Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I'm turning into a hobbit

At least, I'm adopting their feeding habits. I'm already the right size for one! This morning I had breakfast after my shower (like normal). Then I got ready to leave for school, and decided I was still hungry enough for a second breakfast of French toast. Last night before I went to bed I had a 'late night snack' of cheese manicotti (though eating something that substantial just before bed did leave me feeling less nauseated this morning).

Last night I went up to Melissa Tate's apartment to ask her how to cope with morning sickness. Since she's already had one child, I figured she'd be a good source. So, she showed me what she was eating. Currently? I thought? Yes, it turns out--she is also pregnant, and is apparently due just about a week before me (though I haven't seen a doctor to confirm my estimated due date yet).

Just on a whim, I decided to call Maja (Nash) Onda. Turns out, she too is pregnant, and due in the middle of July. I'm so excited that three of us are all due at about the same time--and glad to know there are other people going through the same sickness and restlessness, and other obnoxious symptoms I'm dealing with. Somehow makes it more manageable to know you're not alone. For a little while there I was feeling like I couldn't really do this--and I'm only in about my 6th week!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The influences in my life

My Grandpa is cool. Yesterday he asked me if putting more water in the ocean would eventually result in a drop in sea level. That is actually true--if you were to melt all the glaciers in the world the increased weight of the water would cause the ocean basins to subside and become larger, eventually sea level would be lower than it is right now--it will just take hundreds of thousands to millions of years to happen. My Grandpa introduced me to science--I remember many hours watching Nature and Nova, and other fascinating TV shows about nature curled up next to him on his bed. When I was about 8 my family took a trip to Canada, and one of the things I remember about that trip (besides heating up a nail in the fire until it glowed red-hot) was stopping at Mt. St. Helens. I'd watched a number of shows on the volcano with my Grandpa, and really seeing it with him was one of the coolest things we did on the trip. My Grandpa always wanted to see an erupting volcano, and he would watch anything on volcanoes. There's a volcano watching website he frequents (I think he still does anyway) so he can watch volcanoes erupting live. I wish he'd been able to go to Hawaii or Iceland, or someplace with an erupting volcano just so he could see one, but I suspect he never will.

My Grandma, Mimi, is also cool--she's still a substitute teacher and she makes blankest, quilts, hats, and stuffed animals in her spare time. She should really get onto etsy and sell some of her wonderful, home-made wares. Until she starts charging, I'm going to enjoy all the expertise and talent she shares with the rest of us! From her I learned to make bread, which is a skill I really value (as does Derrick :) ). She's been a great friend and as much a mother to me as my Mom (though don't ever tell my Mom I said that!)

I am so glad I have very curious and creative grandparents. I hope when I'm the same age as my grandparents I'm as active and interested in the world around me as they are.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The order of things

Three random people at Borders know I'm pregnant and Derrick doesn't. How fun is that?

I finally worked up the gumption to take a pregnancy test yesterday morning (though that was a bit of an adventure too--the first time I tried I couldn't hold back my pee long enough to open the stupid test package, as if my body really, REALLY didn't want to know). I sent pictures to Derrick, who may have seen them by now if he's checked his email, but definitely hadn't last night, since he was still driving through a lovely snowstorm in the Wasatch mountains. Since I had a 40% off coupon at Border's, I went out to buy The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. Borders didn't have that book in stock, so I bought The Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy and the Baby's First Year instead. I'm pleased with the book. It's a bit like a high school text-book, which I find reassuring. Anyway, when I couldn't find the first book immediately, I tried looking it up on the computers scattered around the store so I wouldn't have to ask anyone. A very helpful employee came over to help me and saw what I was looking at, and wished me congratulations. Then at the check out counter I complained about not being able to find the book I wanted and the two people there were very helpful, but also now know I'm pregnant before my husband does. Now I really want Derrick to check his email so I can tell him! :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Give a Little Bit

I'm a terrible daughter-in-law. Derrick and I spent thanksgiving with his family this year since we're spending Christmas in Utah. Since we'll be in Utah, we also exchanged our Christmas gifts. My in-laws really splurged on us this year--Derrick got a very nice (and very expensive) tripod and tripod head for his camera, and I got a set of the dishes I wanted from Bed Bath and Beyond, and an ironing board (it's amazing how domestic I'm becoming, but you really do need one for sewing, and it's really irritating ironing on carpet). Very thoughtful and very useful gifts to us, especially given that the two of us are still maintaining two households and thus don't have a lot of spare cash for fun things like new dishes and camera equipment.

ANYWAY. Then my in-laws opened their gifts from us. They weren't quite so extravagant, shall we say. We bought most of our gifts for family in Greece this year, so there were some space and financial considerations. Even so. Derrick's dad wanted wine from Greece, which we purchased and managed to get back to the states even in Derrick's soft-sided bag, and got all the way to Indiana, where I dropped it carrying it into the house. So, Derrick's dad got Argentine wine instead.

We gave my Mother-in-law an olive-wood spatula. Yes, that's right, a spatula. It's a very nice spatula, made of really quite beautiful, curly, spalted olive wood. But it's a spatula. To make it even worse, in Greece we got me a small square tablecloth with a Greek key border and olives embroidered on it, and a set of four matching napkins. Derrick showed it to his mom, who thought it was for her, and quite obviously thought it was an absolutely gorgeous piece. I wish we'd given it to her now. Oh well--at least this means we really, REALLY have to go back, if for no other reason than to get my Mother-in-law the tablecloth she deserves.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Melt into the Walls

So, I finished curtains this weekend, which is truly an accomplishment for me. I remember as a kid trying so hard to use my grandma's sewing machine to sew doll clothes, only to have the sewing machine eat the fabric and get clogged. My grandma, who spent every evening listening to the TV as she sewed stacks of clothing and quilts, would have to come in after me and clean out the mangled pieces of fabric wound tightly with yards of thread. Under her expert hands the machine would function beautifully, but no matter what tricks she'd show me, I just couldn't get the thing to work for me.

While I was at Penn State Melissa talked me into making her a dress for Halloween (I guess the bad memories slipped my mind long enough for her to convince me it would be fun), and that was probably my first successful sewing venture. The dress was huge--not only did we get the wrong size pattern, but I was so nervous about my ability to sew small seams that I cut something like an extra half-inch on every side of the pattern. Even as huge as it was, the dress turned out sufficiently nicely that I was willing to take up sewing again.

Anyway, my bedroom window faces the apartments next door, which have annoyingly bright lights on all night long. I haven't been around enough for it to really bother me, but lately I've had trouble getting to sleep, and thought actual darkness might help. To my happiness, they do, and they look really snazzy! The curtains are made from some lovely faux-suede fabric that was a joy to work with. I've got somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 yards of the stuff in other colors that I plan to make into a quilt (in my copious free time, of course).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Sound of Settling

So, it's been a ridiculously long time since I've posted. I was at Woods Hole, MA for a month, and then I went to Greece for about two weeks with Derrick. The last six weeks have been absolutely amazing--I was über productive at Woods Hole, and then had a fabulous time in Greece with Derrick traveling from Athens to Naxos, and then to Santorini. Coming back to real life is so hard.

I don't know what to say about WHOI. It's an exciting place to be, not least of all because there's so much going on that I find interesting. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work there at all, and more, to have worked with someone like Tim Eglinton, who is an impressive, well-known organic geochemist, and great person to boot; and I feel fortunate to have spent a month surrounded by such smart, motivated people as are in his lab. When I went to WHOI I couldn't believe how excited I was to go there (it's just another place where people do research, right?). Dorky as this is, on my way to Woods Hole I felt like a kid going to Disneyland for the first time. I felt the same way I did when I fist went to tech. I think I expected things to end the same way there, too, with disillusionment and semi-failure (or something akin to it). I admit, I struggled with feelings of inadequacy while I was there: with feeling like I'm intellectually inferior to the people around me, like I'm an impostor risking exposure every time I opened my mouth, like I really don't belong and people are just humoring me because I'm a girl. Feelings I haven't really had to deal with since I left tech (this place certainly doesn't inspire them, and I was too preoccupied with other feelings of inadequacy at Penn State to worry about the minor detail of my stupidity).

