Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Numbers Monday (a day late)

  • I finished my thesis over the weekend. It was 210 pages long. Yesterday, I submitted it to my committee. It feels good that I don't have to look at it for a week or so.
  • I put together my talk for my defense and I gave a practice talk yesterday. I think it went OK, but it needs some polishing, and a few extra slides to bring everything together. I ended up with 59 slides, but went through it in 30 minutes. Go figure that one out. 
  • Over the weekend, I spent most of my time on the computer, writing my thesis or putting my talk together. Other than that, I watched 2 movies and several episodes of the Cosby Show, season 1, just to chill out. Man, do I love the Cosby show! Don't even ask me why. 
  • It took me over 5 hours to print out my thesis on Sunday. Turns out there is a glitch in MSWord 2008 where figures won't print. Grand.
  • Today, I am fried. I went out to dinner last night with some friends to celebrate turning in my thesis. I had a lovely time, but today, I just a bit brain dead. Oh wait, I need a number....Last night, I had two glasses of punch and two glasses of wine. Perhaps thats why I'm brain dead?
  • I am on my 4th week of training for the Broad St run. On Sunday, I ran for about 1.5 hours, and I ended up running through a large crew event on the river. Have you ever seen these? They row these skinny little boats up and down the river every weekend. Seems like both high schools and colleges compete - it's a real interesting thing to run through. They're essentially camping out, grilling breakfast, putting up tents and hanging out all day. Seemed like it might be fun, but I think it's a really expensive sport. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Random Snippets, Thursday Edition

  • I have discovered that the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich is descended from the gods. More bacon? Yes, please!
  • Spring arrived and then left. I'm not sure why, but 38 degrees and rainy seems way colder than 20 and snowing.
  • My thesis was due yesterday. Have I turned it in yet? Nope.
  • My boss is back. Yes, it's weird.
  • I defend in less than 2 weeks!
  • I think buying a printer a couple months ago was a brilliant thing to do. 
  • I am thankful I have a second bedroom to completely destroy during this thesis writing process. 
  • My folks are coming one week from Saturday.
  • Alex will be gone all weekend. He's racing in upstate NY, somewhere. I really hope it's not snowing there.
  • Dave Brubeck is GOD.
  • I have lost my mind so much, that I made a Warhol version of one of my embryo pictures. The sad thing? It took me, like 10 minutes. What do you think?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Numbers

  • This weekend marked frantic madness surrounding the attempt to finish my dissertation. I struggled to come up with an eventual 17 pages of conclusions and future directions and I sent them off last night. I ended up making 5 extra figures to go along with my introduction chapter and my conclusions chapter. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on the computer.
  • On Saturday, we arose at 0530 (or, to Randi, oh-dark-thirty) to head to Fairmount Park for the annual Philly Phlyer bike race that Alex was partaking in. His first race, he took 3rd place and his second race, he took 8th, which is pretty awesome, considering there were at least 30-40 people in each race! He's awesome and I was just so proud of him :)
  • However, Saturday, it was cold, cold, cold. The wind was blowing and I had trouble keeping warm while watching the races. Even though it was probably in the 40s, which should be warm for us, it just wasn't. It took me 2 pots of tea before I warmed up!
  • Saturday and Sunday, for the most part, was swallowed up by copious time on the computer. Probably around 24 hours, at least. Ugh.
  • I did, however, manage to do 5 loads of laundry yesterday. Somedays I am really thankful that I have a washer and dryer do all the work for me - could you imagine if I had to do all this AND beat my laundry with a rock? Thank god for small conveniences :)
  • I get to head to CA in one month! Woohoo! My folks will be here in less than 2 weeks!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Magazine Rant

I read the magazine Shape. I have for a long period of time. I like the features that highlight some of the scientific findings in health and fitness, and I like to read a magazine about empowering women to be fit. I like the "work outs" because I am normally so intimidated by the weight machines and weights at the gym (or by figuring out how to target muscle groups, etc). I like it as a reference and an easy read. Some of the stories are inspirational, and the magazine highlights some "normal" women who are "just like you!", which is kinda nice. They also purport to not airbrush the women on the cover (although they are heavily make-upped, lighted and "done up", I always liked that honesty. As in, these women have worked their asses off to look like this, we're not going to change a thing, right? However, they have recently changed the format of their magazine, and I have been getting more and more irritated with the changes they have made. The most recent issue might be my last. While I understand these magazines can be slightly ridiculous, this magazine was one that I used to enjoy. However...well, let's just see what you think...

