Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Older dogs need love too!

I listened to this report on the radio, from NPR, last week, about the needs of senior dogs, and how many dogs are take to the shelter in their old age, and then came across this little guy on PAWS' website (a senior dog who needs a home):

This one really struck me because he was a former shelter dog at PAWS, and has now been returned in his old age. I'm really such a sucker, but I think, when we've settled down a bit, I could really get hooked on being a "retirement" home for older dogs, one at a time. It'll be hard, I know, but so much better, knowing they're spending their golden years with a family to love (shh... don't tell Scott yet!).

I'm such a sucker.

Done!!! (well, sort of)

A week ago we submitted my second research article (studying variations in life history traits and both autosomal substitution rates and male mutation bias - I'll write more about it, when we hear back from the reviewers).

Today we submitted a review article about biomedical and evolutionary advances related to male mutation bias and the paternal age effect. Hopefully this one won't take as long through review.

AND... today I submitted my last fellowship application!! That makes a total of six (in order of submission):
1. Life Sciences Research Foundation Fellowship
2. Miller Fellowship
3. NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
4. President's Postdoctoral Fellowship (at Berkeley)
5. L'Oreal Women in Science Fellowship
6. NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellowship

Whew! They aren't as large as grant applications, but still good practice, I think. Especially the NIH NRSA - lots and lots of "paperwork" to complete. They aren't totally complete, two are still waiting on receipt of my letters of reference

Now I can sit back and relax...oh, wait, I forgot, I'm in academia, which means there's never really and end to the day, just small victories. But how sweet these victories are!!

I have another research project to finish and write up, and one more review article to assemble and write before defending my thesis next semester. The more I can get done on these now (i.e., before baby arrives), the better. I've been staying up way past my bedtime the past week, so I might take the afternoon easy - just start looking up references for the next review, but then will get right back at it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

technology fail

So, I decided to update my EndNote version (to X3) and update to Microsoft Office 2008 (for Mac). Everything is great, they're both installed, they just won't talk to each other. Fail. That's kind of the point of having a citation manager, that it will manage your citations in the documents you write.

So, I've wasted an afternoon attempting to get them to communicate. The IT guy for Bioinformatics just suggested everything I tried (which is nice, because he's a smart guy, so it makes me feel a little less like an idiot that I can't get it to work). I have two more things before I just remove and reinstall everything. Sigh. Awesome timing. I should have waited till AFTER I submitted my paper and fellowship application. Foolishly, I thought it would be as simple as it was when I installed in on my laptop.

In other news, we're 37 weeks today - which in preggo-speak means that we're technically "full term", so even though the due date isn't until December 20th, she's okay'd for landing anytime after today.

Also, in an attempt to get my paper in final form, so we can submit it tomorrow, I stayed up waaay too late last night (finishing around 2am, but couldn't fall asleep until after 3:15), so feeling a bit sluggish now, and hoping to hear back from my advisor sometime soon, to avoid another late night.

Monday, November 22, 2010


We are estimated at 36 weeks today (37 if the first due date was correct). The little seamonster is moving pretty regularly and, I think, trying to work her way down my abdominal cavity.

I have not been making it to the gym as regularly as I'd like, mostly due to this time-crunch I'm feeling to get work done. But, in the grand scheme of things, it's good for me to take time to head to the gym. It helps relieve stress, helps me maintain my health and, hopefully, will help make labor a bit easier.

The past few weeks I've limited my gym exercises to biking on the recumbent bike (with back support, and belly room), some light lifting (lateral pull-downs, triceps/biceps, sometimes hip sled), planks, and stretching. I always feel better after I go, but the experience has been kind of fun as my belly grows.

I am one of the few non-undergrads who goes to the gym. There are a good core of us, but the majority of people at the gym are 17-22, taking classes, and learning (by trial and error) how to make life decisions. This may be entirely in my own head, but I definitely feel like I stick out. I feel like a giant poster board, and it's kind of good. I don't want any of them to think that it's bad to have a baby, but I do hope that seeing my swelling stomach makes them stop and reflect. Of all the conversations I overhear in the gym and the locker room about drinking till they can't feel their faces, not remembering weekend activities, and skipping out on class work, I hope that seeing me makes them stop for a second and think about what it might be like if they were responsible for another person, or how their lives would change if they were expecting a baby. Or think about anything outside of themselves.

A girl in my high school gym class was pregnant, and I remember being very impressed at her dedication to work out, and her positive attitude, and every day I saw her, it reminded me to assess where I was in life and where I wanted to go. Of course, I could have used a reminder in college too - young minds are quick to forget.