And yet, WHOI was invigorating and challenging in a way I definitely miss, and on balance it was a very positive experience. I don't think I've enjoyed working so hard for a very long time, nor have I been in a place so dizzyingly stimulating. My visit definitely reaffirmed my decision to do science, and made me want to work harder and find out more (sorry Derrick, no kiddos just yet). I was sad, almost to the point of crying (though I didn't) as I rode the bus to Boston, watching the sun set over the Cape.

'Course, then I went to Greece, and since then have had a dickens of time getting myself at all motivated :)

Greece is a beautiful country, and the people are very friendly. I loved seeing the Parthenon and the Acropolis, and learning about so much history. I'd never been to Europe before, and I have to say being someplace that's steeped in so much history is pretty amazing. Oh, and the food was fabulous! The first night Derrick and I were in Athens we went to this little restaurant just downstairs from our hotel and we got grilled feta as an appetizer. That is my new favorite dish. Very simple--just feta cheese with olive oil and spices--we had it at every opportunity and saw a number of variations, most involving thin-sliced tomatoes or peppers and some combination of oregano and basil. I'm definitely going to have to experiment with this dish to perfect my own version ;)

I should probably do a more organized report (with pictures!) but I'm tired and it's late, so I'll do it in a future (but soon!) post.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I'm leaving on a jet plane

I had a wonderful time at woods hole, and am leaving with a whole bunch of data and good experiences and friendships I hope will continue far into the future...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Caltech Girl

So, a friend of mine from college forwarded this link to me this afternoon. The geek pictured on that page is none other than Niky Morgan, dancin' queen, young and sweet, only seventeen (sorry, you have to scroll down to see her pic). I don't remember her being all that geeky--in fact, I thought she was pretty cool. She did, after all, pierce her belly-button, and had some snazzy britany spears moves. Then again, it was tech.

Now I'm kinda sad I gave away my TV. I think I'm going to have to find me a Beauty and the Geek buddy, at least as long as Niky's on the show.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Message in a bottle

Yeah, I know, it's September 11th. I should blog about something deeply, profoundly patriotic, or at least spiritual, since this is not only the 6th anniversary of the fall of the twin towers, but also the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I should, but I'm not going to.

Instead, I'm going to comment on iWNEX studios services. If you want to see a sample of what they do, look at their portfolio of re-touched celebrity photos. I'm not surprised that celebrity pictures are frequently heavily re-touched before being printed in magazines and such (it's expected, in fact), but the extent to which faces and bodies are manipulated is impressive. Eva Longoria (a rather tiny woman in real life) is made skinnier, as is Kelly Clarkson, and just about every other female celebrity pictured. Ever wonder why celebrities often bear only a passing resemblance to themselves on the cover of Cosmo or Vogue? Well, this is probably why.

I wonder at the utility of creating these idealized images for we women to compare ourselves to and chase after. I realize there are whole industries built up around the pursuit of physical perfection (photo re-touching being only one of many), and I realize our physical appearance plays into social hierarchies, but still, how useful is pursuit of an unobtainable ideal? How useful is it that we spend so many resources and so much energy in trying to become something that nobody could actually be?

Monday, September 10, 2007

World falls

Definitely a get a clue kind of moment. I'm not sure why it is, when so many adult actors and actresses lead such obviously divergent lifestyles from the characters they portray, that we expect child actors and actresses to be the pure, idealized, perfect children the Disney channel makes them pretend to be on TV. Really, what child is perfect, pure, and ideal? And why is it such a shock when an actor is different from the character they play? Really.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Space Cowboy

I've been meaning to post this for a while. A while ago I made the most awesome peach cobbler from semi-ripe, uninspiring peaches. Imagine how much better it is now, with ripe, in-season peaches. The recipe is adapted from one in the most awesome cooking magazine in the world. Without further ado, here is my version of their recipe.

Peach Cobbler

Filling:
3 1/2 lb ripe but firm peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (about 6 1/2 c)
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp corn starch
3-5 teaspoons lemon juice
pinch salt
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves

Topping:
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp butter, softened
1 c Quaker Oats
1/2 - 1 c nuts, or to taste (Cook's Illustrated suggests almonds; I used pecans)

Directions:
1--Pour 1/3 c granulated sugar over sliced peaches in a bowl and gently toss. Let sit, allowing peaches to macerate, for 30 minutes. Drain peaches in colander over a large bowl. Combine 1/4 c of the drained peach juice, corn starch, lemon juice, and spices. Toss peaches with juice mixture and pour into 8 inch square baking dish (or 9 inch pie pan).

2--While peaches are macerating, combine butter, flour, and sugars in a food processor or mixer. Combine mixture, drizzling vanilla over the top as it is mixing. Add oats and nuts and mix until crumbly, but not sandy. Pour mixture onto baking sheet (lining with parchment will reduce clean-up and ease later transfer) and spread into 1/2 inch chunks. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm.

3--Slide topping over peaches and spread into even layer (parchment paper makes this process much easier). Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar, if desired. Bake at 375 for 25-35 minutes, or until topping is well-browned and fruit is bubbling. Cool at least 15 minutes and serve. Would be excellent with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lush 3-1

My phone has this intermittent "not working" quality to it. The Sunday I got back into Indiana, my phone wouldn't make calls out--it wasn't registering as a verizon phone. I called verizon, spent an hour troubleshooting the phone, and by the end still didn't have a phone. Kind of obnoxious, since I hadn't called anyone to tell them I made it in safely. The next day the phone was fixed, supposedly by changing something in their system. Then, a few days later, I couldn't receive calls. The solution this time, after troubleshooting the phone again, was to replace the phone. I had two options--either wait for verizon to send me a new phone by mail, which would take a couple of days; or go to a local verizon dealer and they'd replace the phone. Reasoning that it would be faster for me to simply go to a local verizon dealer, Derrick said I didn't need a phone shipped to me.

Remember that scene in Ghostbusters where Winston says, "Ray, when someone asks if you're a *God*, you say 'YES!'" Yeah, when someone offers to ship you a new phone, you say 'YES!'

First of all, I don't have time right now to run across town to the verizon store. I didn't make time to get over there until yesterday, which is when the phone would have arrived had one been shipped to me. So, no time savings there (yes, potentially there might have been had I made it out to the mall on Saturday, when the problem occurred, but I was kinda busy working up data).

I tried Best Buy first, and the guy who helped me there waffled and hedged, and told me, "Your phone is more than a year old" (it isn't, which I told him) "so we don't carry that phone anymore. Even if we had that phone you'd have to pay for a new one because you haven't had your contract for two years" (this problem is covered under warranty, so I shouldn't have to pay for it) "and I don't know how we'd deal with an exchange--if you'd have to pay for a new phone and then have the exchange credited to your phone bill or something." Or something. So, I left and went to the verizon store in the mall. The guy there was at least familiar with my problem, but they wouldn't do over the counter exchanges, so to exchange with them I'd have to pay $20 for express shipping, and still have to wait two days. I said, thanks, but no thanks.

This morning, intent on getting this cleared up, I called verizon. The woman who "helped" me said that since my phone was currently working, they couldn't do anything for me. AARGH! I thought, it's an intermittent problem. I'm basically assured to have this problem again, potentially at a supremely inconvenient moment. I didn't get a cell phone so I could *occasionally* use it.

