Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some Christmas Thoughts

Here's a poem by Mr W:

Christmas is nice, there are no mice.
I stay home, because I don't have to roam.
I have fun, until Christmas is done.

As we close in on another Christmas, I find myself, well, oddly contented. I say oddly because I usually fret a lot about the few obligations I do have. Getting the right stuff for the right people in time for the big day. My dad has very specific present requests, and his birthday is two days before Christmas. The gifts he wants never change, so it's easy to get the right gift; it's just getting it there that seems to be a challenge sometimes.

I've finished all but one knitting project, and have learned a valuable lesson: I should make things that hold my interest while I'm knitting them, and also of course that I think the people will like. I mailed off presents for my brother in law and nephews - my sister's family - and felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I guess I've attached some meaning to these gifts, wanting them to say that I think of these people often. I hope they like what I made.

Mr W and I are traveling after Christmas to see my brother and his family, and I am looking forward to lots of food, drink and good conversation. My other brother and his wife are also coming in. I only wish CB could join us, but he's off to Mexico on work. He's getting a couple of knitted things, but was kind enough not to impose a deadline for them.

The plan for Christmas day is for Mr W to be with me in the morning, and then I'll drop him off at his dad's for a few days. I was going to work half a day, but got a better offer. My friend from high school has invited me to her house to spend the afternoon. Yippee!! I didn't mind the prospect of working. I've gotten reasonably good at working ahead to take time off later. But now I have an invitation, so I will most certainly not be working that day!!

Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lingering Post-Election Misinformation

Check this out:

Our Disinformed Electorate
December 12, 2008
by Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Brooks Jackson

We saw more aggressive fact-checking by journalists in this election than ever before. Unfortunately, as a post-election Annenberg Public Policy Center poll confirms, millions of voters were bamboozled anyway.

More than half of U.S. adults (52 percent) said the claim that Sen. Barack Obama’s tax plan would raise taxes on most small businesses is truthful, when in fact only a small percentage would see any increase.

More than two in five (42.3 percent) found truth in the claim that Sen. John McCain planned to "cut more than 800 billion dollars in Medicare payments and cut benefits," even though McCain made clear he had no intent to cut benefits.

The first falsehood was peddled to voters by McCain throughout his campaign, and the second was made in a pair of ads run heavily in the final weeks of the campaign by Obama.

For more from the informative site, follow this link.

Holiday excess

Wow. Check out these displays. Here's a teaser:

For more, go see this link.
Found a couple times removed from here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My conflicting thoughts on Christmas gift giving

Last year for Christmas, I bought several things for Mr W that he never played with. Never. Once they were unwrapped and out of the box (and hence unreturnable), he never touched them again. This is sort of a recurring theme; I don't see myself as a good gift-picker-outer.

In addition, I am conflicted about how to go about gift giving for him. I'm OK with spending the money, it's the choice of gifts that has me a bit flummoxed.

In conservation biology, there is something called the "SLOSS debate", which deals whether a rare species is protected better by existing in a Single Large Or Several Small preserves. I see an analogy to my gift giving this year. Should I get the one big kahuna of a gift that I know will be a big hit, or get several smaller items so that there's more than 2 things to open on Christmas morning?

Well, I did finally get off the fence yesterday, and got him a video game player. He'll love it, and I'll get my computer back :-)

It makes me feel better, in giving what I think is a big ticket item (although at Best Buy yesterday, no one else seemed to think so...) to also involve Mr W in making some donations to worthy causes. Here's my list:

1. Our local food bank. The long lines that are there when I drop my dog off at dog school across the street aren't getting any shorter.

2. Heifer International. Easy for kids to get behind this one.

I figured one local and one international charity would make sense and set a good example for the kid.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ups and Downs of Technology

I recently purchased a shiny new iPod Nano, like the one above. LOVE it. However, this morning I'm trying to get songs that I had on my other music service to cooperate, and it ain't workin'.

I'd just like to shake my fist a bit here.

*sigh* And while I'm shaking my fist, I am reminded when CB and I were talking about when to schedule the next visit, and I said, "let's wait until X (there was a good reason)", and he said, "you OK with that?" And I said, "I am now, but during that last week I'll be gnashing my teeth and shaking my fist because it's been so long".

It is now that week. Grrr.

On the up side, xmas knitting is going well, and I'm doing a couple of small things that have high instant gratification quotients.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Promotion of Pack Rat Tendencies

For all of my adult life, I've never lived in one place for more than 4 years. I've logged 3 in this house, and likely will set a new stay-in-one-place record by being here for a couple more years. This has reduced my tendency to be a pack rat, since I have to go through all the boxes every few years and decide whether it stays or goes.

But there are some things that get put to the side with the intention of using them someday should the need arise, and I think it's interesting how one can't really predict what those uses will be. Over the last couple of weeks I've used three things that fit this description.

First, I was able to give away a glass pendant that I made that, while lovely, was too big for my taste.

Then, I was able to use two movie gift cards that Mr W got for a birthday present when he was, um, well, I guess it was for his 4th birthday (he's closing in on 8). Yes, I used them with him, Bolt in 3-D. Bought him a blue slushie with the rest of the credit on the card, too.

Finally, and this is the one that I think is the coolest, there was a nice little rock hanging around in my medicine cabinet for the last couple of years. How did it get there? Well, Mr W collected it, as kids do ("here, mom") when we were visiting our local canyon and I put it in my pocket.

At the end of that day, I must have been going through my pockets before putting clothes in the hamper, and put it in the medicine cabinet because I couldn't throw out such a nice rock (it had quartz and mica, after all).

Last week Mr W says, "I have to write a paragraph on a rock." They've been studying geology. I say, "hey, I've got one that you collected." And with that the rock was put to use.

Only time will tell if these events will make me more likely not to recycle that shoebox or throw away that egg carton, but it's been satisfying to use things I had been saving.

Friday, December 5, 2008


I was talking with CB last night and he asked how my holiday knitting was going. I sighed and indicated that it’s become a bit of a slog. I feel like there’s a good chance I won’t make it, meaning I’m not going to finish everything I want to in time to get it to where it needs to go by Christmas.

It’s not a big list, nor are they difficult projects. But I think therein lies my problem. I was looking at some knitting blogs today. Yes, I was at work, but waiting for the computer to process files (like I’m doing now). And these projects were lovely – lots of texture, variegated yarn, really delightful.

And then the scales fell from my eyes. In my attempts to make gifts that people would like, I think I have dummied down the project to the extent that I don’t find them all that interesting anymore. Of course likable doesn’t have to be boring, and I will henceforth start planning the next thing. It’s going to be something for… me. Something like that scarf.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


One of the challenges of dating someone that lives several hundred miles away is the timing of visits. I have a kid, CB's got two kids, and arrangements have to be made for Sally the dog. Add on top of that dating someone who travels a lot for work, and sometimes there is but one weekend that will work for a visit.

Such was the case for the December visit, or so I thought. I made arrangements with my boss, who wanted me at work for a solid week processing specimens. OK, great, good, I want to get this stuff done too. Second week of December? Right. He's traveling a lot himself lately, so this was scheduled about six weeks ago.

