Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Christmas Cookies!

The post office has Christmas cookie stamps!

My little brother's tub full of Perler bead masterpieces looks like a tub full of Christmas cookies!

My Studly Hubby has 100 Christmas cookie cutouts!

Christmas Cookies!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hot Yoga

I have experienced a new phenomenon. It's hot yoga, also called Bikram Yoga. It's yoga that's done in a heated room, sometimes 115 degrees (the room I was in was only 100), and done with an emphasis on relaxation and rejuvination of your muscles and ligaments. The poses are sufficiently challenging, and the class is made more difficult because the heat skews self-judgement, causing falsely increased flexibility and hugely increased soreness the next day. I am experiencing that soreness right now. Bikram yoga seems to have a cult following, however, and I am tempted to go back and see whether the soreness eventually gives way to a constant state of euphoria - the only thing I can think of that would make it worth all the pain of the class and stench of my sweat. Actually, I'm guessing that the heat would increase my body's flexibility at a pretty fast pace.

The problem is, the only Bikram yoga studio in the twin cities is located in the nightmarish Uptown area, which is not far from where I live but hell to get to. After a drive like that there's no way I could relax into any kind of a yoga pose no matter how hot the room is (and I've heard they keep it at the upper end of hot) or how relaxing the yoga pose (and very few are relaxing, let me tell you). I am still pretty tempted by the thought of becoming more flexible, though, since my whole life I've been embarrassed by inflexibility, and this has reached a new level now that I teach a stretching class at the YWCA (you teach WHAT? my chiropractor asked one day, then laughed until she fell over). Also compounding my decision is that the classes are $18 each and I've heard can be a little crowded, since the cult followers are loyal and dedicated like good cult followers should be.

So will I attempt a twin cities Bikram Yoga class? You will just have to wait and see. Meanwhile I may take advantage of Christmas break and return to the one I originally went to in Coralville, Iowa (which was started by the man who owns Mondo's, for you Iowa City familiars). It is clearly an internationally popular spot, attracting regular visitors from Alaska, Seattle, and all over the place, like a good cult would. Their classes are only $15. And it's easy to drive to (especially when my cultish Mom drives me there). And I always like to support my hometown. They might just make a cult follower out of me yet.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ten things to love about thanksgiving

I had a good nine hours of driving after our two thanksgivings to process what was so great about my favorite holiday, and came up with a list to share with all y'all (texan plural):

1. Pie, pie, more pie, all kinds of pie, unbelievable pie
2. Playing boggle with your brothers in a crazed addictive continuous haze - while your spouse and stepsister look on with astonishment and increasing disbelief
3. Listening to the entire book The Da Vinci Code on CD during the 20 plus hour car ride
4. Rockin out to almost completely uncoordinated music that somehow sounds good played by the two brothers, the Studly Hubby and the fiddler-father
5. Seeing my dad's crazy new hairstyle, we think he's going for the crazy-einstein look but he blames it on his new daily swimming habit
6. Getting hoardes of free books, mostly ones you know you'll love but a few mysterious gems (or rocks, I'll let you know) in the mix to shake it up
7. Giving away some free books, and five bags of clothes
8. Soaking up the 60 degree weather they have over thanksgiving in the south country we were visiting (and hearing a few good accents)
9. Going to the grocery store in Columbia, Missourri - they had cheerleaders dressed in gold skirts and boots called in to cheer a shopping-cart decorating contest that actually looked like fun
10. Coming home to Chipotle burritos and an entire season of Pimp My Ride on DVD... oh the luxury

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My Brother's Doinger

No, this is not what you think (you dirty minded readers you). My four year-old brother has invented a rather ingenious system to fight off all the unwanted affection he gets from his many older siblings. It's called a doinger. With his doinger he can remove all unwanted kisses and hugs from older siblings and even parents, even those kisses which you blow across the room at him, and put those kisses and hugs back on the evil perpetrator who gave them to him. This is a very powerful doinger indeed. It can remove even the stickiest of kisses and when those kisses are put onto someone else they are stuck there FOREVER, no exceptions.