So, Derrick called them back. They're shipping me a phone. The guy he talked to said no problem, the record of the intermittent problem was in my file and they'd be happy to ship a new phone to me. You know, the way customer service is supposed to work.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Take it back

I haven't read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet it's becoming quite the distraction precisely because I haven't read it. Instead, I'm reading blog posts and discussions of the book, not bothering to avoid spoilers. So now I know yes, Harry does die, but he comes back from the dead. I really need to go and borrow/buy the book and get it over with--I'd probably spend less time reading the book than I've spent reading about it so far. The thing is, I have this talk thing coming up in, oh, a week and a half, for which I still need to collect my data, and I keep thinking, even as I read, I should probably wait to read this until after my talk, or at least until after I've generated the data I need for my talk.

As if that strategy ever works for me (yes, Jorge Cham, I do live in your comic-verse)

Although occasionally I can use the carrot on a stick approach with myself for motivation, usually I just end up feeling resentful of the task keeping me from the desired reward and do a sucky job on it until I just give in, do the thing I really want to do, feel guilty and/or panic because of the "waste of time in face of impending deadline", and, finally motivated by panic, work really hard and finish less desirable task. Mostly, this strategy works, though I suspect I'll live a shorter life thanks to the resultant stress. This time, I'm not so sure. I have this sinking suspicion I may already be so far under the wire the best I can really hope for at this point is a vaguely acceptable first talk experience. And that only if, by some miracle everything works right the first time. Could the cosmos be so generous?

**update**

The janitors have informed me they are polishing the floors outside my lab, forcing me to remain here for at least the next hour. I'm either in for a long night of work, or some intense flicking.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Prego amor

I want a digital camera so badly.

Derrick and I played host to his parents and his grandma Weaver while I was on vacation. Grandma Weaver brought out a digital camera she'd borrowed from one of her daughters and let me, with my itchy little trigger finger, take pictures for her. I took more than 700 photos with that thing. It was awesome. The camera wasn't great (I had a hard time telling when things were in focus, and I never did figure out how to get the white balance right), but it was really quite fun to take basically no-consequence pictures. I wish I'd had one for my Mom's wedding--while she was happy with the pictures I took, I think I would have taken more, and probably ended up with a larger number of truly good photos, if only I'd had a digital.

Sigh.

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, here are a few of my favorites, many with explanation, others solo.


That's Derrick attempting to throw me over the cliff into the Rio Grande River during our drive from Santa Fe to Amargosa.


We took Grandma Weaver on the Alpine loop. She was a little worried about the 4WD road, but this is early enough she's still smiling. Then she saw this:


She wasn't smiling anymore (but I didn't take a picture of that).


Alpine sunflowers at the top of Engineer Pass.


Surprisingly enough, Grandma didn't want to come with the rest of us to Yankee Boy Basin after the alpine loop, even though we bought her a T-shirt to commemorate her survival. It's really too bad, too, because the flowers in Yankee Boy were spectacular. Here's a picture of Derrick's Mom with Columbine:


Shockingly, it's her favorite flower. (or not. Maybe Derrick's love of the flower is hereditary.)



See what I mean about white balance?


Everything from the Aspens on is in Utah. This aspen picture was taken in the La Sal's in Southern Utah.


We didn't take Grandma Weaver (or Derrick's Parent's new Lexus SUV) on this talus slope masquerading as a road:


I'm not sure Derrick would have survived if he'd suggested it.


Utah state flower, the Sego Lily (or Mariposa Lily)


We didn't take them on the Schaffer trail either.


Instead, we went to Mesa Arch, which you should see before it falls.




Derrick hanging out over the abyss to take a picture. His Mom could hardly watch. He really knows how to make them nervous.


Proof that Grandma DID climb on a rock.


Of course, Derrick had to climb to the top, especially since his Mom told him not to.



Then we went to Upheaval Dome.




Derrick's Mom hiding from the sun. Yes, it was that hot. We left shortly after that as all of us were hot, tired, and ready for a good long nap. A couple of days later, when everyone was feeling up to another adventure, we all trekked up to the Albion Basin,




where we saw different columbine (among other beautiful flowers), Derrick told us all about contact metamorphism, and then, to the disbelief of Mom and Grandma (pictured below), took us on yet another dirt road, this one over Guardsman's Pass to Park City,


where the adults in the group were silly enough to leave Derrick and me alone with a camera.




Thursday, July 5, 2007

What's the story, morning glory?

Al Gore, who I really respect as both a person and as a lawmaker, is ticking me off. He wrote an editorial for the New York Times (available here) and in it he says,

Consider this tale of two planets. Earth and Venus are almost exactly the same size, and have almost exactly the same amount of carbon. The difference is that most of the carbon on Earth is in the ground — having been deposited there by various forms of life over the last 600 million years — and most of the carbon on Venus is in the atmosphere.

As a result, while the average temperature on Earth is a pleasant 59 degrees, the average temperature on Venus is 867 degrees. True, Venus is closer to the Sun than we are, but the fault is not in our star; Venus is three times hotter on average than Mercury, which is right next to the Sun. It’s the carbon dioxide.


Okay, I'm all about saving the Earth and reducing the amount of CO2 we humans disgorge into the atmosphere, but comparing the Earth and Venus to make your point? The effects of global warming are going to require an awful lot of adjustment, and, should we handle those impacts poorly, will very probably lead to much war, famine, and generally bad behavior on the part of us humans. Are we going to turn into Venus? No. Definitely not.

So, what are the expected impacts of anthropogenic global warming, you may ask. The impact I'm most interested in is the impact on aridity. It's expected that the southwestern US will become more dry under a warmer climate regime. Droughts will be longer and more severe, and the "average" moisture state will be closer to that experienced during the dust bowl in the 1930's than it will be to today.

Temperatures will increase more in the northern latitudes than nearer the equator, meaning the effects of global warming will be more pronounced as one moves toward the poles. Some species will undoubtedly go extinct as their habitats become inhospitable (like the pika), but probably fewer than if the climate cool precipitously (at least, if previous abrupt warming periods are any indication). More likely, though, the individuals in some species will grow smaller, and others (though again, fewer than if climate were cooling) will grow larger. We humans have carved up the landscape with our agriculture and cities, so it'll be harder for species to move the way they normally would, and that will likely tax some species into extinction that would otherwise have made it. It's likely the growing ranges of many food species we rely on will shift, and probably not to wider ranges in the US. Growing season temperatures on average won't shift up that much, but the number and intensity of high heat stress days is likely to increase--something every bit as important for determining whether a given crop year is successful and productive or not.

We'll loose a lot of coastal areas, but that's happened before, quite a few times, actually, and eventually won't be much of an issue. The main problem with that is there are a lot of people who will likely be displaced initially, and they will likely, even in the best of reactions and circumstances, be forced to live in even closer proximity than they currently do. This proximity will probably be great for the diseases that rely on proximity for communication from person to person, but not really for the people forced to live together. Speaking of diseases, many of the diseases and vectors that are most pernicious to us humans are winter-killed in the north. Warmer winter temperatures will encourage diseases like malaria to make a reappearance in the states, and we're already seeing infestations of wasps that successfully overwinter across the south. Eventually a new equilibrium will be reached between vector and host (us), but in the mean time, a lot of people will probably die.

Personally, I think the real life consequences of global warming are sufficiently scary without invoking Venus, Mr. Gore.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Isopropanol--least favorite alcohol EVER!

I have a very short, but rather bad history with isopropanol. I'm sure it's a great alcohol, possessing many admirable qualities and useful in any number of applications--just nothing that helps me. In fact, I seem rather adept at using it in ways that make life that much more difficult.