In their regular feature, "Shape your life: Sex", all three of the tidbits of advice apply to the guy, not the girl. As a women's magazine, I think this is absolutely ridiculous. The first piece of advice is to have morning sex. While not the most shocking thing, it goes on to say that women aren't often "in the mood" in the morning, but the guy is. Therefore, you should sleep naked to get him even more aroused, and then morning sex could make your day better. The second tidbit of advice is to not let the man in your life see you do things like floss, shave, or pop zits. You should close the door to retain a bit of "mystery". And lastly, you should take a vacation to a tropical island so the man in your life can get some vitamin D, boosting his testosterone levels, and upping his sex drive.
  • OK, are you kidding me? There are thousands of women who report not being satisfied by their sex life, and you go and report on how to turn him on? I mean, lets just ignore the fact that none of these pieces of advice should be repeated. Why not talk about how women can get more satisfaction out of their sex life? Why not talk about how to find the time in the day, what to do if you're tired, the kids are screaming, there's laundry to be done? How about how to find time for yourself? How to maintain work/life balance? Hell, how to satisfy yourself? How to communicate in bed? How to find the G-spot (sorry, I went there...)? Were all of these things not valid? What if your significant other's sex drive is higher than yours? Yours is higher than his or hers? Were there no tidbits of information that might help a woman out? At all? All of them had to be about the guy? Oh, I could go on and on...
In another feature, the "Get Fit Workout of the Month", the magazine chooses to highlight the thighs and what moves to do to work them out. I usually like this feature because it includes a little breakdown on the muscle groups here, and it shows you ways to work them with machines at the gym. As an introduction, the magazine wrote this is highlighted, bold pink lettering, "If your thighs rub together, you know exactly what we're talking about, and if they don't, you probably work hard to keep them that way." Below this is written, "This month, we're going to help you conquer this common trouble spot so you can expend your mental energy on more important things - like which heels make your legs look sexier."
  • Once again, are you kidding me? Firstly, your legs are a part of your anatomy. They are shaped that way for a reason!!! Thigh "jiggle" and thighs touching? OK, it's now become patently clear that our view of womens' bodies is so distorted because models' already thin thighs are photoshopped to not include that area of your thighs that (horror!) touches. Why not highlight things about your thighs that you might want to improve on. Or things that you might not realize. Like running only works part of your thighs, cycling might work another. Balancing your muscle proportions out might help you get better at the sport you enjoy. Secondly, please don't patronize me by saying that I am spending "mental energy" on why my thighs touch and what to do about it. Please also don't make a blanket statement about how I want to spend my mental energy on shoes. I spend my mental energy on things like current events, family, friends, work, school, and books I enjoy. My thighs (as ugly and imperfect as you think they are) carry me to all these events where I spend my mental energy, so just shut your trap about that, would ya?
  • This idea that women are constantly worrying over distinct parts of their bodies really worries me. Why focus on discrete parts of your body when, for the most part, all things function? Why not talk about wanting strong thighs so you can pick up your kids? Because weight bearing exercise helps prevent osteoporosis? Because you have always wanted to try out spin class? Why not put a positive spin on things, instead of pointing out the things that they think might be "wrong" with you?
Besides these two glaring points, it includes an interview with Sofia Vergara, an actress, talking about her "killer curves". This article is written from an odd point of view. Instead of celebrating the way she looks, the writer seems almost incredulous that she's happy in her skin. Vergara doesn't seem to work out to look good (and she even says it's a part of her job, which I actually enjoyed for the honesty). The cover includes an "overlay" of Vergara in a dress - they you can peel that off and find her picture in a bikini (which is what most covers look like). Why is she not in a bikini for the regular cover? I just don't get it. Also, the magazine is chock full of ads for botox, quick weight loss supplements or pills, and food supplements that are awful for you. I realize that a magazine has to pay it's bills, but, honestly, I am just sick of it.

