Thursday, December 20, 2012


Well, this starts our Christmas vacation. I'm at work today, finishing up some stuff. Tomorrow, we head to the 'Nard for the night, dropping the Duck-Monster on the way. Then Saturday, we head out to Colorado Springs, via Interstate 40. We decided the drive through the Rockies just wasn't worth the risk. We'll try to get to Albuquerque on Sat (but there are places we can stop if we can't) and then on Sunday, we'll be in Colorado Springs. This adds one more state to the list of states we visited this year: New Mexico. And, if we have time on the way back, we'll stop at the Grand Canyon, a place my husband has never seen! Here's to the end of the year, folks! I hope 2013 is prosperous and healthy for you all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One ugly night

Last night, as we were driving home, we drove over a cat that had been hit by a car. I saw his little body and I lost it, absolutely and totally. We live in a nice neighborhood, so I knew it was someone's pet, and I was just so upset. I got into our apartment and absolutely bawled. Alex went out the door and checked to see if the cat had a collar. It did. He so graciously, and so amazingly, went to the house and told the owners their cat had been hit by a car. It was an older woman and maybe her adult son and the cat's name was Rafiki. He had just been home, and had gone out. I am sure he had just been hit when we found him. His skull was crushed so we think it was a quick way to go. The family was really upset, and Alex went with the son to go get the cat and bring it home. He tried to comfort the woman, but she was understandably upset. When Alex came home and told me this, I just felt so blessed to have this wonderful man in my life. He kept saying that he would want to know if one of our pets had been killed. I agreed with him, but obviously couldn't pull it together to go notify the family with him. Instead, I stayed home and hugged my kitties and was so thankful they were there and still alive. I am putting a card in the mail to the family today. I can honestly say I've lost a bit of faith in humanity today. There is someone out there who hit a collared cat and couldn't be bothered to notify the family of its death. How heartless can you be?

I realize I'm on an emotional hair trigger because of all the events of the past few days. I'm just looking for a little bit of light out there. I hope this post will make someone go home and hug their pet or their kid or their family just a little bit tighter. It's a rough world out there.

Ornament Tuesday

Well, folks, it's almost Christmas. I've got just a few more posts before the big day, and I thought I would focus this one on Ornaments. One of my favorite things about Christmas is the tree and the ornaments. Every year, we pull out the ornaments and talk about the oldest ones, or the newest ones, or the ones that came from memorable Christmases. Here are a smattering of them:

The preceding four are all glass ornaments from the 1940s, likely during World War II. The connectors (save for one) are actually paper, and the glass is hand-painted. These would have been purchased somewhere around Windber, PA, and have hung on my Mom's Christmas tree all her life. I love these since they are so simple, yet so pretty. 

 This rat ornament was my Uncle Raymie's. He was my Mom's brother and I never met him. He died in 1963. I think this ornament was sent to him by my Grandma's friend, Jane Golby. Jane often sent interesting gifts to the family, and she sent us gifts even until I was a kid. I have very little connection to Uncle Raymie, and I wish I could have met him. Being able to touch and hold ornaments that were his is really meaningful to me. 

 This ornament was my Mom's when she was a kid. I think this was also given to her by Jane Golby, and I am not sure if this was something Jane would have made herself (or someone close to her made). The ornament is hand painted wood, and I just love it. It's so neat to have things on your tree that have a history to them.

This is the angel that sits on top of my Mom's tree. It's been the angel on top of the tree for as long as I can remember. My Mom made it either before I was born or when I was very little. I cannot imagine anything else being on top of the tree, other than this angel. I have never purchased tree toppers for myself because I just can't imagine anything else peering down on me. I love this angel for a number of reasons. One, it was made by my Mom's own hands. Two, it has always been part of my life. And three, I love the idea of angels. I hope we all have one or two looking down on us. And four, it reminds me to appreciate my blessings, whether they are from angels, or the living.

This is the tree itself. Ornaments much? Alex thinks it might collapse under all the weight of the ornaments. However, to me, each one means something. I love it this way and I think it's just perfect. 

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012


I'm mourning with the rest of the world over the horrible events that occurred last Friday. Obviously, my logical brain looks for things that can be done immediately. In no particular order, these are the thoughts I have had:
  • I understand the gut reaction for gun control and I feel it too. I'm just not sure that it will help. While making guns more difficult to purchase is one way around it, I would say that there are never foolproof ways to stop massacres from occurring. Education can help (requiring gun safety classes yearly) perhaps? Restricting the sale of magazines containing large numbers of bullets? Restricting the sale of more destructive bullets? Getting rid of semi-automatic weapons?
  • Would a single payer healthcare system help in cases of extreme mental health crises? Do we have "preventative" mental health? Are we able to identify what kinds of psychoses these individuals have? Are there treatments available?
  • Why are they always young men? Is there something about the male brain or the male "system" that makes them more likely to snap and cause such massive destruction?
  • Does the media play a role in this? Their over the top coverage style (interviewing 3rd graders, for chrissakes - how is that morally right?). The sensationalism. It makes my stomach turn, but I read it too. I desperately check the news for any developments. 
  • Is isolation of a child really the answer? Should home-schooling be allowed? I feel like one defense we have against people doing massively anti-social things is to tie them to a community that they care about. I know that might not be the best answer in the long run because it's really high risk, but isolation for humans can be ridiculously destructive.
  • Another gut reaction for these massacres is to add more armed people to areas. Several schools in W. PA have asked for armed police officers to be stationed at schools. This is another thing I'm really uncomfortable with. It feels like a military state, and the more distractions we add to schools, the worse off students are. 
  • In Philadelphia, gun homicides are really common. They often take innocent lives, especially when bullets are sprayed out of a car, or into a neighborhood. There is an exorbitant number of murders that occur in Philly alone. When I lived there, it exceeded one a day (greater than 365/year), and I think it still hovers around that number. Guns in cities in general are bad. Too many people, too high a population to ensure everyone's safety. And while some citizens of Philly were outraged at the violence in their neighborhoods, most often nothing was done to combat it. Instead, the police took a "stop and frisk" approach to any young black man on the street. This leads to further and further distrust of authorities, and as a consequence,  a "don't speak" attitude. Meaning, people would never tell authorities who was responsible for a murder, even if it was widely known. This also led to "vigilante justice", where neighborhoods would get together and go after criminals and perform their own justice (usually beating the shit out of someone). I hear everyone being outraged at the death of innocent children in CT, and of course, I am outraged too. However, this violence has existed for a long time in our biggest cities, but the difference is poverty and race, right? (I understand there is also an element of targeting children in this latest shooting, but often, like in CO and AZ, shooting is just random). The victims are largely white and affluent. Is this a race thing, too? Do we listen more closely when white, affluent children are killed? Does the media pay attention more? I am sure there have been 20 children killed by gun violence in Philly this year. Why are we not outraged about that? Are we allowed to be outraged over only certain acts of violence?
  • I keep trying to understand why. Why did this happen? Why children? Why a school? There must be some logic in it all, right? Alex keeps reminding me that we can't rationalize the insane. I am having a hard time with this.
  • The only rational, logical thing I can about this whole thing is to hug my friends and family tighter. To tell my husband I love him more and more every day. To give my mom an extra hug when I see her. The only thing I can do is love. Love more and more, deeper and deeper. Love unconditionally and love with acceptance. All of these things will be my focus this holiday. Not the violence. Not the horror. The love. The love and the peace and knowing that I've told my family over and over again, ad nauseum. I love you. So, if ever my family and friends are taken from me, they know.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

That's the diagnosis from the doctor. I don't have any vitamin deficiency, and my thyroid is fine and my blood sugar is normal. She doesn't think it's Rheumatoid Arthritis, which was a big concern of mine. Just regular, old Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I have had removable splints on both my hands for a week now, and I'm awaiting a couple tests from the Neurologist to make sure I've not done any permanent damage. I'm hopeful I haven't. The splints make writing and typing difficult, so please forgive any typos in my blog from now on :)
I'm pretty disappointed in this diagnosis, I have to be honest. I think I often take my body and all its parts for granted. They often do a lot of work without my knowledge. However, as I get older, I can start to see small failings, sometimes I get out of breath, I can't run as well as I used to, etc. And my hands. My hands are my life and my work. I can't let them not work, so I have to take care of them. And I need to take better care of my body. I'm starting to appreciate the goal I set of 30 mins of activity every day. It's so important to take care of your body,  its the only one I've got!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Your Monday Gift Guide