So I buy my ticket, and get a darn good deal, considering holiday travel prices are kicking in soon. Monday I go in and it comes up that it's the third, not second week of December that he wants to do this specimen processing. Uh-oh. I can change my ticket, I say, and go off to find that it will cost $350 to change the ticket.

Back to boss's office I go and he proceeds to think and talk at the same time, and we work out the details so that I'll prepare things as I would if I were there, and instead of me processing the mosquitoes, he'll just refreeze them and I'll start on them when I get back.

He was just so matter of factly flexible, I was very impressed. The work will still get done and I still get to go see CB. Phew!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blog Post - Thanksgiving Edition

As I sit here waiting for my samples to incubate for an hour, I thought I would make mention of the things that I'm thankful for today.
  • The kid. As Mr W closes in on eight years old, I am delighted with how he's "turning out".

  • The squeeze. CB's coming back from New Zealand today, and I'm thankful we're us.

  • F and F. Friends and family. My circle of them means a lot to me.

  • The job. 'nuff said.

  • The house. Despite it being over 100, I love my little house and appreciate a roof over my head.

  • Health. Of Mr W and my own as well.

  • Living in Colorado. I know winter's coming, but boy it was a nice autumn!

  • Sally Doodle Fuzzy Head.

Thanks to those that read my stuff here. Hope your Thanksgiving gives you the opportunity to appreciate the good stuff.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Christmas Swap - going and coming

I participated in a Christmas Swap this year. It was coordinated by a knitter in Norway who got about 50 people from all over the place to participate. We were given a person's blog and street addresses and instructed to send them needles, a pattern, and yarn (for something Christmas-y perhaps), candy, a Christmas story and a gift.

It's funny how stuff gets to its proper owner. A few years ago I took a class in fused glass, and we made 5 pendants, all of which looked good in the making, but none of which I wore because they were too big. I've become more of a Sundance Jewelry sort of gal. But I liked them, and wished I could do something with them. I decided to send the best one as Ida's gift, and she said she liked it! Yea.

I received a package from Gro Vibeke, here's what she sent:

Seriously, every stitch on the socks is identical, unlike my socks, which have more, um, character. I'm working my way through the candy and think I will make myself a scarf with the yarn. A hat too, if there's enough. I am one of those people who knits but doesn't have a decent hat to wear...

This was fun, and I hope to do it again next year. I already have some ideas, and I'm going to keep up with the blogs of the ladies that I gave to and received from. It helps to read Norwegian, but luckily, they both speak English (yes, I felt like a dumb American) and they also post lots of pictures.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On to Step 2

One of the things that I'd like to accomplish at work is to develop a certain kind of DNA marker, called microsatellites. I'm lucky that my boss is supportive of doing this kind of thing, and if it works with the mosquito species of interest, I could conceivably repeat the process for other species.

I found a really clear and straightforward protocol, and over the course of three or four rounds or ordering, I've gotten all the supplies.

Great, all ready to go. Usually, you start with DNA from one individual, but I quickly learned that one little skeeter doesn't yield enough DNA. So off I go, trying to get the right amount of DNA from several mosquitoes processed together. And right off the bat, I run into problems...

The first picture is from my early attempts. What you want is for the DNA to look like the middle bands of the ladder (shown as L, ignore L2). Nice and crisp, not smeary. Notice how the only one that sort of fills the bill is 6, and, unfortunately, it was another species, thrown in for comparison.
So I try this and that, and finally, find another protocol that has me process 10 bugs in an impossibly small amount of liquid, and wouldn't you know, it works. It works!! See the picture below, both lanes labeled D, and how they are actually brighter than the ladder (L), which means that there is plenty of DNA in the sample. No smearing shows that the DNA is of good quality as well.
Yippee!!! Now I can move on to the next step. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sure, I'll wait

I've been doing some running around lately, stuff that potentially has me waiting in line. Also, my town is bisected by a rail line and freight trains come through several times a day. And, of course, I've been knitting a lot lately. Current projects include a hat, a vest, and a small xmas gift, with two more hats and three more small xmas gifts on tap to get done for Christmas presents.

So it is with great disappointment that I have been processed through lines quickly and efficiently lately! And the trains haven't been too bad either. I heard one coming the other day and quickly made my left turn and sped to cross the tracks so I could pick up Mr W (it was farther away than it sounded). Oh, well. I still have a project kept in the car just in case.
In other news:

I caught up with my dad the other day. It was really good to talk to him. We email frequently, but it was always my mother's job to get current with the kids. He's going to be 74 next month and is taking good care of himself.

I've also been finding and getting found by old friends on Facebook. One friend goes by her married name and when I got the friend request, I thought, "I don't know this person", but saw her photo and was pleasantly surprised. This has been a really fun experience to catch up with girls from high school especially.

For some reason, I've always felt that I didn't do as well in high school as I should have, given the money my parents were spending, the good school, and the fact that I was reasonably smart. I know it's goofy and off-base, but it feels like a bit of redemption to find high school friends after all this time and be able to say, "hey, I've made something of myself". Not that any school mate made me feel inadequate, of course.

And, finally, I dropped my car off at the repair shop yesterday. This is always a pain in the neck because I have to arrange my own transportation while Tom has my car. So this time, I took the bus back to within a few blocks of my house. Easy to do, once I arranged the timing, but I'm very glad I don't have to rely on public transportation. My fingers are crossed that there isn't anything big needing to be fixed this time, but with 160,000 miles on my good old Civic, it's likely.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Longish Slog

Have you ever read this little story/joke?

Dog Diary
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 PM - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 PM - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 PM - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 PM - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 PM - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 PM - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 PM - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Day 983 of my captivity.My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a ‘good little hunter’ I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of ‘allergies.’ I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs. I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches.

The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

Hee hee.

I'm not as bad off as that poor cat, but I have been counting the days since I talked to CB. Usually when he's off working, he checks in every three or four days. Overall, I've been impressed by the degree to which there are internet connections in the places he goes.

Alas, this trip has not had such 21st century conventions. He's on a ship, cruising the sub-antarctic islands. Indeed, I hadn't heard of them either until learning about this trip. Perhaps there isn't an internet connection, or it's so expensive he's not using it, but I haven't heard from CB in 10 days!! OK, I guess it's 9, but still.

I'm fine, I have enough to do, and am working on no less than 4 knitting projects and one felted sweater that wants to be a bag. I certainly don't lack for activities. But this trip has made me realize that I like hearing from CB when he's traveling.

Thankfully, the time change on this trip isn't as bad as going to Australia, where it's either 8 or 10 hours earlier on the next day there. It's only 4 hours earlier on the next day. Hopefully that will be a plus when it's time to come back to this time zone.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I’ve been thinking the last couple of days about how I measure progress at work. Being employed as a technician, it’s logical that my success would be measured by the number of publications I turn out, or at least the number of projects I complete.

I have a habit of trying to work on several things at once, with the logic being that maybe something will pan out or lead me in a fruitful direction. I take good notes, and my lab notebook is stuffed with the loose paper of journal articles, product information, descriptions of techniques and the like. I hit my “full” mark in that regard a couple of days ago and have since pulled out the non-essentials and put them in folders that live at my desk but that I can take to the lab with me.

