Thursday, January 29, 2009

A 90% Day

At work, I have the flexibility to follow interesting lab results, and it's a part of the job I really like. I'm always looking at taxonomically-informative markers that can be used to quickly identify closely-related disease-carrying mosquito taxa.

A lot of "doing" science for me is getting materials, making solutions, setting up the PCRs, and in general doing the preliminary work to start answering the question you have. My coworker G has a name for this process, calling it "90%" of science.

The process also involves the dead-ends and mistakes one makes along the way (i.e. "did I remember to put that bit of stuff in the reaction?"). No doubt those can be informative as well, but often they just cause one to smack one's forehead and go the freezer to thaw the reagents again.

I've been putting in a lot of 90% days lately, and while I understand it's part of the process, it's a little frustrating as well. Another part of my job is to process samples with markers we already have that work well, so I've been doing that sort of bread-and-butter work as well and it's sort of comforting.

But it doesn't compare, thrill-wise, to figuring out something new that is of value to people wanting to ID specimens, and publishable as well.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My name is Linda, and I am a Selfish Knitter

Earlier in the week, I had high hopes of knitting a little something for a friend whose birthday is coming up. Hey, after all, I'm a reasonably competent knitter, right? I should be able to whip out a little something for a friend. I picked out a small project that I had not attempted before and got to work. I got about 45 minutes into it, and realized it would take me likely 3-4 hours to complete the project. And I came to the stark realization:


There. I've said it. I've sort of been bumping into this idea as a result of the Christmas knitting I took on (willingly, I might add). Yes, I will finish the vest for my niece, at some point. Heck, it turned out so big, it might make a good high school graduation present! And I promised CB a couple of doable items.

But now, I declare myself a Selfish Knitter. Apparently I am not unique. Perhaps it's part of the evolution of a knitter.

Anyway, this was sort of a bummer. I enjoy knitting, now more than ever. And spending 3-4 hours on a knitting project isn't very much in the big scheme of knitting things. But I guess I'm getting more selfish with my time. I also didn't like the rushed feeling I got when I thought I could complete the project, but I had to hurry to get it done. The appeal of knitting is not only product but process, and hurrying seems wrong.

The inevitable conclusion is that, until I am bestowed with a lot more free time, I'm not able (willing? maybe) but simply not able to crank out the projects like the people on the knitting blogs who produce a sweater every couple of weeks. I still don't know how this is humanly possible while holding down a job, taking care of a child and being in a relationship.

For what it's worth, here's my current project list and wish list (I'll try to post links soon):

  1. Purple "Spring Forward" socks - decreasing for the toe on the second sock - so close to done
  2. Drumstick bag for CB - Frogged twice, but I know what I need to do
  3. Vest for niece - 75% done - will finish this season
  4. Gloves for CB - right idea, wrong yarn. Will have to start with new yarn.
  5. Dish cloths - always one in progress in my purse.
  6. Market bag - I'd like to make several; started one, frogged it
  7. Socks with new Koigu yarn - awesome yarn - need to pick a pattern. Man, I love making socks!
  8. Winter hat for me - I don't have one, you'd think this would be a priority...
  9. Sweater with bulky yarn - need to pick a pattern that doesn't make me look like a marshmallow.
And the list goes on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I’m a little disconcerted by a call I just got from Mr W’s dad. Seems his mother (my former MIL) isn’t feeling well, to the point where she’s going to stay in the hospital for a couple of days and then have a psychiatric evaluation of some sort. He was fuzzy on the details and obviously upset, but there’s definitely a problem there.

I’ll just say this: I feel guilty for not being more involved in her life, even though she’s not technically my MIL anymore. She’s a wonderful woman and has spirit and spunk despite having a lot of bad breaks in terms of her health. I also have the feeling that the x doesn’t pay as much attention to her as he should, although he takes care of her bills and such (we are all in the same town).

Just recently, I’ve started to rebuild the relationship. She’s maddeningly hands-off though, and lets me make all the moves. So of course life gets in the way and I don’t see or talk to her for a couple of weeks. The weird thing is that I just saw her a few days ago, when she watched Mr W for a few hours on MLK day when I popped into work. She seemed fine, but has been on antibiotics and maybe that’s interfering with the other things she’s taking (the list is long).

