Monday, September 10, 2012

Check out

the new blog:

I'll be posting from there from now on, as we've moved far, far away from Philly :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


  • started work yesterday. At the Stanford. Very nice. I'm excited!
  • I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get around this durn campus!
  • Two of the women I work with went to Cal. Makes me think of my Ma. And Cod!
  • I got my ID cards. I think I look like Reese Witherspoon. Let me have my delusions, OK?
  • We tried to find her house in Ojai when I was visiting my parents. It was largely a wild goose chase, but we got to see some fancy houses and neighborhoods for a bit.
  • We are living in an RV in one of the more depressing RV parks I've ever seen. I want to get out now. But we can't find housing yet. The cats are ready to kill each other and us. It's actually not too bad, it's just cramped. And I'd like to have some more space.
  • We bought a bunch of DVDs at the bargain bin in Best Buy. Including all three Austin Powers movies, and a set of 8 Spaghetti Westerns. It gives us a little something to do every night!
  • Hopefully we will find a place to live today. Or tomorrow. Soon :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Heading into the mountains

Saw mountains, real mountains, today for the first time on our trip
Went four days without a shower
That shower today was amazing
Headed to Yellowstone tomorrow
Wyoming, oddly enough, is my favorite state so far
We had the most amazing thunderstorm last night that ended with a full rainbow, doubled on one side
I took about a million pictures
I miss washing dishes
If I never own a dishwasher, I will be OK
Driving across South Dakota reminded me of Little House on the Prairie series
I love those books, and I'm not afraid to say so
I miss my cat
I can sleep outside in a tent
I can sleep quite well actually
But I do wake up to some strange noises
Elk last night, perhaps?
I no longer have bags under my eyes
I bought booty shorts and I wear them with hiking boots. I think that's OK
I hope I can have a garden
I am working on not complaining about anything
I appreciate my toes for carrying me so far
We have put 6000 miles on the car since we got it

Sunday, July 22, 2012


  • splurged on a hotel last night. Kalamazoo, MI.
  • After 3 weeks on the road, we will finally escape Eastern Daylight Time. Movin' West!
  • Chicago today
  • Wisconsin next
  • Being on the road is odd. It's nice, but it's strange to not have an anchor, a home. It's odd not to know where we will end up, and when we will get there.
  • Most days are spent driving several hours, stopping at some grocery store to pick up food (and beer, usually). Walking aisles, trying not to buy perishables, trying to figure out what will cook fastest, or what will only use one burner on our little camp stove
  • We have setting up camp down to a science. It takes us about 10 mins flat to set up the tent, and get all the sleeping accoutrements out.
  • I made Alex drive totally out of our way to hit up Detroit to hit up the Henry Ford Museum. I've heard about this museum since I was a little kid. It was awesome to be there, but it would have been better if my Dad had been there. He would have loved it (although he has been there before). They had "Model T rides" for $5. I thought, I can have one whenever I want! Ha!
  • It's hard to do any maintenance on the road. As such, my leg hair is outta control and my toenail polish is in need of a refresher. I also bit off all my nails. I feel a bit of a mess. Thankfully, my husband still likes me.
  • We got rained in in Geneva, OH. That damn Lake Erie strikes again! We got rained on in Ashtabula when we went there for a wedding in May. Then this time, we saw a storm coming in, but thought it would be a couple hours before it hit. Wrong. No way to pack up our things wet, it was pouring so hard. And it was cold. Seriously, don't mess with those storms from those Great Lakes. They don't f around, that's for sure. 
  • Watching the tail end of the Tour de France. Last summer, we watched every or almost every stage. This year we missed it all. I'm looking forward to watching the Olympics, tho. And to hopefully getting some more running/biking in as we move west.
  • We drove through MI last night listening to a broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. It was awesome.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Update

2.5 weeks into trip
5 states: PA, MD, NY, CT, MA
2 provinces: Quebec, Ontario
St Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara Falls
Numerous bug bites, including several on the bottom of my feet
One Civil War Reenactment
3 houses of family, one friends house visited
Lots of XM radio
Lots of road kill
5 campgrounds
Countless memories

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Sunset on Lake Erie!

Toes in the lake

Weddin' guests

the bride


Congrats Dr. Brown!

Number one!

Very old tree

Watching the bike race

race car

Dad in jail

eastern state


guard tower

Update a little late

  • Wow, you guys! A lot has happened in the last week and a half!
  • We took our first road trip in the car. We went to Ashtabula, OH, which is right on Lake Erie. The drive took about 8 hours, and the drive home was the worst, too long and wayyyy boring. But we made it! We got to see a sunset over Lake Erie and I even put my toes in! We also got to see a crazy ass thunderstorm coming in over the Lake (before/during the wedding, nonetheless). It was really cool.
  • The wedding was a non-traditional as they come, with the bride wearing a red dress, and the groom in a three piece suit. They had a bluegrass band and about a million desserts. A good time was had by all. 
  • We camped out in a family friend's backyard in our tent we bought for our honeymoon. I'm still not entirely used to sleeping outside, but hopefully I will get used to it as we head across the country. These people were super nice and really cool. It was great to get to know them; people can be so cool, you know?
  • We got to know the bride and groom's families, and the place where they got married was having an art show that featured the groom's relatives. It was just super neat. 
  • While we were in OH, our families started arriving in Philly for Alex's defense. It was weird not to be here when they got here. When we got home, we were exhausted, having stayed up until 2am, then getting on the road at 6am. We begged off seeing our parents, taking a short nap and a much needed shower. We finally made it down to see the family and it turns out that we had even more family here than we knew about! Alex's Aunt Catherine, and his Uncle Rob and Aunt Eileen came to surprise him for his defense, which was super sweet (and a lot of fun!). 
  • Tuesday was Defense Day, so I rounded up all the relatives and we took the bus to school to meet up with Alex. Of course, as we are heading into Alex's building, the fire alarm is going off. LOL. We detoured to the cafeteria for a quick lunch before the defense. Alex looked so handsome, and so composed. I was just so proud of him and his talk. His advisor gave him a pretty funny intro that made everyone laugh. His defense went well, as about 30 minutes after his talk, he was back in his party room, beer in hand, celebrating. His mom had bought these hysterical decorations that made the room look like a mad scientists' dungeon, which was perfect. We had a great party and a really nice dinner. It was time to say goodbye to most of the family. 
  • On Wednesday, I had to work. I gave lab meeting (my last one! Yay!) and stuck around to talk to my boss and get people's opinions, etc. It turned out well, but I still have SO much work to do before I leave. I'm not sure I will get it all done.
  • After work, we met up and headed to dance lessons. Yes, I took both our parents to dance lessons. It was pretty fun - we learned how to hustle, and we could show our parents some moves. Plus, I think it was just fun to do something different. And it was a laugh to boot.  We ate dinner at Triumph, which is really my favorite place in Old City to eat. 
  • Thursday was a lazy day for my folks, but my Dad and I hit up Franklin Institute to check out the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. As everything at the FI, it was really well done and super interesting. We even watched a planetarium video on the telescope, which was cool. And do you know what today is? Today is the transit of Venus across the sun. It won't occur again until 2117, so be sure to check it out (NASA has some cams you can watch it on - don't look at the sun directly with your eyes!).
  • Friday, we just hung out and we said goodbye to Moo. She went on an adventure, flying with my in-laws to CO, where she will stay until we pick her up on our drive across the country. I was so sad to see Moo go. It was hard to pill her and put her in her carrying case, but she did splendidly well. I think she was paralyzed with fear, but at least she didn't meow across the country. She's now staying with Uncle Taylor, and apparently has a chinchilla to check out while she's there. Hopefully she'll get comfortable and come out of her shell soon. 
  • Saturday was "meet the relatives" day. We went out to Concordville to see Joe and Leslie and have some lunch with them. We had a really nice lunch and had a good time catching up. Alex then got on his bike and headed home on the bicycle, while my folks and I checked out the Bradywine Battlefield, which was pretty interesting. 
  • Sunday was the Philadelphia Bike race, and a lovely day to boot. We dragged my folks down to the street to see the bikers go by and to ring some cowbells to cheer them on. We were looking for a couple of Alex's friends that turned pro recently, and we were hopeful to see some Olympic competitors. It was a lovely day to be outside, and a great day to watch some biking. Dad and I then went to the Simeone Museum, which is a collection of old race cars that I think my Dad really enjoyed. 
  • On Monday, my folks' flight left at 8pm, so I spent the day with my Dad at Eastern State Penitentiary. It was a super creepy day, with random showers, then bright sun. If you ever come to Philly, you should absolutely go see ESP. It is so cool, creepy, and well done. I loved it. We had a really interesting time, and then we sat around until it was time to go to the airport. We drove my folks to the airport, probably our last trip there. It was great to have everyone here to celebrate, but it's also nice to have our little house back to ourselves. Now, it's time to buckle down and get to work. If not actual work, it will be packing. Here goes nothing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First iBook Book Review: Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter by Josh Gates

Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter - Gallery Books

My Dad had a friend selling an iPad and he decided to buy it for me. I've had it for about 2 weeks now and I love it for some things. One thing I was really curious about was reading books. We are going on an extended vacation this summer and we have limited space. Could I download some books and have things to read while camping and exploring? Would it hurt my eyes? Can it be similar to reading a book? All of these things were big questions for me, so I downloaded my first book. I'm a bit of a geek at heart, and I've fallen in love with this TV show called Destination Truth. It's on the Netflix streaming. Basically, these people (including the author of the book, Josh Gates), go all over the world in search of "monsters". They interview eyewitnesses, look for evidence of the monsters, and conduct a nighttime investigation, where they always seem to be chasing some real animal (usually, what I suspect to be tigers, or other rare predators). In the end, they give their thoughts on the existence of the monster - usually they chalk it up to folklore, but sometimes, the find a big old Yeti footprint in the jungle, which is also pretty cool. What I find most entertaining about the show is the host, Josh. He's funny, and sarcastic, and always over the top interesting. I also love watching the travel. They really get into areas, interact with locals, travel deep into the interior of countries. So this book is based on his TV show, and includes some behind-the-scenes scenarios. How the show started, how they film it, some shows of particular interest, and his opinions on the existence of these monsters. The books is an easy read, written about adventure travel, so I thought it was pretty interesting. His sarcasm and sense of humor come through the book quickly, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I'm not sure if you need to be a fan of the show to read the book, but it would probably help.
All together, I was really pleased with this book. I'm not sure I could really get into a difficult book on the iPad. I haven't yet figured out a way to "curl up with it", as you would with a book. Also, the screen switches on you, depending on how you hold it, so that can sometimes be annoying. I am sure I can change that - it's all a learning curve. But I did not find that my eyes got tired, so that's a bonus. I think the only thing that was weird to me was that I didn't feel like I was reading a book. I felt like I was reading a website, so I don't know how much that affects the relaxation you might get from reading a real book. But the good news is, there are lots of stupid books out there to read!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Numbers - now improved! with pictures!

  • I did not pack any boxes this weekend.
  • I drove Broad St to my friend's house. That's the street that I ran 10 miles on. It's pretty far. I was just a little bit proud of myself. 
  • Alex defends his thesis in about two weeks. His thesis is due this week to his committee. And then he gets to put together an hour long talk.
  • Its Penn graduation. It's been one year since I graduated. 
  • This past weekend was gorgeous, near 80 degrees and just stunning. I hope it happens again!
  • I got a new camera. It's red. It's the first camera I've bought in over 7 years. I love it. I will use it often :) Use illustrated below.
  • We have about 7 weeks left here in Philly. Things are starting to get a little crazy around here! On Saturday, I worked for 4 hours. Then we headed out to REI, where we got two bike racks for the car.  We tested out the bike racks by putting my bike up on the car. I have no idea how noisy these things might be, but this is how we're gonna drive across the country! Wahoo!

Alex adjusts the bike up on the car. Thankfully, he knows what he's doing. But I have to keep thinking, "We're gonna drive to Canada in this?" Crazy, right?
  • On Sunday, I got to head out to my friend Lisa's house in the 'burbs, about 30 miles away. It's the first time I've been out to see her, so it was a lot of fun. We drove all around the area, and I took a few pictures, illustrated below. 
I found an old Ford, selling drinks at Peddler's Village. I had to get my picture in front of it, of course!
This is the Delaware River. It separates New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I thought it was pretty. Oh, and also? We were driving when I took this picture!

I saw this flower at a market. Are you kidding me? Those are my wedding colors! All in a flower! So pretty!

This was taken in Lambertville, NJ. There are just amazing houses there, Victorian, with turrets and just beautiful detailing. I loved walking those neighborhoods!

And this is a canal that parallels the Delaware river. In the olden days, the only way to get up river was to have a mule team pull you up river. Often, they would dig these canals next to rivers, which could help isolate traffic going upriver. Obviously, there is no need for these now, so they've become this lovely little area with a footpath and restaurants lining the canals.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy birthday, Randi!

Dear Randi,
Here are a few goofy pictures to illustrate our exploits over the last few years. I can't imagine my life without you in it and I am so glad we are BFF. I hope you have the best birthday and I hope you are spoiled rotten (per usual) :). I can't wait to live closer to you!
xoxo LYLAS

Oh, and also one random picture of you with a Japanese tourist in Philadelphia. I knew you would never forget that.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Haiku Friday

This week tough challenge
I won't deny, ups and downs
lots of stressful things


Hopefully coming
back down to reality
Get down to business


I'm so ready for
this move new perspective new
outlook better coast!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A new little addition

Well, that's our little darling, Mr. Kitty. Or Simba. Or Kill Monster. Or whatever the heck you want to call him. Randi found him at her work, he's just an itty bitty thing. My parents are kind enough to foster the little guy until we get to CA in a couple months. By then, he'll be a little terror, I am sure. Should be fun!
The situation has been somewhat comical. I have wanted another pet for a really long time. I've tried to convince Alex to get a dog, or another cat for some time now. He's hesitant because we're moving so soon, so he didn't want to have to cart a new creature across the country. Me, however? I'm a sucker. I'm an only child and I would love nothing more than to fill my house with animals. I know, I'm a little crazy. I am lucky that my parents indulge my thoughts and ideas, however. My parents are great people, just awesome. They have company visiting right now, Steve and Leslie. Luckily, S&L are cat people too. My folks picked up this little guy and took him to the vet. He needs to be syringe fed four times a day, and needs to have his butt rubbed by a wet washcloth to get him to go potty. My mom has him sleeping in the bathtub in their room (with a bed and a litter box). I think this extreme kitten stage should only last about another two weeks, but I have to say they are enamored with him already. My dad has sent me two videos, has skyped with me, and has sent me several photos - including the one above, where he has an enormous bandage on his leg because he got a blood test at the vet. He's pretty helpless, but, apparently a little spunky. He is not eating a ton yet (I am sure that will change soon), but he seems to already have the idea that he runs the place. He has hissed at the dog when her tail whapped him. He will sorta scratch his scratchy post (yes, of course he has a scratchy post- he's three weeks old!). My mom thinks he's figuring out the whole "bathing" thing - he's licked his paws a couple times. And my Dad told me he has reduced adults to crawling on the floor just to hang out with him. I am sure the novelty will wear off soon, but hopefully not before we get to CA to meet this little guy. I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The car, oh the car!