In looking over what I’ve worked on for the last 6 months, mostly trying to develop more DNA markers to tell closely-related mosquito species apart, I have made no progress. I see some interesting bits, but have run into a brick wall, not knowing what to do when something looks promising, but yet doesn’t amplify in every specimen that it’s supposed to.

I need to figure out who I can go to for help in this regard. I’m the only one doing this kind of thing here, so I’ll have to sniff around back at school and see if someone can hold my hand for a bit. This annoys me, and makes me feel like I’m spinning my wheels, but needs to be done. Otherwise my job will consist merely of processing specimens, with nothing new, no discoveries. That would suck.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The M-

Mr W received his report card about a week ago. He's in second grade, so I look at it mostly for glaring deficiencies, as opposed to extraordinarily high achievement. He's a smart kid, and he has made his mom very proud by saying that Science is his favorite subject.

We went over the report card together last night, and I noted how great he was doing with all the skill stuff they are evaluated on. Then I showed him his two S+ (which is "Satisfactory plus") in Science and Social Studies. The kids get one grade for achievement and another for effort, and he received two M- (Most of the time - minus) for effort in Handwriting and Math.

I told him that his teacher said he wasn't using his class time as well as he could be (it was in the comments section) and he protested that he was doing all he could. I was surprised that he reacted this strongly to the M-'s. In my mind they were like B-'s: yes, he could try harder, but no cause for alarm.

I asked if he wanted to talk to Mrs. D about it and to my surprise he said yes, so we'll meet sometime this week before school to talk specifics regarding how to turn those nasty M-'s around.

I know that my educational expectations of him are pretty high. But darn it, I want to see him use his talents and be challenged by doing something in life that he both likes and makes a positive impact on the world.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More Odds and Ends

I've been looking forward to it being Saturday all week. Sadly for Mr W, I have a bunch of me-things to do and I'll need to haul him with me. I'm sure I can buy him off with a Bionicle (it's usually well worth the price of the bribe) but we'll see. Here's what I gots going on:

1. Fall Leaf Cleanup. Important, but I'm still in denial. We'll see if that happens.

2. Yarn Store. Need some needles to do some xmas gifts.

3. Goodwill. I'm looking to explore turning old sweaters into bags. See #5.

4. Christmas Swap. I need to get the yarn, needles, etc. to send off to Norway for my Christmas Swap. I've decided on everything but what story I want to send. Need to do that.

5. Projects. I have an old garage sale sweater that I'm going to felt and turn into a purse/bag. I saw the idea somewhere, and it looks pretty simple. I found a bunch of wool fabric in my basement (when I thought I might want to try rug braiding but it was too expensive) that I can use for a lining, so I'm hoping it will turn out fab. Also several gift projects to work on....

6. Sell the Thomas the Tank Engine stuff. I finally put an ad on Craig's List for the stuff, and it's been hauled up from the basement. Hopefully a couple of people will swing by today and take some of it off my hands. When I think about how much $ was spent on that stuff vs. how much it will reasonably sell for, tears well up in my eyes...

That's it. Life is good: the furnace works, my kid is healthy, my sweetie thinks I'm swell, and I still have a job.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Me and Michelle Obama

Like a lot of people, I'm still riding high on Obama's victory last week and am now prouder to be an American than I have been for a long time. I hope that prosperous and productive times can again be the norm.

I was talking to CB yesterday when he was waiting in the LA airport for a flight to New Zealand. This is going to be a long trip with spotty communication because he's guiding a bird watching group on a ship around the islands south of NZ. I've requested lots of pictures.

Anyway, we were talking and I commented that I see the Obamas as our contemporaries. He's 47, she's probably around that age, and I sort of see them as my peers. I've never felt that way about a president, and CB said it was probably because we're getting older. *sigh*

My parents were newly married when JFK got elected. I wondered today whether my mom had the same admiration for Jacqueline Kennedy as I seem to be developing for Michelle Obama. I remember my mom had this wool suit that was raspberry colored wool, very 60's, very Jackie-O. I wish I would have saved it; it would be deliciously retro now. I know they were as impacted as anyone by JFK's assassination, to the extent that they named my brother (born in early 1964) such that he'd have those initials.

I guess it makes me feel rather grown-up, but that's OK.

In looking for the image, I didn't know about the intense comparison of MO and JKO. Makes sense, though....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This is the last part of an essay by Anna Quindlen over at Newsweek. I cannot say it better myself, and so I won't.

There will be learned discussion in the years to come about the specific meaning of this moment, about whether it will be more symbolic than substantive, about whether having a black president will lull Americans into believing that racism is a thing of the past. But for just a moment consider this small fact: for a long time a black man in many parts of the United States was denied even the honorific "Mister" by the white community, and was instead called by his first name, like a child, no matter how elderly and esteemed he might be.

Now a black man will be called Mr. President.

They never thought they would see the day, people said, especially the older ones, who could remember the murders of Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. They wept, some of them, and so did I. Perhaps it was because this man seems so young and vigorous in a nation that seems old and tired. Perhaps it is because he promises change and hope, and both are so badly needed. He is the president for our children's generation, a more tolerant and diverse society, so insensible of bright dividing lines that one of them would idly wonder whether Theodore Roosevelt was a black man. They belie a time when there was a crayon labeled "flesh" in my Crayola box, a crayon that was a pale pink.

But I suspect that, like many others, I wept for myself, too, because I felt I was part of a country that was living its principles. Despite all our prejudices, seen and hidden, millions of citizens managed, in the words of Dr. King, to judge Barack Obama by the content of his character and not the color of his skin. There were many reasons to elect him president, but this was one collateral gift: to be able to watch America look an old evil in the eye and to say, no more. We must be better than that. We can be better than that. We are better than that.

Let the change begin.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A painless voting experience

How about that? I was fully prepared with not one, but two knitting projects in case I waited for so long that I got bored with just the first one. Also, I dropped Mr W off at the before-school care, and Sally off at dog school, anticipating having to max out their days so I could spend time waiting in line to vote today.

I never even pulled out my knitting. I drove over to the Hilton, which I chose because it has a Starbucks, and walked right in. Someone who really had it goin’ on created Voting Centers in my county a few years ago, so I could choose one of about 30 places to cast my vote. I had my voter card that I had gotten in the mail and my ID, which the nice poll workers checked and I didn’t really even have to slow down as they checked my info, gave me my ballot and directed me to a spot to begin.

I chose a paper ballot, although I could have done it electronically. I think the paper is less goof-proof. There were a ton of state constitutional amendments this year and it took a while to read each one. I withheld a vote on whether the cities that allow gambling should be allowed to offer Craps and Roulette – I really don’t care.

So here I am, back at work, and I am so impressed with how my county made it easy and painless to cast my vote today. Go Obama!!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Fabulous Mr W

It's been a really busy week. On Halloween, Mr W went to a birthday party at our local roller rink. It's been about 25 years since I had set foot into one of those places, and not much has changed. Heck, they even had Michael Jackson playing when we walked in. Mr W doesn't skate much; this was probably his third or fourth time.

