Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Numbers

  • On Friday, we went to our 3rd dance party at the Society Hill Dance Academy (SHDA). It's a great chance to learn new dances, practice the ones you already know, and try to re-learn the ones you've forgotten. We met a couple new people, tried out the Bachata and the ChaCha, and altogether had a great time. I think that every week we are improving, which is awesome to see. 
  • Saturday was a lost cause. I spent the day formatting stuff for my thesis, and sending about 1000 emails back and forth with my boss regarding figures and papers and junk, oh my!
  • Sunday, we ran some errands, hitting up Reading Terminal and TJs and then I attempted to do some more wedding planning. Things are moving along, but seem to require a fair bit of phone time, computer time, and general time. I also did about 3 loads of laundry, refilled the bird feeder for about the 500th time and made a chicken.
  • This week we start our first Dance Showcase group. We are taking a swing group class, with seven other couples, and we will be performing for a group of people (as far as I know, for a class reunion of some sort). It should be a blast as I really love to swing dance and I am looking forward getting better at it!
  • Also, Alex and I have been practicing for our first ever dance performance, next Friday, at the Valentine's Day dance at the studio. We have been having a great time learning new moves and attempting to look OK while doing them. We were going to do a lift, but thankfully, that was eliminated in the final choreography, phew! Should be fun (I'm just hoping I don't fall down!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Haiku Modern Housewife Friday

Slow cooked a chicken
for a little bit too long
it was very good.


Took the pieces and
parts, made some great chicken stock
in a pot that night


Snow day, so took the
stock, processed it and made squash
and apple soup. Yum!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Moving on...

I can get a lot done in a day. You know me, no beating around the bush, right. I talked to one of my thesis committee members yesterday and that ended up being a huge relief. I told him I was thinking about doing a postdoc around Penn for a year while Alex finishes up, and he told me that was a really good idea, which ended up being a relief for me. The last year or so in the lab I'm in has been so disappointing. Deadlines not met, struggling with the boss, trying to stay motivated when there's literally NO ONE else in the lab. Lonely much? You know me, I'm a social creature by nature. All this working alone with no feedback and no interaction has been really hard for me (that's an understatement!). The moment I realized I could be done with this situation in an instant was when I started feeling better. There are a couple labs here at Penn that I really like and admire and I think I'll apply to one of those, see if they'll take me for a year. I'm a good worker, I'm organized, and I'd love to do something else. Between now and then, I think I will try to get some things done for the wedding, and I'll focus on working hard and finishing up. And then?

I won't look back :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oh, Lady Gaga...

Really creative and funny!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Not Really Numbers