This same brother is into a new very popular phenomenon called Perler Beads. They are beads that can be put together into a colorful design, such as a heart, then ironed so they are stuck like that permanently. He has a whole shoe box full of Perler Beads in a multitude of colors and can do Perler Beads for hours at a time at his little desk in the family room at my Dad's house. On one occasion, he fell off his desk chair and began wailing miserably, then got back on his chair and returned to the Perler Beads even while continuing to wail. Now that's some serious dedication.

Two of my other brothers are thick in the middle of college applications and writing college essays and all that jazz. I helped one of them with his essays on Wednesday, except that he's a lot smarter than I am so his essay was way above my head. I pretended to help him a little bit and then motivated him to send off the application, and a few others, and now he's almost finished which was a huge relief. Deciding which college to go to is the first really big decision of your life, and I think a totally overwhelming one, and getting a busy 18-yr old kid to get it done is pretty tough.

Well today I'm in Iowa reflecting on my Great Midwest Tour for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, on my way back to Minneapolis tomorrow. We went to Carbondale, Columbia, and Iowa this year, hitting almost all major relatives (and the rest will be visited at Christmas) and eating turkey and pie at each location. I'm going to be full for another two weeks I think.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Gotta love that turkey!

After a l-o-o-o-ong drive down south to where the grass is still green, the garden still smells good, and southern accents prevail, we arrived at our destination just in time for some serious turkey and pumpkin pie. Promptly after eating we all passed out. I think that's just the way to do it. Now we're waking back up, jamming on some instruments, familiarizing ourselves with the complicated life of my brothers aged 7 months, and 4, 13 and 18 yrs. The 7 month old's life is significantly less complicated than the rest. I like that aspect of babies, they can find wonder in a tablespoon for 15 full minutes, then be just as fascinated with the same tablespoon less than an hour later.

I am also stocking up on Janet Evanovitch books, passing around the recent Science blurb about me, soaking up some good southern sun and warm weather, and trying to pass judgement on everyone in as many ways as possible so they can remember me for the rest of the year. Oh, and trying to pick up some Christmas present ideas, because that's the third most important purpose of thanksgiving (turkey and naps coming first and second, but maybe pumpkin pie is in there too somewhere, and whip cream, and all that other good food).

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Mall of America... yay!

We metro Minneapolisites usually stick our noses up at the Mall of America but every once in a while we have an unresistable urge to go there that can't be fought. That is exactly what happened today. The mission this afternoon: seeking out the elusive chocolate-covered blueberries (which can be found at Harry and David's) and to watch the new Harry Potter movie... whooooo! what a rush! While we were there we thought we'd stop for dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp for the experience and for one of their cups. I have one from Honolulu and now I also have one (a pink one!) from the Mall of America. These things with local reference become infinitely more important as soon as you find out you're leaving. We also bought a neat-o cup with a bear on the handle at Harry and David's, but it turns out when you drink tea from it the bear gets a little freaky in an in-your-face sort of way.

We have a new dog on our block, a rather delinquent one. He stays up all hours of the night, barking and making all kinds of noise (and encouraging the rest of the dogs in the neighborhood to make some noise as well, turning it into a late-night neighborhood party). He has also been reported to be seen publicly behaving inappropriately with other dogs right in front of our very apartment. This is not a family-friendly block any more I'm afraid.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

welcome to saturday...

As I say in my Sat am cycle class... welcome to Saturday! And on Fridays, i often say 'happy friday everyone!'

Yesterday was a happy friday indeed. My fully-clothed kung-fu co-worker (who went to Denmark with me) passed her oral exam and officially became a pre-doctoral candidate. This test is the biggest and most nerve-wracking of everything you do in graduate school and was a pretty big deal for her. Not only did she pass it, but she did a super-sweet job, impressing our boss even, who has seen quite a few oral exams in his day and is tough to impress.

In addition, it was the last day for our visiting Swedish post-doc, who was here for 6 weeks doing some experiments and passing on some of her clinical perspective. It was a lot of fun having her and we were sad to see her go.

So last night we went out for a happy hour to celebrate, and the Big Bossman even came and paid, and we all had several drinks and several greasy appetizers and toasted a variety of things and unraveled a variety of inappropriate stories. It was quite a lot of fun.