In the US, there is an obesity epidemic that will lead to terrible consequences. Lying to people by saying that diet and exercise don't matter is not going to help the cause at all. Exercise and diet choices need to be made accessible for everyone. And while I realize that Shape Magazine is not the spokesperson to the world, it's down to earth message of "You can do this!" is a great place to find motivation. However, not everyone has a super skinny body, not everyone is super concerned about touching thighs or the little fold of skin in the armpit. Everyone should be concerned with ways to fit in exercise on a daily basis. Ways to make healthy diet choices, how to shop for better food. How not to pass on these ridiculous ideas on body snarking and body image to our sons and daughters, who will likely bear the brunt of this obesity epidemic. How to cut back on processed food. What are processed foods? Where do they come from? How do I exercise with a toddler? How do I get my significant other to support my goals? How do I sign up for a race? How do I find other people who want to go to the gym with me? How do I live to be 100? How do I do all of this while being depressed about losing my job and my home?
Seriously, I think there are so many things these magazines could focus on. Positive spins on ways to get motivated, get moving and be active. But they disappoint me month after month, with their crap about ridiculously inane ideas of how my body should look. Well, I'm sorry, Shape, but you've just lost a subscriber.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Haiku Spring Day Friday

Spring is in the air
Warm sun, blooming trees, robins
Honking geese, green grass.


New beginnings, a
fresh start, a new outlook, the
world is renewing.


Warm days ahead, life
begins anew, new chicks, new
leaves, fresh air, fresh start!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Becoming a Runner

I don't have a lot to write about these days, as my life is filled with writing, then reading, then more writing and the occasional dance class. But I do run. Almost everyday. I haven't always been a runner. I decided one day that I wanted to be a runner, and so I started running. Just like that. I decided to start running for a number of different reasons. I don't like feeling tired. I wanted to have a "hobby". I wanted a reason to get outside. I wanted something that wasn't hard, didn't require a lot of equipment, something I could do alone. I wanted to keep up with Alex, who is a sports enthusiast. I wanted to be an athlete. I wanted to run a race, to finish a race. I wanted a challenge. A lot of people have a perception that running is hard. It is both hard and not hard. It's actually pretty easy to run. Your body knows how to already. The harder things are to keep running, to convince yourself to run in that rainstorm, or when it's icy or windy outside. When running moves from physical to mental, that's when it gets hard. So, I've done a few things, tried a few things, and I thought I would write them down.
  • Start slow. As in, walk for 10 mins, then alternate running 10 seconds, walk a minute (or run longer, if you can). Cool down with a 5-10 min walk.
  • Don't worry about what you look like. People are not looking at you funny, trust me.
  • Pick a place that's pretty. Run along a waterway, a tree-lined street, a trail. Pick someplace interesting and pay attention to things around you. This morning? I saw a hawk circling and landing in a tree. Every day, I see robins running around the grass. Recently, I've seen the buds emerging on the tree (Spring is here - yay!). These things are so simple, yet so pretty. You forget you're running for a moment.
  • Make it short. Start with 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever you have in your day. I usually get up, allow myself a cup of coffee and a cup of juice and then I'm putting on my shoes and heading out the door, before I can even think about it.
  • Say hi to people you seen.
  • Try running without headphones at first. Pay attention to your breathing - I breathe in two steps, breathe out two steps. That's my rhythm. Yours might be different.
  • Buy a good bra. They cost around $40, but they're worth it. 
  • Spandex is actually a wonderful invention. Everything is kinda held in place, your thighs don't rub together to cause discomfort, and the shorts are usually a bit longer, which I like. Plus, you're a runner, so you can wear things like this without abandon!
  • Start calling yourself a runner as soon as possible. There's no set amount of time you need to run, no set distance you need to go before you self-identify. If you run, you're a runner.
  • Tell yourself you can stop and walk whenever you want to. Sometimes you might need to. Other times you might not. 
  • Push yourself, but don't hurt yourself. Make a goal of running to the next lightpost? Good for you! Make a goal of running a marathon next month? Bad idea. Keep things in perspective. 
  • If stuff hurts, take it easy. Don't beat yourself up over it. Take an ibuprofen and give it a rest. 
  • Don't think about speed or distance. Ease into things. Also, don't compare yourself to others you might see out there. I always think to myself, "I have no idea what training plan they are on. Maybe they are on a "push it" day. Maybe I am on a "resting" day. The only thing that matters is that I am moving. That has nothing to do with anyone else out there."
  • Take care of yourself. Watch your feet. Get good shoes and socks. Take the hair out of your eyes. Buy yourself a sports shirt or shorts. Eat more fruit and veggies. Thank your body for carrying you as far as it did.
  • Take your camera, or your ipod, or anything that might motivate you. It's usually pretty nice outside. Get out there. Sign up for a local 5K for a month from now. Just get up, get out and run. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clothing/Working Rant

