Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why doctors aren't scientists

Derrick took this picture yesterday when he and Sylvia went outside to enjoy the wonderful weather. Of course, today, when I get to spend the day with Sylvia, it was rainy and miserable all day, and consequently I had no desire to spend time outside, soaking up the sunshine and taking cute pictures of my daughter. Oh well, perhaps next week. In any case I thought I'd start this post with a cute picture and my (tongue in cheek) grousing so those of you who don't want to read further don't have to.

The next part of this post isn't likely to be as cheerful.

I have a friend who has spent the last seven years trying to treat her infertility and, after all that time, has decided she's done with medical treatments and is going to adopt. I applaud her decision--I'd wondered for a while why she didn't have any children because she'd obviously be a very good mother, but never asked because it's not really my business. I hope the process goes smoothly and well for her. I'm quite sure she'll enjoy motherhood and the children she's blessed with will have excellent lives under her care and tutelage.

The internet is a wonderful, terrible tool that I sometimes (okay, frequently) use to distract myself. I am curious, but have a remarkably short attention span. So, after discussing my friend's infertility with her, I started looking stuff up on google scholar. One of the first papers I came across contained this graph:The three graphs show the concentration of sperm, the percentage of motile sperm, and percentage of sperm with normal morphology for populations of infertile men (white) and fertile men (black). Notice that the distributions for the first two sets of measurements (concentration and motility) are nearly identical for the infertile and fertile populations. There are minor differences between the fertile and infertile populations evident in morphology, but the similarity of that distribution as well means that realistically, you can't tell if an individual is fertile or infertile based on these measurements--assigning them to one population or another won't be possible in many, many cases. It does not inspire my confidence in the medical community that typically a measurement of the above features is what's used to determine whether a male is fertile or not. I am particularly not comforted by the final conclusion of the article, which claims,

...our data from a large group of couples with well-documented fertility or infertility provide clinical standards for semen measurements that may be useful for diagnosing male-factor infertility and for distinguishing between subfertile, indeterminate, and fertile ranges. These thresholds can be applied in clinical practice and research, provided that there is strict quality control.

In my estimation, their data show pretty conclusively there's no way to determine whether a man is fertile or infertile based on these observations. Makes me wonder how many other couples have spent years chasing after (potentially) the wrong cause of their infertility, convinced the man can't possibly be the problem.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

random crawl

Sometimes I read articles like this one about women in science and think to myself, maybe I don't want to buck the trend. I like science and all, but some days it just seems like life would be simpler and easier and just plain more enjoyable if I gave up on my science ambitions and settled for a different, and probably just as enjoyable career. Maybe, if I were in a different profession, I wouldn't miss things like the first time my baby crawls--something I did indeed miss, but Derrick graciously captured in the photos below.


At the same time, I do like science, and I am particularly glad I'm married to a fellow scientist with whom I can be nerdy. The other night we had a red cabbage slaw that we made with a vinegar dressing. The pigment in red cabbage is an acid-base indicator, so we played around with baking soda and the vinegar dressing to change the color of the dressing.

The other day Sylvia woke Derrick from a nap, and they played for a few minutes. (now we enter into the more random part of this post.)

This ladybug found a home on a bean plant we've got growing in the kitchen.

My old roommate got married and I went to her reception. I didn't take too many pictures, but I did get a picture of the display they'd set up because I thought it looked nice and was appropriately nerdy for these two math-o-philiacs.

And finally, after my exploits making cupcakes that Derrick wouldn't eat, I thought I'd make some he'd enjoy. So, these are white cupcakes with strawberry filling and white chocolate frosting. I intended to take them to a St. Patrick's day picnic, but we ended up not going. Given how quickly we went through the cupcakes, I don't think Derrick minded keeping them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Photo shoot

Today Sylvia had a photo shoot with Sarabeth, a friend who lives in California. She was shooting black and white film, so I don't have any pictures of hers from the shoot, but here are a few I took:

And, after a little post-processing magic...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Every morning the first thing Derrick does upon entering the kitchen is inspect our little indoor garden. And by little I mean only-taking-up-a-quarter-of-my-kitchen-table-sized. He'll wiggle his fingers over the rows of starter pots and command, "grow, grow, GROW!" In between downloading scores of papers, he contemplates how many seeds he'd have to plant to ensure he'll have a seedling in ever pot, and wonders if our apartment is warm enough to signal the seeds to sprout.