Do you have a wife or girlfriend who is hard to shop for? I'm always told that I'm super hard to shop for (which I don't really understand, but....) so I thought I would write a little gift guide for those of you who are lost! Here are some ideas (some of these are kinda expensive, others are not too bad):

1) A Massage: Is your significant other constantly running around, chasing kids, keeping the house in order and just basically being awesome? Get her a gift card for a massage (or a mani/pedi, or something pampering and luxurious). Bonus points if you send her to a nice spa (but a regular salon is quite lovely as well) where she can sit and relax, and perhaps hang out at a pool or a jacuzzi. Whatever you do, encourage your significant other to have an afternoon to herself, and make sure you do a few things so she can enjoy said afternoon (can you do the grocery shopping? take the kids out to the park? have dinner on the table (even if it's take out) when she gets home?)

2) A hotel room (for one): I know this might be counter-intuitive, but sometimes, us women just want to get away from it all. We take so much time out of our day to take care of other people, that we often have little time left for ourselves. If you're like me, I enjoy reading and watching terrible movies, but when do I ever get to do these things? Other times, I just like to sit and journal, or focus on myself (like hit the gym or go for a long walk). When I was a kid, my cousin, A, was given a hotel room on the beach in Santa Barbara (her kids were little at the time). She said she read and watched the ocean and just recharged. Her husband took the kids, and gave her time, which is such a precious thing. I realize this might be a bit out of reach, financially, for a lot of people. However, travel and hotel rooms become super cheap after the holidays, so you might be able to find some deals. Also, last minute deals are great on

3) Date night (you do all the work): Like I said, us women find ourselves taking care of everyone but ourselves. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is try to find movie times, make reservations for dinner, or plan an outing. It can be exhausting after a long day of work. What can you do about this? Make a plan and pamper her! Tell her you want to take her out on Friday night, and make all the plans. Make the reservations, call the baby-sitter, figure out the movie times. Smuggle in the Cokes or her favorite candies (and make sure it's a movie she wants to see!). If this is a little bit too expensive, plan a date night at home, rent a movie she wants to see, or make a pizza and have it ready when she gets home.

4) Personalized Something: Does your significant other need a nice frame (with a picture in it) for her desk at work? Does she need a good notebook or a new keychain? Make it personalized (with her initials, or even just something like "Love, CD". Can you take the kids out and get a great pic of them? What about her parents, or a pic of her with you or her good friends? Trust me, women LOVE pictures. Can you have the kids draw her something and frame it (bonus if it's a standard size frame where she can keep replacing the drawing with their latest creation)? What about a pic of you alone, or a pic of you with the kids? Trust me, her heart with melt!

5) Something she wants to do: Has she been talking about trying skydiving? Cooking class? Glass blowing? Running? Get her a class or a couple sessions with a personal trainer. Does she need a new suit? Nordstrom's and Macy's have personal shoppers (and I think they're free). Give a gift card and an appointment. Check places like Groupon or Living Social for deals on cooking classes or glass blowing (heck, I even saw one on beekeeping). Buy some seeds from a catalog and get her some gardening accessories. How about a music lesson? A singing one? Trust me, she will love this one too!

6) Things you cannot fail with, but are somewhat impersonal: Look, if all else fails and none of these things sound right, then here are things you just can't go wrong with. Jewelry: a pair of small diamond earrings are always a hit, just make sure they are whatever metal she normally wears (gold or silver). Gift cards: music is always appreciated, so a gift card to itunes is always great. Also, a bookstore, Target, or is always nice too. Bath or body things: you can't really go wrong with bubble bath, smelly lotion or a nice candle, but honestly, these things are kinda boring. If she's into tech-ie stuff, I would look into an iPad or a Nook or Kindle. Or perhaps an iPod or an iPhone. Pajamas (nice ones that she will actually use, not little nighties with feathers all over them) or slippers, warm socks or sweaters are always nice. Just make sure they are the right size.

7)  Things you should not get: I would really shy away from the things that suggest separate gender roles. For example, do not buy her a vacuum cleaner or a blender. Don't buy her bubble bath if she doesn't have a bathtub. Do not get her tools for the project you are working on (unless they go to a project she is also working on), or an espresso machine because you want one.

8) Things about you that you want her to know: Have you always loved Gregorian chants, but you just can't find the time to listen to them? Buy her a CD, and listen to it together. Love Kung-Fu, but never told her? Get some movies and popcorn and plan a night in. Have a fascination with history? Start putting your family history together on (they have gift memberships). Get some tickets to a local museum, or plan a night out at a local show. Love hiking? Get her some good boots and plan an easy route for the day after Christmas. Try to incorporate your significant other into things you love to do. Maybe, just maybe, she will like it too!

9) Anything you've made: This is a category that's awesome, but often never works out. Most people start the holidays with the biggest of ideas, but often fall behind on hand made projects. Picture books or calendars are always a hit, especially if you hand pick some of your favorite photos together. Do you know how to work leather? Make a keychain. Know how to knit? Make her some mittens or a scarf. Love to cook or bake? Plan an lovely feast, just for her. Truthfully, anything you took the time out of your day to make, she will love, even if it's a little bit tacky.

10) Something you should do, even if you don't have a dime: Tell her how much you love her and appreciate her in your life. Tell her how much you enjoy hanging out with her and that you still want to spend the rest of your life with her. Be a romantic (if you aren't already) and write her a love letter, or pour your heart out into a song or a poem about her. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be from the heart. Those are usually the best things you can do, even if its not for Christmas. Don't forget to tell her how much you love her, in every possible way you can, even if it's a post-it.

Well, folks, I hope I've given you some great ideas for Christmas shopping. Truth is, it's not that hard, it just takes a bit of thinking (and listening!). Happy Shopping! AND Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Book Review Sunday: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I was lucky enough to get this book as a birthday gift from my husband. To say I was excited to read Rowling's first foray into "adult" literature is an understatement. I was thrilled to hear she was writing again and immediately wanted to read this book. The book is about a town, called Pagford (in Great Britain) that is a charming, lovely little place. This book is about ordinary people and ordinary lives, yet is an extraordinary story, if that makes any sense. In Pagford, a man by the name of Barry Fairweather has died suddenly, and he left a big hole in many peoples lives. Many people who do not know each other, who do not interact, and who are quite surprising when you think about it. Essentially, the book follows these people as they try to cope with Barry's absence. Barry was a member of the Pagford Council, so some of this book deals with politics, so I felt it quite fitting to read right after the election. However, it's small time, small town politics, not the big flashy kind we've been bombarded with lately. It also deals with families, parents and children, mothers and fathers. Rowling's ability to develop characters and make even the most despicable person seem interesting is such an amazing ability. Some marriages are falling apart, some are stronger that they have ever been. Some kids are growing up, some kids need to grow up. There is not one protagonist in the whole book (except perhaps Barry himself, who is a largely benevolent presence), every character is quite complex and neither good nor bad. All the characters have flaws, which makes the book quite interesting. It's all very vague, I know, but it was a book I couldn't put down. The characters have stuck in my head, and I was so interested to see what was going on in their lives. I'm actually a little bit sad that the book is done, now! The basic plot is centered around who will fill Barry's spot on the Pagford Council, but, honestly, when you reach the point in the book where the election takes place, you are no longer that interested in who wins or loses. I was much more interested in what was going on with the characters themselves. Altogether, this book is wonderful. Rowling's book is not violent, but it's gritty and a little more "real" than the Harry Potter series. There are some scenes in the book that are quite disturbing, but many that are quite charming. In Rowling's classic way, she has developed a group of people I am more interested in than many of the books I read. And, as far as I can tell, they are quite ordinary and not much "happens". But, the book itself, is quite extraordinary. Read it. You won't regret it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Favorite Holiday Movie

You guys, this year? I am right in the Christmas spirit! I have my decorations up, I have my Christmas cards ordered, and we've started a Christmas list of the gifts we'd like to buy. We've talked about budgeting, and are trying to save some money by keeping presents realistic and reasonable for our budget. And it's just so darn pretty here, it's hard not to be in the Christmas spirit! All the big houses have lights up, and ridiculous decorations, making a walk around the neighborhood just lovely. And here, forthwith, are my favorite Christmas movies of all time. These are the movies I watch every year (sometimes several times!) without fail. Movies always manage to get my in the Christmas spirit, and they almost always cheer me up after a bad day.