I'm defending my thesis in about three weeks. I need to purchase some type of business clothing (as a grad student, I just don't have any!) so I headed to Ann Taylor Loft on Penn campus the other day. Granted, I realize this was not the best idea. Ann Taylor has some nice business attire, while Ann Taylor Loft seems to cater to the younger kids with more casual things (that are still kind of dressy to this CA native! Ha!). So, I realize this was my first mistake - any time I try to utilize a business on campus, the customer service is terrible. I usually just chalk it up to college students working part time and not really caring about their job. I was fully aware of this at the time that I chose to look at this store, so you can absolutely blame me for what transpired.
Like most stores in our area, the minute you walk in, someone says "Hi! How are you today?!?!?!" It's not so much of a greeting or a question, it's more of a statement. Like, proving they are there in the store. There is never a question like, "Do you need help finding anything?" So, I start to wander around the store. They have a few things that are potential, so I pick up pants and shirts and a couple dresses in two to three sizes each (more on that later). I've got my hand full. The workers are standing by the "folding table", perhaps putting away clothing...having a loud and involved conversation about Friday night, Jason, a party and "that girl". It takes them several minutes to notice me drowning in clothing (I absolutely could have asked for a dressing room) and one of them offers to get me a room. I continue to shop, grabbing this, that and the other thing, trying to make a business outfit out of what they have. I even pick up some Blanche Devereaux-type billowy, flowery blouses since they're everywhere and I think, "Well, I don't know what they look like unless I try them on." Occasionally, I have looked at something on a hanger and it looks terrible, but on, it looks great. So, I try to be open minded in the whole process.
Finally, I get my stuff and head to the dressing room. I start trying on clothing, and some of it looks OK, some of it not. I usually wear about a size 8. However, I have clothing in my closet that ranges from a 6 to a 12 (my wedding dress? a 14 - go figure!). I'm also short, about 5'3", so I sometimes wear things in petite because the regular size can be way too long (who wants to wear shirts that literally come down to my crotch?) So, I'm pretty much an 8 on the bottom and usually a 10 or 12 on top. The problem is mainly the boobs. I am between a 36-38C in the chest department. I have the impression that, although they appear large on me and my frame, that this size is rather common. So, I picked up dress pants in an 8 and a 10. The 10 was way too big - I looked like I was wearing saggy pants! and the 8s were just a bit too small. They created those "lines" across my hips, which I hate. I tried on another pair, and even though they were marked "petite", they bunched up in the crotch region, which I also hate. I understand that nobody can make pants that fit everyone, but I feel like these are common problems with a lot of my friends.
The shirts were ridiculous too. The Blanche Devereaux shirts? Yup, they made me look like a 65 year old Floridian in the 80s. The dresses bunched up in weird places, or were exceedingly short (I mean, like I said - I'm 5'3" - how could they be short on me?). One of the dresses (although a size 10) I could not even zip up in the back because it smashed my boobs so much. Ugh. Trying on clothes is a drag!
I found a shirt I really liked, white button down, short sleeves with a little ruffle collar around the neck and in the front. It wasn't too low cut, but did have a nice shape. Well, the 10, I could not even button. The 12? In petite, I couldn't button it, and in regular, it extended past my hips - for a shirt that I would tuck in to likely somewhat form fitting pants? Not gonna work!
In the meantime, there is no one in the store. It's a Monday afternoon, and the working girls are gabbing away. At one point, one of them came in to offer help, get me a new size, etc. She did do that, but she never returned after that to see if those sizes fit. I finally ended up packing up my things and heading home - they didn't even spend a minute to say "Bye!!!!!"
To a certain extent, I'm not really what the point of this post is. But, for the record, I occasionally want help at a store. Not all the time, but when I have something in particular in mind, it would be really helpful to have someone familiar with the merchandise to guide me. I realize the days of excellent customer service are long gone. I guess, mostly, I am asking that people actually do the job they are paid for. It's clear these associates are not paid on commission, otherwise, they would have fallen all over me, trying to sell me stuff (I'm not sure if that's what I wanted, either).
I'm not sure if perhaps I was judged on my appearance. I was wearing jeans and a waffle-T that says Jackson, WY. I had on a fleece and a North Face jacket. My bike helmet was hanging off my overly large backpack, and I may have been a little sweaty from wearing too many layers in the Spring. I've often thought about the scene in Pretty Woman where she walks into a snobby store she had been kicked out of previously and shows them she has the money to purchase anything in the store. Of course, she leaves (and that's something that I couldn't pull off, for sure! Ha!). I guess common courtesy and kindness are just missing. I could be like that Facebook guy who always wears grubby clothes, but they would never know.
I guess it's obvious that a company cannot just force their employees to say things ("Hi! Welcome to Ann Taylor!", "Would you like to put your purchase on your Macy's card?", etc) that don't really mean anything. The majority of the time, the employees do not want to help you, especially if they are making $6 an hour at a crappy job. I'm not sure if there is an answer to this, other than retail stores should value their employees more to create a work environment in which people want to work, not just where they show up and stand around all day. Don't get me wrong, I know that working retail is a pain. I realize that customers are demanding, and having a do-nothing at work day might be restful and meaningful. I could have asserted myself - I could have just walked into the middle of their conversation and told them I wanted help. That wasn't beyond me. I guess I just don't want to force people to work if they don't want to.
And lastly, why have clothing makers not caught on to women's different body types? Honestly, I am so tired of trying to find clothing that fits, trying to find an 8, then a 10, then a 12 and being really disappointed because the 12 fits my boobs, but I'm swimming in it everywhere else. I also realize that I am shopping at cheaper places. I honestly can't afford much higher than Ann Taylor, although I would love to use the personal shopper at Nordstrom's for a day. I'm unclear why women's clothing is not more like men's clothing. A waist size and a length? Fine by me (although it would have to have different cuts, for those with a booty like me!). A bra size when shopping for shirts (and then a choice of Small, Medium or Large, or something like that?) Hallelujah! Dresses that come in different sizes on the top vs. the bottom? Stores that do alterations? I know that, likely, at the more expensive stores and the places where clothing costs way more that I would probably find these things. I realize that a nice suit could cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. I'm just unable to afford that right now. And I understand that manufacturing has to be "cookie cutter" to a certain extent, since things are made in such large quantities. Its funny to think about because my Grandma made a lot of my Mom's clothes when she was a kid (even her high school graduation dress) and my Mom hated it. She wanted clothes with the designer labels on it, clothes that didn't look like they were made at home. Now, here we are, 40 year later, and I would love to have someone make me some clothes - especially clothes that were tailored for my body. It's funny how time moves backwards, isn't it?
Wow, so this turned into an exorbitantly long post - sorry about that. I guess I needed to get something off my chest -like these too-tight shirts these damn stores sell!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Numbers Monday (a day late)

