Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Great Midwest Tour

Tomorrow we are embarking on a Holiday Adventure that will take us first to St. Louis and the vicinity to visit my Dad and then back to Iowa to visit all the other folks. We won't be heading back to Seattle until New Years' Eve!

Today at work I 'wrapped up' for the next week and a half - I put all my stuff away, cleaned off my desk and bench, made long lists detailing what I want to do when I get back, and then chatted with my co-workers for the rest of the day. I'm really burned out at work - when I was making my list for after the holidays, I couldn't muster even a tiny spark of enthusiasm about what I'll be doing when I get back. Usually I hardly can drag myself away. But it's been a very long time since we've taken a Big Week-Long Vacation.

Tomorrow our flight leaves at a pretty comfortable hour so we're going to get up at our usual time and try taking the bus. Public transportation is good in Seattle if you're going during the day and you don't mind transferring a couple times. We have never had both those needs line up just right for airport runs here in Seattle so haven't tried it this way yet. Back in Minnesota we did it all the time because the lightrail went through our neighborhood and straight down to the airport and it was super easy and fast (and cheap!).

Well I'll be taking my computer with me so I'll try to post at least once while I'm gone.

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pants too short - a lifetime of torture

All my life I have struggled to find pants that are tall enough. I am not even that tall (5'8"), so I feel really bad for those of you who officially are considered tall.

When I was in junior high, you could probably have considered me 'tall.' I was a scrawny string-bean and couldn't find a pair of pants that fit to save my life. Sometime in high school they started making longer pants (or I started fitting into them) and my problem was solved... sort of.

Now I can sometimes find pants that fit, but every once in a while, they don't. Or worse, they fit until I wash them, then they don't. The latter is infuriating. The problem is particularly pronounced for pajamas and for athletic pants (eg yoga pants and running pants - this even dates back to my days of horse riding). Are tall people so notoriously un-athletic that there is no need to make long legged ahtletic pants?


The short people can always hem them. HEM! THEM!

This way the rest of us can at least have a chance.

To the short designers of athletic pants: I will even hem your pants for you, if you will just make me some taller pants.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The present under the tree

My step-dad sent us a present that is beautifully wrapped and we put it under our tree.

We're heading to Iowa on Friday for the holidays so we don't have any presents to put under the tree other than the one (we've already wrapped and shipped all of our presents off, and most of the presents we're going to receive are waiting for us in Iowa). My Studly Hubby wants to open the one present we have but I like how pretty it is under our tree (it's even red!!) so I have been resisting.

This is only the second year we have even had such a big tree that we can put presents under. Since we won't be here for Christmas, we haven't put too much effort into decorating it (can you find the one red ball on the tree?). It's so pretty to have it up and the lights on.

We finished our Christmas cards today and I am starting to send those off. We always do an Onion-style newsletter for our Christmas cards and it's super fun to put our talents together (I write, the Studly Hubby does the art) and be creative like this every year. I have so much fun doing it that one year I even did one for our lab. That was super fun too.

I hope everyone is getting a chance in between all the chaos of the holidays to enjoy it!

A hard week and a horrible presentation

I had a rough week last week. First, some strains I spent the last four months making weren't checking out. We tried every last thing and couldn't figure out why they weren't checking out. Finally, on Thursday, I took desperate measures to do a final check on the strains and got an impossible result back. Then I went home to finish working on a big presentation I was giving the next day for all the labs on our floor - about making the strains and checking them out. I put together a good talk, despite our weird results, but my mind just wasn't 100% and I totally fouled it up. One thing about me is, if I'm not 100% I'm about 0% and the result it not pretty. I rambled on and on, jumping from topic to topic, answering questions with unrelated factoids, and saying some things that aren't even true.

I'm trying to let it go. But all the stupid things I said keep floating to the front of my mind and I feel dumb all over again. My Studly Hubby is doing his best to create good diversions. We even went shopping, during the worst time to go shopping, and although it was very helpful it only lasted a few hours and then I was thinking about all the dumb things I said again. We did find some great sales though.

Today we're working on our Christmas cards as further distraction. I had a long counseling session with my counselor-mom over the phone and she helped me feel better. And I'm trying to get some good out of all this useless anxiety by redirecting it into getting housework done. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be ready to go back to work, but I'm really glad Christmas break is coming up.

9 days till Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The lucky pen

A long time ago when I was working on a grant application, the departmental administrator that helped me put my grant together stopped by my desk to have me sign the final forms. She had with her a funky purple pen, so I asked her if it was her lucky purple pen (or if she had another lucky pen) and she gave me a rather confused look so I snatched the purple pen out of her hand and used it to sign the forms, declaring it a lucky pen as I did so. It turned out, it was definitely a lucky pen because I scored better than I ever imagined I would on the grant.

A few weeks later we passed each other in the hall and she was carrying a familiar-looking stack of forms and her funky purple pen. She held it up and proclaimed "the lucky pen! I have everyone sign their grants with it now!" as she hustled by me.

Wow! I changed history.

Monday, December 10, 2007

YOUR Studly Hubby?

It's been over two years now that I've been calling my handsome hunk of a husband "Studly Hubby" on this blog. People who know me in real life and read the blog regularly ask "how's the Studly Hubby?" and such, making it sort of a common household name. Well a friend at work got a call from her husband the other day (who I'm also friends with, he works there too but happened to be at home at the time). Usually when he calls for her or vice versa I say something like, "it's your lover-honey-bunny on the phone" or something like that. The other day I was trying to come up with something new and witty as I walked across the lab with the phone but all I could come up with was "Your Studly Hubby is calling." She gave me a very weird look. It occurred to me later that a) she's probably not very familiar with that term since she doesn't read my blog or b) the statement may have implied that I thought her husband is studly. Hopefully the weird look was because of the former and not the latter. Or maybe she gives me a weird look every time I do that.