For instance, I once accidentally added isopropanol to a liquid-liquid extraction I was doing to collect data for my master's. I was using water and hexane, and meant to get hexane, but picked up the bottle next to it, which just happened to be isopropanol. I added it to about half the samples before realizing the phases weren't separating as they should. Just my luck, every phase was miscible. I don't think there was a compound in the lab short of dirt I could have picked that would have been a worse thing to accidentally add.

Today, I was trying to clean up some spilled sodium iodide that spilled on a balance. I used water first, then decided I wanted to use the balance, so I sprayed alcohol on it to encourage it to dry faster. Not just any alcohol, mind you, but isopropanol. I watched, horrified as the isopropanol fumes rolled down over the iodine-covered plastic, reacted with the left-over iodine and stained the balance a dark yellow. Does ethanol do this? No, of course not. Only isopropanol. Grr.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Friendship bread

My neighbor upstairs gave me her starter for Amish friendship bread because she and her husband and child were going on vacation, so last night I went out and spent a bunch of money buying little things like measuring spoons (yes, I'm still outfitting my new place--probably will be for a while) and this morning I dutifully made the bread. I was expecting it to take about an hour and a half (half an hour to mix, an hour to bake), which was really only sort of okay (I had to make a CV to send in with a proposal and both were due today), but I started at about 7:30 this morning and thought that would give me plenty of time. So, I mixed up the batter and then realized I didn't have any crisco or pam to grease my bread pans. Grr. I was just going to walk over to the grocery store quickly and buy crisco, but on the way passed a yard sale where they had a stool I was very much interested in (stools are amazingly expensive, and the chair I have is rediculously short for my table). Since I live in the world of the cashless, I had, you guessed it, no cash. The lady wasn't going to take a cheque, so I went home, grabbed my checkbook, drove to the grocery store hoping they would take an out of state cheque and give me cash back, found out they would (YES!), got money, and went back to the yard sale, where the stool was still waiting. The three ladies were all very nice, and I stood around and talked to them for a while, completely forgetting about both my bread and my waiting CV, and ended up buying the stool, two books (Shel Silverstein's "A light in the Attic" and "The Giving Tree", each for $1--score!), and a cool set of stacking toys with frogs on them.

I finally got home and baked the bread. by this time it was oh, about 10:30 or so. After an hour of baking, I tested the bread to see if it was done. It wasn't so I let it go for another 15 minutes (it was REALLY not done) and tested again. Still not done. 10 minutes after that, I gave it another five, and decided the moist crumbs that came out on the toothpick meant it was probably okay. So, I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool. It sort of fell a bit in the middle, but that's not all that unusual for quick breads, right? I tried very to turn the bread out onto a cooling rack, but it wouldn't budge, so I tried gently loosening the sides with a knife. Still no luck. So, then I turned it over and started banging on the bottom of the pan (always a good choice, no?) and finally got it to move. Or, perhaps more accurately, I got the middle of the bread to move. The part of the bread that was still gooey and underdone, because, as it turns out, the hour and a half of baking hadn't actually cooked the thing. So, now I have pieces of Amish friendship bread, pried oh so indelicately from the non-stick pan, all over my kitchen counter.

Anyone want to be my friend?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ambivalence

I filled two prescriptions today: one for birth control and one for prenatal vitamins. As you might imagine, the pharmacist asked me about the combination since usually they only fill prescriptions for one of those at a time. I explained that my husband and I are going to start trying in a few months, and I just wanted to fill both prescriptions at once. Really, it's more because I'm undecided. I know right now is not the time to get pregnant. I also know I'm sick of taking birth control (even if it does make me less grouchy and makes periods short and far more pleasant). I want a baby, but I want to live, oh, I don't know, in the same place as Derrick when I have one. And then there's the whole working with funky chemicals that I do on a daily basis that may be a very good reason to postpone pregnancy. There are moments when the thought of having a baby makes me seriously sick to my stomach, and others when my non-pregnant state causes me pain in my bowels (what a lovely image that is, I'm sure).

This is such an amazingly complicated decision. How does anyone decide?

Float on

My junior year at tech I moved into my own apartment. It was a rather spare space with one cushioned chair (where I spent the majority of my waking hours), a table with a couple of additional chairs, and a bed (my first at tech--before I'd always slept on couches) all inhabiting a single large room. The only sprucing up I did was to scatter glow-in-the-dark stars over the wall above my bed and put my stereo and a few books on the enormous entertainment center on one wall (coincidentally, that's also the last apartment where I didn't have television). It was my space, in a way, but I never really moved into it, never made it mine. I was always camping in some sense. The furniture was, of course, standard housing furniture, and the dishes I used were borrowed or disposable. I'll never forget the first time I tried to cook with my then boyfriend in that apartment. We made a delicious Thai dish with coconut milk and chicken and it wasn't until we went to eat it that I realized the only silverware I had was a set of bamboo chopsticks from the local Mongolian restaurant, and a couple of plastic forks gathered from other local eateries.

Fast forward to my newest own apartment and it's quite a different story. I can't move by myself anymore because I have real furniture, and even without the furniture I have an impressive collection of stuff that has to be carted from one spot to another. One thing that hasn't changed is my lack of dishes. I have wonderful, high-quality pans for cooking, but for eating I'm limited to a motley array of rubbermaid storage containers, the green glasses Karla inherited from someone else and never used, and a couple of plates I snagged at a yard sale. Money's a little tight after moving (predictably) so I had every intention of not buying anything unnecessary, but yesterday morning I realized I'd used all of my round rubbermaids to store leftovers for lunch and consequently had nothing suitable for my cereal. What did I do? I went out and bought myself a couple of cheap glass bowls, and a couple of small plates while I was at it.

It's a strange thing to realize I'm not willing to camp out in a place anymore--not only do I want a space that's mine, I want to have in it all of the various utensils and accoutrements to which I've become accustomed. I'm feeling ambivalent about this aspect of growing up. On one hand it's probably a good thing I've come to appreciate the niceties of a real home to the extent that I now try to create a home for myself, but on the other hand I kind of miss living a spartan life, enduring the slight discomforts of making do with what's at hand instead of immediately going out and buying the "optimal" solution.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Data!

I hate killing sea monkies.

I know it's for a good cause (research and all) but I hate killing them anyway. I drown them in ethanol and the wriggle and writhe like they're in pain (they probably are, after all). Somehow working as hard as I have just to kill them in the end seems contradictory.

I am so never doing research on living things again. I'm anthropomorphosizing crustaceans, for heaven's sake! It's a good think algae don't have eyes or I'd probably feel sad for killing them, too.

On the plus side, I have data! We're still working on standards for oxygen and hydrogen, so I decided to measure my natural samples for CN. For the amount of work I put into my stable isotopes class I figured I should get at least one potentially useful data set. So, here it is:



Cool, huh?

Apparently, there's a shift in the Nitrogen isotopes of my little brine shrimp somewhere between September and October. Not sure why yet--my current theories are this could be an input of light nitrogen from someplace else making its way into the brine shrimp biomass, or it could be the physiology of the little beasties getting ready for massive cyst production (maybe?).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Home, sweet home

I'm all moved in!

I still have boxes to unpack and closets to organize, and I'm coming to the realization that a bookshelf is a must have, as is a desk, but it's my house, it's my mess, and I can do with it what I want. I can walk around in my pj's because 1) I have no roommate, and 2) I close the blinds at night before I go to bed. I love the freedom of being able to walk around in my house in whatever state of dress or undress I choose (weird, huh?). All of the cabinets in the kitchen are mine, all of the dishes are mine, all of the food is mine.

The only thing missing is Derrick :)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Just in case I'd forgotten...