It's kind of cute.

So, this afternoon I noticed a couple of seedlings popping their little green heads up through the dirt. Seems appropriate for St. Pattie's day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My flexible little girl

Apparently Sylvia likes hanging out with the laundry...and chewing on her toes!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

PIF exchange

The Pay It Forward Exchange is based on the concept of the movie "Pay It Forward". I will send a hand made gift to the first three people who comment on this blog post requesting to join the PIF Exchange. All gifts will be made and sent out 'sometime within the next year'. (Part of the fun really is not knowing when your surprise package will arrive!) What you need to do in return, is Pay It Forward by following the directions below.

This exchange is only open to those with active blogs or websites. YOU MUST POST THIS SAME 'PAY IT FORWARD' PROMISE ON YOUR BLOG (which must be active in order to play). YOU WILL THEN PAY IT FORWARD TO THREE PEOPLE WHO COMMENT ON YOUR BLOG POST. Other comments are welcome, but only the first three will be Pay It Forward recipients.

(The above text was shamelessly stolen from another blog I follow. If you decide to post, just copy and past the above to your own blog. Oh, and please email me at kristine dot nielson at gmail when you do post so I realize people are posting and so I can get your address if you're not local.)

Baggu Grosgrain Guest GIVEAWAY!!!!

Because this is something I would actually use, and because it's something I hope others would also consider using, I'm entering the Baggu Grosgrain Guest GIVEAWAY at grosgrainfabulous.blogspot.com. Click on the link and it'll take you to the giveaway, where you can see pictures of the very chic, very useful bags.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An appreciated question

A friend of mine in another ward asked if I'd be willing to sing as part of a group performing for their ward talent show. I'm always game to sing, so I showed up to the practice on Tuesday, and was the only one there. I showed up to the practice this evening, and again, was the only one there. It's kind of sad that of the 14 people who said they'd sing (I believe all of them in the other ward) I'm the only one who actually shows up to practices.

But, because we didn't sing, I did have an interesting discussion with this friend and her husband. I'm a pretty liberal, somewhat unorthodox Mormon, and I'm a working mother. There are any number of statements one could point to indicating my working outside the home is sub-optimal, from a church perspective. This friend's husband wanted to know if I felt like I got any flak for being a working mom.

I'd have to say, no. I'm sure there are people who are uncomfortable with my decision, whether because they think it's the wrong one, or because they expect that I disagree with their decision. For the most part, I don't hear a single word about my working outside the home, except possibly in support. Perhaps it's because people are sensitive about the possibility that they might alienate me; perhaps I'm oblivious to their judgment; perhaps everyone around me is just too busy with their own lives to care about how I'm living mine. I claimed this evening that there may be a generational difference--those of us who are too young to remember Pres. Benson telling all the women in the church to quit their jobs in order to say home with children haven't experienced the same intensity of the mommy wars, I suspect, and I don't think care so much, or don't feel as threatened by the choices other women make. At least, that's my hope. I certainly hope that none of the women who I go to church with feel threatened at all by my choice to pursue a career (of sorts, anyway--I'm not sure grad school really counts as a career. My in-laws certainly don't think so :P ).

Anyway, this friend's husband said he thought it was because the church has switched its emphasis from specific behaviors, and from culture, to more teaching of doctrinal principles, with the expectation that we'll figure it out for ourselves. I like that explanation too--it's another one that resonates as true for me.

Just to prove we're dutifully teaching our daughter about the many roles open to her, here are some pictures of Derrick letting Sylvia help him work on the computer, and Sylvia helping her mom with laundry (no gender roles there!), and a cute one of Sylvia laughing in her highchair, just because it's cute.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I don't even know what to say about this piece in the Washington Post. I want to cry because I know from my own experience how easy it is to forget things when distracted. If you have small children, please read this. I know there are other, more common causes of death for small children, but this is a poignant story highlighting one of the saddest things that can happen to otherwise doting, careful parents.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

For the love of the Game

Saturday night Derrick discovered the movie, "For the love of the game." It's a very good movie; the only unfortunate part of the discovery was that he found it at about midnight and it's a two hour long movie.