Lighting a Fire

It's been cooooold here in Seattle (low '30s F) so last week I emailed our landlord to ask him whether our fireplace actually works. He wrote me back that it does indeed, and to go ahead and try lighting a fire in it (with a fire extinguisher nearby just in case). So Saturday night we talked each other into trying it out. I was very nervous. Lighting a fire in my living room still seems weird, even though I grew up with a woodstove that we used regularly.

It turns out it was extremely easy. Especially because we used a firestarter log that we had lying around from the former tenants. It lit right up, and we had a blazing fire all night. I even properly used the flu to dampen the fire down when appropriate and put it out when we went to bed. I was very proud of myself. And look how lovely our fireplace is!! It was super warm and cozy too.

Does anybody know where to buy firewood in small apartment-sized bundles? I want to try this again!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Getting ready for Christmas

I'm torn between being excited and being stressed out, as usual for this time of year. We have so much to do, and most of it is fun, although there's so little time, but still - it'll be fun, but there's so much to do!!

For the first time ever, we got most of our Christmas gifts bought before it got stressful. We left up some lights from last year so just had to turn those on. And our tree is fake and already strung with lights so that's easy too.

But even with that, there's still so much - getting ready to travel, Christmas cards, wrapping presents and sending them out, all the work-related Christmas parties...

But it's also so much fun!


As a going-away party for two of my Seattle friends that are already moving on to a new world (yes this is the world of academics), we went to a Brazilian restaurant in downtown Seattle called Ipanema. My boss paid for it, which was good because it was kinda pricey. It was very yummy though.

Traditional Brazilian cuisine goes like this: you get some salad at a salad buffet, then go back to your table and wait for the restaurant staff to bring over big hunks of grilled meat. At your table they cut off little pieces for you that you grab with some tongs as it comes off the hunk. Lots of different kinds of meat hunks are brought around, some over and over, and everyone at our table sort of cheered each other on to keep eating and eating. I went way beyond my eating capacity and then had even more at the end - they brought over grilled pineapple for dessert and then I ordered some coconut flaun (the best I've ever had). It was all really delicious. I am still full from it, two days later.

Well we finally stopped eating and the party finally ended and the Brazilian friends finally flew the coup. They went back to Brazil for a few months to celebrate their newly minted PhD's and then will come back to the Pacific Northwest to start their post-docs in Vancouver, Canada. So they won't be too far away in the end and I'm trying not to be too sad.

End of an era

Well November went past like speed lightning.

But I made it to the end of NaBloPoMo!!

You should hear me try to tell my co-workers about this thing. I get the 'Na' out and then stutter on it for a while before I remember the rest - they all think I'm turning into a crazy person.

To celebrate the end of NaBloPoMo I'm going to post a few more times.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Seattle Snow

Although rumors have surface that it has already snowed in the Seattle outskirts, we had not seen any in the middle of the city until today, and today was a doozy.

We were out at Green Lake doing a jog around the lake followed by lunch at the nearby Mexican restaurant Rosita's. I thought it seemed like the temp was dropping but when you're out exercising sometimes it's hard to keep track of these things. We were sitting in the restaurant when all of a sudden snow flurries were flying outside like it had been snowing all day. The restaurant erupted in excited chaos (it rarely snows here) and we hurried home before traffic got bad (again, it rarely snows here). The snow kept coming down for another hour or so after we got home and it actually accumulated on the ground - we got at least a few inches!

My flowers, which are still blooming, got covered in snow.

Our pretty new car was also covered in snow:

It has finally stopped snowing and now we have to decide how bad it is out there and whether we want to risk going out in it. Unlike the smooth operations of the road crews in Minnesota, Seattle road crews are slim to non-existant and do not get the roads cleaned up very quickly after a heavy snow (and they really don't believe in salt or sand out here).

If maybe it's just a perfect night for some hot cocoa and a snowman!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cover your eyes!

There's a swear word in this one, but it was too funny to pass up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mystery at the Science Lab

Yesterday a mystery note appeared on my bench that said,

'Youth medium in blue for Faith'

What does this mean to you?

Stop and think for a minute.

Most of you that don't work in a science lab are probably thinking that the note describes a shirt size or other piece of clothing.

Well the rest of us that work in a science lab interpreted it completely differently. We refer to 'medium' as bacteria food (eg 'growth medium') and Faith is someone who used to work in the lab, so several of us were thinking that it was a note requesting a specific type of growth medium that Faith needed. Especially since the note was found under some old lab notebooks. So we were all trying to figure out what 'Youth Medium' would be and why it might be blue.

We asked all around and couldn't find the author of the note so we did what any fiesty group of people did; we stuck with the dumb idea that it was really a weird kind of growth medium that nobody had ever heard of and not a T-shirt size.

Eventually the author of the note showed up and when she found out about the discussion we had been having about her note she laughed at us for almost ten minutes. It turns out it really was a T-shirt size and we're just a bunch of big nerds.

But at least it entertained us for almost a full day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wandering the aisles of the grocery store

I have always hated to go to the grocery store. When I was in college, I shopped smart and freeloaded off my mom and boyfriend and roommates so that I only had to go to the grocery store once a month or less (and I usually kept it under $100, which is amazing). I ate mostly non-perishables, switched to soy milk (lasts longer), and bought fruits and veggies that can stay fresh in the fridge for weeks and weeks (apples, green pepper, carrots). When I moved to Minneapolis, where I hardly knew anyone, I had to go grocery shopping a little more often but still dreaded it like the plague.