5) The Bishop's Wife. This is actually one of my Mom's favorite movies, and it's become one of mine. The basic plot follows a preacher who asks God for money to build a big fancy church. An angel is sent down (Cary Grant!) to help with the prayer, but ends up showing the preacher that there is much more to being a preacher than just having a fancy cathedral. The angel ends up reminding people of the real meanings of Christmas, and it ends up being a lovely, wonderful story. I think what I like most about this movie is that it's old. People act differently, treat each other different. It's a window into another time that I will never experience. Plus, my family has always been a fan of old movies! If you see this one come around on TV, set up the DVR to record it. I think you might like it!

4) Love Actually. OK, you guys know by now that I'm a sappy romantic, so I had to have Love Actually on this list. This is a great ensemble cast movie, and one that I think they try to repeat (think New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day), but they never quite reach the loveliness of the original. The movie follows several relationships, some old, some new, some budding, and all the things that happen leading up to Christmas. The thing that I love about this movie is the characters. They are all so lovable. And it's always weird to see Professor Snape as a regular old married guy :) Of course, there are numerous scenarios that are completely implausible, but that just makes me love it more. Hugh Grant dancing around 10 Downing Street is also quite the treat. And a couple lovely appearances by Mr. Bean himself caps it all off. This is just a great movie to plop down in front of and have a good laugh!

3) Elf! Of course this movie is on my list! The movie follows Buddy, a boy adopted by an elf in Santa's North Pole. He grows up thinking he's an elf, but then one day sets off to find his real family. He ends up in New York City, living with James Caan and his family. This movie has it all: the city looking it's best at the holidays, a "out of towner" doing all those things you wish you could do but just can't (going through those swinging doors over and over again! YES!), and a family that's falling apart because the Dad is just totally absent. This movie is funny to the core, and I love to watch it over and over again. "Bye Buddy! Hope you find your Dad! Thanks, Mr. Narwhal!" And Zooey is just a delight! Love it over and over again.

2) Miracle on 34th Street. My Grandma loved parades. Every holiday that had a parade, we were watching it. And we always looked forward to the "Big One", Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. We got to see NYC, all the balloons, and I was always on the lookout for some of my favorite stars and celebrities! This story follows Mrs. Walker, who is in charge of putting together the parade. When her Santa gets too drunk to be in the parade, she stumbles upon Kris Kringle, an old man who thinks he's Santa Claus. In the meantime, her neighbor, Mr Galley, is trying to woo Mrs Walker. There are some charming scenes with a tiny Natalie Wood and Kris, who tries to blow a bubble with some bubble gum - with that beard! Whoops! Of course, Santa ends up turning doubters into believers, and the movie ends sweetly.

1) Meet me in St. Louis: This is one of my all-time favorite movies. My Grandma loved Judy Garland, and she passed that love on to me. When I was a kid, I loved anything Judy Garland, and we had a great time renting old movies and watching them. This is one of the movies we rented and it means so much to me for so many reasons. Firstly, it takes place in St. Louis in 1904, which is the year my other Grandma was born. Although it's Hollywood, I always use it as a window into what life might have been like back when she was born. The movie follows the Smith family of St. Louis for one year. The World's Fair is about to begin in a few months, and the father of the household gets a job offer in New York City and decides to move the family. Everyone is very upset over the move, as many of the kids are developing relationships, especially Esther (played by Judy Garland), who has begun to date their neighbor, John Truitt. This movie is a musical, so it features a number of great songs, and it was directed by Vincent Minelli (yes, Liza's father - this is how Judy and he met!). His camera direction is some of the most beautiful I've seen, you can just tell how in love with her he is when he shoots her. Judy is also a comedic and acting genius, and she pulls off some wonderful stunts, all the while looking beautiful and nonplussed. Figures. And this movie isn't exactly a Christmas movie, per se, but it includes my absolute favorite Christmas song, "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas", sung by Garland herself. This version is so lovely, so amazing. It always makes my both smile and cry at the same time. This movie does not disappoint, and really showcases how much life has changed in just 100+ years. I love, love, love this movie and I hope you will to!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dec 1

The big picture that I've revised a bit. I'm trying especially hard to focus on the wording of my goals. You will not see a "don't" or a "won't". Instead, I am trying a thought process that will hopefully bring more positive into my life.

Financial: Buy a house someday. Save up enough money for retirement. Save up two months salary in our savings account for emergency use.
Spiritual: Live in and for each moment, appreciate, breathe. Let go of the negative and embrace the positive in each aspect of life. Embrace patience.
Career: Become a professor at a university. Stay on top of experiments and what they mean. Step outside the box more, and embrace change and technology.
Health: Eat well, mostly plants. Drink water. Take my vitamins. Minimize the consumption of processed and fast foods.
Physical: Wake up at 6am. Be strong in my body by regularly exercising 30 minutes each day. Focus on getting my hands better, meaning rest them at intervals, and give them a break when needed.
Organizational: Be organized. What does that even mean? This is something I will need to work on...
Holidays: Enjoy them! Be reasonable with gift purchases, food and drink.
Relationships: Focus on the people in my life and enjoy them. Make it a priority to talk on the phone more often.
New Things: Try something new every week.

Here are my smaller goals for the month of December. Since I am trying to embrace the positive this month, I am going to look at my goals for November, but I am also going to "let them go", so to speak. Some worked and others didn't. I will set different goals this month, and perhaps come back to those goals I did not achieve at a later date.

Financial: This one is a little tough with the holidays. Use cash to purchase all Christmas gifts. Put away $100 in retirement savings (current account). Look into retirement account options at Stanford. Look into a budget and finances tracking program for the computer. I would like to continue bringing my lunch to work most days (this goal worked really well last month! Yay, me!). Also, work on payments on the credit card. Luckily, we have a card with 0% interest until March, so we are focusing on paying this one off by then.

Spiritual: This month, I am going to focus on the positive and practice patience. In order to do this, I am going to embrace a little bit of "self talk" (which I do all the time, anyways - Yup, scientists are weird). When I start to feel negative, I will acknowledge that feeling, and then talk about it with myself. A lot of times, I have negative feelings that are not super helpful, and can actually hinder my progress on a goal. Instead, I will try to acknowledge these feelings, and ask myself what I can do now, or in the future to make this situation better. I will also practice patience, which is a skill I lack most days. When I feel exasperated and ready to blow, I will step away, take some deep breaths and focus on enjoying the moment or the view.

Career: I was able to accomplish a pilot experiment in November, but now I need to analyze my data. This month, I am going to focus on my lab notebook. This is where I record everything I do everyday. I often slack off on this, and this can be really detrimental (as in, how did I do that expt when it worked? Ugh!). So, that will be a main focus for me. Also, I would like to continue with the goal of reading more science in general. I get TOCs delivered to my inbox nearly daily, and I am going to focus on revising the list of TOCs I get, and probably adding more to the list. Once that's done, I will focus on reading those TOCs the day they come.

