Babyfest 2007 Babyfest 2007
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February 2007
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What do you do with extra Roman ruins?

February 21, 2007
Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 3:30 pm

Build a cat sanctuary.  Not kidding. The Largo Argentina is a set of ruins from Roman Republic and the actual site of Julius Caesar’s stabbing. 

The base of the ruins are about 20 feet below current street level.  This is a common phenomenon that all the ruins are 20 feet down, apparently because as buildings were destroyed by fire, the Romans and subsequently Italians, would push the rubble flat and pave over it, starting anew on top.

The Rome cat sanctuary is located within the ruins of the Largo Argentina, and there seem to be at least 20 well-fed cats living in there.  The ruins are somewhat overgrown with green grass and plants and it’s very cute to see cats perched on the top of 2000 year old pillars and walls, looking rather cozy.  There are all kinds of alcoves and places for the cats to hide in.  There are also tours available of the cat sanctuary, but we passed on this.  Viewing from above seemed just fine

What Italian men wear

February 18, 2007
Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 12:03 pm

Italian men don’t generally dress as nicely as the women.  Travis previously described this phenomenon after visiting Madrid.  Spanish women would be dressed extremely well, with care taken to select outfit, fix hair, apply perfect makeup, smell nice, etc.  He described the Spanish men as looking like they just came from the soccer pitch or just rolled out of bed.  Despite the caliber of their dates, the men were in wrinkled clothes, looked somewhat unkempt (messy hair, unshaven) and would be in jeans regardless of their partner’s outfit. 

This same principle seems to apply to Italian men except that more men here have mullets.  Even Valentine’s Day didn’t necessarily bring out the fine outfits for the men. 

The other main accessory is the cigarette which seems to be everywhere.  David Beckham’s hair from 8 years ago, the ‘shark fin’, is also popular as are fur-edged jackets for men.  Mysteriously popular to me is the pseudo-American clothing.  These items are generally brightly colored letter jackets (all knit, no leather) that says ‘North Carolina Champions’ and has a giant appliqué of the state of Texas.  No mention of Texas and no shape of NC to be found on the jacket.  Another jacket patch stated ‘Alaska power’ and showed the outline of Alaska with a rifle-scope sight in the middle.  It’s unclear to me if this is related to some Alaska separatist movement, the Alaska electric company, or just general nonsense. At least the outline of the state was correct. 

What Italian women wear

Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 12:00 pm

Many of the streets of Rome are covered in cobblestones.  It’s pretty, and very European, and works well with the narrow streets and sidewalk cafes.  The big mystery (for me) is how Italian women actually make it from point A to point B without breaking an ankle. 

The standard winter shoe for Roman women is the stiletto boot with blue jeans or black pants tucked inside.  Generally the jeans look like they need pliers to get them all the way on, and the boot heels are all 3+ inches and very, very narrow.  Definitely narrow enough to fit between cobblestones and cause a catastrophe.  Even with the hours of tromping around Rome, I’ve yet to see a single stiletto-boot wearer get a heel stuck between stones or take a tumble. Clearly there is some special Roman gene that prevents this. 

Travis’s favorite female outfit is the crocheted poncho (remember those?) with pom-pom balls hanging off

What to do with 4000 monk skeletons?

February 17, 2007
Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 5:13 am

Turn them into art.  Not kidding. Yesterday we visited a church in Rome near Barberini square, Santa Maria della Concezione, which has an impressive crypt for Cappuchin monks.  The word ‘cappuchino’ came from this order, as their robes are brown.  They moved the order into Rome and brought their entire cemetery.  Space is a little limited, so instead of having multi-person coffins, the 4000 sets of bones were used to decorate the walls and ceiling of the crypt.  Thousands of skulls, vertebrae, ribs, femurs, scapula, and pelvic bones are arranged in attractive patterns on the walls and ceilings.  Floral and tree-like patterns,  stacks of skulls line the walls, and skulls with 2 scapulae (shoulder blades) make nice flying heads that look a bit like creepy butterflies. My role for the visit was to identify al the types of bones, and there was a distinct lack of hand and foot bones.  Maybe they’re too difficult to fasten to the ceiling?  There are also whole skeletons, still wearing their brown robes, suspended standing or bowing in the crypt.  All very interesting, if a bit disturbing.  Worth seeing on a visit to Rome, but 15 minutes is plenty of time to spend there. 



Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 5:12 am

Somehow, with TinyD/Genghis getting bigger, I have to pee a lot more often. There’s seemingly less room for my bladder now.  As described, I’ve seen all the Vatican bathrooms and bathrooms at the Colisseum as well as a host of others throughout Roma. 

I now know that the Vatican has the best hand-driers in all of Rome (ie they actually blow hot air).  The toilets also often don’t have the rim part that women like to sit on, so there’s a bit more squatting or careful balancing involved than normal.  I thought this was part of a plan to keep women from loitering in the bathroom, but according to Eric, our host, people steal toilet seats.  Hmmm…. Not sure why you’d need a spare or how you’d use it in decorating (scooter bling?). 

One nice change from my previous visit here is that the toilettes are all free to use.  Each has a sign prominently posted in 4 or 5 languages (English included) stating that service is free.  Presumably this is as much for employees as tourists.


Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 5:11 am

It’s surprising how many tasty things I can’t eat here.  Fresh mozzarella (which is on almost all pizza and sandwiches), prosciutto (tasty, tasty cured ham, but not cooked).  Fortunately, there are plenty of other tasty things to eat – pastas like the one I had at the Vecchia Roma restaurant, which consisted of spicy tomato sauce, bacon, and romano cheese from a giant cheese wheel that is lit on fire to melt the cheese into the sauce.  Yum.  Other tasty things include potato pizza and lots of tasty grilled meats.