What I hate about grocery shopping: 1) it always takes an hour, even if you only need one thing. 2) it is impossible to remember everything, so that you have to turn around a few days later and go back, spending another hour picking up that one thing you forgot 3) it is always freezing in the summer and way too hot in the winter 4) The amount of focus required to find and get what you need is momentous and maybe even Herculean - due to hoardes of other shoppers, fluorescent lights, canned muzak, and illogical food placement and 5) I also hate cooking, just so you know.

What has really saved me is having a very Studly Hubby who loves to cook and therefore freely offers to go grocery shopping. It is the mostly wonderful thing.

Nowadays I go to the grocery store for entertainment. I tail behind my Studly Hubby, and take my time picking out some of my favorite juice and then reading up on the tabloids, or hanging out in the soap aisle and then deciding what new kind of chocolate to try. This is grocery shopping at its finest.

This may have become one of my favorite weekend activities.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Blogging about blogging

Finally, here are some answers to the questions my Dad posted a while ago, for everyone to ruminate over...

1. do you find that blogging tends to make you frame your life experiences in the same way that carrying a camera tends to make you frame the things you see- it makes you look at everything, and say, i wonder if i could blog about that?

Yes. I think that's part of the lure. It makes you notice things you wouldn't otherwise and try to remember them. Since I always try to keep my blog optimistic, it makes me notice the good things more than the bad, and I think it has made me more cheerful in general.

2. do you engineer your posts in any way to attract more audience? if so, how? do you include words that will attract search engines? do you write posts about hot, frequently-searched public persona?

Yes. I was planning to write an entire post about this but haven't gotten around to it. I do all of the above and more, but only when it suits my fancy.

3. do you check who has come to visit you? do you notice what words they used to search and find you? do you notice how long they actually spent on your site? do you take the words they used, and use them again, or keep using them?

Yes, more so when I first started this blog, to all of your questions.

4. you know how important pictures are when you open up a site. do you choose your pictures in order to hold visitors, or do you just put in there whatever you can? do you look for free pictures, take them yourself, or shamelessly steal them from google images like everyone else?

I try to post pictures as often as possible, because I think it really helps get my point across if I can find the right one, but it takes a long time so I don't always get it done. I shamelessly take pictures from other websites whenever possible but also try to take my own whenever possible. Both take a while to get together and put into a post.

5. do you feel bad about bumping people from your blogroll? how important is a template to you when you visit blogs? do you really admire people who list thousands of blogs over there, or would you rather see someone who just has maybe ten or twelve best friends and relatives?

I have only once bumped someone from my blogroll, and it was because they closed down the blog. I like to see just ten or twelve blog links on a blogroll, but honestly I don't usually notice the blogroll, instead I tend to follow links that are within posts.

6. do you really visit all those blogs you list under "daily reads" or "blogs i visit?" do you read them? this seems like a herculean task. how much time can a person invest in being in the citizen's media, a regular?

I visit about four blogs a day from my blogroll, and most of the rest at least once a week (usually on weekends). I have replaced newspaper reading time with reading and posting to blogs, although now I include reading news websites as part of my morning ten minute ritual (over cereal).

7. has blogging changed your writing? your perspective? your alliances? your likes/dislikes? your politics? how has it affected the way you see things?

Blogging has not changed my writing as much as I hoped it would - I think if the goal is to improve your writing, you have to try harder than this (eg get feedback, move out of your comfort zone, etc). It has changed my perspective (see #1 above) but not much else.

Seattle Half-Marathon

2007 Official Finish Time (Chip Time): 2:25:43 ...11.1 min/mile average!!!

(Actual Time, 2:30:50)

Woo-hoo!! We beat our goal by almost five minutes! And we shaved off A FULL TEN MINUTES from our previous half-marathon time (2:35:37, Vancouver 2007). Wow, I am super impressed with myself.

And now for some pictures, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper (our pics aren't in yet)

This is the half-marathon crowd running down 5th Ave at the start of the race. There were over 11,000 registered for all the events over the weekend.

Someone ran barefoot! You can see their pacer chip tied around one ankle (what's on the other ankle???). I have seen people running barefoot but never at a race or when the temperature was below 70. It is an incredibly strange thing.

Everyone gets a medal at the end! They are even kinda pretty. If you want, the volunteers will even put them around your neck for you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

CYBER Monday

By now everyone knows that the Friday after Thanksgiving is Black Friday. It appears the shopping crazy continues... now the Monday after Thanksgiving is Cyber Monday because of the internet shopping craze that takes place on that day.

The Studly Hubby and I are huge fans of the internet shopping.

Seattle Half-Marathon: A Review

We did it!

We ran the half-marathon this morning at 7:30 am with a finish time of somewhere just under 2:30 (it was just over 2:30 last time, so I'm improving).

Unfortunately I couldn't bring my camera with me so this is a picture I swiped off of the official website from last year (when it rained). It didn't rain this year - it was beautiful, sunny, and not as cold as we thought.

We started off with an unexpected 1-mile warm-up run because we missed the bus. After we got there about three minutes too late, we decided to jog over to the other bus stop in our neighborhood to check out the times, then came back to the first bus stop and took the next bus which got us there just in the nick of time (we were one of the last to cross the start line). The warm-up jog was great. I realized right away that I had one too many layers on so while we were on the bus I had time to take off the middle layer and put it around my waist and re-situate my race numbers.