Health: This month I am focusing on drinking more water, taking my vitamins and cutting out or minimizing processed foods. To do this, I will fill up my water bottle and tea cannister every morning when I get into work. When they get empty, I will make sure I refill them so I always have water with me. I will also purchase another water bottle that I can take with me wherever I go. When I bike to work, I will focus on having a drink or two while I'm riding in as well. My vitamins will be on my bedside and I will take them before bed every night. When I'm traveling, I will make sure to put them in my case and place them bedside wherever I am. The processed food may be a challenge, as we are planning to drive to CO for Christmas, and being on the road is never easy. However, I plan on taking some healthy snacks with us in the car, and I will try to make healthy choices on the road. At work, I will strive to just not have any money for the vending machines, and I will make sure I have some nuts or healthy snacks in my desk drawer. The biggest challenge here might be what to eat when I get home from work. If I have the time, I will try to plan out some menus for dinners during the weeks we are here. This way, knowing what we are going to eat might make things a bit easier.

Physical: Instead of focusing on getting up at a certain time, I am going to focus on going to bed at by 11pm every night. That means, in bed, with the covers on at 11, not heading toward bed. I will also focus on not sitting so much. It's easy to get sucked into computer or scope work, but it's not good to sit for so long. I plan on using timers to help remind me to get up and move around, even if it's just walking around the room for a minute. I will focus on 30 minutes of exercise every day, even if that just means a walk around the block after dinner. I would like to focus on core strength this month, so I plan on doing some core strength exercises for one minute every day. 

Organizational: I am taking a cure from my good friend Coodence on this one. She suggested a Moleskine notebook (they are really nice looking!) to carry around with me wherever I go. I used to do this, but I found it cumbersome. My "to do" lists tend to be excessive (as in, one 8.5"x11" daily!). However, I do think it's a great idea and one I will return this month. Today, I am heading out to purchase a notebook, where I will write my goals for the month in it, and then try to pare things down to weekly goals (instead of daily ones).

Holidays: I will focus on the beauty of the holiday instead of the "to do" list. I would like to write a gift list and get those things bought (preferably online) by Dec 10th. I also need to make a Xmas card list and have those sent out by Dec. 15. This weekend, I will put up the decorations (no tree this year, though :( ) and I would like to take some time to enjoy the lights and the music associated with this time of year. I will practice patience and try to take the negative out of the holidauy.

Relationships: This month, I will focus on listening. I will put down my phone or my computer. I will also make a priority to call my family twice a week, and to call my in-laws once a week.

New things: I will try something new every week and I will keep track of the new things I try.

Well, there you have it, folks. My goals for December. Let's see how I will do!

Friday, November 30, 2012

30 Days of Thankful

I realize I'm behind, but I thought I'd use today to catch up! These are in no way ranked in a particular order, just things I am so, so grateful for every day.
  1. For the rain. We always need it.
  2. For my family, as crazy as they are.
  3. For my husband, who always manages to crack me up!
  4. For the kitten, Ducky, who is insane, but entertaining!
  5. For Moo, who's always miffed at something, the princess that she is :)
  6. For my job - I really, really love it, and I thought I might not like science any more.
  7. For my co-workers, who are truly, genuinely nice. And they put up with my weird questions and odd personality.
  8. For a home that's near a park and oh so lovely. We really lucked out in our desperation to find a place to live!
  9. For a car (actually, two!) that can transport us wherever we want to go.
  10. For living in the West and not the East anymore. Makes it so much easier to plan holidays.
  11. For having lived in Philly.
  12. For getting an education at Penn. I think it was the best thing for me I could ever imagine.
  13. For blogging. Although I don't do it as often as I would like, I really enjoy it. And I enjoy keeping up with friends near and far.
  14. For science. I just love it. 
  15. For kids. A good friend of mine just had a baby, and my some of my best friends have little ones. They always give you the best perspective on life and I love that.
  16. For Chamomile tea. 
  17. For my body, as broken and as amazing as it can be. It's the only one I've got and I'm pretty demanding on it. And, for the most part, it usually lives up to those demands!
  18. For my in-laws. I think I really hit the jackpot there.
  19. For my niece, Kaitlyn, who is just about the coolest kid I know. She's super mellow, even when things are a little crazy. 
  20. For the Farmer's Market in Mountain View every Sunday, where we can buy delicious, fresh, organic produce.
  21. That my husband cooks so I can rest my hands after a long day at work.
  22. For the bike commute. As much as I complain about it, it's generally a good thing. 
  23. For time spent driving across the country, visiting friends and family, and just hanging out with my husband. 
  24. For the US of A, as screwed up as we are. I am so thankful I live here and not anywhere else. 
  25. For art, any kind. It really soothes the soul.
  26. For live music. I grew up listening to my Grandma S. play the piano. I didn't know how lucky I was. Alex picked up the guitar last night and it sounded so lovely.
  27.  For my friends and colleagues all across the country. I am so blessed to know so many amazing and motivating people. I am so grateful for all those in my life.
  28. For my current boss, who is just about the coolest person to work for. She believes in pushing the envelope, doing some crazy, but risky things, and then just watching the progress. She's literally given me wings to fly, and I'm so excited to see where this project takes me. 
  29. For trees. Did you know they block the rain? You can stand under a tree in the greatest of storms and not feel a drop. 
  30. For you, dear reader. Whether I've known you for years, or just met you, or don't know you at all, I'm grateful for some sort of readership. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all rolled into one! xo

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Have you ever injured something that you use everyday? When I was in 6th grade, I fell off a horse and broke my right wrist. In high school, I screwed up my knee and was in a cast on crutches for quite a while. And I've had countless situations where I've hurt myself because I was stupid, say running to far of a distance, or doing a workout too vigorously. However, I have never had something quite like the injury to my hands I've been dealing with for a while.
It's hard to open jars and bottles, and it makes me sad for older folks who are struggling with arthritis or strength issues - why do we make things so hard to open?
I have issues cutting vegetables, so cooking has become a chore.
Working under the microscope has become difficult, requiring fine motor skills that I sometimes just don't have.
Typing is hard on my hands, as is checking the iPhone. I think it has something to do with the bend in my elbow.
Ibuprofen can help, but doesn't alleviate all the symptoms, making me think it's tendon or nerve related.
All of these things sound so lame to me. I mean, who can't use their hands? What a ridiculous thing to happen! I use my hands for everything, absolutely everything and they're a bit broken right now.
I've got a few exercises and I'm doing those. They seem to help in moderation. I'm also trying to take it easy on my hands, which is, itself, not easy. And I think it might be time to find a doctor.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Turkey Day wrap up

We spent the weekend at my cousins' house in middle-of-nowhere, CA. It was beautiful, and a great time to get together and see family and friends. We had a fantastic time!
Us: You + Me

Digger Pine



Purdy 2

Robber's Den

Dirt road


Rub my belly!


End of the day


Bear Valley

Regroup and Reassess Monday

I realize I'm supposed to reassess every first of the month, but I decided it's time to do another reassessment on how I'm doing with the goals I set for myself. I feel like I've been really slacking, so I want to give myself an update to determine where I need to work on things, and how to go about doing so.

As a reminder, here are my "big" goals
Financial: Buy a house someday
Spiritual: Live in and for each moment, appreciate, breathe.
Career: Become a professor at a university
Health: Eat well, mostly plants
Physical: Wake up earlier. Be strong.
Organizational: Be organized. Don't miss meetings, big dates, tasks.

And here are my smaller goals for the month of November and how I've been doing:

Financial: Put $200 away in savings this month. Pay off my one credit card bill. Bring my lunch to work each day.
Reality: The $200 this month is not gonna happen. However, I did get a little bit of birthday money, so that is going directly into savings.
I was able to bring my lunch most days - this is a manageable goal and I'm going to keep it up. When Dec 1 rolls around, I might add to this a little bit more.
I was not able to pay off my credit card, but will continue to chip away at it.

Spiritual: I'm stealing this one from Liz: meditate 5 mins every morning. Read a little bit in a book (for pleasure) every night.
Meditation? Not happening. I need to figure out a way to make this a better goal (more realistic) for Dec 1.
I have been reading a little bit each night, though. I finished two books (granted, one of them was Harry Potter, but...) this month, which is a great accomplishment, in my mind. I also got a new book for my birthday and I'm enjoying that.