So, I finished my laundry this morning (last chance for free laundry for a while) and as I was putting my sheets in the dryer my roommate said, "Don't forget the lint screen." Such a tiny, seemingly innocuous comment, and yet, a perfect reminder of why I'm leaving.

I forgot to change the lint screen once when she was present, and forever after I've been in her mind irresponsible and incapable of remembering even simple things (at least, that's my interpretation from the amount she bosses me around). If it's not the lint screen it's the dirt I track in from the garden (a hobby of which she disapproves for women), or snow that comes in on my boots in winter; it's having to ask permission for my friends to come over (I'm 29! She's not my mother!); and most of all, it's her request that I and my husband find someplace to be other than the house I'm paying half the rent for so she can feel comfortable in her house. I suspect this woman is probably overbearing and mothering to just about everyone she comes in contact with, but living with her just presents so many apparently irresistible opportunities for her to show how much more than me she knows, how much more responsible and considerate she is, and how much better she could live my life than I do.

Yesterday she helped me move some of my stuff to my new apartment. Halfway there I realized she wasn't behind me anymore, so I slowed down to see if she'd catch up. Surprise, surprise, she was waiting for me at my apartment building. Her point was made--she knows how to get around this town better than I do. If I get annoyed at someone else's one-upmanship does that indicate I'm competitive too, or just thin-skinned?

I was almost feeling badly for all the mean thoughts I've had about her (I probably still should, but I'm now planning to procrastinate my future change of heart for a few more days at least). Since Derrick went home six weeks ago she's been downright cheerful most days--I think she's been snarly only a few times. I guess it's easier for her to deal with me when there isn't a constant physical reminder around (like my husband) that I have the life she so desperately wants in spite of my ineptitude and unrighteousness.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bartimaeus

I finished the last book of the Bartimaeus trilogy, Ptolemy's Gate, by Jonathan Stroud. I would highly recommend this trilogy to anyone who likes fantasy. It chronicles the adventures, and misadventures, of a djinni named Bartimaeus and his master, Nathaniel, and a common girl named Kitty Jones. It's witty, fast-paced, and refreshingly original. The wizards that populate Stroud's book, with their paranoid, control-freakish tendencies and magical technologies, make the lawyers of our world look friendly and laid back. If Harry Potter ends as well as this trilogy did, I will be extremely pleased.

I'm spending much of today getting things ready to move tomorrow. I am so excited about the new place! It's my own--I get to arrange the furniture and decorate as I see fit, I don't have to share kitchen space anymore. Living by myself is going to be awesome.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Red House

I'm moving on Saturday to my own apartment (yeah!). It's been nice living in a cheap place for the last year and a half, but it's also rather a pain having a roommate. I've also discovered that in the three years since I got married I've turned from a responsible, trustworthy adult into a credit risk. Grr. Turns out that if your name isn't on any utilities bills for 3 years you have to re-prove your worthiness to receive things like electricity without putting $170 deposit down. So, here's a lesson to all of you getting married: keep your name on the utilities so if anything should happen to your husband, your marriage, or your career, people will still think you're a responsible adult!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

She wore an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie...

Okay, so it's not yellow polka dot (it's blue), but I bought my first bikini last night. Target had a bunch on clearance, and I decided I'd like a new bathing suit since Derrick's going to take me to Greece in October. The last swimsuit I bought was a blue plaid I bought from (C)Ross Dress for Less while I was at tech, so it's pretty old. Still in good condition, but old. This one was less than $10 for both pieces (yeah clearance!), so I spent about $21 for the swimsuit, 35 lb of cat litter, and a pack of gum.

I've never had a bikini before--growing up Mormon, two-piece swimsuits in general were pretty well outlawed, and even once I stopped going to church in college I was pretty self-conscious about my appearance. I'm short, and short-waisted to boot, so I've had a belly ever since adolescence, even when I was really skinny. I'm to a point now where I'm not sure I care anymore. Not that I'm proud of my little belly pooch, but I'm kind of realizing this is the best my body is probably ever going to look and I shouldn't be ashamed of it.

Oh, and in potentially good sea monkies news, my Dunaliella cultures arrived, so I can start growing labeled food for my calibration experiment. At least, as long as the cultures survived. There was a bit of a miscommunication and I didn't realize the cultures had been mailed to me, so they've been sitting in my warm, dark mailbox for the last week. Oops! Hope they survive...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

During comments on this post on being a stay at home mom, Rosalynde linked to an article on working women (working meaning for pay outside the home). I found it annoyingly wistful for a time when women's choices were proscribed by the society in which they lived. At one point Wolf (the author) claims:

If the able women of 70 or 100 years ago entered classrooms and hospital wards merely because nothing else was available, they would have brought little commitment to their work, and greater choice would clearly have benefited them and society alike.


What a load of crap! People who find pleasure in working hard and doing a good job (which is most of us, if we stop and consider) will find enjoyment from any number of tasks. I was very happy as a lab technician, and I could imagine being being just as happy teaching in highschool or junior high as I am being a poor starving grad student. There are a multitude of things I am good at that I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life. And I am hardly unique among women.

Yet the virtual disappearance of home-based, educated women (at least below the age of 60) has had an effect. A path once followed by able women across the developed world led to university, teaching and then motherhood, homemaking and voluntary work. Such women are now too busy. The average amount of time that today's British citizen, male or female, devotes to volunteer activities is four minutes a day.

The old unpaid female labour force is now otherwise engaged. Ask the Girl Guides if you doubt this. Scouting and guiding are themselves redolent of that vanished past. Yet Robert Baden-Powell understood exactly what excites and interests children, and the movement has them queuing, often vainly, at the door. What it lacks are adult leaders.


Okay, so, why not ask where the men are too? My church does a bang-up job of getting enough volunteers to fulfill these sorts of duties by asking all members to contribute. Volunteers are still probably mostly women, but the men are not left out of the picture at all.

I'm still reading Ann Crittenden's The Price of Motherhood (which is an excellent read so far) in preparation for a book club discussion of the book over at FMH. It's an excellent read, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

I have always considered myself a feminist, and never thought "feminism" was a dirty word. I have to admit, though, for a long time I looked down on the stay at home mom as a sell-out to feminism. Through my association with FMH, and through watching my friends who now have babies I've come to, perhaps grudgingly, accept the choice of becoming a SAHM as a valid feminist choice. This book was quite a wake-up call to me. It points out that we've made great strides in that women are, indeed, equal to men in the workplace--as long as they act like men. Once babies come along, though, the situation changes and women find themselves on the proverbial short end of the stick.

I loved the chapter on Sweden (I don't have the book in front of me, so identifying it more precisely will have to wait!). I think it's very true that the solution to working mother's issues will only come when both men and women are aware of them, and contributing to the solution: raising children. Somewhere else in the book (and again, I'll have to look it up later) Crittenden points out that the choice of husband is the most important choice a career-oriented woman can make. Find a guy who is willing to help out with kids and you can manage both. Marry a guy who doesn't contribute to child rearing, and all of that work will fall on the woman, which, in most cases, will force the woman out of the workforce and into the home. Here's to hoping I married well!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Let us go not far astray

As I am sometimes wont to do on Sundays, I've spent some time today thinking about some past, very painful events in my life and how I dealt with them, and how I could have dealt with them better, what I've learned. I belong to a church that places great emphasis on the idea of personal revelation. There are, of course, caveats to believing personal revelation--over at bcc there was recently a discussion of how much trust we should put in the ideas, opinions, and revelations from the GA's vs. our own feelings, ideas, and experiences. It's an interesting question, as always and, of course, has precipitated my current musings (if it's not clear why, I'll get to that in a moment).