  • This weekend marked more writing for me. I didn't really leave the house for 4 days straight - thesis writing and all. I wrote a ~20pg introduction this past weekend, and now I have to work on re-reading it to make sure it makes sense. Oh, and that whole "bibliography thing". Ugh, citations. 
  • I did, however, manage to get in a couple runs and bike rides. You see, I'm training for the Broad St. run, a 10 mile run from North Broad to the Sports Complex in South Philly. It's a great run, and I did it last year. Lots of people come out to cheer you on and the field includes some 30,000 people. Nope, not a typo. Really, that many people - cool, eh?
  • The weather has become pleasantly warm recently. It's been in the 50s during most days, so I've been enjoying some time outdoors. Although it's still not warm enough to forgo the sweater and jacket combo, if you're moving, it's quite pleasant. 
  • I've been trying not to read too much about Japan. I find the entire situation absolutely terrifying. I can't believe there is meltdown occurring in 4 nuclear reactors. Holy moly - I hope they figure out something soon!
  • I have one chapter left to write for my thesis. One measly chapter and then I'm DONE :)
  • I've spent approximately 4 hours this morning catching up on emails. I didn't even check those from Feb - just those from March. Ugh. 
  • OK, time to write a few pages and get moving. As Randi would say, "Get 'er done!"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Business of Being Born