We see some of his pals, get his skates, and get them on his feet. I help him up, he wobbles over to the rink, and just goes right out there. And falls. And gets up, goes about 20 feet, and falls. This process repeats all the way around the rink. I'm wondering if I should have bought him inline skates a long time ago.

The thing is, though, I very much admire how he got out there and just did it. He tried, even though he knew he wasn't very good at it, and knew he was going to fall a lot. I don't know if it's because he's just sort of gotten this way after two summers of day camp where they do lots of these kinds of trips (bowling, mini golf, etc.) or if he's just that way, but I'm impressed with his willingness to try this stuff.

Afterwards, I asked how the party was. He said it was good, but also said something like, "I spend a lot of time falling down and getting back up again." As if this were a description of the event, not a judgement of his abilities. I liked that. And will keep an eye out for sales on inline skates.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Odds and ends

Xmas travel plans:
Tickets are bought and I'm excited about Mr W's and my upcoming trip. I guess because it's getting late in the ticket-buying season, there weren't any flights home on the day I wanted, but we're coming home the day after that. I didn't want to wear out our welcome, but at the same time the tickies are expensive and I'd like to get my money's worth. As long as everyone's happy with hand-knit gifts, we're good. Anybody have a knitted Lego set pattern?

Trip to AZ:
Home again today. The visits with CB go so fast. I have gotten into a rhythm where I work most of the weekends when I don't have Mr W, and then take a long weekend off to either go there (most of the time) or have him come here. I do have vacation time, but not that much, hence working weekends. He's pretty swell indeed.

This new obsession with Knitting:
I'm almost done with one of the purple socks shown a couple of posts below. I've gotten a lot of satisfaction from the craft lately and have spent a lot of time on Ravelry, an online community of yarn people. It's been useful to see what certain yarns look like when they are knitted. This is good because some stuff that looks cool when it's on the shelf can be horrendous when knit up.

A reason to be annoyed with myself:
This Friday, Halloween is a school-out day for Mr W. I blew it by not calling to get him into the all-day day care and now they are full. Sh*t!!! I'm hoping his grandma can watch him for half the day, and then his dad and I can split the rest. I was good, even called too early about the last one, but forgot about this one.

Doctor visit:
I have a new doctor. No, nothing's wrong, but I saw an advertisement for this new doctor who is an internist that specializes in women's health and cancer screening. Sounds good to me. I have a doctor, but could take him or leave him, and he doesn't have these specialties. Having lost two family members to cancer that went undetected until it was ready to kill them, I want to be proactive.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The cost of a good time

I'm close to buying airline tickets for me and Mr W to fly to South Carolina after Christmas. It's been a weird year. Well, it's been a year of some losses. My sister died in February at age 45 of colon cancer. My one sister-in-law's grandfather passed and the other's father passed. Yikes.

My sister would usually host Christmas and we were always invited to go to Ohio for a few days. We get along well, so it was a treat to see everyone. The first night we were all together was always special, and we'd stay up entirely too late talking, laughing, eating and drinking.

I can't seem to make myself go to Ohio this year. I'm fairly certain that my brother in law will work as much as he can, and my younger brother will visit for a few days. I feel like a heel that I don't want to go, but I imagine they'll have the house exactly as Kris made it every Christmas, and I can't bear to see that without her there.

So Mr W will spend Christmas proper with his grandma and my x, and he and I will fly out a few days later. I know everyone who is traveling over the holidays gets socked by high airfares, but geez. I'm in for almost $900 just to get us there and back. Add on presents, food and entertainment... I'm thankful I don't have to shell out for a car or a hotel (thanks R and L!).

And for whatever reason, there does not exist a direct flight from where I live. I already know it will be worth any inconvenience, though. Mr W is a trooper of a traveler, and given a laptop and some snacks he can survive almost any airport delay.

Seeing my family reenergizes me, and I wish that Mr W could see them more often. We'll make the most of this time and hopefully have a chance to honor those who have died and celebrate what we have.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Consumed by the craft

Have you ever been so excited to work on some project that you get up early and stay up late for it? I started knitting a pair of socks a few days ago and they have consumed me. I was weird, it took me a long time to decide on a pattern; I had bought the yarn a few weeks ago. I guess I was hung up on having to knit it on the tiny (2.5 mm) needles or taking on something that was too difficult.

But I chose wisely, I guess, because, while I'm following a pattern, it was easy to memorize and also (more importantly) easy to know where I am in the pattern by looking at the work. The pattern is called "Spring Forward." I'm really enjoying the process on this, it's fun to see the pattern unfold.

I'll be going to AZ to visit CB at the end of the week, and I'm looking forward (in a way) to having a situation where I have to sit somewhere and wait, like being at an airport. It gives me a chance to work on my stuff. I suppose that could be a sign of this being an obsession? Oh well.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I do knit, really

I joined a Christmas Swap this year. Friend la Guera told me about it, and there are about 30 people from around the world (isn't that cool?) who are participating. Each person sends needles, pattern and yarn for a Christmas-themed item, something warm to drink, some candy and a story from their country.

I have been matched with Ida, from Norway. She is an accomplished knitter, as I've seen from her site. I realized, though, that she hasn't seen much of my stuff, so I figured I'd post a few pictures. I don't want to end up with something too difficult for me to knit, but on the other hand, everything that's been a challenge so far I have eventually figured out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time on my hands

Something happened yesterday that hasn't happened for a long time. I was 10 minutes early to pick up Mr W. I signed him up for a pottery class and had to get him right when school let out. It is madness and despair to try to find a parking spot near the school at closin' time, so I tried to get there a little early.

Usually he's at the after-school care, so I can get him anytime within a 30 minute window (that I've made for myself) when I get off work. There have been times when I have been a few minutes late for other pick-up events - really, not more than 5, and he is stricken by anxiety. We want to avoid that.

In the perfect world, I waltz in with three minutes to spare. Yesterday, I got there and wished I had a book, my knitting, whatever, but I didn't, so I sat on a bench on the playground and looked around. It was a beautiful autumn day, and I just sort of went through my to-do list and enjoyed the sun.

School let out, we got to pottery with time to spare and he had a good time.

We got his school pictures back yesterday. Of course to me he looks the same every day, but getting the school picture shows how much he's changed in a year. Sure enough, the shape of his face changed a bit, and for some reason, his hair is turning redder. I think this comes from my side; my mom had reddish hair. Seeing him reminds me of her, and that makes me smile.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This in from my Dad

My dad is great. In fact, as I get older and spend more time as a parent, I get just an inkling of what it must have been like for them to have three children three years apart. He and my mom put a high value on education, and all four of us got four year degrees. I think that one of the unintended consequences of all my education is a high degree of skepticism, which I see as a good thing.

Dad is kind of old school. I'm fairly certain he'll vote for McCain, and is pretty conservative, although I've noticed as he gets older he's able to see more commonalities among people than he used to.

So he sends me an email today, and this is what I see first:

Subject: Women's ass size study

And I think, oh dear, here's another forwarded piece of junk mail that I'll be slightly offended by and then immediately delete.

I read on:

There is a new study about women and how they feel about their asses, the results were pretty interesting:
30% of women think their ass is too fat
10% of women think their ass is too skinny......
The remaining 60% say they don't care, they love him, he's a good man, and they wouldn't trade him for the world.