  • On Friday, we got about 2 inches of snow. While snow is really pretty, I have to admit, I am so ready for spring to show up. Only 2 more months, right? Ugh...
  • Friday night, we headed over to our dance studio, and we tried our hand at dancing a few dances socially and not just in our lessons. We had so much fun, and we are slowly but surely getting better at dance. I have to say I can't recommend dance more. If you have the time for a date night, it's so worth the money. It's fun, requires very little brain power, and it actually helps in communication, which is great. I love it!
  • Saturday was errand day. We spent it running around town, eating dim sum in Chinatown, attempting to build a wedding registry at Macy's, hitting up Reading Terminal for some produce, and then heading out to Trader Joe's for groceries. Macy's was pretty dumb, as there was no one to help us try to register. We ended up walking around the store aimlessly, making notes about things we liked on a piece of paper, thinking we could enter things easily online. Turned out to be not the case. We ended up spending several hours looking things up online and building a small registry, just to decide that we'd rather not register there. Went with Sur La Table and Bed, Bath and Beyond instead. We'll probably also register on Amazon or Target or something like that. 
  • Building a registry is slightly hilarious. There are certain things that I've always known that I wanted, like the Fiesta dinnerware (I've wanted those since I was a kid - I guess I'm just a classic!). Alex looks at the plates and wants to know how far they will fly! Then, we start talking about other things we might want to register for, like sheets, towels, etc. Alex is super concerned about a carving board and an ice cream scoop! He also thinks that I need a Hobart mixer (they make mixers for restaurants) and an antique coffee grinder (from 1900ish). Isn't it funny when you discover the things that he is thinking about and super concerned about? That just really cracked me up!
  • They were filming a movie in Philly on Saturday, pretty much all day. They shut down a major street (Market St) to everyone, including pedestrians. I really hate it when they do that. We had to walk quite a few blocks out of our way, and then slip and slide down an icy embankment just to make it to TJ's. Ludicrous! I can remember hanging out on Zuma beach when they were filming Baywatch, and as long as they weren't filming that absolute second, they would let you walk past / through the set. Amateurs here, that's my opinion.
  • Today, I spent another several hours attempting to iron out the registries and working on the old wedding website. I realize I'm a little early on this, but we are sending out the "Save the Dates" soon, so I want to make sure that our advice for traveling is clear, and several people have suggested having at least some registries up and running, just in case people start sending gifts sooner than later. I sort of can't believe how fast time is moving and how relatively close our wedding day is. I am really most excited about seeing everyone together and hanging out with everyone, and especially introducing Alex to all those people in my life that he hasn't met. I think I'm gonna need a lot of Red Bull :)
  • Coming home last night, I managed to clumsily knock over my brand new coffee mug for my coffee holder on my bike. I managed to break it (whoops!) and I was so mad at myself. Alex had gotten it for me for Christmas, and it was the only coffee mug I owned with a spill proof seal on it (riding a bike tends to shake up your coffee a bit - and, if you're not careful, it will spill all over you!). Today, Alex went out for a bike ride (in seriously cold weather), found a Target, and got me another mug. How great is he? I can't believe my clumsy ass deserves another fancy mug, but I will try not to break it again. I just love that guy! Guess that's why I'm marrying him! In only, like 252 days, or something like that!
  • I managed to address about 25 save the date cards on Sunday. We are sending out family and wedding party people first, just so sending out a hundred cards doesn't seem so overwhelming. Did I work at all on the paper I'm writing? Nope, but I hope I can get somethings done soon!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


One of the members of my thesis committee, Tom, died today. I just got the email. He had been battling cancer and had had a pretty risky surgery a few weeks ago, but he seemed to be recovering well. I am just so sad about this. Not only was he one of my committee members, but he was also a colleague and a friend and a really great scientist. I took a class with him when I was a first year. He was this really amazing scientist, had done some really wonderful things, and here he was, laughing and joking and amiable as they come. I was intimidated by his intelligence, but his reprimands were always delivered with a lot of heart, making you a better scientist, a more critical thinking, without putting anyone down. He set up the class in a way that we participated, and we wanted to participate. The class was always full, every year, such that people had to justify why they were taking the class in order to get it. Tom was jovial, always had a smile on his face, and came up with great questions and ideas and discussions. From the time of the class until now (nearly 8 years later), Tom has been a presence in my life at school. He's always been supportive and engaged in my committee meetings, he's attended seminars weekly (so much so, that, when he's absent, it's weird). I attended the defense of his student, I asked his opinion on my prelim, I asked his advice on postdocs and careers. And now, he's gone. Poof. Just like that. And, inexplicable (or perhaps not), I've had Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" going around and around in my head. Tom, you will never know how many lives you have touched, how many scientists you have encouraged and influenced. I am so glad I was able to have you as a mentor and a colleague for as long as I did. You are truly the example of exceptional scientist that I want to emulate. This is a hole in our departments and our lives. My sincerest thoughts and condolences go out to your family and friends. I'm just not sure what we'll do without you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stori Telling by Tori Spelling