The race itself was very invigorating and a pretty route. They took good care of us, with lots of volunteers, more-than-usual porta-potties, a Gu stop, and first aid stations everywhere.

Race highlights:

1. Running past the homeless shelter. This was the biggest crowd in the first hour and they were very enthusiastic. This was also a highlight of our first half-marathon.

2. Interlaken Blvd. It's a notoriously big bad hill, but oh-so-pretty and takes us through a forest with big tall beautiful trees.

3. Getting to within 2 miles of the end with 20 minutes to get there to make our goal time (2:30).

4. My Studly Hubby's creative encouragement in the last two miles ('you'll have plenty of time to be slow when you're DEAD! - or at least when we get to the finish line').

5. Witnessing TWO arrests in the last two miles... we're pretty sure they were not race participants (hecklers?).

6. EATING at the end (they provide lots of food and food samples), and then getting kicked out of our choice breakfast place because we were being too 'impatient'... we must have looked really impatient! I thought we were just sweaty but maybe they interpreted it the wrong way.

Well it was a very big and exciting adventure for us. We had a lot of fun and will definitely do it again.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mrs. Hulk Hogan?

This just in: Hulk Hogan is getting divorced.

That's right, there's a MRS. Hulk Hogan.

I don't know about the rest of you, but that seems really weird to me.

Apparently they have kids, a multi-million dollar mansion, a reality tv show, and everything.

I guess I've had my head buried in the sand. But, now that I am totally informed I can make sure you all stay totally informed too. These things are very important.

To Mr. and Mrs. Hulk: so sorry it didn't work out!!

Seattle Half-Marathon: Pre-Run Jitters

Today we trekked over to the Westin hotel in downtown Seattle to register for the half-marathon, pick up a race bib and pacer, and cruise through the expo. It was quite a show with people everywhere and stuff all over the place. It is friggin' cold here in Seattle this week (35F) so I bought some light-weight gloves and warmer synthetic socks than the other ones I had. I am very slowly turning into a full-blown runner. One of these days I will really look like one, and then nobody will recognize me!

I am getting nervous. I wasn't nervous until we went to that blasted expo. It is nice and sunny and very pretty out today (although cold) and we are definitely prepared, so I have no reason to be nervous. This is also not my first half-marathon (it's my second), and we aren't traveling and I'm not sick or anything.

But it's 13 miles!!!

The thing I'm really fixed on is the cold weather. It stinks no matter which way we do it. If we dress for the hike over there and the wait at the start line, I'll be way too warm for the race. I could wear a warm sweatshirt and then throw it away at the start line, or use a 'drop-bag' that they collect from you at the start and then give back to you at the finish. The 'drop-bags' can be a hassle though, especially when the race starts at 7:30 am and you don't want to get there any earlier than you have to. So I'm still working on my options.

Tonight we're going to go out for a big meal with some buddies we are running the race with tomorrow, at Mama's in Belltown (a hip part of downtown).

They are very fast runners and are all into 'carb-loading' and all that. They also look really cool when they run. I want to look cool and carb-load too, so I hang out with them hoping I will absorb their running coolness through osmosis. We will also be 'recovering' with them at another restaurant after the race tomorrow.

7:30 am, get ready!

Friday, November 23, 2007


What does one do on the day after Thanksgiving?

Well, we slept in, had turkey leftovers, and adventured over to Ballard to check out a funky gift shop, Archie McPhee's (fun place!). Then my VERY Studly Hubby took me to the movies to see Enchanted, a totally girly movie about a fairy tale princess who ends up in Manhattan and is helped out by the super smokin' hot Patrick Dempsey.

Did I mention Patrick Dempsey is smokin' hot?

So is my Studly Hubby. He was one of only three males in the otherwise packed movie theater and he did not complain once. Not even when I made him hold my hand.

Then we came home and I finally got around to washing our running ballcaps. This should have been done way before now. After a good scrubbing, they were like-new and all ready for the Big Run on Sunday.

I hope you had a good day-after-Thanksgiving too!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in Seattle

This year, for the first time, we were not with family for Thanksgiving. Instead, we stayed here in Seattle and helped host a feast for other scragglers without family. It turned into a roaring group of ten people, with two little ones, and a nice pile of food. We had two "Thanksgiving Virgins" at the event who had never been to a Thanksgiving dinner (one from Japan, the other from Brazil). I think they were quite impressed. We are now exhausted and over-full as usual. Today CNN posted an article about why we are so tired after Thanksgiving dinner - it's not the tryptophan, it's because it's a Big Event - with all the drinking and eating and visiting, no wonder a person gets so tired!

My Dad, who is getting tired of reading about my TV and shopping interests, has posted a series of questions to ponder - I will answer them sometime this weekend but I am too tired tonight. He, like me, wonders about how blogging affects one's life and what sort of things motivate a blogger. Hrm, I'm not sure. We'll see what sort of answers surface. I invite you, my dear readers, to take a look and post some answers of your own to any or all of the questions on blogging.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's Playing on Our TV?

Now that it's dark for an hour before we even get home at night, we find ourselves drawn to our TV again this winter. What we've been watching:

1. Kitchen Nightmares with Chef Ramsey: This show is great! Chef Ramsey almost always gets into a fight with someone and then gets tearful hugs and gratitude from everyone at the end. It's very emotional.

2. Thursday nights on NBC, specifically 30 Rock (my new favorite show), and The Office. It's so nice to have Thursday Night TV back!

3. Our beloved Netflix... these days we've been watching Arrested Development and the new Doctor Who (which is excellent).

