... glue. So, I think I made the right choice for the NICU, but I haven't figured out whether I should tell the proper people that I think the air freshener rep is seriously trying to pull a fast one.--


Bagel Mania

Our latest excursion into the world of making foods that we cannot obtain here was bagels. I had some leftover cream cheese purchased for Christmas yumminess (in the form of spinach dip and cream cheese frosting) and had been hankerin' for some bagels to spread said cream cheese on. We have a great cookbook given to us by some former missionaries that has recipes for such things, and I figured I'd give it a try.

They were surprisingly easy--I made whole wheat raisin cinnamon bagels. Troublesome parts of the experiment: 1--the raisins didn't stick in the dough so well, and mostly fell out into the pot of boiling water. 2--you are supposed to boil the bagels on both sides until they float, and then bake them at high temps. But the bagels floated from the first second I put them in the water, so I was flying blind in terms of how long they should have boiled.
Overall, if the desired result was a cream cheese vector, the bagels were great! I mean, they were tasty anyways, very chewy, and will definitely make the "try it again" list.



Overall, I think we try to steer clear of some of the more controversial issues in medicine, none of which is more prominent than the "vaccines and autism" debate. We have friends and family that fall on both sides of the issue. But as medical professionals, it is hard not to stand up in support of ALL vaccines, which have arguably been one of the most high impact public health measures in history. All it takes is working in an area where the preventable diseases are alive and well, where kids still die of tetanus, pertussis, measles, and meningitis. And if the current anti-vaccine trend continues in the US, we'll start to see more and more of these preventable diseases recurring. Most of the time they are harmless overall, but some have deadly complications.

So in light of that, I wanted to share this recent article from CNN, revealing how one of the big studies linking vaccines to autism was recently found not only to be wrong but grossly fraudulent. I think the most important line is found halfway down the article: "But perhaps as important as the scare's effect on infectious disease is the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to help children and families who live with it," the BMJ editorial states.

Food for thought. Here's the link.


Five Years Down...

How many to go? Who's counting? :) Eric and I celebrated five wonderful years of marriage on Dec 31 this year. We actually celebrated on the 30th, since as usual, there were many New Year's Eve party plans on the actual day. It was just a quiet dinner at home, full of reminiscing, but we plan to taking a trip later this month to a nice rainforest retreat a few hours north of here. I can't believe everything that has happened since our wedding, and then everything that will happen in the next five. Wow! Wanted to reminisce with you.

Traveled to Costa Rica for a honeymoon
Eric graduated med school
Bought our first house
Took a disastrous cruise through the Caribbean (redeemed eventually)
Attended sibling weddings of Sami, Jena, and Nathan
Went to Bangladesh/Dubai for a month
Decided to become McCropders
Vacationed in Maine/Canada
Had Maggie!!
Graduated residency
Sold our house (eventually)
Rachel's grandpa died
Moved to Kenya
Became an aunt and uncle for the first time: Sierra!
Found out we were going to have a second baby
Found out we were going to be an aunt and uncle again
Decided to (hopefully) move to Burundi

And, in the midst of all these other things, visited myriads of friends and family from coast to coast, racked up lots of new states and a few new countries, and learned a lot about each other and being married. Here's to hoping the next five are just as full of family, friends, and God's abundant blessings and faithfulness.