I have a lot of friends who have recently had babies or who are pregnant now, so this subject matter is at the front of my mind a lot. Plus, I literally work at a hospital, so I see all sorts o reminders of people being sick and situations that I don't want to be in, so the whole act of "having a baby" is something that has always fascinated me. The premise of this movie is that the majority of births in the Unites States occur in hospitals, which has effectively put the midwife out of business. Ricki Lake and colleagues follow around a prominent midwife to multiple home births and make the point that if you're a healthy mom and you have a normal pregnancy, then hospital birth may make things more complicated than you realize. The female body knows precisely how to have a baby and interventions normally used in the hospital can affect everything, from the progress of labor to the type of birth that ends up happening. The documentary attempts to show normal, natural birth at home as a way of normalizing home birth and introducing the general public to the art of midwifery. I have never given birth, so my first-hand knowledge of this is null, but I am a scientist and I do understand statistics. I do know that if you begin interventions (labor induction, epidural, etc) your chances of having a C-section are significantly increased. From personal experience, I do know that your brain will act totally wacko when you are in situations of pain or extreme discomfort - making you kind of "high", for lack of a better word. And I do know that women have been having children for thousands of years, so, theoretically, we should know what we are doing. I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was well done, and I thought it did shed some light on the act of home birth in trying to normalize the idea for people. I do think that it's likely an unrealistic choice for most people who do not live in a large, urban area. I think the best thing about New York (and Philly, too) is that there are hospitals within close proximity to most residences. Such that, if a complication occurs, you head to the hospital as soon as you can and you and the baby are likely OK. I do think that, if faced with the prospect of giving birth, I would likely employ a midwife as the midwives I have met have had a certain personality, a confidence, which I think would be comforting and soothing in extreme situations. Doctors with a good bedside manner, with patience? I have met few. I think the documentary is quite one-sided, but I did enjoy the idea that women should feel empowered to have their children as they want to - that birth plans should not be changed to suit the needs of the doctor or nurses. However, I don't think the film fully explored rational thought and the risks involved. While there were statistics involved in hospital births, there were few statistics involved in home birth - what are the risks? While, of course, the midwife shows up with equipment - for example, does she have the ability to stop maternal hemorrhage? While the documentary says that the US has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the developed world, is this actually due to hospital births? Or the loss of the art of midwifery? Or horrible prenatal care? Or the lack of healthcare for poor people? I mean, I can't imagine that people giving birth in hospitals are more likely to die, right? I guess a lot of this I just don't know. The home births were stunningly beautiful and really amazing. I cried at each one. I love the idea of being home, recovering at home, and just staying there, without interventions. I love the idea of letting my body take over, letting it do what it needs to (easier said than done, I am sure) and I love the idea of midwifery, which has been practiced and passed on for thousands of years. Altogether, this film made me think a lot about birth in general, birth on a personal level, and all of the physiologic processes that occur at birth that we don't even understand. I am glad for the knowledge, and I think that's the best thing a documentary can provide.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Choping down the Tree Haiku Friday

The house behind us
is abandoned; no windows
door open, roof gone.


Someone is chopping 
down the trees, overgrow and
entangled in wires.


Chainsaws, sawdust, talk
in our quiet neighborhood
I hope it's been bought.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Random Snippets

  • I've been really confused by the Republican stance on things lately. If you cut programs funded by the government, aren't you eliminating jobs, too? Aren't we trying to create jobs? Aren't a lot of people out of jobs (who might need things like, health care)? I can't exactly reconcile things in my head.
  • I am really hoping that Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is digging himself a hole he can't get out of. I hope people remember his actions now when his re-election begins.
  • If you have not been watching The Daily Show recently, give it a try. It's been really amazing lately.
  • I love Spring, but it also means my allergies are kicking in. I never had allergies in CA, but ever since I moved here, I get 'em. Damn trees reproducing.
  • The fire alarm went off at work today. It's flashing lights, alarm, and a woman talking to you. She tells you to stay put (because we're on a higher floor) and not to leave "until an emergency is confirmed". It always makes me think of 9/11. Did I listen to her? Hell no, I left and headed to the library.
  • I'm still job hunting, but there's progress - I met with the last person today, so decision making time is upon me. This should be interesting...
  • My folks are coming into town soon. And then I'm heading to CA (I'll be there for Easter, so I'm hoping to score a bit of See's candy - yummy!) and then I run a 10 mile race and then I start a new job. April is gonna be crazy!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Numbers