I haven't had a car since 2003. That's nearly 10 years I have only driven my parents' vehicles, or I've driven rental cars. But I've never owned one of my own. Not for a long, long time. As you probably know, if you read this blog at all, I bike everywhere. To get my groceries, to run errands, to get to work, to get my hair done, to go to dance lessons, to hit the gym. Everyplace I've gone is by bike. Before I had my bike, I would walk everywhere. Obviously, this has limited my abilities to go places. Lots of times, I had to turn down parties, or occasions, because I really couldn't get there. We tried to space out our car rentals since they ended up being so expensive (with the rental, and the insurance, it was just too much). Our grocery shopping trips would be epic if we had a car. I would always be a little bit on edge the whole time we had the car, just because I knew it had to go back to where it came from and I needed to budget time and energy for that trek (and trust me, it's a trek!). Thankfully, I live off a bus line, and my parents can ride the bus for free with their Medicare card, but my family visits have been limited too.
Now, we've had a car two whole weeks. It's funny how much it can change your life in such a short time. I've hit the mall, and the grocery store. I've driven to the post office, and to Trader Joe's. I've driven into work, realized I have free parking on the weekends at work, and then driven into work again! We still do epic shopping trips - those might not end for a while. I just feel like the car might get taken away at any moment. Or that we have to return it soon. It hasn't really set in that it's our car (although with then car payments start, perhaps it will!). It's so nice, with OnStar and XM radio (free for 6 months!). I haven't forgotten how to drive, I've just forgotten what freedom you have with a car. I realize that most of the time, you don't really go anywhere but work, home, errands. But the possibilities are endless! We were talking about Hershey today - Hershey! The Chocolate Capital! We can go there! And eat chocolate! We can take the cat to the vet without strapping her to the back of the car! I can donate all those boxes of clothes in the basement to the Salvation Army without taking 25 trips on my bike!
It's also funny because Alex and I don't know how to drive together. Something that is such a fundamental part of most people's lives, is something I don't really know that much about my husband. One of my friend said her husband "always slams the car door". I thought, I have no idea if Alex slams doors or not. I do know that he can't parallel park, which I find hysterical. We once rented a minivan (don't ask why - I think we were "upgraded") and I had to park that damn thing because he couldn't get it in any spots on the street. I do know that he doesn't like to drive for pleasure. He's much more content to get where we're going, instead of enjoy the view while we go. Me, I'm pleased. I'm excited there's an XM station dedicated entirely to Pearl Jam. And, yes I still sing at the top of my lungs, like I can. Traffic doesn't bother me that much, even with a stick shift. I'm not sure how driving through San Francisco will go, but I'm sure we can do it. We can do anything. With our little car!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • This past weekend was a little busy, a little boring and everything in between. Friday night both Alex and I were done. We left work at a normal time (5:30) and headed home to just chill out. We drank a few beers and chatted and just hung out which was so, so nice. Normally, life is a little crazy, and lately we just haven't had the time to just chill. So it was really nice.
  • On Saturday, we hit up Wegman's, the nicest grocery store around. They even sell beer there (trust me, it's the little things!). This store is just so nice - it's like Trader Joes' (with their own brand name stuff) and Vons (with popular brand name stuff) all rolled into one. We filled up the cart and spent $187 on food. Crazy, right? But that did include a rack of pork ribs on sale for $10. I cooked ribs last night, and they literally fell off the bone. Delicious!
  • On Saturday, we also hit up Target to check out some cameras. I have had my camera for nearly 7 years, and I've been wanting one to take with us on our trek across the country. It was fun to try out the little point-and-shoots, and we found one that I think I will really like. Then I promptly came home, read the reviews on the different cameras and ordered one on Ebay. It comes on Wednesday - I am super excited to try it out!
  • We also went into work for a bit on Saturday night. I began processing about 60 different samples that I generated last week. That took a while, and I have to got into work today to finish the processing and test all them out. Hopefully at least a percentage of them worked!
  • Sunday was "around the house" day. I did laundry, made the ribs, and I started packing. I packed two boxes, which might not seem like a lot, but it's all the stuff that was in my curio cabinets, so it's both nice and depressing to see those cabinets empty. I also packed a few things that were on the walls. We got a couple large plastic tubs at Target as well, so I think I might use those to pack up some of our linens, as well as maybe the more precious things like our dishes. Although, I already broke one plate and one bowl (oddly, both turquoise, which is one of my favorite colors). Hopefully, there's nothing associated with bad luck in breaking your wedding dishes :)
  • And now, here we are, facing about 8 weeks left here in Philly. The weekends are starting to fill up, and the time here is pretty limited. Here's hoping we can get it all done!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Haiku May the 4th Be With You!

Star Wars day May the 
fourth. Childhood memories
Wookie Han Solo.


Tiny figurines
Epic battles, flashlight swords
Princess Leia buns.


Storm troopers, ewoks
Playing outside in the dark
Parents in, lights on.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Numbers again!

  • I just can't keep away from the numbers, you guys. So, for the second time this week, here goes!
  • I went to the doctor recently for a check up. My blood pressure was 106/80. I am really, really proud of that. Even if my weight isn't what I want it to be. 
  • I found a way to move our stuff across the country. It's a pod-like thing, but we have to go to a place to load it. I have absolutely no concept of how much stuff will fit in this thing (seriously, 6'x7'x8' - who knows?) but I am hoping our whole lives will fit in there. Otherwise, it's being donated.
  • Moo is only with us for another 4 weeks. She is going on an adventure (in reality, an airplane) with my in-laws to live in CO for a few weeks while we pack up, move, and vacation a bit across the country. She has no idea what is going on, but we took her for a test drive the other day. She meowed a lot when she saw you, but she calmed down if she couldn't make eye contact. She is going to be a carry on, so I am hoping she doesn't meow the entire time across the country. My vet won't give her any sort of sedatives for the flight, so I'm at a bit of a loss. I might try to take her to another vet before she leaves. 
  • We have 9 weeks left here in Philly. In that time, there will be: one wedding, a week long visit from our parents, Alex's defense on the 29th. I will write one grant, finalize one paper, write one more paper, finish about 6 more experiments, all while packing up my house, donating used items, and trying to wrap things up here in Philly. Oh, and hopefully hanging out with some of our friends here, too! 
  • For the last week, I've been battling allergies that have been really bad. I've had sinus headaches every day, and the other day it was so bad, I thought I might toss my cookies. It makes it really difficult to work and write and complete all the things I need to do.
  • My orchid is blooming for the first time since I received it as a gift several years ago. I'm a little bummed to leave it behind.
  • You guys, I sold a bunch of stuff on Ebay - guess how much money I made? About $500! Are you kidding me? I think I might buy myself a new camera for our trip across the country. My camera is 7 years old, and I get really frustrated with how slow it is. I am hoping I can find something small that takes good pics because I want to document this whole drive across the country!
  • We got the roof rack for our car! Apparently, it's a little noisy when you drive fast, but that's the way it's gonna have to be, since we are taking the bikes with us. We are hoping to explore some of the country on bikes, too. Camping, biking, hiking across the country? I can think of nothing better!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Movie Review Tuesday: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