I am a scientist, and I admit freely I place more trust in science, logic, and reasoning than I do on faith. I am much more likely to do something if I understand the why behind it than if someone simply says, "do it because God says to." Most of the time this works out pretty well for me--sometimes there are conflicts, but most resolve themselves in an adequate manner. I tried the other way--the listening to the spirit and leaving decisions up to the Lord way--and it really didn't work for me.

After college, when I went to grad school, I decided I wanted to go back to church. I realized I did have faith in Mormonism, and so I made many changes in my life and went back to church. Most of the changes were pretty easy--I've never dressed terribly immodestly, I was never into drinking much, and I never liked coffee or tea--but giving up boys was hard. I felt like I had to give up dating non-Mormon guys and find someone who shared my faith. So that's what I did. I broke up with Derrick, started dating this other guy, I prayed over him, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was in a relationship my Father in Heaven approved of and I felt that he would be pleased if I married this young man. It was a very powerfully good feeling, that certainty I was doing the right thing in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.

Then, the guy cheated on me.

Because of the confirmation I thought I'd felt, I gave him another chance. And another. And another. At some point I knew the confirmation was gone and that the relationship had turned sour, but it was so difficult to give up on that hope that I let him come back and tried to make things work. I felt like if the relationship failed, it would mean I'd failed and was unworthy of the promised blessing of a righteous husband. When the relationship finally ended, I felt like I must have been the bad person, and felt like I was being punished for my bad behavior in college.

I kept going to church, even though it was really hard to be there. I struggled for a long time, wondering if the feelings I'd felt were really true, or if I'd just imagined the confirmation of that relationship. When Derrick and I got back together I didn't ask the Lord if he approved the relationship--I wanted to be happy, I knew Derrick would provide that, and if the Lord wanted me stop, he was going to have to make me. (Really mature, huh?)

The latter approach worked. I'm glad I married Derrick. He is a wonderful husband, and he's a wonderful friend. I know why I wanted to marry someone who shares my beliefs, but I came to realize that religious beliefs aren't necessarily good indicators of shared beliefs.

I've also come to realize that all revelation, personal or not, is conditional. We can, through our actions, change the outcomes prophesied by the Lord's mouthpieces. We can give up promised blessings with bad behavior (Samson and Delilah, anyone?), and we can avoid promised punishments if we repent and turn back to the Lord. God may be all powerful and omniscient, but just because he said it doesn't always make it true.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

I in ur sonnet, doin ur ritin

4w3s0m3.

Happy Birthday to me!

Okay, so yesterday was my 29th birthday. I'm wishing myself belated birthday greetings, which probably explains why it is I send everybody belated birthday greetings. Usually birthdays are an annoyance to me, especially if I spend them alone, like I did yesterday. From my 22nd birthday to my 26th birthday, it was just a bad day. Let's see--my 22nd I was working like mad to finish a paper so I could graduate a week later, and assiduously avoiding all my classmates who were already finished, and especially avoiding my ex boyfriend, who I'd treated rather shabbily, and missed terribly. I don't remember my 23rd, so it couldn't have been too bad or too good--I was probably in Utah babysitting or something. The next year I was getting over another break-up, and spent the entire day alone because all of my church friends were off on a field trip I would have liked to attend, but I was again assiduously avoiding an ex. The next year wasn't too horrible--I was still in state college, but my birthday landed on a Sunday, so I at least had a big break the fast gathering to attend and Derrick visited. Derrick was the best part of that day. I made a cake that year for myself--white cake with strawberry filling and whipped cream for icing--that was the precursor to Derrick's and my awesome wedding cake (thank you Mimi!). That was definitely the best birthday I had in state college since the next year I defended my master's and spent the rest of the day crying because I was so tense.

I've been much happier since I got married in general, and my birthdays are markedly better, especially than my early 20's, but I still dislike them (at least, the even numbered ones, apparently). I spend the day feeling bad. It's really much better if I work because I can't mope so much, but I wish I didn't feel like moping in the first place. I certainly felt loved this year--a bunch of people called and emailed, which kept me from feeling like too much of a loser. So, thank you to all who remembered me on my birthday!

I think much of the moping is simply looking over my life, thinking about where I am now and where I think I *should* be. I'm a little frustrated to still be in grad school, though honestly not that much--I like what I'm doing, I like where I am for the most part, and I'm grateful for all of the experiences I've had along the way to this point. I'm even finding myself at least occasionally grateful for the bad experiences--even the bad birthdays!--because they're part of what makes me who I am, and I like that person. I'm excited about my future (even my first professional talk), and I can't wait to see where Derrick and I land next--together this time!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Aliens abducted my husband

I think that my husband has been abducted by aliens and a near identical clone left in his place. I think I need to check and make sure this Derrick has a belly-button and has the same fingerprints as the one I know and love.

What, you may ask, makes me think my husband has been replaced by a dopleganger? This weekend he suggested I get pregnant. Seriously. He sounded surprisingly earnest in his suggestion, and I'm strangely excited by the prospect of having a child. I don't know, maybe it's time, though intellectually grad school doesn't seem like the best time to start a family.

I think he really just wants an excuse to be with me--he's pretty obviously done with the whole long-distance relationship thing. I whole-heartedly agree that it's time to quit living apart, I'm just a little surprised he'd suggest pregnancy would be a good way to go about ending this particular situation.

Definitely aliens.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

La Cucaracha

so, my cat woke me up early this morning, frantically trying to escape my room. I thought she needed to use the litterbox, but soon after I let her out I heard her yowl in that characteristic way she does shortly before puking. I managed to shoo her out onto the porch, where she could puke onto easily-cleaned cement, and then went back to bed after she finished.

A couple of hours later I got up and got ready for school, and then noticed my cat was hiding behind my bedroom door. This being unusual behavior for her, I investigated what she was doing. Out scurried a cockroach from under her distracted paw. Suddenly, the early morning puking session made so much more sense.

Needless to say, I spent my morning cleaning the kitchen.

Update: According to Arwen, my landlord it was a wood roach, so probably not an infestation.

Wood roaches do not thrive and reproduce in homes because they require the consistently moist environment of their natural habitats such as under wood piles or loose bark and in decaying logs. Indoors, their presence is strictly a temporary annoyance. They do not harm the house structure, furnishings or occupants.


Thank goodness!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Messing things up

Derrick and I made quite the mess this evening. We decided last weekend to make orange chicken, and made it this evening, along with broccoli stir fry. Both of the dishes were wonderful, but the mess at the end of the cooking portion of the evening was the most spectacular part of the whole process. We had broccoli leavings and onion peels in the sink; orange juice all over the counter and spots of various sauces all over the floor; just about every plate in the house had some kind of goo on it, as did almost every bowl. Derrick decided as long as I was taking care of the dishes (silly me) it was a good time for him to consolidate a bunch of duplicate spices, so soon enough a dusting of coriander, black pepper, and cumin coated several previously not too dirty surfaces. Derrick poured the cinnamon over the sink, but when the final level of the spice was millimeters above the lip of the jar, he blew a fine spray all over my head. And yet, everything is all clean and I am satisfied and at peace as I'm getting ready to go to bed, although it's too late--I'm sure to be tired and cranky tomorrow, but hey, it's Friday. Somehow making a mess like that makes the clean feel that much better. The fact that just a few hours ago the counters were sticky and gritty with spilled juice and spices makes their current smoothness that much more remarkable. I think sometimes my life is like this--I make a mess of things, or get behind in my work, or just somehow create some discomfort in my life; then, when the stress is resolved my life feels amazingly blessed and I can't help wondering how I am so lucky, or why my life is so good.

(I'm not quite so manic depressive as to call today a wonderful day after the spectacular mess that was yesterday, but I did accomplish a couple of things at work today that take enough of the edge off my stress that I can maybe see a positive ending for this semester.)

I have so much fun cooking with Derrick. I think it's my favorite way to spend time with him. We're definitely going to have to remember the orange chicken recipe--it was a winner.