Today is like Friday, so happy Friday!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Cupcakes are the new coffee. Cupcake boutiques are popping up everywhere! Back in Minneapolis, a cupcake place opened up in the last year we were there, but we never had time to go there and get a cupcake.

So when a cupcake boutique, Trophy, opened up in our neighborhood, right on our running route, we started all over again with the "we outta go there" intentions. And tonight, on our way back from our light pre-race run, my Studly Hubby convinced us we outta go there TONIGHT.

It was very good! But quite a sugar rush - I suggest anyone with plans to eat one of their cupcakes plan to go for a fast two-mile sprint immediately after, followed by a long nap.

Monday, November 19, 2007

6 am

My Studly Hubby has been getting up on his own at 6 am lately because he's crazy. Well, now I'm doing it too. Is this something you just do when you get older? Or is it because we are so healthy from all that running that we don't need to sleep as much anymore??

Well honestly 6 am isn't so bad. Just as long as we don't start getting up at 5 am next year, and 4 am the year after that...

Sunday, November 18, 2007


This morning we ran a strong long run (it felt good!) and then rewarded ourselves by pigging out at the wonderful Cafe Flora, and going to REI and buying stuff, which we seem to be super good at. I bought a pair of synthetic socks for running, and a bunch of running goo ('Gu' and 'Cliff Shots') for the half-marathon next weekend. I also bought an awesome new pair of Keen shoes (below). I am now officially a Dedicated Keen Girl. I have four pairs! I have never owned so many shoes of one brand. Keen is great! They are comfy, waterproof, and pretty. And they have sturdy enough support that I can wear them all day at my job (where I'm standing up a lot).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday's Post

It took almost everything I had to post last night. I got home from work late, thanks to some surprise results that caught me off guard (the frustrating kind, not the good kind), and we had to go running because we skipped Thursday's run because it was pouring outside (the heavy pouring kind not the tolerable drizzle kind) and I was exhausted because I had put my heart and soul into rewriting a paper for my old boss in Minnesota (my heart and soul!). So at 9 pm last night I told my Studly Hubby I just couldn't force out a post and he said, "Just post one word! or a link! you can do it!" It was just the encouragement I needed. I did it and I'm very proud. Thanks Studly Hubby!

He is chatting with his sister now. He's become overzealous about life lately and is getting up at the obscenely early time of 6 am. So on Saturday he gets up at 6 am, plays around on his computer, and calls his relatives in the midwest. Then when I get up three hours later he's been wide awake for ages and is thick in the middle of his own party. Well it's fun to hear him talking to his sister, they are good buddies.

I wanted to put one more link out there for any of you who are interested. It's the USA Track and Field's website for creating and finding running routes: On their website you can use google maps to map out a printable running route and find out mileage and elevation. It's very useful!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday's Post

My geeky husband wants to introduce you to the blog of the "fake Steve Jobs."

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Bad Eyes

I have bad eyes. I blame both my mom and my dad, I think they contributed equally. Sometime in college, my eye doctor figured out that I was getting headaches because my eyes prefer to focus in front of whatever I'm looking at instead of on it (this is a neurological problem that is actually quite common but you only notice it if you read a lot like when you're a strapping young college student). This would explain why as a kid I always preferred to read in the dark (relaxes my eyes) and I would always hold the book an inch away from my face (you bring things closer to you to compensate without noticing).

As a result, I wear bifocals. This helps a great deal. Once I started wearing the bifocals, my eyes got worse because I wasn't fighting the problem any more. So now, without my bifocals, I can barely read a menu without getting a headache. Most of the time, the bifocals do the trick. Sometimes, it's not enough. If I have to do a lot of heavy reading, I will eventually get a headache even with the bifocals.

I have a few other problems too. It's weird, but I get motion sick when I'm counting colonies (bacterial colonies on plates). When I was in grad school and had to count a lot of colonies, I theorized that the problem was caused by a problem looking through the right part of my glasses (you are limited in mobility when doing this sort of thing). I tried all sorts of weird setups so that I would look through the right part of my glasses and never found anything that worked all that great, plus I think I was ratching myself up the nerd-scale at work. So I just settled for taking a nice five minute break every half hour or so to walk around and get my motion sensors back under control.

Also, some of you with bifocals may have noticed this problem: going up and down stairs can really get you screwed up if you're not used to wearing the bifocals. Sometimes when I know I won't have to be doing any reading, I switch over to contacts, and when I switch back to my bifocals I have to be careful not to fall down any stairs.

So that is a little piece of my life.

Tomorrow is Friday!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Picking Priorities

I am usually the kind of person that sticks to a commitment - if I sign up for a class, I go to every one. Well I'm seriously falling out of character with the swim lessons I signed up for on Wednesday nights. Last week, I skipped because I opted to go get drunk in celebration of good news on my grant (and drinking and swimming are probably not a good combination). This week I skipped swimming so I could work on finishing a paper from grad school. What's weird is that swim lessons are on Wednesday night, so I was already skipping something else - book club! I haven't been to book club since July. So this is an odd night - I'm skipping BOTH book club AND swimming tonight. I feel kind of guilty, except I'm working so it's an unusual kind of guilt. I guess I'm entering the adult world of Feeling Guilty for Working Too Much.... hmmmm....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Posting from Bed

I'm in bed right now. That's right, I have violated the sanctity of our bedroom by bringing my laptop in here. Normally I try not to do that, but I think it's allowed because I'm not working, although it sort of feels like homework because NaBloPoMo is making me post today. Not that I don't want to post today, just that I forgot until I was in the shower and I had already mentally gone to bed by the time I was in the shower so I thought, well, I can post real quick if I do it from bed.

I don't really have much to post about.