And I laughed out loud at my desk, almost shooting my Crystal Light out of my nose.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Guilty of a Cliché

Mr W is supposed to read for 10 minutes a day. As his teacher predicted at the parent-teacher conference at the beginning of the year, he'd rather read to himself, as that is getting easier to do than read aloud. But of course the way they test the kids is to have them read aloud, so they need to be good at it, or at least have it reflect what they can do.

We go to our local library about once a week for books and videos. I pick out several books for him to read at home, as well as books we can read for bedtime stories. The last time I got books for him to read, I was excited because I could tell they were a step up from what he was reading over the summer and in first grade.

Fast forward to the first time I say, "OK, pick a book and let's have you read for 10." To my surprise, he looks at all the books and pronounces them "boring." "What?" I say. "You didn't even look at them closely. You know what you just did? You judged these books by their covers." He was unimpressed, so I asked him to read the one on submarines.

So I've been picking the book for him to read. I picked one out on prairie dogs, as we see them in their last vestiges on the edge of town as we take Sally to dog school. He gave me the usual "it's boring, it's too long" stuff and got to work. Lo and behold, he gets through two chapters and says, "we can read more of this next time, right?" Yes indeedy, my budding book lover.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Sally goes to dog school. Sally will be two in December, and as such still has a lot of puppy energy that needs to be burned off. When I got her, one of the benefits was to be that I would get some exercise while she got exercise. And that largely is the case. There is a small group of us who walk while at the dog park, mostly because our dogs would just lay there if we weren't moving.

But a couple of times a week I take her to dog school. No, they don't actually teach them anything unless I want to pay extra, but they do reinforce good manners and let the dogs play all day. Sal comes home exhausted, and I can focus on Mr W or not feel guilty about going out that night.

Dog school is located in an industrial park-type area, and it happens to be across the street from our local food bank. A couple of times a week, if I get Sal to dog school before 9:00 am, there are people lined up outside the food bank, each with a shopping cart that the food bank provides. Lately there have been 15-20 people in line.

I am conflicted about this. Here I am, doing something that is, by any definition, a luxury, a perk, a convenience. These people actually need food, or they wouldn't be standing in line. The simple solution is for me to donate to the food bank, and I sometimes do. But not enough to assuage my guilt over not doing more to help.

By all accounts things will get worse before they get better. I am going to make a bigger effort to do things that help with the basics, and that means donating food or money to the food bank, and also to things that provide coats or toys for kids. I still have a job and am able to pay my bills, and I think that obligates me to give something to those that don't and can't.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Halloween's coming, you know

This caught my eye the other day. What a clever idea!! Thanks, Knitty.

I'm good at mosquito husbandry

Back in February of this year, a colleague and I went on a collecting trip to get specimens from a certain populations of mosquitoes. We brought back live mosquitoes and set them up in our insectary, which as rooms with growth chambers in it. The mosquitoes hang out in metal-frame cages with sugar water. One kind is special because the females will lay eggs without a bloodmeal (they are autogenous), while the other kind's female get blood fed every week to maintain the colony. No, we don't use human volunteers, we use a system that has little membrane-covered cups of calf's blood that are electronically heated.

The point of maintaining the colonies is to have live specimens that we can test new DNA markers with. The autogenous colony is interesting because there isn't a good genetic way to tell them apart from the anautogenous, and they are identical in appearance.

It has fallen to me to do the grunt work to maintain these colonies. It is never hard or messy, but it has to be done every day unless I work ahead so they'll make it over the weekend with enough food. The females lay eggs in a cup of water, and I take the cup out and distribute the egg rafts into 9 x 13 aluminum cake pans with lids. I feed them the fine particles of a solution of water, fish food, liver powder and something called "brain-heart infusion" (I don't want to know any more about that either).

After 5 or 6 days, the eggs have gone from larvae to pupae, and I transfer the water and bugs to a rearing chamber and put it back into the cage. I remove the old rearing chambers, feed everyone so they'll lay eggs and repeat and repeat and repeat.

It takes me about 45 minutes a day to do this, and as I said before, it's not especially dirty, or is it ever difficult. Someone else does the weekly blood feed, so that saves me a little time. My boss hasn't check on how these colonies are doing for months.

Yet, I take some pride in the fact that when I come in in the morning, there are egg rafts to process and I see that as a reflection that I'm doing a good job taking care of these creatures. Yes, I smush the ones that get out, and don't really have any affection for them at all. But I want to do a good job of it if I have to do it.

That said, I realize that I do have a lot of latitude in how I spend my time at work and I am thankful for that. I can work my hours when I want to work them, as long as the work gets done. My boss doesn't peer over my shoulder, but at the same time, I'd better be ready to give an update or know where those specimens are (and I usually do). If taking care of several hundred mosquitoes is the price to pay for those job perks, then I'm glad to do it.

cage image


I've been pretty good about watching the debates this year. I usually avoid them because the verbal attacks, even if I don't care for one or both participants, make me uncomfortable. This year it's too important to miss, so I've watched.

I had to divide my attention last night between Mr W and the debate, so I only got to really watch about a third of it. I kept the TV on otherwise and while I was reading bedtime stories, I kept pausing, prompting Mr W to say, "come on, read please."

Analyses afterwards and this morning seem to indicate that Obama came out a bit ahead, and McCain didn't change too many minds. He apparently sounded more like a typical politician.

Although things can change rapidly, I'm pondering this morning what it feels like to be an Obama supporter when it looks like he might win. I'm thrilled he's made it this far in the contest. I like how he conducts himself, even though his campaign has, like McCain's, aired negative and misleading attack ads.

Only 4 more weeks.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The ever-growing Mr W

Well, it finally happened. I was putting laundry into the washing machine and came across a pair of gray pants. 'Oh, I don't remember wearing those' I thought. Then I realized they were Mr W's pants. Yes, he's gotten big enough that I mistook a pair of his pants for a pair of mine.

Last May, at the end of the school year, I laid in a supply of long pants from the consignment store that I was certain would fit him when the start of second grade rolled around. Lo and behold, I have 6 pairs of pants that he never wore and are now too short.

He's a tall kid already, one of the tallest in his class. I'm thankful that he won't be picked on because of his size (one less thing to worry about). I did tell him, though, that his size then more or less obligates him to speak up for the kids in his class that come up to his shoulder. I don't think he gets it yet, but one of these days I imagine he'll get the opportunity to stand with some kid who is being bullied and hopefully be of some help.

We went back to the consignment store last weekend and bought some more long pants and hopefully he'll be set for a while.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

New Items from Postsecret

Ha! Here are a couple of Sunday secrets from Postsecret.

In other news
Last night I met with friend la Guera for dinner last night, before she and another teacher went off to chaperon the Homecoming dance. We talked about our past experiences, the racy dresses the girls wore, and how the duties of a chaperon include approaching couples who look like they are having sex and telling them they need to cool it.

I walked around to see the props and scenery (the theme was "Neverland") before they let the kids in, and thought about my days at school dances. I went to an all-girls school (which probably explains a lot...) and getting dates for dances was always a challenge. As I think about it, there didn't seem to be an option for a person to attend with a group of friends or without a date. This seems grossly unfair as I look back, although I don't think the nuns intentionally meant to force us into the mindset that we had to attend social functions with a date.