All one can do is move forward, though, and I’ll make arrangements to go see her when I hear where she’s staying.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Sister Kris, 2009

Today would have been my sister's 46th birthday. I have felt the day coming. Yesterday, I thought it was the day before all day. She died February 20th, so there's another anniversary to deal with coming up, but I'll deal with that one when it comes.

It's a couple of things, though. It's sadness mixed with the continuing desire to honor her. And I don't think she'd mind serving as an example of why early detection is so important in cancer. Her family is doing admirably. Her husband has taken over a lot of the domestic duties and farmed out the ones he can't or doesn't want to do. He works a hellavalot and has tried very hard to keep things as they were for the kids.

I was thinking the other day about when she was sick and they had exhausted all the conventional options regarding chemo. The prospect of getting into clinical trials came up, and there weren't any local ones that she qualified for. I guess it's pretty specific, as in, they want people who have had these agents and not those, AND have to have Stage IV colon cancer metastasized to the liver, etc.

There was a trial in Huston to try something like an ovarian cancer drug in colon cancer patients. She hemmed and hawed and it really stymied me as to why she wasn't figuratively running out and joining up for this thing that offered some hope. But in her mind, it didn't offer hope.

She knew that if she continued as she was, that she would have a certain amount of time left with her family, in her home. If she enrolled in the trial, there was too big of a chance (in her mind) that her remaining time would be cut shorter. I had never considered this, and respected her decision.

I have a friend whose brother in law was diagnosed with the same thing as Kris, only more advanced. Just like that. Not feeling well, walks into the doctor and out with the bad news. He was put on palliative chemo almost immediately. I can see what the future holds for them, and it pains me. It's more suffering than a person (and their family) should have to bear.

I'm thankful for the researchers out there, and for the push for early detection. Happy Birthday, Sista!!

She liked red roses.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bad Timing

The chunk of time after work and before Mr W goes to bed is a carefully-orchestrated bit of maneuvering that has to include a lot of things, such as making dinner, doing homework, and getting the dog walked. So I zip home yesterday to get Sally and take her to the dog park, and there's three new messages on my answering machine.

I push play, and before this goes any further, the story has a happy ending. I push play and there's a message from my doctor's assistant, saying that yes, there's arthritis in my hip (no surprise) and that I should give her a call to set up some physical therapy. Oh, and by the way, Dr. R wants me to have my annual girl-exam yearly instead of bi-yearly.

At this point, it's 20 minutes after the office has closed, so I'm out of luck until I can call the next day. Bad timing.

I had to stay on schedule, so that's all I heard, and I'm out the door. And the wheels start to turn. Well, OBVIOUSLY they saw something on the xray of my hip that made them think I need to have a pelvic exam, right?

And you should have heard the cascade of thoughts in my head. "Something's wrong", "I'm actually sick", "it's OK, I can fight it", "I feel fine", "I'll miss my kid", etc. I wasn't a wreck, but losing my sister to cancer that snuck up on her has changed me. Whenever I start to worry about myself, though, there is a very interesting process that goes on in my head, which is a combination of logic and emotion. I always come back to the premise that I am trying to live in a healthy manner, and what will be will be. That I'm taking reasonably good care of myself and that I need to spend my time living instead of worrying.

So, I do my stuff, and get back home, and listen to the message again. I had missed the part, after the assistant had said the Dr. wanted me to have yearly exams, where she said, "so go ahead and schedule that at your leisure." Oh, *sheepish grin* I guess that means there is no emergency.

It's a good reminder to live here now.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oh, and don't forget to sweep the floor

This is my first weekend home after Christmas, and I'm trying to tidy up the house and work ahead for when I go to AZ at the end of the month. Entropy definitely rules, and when things are busy, stuff piles up on any available horizontal surface.

So I'm going to work for half a day and then come home and get the house uncluttered. I think I am one of those people for whom the state of my dining table is reflective of my state of mind. It just feels better to have stuff put away and I feel like I've earned my leisure time.

The list isn't long, but I was going over it this morning while I was still in bed waking up:
  1. Work on my "Spring Forward" socks
  2. Work on a pair of gloves for CB
  3. Figure out how to do a handle for a purse I'm making from an old sweater
  4. Fiddle with some cotton yarn for a market bag project

Oops. While this is really the things that came to my mind when I asked myself, "what do I need to do today?" There is also a list for the house that includes going through the mountain of mail in the breezeway, clearing off the table, and cooking some more stuff I can freeze for later. I laughed when I saw where my priorities were.