Oh, I know. My Studly Hubby and I ran a new route tonight - we went through Fremont and past a dessert/bakery cafe with cheesecake in the window and the only reason we didn't stop was because we don't normally have money with us when we go out running. I think next time we'll take some money.

Also I would like to take this opportunity to announce that my Studly Hubby has become an even bigger geek. He's now a Microsoft Geek. He only speaks in a weird language that has lots of letters and numbers (eg XTML, HTML) and even my geeky science friends are so impressed by his geekiness that they are emailing him for advice on how to convert files and load drivers and such. He even carries a card around in his wallet with a phone number you can call if you are having problems with Microsoft software. I'm so proud of him!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

Today was a holiday at the University of Washington, but it was never a holiday for me growing up so I wasn't properly psyched for it. Besides, my Studly Hubby had to work today, and whenever he has to work I try to work too so we can spend our free time together.

So, I went in to work and worked all day. But not everybody else was there so it was a very mellow day. I decided to take advantage of the quiet and get caught up on deskwork, like reading papers and such. It was nice. Isn't that weird, when I 'get to' work on a holiday and I say, "it was nice!"? I guess I like my job.

It's weird having a holiday right before two major holidays. I always felt that way about MLK day, too - although MLK day is after the two major holidays so maybe more useful. March is when I could really use a holiday. I think I really miss spring break. Or maybe it's all about being psyched for it - all those years growing up looking forward to spring break has ruined me.

So I propose we have a holiday in March. We should call it J-Funk Day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What a girl wants

My Studly Hubby and I are so excited about Christmas that we already made up our Christmas lists and actually started some shopping. Christmas always comes up so fast and furious that you barely have time to get a ham bought from the grocery store these days, so we thought we'd go ahead and get started even earlier than ever and see whether that helps slow things down when the holiday actually hits.

It's been really fun dreaming about all the things we want and going out to buy some things that other people want, but the truth is that it seems like the true way to slow things down is to take a totally different approach. Maybe instead of trying to do more we should try to do less...

So for Thanksgiving we're going to try a minimalist approach. We are staying here in Seattle, doing nothing more than cooking food just for the two of us. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because the two major things going on are food and family, which are two of my favorite things. So this year we'll make some food, and be our own family (a small but mighty family), and revel in a simple kind of holiday spirit.

Can you imagine what Christmas would be like without the usual hubbub and stress? What if the whole world tried doing it that way? Maybe it would be too weird.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Brown Paper Tickets

Have you ever bought tickets for a concert only to have it end up costing twice as much because of tacked-on extra charges (hem, Ticketmaster, hem hem)?

Well Brown Paper Tickets is an alternative solution to this heinous problem.

They are a fair-trade e-ticket service that doesn't charge (much) and actually donates some of their profits.

If you are hosting a concert sometime soon, I encourage you to sell your tickets through Brown Paper Tickets.

And please, some certain patrons really appreciate the availability of chairs, even if they are not right in front of the stage but around the corner, just to give a sore aching back a break every once in a while. Not that I'm getting old or anything, I just like to sit down sometimes.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Friday!!

Oh, thank goodness.

Friday is actually here.

It's been a very good week - but it's still a relief to get to Friday. All week I've been killing myself doing revisions to a paper from graduate school - I don't know if I didn't actually proof read it in the first place or if I've just become a better writer in the last 6 months or so but it needs a lot of fix-ups. We've been training hard for the Seattle half-marathon (coming up in two weeks!) by running faster and harder than ever, and I'm eating everything in the house and everything at the donut shop down the street because of it. We've been working out Christmas travel plans, gift lists, and all that (and I think we may actually start shopping this weekend - isn't that crazy?). Plus I signed up for this crazy blog-every-day thing so now you get to hear the daily details.

My goal for this weekend: take a nap. After another super-crazy-long run on Saturday morning, I don't think that will be a problem.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Midwest travel


I just spent the last half-hour trying to figure out how to get from St. Louis, where we're flying in to visit my dad, to Iowa City where my mom lives, over Christmas break. Amazingly, renting a car will cost $450, unless we go to extreme measures to rent it, drive it up to Iowa City, and return it all in one day. Maybe we should just buy a car and keep it in the midwest.

If anybody has any ideas I'd love to hear them.

On the positive side, it's Thursday (almost Friday!!). We went to Happy Hour last night and will be going again tonight, then we're going to a Dandy Warhols (psychedelic rock band) concert at the Pyramid Brewery on Saturday night so we've got a fun-packed scene going on here. In the middle of that I've got another 10-mile training run to grit my teeth and get through, but I've inspired myself by planning a fancy breakfast afterwards.

Happy Thursday everyone!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Good news... and BETTER news!!

The good news is that I've found the shampoo of my dreams... Aveda Smooth Infusion. It has changed my life completely, mostly for the better (the worst part is that I'm now twirling my hair around my fingers again because it's so SOFT I can't help myself).

The even BETTER news is that I got a totally freaking awesome score on an NIH grant that I applied for... the application process was painful (and painful, and painful again) but it ended up being worth all the pain in the end... not only did I learn a lot from the application and revisions process but then I ended up scoring well (eventually)!! I won't find out for a few months whether I actually get money, and in this funding climate it's never good to assume anything, however I scored well within the range that was funded on the last round so things look good.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Herpes: The Cadillac of Viruses

My day was interesting on several levels. First, a favorite professor from my college days (Dr. R) came by for a visit and a seminar, and I got to say hello to him and hear about his research. Second, I found out that he's Vice Chair of the department there now! And third, he said something pretty funny in his seminar that will stick with me for a while:

"Herpes virus is the Cadillac of viruses - it's no Honda Civic."