I decided to use the British version of the title of this movie in my title. I'm not quite sure why they changed the title of the movie for the American market, and I refuse to believe that it's because the Republicans are winning in the war on Science and the war on Women. This movie is put out by those brilliant people who invented Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and Chicken Run, all favorite movies/TV shows of mine. The movie follows our hero, Pirate Captain, on his quest to win a Pirate of the Year award (he's been denied for the last 20 years, so he must win this one, right?). This movie is sort of everything you want in a movie. A band of misfit pirates (including one with gout, an albino, and a woman dressed up as a man), and of course the first mate who is logical and reasonable, the only straight character. While trying to win the Pirate of the Year award, Pirate Captain comes upon the realization that he sucks as a pirate and he could never win the Pirate of the Year. He tries and tries to plunder and steal from ships on the sea, but never comes across anything carrying any sort of booty. Until, that is, he comes across what I am assuming to be The Beagle, an exploratory science ship that carried Charles Darwin on his circumnavigation of the world, and lead to the formation of the Theory of Evolution. Charles is portrayed as a bit of a mad scientist, as well as a stick in the mud. He realizes Pirate Captain's parrot Polly is actually a Dodo, an animal that went extinct hundreds of years ago, and hopes to present this discovery to the scientists in London. What ensues is hilarity, adventure, intrigue and a lot of good old warm-hearted fun. While I found the movie to be slow at points, and I also found the humor to be terribly British, I did enjoy this movie immensely. For one, I thought that the characters were so well done - each one contributed a great dynamic to the plot. I also thought the animation was a lot of fun. While not entirely "claymation"(I think some was CGI to speed up the process), I loved the 3-D-ness of the characters, and I loved the look and the feel of the movie. Altogether, I think this movie is a win, especially considering the other movies out right now. It's done in the theme of the Muppets, with humor kids will get and humor adults will enjoy. I am really looking  forward to everything that comes out of this studio!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • Its been nearly 10 years since I've owned a car. This past weekend, I started to rectify the situation. I made my rounds, hitting the KOP mall, Target, Ross, BB&B, and a host of other places. Mostly, I just returned wedding gifts and either got credits or purchased a few new things. It was nice to have transportation for a change (and even nicer to not have to worry about getting it back on time). Our new little car has some pep, some get up and go and I just love her. Even though there was a ton of traffic and I was sitting in it for a while, it was still such a treat to have some freedom for a change. 
  • We also went on a real suburban date, hitting up Ruby Tuesday's for dinner, and then heading to the movies. Although I am pretty sure the movie theatre was built 40 years ago (and never remodeled - not exactly a luxury theatre at all), it was still a fun time. We saw The Pirates! Band of Misfits (aka The Pirates! In an adventure with Scientists). It was great fun and you shall see a complete review of the film shortly!
  • Sunday was a lovely warm spring day. I spent it cleaning, catching up on errands and just puttering around the house. We are trying to figure out how to move all of our things, and it's taken up quite a bit of time just sorting through all the quotes, all the offers, all the expense. We are not getting reimbursed for any of our move, so it's all on us, which makes it quite difficult. I think I would mostly throw out everything and start over again if it weren't for all the wedding gifts we recently received. I'd feel bad throwing any of those things away. Anyways, we might just narrow things down to a few boxes and pack them off to my parents by post. Too bad we don't have a garage. I'd host a huge garage sale!
  • I can't believe tomorrow is the first of May. It means that we only less than two months left here in Philly!
  • Our house has been shown three times this week. I hope somebody decides to rent it. It's a great place to live!
  • We got our license registration for our car. Now, it looks so cute, with it's little PA plates! And we got our first dent/scratch. Some person has no idea how to parallell park, and bumped into our bumper, causing a bit of a crack. Oh well, it had to happen sometime, right? I guess it just sucks that it was within the first week of owning it!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • You guys! We got a new car! It's a super cute Chevy Sonic and we love it! It had to come to us from across the state, so it's already got about 600 miles on it. We put about 30 on her this week. Its great to have the freedom to just go, get out of town, for a few minutes. The downside? We have NO idea where we are going! With such limited travel knowledge, we are a little lost. Good thing we have maps and iPhones!
  • This past weekend was pretty crazy busy! We picked up the car on Friday afternoon. Funny thing? They lost it for a minute! Yeah, it's an orange car and they lost it! Although, it is kinda small, and it's a manual, so maybe someone just took it for a joy ride. I wouldn't blame them :)
  • Our friends M&D came into town for the last time ever. They are moving to Salt Lake City, Utah, and are headed out there next week. They came up for one final hurrah, which was great. We hit up City Tap House, which has this great roof deck with big old firepits all over the place. It was really nice and a lot of fun to catch up with old friends.
  • On Saturday, we had a bunch of errands to run. I got my hair cut, Alex hit up work, then we went to the grocery store and to get a propane tank. The whole time, Alex was texting people, and he said he wanted to have people over for a BBQ. I said, cool, what time? Oh, at 2pm! It was, like 1pm and we were just leaving the grocery store - how can we pull this off? Well, turns out, we have super cool friends. Some friends brought over some ice cream, we made potato & macaroni salads and some burgers and we had a great old time. It was lots of fun to have people over and it was great to have some nice weather to hang out in. 
  • That night, everyone went out to a local bar and hung out. Bummer thing was, I had to work. It's a long story, but I have been struggling to get a paper submitted with my old boss (from my thesis, yeah, 1 year ago!). He's been having some family problems, and we've been in and out of touch for a while now. Finally, he told me to do a few things to get this paper submitted, and I hadn't had time to do that for a while. So, finally, on Saturday night around 10:30pm, I was uploading our response to reviewers and our figures to the server at a journal. It was submitted officially at 2:30am Sunday morning. I guess what I've learned about science is that everything is anti-climatic. So, while I'm glad to have this paper off and submitted, I am worried about what will be said about it and whether it will generate more work for me in the long run. Hopefully not.
  • Yesterday, I was useless. We hung out with M&D for a while, then they got on the road to Baltimore for the last time. It was rainy and cold so I cleaned up a bit, but really, just took a nap, watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding for about the one billionth time and did absolutely nothing worthwhile at all. Alex and I started watching this TV show about the Iditarod in Alaska. Crazy stuff, yo. Other than that, a pretty chill day.
  • Today, I have about a million things to get done. I am unsure how everything will get done, but that's OK. I sold a bunch of stuff on ebay, so I have about 12 packages to mail out today. Good thing I have a car. I also need to hit up Target and TJs, and actually get some work done. Should be fun!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Haiku Friday

A friend's defense, a
wedding invite, beers and a
happy hour today.


Boss on vacation
Easy day today, except
for all the writing.


Moving day creeping
closer, lots to do, lots to
sell. Ebay! Craigslist!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Plane Story

The finding of a man trying to board a plane at PHL today with a bag full of explosives prompted me to tell my plane story (I have several, but this is the one that came to mind). Alex and I were heading to CA, I can't really remember the reason. My favorite flight to take back to LAX is the 6 or 6:30pm one. It arrives into LAX at 9pm, and I don't have to miss a day of work. Anyways, we were waiting in the terminal, getting ready to board, and I see this "New Jersey Clown" is the only way to describe him. Oversized 76ers jersey, baggy shorts, hat slightly skewed, lots of gel in his hair (even tho it's covered by a hat). He's on the phone, and he's talking loudly. We could all hear him, but I generally tried to tune him out. We start boarding, getting in line, heading down the jetway. Apparently, this asshat decides to continue talking on his phone, saying things like, "This plane is going DOWN!" "No way we're making it to LA!", and more and more obnoxious things. I am unsure what his motive was for his grandstanding, but the flight attendants and the passengers certainly noticed. Once we were all on the plane and mostly seated, some burly Federal Marshalls (? actually not sure who came on the plane? cops?) hauled him and his friend off the plane. It all happened so fast, that I wasn't sure what had happened. Someone came on over the intercom to tell us we had to be re-screened through security. I was sure this guy was just being a tool, and he didn't really have anything that would cause the plane to go down, but I understand that rules are rules and we would rather be safe than sorry. They escorted us back through the terminal to the security line, where I had to quickly down my 1L of water I had filled up before the flight. Thankfully, we were fast-tracked through security, and we ended up taking off about an hour late. The pilot liked us, though, and got us into LAX only about 1/2 hour past our original arrival time. The whole incident was a non-incident, really. But I do recall seeing those signs saying, "Don't joke about bombs or anything!" around the airport, and apparently they take these things pretty seriously. Here's hoping that d-bag spent a good several days in Federal Prison for our little inconvenience.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Animal Instincts

Sorry, folks. I have a lot of opinions. This post was inspired by my good friend, Randi.