Career: Attend my future faculty seminar class. Get my pilot experiments up and working before the end of November. Read more science papers.
I did attend a seminar, and I went to a couple career guidance seminars as well.
Pilot experiments are on the "to do" list, I am currently waiting for some equipment to arrive so I can get started, but a pilot experiment by the end of the month is likely.
Hmmm...more reading? Haha, I have been trying, but this is another area I need to concentrate on.

Health: Get used to biking 100 miles a week. I am still adjusting, but I would like to add in a little bit of time doing something other than biking, so maybe running once each weekend and stretching every morning or evening.
This has been a challenge. I've been struggling with my hands, so I stopped biking since it was bothering me so much. Now, I've got weak hands that hurt somewhat and I'm unsure whether I'm damaging them further or what. I've also completely give up on running, even though when I did run this past week, my hands felt better. So, again, I need to refocus.

Physical: Set a sleep/wake schedule and stick to it. Pushups every day.
Yeah, my sleep/wake cycle has been a little screwed up. And pushups are out of the question with my hands being so screwed up. Another situation to change come Dec 1. 

Organizational: Make a To Do list every day. Allow myself to not accomplish it, and put tasks on the list for the next day. Each week, reassess my To do list and make sure the goals are accomplishable (is that a word?). Get house under control!
 The To Do list has been a great idea. I find that I am fairly effective when I have one, and I feel lost without one. However, I do find that I avoid my to do list when I'm feeling down or tired or unmotivated. I also find that it's hard to keep track of my to do list (is it at work? home? in some pile on my desk?) And when I lost my to do list, I felt like there were a million things I forgot to do. I realize I should put my list on my computer, and send it to the cloud, but writing things down and crossing them off (excessively, I might add) makes me feel so much better than just checking a box on a program. So, this is something to think about....
The house, however, is coming along great. We've got the 2nd bedroom almost together, and just three boxes left to unpack. We've also got a couple areas to organize, but that's OK. I am hopeful we can get things done by the end of the year.

Some other things I would like to maybe add for December:
Holidays: there is so much to accomplish for the Holidays, and it so often flies by. I would love to be able to get my things accomplished and have some time to enjoy the season. Here's hoping...
Relationships: from my husband to my friends and family. I would like to focus more on my relationships with people, and making them better. I would also like to work on making some new friends here in my new 'hood.
New things: I would also like to "try new things" whatever that means - sometimes life gets dull, and there's not a lot to look forward to. I'd like to make things more interesting by "trying something new" each week. Could be a recipe, a hike, a museum, or a restaurant. Anything, really.

Well, that's what I have to show for my accomplishments. I'm actually quite pleased with my progress, looking back at it. I am also starting to realize that I can succeed, I just need to make smaller goals. Even if my "Meditate 5 mins every day" becomes "Meditate 1 min every day" that's OK. I feel more centered and more balanced and that's the best part!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Update, catch up, etc

  • Monday again, eh? I am taking today off for a number of reasons, the first being that we were supposed to head up to more Northern CA today for a wedding tomorrow. However, just a few short days ago, the wedding was called off. Dramatic, right? Anyways, since I had already planned my week to be off, and I can't exactly start expts in one day, I thought I'd use today to get my home life in order. Laundry is currently in and I am waiting for Alex to come home so we can hit up Costco for T-Day.
  • Another reason I am staying home is my hands. My hands have been bothering me for several weeks now, and I'm on the verge of making a doctors appointment to get them checked out. Honestly, I feel ridiculous saying that my hand bother me so much; it makes me sound like an arthritic 80 year old, of which I am not (yet!). However, I there is nothing in this world that I don't use my hands for, and them being in pain makes almost everything I do miserable. I currently have ace bandages on both hands, so you will have to forgive any typos in my post. 
  • Not being able to use your hands makes everyday tasks impossible. I spend Saturday cleaning and organizing the kitchen. Which meant Sunday was spent resting my hands. Even putting the books in the bookshelf really bothered me. Ugh. What the hell have I done to myself?
  • Moue had a bout of kitty illness, which she has thankfully just gotten over. The vet suggested also purchasing a diffuser that sends out kitty pheromones into the air to make her feel more at home. Did this voodoo work? Seems to - the kitten is calmer and Moo is out and about more in the house. Weird, right?
  • We hung pictures and rearranged the 2nd bedroom this weekend. Why do pictures on the wall always make everything seem more homey?
  • I turn 35 this week.
  • I just went to the bank and got $40 in quarters. I hate doing my laundry in a laundry room. Ugh.
  • Turns out, we live by a bike/walking/running path. Nice, right?
  • We leave tomorrow for Thanksgiving with the whole fan-dam-ily. Should be a great time! We'll be off the grid until Saturday - whoop, whoop!
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Haiku Christmas Friday

When I started in
this lab, lots of equipment
needs. Today, granted!


My boss is so cool
Making sure we have the best
technology out.


I can do my job
well, supported and quickly
All I can ask for.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Snippets and Tidbits

  • I'm really amazed that Obama won the campaign. We were prepared for a long night watching the polls, yet they called Obama President at, what 8:30pm PST? I think they are going to have to study his campaign to see how they engaged young people and minorities. I guess it didn't hurt that the Republican party essentially alienated intelligent women and, mostly all minorities, right?
  • One thing that I heard that I thought was interesting is that if the Millenial Generation (of which my husband is a member, but not me! I'm Gen X!) votes one way three times, they will vote that way for the rest of their lives. This is the third Presidential campaign they have generally voted Democrat, meaning they are lifelong Democrats and the Republican Party has lost an entire generation of voters due to their restrictive, ridiculous pandering to only the religious right. 
  • This election made me feel really in touch with the rest of the country. Perhaps it's because we made an extended trip across the country and I felt like I spent time in places and really got to know what it was like living in OH, or SD. I can more reasonably understand people's points of view, and I can definitely see where people are coming from more easily. However, I was just super surprised when CO went to Obama, and when Prop 38 (the GMO one) didn't pass. I guess the average voter is smarter than I thought. 
  • I can't say that I cried when Obama was elected, but I can say I was proud to say that I contributed (a very little amount) to his campaign. I was also proud to call him my President after his Victory Speech.
  • I was glad he mentioned climate change in his speech. I have been really upset over the role that science plays in normal life and political debate. For there to be an entire group of people who deny science, and think climate change is not happening is appalling to me. This is a situation that requires our immediate attention, if we want the planet to be somewhat similar for our children. Period. Stop these stupid debates about whether it's happening. It is. Now, let's do something about it. 
  • I feel consistently in awe of and inspired by Michelle Obama. I want to be just like her when I grow up. I just love how she acts, how she is so fun, yet serious and intelligent. I love how she really fulfills all roles of women - she is a successful lawyer, she is a (seemingly) good mother, she takes care of her health, and she champions causes that are important (and really should be bipartisan). She just does it all right. I don't know how she does it all, but she does (likely with an army of staff to assist her). I just remember seeing an article talking about a dress she wore that was available from J.Crew (or something like that) for, lets say $400, while Ann Romney wore a one-off Oscar dela Renta suit that cost over $5,000. How out of touch are you that you would think visiting small town American calls for a designer suit, especially in this economic crisis?
  • Today is rainy and quite cold (or, should I say, colder than usual) and the snow level will be dropping down to 3500 feet tonight. I must admit, I miss Philly. I miss the fall (which appears to be extended and confused here - some trees are changing, but not dropping leaves, while other are actually blooming like it's Spring! Hello?). I not only miss Philly, but I miss my friends. I miss the familiar. I miss our little house. I don't however, miss working in the labs I worked in. At Penn, my frustrations boiled over almost every day, while at ChOP, my passion just wasn't in it. Here, I feel inspired and happy almost every day. The friends thing will come in time, and trust me, I am happy to be closer to home.
  • I've had the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome from riding my bike lately. It really sucks to tell your husband, who absolutely LOVES his bike, and riding his bike that riding my bike is hurting me, maybe permanently. He told me to absolutely stop riding, and that he thinks my current bike is just too small, putting all my weight on my hands to balance. We are going to a bike shop this weekend to try to figure things out. I hate to spend even one more dime, but I know this is something that needs to be done, especially with me riding literally 20 miles a day. I just hope they can help me. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Political Post

Nope, not gonna tell you anything about who to vote for, although you can probably take a wild guess who I'm voting for. I'm interesting in talking about this "Food Labeling" proposition that's on the ballot in CA. Normally, I am all for educated consumers, and knowledge is power and all that jazz. This is one case where I'm not.