One of the more valuable things I learned last night is where to buy chocolate covered blueberries at the Mall of America. I may just have to venture out there tomorrow and try some. Yum!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Further Probing the Blogosphere...

through the miracle of the internet I have tracked down two of my fifteen brothers in the blogosphere, several high school acquaintances and a few people I totally don't know but who have interesting blogs. I have discovered two easy ways to track down people's blogs: technorati.com and myspace.com. Technorati has a more up-to-date blog tracker than google, and stays more focused on blogs, and myspace is it's own world altogether, kind of like passing notes during class in high school without the class part. So I became immediately addicted to tracking down people i know and discovered there are a lot of people I know whose last name I've totally forgotten or can't spell. I think there's a limit to how many names I can retain in my head and sometime during college I reached that limit and had to start letting a few go. What a bummer. There's also a problem with my friends who have names like Joe Smith, since there are about as many people named Joe Smith as I have brothers (and that's too many to sort through, let me tell you).

I'm doing this tonight because it's so fantastically cold outside I have to bury myself in deep denial or risk losing my mind. It's actually not that cold compared to our usual January weather (today it never quite got up to 20F, and the windchill was below ten all day), but three days ago it was a balmy 60. I can't take weather swings like that, it makes me nervous.

In an unrelated side note, a visiting Swedish post-doc in our lab spoiled us rotten yesterday with some fantastic cheese, crackers, some Swedish cracker-spread and some Danish beer. I filled up on it all then craved more all day today. I'm even craving it now. It's very distracting.

Other news: I've decided to write a murder-mystery novella that takes place at my work. I got this idea from my dad and have been chewing on it for a few years now. My co-workers even helped me hash out an outline one day. I'm going to try to get one chapter at a time written and put up on either this blog or another one, but I can't guarantee that the chapters will be linear, coherent, or in any way conclusive. I warn my audience that this is my first semi-serious fiction attempt, it hasn't begun yet, and I have no real goals or honed skills to keep me focused, so it may be somewhat of a wild ride. I wish you all luck.

.... mmmm.... swedish cheese.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jeff Gordon references Dr. Seuss in a recent Science article

Jeff Gordon, a researcher at Washington University (St. Louis) who unfortunately has the same name as the famous NASCAR racer (but is not the same guy, we're pretty sure), recently referenced Dr. Seuss in the supplemental section of his ground-breaking Science article (Science. 2005 Mar 25;307(5717):1955-9). Why, you may ask? Because they decided to name some disgusting combination of bacteria, food and mucous they found in the gut after "who-villes" from the Dr. Seuss story 'Horton Hears A Who.'

For my next Science paper, I plan to reference Harry Potter, and possibly also Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham.

First Snow!

We got our first snow last night. In past years the first snow has often been some light flurries that don't stick around long, but yesterday we had a severe turn towards winter, with howling winds, temperatures dipping into the low twenties, and all day and all night of precipitation, so this morning there was a light dusting of the good white stuff and still a few more flurries coming down. Unfortunately there's ice underneath it so the morning traffic is slow going, and my trip to the YWCA last night a little nerve wracking (particularly due to having drowned my car during the last bout of precipitation on a Tuesday night). But, in true Minnesota fashion, the whole city is excited and it's finally starting to feel like the holidays.

Get ready! It's now winter and the holidays are closing in!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Giant Microbes and dna11.com

I have gotten a few comments on my blog that have made me suspicious and very interested in a new type of marketing oriented at blogs. I am not sure whether both of the comments were part of this marketing venture but a recent article in Minneapolis' Star Tribune confirmed that companies are starting to keep track of and target the blog buzz.

According to this article, Google, and several other blog search engines, such as Technorati and BlogPulse, keep close tabs on what's going on in the "blogosphere" (that's where you are right now!). BlogPulse additionally "ranks what's "the buzz" moment to moment in the blogosphere and tracks which bloggers are getting lots of attention measured partly by numbers of hits and links."