Both Randi and I grew up together and we both grew up with animals. Randi had Mammy kitty, Cuddles the bunny, and Hippie-Lou the dog. I had Brownie the absolute terror of a dog, and then we got the absolute love of my life, Phillie, the cocker spaniel with the littlest brain but the biggest heart. We also had Snottie boogers, the odd-looking dog, JJ the parakeet (among many) and a newt named Norton. I grew up loving animals and wanting to have them in my life. When I graduated college, I got two cats, Moue and Shadow, from the local LA County Shelter. Moo was a little kitten, and Shadow had been knocked up, wandering the streets. I had Shadow (or Sister) for nearly 10 years before she succumbed to several health problems, among them diabetes, a brain tumor, and colon problems. I have loved all my animals, and I have taken care of them, to an extreme in some cases. Phillie was my pride and joy, my first best friend, and will always by my favorite. He was just a dog that came into my life at the right time and the right place. I had just turned 12, was quite smart and motivated, but had a hard time being my own person at such a young age. Phillie was my bud, not caring what I looked like, or how I dressed. Phillie actually did me a favor. He was sick and dying, but I was in Philadelphia. I flew home and he hung on. I knew it was time for him to go, and he let me hold him in my lap in the car ride and at the vets. He was such a cool pup, I still miss him to this day.
Shadow came down with the diabeetus, and we ended up having to check her sugar twice daily, give her insulin shots twice daily. I actually would test my cat's blood sugar prior to my morning coffee. If you know me, this is a big deal, trust me. But, we got into a good habit, and things worked out for the most part. I don't think Shadow suffered too much with her diseases. We kept her comfortable until the end, when her health was failing, her lungs were filling up with fluid, we decided it was the humane thing to euthanize her. I'm not sure if she was grateful for the relief or not, but I know that both Alex and I felt a sense of release. We missed her terribly, but knew she was at least not suffering anymore.
Are other people's stories about their pets the same? Hardly. I had a friend who had to put a young kitten to sleep, it was so sick. All of these experiences shape our lives, and it's lovely and wonderful to be responsible for another life, to have an animal contribute to our rich experiences. I think I will always have animals in my life, even when I'm old and gray. I think they're wonderful.
However, I do think things have gotten out of control. Randi tried to adopt a puppy, but was denied because she has a child under 5 years of age. Nearly all my friends with kids under 5 have dogs. How can you make such a ridiculous requirement? I have another friend who adopted a dog from a "rescue" organization. In the paperwork, the rescue organization requires this person to constantly update them on the dogs whereabouts, implores this person that if they ever don't want the dog, to give him back to the rescue, and insists that the organization can take the dog away at any time, any place. Although the majority of these stipulations seem to have the dogs best intentions at heart, I just have to wonder when we became so nuts. Randi was asked what food she will feed the dog. What the hell difference does it make? I will feed him food. Likely what's on sale, and probably some table scraps to boot. And you know what? The dog will be fine. Or he won't. Sometimes animals die. It's OK. It's not great, but it's OK. Shit happens.
Look, I can see where some of these organizations are coming from. My mom got her dog, Valentine, from the Humane Society. They recognized that Valley-Girl was just about the sweetest thing ever, and they matched her up with my Mom perfectly. They came out, looked at my Mom's backyard, and handed her over. My Mom walks her every day, takes her to the vet yearly and keeps up on her health and grooming. Valentine is a perfectly happy dog, and she fits right in with the family. I think this is a reasonable situation. They want to make sure you have an area for the dog to hang out in. If you rent, they want to make sure your landlord is OK with pets. Fine. I get that. But three references, including a vet reference? You have got to be shitting me.
My kitty Moo gets to go to the vet when she's sick, and I sometimes keep up on her shots. She's an indoor cat, doesn't get into too much trouble, and we treat most of her ailments at home (we are scientists after all). She is currently up to date on all her shots because we will be traveling with her this summer, so she needs to be. Otherwise, I might have held off another few months to pay off the wedding. Realistically, people are doing the best they can. Are dogs better off in a house, rather than a shelter? Yes, absolutely. Should you screen people to make sure they're able to have animals, and have a reasonable area to take to pets? Sure (however, in the city? c'mon now! We don't have backyards and plenty of people have pets! Get over this "must have a backyard" thing!). And premium dog food, multiple vet visits for any and all ailments, no kids, age restrictions (as in, no one under 25 can adopt an animal?), can't be college students, must own a home? C'mon now, folks. You're now eliminating at least 50% of the population, who might be perfectly OK to take care of an animal. There are thousands of animals in shelters around the country. These animals need homes, or they are euthanized. Yes, make some reasonable rules. Hell, do a house check, or a vet check if they have one. But, realistically, you are only hurting those animals that you want to help. Some of us are perfectly capable of taking care of an animal. Will we go into debt to care for the animal? Maybe. Will we feed it better food that we eat? Probably not. Will the dog or cat notice? Nope, not a chance. Dogs evolved to eat our table scraps (and likely to help us hunt) and cats came along for the ride because of the abundance of rodents associated with human life. Pets have evolved alongside humans, and many of us feel empty without a pet by our side.
To these bullshit "rescue" organizations, get over your pompous, ridiculous ideas. Realize that some people want to have pets, and let them. It will be a huge improvement over your animal hoarding tendencies. Maybe you should rethink your actual goals in these organizations. It seems like your goals may be to become a non-profit to feed into your dog and cat hoarding tendencies? Until then, I will be supporting my local Humane Society shelters, as well as the City and County animal control shelters. Their policies are reasonable, and they are looking to place animals in forever homes. Not looking to repossess your dog when you decide to move across the country, or need to feed them non-premium dog food. It floors me that organizations make these types of demands on people. Are you trying to prevent poor people from having pets? It sure seems that way.
Why don't you spend your money educating people about animal abuse? Trying to stop the ridiculous amount of dog-fighting and cock-fighting that goes on around the Philly area? Why don't you spend your money on giving coupons to struggling families so they can keep feeding their pets? Why don't you actually make it easy to give a pet away if you can no longer take care of it? Why don't you help people with their vet bills? All of these things are reasonable, the right thing to do. Buying premium dog food? Keeping an perfectly good animal in a shitty shelter because of your stupid rules? Not helping anyone, and actually harming the animals you are claiming to want to help.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Twofer Tuesday

We've been watching a bit of Netflix recently, and we took in two sports-related movies. The first was The Flying Scotsman, about Graeme Obree, a Scottish guy who custom built a bike and ended up setting the world record in velodrome bike racing (the kind where you go around and around and around a track). I think we both really liked this movie because Alex is a cyclist, so we could really identify with the training schedule, the bike rides in the rain, the pieces of the bikes falling off, and the pain of building a bike to fit you and make you go fast. It was a "feel good" movie, about a guy chasing a dream, and mostly attaining it. However, there were some dark spots. Apparently Obree has battled depression (and ended up coming out of the closet recently), so he was not always happy in his achievements. The movie also shows just how ridiculous the sport of cycling is, with the stupid rules the UCI comes up with to make cyclists conform to their standards. I thought it was a well done movie, and I really enjoyed it.
The other movie we took in was The Spirit of the Marathon, a documentary movie that followed several runners (including the elite runner Deena Kastor) in the months and weeks leading up to the Chicago Marathon (in 2005 methinks). The movie was really interesting, showing how families and individuals coped with the rigorous training, how emotional the runs can be, and how cool the support from running groups is. It really made me want to go for a run, and I'm itching to head to Stanford to get involved in the running community there. I have no doubt it will be a million times better than here, since there are way more trails and interesting places to go. I was also really glad that it showcased the running of an elite woman (women tend to get so little attention in any sport). Kastor is an inspiration, and a wonderful role model for women of all levels of sport. Her dogged determination, her stubbornness, and her great attitude just shone through this movie through and through. There were also several other women featured in the movie, so it was a great Rah! Rah! women! all around :) I think these were two movies that were inspirational, they really were a great time to watch them, and they really made me want to hit the pavement!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • This past weekend was pretty chill. Just hung out, ran a bunch of errands and tried to play some catch up. Things are getting a little crazy around here, as we're moving in, like 3 months! Eek!
  • On Saturday night, we went out to a bar to say goodbye to our good friend and dance teacher, A. She is headed back to France after living in Philly for nearly 8 years.
  • We stayed out until 11pm on Saturday night - I know, I know we are party animals!
  • My boss is out of town for the next two weeks. Time to get some writing and organizing done. Lots and lots and lots to do, folks!
  • We are in the process of planning Alex's defense, planning the visits of our parents, buying a car, making sure that car can be registered in CA, figuring out car insurance, car loans, moving expenses and a road trip across the country. I've also been selling things on Ebay, mostly shoes. You would be surprised to know how many pairs of shoes I have bought and never worn. I'm actually a little ashamed of it. But, I have made about $250, so that's good, right? Sad that it's all gone to groceries, tho!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Opinion Thursday