Yes, I wanted this book. Yes, my Mom bought it for me for Christmas. Yes, I read it in nearly one sitting (OK, maybe two). And, yes, I loved this book. Here's why:
I've been a fan of Tori Spelling since I was a teenager, watching Beverly Hills, 90210. One of my favorite characters was Donna, mostly because she was on the show from the beginning to the end, and the series finale showed her finally marrying her longtime boyfriend, David (awwww.....yes, I'm a romantic at heart!). I also watched Tori Spelling on some of her Lifetime movies - which were always dramatic and wonderful. The one I recall the most vividly is Mother, May I Sleep with Danger. I mean, you just can't get any more brilliant than that! So, Tori Spelling has been marketing the heck out of herself in the past few years, and I've been mostly just curious to read about what her life is like. Stori Telling is a memoir, of sorts, which chronicles her life up until a few years ago (when she so famously left her first husband for her now husband Dean McDermott). I haven't watched any of her more recent reality shows (Tori and Dean: Inn Love, etc.) so I have no idea what her life has been like. I've never really read a celebrity autobiography before, and I must say that I really enjoyed it. I can see why she would really want to write this book - she's very frank and honest (as far as I can tell) and she seems almost desperate that you like her and that you identify with her in the book. She is determined to convince you that she's as "normal" as they come, and I can somewhat see where she's coming from. It's interesting that we somehow always think that celebrities have things "figured out", so to speak. We always think they are so together, perhaps more so than we are ourselves (I mean, why would we always take their advice on diet, exercise, or how to live our lives if we don't think of them as some sort of superior human, right? also, I am ignoring, for the time being, such celebrities as Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears who have publicly broken down and struggled - perhaps we don't see them as "having it together"). Spelling actually addresses some of the most painful parts of her life with candor, including the ultimate break-up of her first marriage, several somewhat abusive relationships, as well as the relationship she has with her mother (which has been played out in the tabloids to no end!). One thing that struck me is that Tori Spelling seems to have experienced a lot of things I experienced in my life, but just so much more in the public eye. She had a couple crappy boyfriends who tried to take her money. I remember having boyfriends who always asked me to pay for things (like dinner or the movie), but I didn't have millions to lose. I only has twenties, if that. I've fought with my mother (although she portrays her mother as being so out of touch with reality that I can't really identify with that) but it's never been front page news. I've experienced a really rough break-up that was ugly and difficult and harsh, but it wasn't in the tabloids. To a certain extent, I kind of felt bad for her. She never really grew up, and she was never really allowed to. And the way she dealt with things was inane, at best. At another extreme, this book is somewhat about "finding" yourself, which is a journey most of us are on most of our lives. In this book, Spelling find her voice, her place in the world, and her cojones, so to speak, which is a wonderful tale. I'm not sure how much of this tale is true, but it's a great, light read, and it sheds some light on the way "the rich folks" live, which was interesting. But it's not deep, meaningful literature, if that's what you're looking for. At this point in time, I'm looking for lovely fantasy with some bits of drama, which is exactly what Spelling delivers.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Numbers

  • This weekend, I worked at least 12 hours - most of Saturday and most of Sunday. Not to mention the time I spent working from home. We're trying to submit two papers this month (because my boss has slacked off in the last few months) so that translates into long hours for me. It's always a bummer to work all weekend, mostly because I just don't get that "recharge" that I normally would with a day off. I also don't get those other things, like grocery shopping, laundry, housecleaning, etc. done. I can totally see why people would have maids, cooks, and assistants if one were rich. 
  • I still managed to read 2 books this past weekend. I spent the majority of Friday night under a blanket on the couch, reading one of my Christmas gifts. And then I decided to re-read Harry Potter for about the umpteen-billionth time. I just love those books!
  • We watched the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince movie on Saturday night, mostly because I couldn't manage to do anything else - my brain is largely dead at this point!
  • Alex made about 6 liters of potato-kale soup. It turned out delicious, and appears to contain all 5 vegetable servings in one meal! It's now lasted us 3 days, while normal leftovers might not even survive the night. I swear boys eat more food than I could ever imagine. I mean, Alex often (as in, daily) goes back for thirds! Who does that?
  • Last night, we got home in time to see the Eagles fail miserably and pathetically at an attempt to beat the Packers. I almost heard circus music while watching that game. I mean, who throws and interception in their own end-zone in the last 30 seconds of a game? Oh well, at least we still have Cliff Lee...
  • On Saturday, we got approximately 5 inches of snow. I like the snow, but it forces me to have to walk into work (which is about 3 miles). The bike ride usually takes about 30 minutes, but the walk can take almost one hour - seems excessive to spend 2 hours a day commuting to work on the weekends, even if I am walking and getting exercise instead of sitting in a car....

