Snow, the winter solstice and my most productive day ever. SJ Dodgson. MJoTA 2013 v7n2 p1217.
At 6am, in the dark, I leaped out of bed on Friday, Dec 17, 1982, walked down the hall to the kitchen, turned on the kettle, walked to the bathroom, showered and dressed, changed Angus' diaper, dressed him, sat him in his high chair, gave him breakfast while I made his lunch and my lunch and drank a cup of tea.
By 7.30am I had bundled Angus in his snowsuit, struggled into my winter coat, hat and gloves, and walked slowly with Angus down from our 3rd floor apartment to the front door to our car parked on Walnut Street at 44th, strapped Angus in his car seat and driven him about 1 mile to 48th and Florence, where I dropped him off with the babysitter. Who looked at my 9 months pregnant belly and shook her head.
I gave Angus a kiss, and drove to 38th and Market to a vacant lot, parked in a snow drift and walked north across Market Street to Presbyterian Hospital, to my obstetrician's office. Ray met me there, he always left home earlier than me to see patients, assist in eye surgery, study for his boards. Schieie Eye Institute is physically next to Presbyterian Hospital. The obstetrician told me that if my baby did not come before Dec 26, she would induce it on that day. In 9 days. Urgh.
I walked back towards 38th and Baltimore, dropping off my coat and my briefcase on my desk in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Physiology Department at 37th and Hamilton Walk, and walked into the Physiology office, asking the secretaries if I could talk to the Chairman, my boss and mentor, Dr Robert E Forster II.
He looked at me, still no baby, and gave me the final draft of a manuscript that we wanted to send out to the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
In it was work I had done mostly in the summer with a bright and manually adept student. We had tested the hypothesis that the enzyme I had discovered and characterized in mitochondria, mitochondrial carbonic anhydrase, had a function in metabolism. That this enzyme enabled the body to rapidly eliminate carbon dioxide from the body by fixing it into urea. Urea is the main component of urine.
We had multiple copies made, I collected
the photographs of the graphs from the print shop, I signed the letter
the secretary had typed, and shoved everything into an envelope and
I was not hopeful that the Journal of Biological Chemistry would publish it. The manuscript had already been turned down by the British publication, the Biochemical Journal,
with the comment "if carbonic anhydrase is in mitochondria what else
would it be doing but making sure it fed carbon dioxide fast enough to
However, they loved it, and published it, and 3
years later this work was the basis of a grant that paid most of my
salary and lab expenses for 5 years.
Miles makes robots for a living, and makes robots in his spare time.
Miles loves making robots, and teaching kids and adults how to make robots.
Robots are ubiquitous: used in surgery (less human error), in driverless cars (no human error), in the pharmaceutical industry. Miles is also doing his best to make sure they are indispensable in stage props and costumes for the Baltimore Rock Opera and the Single Carrot Theater (which is now showing The Year of the Rooster).
Miles is in his zooming stage of life, working so hard because he has the tools and education to do what he does, and loves. And doing everything he can to inspire kids and get them on track. Immediately after the riots sparked in Baltimore by brutal and unlawful police action, Miles was cleaning up the mess with his friends. Immediately.
My sapphire-eyed son, so proud of you and all you touch. Keep doing what you are doing, and always know you are blessed.
That day, after sending off the manuscript, I was in serious Chrismas party mode, and went with a colleague, Ron, to a party of the respiratory physicians. And made plans to attend a winter solstice party that evening with Angus and his father Ray.
I walked back several blocks to my car in the dark at 5pm. My car would not start. And then it did. Phew. I collected Angus and brought him up to our 3rd floor apartment.
A young woman from the second floor knocked on my door, could I please drive her through the snow to the center of Philadelphia to mail a package? I piled Angus back into the car, dropped off the young woman, drove back home, gave Angus dinner and a bath, showered myself, and then got ready to go out. By this time Ray had returned and by 9pm, we were driving through Fairmont Park to a huge house filled with Winter Solstice revelers.
Ron and his wife saw me as we came in, and started talking about how Winston Churchill was born in a closet at a party, and he and Ray traded stories about how they had delivered babies when they were medical interns.
Angus ran around for a bit, but soon fell asleep, and we all chatted about science and travel and listened to music and ate and drank until midnight.
When we got home, Ray and Angus sat in front of the television while I went to bed. Which was when I realized I was in labor and Ray needed to take me to the hospital immediately. Ray told me I was wrong, go back to sleep, but I bundled up Angus, took him downstairs to our Indian neighbors, picked up my bag and told Ray we needed to leave.
Ray drove me to the hospital, I got myself admitted and he joined me in the labor room. It was now 3am, and at 11.45am I gave birth to my second son, to a robotics engineer. He was 9lb 13oz, a head full of black hair, and huge blue eyes. Which stayed blue, sapphire blue.
Four days later, we all went to the annual egg nog party given by Ron, and in the days after Christmas I was in the lab for a few hours in early mornings and late evenings, working on a report for the drug company Johnson & Johnson, in between breast feedings and taking care of Angus, when Ray was not fixing patients' eyes.
The Johnson & Johnson report was made on work I did in the days leading up to Miles' birth, and formed the basis of a relationship with Johnson & Johnson that lasted another 25 years, that led to 6 grants, a medical writing contract and even me testifying in court on their behalf. Topiramate. Scary stuff.
Happy birthday Miles!
After a decade designing, building and repairing anything connected with robots, Miles has left the east coast and proximity to his adoring mother.
For several years in Baltimore, he had been building small robot vehicles, and wiring costumes for the Baltimore Rock Opera.
His background in robots for entertainment led to a company in San Francisco hiring him to build giant fighting robots for MegaBots, read sidebar.
MegaBots has prepared a series of videos about building a giant robot for a duel with a Japanese giant robot named Kuratas.
Personally, I would rather robots blow each other up than young men. My English grandfather lost 9 first cousins in the first World War. War is hell. Battling robots are awesome. In the video above, Miles appears at minute 4:16.