So, for as long as I'm feeling up to it, I'll keep heading to the gym, for my own health mostly, but with a tiny bit of hope that I'll engage someone else into thinking about their future.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

getting back on track

Well, I'm at least posting once or twice a week. I'll try to get back to the daily or every-other-day updates.

Friday was a productive day; I submitted my second research manuscript, and submitted my NIH NRSA postdoc fellowship to the Sponsored Program's Office at Berkeley for their review. Yay!

Saturday was grocery shopping in the morning, enjoying a long lunch with a friend up from DC, then going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 1). As someone who has read all of the books twice now, I was really nervous after the hack-job they did with HP6 (The Half-Blood Prince), but was very impressed with how they turned it around in this movie. Of course there are always little things I'd like to see included, but overall they did a good job of sticking to the book, while making it entertaining for those who haven't read them.

The rest of Saturday and Sunday was spent doing laundry: all of our clothes and linens, all the baby items, and all the dog beds. I thought it was funny that the best sorting method for baby stuff was "pink" and (mostly) "not pink. This little lady is going to be super spoiled. I hope the dogs are ready to share our attention.

Now, the rest of the night I'm going to work on updating a review article that my advisor and I are writing together. She is unexpectedly out of town next week which means our schedules are not very likely to line up before the Nov 30 deadline we've set for ourselves. It makes me very glad that we have the internet for communicating. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

dog boots (more abuse?)

Last winter the rock salt/chemicals used to de-ice our sidewalks really bothered Chip's tiny little feet - he would get about 20 feet before starting to limp. After doing his business he wouldn't even want to walk and would just sit there, in the snow, holding and licking his little paws. Being the sucker I am, I would pick him up and carry him back home, where I'd wash his feet off and then give him tons of affection to make up for the cold, cruel chemical salts I'd subjected him to. Like the author of this blog post about dog boots, I used to be very skeptical about them, but after last winter's experience, I'm leaning towards buying some for him and Aro. Of course he'll pout and think he's in trouble when I put them on, but if they allow him to walk outside in the winter without damaging his little tootsies, it'll totally be worth it.

My poor, abused dog

But, I have to practice with something, and he seemed pretty willing. The Sleepy Wrap, a gift from my friend Sherry in AZ, seems a little intimidating at first, because it is just a very long piece of stretchy fabric. My first attempt, a month or two ago, didn't go so well. It wasn't sturdy, and I didn't feel comfortable testing it.

This time, I found a different instructional video, and, ta-da!! Chip really did love being carried around in it. It was very secure, and he nestled in so nicely. I think I'm now ready for our little butter-ball whenever she decides to join us!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Many thanks

Many thanks to my friends, family and labmates (many of whom cross-groups!) for spoiling Scott and I with wonderful food and baby-stuffs.

Now, I'll take a short leave from blogging to work on:
1. Research paper re-writes and updates for a Wednesday submission
2. NIH NRSA (postdoc fellowship) for Friday
3. Presentation for lab meeting today - on the 1000 genomes paper
4. Finalizing figures for a review article

Other things, I should keep in mind to do:
1. Proof-read comprehensive proposal for a friend
2. Writing a summary of GWIS National fellowship winners by end of Nov
3. Updating GWIS (local/national) with pictures from the USASEF.
4. Harry Potter on the 19th!
5. Organizing baby stuff and figuring out what we still need
6. Thank-you cards
7. Holiday cards
8. Enjoying time with my wonderful husband, and making sure the doggies get lots of love

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Carl Sagan - I wish I could have met him

Carl Sagan tops my list of people (dead or alive) that I'd like to meet. He is thoughtful without being provocative, insightful without over-speculating, and he approaches difficult subject matter with poise, respect, and well-defended ideas. He doesn't come off as pretentious or intimidating. When addressing how the cosmos began, and how may perceive it to have been created by a god or gods he says:
"But if we wish to pursue this question courageously, we must of course ask the next question, where did god come from. If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question. Or if we say that god always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the universe always existed, there's no need for a creation, it was always here."
This video discusses how the Hindus were way ahead of their time, realizing the earth was much longer than a few human generations, and gives a brief introduction to Hinduism, as it relates to modern cosmology.

Even better, this is the first part of his last interview. It's frustrating that everything he says is still relevant today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Haggling versus facts

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

a lull in posting

Well hello readers! I'm writing today to say thank-you for including me on your RSS feed, or GoogleReader, or just checking into the blog every now and then. I really enjoy it when someone mentions they've read my blog. It helps motivate me to write more often (it's been four days!!), and to be a little more creative with what I post - more than just sharing the news/clips/etc that pique my interest, although there will still be plenty of that. 