So as I walked around (it's been some time since I've been in a high school anyway), and saw the advertisements for class rings and senior pictures, I felt a significant sense of..... relief. Relief that I'm well past the uncertainty and insecurity that were a big part of my social interactions in high school. I commented at dinner, 'if I knew then what I know now', and well, I'd have had a lot more fun. And I'm glad I'm here not there.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hey Baby! Go Away! Look at Me! Cuttlefish Communication

I've mentioned before my long time interest in giant squid. I am amazed that something so big can remain largely a scientific mystery.

Cuttlefish, which are smaller relatives, have an incredible capacity to change the appearance of their skin in order to communicate with their squidly counterparts. Ed, over at the blog Not Exactly Rocket Science (a good all around science blog, btw) has a great post on the subject and here's a quote about how it works:

The top layer consists of specialised sacs of coloured pigment called chromatophores, which can expand or contract on command. By switching them from concentrated specks to flat plates, the squid can produce rapid bursts of colour.

But the key to secret signalling lies in the bottom layer. This consist of cells called iridophores, which contain stacked plates of protein separated by liquid. When light hits each plate, some is reflected but the rest passes through to the other plates below. The squid can control the size of the gap between the plates, so that they match the wavelength of different colours of light.

Go read the rest of the post, it's very interesting.

Seeing it reminded me of when I worked a couple of summers as a seasonal naturalist for the state park system in Ohio. At the training, we'd go through this catalog of films (yes, like we saw in grade school) on various topics that we were supposed to show at the campfire program on Saturday night. I tried to pick things that were either just entertainment ("What's that Lassie? Timmy's down in the well?") or sciencey.

One was on cuttlefish, and it was one of those things that you think, 'well, that looks OK' and after you see it, you think 'I can't believe there are creatures like that!' As they say in the video below, from a PBS NOVA episode, it's pretty wild that something related to a slug has such a complex brain. Did you notice how big their eyes are when they're not trying to hide them? Wow.

The NOVA link is to their website that has a lot more info on this phenomenon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Independent of the original connection

I was emailing back and forth today with the x about Mr W's schedule and he mentioned that his mother is in the hospital. When I was married, I was very close to my mother-in-law. As MIL's go, she was tops. Very hands-off, but at the same time very supportive. She had polio when she was 16, so she spent most of her adult life getting around on crutches, and has gradually lost mobility over the years. She's in a power wheelchair, and this latest hospital stay involves her shoulder. If she can't get it back to the point where it will support her when she transfers in and out of the chair, she'll have to move from her independent living facility to a nursing home that can provide more care. A rather large concession.

After I was divorced, I didn't contact her much, and she, I guess, felt like the first move should be mine, so I've not really interacted much with her for the last few years. She's in town, and I'm happy that Mr W gets to see her on a regular basis. I of course have thought, "oh, I should call her and stop by" but I never seem to get there.

I don't have any reason anymore, if I ever did. It felt awkward, when I was first single, to think about including her in my life. But now, I can more easily remember that she and I have a relationship that stands on its own. I feel weird for waiting so long, but it's time.

So I think I'll stop by the hospital and see her tomorrow. There are still some nice flowers in my garden and I think she'd appreciate a little bouquet.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Am I boring?

Got a chance to talk with CB this morning. I set my alarm for 5:15 am and it was 9:15 pm in Sydney. We talked for about an hour and I feel like we got caught up with what was going on with each other.

After I got off the phone, though, I thought about the things that had been going on over the last few days. You know, the stuff you talk about with someone who wants to know what you've been up to, and it went something like: hanging out with Mr W, doing housework, doing garden stuff, knitting, oh, a friend stopped over on Saturday, um, I think I'm going to have to go back to the dentist, um... umm... I'm still sore about having my manuscript returned... and that's about it.

I thought, 'god, I'm so boring'. Things seem exaggeratedly routine (if there is such a thing) when the other person is traveling on the other side of the world. And I've been on this knitting kick; I really like to sit down in the evening after the kid goes to bed and work on my stuff. I'm getting better at it and I enjoy it a lot. I'd post a picture of the socks I'm working on, but they're for CB and I don't want to ruin the surprise...

I don't know, it was this weird juxtaposition of doing things like gardening and knitting that I really do enjoy and actually don't think are boring, and having to talk about them, which made them sound boring.

I know I'm not really boring (I hope!), it was just a strange feeling.

In other news,
My boss gave a talk today that included the project I recently completed, as well as my coworker's ongoing work. There were four talks in the session, he was the first, and they asked people to hold questions until the end.

At the end, our director asked a good question about my stuff, and then someone else asked another question and both questions addressed areas of research I've told my boss that I want to pursue as a result of the work I did. He said we were working on those things and would eventually publish what we found out. Yea!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Aaaaahhhh Saturday

I have a long list of things I'd like to get done today. The weather is going to be nice, so my plan is to:

1. Organize my garage - there's one narrow path through the clutter and it's annoying me

2. Cut the grass - *rolls eyes* I dislike this job, but it needs to be done

3. Rearrange the painted rocks - picture of whimsical and clever yard art forthcoming

4. Begin Fall cleanup of garden - it's time to prune the 10' rose bush - yikes!!

5. Clean out my car - will assign window cleaning to Mr W, who is angling for an extra $5 to tack on to his allowance money to buy another Lego toy. I hope to get some work out of him...

I guess that's it. It's a beautiful day in CO today, and I'm glad to be here to enjoy it.

In other news,

CB is in Australia for the next three weeks, leading a bird watching tour across half of the country. The time change presents a challenge for communicating. It's 8 hours earlier, on the next day over there. So I can get up at 5 am and talk to him before he goes to bed, or he can call me at work when he gets up in the morning.

We've done a lot of chatting on Skype, which lets you call a place through your computer for very cheap rates. If he's got a good connection then we'll video chat, but if not, then I can call his hotel with my computer (yes, the technology was news to me too) and talk to him that way.

The tour has a pelagic (ocean bird) trip before the rest of the tour starts, and he reported that he got a good look at one of these, a Blue Shark:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Remind me, next year about this time

I'm very happy with how my garden turned out this year. It was the first year I had everything planted for my side garden, which runs along an alley. I also have a side yard on the other side of the house, but hardly ever go there except to cut the grass. It gets too hot out there in the summer, and there's no shade.

I plan to remedy that sometime this winter by having my neighbor, who has a remodeling company, take out the windows of my front porch area, which was enclosed years ago. It's a house and neighborhood that are very amenable to front porches, and it will give me a place to be outside (and still have my internet connection :-)
Like I said, I like how my garden turned out this year, and will post some pictures soon. I'm especially happy with my well-behaved pumpkins, which stayed more or less confined to the area I gave them, as opposed to making a run across the alley.

But I always, at least since I've owned houses and gardened, feel a tad bit of remorse at this time of year that I did not plant flowers that have their peak flowering at the beginning of fall. I vow to remember to do it the next year, and am swept away at the nursery by the things that are flowering right then.