As I'm sure you know, I am a scientist. I have worked on a number of different projects, but I am first and foremost a developmental biologist. I think development (as in, the development of an embryo from the joining of a sperm and an egg) is just about the coolest thing on the planet. It's fascinating to try to figure out what is going on, how tissues develop from a small ball of cells and I love to see the different stages of development as an embryo matures. I've had this fascination since college, which goes back at least 15 years, if not more. I do science because I love it. I'm fascinated by the way that bodies work, the organs that have evolved to give us life, and the way all of these form. My research will likely never lead to any gigantic breakthroughs. I will likely never work on a "miracle drug" and I will probably not even touch a piece of human tissue in my career. What I will do is try to figure out what happens in animal models, so that we can apply that knowledge to treating human disease and injury. Animal models are not perfect, by any stretch. Often, they are cumbersome, difficult to work with, and expensive to keep. However, research is necessary, and can often lead to treatments or cures for many diseases.
For example, my lab works on diabetes research. In the most basic sense, diabetes is the loss of beta cells. Beta cells produce insulin which regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in our blood. Without insulin, blood becomes quite toxic to all our tissues (instead of providing nutrients). Tissues start to break down (including the delicate blood vessels that carry the blood in them), which is why diabetes can lead to effects all over the body, like blindness, poor circulation, and impaired wound healing.  Diabetes is extremely common, and the disease is affecting tens of millions of people in the US alone (and growing). In my lab, we are trying to understand how these beta cells develop in the embryo. How are they formed? Is there a set number of them in the body? What kinds of changes occur in the DNA of these specific cells to give them the identity they have? Can we make more? We have lots and lots of questions, but few answers. Answers come incrementally, and slowly. But they come nonetheless.
These answers come because we have made a lot of tools. We have made animal models with diabetes. We have made mice that lack a pancreas. We have made animals that don't have any beta cells. And on and on and on. These animals provide us some clues as to what could be going on in the human body, and how to treat these diseases once they manifest themselves. To date, the best therapy for diabetics remains insulin therapy. Generally administered with injections. Diabetics also have to keep track of the glucose levels in their blood, and dose insulin accordingly. It's a manageable, but tedious disease. A slight increase in insulin dosage can reduce the glucose levels in the blood to dangerously low levels, essentially leading to fainting, or worse, a coma or death. Too high glucose levels can lead to permanent tissue damage, the loss of limbs, neuropathy, and more. It's a fine balance and each individual patient generally needs to find their own course of treatment, their own way of treating the disease.
All of this knowledge has been gleaned through the use of animal models. We are slowly, but surely, learning how this disease can manifest, and how we can treat the disease. We are learning this through the use of animal models. Animals that mimic (to our best ability) diabetes, animals that have impaired beta cell development, animals that receive drug treatments to potentially treat this disease. The list goes on and on. We use these animals not because we are "crazy scientists" who just can't wait to kill things, but because they provide us with the best glimpse of how the body works. We are not blood thirsty mad scientists. We are reasonable, logical people. We don't love killing things. In fact, most of us find it quite unpleasant. We treat our animals with respect, and give them the best life possible. I have never witnessed animal abuse, and I hopefully never will.
I am concerned about this for a number of different reasons. Firstly, I recently read this article in Nature, which talks about animal activists protesting the movement of research animals via airlines. They have nearly shut down animal transport by nearly every airline. This could be disastrous to research, as we are a community that will often share resources (including animals) with other labs around the world. That's a vital part of science. And, look, I agree, research on non-human primates is a little crazy in my book. I understand that people might feel uncomfortable about research on animals that look so much like us. I think the best thing, however, is to keep non-human primate research in countries like the US, where regulations on animal welfare and care are strict, instead of farming research out to other countries where animal welfare is not a concern.
Animal research is necessary, and trust me, you have benefited greatly from it. All modern drugs have been tested on animals, as have all modern therapies for cancer, or even for the common cold. I understand the concern about animals, but I feel that the ends justify the means. When I see a kid at Children's Hospital, clearly battling some form of cancer, I am glad we have the checks in place to test drugs and therapies on animals before it's ever brought to the child's bedside. Drugs can be given to babies on the first day of their birth (especially if they are born with a genetic defect, like hemophilia)- are you willing to administer untested drugs to a newborn? Of course not.
My favorite story in all of this comes from a joint endeavor between Children's Hospital and UPenn. There is a rare genetic disorder that causes blindness. It's caused by a mutation or loss of a specific gene. Children with this disease often lose their sight by the time they are teenagers. This disease also exists in dogs (gold retrievers, I think?). They tested some therapies on the blind dogs, and one therapy seemed to work. Just recently, they tried out this therapy on one eye in a number of patients. The therapy worked, and a number of previously blind (or nearly blind) people can now see. The truth is, this research has been going on for years in the dogs. And yes, some of the dogs had to be sacrificed. However, they were sacrificed humanely and in a respectful manner. The dogs were not mistreated, and they were cared for daily by a dedicated group of technicians, vets, and researchers. And now some kids can see. As improvements are made in this therapy, it will hopefully become a standard treatment for this rare disease, and also may provide a model for how to treat some genetic diseases in the future. I know some work is already focused on hemophilia, a genetic disease in which the blood cannot clot. I say this because it's vital that biomedical research is carried out. It means improved quality of life, a better understanding of the world at large, and a better grasp of the causes of disease and their potential treatments. Computer models or cell culture systems just cannot recapitulate the precise, delicate, and complex situations of disease or metabolism. For this we need our purpose bred animals in the lab, and we will hopefully be better able to treat disease in the future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Twofer Tuesday (AKA confessions)

I know you guys know that I am a big rom-com lover. I realize how terrible these movies are, but I just can't help it. I just love a little romance. So, a couple weeks ago, on a rainy Saturday morning, I decided on a double feature, Morning Glory, starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, and Friends with Benefits, starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. OK, seriously, I understand these are not stunning masterpieces of movies. I was not really looking for anything mind-bending. I was just looking for some entertainment on a cold, rainy Saturday morning when my husband was away at a bike race. What I got, well, ugh....just ugh.
Firstly, Morning Glory. The premise seemed cute: McAdams plays a small time producer on a morning show in NJ, and gets fired. She lands a sorta dream job at a national morning TV show that's down in the ratings. She hires a hard-hitting journalist (Ford) to revitalize the show, but the journalist refuses to do anything on the show, and just ends up being curmudgeonly and difficult to work with. All the time, McAdams is trying to up the ratings, and she's also sorta falling for this other producer (hence, the rom part). I think this movie could have been much better. Ford was not believable as a hard hitting journalist. His speech was too slow and deliberate, and he just didn't have the screen presence I would imagine that type of a journalist to have. Keaton, on the other hand, nailed it. She was an amazing co-anchor, and she really carried the film in a lot of ways. McAdams was fine. I actually like her as an actress, but her physical comedy seemed forced, and I don't think the screenplay played to her talents. And the story line? Oh, man, what an insufferable plot. It's the age old adage that a girl can have it all, but she doesn't have anything unless she has a man in her life. Some of the movie was OK. It showed McAdams bringing home her work, and not being able to disengage, something I'm all too familiar with. It even gets to the point where the guy demands her attention, doesn't get it, and then dumps her. I'm sorry, but this is just ridiculous. While she seems to be working incessantly, he's just relaxing all the time, is able to take off any time of the day or night and seems to keep a fairly normal schedule. Well, I guess that part might be more true to life than I realized :) In the end, of course, she ends up staying at her job, having a lovely relationship with her boyfriend and all is fine in the world. This movie had some potential, and it just killed it. It really could have explored relationships between two hard working people, it could have shown an empowered woman decide that she didn't need a man in her lie to be successful and happy. Hell, it could have shown her, instead, having a relationship with a woman, which would have made this movie more interesting. Instead, this movie left me feeling flat and unsatisfied. And bored.
On to Friends with Benefits. I think that, in general, Hollywood is trying to figure out movies from the woman's point of view, but they just can't figure it out. Maybe they should hire more women to let them know. This movie starts off with Portman and Kutcher meeting at a frat party in college. She, somewhat oddly, brings him to her father's funeral. Several years later, they run into each other in LA (of course) and they sleep together. This goes on for a while, until they each realize they have feelings for one another, screw everything up, and end up together eventually at the end. This movie just rubbed me the wrong way. I tend to like Portman, but I think she plays the same character over and over again. I just couldn't believe she was an MD in this movie to begin with. She's the high powered character who insists on keeping things "friends with benefits" instead of anything more. You see, her Dad's death affected her more than she thought, so she just doesn't want to get close to anyone. Yeah. ANYways, this horrible, train wreck of a movie continues with Kutcher being a not-so believable nice guy. He makes her a mix CD so she can deal with her period. You see, women in positions of power have a really hard time dealing with menses, so they need a man to bring them cupcakes and make them a CD. Kutcher also manages to introduce two of his friends, who end up together. But of course, they turn out to be hot lesbians, who make out on his couch. Of course. Am I right? I think the best part of this whole movie was the end, where she's driving up the coast on the 101. Brought me back home and made me homesick. And the scenes at the The Biltmore in Montecito. I can't believe I actually lived in that vicinity for four years. Bottom line? This movie is crap. It should have never been made. I think I might just start writing screenplays in my spare time. I am pretty sure I could come up with something more interesting than this drivel.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Numbers

This weekend was awesome! The weather was stunning - in the 60s and 70s.

