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.