Companies hire these types of blog-tracking services "to stay on top of postings that could within minutes swirl into serious corporate damage as a 'blog storm,'" or to watch and wait while the blogosphere generates good buzz about a new product or service. Mazda even went so far as to create their own fake blog that generated good buzz about their cars, but eventually took the blog down when it was found out to be put on by the company and not by real bloggers.

The Star Tribune article also cites the tactics of companies that hire blog-tracking services, "When bad news cascades from an influential blog" clients are advised to "post a message on that blog explaining why they believe the original posting is wrong or unfair" - this may stop a 'blog storm' at the source.

So what about my blog? I'm very happy to report that I believe this has happened to me at least once, by a company that markets Giant Microbes, and may have also happened with someone from www.dna11.com (the company that makes giant DNA gels to hang on your wall). Or perhaps these comments were posted by anonymous bloggers that happened to be passing through... either way I'm happy because that means I have enough importance for people to stop by here every once in a while and post a comment. Thanks for stopping by everybody!

Where the Buffalo Roam


.... In the great midwest! An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last weekend discussed the increasing popularity of the buffalo as money-generating livestock. The article brings up interesting points, and explains what the buffalo meat is all about that is sold at our local Seward co-op.

As we all know, buffalo were originally very happy on our great plains, but went nearly extinct years ago. They are making a comeback, and agriculturists are starting to look at them as more than just a comeback-species.

According to the article, buffalo may be a much better livestock for the prairieland than cattle, which is logical since they were doing pretty well here before. "...Bison graze differently than cattle, clipping grasses and leaving wildflowers. They work the soil in ways that preserve plant diversity..." Although the article doesn't embellish, it implied that cattle have the opposite effect.

The article speaks to the toll cattle and other farming has taken on the midwest prairie. "In 1987, New Jersey professors Frank and Deborah Popper published an essay suggesting that traditional agriculture couldn't be sustained on much of the Great Plains." Unfortunately, nobody has taken that seriously until recently.

The goal of the Buffalo farmers is to create a Buffalo Commons, where buffalo can roam freely as they once did but still be a source of meat and fur. "In North Dakota, a state agency recently suggested that a Buffalo Commons could "provide new industry in areas of North Dakota ravaged by the rural exodus [and] transform our rustic, barren landscape into a natural attraction."

So that buffalo meat in the co-op is part of a new industry! One aimed at bringing back buffalo and creating harmony on the prairie! Sounds good to me. Plus, "Producers market buffalo meat as leaner and with less cholesterol than beef." Yum! Maybe Chipotle will start putting it in their burritos.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

what to do with a weblog?

My dad is making a list, on his department's website. He is shooting for 100 things to do with a weblog, and has 73 so far. Lots of good stuff, many of which I've done myself and many of which I'm still wondering how to do or where to get the nerve to do. My favorites:

27. Test the limits of free speech and see if anyone notices.
29. Hide poetry in the template code.
32. Tell everyone the log-on and the password and see if anyone uses it.
39. Make secret doors that go places that are interesting. Make punctuation into trap doors.
40. Make things that look like advertising but aren't.
44. Invent your own writing system: start leaving out vowels.
53. Leave "Post removed" and "comment removed" tags all over your weblog.
69. Make a national anthem play the moment your weblog is opened. You choose the nation.
70. Do the same only with a country song. Drive away the serious people.

My Studly Hubby's Studly Fall

Last night my Studly Hubby somehow convinced me to videotape some reference material. He wants to make a 3D animation of a character sitting on an egg, then the egg shakes, and the character topples off the egg, then the egg rolls away and the character chases after it and is utterly disappointed when he can't catch it. Anyways we used my exercise ball as the egg and my Studly Hubby is the character he wants to animate. He was supposed to roll backwards onto the mattress we carefully placed behind the ball, but he didn't, and I was laughing so hard I forgot I was holding the camera. Watch for yourself!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

DNA is now FASHIONABLE

Make your DNA into a giant portrait to hang in your living room! only $400. Ethidium bromide background, smearing or other contamination may or may not be removed from the photo. Adobe photoshop may be used to change the contrast and/or colors for several hundred dollars more. Available through dna11.com.