Joe was here for a bit. We had a great visit, catching up. We ate more than ever should be eaten, drank more than we should have, and watched a lot of basketball. We also took some lovely walks, enjoying the weather. It was so nice to not work for almost two days!

I sold my guitar for $100! Woot! But it's gone now. Spent on a big lunch on Saturday.

Today, Joe left at 5am. What did I do? Went back to bed!

I think it's officially spring. The dehumidifier is back on after a winter hiatus. Heading above 55% humidity in the basement means we may skip spring and head to summer directly. Ugh.

I have turned into an old woman, taking three pills, eye drops and nose spray before bed. Allergies suck.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Haiku from my phone Friday

Big week, warm sun, talk
A little brain fried. Hoping
The weekend helps that.

Misty morning, Joe
Comes in tonight. Philly bike
Race tomorrow.

Getting my life back
After so much work. I can't
Remember what fun.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring has sprung!

Dude, you guys? This weather is incredible. The trees are blooming, the sun is out. It's warm. I'm one happy camper. It's amazing what some vitamin D can do for you! My talk went well, except for the guy that accused me of fraud. Yeah. That was fun. Joe comes tomorrow, should be fun. OK, I'm off to enjoy the weather! Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Recipe Tuesday

The recipe for one of the winning chilis from this past weekend: Texas Jerky Chili, adapted slightly from a recipe in the Marlboro Country Cookbook. It was super good, you should try it!

1 cup chopped bacon
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chili peppers, chopped (can add up to 4-5 to increase burn factor)
5 cups canned diced tomatoes (about 8 fresh peeled tomatoes)
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1 tbsp. chili powder (can add up to 2 tbsp)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2-3 cups chopped beef jerky, original flavor
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven until fat is rendered but not crisp.  Add onion and garlic, cook until tender. 
Add chili peppers, tomatoes, and beef broth.  Cook about 20 min. 
Combine chili pepper, cumin, brown sugar, black pepper and add with beef jerky to Dutch oven.  Cook at a slow boil, stirring occasionally, for about 45 min. 
Add beans and bring to a boil, cook 5 min.

Makes 6 servings.  Top with cheese if desired.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • You guys, this whole "spring ahead" thing has really messed me up. Why is losing just one hour so hard?
  • This weekend, we had a trip to Baltimore for the Second Annual Chili Cook-off. There were about 14 different chilis to taste, including several veggie ones with sweet potatoes in them. There was also my favorite, Buffalo Turkey Chili, and, of course my husband made a really good sweet and hot BBQ-like chili with real hobos in it. Just kidding. There weren't any hobos in it at all. 
  • We may have found a car to buy! A friend of ours is selling a 20 year old BMW 5 series wagon, which is super sweet. He's souped it up, made it pretty nice. We can hopefully make it work!
  • Alex has finally set a defense date - May 29th. Set your calendars for the arrival of Doc Brown :)
  • I have to give a talk tomorrow, my first in front of a group of doctors. I mean, real doctors, like people with MDs. Should be interesting, and hopefully fun. Right?
  • We are looking forward to the arrival of our good friend Joe on Friday. He's coming in from jolly old London and he'll be staying with us for the weekend. It will be nice to catch up!
  • Alex shaved his beard off. He now looks like Colonel Sanders, with 11 different herbs and spices. I will try to get a pic soon.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Haiku Janetwood Drive Friday

Dark wood, green carpet
squishy linoleum floors
stairs with a landing.


Room of pink and blue
wallpaper, furniture with
flowers, lots of toys.


Bright sunshine, swimming
pool, patio swing, palm tree.
My childhood home.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Opinion Thursday: Kony 2012

I've seen the posts all over for the Kony 2012 campaign and I've watched the video put out by Invisible Children. I think this whole thing has been so interesting to watch play out across the interwebs. Firstly, to think that this group posted a video (literally) two days ago, and it was on the nightly news last night goes to show you how powerful social media is. It honestly makes me glad I didn't have this stuff when I was in high school. Could you imagine how quickly rumors spread now? Ugh.
Anyways, I just thought I would put my opinion up here because, well, it's my blog. I guess I'm in the minority when I say that I know who Joseph Kony is, as well as the Lord's Resistance Army. I read the New York Times, and I guess I try to stay educated on what is going on in the world. I agree that Joseph Kony is absolutely a terrible person, but I'm unsure that this way of "stopping him" is the right way at all. I think the problem I have is that this whole campaign just reeks of colonialism. I don't think that any rich American white guy should go into another country and tell people how to live. I also think that we, as Americans, tend to think of our life as the best way of life, when that is not necessarily true. If the world lived the way we live, this planet would be cooked, like, yesterday, and our resources would be gone. I think the situation in Uganda and Sudan is much more complex that a short 30 min video can ever convey. I am also unsure that military intervention is the right approach. And I'm thirdly quite uneasy with the thought that eliminating Joseph Kony will entirely solve the problem. The problem, it seems, stems from either a strict dictatorship government in Uganda, or lack of a government at all in Sudan. In both of these situations, the military is out of control, and, instead of protecting the people, is instead following its own interests. I don't think that arming these militaries even further is the answer either. To be honest, I've never been that good at foreign policy. But something about this video just seems so wrong to me. I'm not sure whether it's the use of the name "Invisible Children", as if, unless those children are known by the rich Americans, they are invisible? Or the fact that the filmmaker uses his young son as propaganda, trying to explain that Kony is a "bad guy" and "we've got to get him".
Of course, please don't get me wrong. I think it's amazing that a viral video can turn up one day and lead people to talk about Africa in the next. I think that's a good thing. I think Americans should be more aware of what's going on in the world outside the US. And, I think the sad fact of the matter is, this is not just occurring in Uganda and Africa. This happens all over the world, especially in Asia, where the sex slave industry is apparently booming. Hell, they even find some of these girls and boys here in the US. The problem is there are hugely corrupt governments all over the world. Exposing their wrong-doing, supporting the people in poorer countries, and donating or contributing to charities you believe in are all good places to start. However, I think we also need to support good, strong, independent journalism. We need to know what is actually happening in these countries, by journalists who have pledged to be unbiased and to get both (or however many) sides of the story. I just don't think we can rely on random guys with a superman complex to give us the details of a complex situation in a straight manner, especially when they have an agenda to promote. Personally, I will donate my money to Doctors without Borders. They operate in a wide number of countries all over the world and dispense needed medical aid. I'm all for that. I'm just not for arming a military complex that is notorious for raping women and killing citizens. It's just not right.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Opinion Wednesday: Contraception

I'm a scientist, so my thoughts on sex and contraception are fairly straightforward. People will have sex because we are animals with the desire to procreate and further the species. Plus it feels good. Therefore, women should be able to choose when and how they want to have children, so everyone (yes, including teenagers) should have access to safe birth control options. This whole debate on contraception and whether it should be covered for everyone in the country is just such ludicrous banter. I just don't understand the Republican rhetoric on government because most of the time it says, "Stay off my lawn and out of my life", but here's a case where they are trying to be in every woman's vagina. Honestly, I don't care what you do in your life. Of course, I care about my family and friends, but honestly, what you do with your life, your family and your health is YOUR concern, not mine. If you want to take birth control, like nearly 90% of women will at some point in their lives, then I believe that should be covered by your insurance. And, you know what? I don't CARE what you take contraception for, or what form of contraception you take. Know why? Because it's your personal business what you take and why you take it. I hate the argument that "some women need to take bc for reasons other than birth control". I don't care. I don't care if you take it because you have sex with 100 guys a day. Or if you have sex with a guy 100 times a day. I don't care if you take it for your PCOS, or to prevent having another baby with your husband. I also don't care if you take it for acne, for uterine fibroids, or for lighter periods. I just don't care. And really? That's the way health care should work. It should be personalized to you and your situation and your life. It has absolutely nothing to do with churches, governments, Congress, Sandra Fluke, or Rush Limbaugh. It has nothing to do with women being sluts, whores, or any other misogynist, derogatory term you can think of. It has to do with women living their own lives and deciding when (or even if) to have a family. When women have the power to control their own fertility, families do better, financially and emotionally. When women can delay starting a family to get educated or start their own business or pursue their own goals, families are happier, there are fewer mouths to feed, which means more attention, more resources for the children in the family. Birth control and contraception are a basic human right and every woman, no matter their religion, color, creed, nationality or age should have access to contraception. It's just the right thing to do. And calling Congressional committees on contraception that do not include any women is a farce and a waste of time. Calling women who would testify (but were denied the right) a "slut" and a "prostitute" because she was brave enough to stand up for women all over the country is shameless and cowardly. How about we start having a real conversation about women's rights to healthcare and contraception? How about we work towards the goal of increasing sex education, increasing access to free, safe contraception for both women and men, and how about we get rid of these puritanical, outdated visions of how women should or should not act. I'm pretty sure that went up in smoke when my Mom burned her bra in the '60s.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Review: Two for Tuesday