  • This weekend was a bit of a bust. I worked a lot on my thesis and finished one chapter. I now have a total of 3 chapters written and 2 more to go!
  • On Saturday, the weather was a lovely 65 and it was sunny and warm for a bit. I loved it! I went out without a jacket on, ran my errands while leisurely riding my bike around town and opened up the house for a bit. I've got several bulbs coming up in the backyard, so I am hoping we have some flowers for our parents' visit coming soon!
  • Saturday night, we watched a documentary on climbing Mount Everest. Ever since I read Into Thin Air, I am fascinated by mountaineering and climbing. And, for some reason, I just wonder what stuff looks like. So it was a really interesting documentary done by the National Geographic celebrating 50 years on Everest (made in 2003 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the climbing of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa). It was fascinating and exciting. I highly recommend it for the spectacular scenery and just to watch the things these men go through to climb the mountain. Really great and informative.
  • On Saturday, Alex left at 0300 to head out to Rutgers University in NJ for his first bike race of the season. He did awesome, placing 14th overall, which is really great! I am so proud of him - he has been putting in so much time an effort into training, it was great to see him excited and racing well (although I couldn't attend the race - there's no room for spectators in the team van). He was gone something like 16 hours for a total race time of 25 minutes, which seems a bit silly, but I think he had fun.
  • Yesterday, it rained cats and dogs all day long. We stayed in and did things around the house. Alex was able to overhaul both my bikes, which was great. They needed a little TLC after this winter! My ride to work this morning was lovely and smooth (well, except for the Wyoming-like, gale force winds that knocked the power out at a lot of lights and nearly forced me into the river, but that's another story)
  • Today, I've got two meetings then it's time to tackle the next two chapters of my thesis. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Writing the Thesis Haiku Friday

Have not showered in
2 days, hair limp, pajamas
still on. Sat on couch.


Pretty gross, I know
but sort of necessary
few weeks to finish.

Reading and writing
lots of knowledge pouring out
one hundred pages.

(at least)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Movie Review: Couples Retreat

This movie was in our Netflix queue and when it came to the house, I was pretty excited to watch it. It's got such a great cast, some of my favorites, and the previews just looked funny and entertaining. I was excited to see the reunion of Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn (I loved, loved, loved Swingers).  In reality, however, this movie just didn't live up to my expectations. Alex liked the movie because it tended to show "real life" (however real that can be in a movie) with couples struggling to cope with everyday tasks like raising a family or trying to conceive. The funny parts just weren't funny enough to me and, to a certain extent the "trying to show real life" was somewhat annoying and pedantic to me. The central couple is Vince Vaughn and Malin Ackerman (who I loved, by the way) and they live in a big old house with a couple kids, but often don't have time to "connect". Vince Vaughn in this role took a little convincing for me because, in my mind, he's not exactly the "family guy" type (but, in the end, I think he pulled it off really well). Their friends,  Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell, are struggling to have a kid and are supposedly on the edge of divorce, although it's not really clear why, since their relationship seems to be working. They are very "matter of fact" with this, telling their friends that, in a last-ditch effort, they are headed to a couples retreat in Bora-Bora (or something like that) and they can only afford it if their friends come along. Of course, there is some hemming and hawing, but the couples all end up at the retreat and hilarity ensues.
Although it doesn't. Jon Favreau turns out to be the biggest jerk in the movie - I'm not sure whether it was his age or his character or the fact that he has a teenage daughter in the movie that creeped me out the most, but I just did not want him and his "wife" to stick together (which is, of course, what happens in the end). Faizon Love was a great character, and probably the funniest of them all. He's clearly going through a mid-life crisis and he brings along his fling for the retreat. The weakest part of the story line with him is that his wife shows up on the island (nothing like a trip to Bora Bora to try to win back your man, right?) and, of course, they end up back together. The movie is clearly about the men. The women seem to be after-thoughts, additions, extras, and they don't really come across as having real feelings or thoughts. The women take a "boys will be boys" attitude, or a "oh, you know my husband" attitude, which, in real life, makes people less accountable for their actions by stereotyping their behavior. Don't get me wrong: I loved the women in the movie, it's just that they don't really speak up or out or take control when the situation calls for it.
I'm not sure what I would have liked this movie to be about. It's clearly about couples struggling to be together, the ins and outs of relationships, and how can you keep things going when life gets in the way, but it wasn't done well. I think some of those issues are just too important to make fun of, maybe? For example, the Ackerman/Vaughn couple figures out that the husband doesn't really do anything around the house to help out and he clearly takes the wife for granted. The couple somewhat joke about it, the husband saying, "Oh, gee, I really hate picking out tile!" They have a big laugh, but nothing is ever really resolved. She wants to head to the waterfall, have a romantic evening, but he throws a fit and won't take her there. She ends up there with her girlfriends, and not really ever resolving the real "issues" that are illustrated in their family. I realize that a silly comedy movie can't address these issues seriously, but I also feel that they could have brought up issues that are funny and used those instead of issues that a lot of people face daily (and might not want to laugh about, unless its done well). Something that comes to mind is the whole "leaving the toilet seat up" - physical comedy of the wife falling in the toilet, having a "let's work this out" session with a therapist, and then the husband finally "gets it". That could have been a funny plot line - something most people can identify with, but not necessarily something that is going to break up a marriage.
In another storyline, Kristin Davis ends up staying with her husband, even though he's a disgusting perv who tries to sexually assault a masseuse. It made me think that the message from the movie is that you're always better off staying with the guy because you'll never be able to get anything better than him. She's an intelligent, beautiful woman, but she's better off staying with the fat slob who can only think about his penis, because they've been married for so long.
Clearly, I've gone off the deep end with this movie review. I was just disappointed by the film. It could have been so much better, with such an awesome cast - it could have portrayed all kinds of modern families in a funny way, with quick, intelligent humor and wit. But it failed miserably at that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review Wednesday: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