Here's what the Proposition says:
"Requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as “natural.” Provides exemptions. Fiscal Impact: Increased annual state costs from a few hundred thousand dollars to over $1 million to regulate the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Additional, but likely not significant, governmental costs to address violations under the measure."

My suggestion on this proposition? Vote NO. Why? Well, let me tell you

1) This labeling of food is largely based on misinformation. People automatically think that "Genetically Modified" = "Bad". These are likely the same people who think vaccines cause autism. This culture of misinformation out there (and this complete lack of scientific knowledge) leads people to write ill-informed ballot propositions with little or no scientific knowledge. There are no guidelines for what is GMO and what is not. The guidelines are very very blurry, and actually won't provide the consumer much useful information.
So, what is "Genetically Modified Organism"? Let me break it down for you. Generally, "genetically modified" means that a plant or animal has DNA (genetic material) in it that is not native. What does that mean? It means that someone took DNA from another animal or plant and put it into the genetic material of the desired plant or animal. Sometimes this can change the properties of a species. For example, you can take the DNA that encodes green fluorescent protein from a jellyfish and put it in zebrafish, and the zebrafish glow. They sell these at your local pet store, I am sure. (They are, like $10 each, tho - which is a super big rip-off!) These fish are technically genetically modified since they don't normally have this protein coded in their genes. They have also done this same thing, but in cats, as illustrated below. All of this is genetic modification. As scientists, we do this all the time. We call this "transgenesis", or transgene insertion.
2) "GMO" can do GOOD. Sometimes, however, scientists actually THINK about a problem that might be occurring. Like, perhaps people in one area of the world don't get enough Vitamin A. This is a huge problem in a significant portion of the world. Scientists developed Golden Rice, a strain of rice that has Vitamin A in it. If we can utilize this kind of rice in the areas stricken with Vitamin A deficiency, perhaps that can alleviate that disease. You can also imagine that this could be done for a wealth of other Vitamins and Minerals that people might lack.
3) Everything is GMO. If you want to know what's GMO in your cupboard, it's everything. Have you seen what corn originally looked like? Do you know that our chickens are so ridiculously large compared to wild ones? Do you think that cows normally look like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Are tomatoes actually that large in the wild? Have you ever seen a wild strawberry? All of our produce, all of our stock farm animals have been bred and modified to provide more food and more abundance for us. Everything. In. Your. Kitchen. There is no escaping it. Everything you buy will be GMO labeled in some form or another. What's the point in labeling everything?
4) But what about Monsanto? Yup, they're bad. I agree. They took some DNA from a bacteria and expressed it corn and soy and all those large crops grown in the middle of the country. All other plants die from the pesticide Roundup, but Monsanto based plants do not. I agree it would be nice to know when I am buying things made with Monsanto corn or regular corn. Honestly, the way around this? Buy local and buy organic. Everything processed is made with Monsanto corn or soy. Everything. And any restaurant you are going to is serving stuff made with Monsanto products. Accept it and know it. You don't need a label. Yeah, your Activia? GMO.
4) I get it, you just want to know. Much like the organic movement, or the "locavore" movement, we want to know more about our food and where it comes from. I get it, I really, really do. I think this is a situation where the letter of the law doesn't fit the spirit of the law.
5) This law is intended to trick consumers. I saw a commercial the other day about this law. It said something like, "Oh my God! Did you know that when you eat that corn, you're eating GMO DNA? That DNA can go in your stomach and get in your DNA!!!!". OK, look, people. Anything that WAS alive, that you are eating? It has DNA. Everything. You eat DNA every day, and you will eat DNA for the rest of your life. Your stomach? Full of acid. Literal acid. What kills DNA? Acid. This is no Spiderman, your DNA in not intermixing with that Lettuce DNA from lunch, and all of a sudden you might get green and leafy. Trust me on this one. The human body has been eating for a long time, it's learned how to keep the stuff you eat inside your gut, and only let the good stuff out into your bloodstream. Again, this is the misinformation I am talking about. Assuming that the general consumer will be automatically scared about GMO.

Summary: This law won't hurt big food manufacturers, which I think is what it wanted to do. This law will hurt the small farmers, the organic ranchers, by forcing them to submit to more inspections and create further labels - more than they already have. If you don't like Monsanto, then don't buy their stuff. Stop buying processed food. Stop buying things you can make on your own. Don't buy chips or candy, frozen TV dinners or McDonald's. Start visiting your local farmer's market. Plant a garden. Look, I'm not saying that GMO is all good, all the time. I'm just saying that Proposition 37 will create more problems than it will solve. Get a better worded, more focused Proposition 37 and you have my vote. Until then, I vote no.

Recap and Reassess Monday

  • Well, folks, it was the first weekend with my goals in mind. How did I do? 
  • Financial: well, that kinda sucked. We bought a bed on Saturday (much needed, queen size, 10 year warranty - the whole she-bang!) and Alex found out that one of the wheels on his bike is broken. So, we spent about $1000 total, but we used up all our wedding gift cards (which is kinda nice, just to make sure we don't waste them). However, the current state of our credit card bill might warrant a change to this goal. Perhaps saving $50 in the savings account might be more reasonable. 
  • Spiritual: Yeah, I just did not meditate at all this weekend. I'll work on this. But, I did read a little bit before bedtime each night. And I think I might get some books (yay!) for my birthday coming up, so I absolutely LOVE this goal. 
  • Career: Realistically, this weekend I had no time to work on anything career-wise. My Seminar meets tomorrow, so I am planning on attending that. And I will try to read a paper or two this afternoon. 
  • Health: I spent the weekend recovering from biking 100 miles last week. I did not run at all, and I actually feel pretty good about that, even though I didn't hit my goal. I did sit down and stretch a couple times at night this weekend, so I will continue to do that. 
  • Physical: I did, weirdly enough, go to bed around 10-ish and get up around 6-ish every day. I'm not sure if that's because of the time change that I was able to do it (although I did wake up early Saturday morning, even before the time change). I did not, however do any push-ups at all. Maybe I'll get on that tonight.
  • Organizational: This I think I did pretty well. I made a To Do list for our house on Saturday, and we worked all weekend at chipping away at it. In my defense, the To Do list was exceptionally long, and included trips to Costco, Macy's Target, the grocery store, and REI. We also went to the Farmer's Market on Sunday, and I stocked up on veggies and fruits for the week ahead. This To Do list is really working for me, and I'm really happy I started it. 
  • In addition to all the things we did, we also got a lot accomplished around the house. I made chili last night, and I got some of our closets under control, which is a miracle. We also tackled some Thank You notes we've been needing to complete and did four loads of laundry. I'm much happier with how things are starting to look in the house and I think we might be ready to unpack a few more boxes, and even (gasp!) hang pictures soon!
  • This past weekend was also stunningly beautiful. Lovely blue sky, amazing pretty little clouds. It was lovely to appreciate.
  • We also have this "BeWell" program at Stanford, which is really nice. It assesses your health via a questionnaire, and makes suggestions for improvement. It also helps you list out goals and how to achieve them, and seems to be just a great asset to working here. I filled out my assessment on Sunday, and I have a couple of ideas on where to go/what to do, which is really nice. 
  • Tomorrow, I vote! Yay!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Haiku Stanford Friday

Smart, intelligent
wicked cool, pleasant, lovely
Stunning, fantastic.


I love it here so
much I don't want to leave; so
much to do and see.


People are super
nice and chill, but still intense.
Silicon Valley.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


We walked around the 'hood last night and one house had two projectors. One projected the lady from the crystal ball on the Haunted House ride. Another was playing "Gagnam Style". It looked like a Hollywood set for Halloween. I guess that's how Silicon Valley rolls.