Look, you guys, I am really, really behind on my movie watching, so I hope you'll bear with me. I couldn't really bear to watch the Oscars last weekend because I haven't been to a movie theatre since the release of the last Harry Potter movie last July, so I'm a little behind. The last two weekends, we watched The Wrestler (2010?) and The Italian Job (2003). And you know what? I really, really liked them both. The Wrestler was fascinating because I had no idea there was this whole "world of wrestling" and that it was more of a performance than anything. I thought Mickey Rourke did a phenomenal job acting, and I love, love, love Marisa Tomei. I thought the movie was really interesting and entertaining, although there were a few scenes I just couldn't watch because they were so violent. The movie was also sad, but so well done that it was almost not noticeable? Does that even make sense? I'm not sure how the filmmakers did this one because there was not one particular character I really liked or identified with, it was more a window into another life I never knew about that was so fascinating to me. If you haven't seen this one, it's worth it, I think,
The Italian Job is one of those heist movies. A group of people get together to pull of a big robbery in Venice. This is one of those great movies with a whole ensemble cast (Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, Donald Sutherland, Ed Norton, Seth Green) who travel around the world to pull of exciting heists. The plot begins in Venice with the group pulling off the robbery of a bunch of gold bricks. Things go wrong and one of the group turns out to be a rat. The plot then turns to revenge, with the group trying to get back at the one that turned on them. Overall, I loved this movie. Everyone, even the smaller characters, were phenomenal actors. The storyline was a little slow, but the chase scenes were fun and the action was good. The movie wasn't too violent and the one female lead was a really strong, capable woman, not a damsel in distress. If you haven't seen this one, I'd recommend it for one of those nights you just want some mindless entertainment. It was a good show.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • Alex had his first bike race of the season this past weekend. It was at Rutgers in NJ, so he left at 4:30am on Saturday morning to head up there with his friend, Mike. I think they had a good time, but Alex had some bike problems which prevented him from finishing his last race. Continuing on the theme of bike problems, I set out Sunday morning for a trip to TJs when, lo and behold, the whole damn pedal came off my bike! Yeah, so Alex subsequently spent the day in the basement, fixing bikes. It's kinda hard when that's your sole mode of transportation, so it looks like we might be running errands this week after work instead!

  • I also watched about 3 movies, one of which I may review later this week. I actually like having something on in the background when I'm working on mindless stuff. Seems to make the mindless stuff a little bit easier.
  • I made meatloaf for the first time in a loooong time. I forgot how good that stuff is!
  • Alex is trying to set a thesis defense date for sometime in the 5th or 6th month!
  • I have about ten billion things to do and I marked one of those things of my list on Saturday.
  • Why are weekends never three days instead of two?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Numbers

  • Sorry it's one day late, guys
  • I sold my first thing on Ebay this past weekend! My old Docs that I never wore. I think I might end up putting more stuff up there - woot, woot!
  • I'm enduring my second cold of the last three weeks. Seriously, not fun, although it hasn't been that bad. At least I can still semi-function in the brain region.
  • I think my paper might actually get published sometime soon. I am awaiting word from my old boss, while working diligently on my work in my current lab, and thinking about the work I will do in my future lab. I am ready to not have my feet in three labs, thank you very much!
  • I watched the Oscars, but couldn't last the whole broadcast. Billy Crystal just seemed old, and the schtick was a little outdated. I guess I was mostly irritated when I thought about how much money people had spent to attend the Oscars, and that my husband and I could probably have lived off that money for several months. I'm not hating on rich people, I'm just hating on the disparity. 
  • I shoot flames out of both my eyes every time I read about Santorum going up in the polls. That guy would be the absolute worst thing to happen to this country, ever. 
  • I think Spring is here, guys. That groundhog had no idea what he was talking about. Although, it did breifly snow for about 30 minutes on Saturday. Go figure.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Craigslist Haiku Friday

Sold my stereo
on craigslist. Free listing, five
days, Thirty Dollars!


We accumulate
so much junk. One person, junk
another, treasure.


Who knew people still
wanted to play CDs, tapes?
Gotta put up more!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Confessions Tuesday

I'm going to admit it: I'm a Miley Cyrus fan. I know, I know, a grown woman, liking Miley Cyrus? I must admit I don't know much about her, but I have to admit that when times are tough, when life has me down, her song, "Party in the USA" is on a loop on my iPod. It seems ridiculous, and I'm unsure how I even got that song on my iPod to begin with (I guess I must have purchased it, because I can't imagine having asked a friend for a song from a Miley Cyrus CD!). It all started in November, as I was headed for the Bay Area for three job interviews in three days. I arrived on Tuesday, and attempted to find my way to Palo Alto on the BART/Cal-train, which is no easy feat. When I finally arrived, I found that the campus was MUCH bigger than anticipated - I'm a walker, and I usually just will walk, even if it's a ways, but the walk to my hotel, it just couldn't be done. My hotel was separated from everything, and consistent with CA, was situated for drivers, not people without a car. Getting food was tough, I had to order in, and I was nervous as hell, giving a talk in a place so unfamiliar. The bus/shuttle system saved me, and I headed to campus the next morning, bright and early and ready for my interviews. Each Both Wed and Thurs were looooooong days. I gave a talk on Wed for both labs I was visiting, and then I just hung out. I felt like I hadn't really nailed the talk, and I was super nervous to meet with the lab on Thurs, since I didn't really know the PI very well. On Thurs night, my interviews ended around 7pm, and I had to get to CalTrain to head into SF for my thankfully last interview. I was beat, both mentally and physically, and I just couldn't imagine having yet ANOTHER interview tomorrow. I got to the train station, starved and ready to get to my hotel in SF, but so, so far away. As I arrived, I saw the CalTrain headed to SF pulling out, meaning I had at least another hour to wait. Thankfully, there was a small cafe at the train station, so I grabbed a hot cocoa and a sandwich and settled in for a bit. I found the song "Party in the USA" on my iPod and I started listening to it. Interestingly, I perked up. The song had an effect, making me want to dance a little, giving me a little bit of energy, and telling me I could do this, I could really, really do this! I also liked the song because it talks about her feeling out of place, landing in LA, not knowing how to dress or act. That's totally how I felt. East Coast living has left me a little bit uptight, and a lot impatient. Science living has left me a little awkward, both socially and professionally. So, here I was, with all these Google execs, all these Silicon Valley geniuses, headed to SF. I talked to Alex quite a bit, and he gave me a lot of confidence and boosted my morale. I ended up walking to my awesome hotel right in the heart of touristy downtown, feeling pretty good. I ran through my talk once more, and then I hit the hay. The next morning, I was out for a run around 6am, which felt pretty good. SF felt familiar, and I felt like I was finally settling into this traveling bit. I left early, heading to the UCSF Mission Bay campus (oh my god, what an awesome place!) and I nailed my talk there. Nailed it! I felt great, and I had a fantastic time on my last interview. And I couldn't get out of there fast enough because my parents were heading up to spend the weekend with me. It ended up being a great trip (I even got my folks on the BART and the cable car, which was super cute!), and it ended with two job offers. We're headed to Stanford in the fall, so we're both really excited. But, to a certain extent, I think I might owe some of my success to Miley Cyrus and her ridiculously catchy song :)

 On the BART
 Powell St Cable Car, headed to Fisherman's Wharf
 On top of a ridiculously tall building, at the bar, of course!
 See? I was there too!
 The view was awesome!
 On Stanford's campus, the night I arrived.
The Ferry Building, the morning of my run.