From today's PostSecrets:

Friday, January 9, 2009


I don't wear much jewelry, but I like to wear earrings. I have a few special pairs, like ones that my mom wore for her senior picture, but for the most part, they come and go and over time can lose parts or just get lost themselves.

When I was in AZ the last time, CB bought me a lovely pair of Holly Yashi earrings. Silvery metal, and just my style.

Then Mr W and I went to South Carolina to meet up with my brothers' families and lo and behold, my SIL has been beading lately. We made a trip to the local bead store and I picked out a few strands for her to make earrings. AND, she had already created a few pairs for me to begin with.

The end result is the picture above (there was actually one more pair, but I was wearing them). WOW!!! Thanks L! It was so cool to be able to say, 'I'd like to have this and that and make it this long.' I am set for earrings for a while and am very grateful.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Good Timing

I injured my hip years ago in a freak accident that happened while I worked as a camp counselor, involving the game of Capture the Flag and an embarrassing fall. Up until the last year or so, it hasn't bothered me much.

I'm not sure if it's just age (*sniff*) or what, but it's easier to tweak it now, and if I rotate my knee too far out - ouch.

Not wanting it to get worse, and hoping there's something I can do to make it a little better, I finally saw my doctor about it to start the process. I was a bit dismayed when I walked in and there were four people behind the desk working, and I still stood there for 5 minutes before someone helped me.

But I got in right after that, and my doctor said we'd start with an x-ray. Fine, and I could go across the street to the hospital's branch office-type thing, where they do imaging and lab work. "I can just walk in?" I ask, a bit incredulous. "Sure, you might as well get it over with."

I agreed, and headed over there expecting to spend an hour or two waiting. Much to my surprise, someone greeted me as soon as I walked in, and directed me to a check-in person. This person took my info, and I did acknowledge to myself how easy it was for me to do this because I have insurance. I just fork over my little card, and I'm in. Thank you, employer.

"OK, I'll take you back," she says, and we go back to the changing room. No one's in there, and I put on the scrub pants for the xray and am just pulling out my knitting when the tech comes in and takes me to the room.

Zap, zap. It's all done in 5 minutes and I'm walking out to my car, marveling at how nicely the timing worked out. Anymore, I'm OK with waiting for a bit because it lets me knit, and I think it's funny when I'm kind of deprived of the opportunity.

It will take a couple of days to see if they can see anything on the image, but I'm glad the process has started.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Insert Happy Dance here

To counter any post-Christmas let-down, the gardening catalogs are on their way!! I love this part of the process, going over the beautiful pictures, bookmarking certain things it would be nice to have, and generally enjoying a display of color that ain't going on outside. The picture is from one of my favorites, White Flower Farm.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I am back from a very nice visit with my brothers and their families. As family gatherings go, I have to count myself among the lucky. We choose to get together once or twice a year, and it always seems a shame that we don't live closer.

My older brother loves to cook. We were there for about 15 minutes (maybe less) before he started making a shopping list. We must have spent $500 on groceries, but only ate take-out food once.

I'm feeling the shrimp scampi and cubano sandwiches and red wine, right around my waistline.

Sure, me and 80% of America, we're all thinking we need to start exercising more regularly. So I've been weighing (ha, get it?) my options. I like the idea of joining a health club, and working out with a group of people, to feel the energy that goes along with doing that sort of thing.

However, my sister in law who, godblessher, gets up at 4:30 two or three times a week and goes to a spinning class at their local Y, says, "you don't want to be one of those resolutioners," Meaning the temporarily stoked people who, by golly are going to DO IT this time and work out, and then don't show up past the middle of February. I don't want to deal with the crowds.

Having the kid, and a dog who needs to be walked once a day, makes it hard to carve out the time after work and before dinner to work out. It's just that simple. When Mr W can fend for himself in the morning, my plan is to exercise then.

The plan. So the plan is to try to ride my bike to work a couple of times a week. I live all of three miles from work, and it's about 20-25 minutes of slightly uphill riding to get there. It seems to make so much more sense to make exercise part of doing something I have to do anyway, like getting to work. It's a plan whose details are still being worked on, but I'm thinking about it.

I'm still here

And I still have things to write about. Just took a little break for the holidays. Check back over the next couple of days; I'm going to get rolling again.