Nov 1

If you don't already read my cousin Liz's blog, you should. I linked to a post that spoke to me, but, truthfully, all her posts are amazing. She is so wise at such a young age. Everytime I read her blogs, I get inspired.
In her recent post, she talks about goals. I remember goals. I used to have them. I even had them in Philly. I have them at work (sort of). But I usually don't have goals. Since our move here, I have felt fairly discombobulated. I just don't feel settled. We still have boxes. I don't have furniture. My schedule is all whacked. I'm not sure how to fix it. My life is so different from what it was in Philly. I don't really have friends here and Alex and I don't have the outlets we had in Philly (friends, bars, running/biking paths). I would like to feel more settled. I would like to have some goals. And I think that following Lizzie's advice is the way to go.
Since this is Nov 1, a brand new start to a brand new month, I thought I would set some goals. Liz suggests starting with these categories, although you can add or subtract any categories you would like: Financial, Spiritual, Career/Personal, Health and Physical. I've added Organizational. She suggests starting with big goals, and then make smaller goals to help you achieve those goals. So, here goes:
Financial: Buy a house someday
Spiritual: Live in and for each moment, appreciate, breathe.
Career: Become a professor at a university
Health: Eat well, mostly plants
Physical: Wake up earlier. Be strong.
Organizational: Be organized. Don't miss meetings, big dates, tasks.

OK, seems like a good start, but how can I address all these goals at once? Well, here goes:
Financial: Put $200 away in savings this month. Pay off my one credit card bill. Bring my lunch to work each day.
Spiritual: I'm stealing this one from Liz: meditate 5 mins every morning. Read a little bit in a book (for pleasure) every night.
Career: Attend my future faculty seminar class. Get my pilot experiments up and working before the end of November. Read more science papers.
Health: Get used to biking 100 miles a week. I am still adjusting, but I would like to add in a little bit of time doing something other than biking, so maybe running once each weekend and stretching every morning or evening.
Physical: Set a sleep/wake schedule and stick to it. Pushups every day.
Organizational: Make a To Do list every day. Allow myself to not accomplish it, and put tasks on the list for the next day. Each week, reassess my To do list and make sure the goals are accomplishable (is that a word?). Get house under control!

OK, so this is my baseline start. These are my goals for the month and I am going to try to accomplish them in some form or another. Everyday I will look at my set of goals and reassess. What do you think? Are you ready for November?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Doakes and Mae

I grew up on Janetwood Drive in Oxnard. I always thought it was so cool that I lived on the street that was named after my Mom. My Dad always said how lucky we were to have the neighbors we had. On one side was Ed & Linda and their son Eddie and on the other side was Doakes and Mae. Doakes and Mae were Japanese and quite possibly the most generous people I have had the privilege to know. Mae died last Thursday. It's been a rough year.
When I was born, Doakes and Mae came over with the largest stuffed animal ever. A giant polar bear bigger than I was. I am sure they also brought clothes and toys and I think they brought something for my Mom. On New Year's, we were always invited to their house to watch some football and eat, eat, eat. I was a good eater, and my parents often remind me that I ate, ate, ate all their lobster, and I kept asking for more. "More lobster!" Mae would just giggle and give me more, much to my Mom's embarrassment. Mae and her family and friends would stay up all night, cooking for New Year's. The spread would be elaborate, from Japanese delicacies to American food. Lobster was always on the menu, and lots of it. Doakes and his brothers were fishermen, and they often had fresh caught fish too. The sounds of the football game were always in the background, as well as people laughing, talking, probably betting on the game.
Halloween was always the best. Doakes and Mae would buy me a special candy gift from See's Candy. We would trick-or-treat around the neighborhood, and we would always visit Doakes and Mae last, since they were next door. They would invite us in to see my costume and tell me how cool / lovely / amazing I looked. The special candy for me, was always bigger than all my friends', and it always made me feel so special.
Mae worked at the local florist. I remember when my Grandma died, we were all a mess over it. Not only did Doakes and Mae send the largest and most lovely flower arrangement, but Mae made sure to include Lily of the Valley flowers (my Grandma's favorite, and quite hard to get in October). Their generosity and selflessness was something I will never forget. 
Just a few years ago, I was home from Philly and my parents and I went over to visit Doakes and Mae. They were smaller than I remembered, and maybe a little grayer. Their house was exactly the same and I remembered it, meticulous, and filled with family pictures and mementos. We sat and chatted, their voices the same lilt, their conversations so similar to those I had with them as a kid. We talked about old times, and how much we missed being their neighbors.
I sent them a Christmas card a few years ago, with the date of our future wedding. Mae wrote in her card to me how excited they were about the wedding and that they had already blocked off their calendar. The RSVP for our wedding came back with an excited note, and we received not one, but four (!) place settings from them as a gift. I had a chance to see the at our wedding, although the time was too brief. Again, they were so tiny, but had the biggest grins on their faces as they met my new husband.
It's so sad to think about a world without Doakes and Mae together. Their generosity and selflessness knows no bounds, and I feel certain Doakes is lost without her. If you have a chance, send a prayer up to heaven for my good friend Mae. She was an amazing and wonderful woman and I'm sad to know she's not here anymore. I can only hope that in my contact with her, a bit of her spirit and her generosity rubbed off on me, and perhaps you, too.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Rant: Breast Cancer Awareness

Here goes my rant for the month. The month of October is "Breast Cancer Awareness" month. Every football game you will see will have the players wearing some sort of pink shit to make us all aware of breast cancer. Every store you go to has some sort of something that's pink, making you aware that there's breast cancer. And lots of places have walks, runs, bikes, or swims dedicated to breast cancer awareness.
Look, I get it. Breast cancer is devastating, and fairly common. Any cancer is. And I have no doubt about that. But this over-representation of breast cancer, in opposition, say to lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach or pancreas cancer, is getting on my nerves. I think that breast cancer is so "popular" because it's an organ we can all identify. The breast is overly sexualized in our culture, and god forbid, nobody wants to "lose" them. So, we absolutely need to "save" them. The breast is "out there", so to speak, and we can visibly see if someone has them, or if they don't. Therefore, it's a very visual thing. And because we can't see people's stomachs or pancreata, or lungs, its harder to imagine having cancer there. At least that't what I tell myself.
I also hate pink shit. I hate that a "normally associated with little girls" color (lets, say, NOT a gender-neutral color) is the color of "breast cancer awareness". I hate that pink shit is everywhere, even in the color of kitchen appliances, bathroom supplies, and food packaging. I hate that a lot of those things that are trying to make you "breast cancer aware" are actually BAD for you and could be contributing to breast cancer itself.
Most of the "pink shit" supports SOME aspects of breast cancer treatment, and some provide support in the form of medical payments, therapy, or assistance to family members in taking care of patients. I would argue (and I would hope) that the current health care laws will take the need for outside support for cancer patients away. I would hope that our medical system would improve in that way. However, I also feel that it's important to support all cancer patients. To support them in the way we support breast cancer patients. And I would argue that more money should go to research, and not marketing pink shit everywhere. If you are looking for a place to donate, the American Cancer Society is what I endorse. They support all forms of cancer, and don't play favorites with just one. They also provide research support (as in, a scientist can write a grant proposal to them, and the can give that scientist money if they like the proposal), but they also support patients. My family was devastated by prostate cancer, another hormone based cancer, just like breast cancer. But there's no "awareness" out there. Prostate surgery can be devastating (hello, losing the ability to have sex!), but again, there's no awareness because the prostate just isn't as sexy as the breast.
Next time you donate, just think about it. And please stop buying that pink shit. I just want it to go away!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

By Request: Magic Cookie Bars; AKA: the easiest dessert ever

All right folks, I've been neglectful of the old blog here. For a lot of reasons, really, but let's just use the old standby, "I've been busy".

Forthwith is my ever enjoyable Magic Cookie Bars. I have been making these since I was a wee, wee child. It's a great recipe for kids because you really can't mess it up!