Friday, January 7, 2011

Haiku Snowy Friday

Walk into work hoy
No biking for me, it's just
a little snowy!


Working weekend with 
the boss, finally getting
needed advice.


So much to do, so
little time; I think I need
project managers.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Politics as Usual

  • Sometimes I wonder if Republicans are naive or just plain dumb. They're screaming and yelling about balancing the budget and are threatening to cut everywhere but the biggest budget of them all - the DOD! I'm not talking about cutting troops, or cutting benefits. I'm talking about the two useless wars we're in, the ridiculous Drone operations, the CIA operatives who torture people and operate secret prisons and Guantanamo Bay. Seriously - there isn't anywhere in the UNLIMITED Defense budget that could be cut? No, it's much better to cut people's Medicare or Medicaid. Old folks don't need healthcare anyways, right?
  • Speaking of balancing the budget - why has no one thought about the positive effects that both legalizing gay marriage and legalizing pot could have on the economy? Seriously, you're opening up the wedding business (which is a whole ridiculous thing in and of itself) to a percentage of the population that historically spends money on the finer things. And pot? Tax the hell out of it, just like you do for booze or cigarettes. Has nobody thought of this?
  • It bothers me that people have decided to censor Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. I understand that some words in the book may be offensive, but I think it opens up a dialogue that absolutely must be approached and talked about. I think the minute we start to censor history is the minute we begin to repeat it. 
  •  I am really glad that the President and Congress repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". I can't imagine what the big deal is if someone's gay and they're serving in the military. It just seems like some insecure Marines are going to have to get over themselves. And mostly? It seems like to old guys were the ones with the biggest problems with it. Hopefully homophobia is one of those things that will die out with the older generation. 
  • Not only was the initial study linking vaccines to Autism retracted from The Lancet, but it was found to contain fabricated data. It disturbs me that people will continue to believe that vaccines cause autism (no matter how reliable and reproducible the science disproving that link is). I suppose if it only affected those people then I wouldn't really mind that much. But since it affects all of us (and most of all the newborns babies) it really bugs me that people could be so selfish. I guess it doesn't surprise me, though. Autism is likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors which we haven't fully identified. The truth is that we don't know how the brain works and how it processes different kinds of information, but we are learning new things every day. And with earlier and earlier diagnoses and interventions, I believe we are on the right path to identification of the causes of autism. It's just a shame that a fraudulent scientist and a bunch of idiotic celebrities have created a monster that is not likely to go away anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