As you can tell, it is, and probably always will be, a hodge-podge of different topics. Hopefully that appeals to some of you, some of the time. :)

Yesterday we hit the 34-week mark, meaning - if all goes well - we have between three and eight weeks before our worlds get turned upside down. I'm trying to prepare for the three-week deadline, in hopes that it will be closer to six, but that I'll be prepared, as far as work goes.

So, what do grad students do with their time, besides blog? In the past couple of weeks I've written up the results to one research project, written a draft of a review article, both of which are waiting for my advisor's read-through, so I can make the final changes and submit them. The final changes/submissions will probably take a week or so per paper. This week I'm focusing on finishing up my final research project (the last big project I need to complete before defending my thesis), and trying to find time to work on the last two fellowships I would like to submit (the NIH NRSA and the L'Oreal Women in Science). I figure, if have a 5% chance of winning each fellowship, and I submit 6 fellowship applications, I have a 30% chance of getting something... right??

Okay, on that note, I'll get back to working - I make myself focus in 30 minute blocks of time. It helps keep me motivated and on-task, or at least I tell myself that it does.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Federal government spending

Wondering aloud about how the new Republican majority in the House is going to work on cutting spending, and hoping the Republicans and Democrats (and Independents and other small fractions) can find a way to do it together. Regardless of your political affiliation, if you are like me and try to stay out of debt, and live within your means, it has to cross your mind that the US government spends an awful lot (6.4 trillion??), and reducing that spending, intelligently, might not be a bad idea.

Maybe, though, the government is like a kid with an allowance - if you don't have to work so hard to get the money, you might not think as carefully about how you spend it. But, like everything written here, that's an over-simplification. 

I was talking with a British friend yesterday and he mentioned how the conservative party in GB is really serious about cutting taxes, so much so that they actually cut one of the largest expenditures: the military. I doubt we'll see anything that progressive, or productive, from our elected officials. 

And, to clarify, I don't think it would be effective, or correct, to chop military pay, benefits, hospitals, etc, but we do spend an awful lot sending our troops to different parts of the world (including Afghanistan and Iraq, but also 142 other countries) paying for lots and lots of expensive toys, and all sorts of "classified" missions, some of which could be a little more transparent. 

In addition to military/defense spending (20% of our budget), we should also think about targeting the other two big-ones: Social Security (20%) and Medicare/Medicade/CHIP (21%). 

I am not as familiar with what could make Social Security more efficient, but I think there are a lot of small changes that could add up to make our Govt. Healthcare more efficient, especially including incentives for healthy choices.

But, in all likelihood, because it is safer, the House and Senate will go after Education (3%), Scientific and Medical Research (2%) and Transportation Infrastructure (3%).

I'm starting to become more involved in the political process (so forgive my naivete) and am learning how much we get side-tracked (pay no attention to the man in the corner sort of routine), but big numbers, when it seems like whittling away on the smallest parts of the budget is like trying to carve a turkey by starting with the tail. Wouldn't it be most effective to bite the bullet and make some dramatic changes that will actually affect the overall fiscal outlook?

Cutting just over 8% from each of the top three expenditures would be equivalent to completely eliminating Scientific and Medical Research AND Education spending. 

Now, 8% is a lot, you might say, but businesses and universities are facing bigger cuts themselves this year, and in the past few years, to stay solvent, and many of them have managed to do so. 

And, more importantly, Research and Education are what help move our country forward. So, let's see what happens the next few years. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Speaking of Halloween...

I had to share this post from a woman I've never met. She's a mom of a little boy who chose to dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo. My niece dressed up as the Grinch last year, and everyone thought it was cute. This little boy dresses up as Daphne (a dang good Daphne, I might add) and all hell breaks loose.

She says it so well, so please go read it, but just to highlight a few parts:
"If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off."
But, what it really comes down to is bullying, and how early that is ingrained in us. As a soon-to-be parent, I hope I can learn from this example. Kids learn that it is okay to bully from their parents as easily as they learn that it is NOT okay to bully from their parents.
Just as it was heartbreaking to those parents that have lost their children recently due to bullying. IT IS NOT OK TO BULLY. Even if you wrap it up in a bow and call it ‘concern.’  Those women were trying to bully me. And my son. MY son.
Rock on Nerdy Apple Bottom mom. Rock on.

Thanks George Takei for this message:



Many thanks to my friend Adam for, again, turning me on (or off?) to the enlightened musings of a Ms. Jessica Uzar, a junior at Penn Stat majoring in journalism.