(he meant that Herpes viruses come fully loaded and ready to impress)

He went on to lecture about the details of Herpesvirus and how they exit from mammalian cells, but I was so insulted by his Honda Civic comment I could hardly pay attention. Or was it an insult? I'm not sure.

No TV!!

Now that there's no TV, I propose that we all blog more. I finally actually signed up for NaBLOPoMo, so now I'm feeling really motivated.

In case you've got your head buried in the sand (not that there's anything wrong with that), there's no TV because the writer's guild is on strike. As usual this has to do with money, but now it's got an interesting twist to it: they want a cut of the internet ad revenue for online TV and movies. Life is getting more complicated every day.

If this goes on for a while, all the pre-taped TV shows will get played and there will be nothing new on anymore. Already we see the impact with Leno and Letterman and other daily shows. Do you think America will finally stop watching TV? This could get interesting. Nowadays there are so many other forms of entertainment (eg internet, video games) that the transition may be surprisingly easy. If this goes on a long while (some are predicting around 9 months), it might even have a permanent impact on what America does at night.

Well I support the strike, I think they have a good point, but I'm also very interested to see how this all ends up shaking out. Meanwhile, I'm going to fill up the empty space by BLOGGING (and I think you all should too).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Human Tetris!

I asked my Studly Hubby what I should post about today (Monday itself isn't much to post about) and he said excitedly "Human Tetris!"

Well I had no idea what this was but since I'm a total Tetris addict I naturally had to go get on YouTube and check it out.

It turns out Human Tetris is a Japanese game show where people try to make their body into certain shapes so they can fit through a shape cut out of a wall. It's kind of like limbo, only instead of going under a ever-lower pole you're going through an ever-stranger shape cut out of a wall. The wall moves towards the person and the person stands in front of a pit of water so that if the person doesn't fit through the shape, then the wall will push them into the water. I watched a clip and it's actually really entertaining. The shapes in the wall are seemingly impossible to contort your body into but they still manage it (sometimes).

It kind of makes me want to play Tetris.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

How much do you like cheesecake?

I could really eat some cheesecake after a long run, but I don't think I could eat this much:

On February 21, 2004, Sonya Thomas ate 11 pounds of cheesecake in 9 minutes, a world record. She only weighs about 100 pounds, so that is 11% of her body weight! For reference a 10" cheesecake weighs about 4 pounds.

Here is an up-to-date list of all of her other amazing world records, including a recent victory of 46 mince pies in 10 minutes.

I don't think it would be a good idea to invite Ms. Sonya Thomas to Thanksgiving dinner.

Pumpkin Juice!

What is pumpkin juice, really?

And for that matter, does butter beer have alcohol in it (or is it like root beer only buttery instead of rooty)?

I always imagined pumpkin juice as liquid pumpkin pie, and everybody knows I love a good pumpkin pie, so as you can imagine when I saw that Silk makes 'Pumpkin Spice' I just jumped on it. It turns out, it's some sort of pumpkin-flavored soy milk. That doesn't sound all that good, but with some nutmeg it's actually quite tasty.

Has anybody tried Chocolate Silk? It's divine.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

2nd post for the day, whoa!!

I said in my earlier post that I probably wouldn't be in the mood to post after my ten-mile run and a full day of heinous paper editing. But, I was wrong. I'm in a much better mood to post now that it's over, and I probably shouldn't have posted before when I was all crabby because I was right in the thick of it all. But, as part of naBLOpoMO, now you will see that side of me too.

I'm posting so I can share with you all two things:

1. My new adoration of Goo. (The edible kind.) It's for runners (and probably other endurance sports) and provides you a shot of sugar and electrolytes when you're getting really depleted at the end of a crazy long run. And it's in the form of Goo so you can choke it down super easy when you'd really rather be throwing up. It comes in all kinds of flavors, with or without caffeine. For our first half-marathon, last spring, we didn't learn about it until just before the race so we didn't use it for training but did during the race itself. I thought it was very helpful but my Studly Hubby was pretty neutral. This time we thought we'd incorporate it into the training so we could really figure out how to use it for maximum benefit. So halfway through our run, we cruised through a running store and bought a bunch of Goo. This time my Studly Hubby loved it so much he had seconds. Our favorite is the Vanilla Bean. We got the one with caffeine and I think I might still be a little hopped up from it.

2. A funny exchange I had with my Studly Hubby after our crazy long run, which went something like this (it's kinda long, but is funny in several parts, so it's worth it):

Me (slyly): so, are there any kitchen items you might have been wishing for?
note: Christmas is coming up, for those of you who are still clueless
Studly Hubby (catching on with amazing speed): well... I would really like a grater... and an icing knife...
Me: Hrm, that's very interesting...
(note: I immediately rush to a notepad to write this down, for fear important information won't be retained, can't find notepad, gets on computer instead, and send a self-addressed email with the subject: ideas for D for Christmas)

2 hrs later...

Studly Hubby: hey! we should watch last Thursday's Office on
(note: yup, this is a blatant advertisement for the website my Studly Hubby helped make)
Me: ok! let me pull out my computer. Oh hey! I have an email! (pause) Oh shoot! you weren't supposed to see that!
Studly Hubby (laughing): don't worry, I forgive you...
Me: really?
Studly Hubby: yeah! my love for you is unconventional
Studly Hubby: I mean, unconditional!

Note from me: I kinda like the unconventional kind too! I think...