Orange Chicken
3-4 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch or smaller cubes
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp cornstarch

Marinate chicken pieces in remainder of ingredients for at least 1 hour. Add:
~ 4 tbsp flour, or enough to make thin batter.

Deep fry chicken pieces in medium (~350 degree) oil.

For sauce:
1/3 c molasses
1 c orange juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp ginger (can't cook without ginger and garlic!)
1 tbsp cayenne (or other hot) pepper--or to taste
1/2 tbsp - 1 tbsp orange zest

combine sauce ingredients and simmer until thickened. Pour over fried chicken pieces and stir to coat.

Derrick suggests brown sugar in place of the molasses for a lighter, more orangey flavor.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

it's a beautiful day

for running away and hiding under the covers. I want to end today right now. I've managed to accomplish nothing that needed to be done (like the, oh, more than a month overdue paper for Stable Isotopes), I misplaced the food I need for a class experiment, broke a plate during dinner, burned the beans for tomorrow's dinner, and just generally made a mess of things. I threw a tantrum in front of derrick because I was so frustrated I couldn't find my cell phone (fortunately, he's pretty understanding of my occasional bouts of severe frustration). It's just a sucky, sucky day.

I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

He Sent His Son

Sunday was my last day in Primary. I am now a ward "communications specialist," which essentially means I print the program for Sunday. I can't say I'm entirely happy about the change in calling, but neither am I really sad.

I am incredibly grateful for the last few weeks I had in Primary. It's taken, what? almost two months for them to replace me after I asked to be released, and those have been the best two months of the calling. Pretty much the week after I asked for the release I started feeling comfortable in the calling, where before I'd felt like it wasn't really mine, like I was just a place-holder, or a stand in for the president and my pianist, who both seemed to know "how things should be done."

When I first stepped in to the calling, I could sort of understand that. It's pretty normal to have to acclimate to a new teaching style, and to figure out how things are done within a group. I started shortly before the primary program, too, so it was a pretty high-stress time additionally. But a couple of things happened that I think made it nearly impossible for me to find my footing. Preeminent among them was the injudicious use of me as an example of bad teaching by the pianist during a talk on how to become better teachers. Not quite the way to make one feel welcome.

I struggled with forgiving her for that, which is not one of my spiritual gifts, by the way. I can hold a grudge with the best of them. I found myself, after that, doing subtle things to annoy the president and the pianist--refusing to comply with proscribed teaching methods, working on songs other than those designated for the program, even bringing in outside materials for singing time (my favorite was bringing in a bunch of different pieces of classical music--from Mozart to Samuel Barber and Carl Orff--and then discussing what emotion the music was conveying). Even though the teaching ideas I was using were good ones, and ones I was excited about, I knew part of the reason I wanted to do them was because of the annoyance I could incite in my leadership. I also knew they would criticize my methods. Between the criticism and the knowledge my motivations were not pure, I felt uncomfortable in front of the children until I asked to be removed.

I wanted to leave the children with something, so when the opportunity came up for us to perform in sacrament meeting I decided we should work on performance. After a comment from one of the teachers shortly before the last program that "it doesn't really matter how well the kids do, everyone will think they're cute anyway" I decided it was time to focus on performance and time to raise the expectations of the kids when it came to their performances. I believe if we focus only on the gospel, and not on practicing the principles of the gospel--including magnifying our talents as far as we are able--we do those we teach a disservice. Anyway, even though we could have performed a song from the program for the theme of that month, I decided we should work on "He Sent His Son" (one of my favorite primary songs). It's got a wonderful message and the music is beautiful and reinforces the poetry very nicely, so I thought it would be a good choice for practicing performing.

We worked very hard on that one song--in fact, we neglected all the songs we're supposed to work on for the program--much to the chagrin of the president and pianist. And then, when we performed it on Easter, nothing went right. The pianist didn't start well, the kids didn't come in at the right moment twice, and we completely forgot about dynamics. I was displeased. The one thing the kids did well was sing loudly enough through the whole thing that they could be heard in the back of the room, which I will admit is an accomplishment for primary kids.

That was Sunday before last. This Sunday I was released, so it was my last week in primary. Sunday the normal pianist was not in attendance; instead, the woman who is normally the organist in sacrament meeting played for primary. She is an awesome pianist and we work together much better than I do with the regular pianist (I've never really figured out how to communicate effectively when I want songs to start, or sometimes even which songs I want to sing). Anyway, it was a wonderful day--probably the best I've had. I love going out on a high note, and I'm so grateful the Bishop left me in long enough to have this experience. The best part was that we sang "He Sent His Son" again--at the request of one of the kids, no less, and while the Bishop was in the room--and it was powerful. It may have been the best performance those kids gave and, if I were more of a crier, I probably would have been sobbing by the end of it. I wish now I had said something to that effect to the kids, but I will say it here and now--those kids are awesome, and they did an awesome job. I was so impressed!

The kicker, of course, is that the same week I was released, the primary presidency was released. I'm not sure how much of that was my doing. I wonder if they had to reorganize to find someone to put in my calling, though the woman who is replacing me didn't have another calling as far as I know. I wonder if my complaint is what led to the release of the presidency, though that seems incredibly self-centered as I write it. And then I wonder, if I'd just held on a few months longer, would I have grown into the calling? Would the president and pianist eventually accepted my slightly unconventional way of doing things? Or, would they have been released even without my complaint, leaving me in a position I love, working with people who potentially might have been more accepting?

Questions never to be answered. Eh, I'm happy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Death to Sea Monkeys

They've died again. And again... And again.

I think they're telling me something: I shouldn't have a project that involves living things. Ever.

I know this is just a part of grad school--failures make the successes that much sweeter and all, and it's all a part of the learning process. That said, I don't understand why it is I can grow sea monkeys just fine last summer when I wasn't trying to experiment on them and this summer they're dying on me like flies. Little aquatic flies.

This is so irritating.

Maybe they know when I'm going to experiment on them and they all get together after seeing a few of their comrades in arms sacrificed in a shower of ethanol, and decide to commit hari-kiri to avoid the death I plan for them.

I've asked at the pet store how to keep them alive, but most people just hatch the little beasts and then dump them into a fish tank with some veracious, crustacean-eating fish. Argh.

So, it's on to the next set of sea monkeys, with the hope these ones will prove hardier, or the test I set up (this time I'm varying the quantity of food I'm giving them) will turn out to be the last step between me and a successful equilibration experiment.

Here's to hoping.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Oh please, release me, let me go

I quit.

I give up.

I'm taking the easy road.

I wish it didn't feel like the right choice. I wish I were having a harder time with leaving. I hate quitting. I feel like quitting is an admission that I suck, that I am, in fact, incapable of performing the required tasks. But that's probably just my pride talking.

I've never really felt the powerlessness at church that so many women talk about. I know of women who feel oppressed, but I've never felt the power structure of the church as oppressive in my own life. My current calling is making me feel that way, and I'm really unhappy about it.

I know it's partially, maybe mostly, my fault for not toeing the line, and for saying "no" when I was asked to refrain from using certain teaching techniques in primary (really, who cares if I pick the kids who are doing well. That's how it works in the real world--you get called on if you do a good job. Nobody picks names out of a hat for anything significant). I could have just sucked it up and done what they asked. Instead, I chose to blatantly ignore them and do things the way I wanted to. When I was publically used as an example of "how not to teach" I kept doing things my way anyway. I knew when I did that I was setting up a power struggle, and a situation wehre people would have to choose between me and the primary president. And I was pretty sure I knew how that one would turn out.