If you missed it, here's my response when last week Ms. Uzar was telling us ladies how great Halloween is because it is an excuse to dress in skimpy, provocative clothing and act suggestive.

Now, she has experienced something completely unacceptable, but rather than take a step back and try to find solutions for it, she complains about sex, again, and finds herself completely off topic.

First, let me say that Ms. Uzar and her friend should not have been accosted. The behavior of the gentlemen around her, yelling lewd and suggestive comments was completely reprehensible, and yet I have this feeling of deja vu that this is the same behavior she was apparently looking forward to when wearing her Halloween costume.... (from last week):
"After all, if we can’t attract him physically, he won’t want to reproduce with us, right? That’s one of our most basic instincts."
What really upsets me about her rant this week is this bit:

"If we had been walking along the Vegas Strip, wearing heels and dresses that were much too short, I would not be surprised by such behavior. I would actually expect some cat calls and lewd suggestions.
But we were walking through campus, after a football game, with heavy layers of clothing on. The only skin of mine that was showing was on my hands and face and I know I looked nowhere near thin in my bundles of warmth."
No. No, no, NO! No woman, or man, or person, regardless of what they are wearing, deserves or should expect lewd suggestions when walking in Las Vegas or State College. Her experience is a perfect example that it is NOT the amount of skin that is showing. Jack-off guys are going to act like jack-off guys whether the girl is wearing a bikini or a parka. 

She cops out by saying, 
"And I understand that boys are dirty."
"Our culture is obsessed with sex and females absolutely want to feel desirable." 
1. So are girls.
2. All creatures want to procreate, and of course, females want to feel desirable, so do males. 

There are huge conservative leanings to our social culture (remember an enormous fine for Janet Jackson's Super Bowl faux pas?), so trying to claim that our culture is obsessed with sex is a little off-base. We are at the same time fascinated and embarrassed by it. We are such a diverse group, and even, as the author clearly shows, divided within ourselves.

What we need to do is realize that there are general standards that we should hold ourselves, and our peers to, when it comes to normal human interactions. And we need to make it socially unacceptable not to live up to those standards, without becoming completely restricted. 

There aren't many absolutes, and certainly there is a time and a place for everything, but in general here is my "good and bad" list:

Skin is good. Sex is good. Nipples, and penises, and vaginas are good. 

Approaching someone who clearly doesn't agree with your intentions is bad. Accosting and harassing anyone, about sex or anything, is bad. 

Being a hypocrite... well, that's part of growing up. It never ends. We are all quick to say what we think, but if we're lucky, if we're not too proud, and willing to learn from our experiences (and from the experiences of others), then we will change our opinions as we learn and grow.

What did I learn from this experience? That we need to do a better job of holding ourselves, and our peers, to a higher standard of interaction - whether on a drunken football weekend, Halloween, or a quiet school night.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

week 24 of plowshare produce

Well, we've reached the end of our first experience with a CSA, through the lovely farmers at Plowshare Produce.

It has been fantastic having fresh, organic, locally-grown veggies each week, and getting to interact and directly support the people who are growing them! So, let's get to it.

This Week’s Veggies: potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, rutabaga, cabbage, and kale   

I was given the choice between a rutabaga as big as your head, or watermelon turnips. You can see which one I chose:

I used half of the rutabaga and a potato to make a soup. But before we get there, I have to show you the center of the potato. Amanda (model above) and I decided they were like two faces, having a conversation:

I will call this Rutabaga-as-big-as-your-head soup:

Rutabega-As-Big-As-Your-Head Soup
5 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 Tbs butter
1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and chopped
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. water (or more as needed)
1/2 giant rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 large potato, diced
1 c. skim milk
2 c. sharp cheddar, shredded

Saute garlic in butter. Add kale, chicken broth and water, and cook on high for 5 minutes while dicing rutabaga. Add diced rutabaga, let cook while dicing potato. Add additional water until veggies are just covered. Cover pot and simmer on high until rutabaga and potatoes are fork-tender. Puree soup (I had to do it in two batches), adding milk as needed to help puree go smoothly. Return soup to pot and add shredded cheese, stirring until melted. Serve with sliced crusty bread.

Scott said it tasted like broccoli. I think it was okay, but a little bitter (maybe from the kale). Regardless, it was a good way to use our rutabaga and kale.

And that, dear friends, is the last plowshare produce post for the year. If we move back to State College, we'll definitely sign up with them again, but will have to find some other way to get our local, fresh veggie fix in sunny California.