I picked up this book a few months ago because so many people (including Alex's Mom) recommended it to me. And they weren't wrong. This book is phenomenal. I really, really loved it (and Alex did, too - we normally don't exactly see eye-to-eye on reading materials, either). This book is by Chris McDougall, a former AP reporter who now writes for magazines like Men's Health and Runner's World. His journey begins when he injures himself running and ends with him running a 50 mile odyssey through the Mexican Copper Canyons. What lies in between is a story of adventure, intrigue, amazing human abilities, a little bit of science and a whole lot of heart and soul. McDougall had heard about a group of native Mexicans called the Tarahumara who are phenomenal runners. They live in the Copper Canyon, basically in the middle of nowhere, and they are known for running extreme distances (not like a marathon, like 4 or 8 marathons, or 100-200 miles at a time!). McDougall begins by asking how a group of people who live in harsh conditions and arguably don't have access to our technologies (shoes, nutrition, etc.) can run such extreme distances without the injuries and setbacks that he has faced during his running lifetime. And it's not just him who has faced these setbacks - it's many other runners, too. So, he sets out to find out the "secrets" of the Tarahumara, and he comes upon a number of characters along the way.
There were several things that I loved about this book: mainly the emphasis on the idea that everyone struggles with their running. Everyone starts somewhere and ends up somewhere else. While his book obviously includes some of the most well known people in ultrarunning (races of much farther than a marathon, like 50-100 miles), it's written in such a way that I could identify with the characters, and with their dilemmas. While most of us wouldn't just head out for a 20 mile run "for the fun of it", I could identify with using running (or anything sport or exercise, really) to make me a better person. I loved that some of the best ultrarunners are women, and some of them discovered they were great ultrarunners at a later stage in life, not when they were a teenager. I liked that ultrarunners walk as part of running. Granted, I walk as part of a 30 minute run sometimes, but it still made me feel OK about walking (instead of beating myself up over it). Ultrarunners have to listen to their bodies much more than a regular athlete, developing strategies for dealing with fatigue, hunger, motivation - which are all things I have to deal with, but perhaps in not such an extreme state. And to a certain extent, this book embodies the search for that feeling you had when you ran as a kid. I remember getting a jolt of energy, and just taking off, running as fast as I could, and just loving it. I didn't really think about my butt bouncing, or how much farther I had to go, or anything like that. I just ran. And when I got tired, I stopped, and then I ran some more. I don't do that anymore (and I haven't in a long, long time). Some of these people run for the sheer joy of it. And this book is, to a certain extent, how to regain that joy, and how to tap into that feeling during running.
This book reminded me that running can be a form of meditation. It never has to be perfect, and I don't have to run as fast or as far as anyone else. It reminded me to listen to my body, to feed it and care for it, and to sometime push it beyond its limits (they're always farther than you think). Human beings literally evolved to run, and it reminded me that we all have the ability to run, even if you think you don't. And it also reminded me that running isn't work. It's not a chore. It's a necessity in my life, and one that I don't want to lose. And it reminded me that running, throughout the book and beyond, is a metaphor for life. It's not always easy, and sometimes it's a struggle. But it's more fun to challenge yourself in life, to take risks and push your limits, than to limit yourself.
Read this book, even if you're not a runner. It just might turn you into one!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Numbers

  • I had 10 whole days off for a lovely "stay-cation". I stayed home and organized things (can you believe I still had unopened boxes from when we moved 6 months ago?), made a huge pile for the Goodwill, cleaned out the kitchen, switched out the summer clothes for the winter clothes and just in general took it pretty easy.
  • We got about 12 inches of snow on the day after Christmas. Then, the wind began to blow, and we ended up with 3 foot drifts all over the place. Our street is small and a dead end, so the city didn't bother to plow it. The snow's still melting!
  • I was able to read one book, which I'll likely review soon. I was also able to watch a whole lot of terrible movies, including Big, About a Boy, Some Kind of Wonderful and A Christmas Carol. I have to say that the streaming Netflix app on my iPhone is delightful, since I can go all over the house (wrapping presents, ironing, doing dishes) and watch a silly movie at the same time. It's great!
  • We cooked a 20lb turkey for Christmas dinner. Yeah, we're still eating it!
  • It was so nice to be a "housewife" for a bit and be able to make dinner for 6:30 or 7pm, which I think of as the time when normal people eat. It's so much better than getting home late, feeling so tired and starving and then putting something together only to eat around 10pm! Ah, the life of a grad student!
  • On Christmas Eve, we biked about 5 miles around the city to check out everyone's Christmas lights. Although they are likely nothing compared to the lights out in the 'burbs where people actually have yards, I was impressed. Although, it was pretty cold. My toes stared to freeze, so we headed back home.
  • At 10pm that night, we had someone try to get into our house. I was glad that we locked the door, because he seemed a little confused as to why he couldn't use our bathroom. I hope he found a warm place to stay that night. Ever need to see why drugs are bad? Come to my neighborhood sometime!
  • On New Year's Eve, we had 2 friends stop by and stay with us. We had a great time hanging out, heading out to bars and ringing in 2011! Here's hoping this year is much better than last!