I was lucky enough to receive this book for Christmas from my Mom and I couldn't have been more excited. I have read a couple other Jon Krakauer books and I was looking forward to diving into another. I can describe this book in one word: haunting. A few years ago, I took a trip with my friend Lisa and we were in Kathmandu, Nepal for a few days. I was fascinated by the place for a number of reasons. I had never seen mountains so tall and I had never seen people who wanted to climb said mountains. In Nepal, I saw both. I looked out the window of the airplane and I saw mountains that were even with our height in the sky. Giant crags of rock and ice with the jet stream slamming into them, blowing ice and snow in a plume hundreds of feet in the air. I can't imagine what it's like to stand at the top of a mountain like that and I still can't wrap my head around the idea that there are people who climb these mountains. In this book, Krakauer is a reporter on a guided trip to climb Mt. Everest when all disaster strikes. In the end, his team is decimated, having left several people on the mountain to die. This book is an account, as accurate as he can muster, of the time leading up to and after a disaster that will hopefully not be repeated ever again. Krakauer has an interesting way of writing. He tries to be matter of fact (as he is in the other books I have read, discussing situations which he was not directly a part of) but he somewhat tows the line between emotional recollections and hard facts. I'm not sure that he does this well, per se, but he does it honestly, as far as I can tell. Climbing Everest had always been a dream of his, and he seemed quite experienced in mountain climbing, having climbed several technically challenging mountains in his life. However, he has no experience climbing at high altitude, which could be problematic. This book was phenomenal - I couldn't put it down. It's adventure and intrigue, with characters that are likable and others that make your blood boil. It's hard to reconcile this book from the true events. For one thing, the book is telling a story of something I am so unfamiliar with, so it seems like a work of fiction. I had a hard time contrasting this with the fact that all this happened. That people were left on a mountain, never to come home again. That people made a decision to leave home, climb Everest and never returned. It was humbling to do an internet search to see the faces of these people, and to see what climbing Everest looks like. It was interesting to hear the author's take on the events, as they're not an entirely satisfactory explanation of the events (as most real life events are). I would imagine some of the things that occurred could only be understood by the people who have been there to experience the harsh reality of climbing this mountain, of living at altitude, of battling frostbite and of literally having your life hanging by a string. This book was, all together, haunting. Literally haunting. The images, the scenery in my mind created from the words on the page are still with me, days after I finished the book. It's a story of heroism, perseverance, determination and sheer luck. It's something I won't soon forget.