I did it anyway, and now I'm tired. I'm beaten, and perhaps most of all, I'm ashamed for having created such a conflict in primary. I shouldn't be there making things difficult for others. My primary president shouldn't have to work to feel grateful for everything I'm doing (which she just bore testimony of doing). So, for the first time ever, I'm asking to be released, not because of a move, but because I don't feel like I'm contributing, I don't feel like I'm doing a good job in either my eyes or in the eyes of anyone else, and I don't think I can get my attitude to where it needs to be.

You see, I'm just too pissed that I'm being asked to change, not because the way I do things is bad, only because it's not the way my president wants it done. I want the freedom to decide what to do and how to do it, and I really resent being instructed in every little detail of my calling. Having that much instruction makes me feel like 1) I'm doing something wrong, and 2) like really I'm just a placeholder and the person in charge wants me to become an extension of her. I don't want to do things her way. I want to do them my way. Again, not because my way is necessarily better, simply because it's better for me. I hope this is all over soon.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The weather outside

I've started wearing two hats every morning: one knit, to keep out the wind; and the other fleece, to keep my head warm. This strategy, strange-looking as I'm sure it must be, is remarkably successful, which I am incredibly grateful for in these novacaine-cold mornings.

Yesterday, it snowed. I gather it must not usually snow much around here, because the newspaper claims the approximately four inches I see on the ground is a "heavy snow." It's so cold the snow isn't even very moist--it's dry and powdery like the stuff I'm used to from growing up in the desert. I walk outside this morning to a brilliant, snow-capped world, full of buttery sunlight and baby-blue shadows. If I were a painter I would stay home, commemorating the wonder of the dappled light and shadow; preserving the wonder of the world outside my window for another, warmer day. Instead, I am a student, so I pull my two hats further down over my ears and simply enjoy the wonder of a sugar-coated world.

At least, I enjoy it for a half a block.

Then the cold kicks in, and I progress from chilled to frigid to numb. I've told my husband before that it's okay for me to be slightly underdressed for my walk to school. After all, I'm walking and I warm up pretty quickly from the exertion. Novacaine cold proves the fallacy of that thought after only a few minutes of exposure. Movement keeps me from shivering, but it doesn't keep my glasses from feeling like a burning cold mass on my face, or keep my cheeks from feeling like the wind is attempting to peel frozen chunks of cracking, dehydrated skin away from my skull. It's not long before the only part of my legs that have any feeling are the muscles, which scream out against dragging along the rest of my heavy, heat-sink of a body.

Fortunately, my walk is short. More fortunately, it doesn't take long before even most of the discomfort of my exposed skin is numbed away by the cold and, slower, and with an even greater appreciation for the warmth that waits inside my building, I can go back to enjoying the crystalline beauty of the morning.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Choose the right

My cousin (who I love very, very much) sent this to me the other day:

Thought you might enjoy this interesting prayer given in Kansas at the opening session of their Senate. It seems prayer still upsets some people. When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Amen!"

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea.

Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program, "The Rest of the Story," and received a larger response to this program than any other he has
ever aired.

With the Lord's help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our desire so that we again can be called "one nation under God."


While I agree with some of the sentiments expressed (specifically, the comment about the lottery) I'm not sure I like the tone, or the suggestion he's speaking to or for God. Yes, he attacks both liberals and conservatives, but it is obvious from his statements his own feelings would plot on the right of the political number line. I'm reminded of Abraham Lincon's words:
I know that the LORD is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that this nation should be on the LORD'S side.

I, too, pray we are truly on the Lord's side, and I pray that we will have more charity toward the efforts of those with whom we disagree, trusting that they are also striving to choose the right. I wish more of that charity were evident in the prayer this minister offered. I pray that in the future our prayers will be directed toward God instead of pointed at one another.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Procrastination

Steve Evans, after inviting me to blog over at bcc and then waiting, oh, six months for my first post, asked me why I write so slowly. I type quickly, and I do think a lot, yet my writings are few and far between. The same is true of just about any hobby I have--I love painting, but I only have a few watercolors to my credit; I love writing fiction, too, but only have a few stories written, and none submitted for publication; I love my science, but I am incredibly slow when it comes to writing proposals, reading, or accomplishing my lab work. I care about all of these activities--I love all of these activities, and I especially love the feeling of accomplishment I enjoy when I complete a painting, a story, or finish a lab task. Yet somehow that isn't enough to keep me from surfing the net (most recently daydreaming about owning my own home) or watching TV.

Recently I came across an article about procrastination that really struck a cord with me. From the science daily article:

"Essentially, procrastinators have less confidence in themselves, less expectancy that they can actually complete a task," Steel says. "Perfectionism is not the culprit. In fact, perfectionists actually procrastinate less, but they worry about it more."

Other predictors of procrastination include: task aversiveness, impulsiveness, distractibility, and how much a person is motivated to achieve. Not all delays can be considered procrastination; the key is that a person must believe it would be better to start working on given tasks immediately, but still not start.


That describes me to a T. I have trouble starting things, frequently because I fear I can't do what I've set out to do, or because I think I'll do a bad job. I'll find something else to do--something safer--instead. Once I get into a project I have trouble finishing, often because I get to a point where I'm unsure what direction to take next. Instead of just trying something when I'm faced with a multitide of possibilities, I procrastinate the decision, afraid of making "the wrong choice." My husband pointed out to me the more I care about a thing, the more I procrastinate doing it, which is very true. I want to do a good job, but I think I probably won't, so I don't even try, or find something else "more pressing" or that "I'd rather do" instead of attacking a task I'd rather accomplish.

I recognize this is counterproductive. What I don't recognize is a way to stop.

The Greening of Industry

Today CNN reports the Chief Executives of GE, BP, and the eight other corporations that make up the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) are petitioning Congress in favor of legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE told reporters today at a press conference "The time has come for constructive action that draws strength equally from business, government, and non-governmental stakeholders." The plan endorsed by USCAP includes a "cap-and-trade" program similar to that used for controlling sulfur dioxide emissions, and similar to the one proposed in the Kyoto protocol.

I wholeheartedly support environmental legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions. I truly believe we should be taking global warming seriously, and I believe the longer we wait to get started, the more expensive and less effective our actions will be. The cap-and-trade program worked well for cutting sulfur emissions, so it makes some amount of sense to pattern CO2 legislation after an already successful program. However, William Nordhaus notes in this paper that because of the inelasticity of both supply and demand for credits,

"One of the potential concerns with the current structure of the Kyoto Protocol is that it will induce great volatility in the prices of permits. The volatility can be seen in the history of SO2 permit prices, which have been much more volatile than consumer prices or even stock market prices." (After Kyoto: alternative mechanisms to control global warming, p. 30, fig. 7)


In this same paper he lists a number of possible alternatives, arguing most persuasively in favor of a global carbon tax on emissions. He states:

"Our latest estimates in the RICE-2001 model suggest that a carbon tax of $10 per ton carbon (2001 prices) -- rising rapidly over time -- would appropriately balance the costs and benefits of emissions reductions. This number is slightly above the number that would stabilize the concentrations of CO2 at twice the pre-industrial level (that is, at 550 parts per million)."


I am not an economist. I have heard persuasive arguments for both cap-and-trade (basically, we know that they work) and against cap-and-trade (difficulty of parties joining after the initial offering and the massive transfers of capital to poor countries simply because they already produce almost no CO2 emissions) and in favor of taxes (ease of parties joining in at a later time, lower cost volatility). I do think we owe it to ourselves to examine all available mechanisms for instituting and enforcing carbon dioxide controls, and I think we should have a dialogue right now about what to do on a large, national scale. Programs, once formed, are historically difficult to change, and this is something we should work very hard to get right the first time. What do you, with or without economic training, think of the alternatives (cap-and-trade vs. taxes, vs. simple caps a la Montreal Protocol)?