 The best part is the gelato – the Italian version of ice cream.  It’s better than any ice cream I’ve ever had in my life.  The chocolate version is very rich, very dark, and quite tasty - way better than Ben & Jerry’s.  The fruit flavors are what make gelato outstanding.  Strawberry that actually tastes like strawberries and not ‘pink berry’ flavoring.  Cantaloupe, pineapple, pear, raspberry, cinnamon-ginger, caramel, and other flavors make it pretty tempting to eat gelato every day. 

Well, actually, I have been eating gelato every day.  Sometimes twice a day.  Two of the best gelaterias are San Crispino which is near the Trevi fountain and Old Bridge which is near the Vatican Museum.


February 15, 2007
Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 1:57 pm

TinyD continues his world travels in Rome, Italy. 

Day 1 he went to the Roman Forum and Trevi Fountain, with a few other monuments and fountains thrown in.

Day 2 included a visit to the Colosseum, which was very impressive, more Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and Farnesi Gardens, the Church of San Clemente and the cathedral of St. John Lateran. 

The church of San Clemente was particularly interesting as it has a ‘new’ church from the 12th century, built on top of an older church from the 4th century, and a Roman Mithraeum (one of the Roman religions) from the 1st century.  They also had part of St. Cyril entombed there, who invented the Cyrillic alphabet (ie Russian alphabet), was also located there.  He’s always depicted with an anchor, as he was thrown into the Black Sea, wearing an anchor, to calm a stormy sea.  Not sure it worked, but it did gain him sainthood.  Somehow, they found him a few hundred years later in the black sea (still tied to an anchor) and he’s been at the Church of San Clemente ever since. 

Day 3 is today.  TinyD went to the Vatican Museum including the Sistine Chapel.  The Vatican Museum has a lot of art and every single surface is decorated.  Lots of gold paint.  We also went to St. Peter’s basilica, the largest Catholic church in the world.  It has markers inside on the floor showing the sizes of the next 15 largest churches, which are significantly smaller.  We also saw the crypt where all the popes are entombed and walked down the street to the Castell Sant’Angelo.  For those of you familiar with the Da Vinci Code, that’s where the bad guy was hanging out. 

Travis has found a way to map our touristiness using Google Earth and a running website.  So you can see exactly where we walked, including the wrong turns where we got lost trying to find the Rome Metro.   The website for our travels is :

What the map doesn’t show is all the bathrooms we stopped at (ok, I stopped at) during our Roma travels.  As TinyD grows, there seems to be less room for other mommy organs, like, oh, my bladder.  Tally 4 WC visits while at the Vatican, plus 1 more later in the afternoon.  I’ve been to every bathroom in the Roman Forum and Colosseum and have visited the loo at every restaurant and café we’ve been to.  More on this topic later. 



Future Soccer Player

February 11, 2007
Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 5:00 pm

TinyD likes to kick.  At least I think that’s what’s going on.  Either that, or I’m gassy, and just in the region of my uterus.  Pretty sure that I’ve been feeling some movement/kicking for about 2 weeks, but I wasn’t sure what it was at first.  Now it’s getting more noticeable by the day.  Occasionally, if I have my hand resting on my belly, I can feel the kick push it outward.  Very neat.  Can’t wait to try having Travis talk to my belly and see if he gets kicked. 

Worst. Airport. Ever.

Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 4:59 pm

Would be Miami international airport.  There’s a distinct lack of signs.  Usually when you get off the plane, there’s some sort of clue for which direction to go to find bag claim/exit.  Not so.  Checking in to leave is also a challenge, at least for American Airlines.  Multiple lines, check-in kiosks everywhere, and lack of signage, so that people are constantly switching lines from the international check-in, to domestic check-in, to domestic w/o bags kiosk.  I think the airport terminal is just a bit small for the traffic they get, with this being a major departure point for cruise ships and travel to South America.  There’s a distinct lack of bathrooms before passing through security, and some of the bathrooms are behind security barriers. ?Maybe the TSA has appropriated them for security reasons?  Ah yes, as Travis reminded me, the Miami airport is is also where I got food poisoning at the end of a previous trip.  Looks like trail mix and starburst for lunch


Filed under: Baby Dunbar, Blog — Kerry @ 4:57 pm

Miami, Florida is a nice place.  Particularly when compared to B’more at this moment in time. It’s 80 and the sun is shining with blue sky.  It seems like it’s been so long since I’ve seen the sun, I get all squinty when I go outside.


I’m here for a work conference, which has been pretty inspiring.  It’s all about establishing a career in academic medicine – i.e. how to do good research, publish papers, get grants, teach, and take care of patients.  Not intended for people who want to do private practice, which is patient care only.  The big $$$ is in private practice – these are the docs who golf at the country club and drive BMWs (some of them anyway).  My favorite phrase that gets used to describe private practice is ‘you eat what you kill’.  Sounds morbid, but it means you only make money for the patients you see.  So vacation = no income that week.  Academics doesn’t pay as well, but comes with other perks like variety, the opportunity to teach, adding to the greater body of research knowledge about the GI tract, and possibly national or international recognition as an ‘expert’.  Also there’s travel to nifty locations like Miami and Germany that comes with academics. 


So there’s clearly a need for smart docs in both academics and private practice, but for now, I’m sticking with the academics route. 

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