Derrick used to play baseball and is still somewhat of a baseball nerd. A couple of years ago when the Cardinals went to the world series, Derrick and I watched the series together. He's good enough, and has watched enough baseball, that he could sit there and predict which pitch would be thrown next. I was rather impressed by his familiarity, though he claims it all comes down to statistics. In any case, "For the love of the game" is a movie about a pitcher at the end of his career, and the final, perfect game he pitches. Much as he had during the world series, Derrick spent the two hours of the movie predicting which pitch would be thrown next.

And he'd be right.

Obviously, the person who wrote the movie was a true baseball aficionado in the same way my husband is. It's a fictional story, yet true enough to the rules of the real world that a baseball fan could predict what was going to happen next just as if a real game were underway.

Anyway, the movie lasted until 2 in the morning (before accounting for the return to standard time). Just as if he'd watched a real perfect game, Derrick was stoked up by the movie, and spent another hour talking about baseball and watching clips of past exceptional games on youtube, telling me about how the once he'd seen a real perfect game and stayed up ridiculously late to watch the end, or how he'd cried when Cal Ripkin Jr. set a new record for consecutive games played.

I love my husband dearly. You know, he didn't even cry when Sylvia was born. Guess it just goes to show what he gets emotional about.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I'm wishing now I'd taken some pictures of the cupcakes I made for Karla's shower. For some reason I just didn't, and of course, now I regret it. The cupcakes were a big hit, though, especially the Boston cream cupcakes (inspired by Boston banana cream pie cupcakes). I didn't bring home a single one of those!

I also made a German chocolate cupcake, with the filling from these cherry-vanilla cupcakes in a dark chocolate cupcake. I frosted those ones with whipping cream, which was okay, but I think if I do these again in the future I'll do a buttercream frosting.

Finally, I made a plain chocolate cupcake with caramel chocolate frosting. Those were also a big hit. I'm really glad I made cupcakes for the shower--even though it took a bit more time (okay, a lot more time) I loved having three different options for flavors.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Welcome to the culture war

So, I frequently hear people at church claiming "the family is under attack." I'm not so fond of this particular rhetoric, largely because I disagree with it. I know, I come from a broken home, how can I not feel that the family is under attack? Well, in my not terribly charitable opinion, this rhetoric is a part of a broader culture war that I see as detrimental to our nation. It's a statement that creates and us-against-them situation that may be useful for those creating the "us" group, but sets up a rather large segment of our nation as "them." And since I think our nation needs fewer divisions, and think this particular division largely reinforces a political division I don't agree with, I'm not so keen on this rhetoric.

Who are those perpetuating this message kidding anyway? Who really thinks we'd be better off without families, or with more broken families? Nobody. Yet if you were to ask someone who claimed "the family is under attack," the supposed attackers would probably include Hollywood, but how many movies and TV shows really encourage anything even remotely anti-family? Happy people in movies and on TV come from happy families; dysfunction is shown to be a negative; bad choices (including infidelity, pre-marital sex, and just plain old lying to the spouse/parent/significant other) lead to unhappiness. In horror movies the heroine is typically safe from the bad scary dude until she gives in to her teenage horniness. The problem is, happy people are boring. Much more dramatic tension results from watching the consequences of bad decisions play out in the lives of fictional characters.

Anyway, culture war. I'm not happy perpetuating it. I roll my eyes any time "the family is under attack" is stated or implied at church. So, of course, this month's VT message almost makes me want to not visit anyone this month, or at least not actually share a message. I have a hard enough time finding something to share when the message is on faith or scripture study--things I don't inherently disagree with. How will I ever deal with the message this month? Delegation is definitely my friend today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

busy weekend

Karla's bridal shower was Saturday. Knowing how terrible I am about organizing things, I volunteered to provide some refreshments (cupcakes) and let Mary deal with invitations and building arrangements and the like. Being the moderately ambitious baker that I am, I decided to make four kinds of cupcakes, and then planned to run extras around to my visiting teach-ees and a few friends. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the ingredients for the fourth type (lemon custard filled), so I just made chocolate, chocolate with cherry filling (sort of a black forest cupcake), and vanilla cupcakes filled with vanilla pudding and topped with chocolate ganache (Boston cream cupcake sort of thing). The Boston cream cupcakes were probably the most popular--I didn't bring home a single one!

Anyway, here are a few pictures from the shower (which was very fun). We sent Karla home with quite a haul!

Monday, March 2, 2009


I think the pictures of my beautiful little girl in her beautiful blessing dress (and an awfully cute bug hat--thanks Grandma Nixdorf!) are so much more eloquent than anything I could say.