Sure enough, we were walking around the neighborhood and I saw the two things I wish were in my garden right now:

Japanese Anemone (Anemone sp.), part of the Buttercup family.

And the other are New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) of the Aster family. They are beautiful and a really vibrant shade of purple.

I'm going to go to a couple of nurseries around town this weekend and see if they have either of these. I might get lucky. If not, remind me next spring!!
I was able to find an Anemone at the garden center! I'm excited. They are supposed to like afternoon shade, so I tucked it in a corner and we'll see. It's very pretty!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I received an invitation to the dedication of the Continuing Care Nursery (not the NICU as I had originally heard) for my sister. I'm trying to think of a way to say this without being too melodramatic. Today marks 15 years since my mom died, again of cancer.

I think about what she would think of 'how I turned out' and I think she'd be proud. There are times when I could use her guidance, and it makes me feel that much worse that my sister's kids have to continue without their mom. It's not fair.

And I'm a little scared that if I'm not vigilant, I'll get sick and have to say goodbye to the people I love too. But this is more about missing Kris and Mom. So I will take a few minutes today and remember what these extraordinary women meant to me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

If you can read this, thank your immune system...

I had coffee yesterday with my coworker who had a kidney transplant. She looks amazing!!! Unbelievable that it's only been 5 weeks. Her impressive bounce back to wellness is largely due to her age (just 29). The match (from her brother) was so good, that if she takes care of it, she'll be able to get 25-30 years out of that kidney.

I got a brief lesson on how transplant patients' immune systems are tweaked to not reject their new organ. At this early stage, the doctors have her on anti's: anti-biotics, anti-fungals, anti-virals, to protect her while they are depressing her immune system with anti-rejection drugs. Then, once she's passed the magic 6 month mark, they'll be less concerned with rejection, and begin to tweak the mix of medications so that she has as much immune system as possible, yet won't reject the kidney.

And they have options, too. Apparently there are different meds that do the same thing and if a person gets side effects, there is often something else to try.

I was very impressed how it was obvious that transplants today have built on what's been done in the past. I know, I know, duh, but for example, they don't put the kidney where her old one was. Actually, where it is. They left it in. The new kidney is put a little to the side, and the surgeon goes in through the front.

I'm so happy she's OK. Unfortunately, her immunocompromised state makes it too risky for her to do lab work, so she'll do deskwork when she comes back. After that, she'll have to switch disciplines so she doesn't work with anything infectious to humans. Something like plant pathology. It's an awful bit of irony that we work at a facility that specifically studies infectious disease.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm done (I swear)

This is the yarn (yeah, the Bionicle is for scale :-)) I've purchased over the last month or so. In the three years or so since I've knitted things other than scarves, it has been a strictly seasonal venture. I love to knit from late August until about May. That's when the warm weather makes the prospect of a big wool thing on my lap unappealing.

My local yarn store had a sale after labor day, and I bought some yarn. I learned a good lesson too - I should get the pattern first, then get the yarn to suit the pattern. I like all the stuff I've bought, but there are a couple of things that I'll have to hunt around for a suitable pattern for. That's OK, it's good to have a stash.

I've had a thing for socks lately. I made a pair for CB for Christmas last year where I actually made three and gave him the best two. I just finished a pair for me (below) and have started another pair for CB. I like the portable nature of socks, and the ones with simple patterns (but it needs to have a pattern!) are the best right now.

So of course after I bought the first round, I was looking around Ravelry and found patterns that I really liked and wanted to try. Back to the yarn store, where I purchased the rest. I'm pretty sure I'm done buying yarn (and needles) for the season. The project list is loooonnngg. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to work on the socks for a while.

The Sister Kris Memorial NICU

I got an email from my dad the other day, saying that the hospital where my sister used to work is going to dedicate the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit - where she worked) to her. I don't have the details yet, but I think it's such a great thing.

It's a reflection of her coworkers, too. She had nothing to do with this gesture. What I mean is that it's the awesome (and I don't mean that glibly) people that she worked with that made this happen. I wish I could be there.

She took a lot of pride in her work, and even though she didn't have an official title beyond being a floor nurse, when she worked, everyone went to her for answers. She filled up the supplies and kept the less engaged nurses on their toes.

It's an appropriate way to honor her.

Am I drooling?

I just got back from the dentist. I hadn't been there for over a year, and was pleasantly surprised this past Tuesday to hear that I didn't have any cavities. However, I had two fillings that needed to be replaced, and we scheduled the appointment for today.

I have a long history with nerve-wracking dentist visits. Family lore has it that when I was around 6, I asked Dr. Rossi if he would shut the door so my mom in the waiting room wouldn't hear me cry. He was sort of the "let's see if we can do this without Novocaine", but not always; I remember that I got poked plenty.

It seemed like I usually had cavities when I'd go to the dentist, but I suppose I have fewer teeth than there were visits, so that can't be true. When I was a freshman in college, I was persuaded to be the state boards patient of someone working in Dr. Rossi's office. I agreed because I would get several fillings done for free, and she was a good dentist.

After that, the anxiety sort of snowballed. I remember one visit where I actually (and involuntarily) kicked the dentist's elbow because he hit a nerve while drilling. Then the nice dentist at the health center at school introduced me to the benefits of gas and Valium.

I have to get a ride home, but that combination works really well. I still get a little nervous, but by and large I'm just there. I'm able to be still, think about other things and get through it.

On the up side, my teeth are straight and I don't have any signs of gum disease. And hopefully future trips to the dentist will entail only the replacement of work already done, like the fillings I had replaced today. And one more up shot - one is a white filling - it's like I got a new tooth!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I'm a fan of the blog bioephemera, where Jessica brings together biology and art in lots of interesting ways that enhance the enjoyment of both disciplines. I've been digging around for new patterns to try and am part of a group of 'scientific knitters' on Ravelry, an online knitting community. DNA makes for a good pattern in a scarf or sweater.

Someone was looking for a pattern for knitting a brain. Yup, a brain. And perhaps more surprisingly, there were people offering options. One of them pointed to Sarah Illenberger, who knitted these wonderful organs.

How's that for the intersection of art and science?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Harmonic convergence?

No, not really, but every once in a great while, I get to sleep in. It's almost always my own doing that I don't sleep in on the weekends - there's so much to do, funwise and domestic duty-wise. The other times, Mr W's up so he can get a jump on his weekend. Funny how the prospect of a weekend makes a kid eager to be up at 6:30 am. We have worked out a deal where he's supposed to wait until 7 to see if I'm up and that works pretty well.

I've had a cold the last couple of days. It started as a sort throat when CB was here, and I thought it was because I wasn't drinking enough water, which happens sometimes - CO is a dry place. Yikes, the day after he left, I got a full-blown head cold.

So last night, as I was getting Mr W to bed, I said my usual, "don't bug me before 7 am", jokingly, of course. Wow, lo and behold, I wake up at 8:45, and it's quiet. Because I'm a mom, my first thought was, "I hope he's OK", and the dog was quiet in her crate. This just doesn't happen in my house, so I was pleased indeed.