Or, contact me to get a picture of some other random DNA that looks about the same for FREE. You'll have to enlarge it and/or alter it in photoshop yourself though.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The REAL Value of My Car

Check it!

My car, estimated value $1000, maybe, was the no. 2 stolen car in 2004. No. 1 is the 1995 Honda Civic.

Based on this, I'd say I'm driving around in a huge hunk of gold with gold plates and gold rims. Sweet!

Monday, November 07, 2005

It's Better with BUTTER

I ate a half a stick of butter yesterday, all by myself. Here's how:

For LUNCH, I had an entire box of Annie's Mac and Cheese. I was thinking that since it was the whole wheat shells and cheddar variety it was ok, but later it occurred to me that it was still two tbsp of butter and the whole package of cheese.

For DINNER, I had stuffing with chorizo sausage (still practicing for thanksgiving), which was made with a whole stick of butter. Unlike the mac and cheese, I did not eat the entire dish. However, instead of making this the side dish to a healthy meal, we made it the meal itself, which amounted to at least another tablespoon of butter (as well as some chorizo). I do not recommend doing this. Stuffing is usually a side dish for a reason.

AFTER DINNER, I had to have some popcorn. I had already eaten so much butter that day that I went ahead and dumped another healthy tablespoon on there, as well as some salt.

By bedtime, I was feeling quite ill. My studly hubby, who had skipped the mac and cheese and the popcorn, was feeling slightly ill himself from just the stuffing.

My point: butter may not always be better.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Week in Review

Another busy week, I'll update you with a brief summary:

Wednesday night - went to a local biker bar to watch a couple of blues bands, as usual the opening act (Ronnie Brooks) was better than the headliner (John Mayall's Blues Breakers). New no smoking law in Mpls proved quite effective and lovely.

Thursday night - needed a little vacation, so turned on our pumpkin lights, turned off all our other lights, attempted to make some Mexican hot chocolate, and pretended like I was watching the sunset. It sort of worked.

Friday night - went out for a very classy dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, then a very romantic movie, Wallace and Grommit. Our first dinner-and-movie combo date in about a year.

Another thing I've been doing this week: collecting college memoirs to pass on to my brother (on my mom's side) to help in his decision about which college to go to. So far I've gotten two from Augustana alums, one from a Gustavis alum and one from a Cornell College alum. They are all very interesting and sometimes hilarious reads and unexpectedly insightful. I hope my brother finds them useful. My other brother (on my dad's side) is also looking at colleges and has the complete opposite search agenda: like me, he wants a big school where he can remain somewhat anonymous and yet get access to some good, experienced faculty. The two types of schools (big state schools vs. small private college) are so different in so very many ways it's mind-boggling. Every day I am more happy with my experience and how well it fit my needs, but will forever wonder what the opposite experience might have been like.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Nod From Science

Science, an extremely prestigious journal pertaining to many different fields of research, has highlighted my recent PNAS article in this week's issue. They titled the section, "Bacterial Pheromone for Sex and Abstinence" which just about says it all. Sex? Abstinence? How about both! And it's in Science! Check it out for yourself.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Trick Or Treat!

For the very first time ever, I handed out candy to trick-or-treaters this year. I missed out as a kid because first I was trick-or-treating, then later on I lived way out in the country where we only ever got one trick-or-treater and it was on a night that I wasn't even home. In college and grad school I lived in apartment buildings that are locked from the outside resulting in a high level of trick-or-treat deterrence. I took matters into my own hands this year, however, and put up a sign at the front door of our building encouraging them to ring our doorbell for treats (and then left a basket full of treats as a further attractant).

Our neighborhood is a nice residential family-friendly place but as you can tell from my most recent blog it's also not necessarily the safest place. Thanks to the geniuses who invented Daylight Savings Time, the sun now goes down at 5:05 pm, ensuring utter darkness for little kids running around trying to score candy. I was concerned about this, and in anticipation only bought one bag of candy (with glow-in-the-dark wrappers). I was dead wrong in my anticipation, however. On Halloween, in my neighborhood, it is still safe enough to be out and about and there were plenty of people that stopped by looking for treats. I'm sure the nice weather helped.

For handing out candy on halloween, I give two thumbs up.