Oven: 350F (unless pan is glass, then 325F)
Pan: 13x9

1 stick of butter
1 package of graham crackers
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 bag of chocolate chips
maybe 1/2 cup or so of coconut
maybe 1/2 cup or so of chopped nuts

Unwrap butter and stick it in the pan. Throw pan in the oven while it's heating up so the butter will melt. Meanwhile, put your package of graham crackers (I mean one package, has, what? 8 crackers in it?, not a whole box) into a 1 gallon ziploc bag and seal it. Bust out your old, favorite, lovely, wonderful rolling pin that you never use and crush up those crackers until they are crumbs. I guess you can buy graham cracker crumbs, and use about 1.5 cups of that, but I highly encourage the use of your rolling pin. Open up your sweetened condensed milk (I enjoy using those can openers that punch a hole in the lid, instead of opening the whole can - can get quite messy). Get out the rest of the ingredients. By now, your butter should be melted in your pan. On top of the melted butter, layer the graham cracker crumbs. Pat down to make sure it's flat. Pour the entire can of sweetened condensed milk over the crumbs. Now, layer the rest of your stuff on top, in the order listed above. Add as much or as little of the ingredients as you like. Bake in a 350F oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the coconut browns, and the crust starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Obviously, this recipe is very malleable. You can omit anything you don't like, or add in things you might like. I've had these with peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, pecans for nuts (I usually use walnuts), etc. Have at it folks!

Monday, October 1, 2012


Today is our one year wedding anniversary. This picture was taken at a Phillies game on April 20th, 2006, and is pretty much the time we started dating. I can't imagine my life without you, my Alex. I'm so glad we're married and I'm always looking forward to forever.


Sunday, September 30, 2012


We lost my Grandpa about a week ago. He's just gone. I'm honestly having a hard time writing anything about this event, but I felt it disingenuous not to acknowledge it. I miss you, Grandpa. And we'll love you forever.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


My 94 year old Grandpa is dying. I went home this past weekend, even though I just started my job and my house is an absolute disaster area. I hung out with him, held his hand. It's sad. I'm having a hard time dealing with it, and a hard time writing about it.
I haven't been home in so long, and now I'm back. Although it took so long to come across the country, I think a big part of me is still in Philly, thinking I am headed home. CA doesn't feel like home yet, even though I'm from here. Going home to see my folks was nice. Being able to be there and get there fast, without worrying about getting a plane flight or arranging transportation was really nice. Things didn't seem so frantic - have to do this, have to see this, have to buy this because I can't get it in Philly. Everything is just so unsettled right now.
I forget that it takes a long time to adjust. It takes a long time to get used to where you are living. It takes a long time to feel like you're home. I forget it takes time to make friends, to find my way around town, to get comfortable on my bike again. I had all of this down in Philly. I knew where all my friends lived, I knew what they did, I knew where to find them. I knew where all the stores were and all the good little places to eat and the places to get a good beer. I know I will get there here, but its an adjustment.
This week, we are at conferences. Alex from Mon-Wed and me from Wed-Fri. This weekend, thankfully we are home. I hope we can get some furniture. I have no place to put my things. Clothes are piled up everywhere, and I can't even begin to unpack books and other things. I think I have to make about 300 trips to about 400 places in the next few days. Why do you always seem to run out of soap and important things right when you move in? I also threw alot of stuff away before we left, and I'm finding that I would like to have some of those things again. Figures.
Moving is a huge adjustment. I need to keep telling myself that....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sept 11

On the actual Sept 11, I lived in CA. The whole day was quite surreal. I wasn't sure what I was watching on TV, it all seemed so nonsensical. A plane? Hijacked? Into a building? Wha?
I think it hit me the hardest a few years later when I went to NYC to sight-see. We went up in the Empire State Building, and everyone told me the World Trade Centers were twice as high. I already felt quite dizzy from the heights - what could possibly make someone want to build towers that tall? So tall, they are in the clouds? I have occasionally gotten snippets of the horror. A friend whose Dad was on the last train out of the WTC that morning. A friend at Columbia who had to walk back home to Brooklyn because all public transit was shut down. Another friend who couldn't contact her Dad. Others stranded in parts of NY. I literally cannot imagine what people went through, have gone through, are going through.
I read an article not too long ago that suggested we might all have some form of post-traumatic stress disorder from seeing the towers fall. From watching the planes hit. From seeing the people jump. I believe it. Honestly, sometimes, I hate 9/11. I hate the "Never forget". I hate those "See something, say something" signs. I hate the inane "We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way!". I hate taking off my shoes at the airport. I hate the overly audacious patriotism. It feels odd. I can't exactly explain it.
I flew about a month or so after 9/11. I can't remember where I was going, but I do remember seeing a flight attendant wearing an American flag tie. I liked that. I also remember seeing signs saying, "Thanks for flying!". It felt heartwarming. I've always loved travel. I've always loved to fly. Now, it's a relief if I don't have to fly somewhere, even if that means driving an extra few hours.
I think the thing that rubs me the wrong way about 9/11 is the prominence. Maybe those older than I can attest to this, but it seems like overkill, going on 11 years later (I have no idea - was Pearl Harbor the same way? But those were military killed - is it different when it's civilians?). As for 9/11, I know those people died. I know a lot of them were first responders, doing their jobs, rushing into the tower. I know that others were just poor workers, headed to work. I know that some were travelers. I guess my biggest problem is what about everyone else? What about those soldiers killed in Afghanistan? Those civilians battling for their lives in Syria? Those government protesters in China? Those starving people in Africa? What about those people who die on the freeway, headed to work on Monday morning? I realize this is a little facetious, but when is a death "patriotic" and when is it just "run of the mill".  When does it call for the recitation of names on that day for 11 years? When are others who have been lost remembered?
I read an article once on terrorism in Israel. It stated that terrorists like to strike common areas because they want you to be afraid. They want you to change your life, never leave the house, give in to the fear. They want to control your life. A cafe was bombed and a number of people were killed. The next day, Israelis were lined up outside the cafe, waiting to buy a coffee from the bombed out shell of a building. Sometimes, I wish our collective reaction as Americans was to face the fear head-on. To rebuild those towers, to fill them up with businesses, to get on planes without enormous hassle. To trust each other again.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It figures that...

Our first piece of furniture is bike-related :)

A beginning...

A list of a few things we've done in the past year or so:
April 2011: I defended my thesis
June 2011: I started a postdoc at CHOP
August 2011: My bridal shower in the 'Nard and final wedding preparations
September 2011: My bridal shower in Philly; the ING Rock N Roll half marathon; job interview at Harvard
October 2011: We got married! And honeymooned in Yosemite!
November 2011: Both Alex and I had job interviews in CA; spent Thanksgiving and my birthday apart; Philly marathon
December 2011: Finally a quiet month at home...but a bit of a bummer because we couldn't visit family or friends for the holidays; Finalized our decisions to head out to Stanford for postdocs
January-February 2012: Work really ramped up - working at least 60 hours a week for both of us
March 2012: Alex applies for NRSA and begins the process of writing his thesis
April 2012: NRSA submitted, but thesis writing continues; bought a car
May 2012: Only one month left till we leave, work ramps up even more. Alex's defense and the whole family comes - lots of fun!
June 2012: begin final preparations to move, try to map out a lovely drive across the country, wrap up at work, say goodbye to friends
July 2012: Begin our trip, including stops in Baltimore, MD; the Berkshires, MA; Salem, MA; Boston, MA; Ausable Chasm, NY; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Alexandria Bay, NY, on the banks of the St. Lawrence; Scottsville, NY; Rochester, NY; Niagara Falls, NY and Canada; Erie, PA; Geneva on the Lake, OH; Dearborn, MI; Chicago, IL; Eagle, WI; Cross Plains, WI; Sioux Falls, SD; Devil's Tower, WY; Sheridan, WY; Yellowstone, WY; Salt Lake City, UT; Colorado Springs, CO; St. George, UT, Oxnard, CA and then FINALLY to the Bay, CA.
Sept 2012: Started work at Stanford as a postdoc. Found a ridiculously expensive apartment 9 miles from campus.

Phew! I'm tired just thinking about all that stuff. Here's to new beginnings....