There is no stealth in my house. The wooden floors make our comings and goings pretty obvious. So as I was turning the coffee pot on, he stirred and wanted to get up. So we're all just hangin' on a Saturday morning, me at the computer, dog with a chew toy, Mr W watching a movie about the Justice League.
I haven't had a cold for a while, and two nights ago, while I was laying down reading stories to Mr W before bed, I couldn't breathe at all through my nose. Nothing. I later took some cold medicine and it was better, but at the time, I thought about how uncomfortable it is when something we take for granted is taken away. Without getting all metaphorical about it, it did make me think about people who have chronic pain or nausea or whatever.

Yup, count yer blessings.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Isn't it cool

Back in July, there was this weird confluence of events around me getting back in touch with a friend from my high school days. The short version is, the day I found her on Facebook, she thought she saw my ex and Mr W driving in Yellowstone National Park on vacation. Quite the coincidence.

We grew up in Ohio, but she's worked around the US and overseas in the last decade or so, and is ready to settle in NY state. She's passing through CO on the way, so I'm excited to to get the chance to see her, and have her meet Mr W.

I wonder if it's because we shared some of our most formative years, but this friend is one of those people that I can pick-up-where-we-left-off with. Isn't that cool? It gives me a bit of insight as to why I am the way I am.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hand me my umbrella, will you?

Because when it rains it pours sometimes. I feel like I've sort of dodged most of this, but my brothers' families have been taking some hits lately. I feel sad for their losses.

My dear sister in law lost her dad to cancer over the weekend. Not unexpected at all as he was at the end and everyone knew it. It was going to happen any time now, and she said he passed peacefully.

But it is still a loss.

My other dear sister in law's grandfather passed about a week ago. I still am amazed at how long her grandparents have persisted. These grandparents who lived in the same house for a very long time, a lifetime, and who just recently moved "to town" so that they could be cared for in an assisted living situation. Imagine being 6 (the age of R and L's oldest daughter) and to not only have a doting grandma, but a doting greatgrandma as well. One of life's bonuses, to be sure. And it's a similar thing - not a surprise, but yet a loss, a hole is there.

To add insult to injury, R and L had to euthanize their nice little cat yesterday. Geez. Named Muenster (like the cheese), he was the companion of the now-passed Colby (big, orange, you get the picture) and was this geeky, bad-hipped little goofball of a cat that was a lot of fun to watch because you would swear he saw things the rest of us mere mortals could not.

Life does that sometimes. We have to sift through a lot of stuff at once, and only when it's passed and we've processed can we look back and say, "wow, that was tough." It reminds me to appreciate the times when life is not like that. When the big things I've got going on are getting the place ready for a CB visit, and trying to get Mr W and I into a smooth school-year schedule. Work is good, I have a good idea for a project that I'm going to pitch to my boss after having lunch tomorrow with one of my mentors and I'm happy the warm weather is done for the year. My kid is healthy and so full of questions lately (transportation using giant magnets, etc.). Heck, I even have three nice pumpkins from the garden that will look very nice on my porch.

It's what you make it, usually.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day

I listened to someone speak today about Labor Day, and he subsequently got into the area of how it is typical for Americans to want more from their jobs than to merely provide money for food, shelter and clothing. A lot of us at least partly define ourselves by our work, and we want to be seen as doing work that has some purpose.

He mentioned how even people who do repetitive jobs tend to seek ways to improve the job they do, or some component of the process. And finally, many of us wish to grow in our jobs; we want to be doing a job where we can learn new things.

Then again, our "work" may not involve our job. I have heard of people staying in dead-end jobs because of the health care benefits, and wonder if those people have other outlets.

As for me, I like my job. I also see my work as involving things outside my job. Of course being mom to the fabulous Mr W is right up there, as well as being a good partner to CB, and being a good friend, family member, neighbor, and member of my community. I also do things for my own pleasure, like knitting, that mostly count as, I don't know, 'self therapy'?

I posted earlier that I would try to get an answer to the question "what do you do for a living?" after CB's co-workers asked me and I felt I gave them a mediocre answer.

I work in a lab whose purpose is to study the Ecology and Entomology of mosquitoes that are disease vectors. So much of what is known about mosquito taxonomy is based on morphology alone, that we do a lot of work with DNA-based molecular markers (you know, bands on a gel) to help determine species' distribution, and also information about particular species at the population level

These are different levels of organization. With the taxonomy, the species is the basic level, so we use markers that show differences among species. With the population-level stuff, we look at markers that are more variable, and thus let us characterize the amount of diversity within and between populations.

Who cares? Well, the population-level analyses let us see how two closely-related subspecies grade into one another across a hybrid zone, and also to characterize the degree of hybridization. For example, it looks like, at least in the lab, some hybrids are capable of exhibiting heterosis, where the hybrids show a more extreme version of a trait (like vector competence) than either parental species.

So my job involves both finding markers that we can use to characterize species at the level of populations, and analyzing samples of mosquito populations from wherever. Still doesn't quite roll off the tongue, though.

I use DNA markers to examine differences between species of disease-carrying mosquitoes.


Friday, August 29, 2008

As we age...

I was at the eye doctor yesterday for an eye exam. My glasses are three years old and I now have eye insurance, so it was definitely time. They do a lot of different things, test color vision, peripheral vision, the annoying puff-of-air glaucoma test, etc. I had the option of either getting my eyes dilated for them to look at my retinas, or I could pay $20 and have them take a digital picture of it. No contest, take the picture.

My retinas are fine, thank you, and I was impressed that they could tell things like diabetes-related issues and high blood pressure from pictures of one's retinas.

Back in the room after all the tests, the doctor comes in and we're going over how my eyes have changed since the last exam. He starts out explaining how the lens of the eye gets less responsive "as we age" blah blah.

It took me a minute, but I realized that he was preparing me for needing bifocals. I stopped him and said, "I already have bifocals, so you don't have to soften the blow." He laughed, looked again and said, "oh yeah, you do" and then just said I needed a slightly stronger magnification.

That's OK, I can still get my no-line bifocals. It doesn't actually bother me, because the improvement is so noticeable. I spend enough time reading and/or in front of the computer that I need them.

What frames? It seems all but the frameless ones look weird, but CB's coming in next week and he'll help me pick out something.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Shiny and New

Perhaps because it corresponds with the beginning of school for other folks around here, I'm feeling a bit renewed because I have a brand new lab notebook. Can you picture it? There I am, walking down the hallway, clutching my new lab notebook to my chest as I eagerly make my way to the lab.

Around here, we have nice lab notebooks, Sort of a hard-back cardboard cover, black, with the words "LABORATORY NOTEBOOK," as well as the division where I work, written on the front in silver. Said notebooks are not just laying around for the taking, oh no. They are kept by the secretary of the branch I work for, and one must ask Vickie for one. She always gives them out when asked, but this strikes me as a little odd. Sort of like making sure we don't take more than our share.

Although I don't think anyone else has ever looked at my lab notebook, I like to think I keep good enough notes so that if someone had to replicate what I do (yes, I'm working on that post) they could do so. It's not particularly neat, but it has lots of information and references back to important pages and that kind of thing, so I'm pretty proud of it.

This is my fourth lab notebook since I started this job. I think they're getting more interesting as time goes on.