Workin' Saturday

Usually I wouldn't post on my blog on a day like today, because the only fun part of my day will be watching Spiderman 3 tonight and eating pizza, and by the time I do that I probably won't be in the mood to post anyway. But, as part of my dedication to naBLOpoMO this month, I am going to post anyway.

Today was a big WORK day (working on a paper from grad school). As a break from all the work I am doing, I get to go run ten miles. We are about to head out right now actually. Sorry Eric, I know your schedule for me said to do 12-14 but I'm afraid that might kill me since 8 miles almost killed me last week. The half-marathon is in three weeks so we still have some time for more distance and hill runs.

The good news is, I made some progress on the paper and sent off some revised changes 5 minutes ago to my old boss in Minnesota to look at. Unfortunately that was only about 1/4 the total amount of work but at least it's something. It's been hard getting motivated to work on this, partly because it's on a project I stopped thinking about over a year ago and partly because the changes they want are of the most heinous variety: statistical recalculations, new graphs, tighter sentences, etc etc. Ugh. At least it's all easy to do from my remote location way over here in Seattle.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Hives ROCK OUT

On Thursday night I couldn't post because I was busy rocking out at the Hives concert at the Showbox in the Sodo part of downtown.

They are a little band from Sweden that has gained some recent popularity (but they are still not expensive to go see). They put on a good lively show and we especially liked their quirky lead singer (above, in pink) who regularly climbed up the side of the stage and demanded that the audience clap and scream at him, which we did.

The lead singer Pelle Almqvist said some pretty funny stuff in between each of the songs (paraphrased of course, since my memory is horrible):

1. "I really love rock n' roll but don't listen to other rock n' roll bands as much anymore because I have become such a big fan of myself."

2. "You all may be wondering how you got so lucky to be here. Well let me tell you - this s**t's really happening man, I'm really up here and you are really listening to us."

3. "Do you want to dance really fast? Do you want to dance fast and listen to a fast rock n' roll song? Well now you can dance really fast because we're about to play some really fast rock n' roll!"

4. "All of you in the front are clapping and screaming but all the adults in the back need to clap and scream some more! I'm trying to bring all of you together man!"

Also on the 2002 MTV music awards the Hives lead singer Pelle Almqvist ended their set by saying "I know you want us to play more, but that's all the time we have so you can turn off now!"

We had such a good time that we didn't even mind staying out past 9 pm.


So this month is naBLOpoMO and naNOwriMO. naBLOpoMO is National Blog Post Month and naNOwriMO is National Novel Writing Month. That's right (write), in November you are supposed to WRITE. Either write a novel or write in your blog. Either way, you are supposed to write every day.

So I missed a day already and it's only November 2 so I decided to ammend the rules a little bit and say that it's ok to skip a day if I post twice the next day.

So here I go, on naBLOpoMO...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Floating pumpkins in the pool

Can you believe that pumpkins float?
Well they do!

Tonight when I went to my swim lesson the pool was full of pumpkins! At first I thought they were fake inflated pumpkins (I have a history of assuming that if something looks strange then it must be fake). But after the swim instructors laughed at me for a while they showed me that in fact all the pumpkins were real and you can use them as buoys! What a phenomenon.

The gruesome Seattle hills

San Francisco is notorious for its super-steep hills, but people don't realize that Seattle has some of those too. In fact sometimes you can't get your car up a hill (as we have experienced) and it's not totally uncommon to hear a story about someone losing control of their car (or bike) going down a hill. Just yesterday a co-worker told a harrowing story of her mom losing her brakes going down a huge hill in her minivan - a cop started going after her with his lights flashing as her van slowly picked up speed (up to 70 mph), At the bottom of the hill the van hit a bump in the road and the brakes clicked back into place just in time to stop before roaring through an intersection, and when the cop came up to her and asked what she was thinking she said "I'm thinking you should give me a ride home!" Fortunately the cop believed her that the brakes had gone out (it does seem unlikely that a soccer mom would try to outrun a cop in a minivan) and helped her get the minivan to the nearest car mechanic.

Since the Studly Hubby and I signed up for the Seattle half-marathon, we've been thinking over the idea of running some hills. The half-marathon route goes downtown and includes some huge hills that we've never attempted before. It's not hard to find hills to practice on - all we have to do is alter our normal route slightly. So last night we tried a moderately big hill, about ten (long) blocks going from Lake Union up to Wallingford Square (where the grocery store happens to be, with a huge bag of salt-and-vinegar chips waiting for us as our reward). We conquered that hill and were so excited we actually brainstormed other bigger hills we could do as we were walking home with our big bag of potato chips.

Happy Halloween everybody!! Hope you have a spoooooky (or totally relaxing or totally fun) evening.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A short history of my butt

When my butt was 18, it was lean and mean. I got it that way by being young and by riding horses, which makes for a georgeous butt (and nice tight abs too). But(t) at the end of college my butt went on a long vacation, and it lost both the meanness and the leanness. This was unfortunate, so I took up running. My butt got right back into shape, but surprisingly took on a new look. It was a little bit smaller and a little bit flatter. Then a few years later I got addicted to indoor spin classes (and eventually taught them), and my butt got mean again - but this time it was also pumped up. It was round and high and solid like a rock. I was very proud to have such a fine and intimidating rear, but also had some trouble with the jeans. I needed jeans with a nice wide back end to fit all that mass, and those are kind of hard to find. In the middle of all that I went through a tough time (job interviews) and lost a little weight, and I found my perfect proportion. My butt was still mean and pumped, but no longer stifled by ordinary jeans. Unfortunately this was a few pounds lighter than my comfort zone and I eventually put the weight back on. I started a new job in another state, and switched sports again. Now I'm back to running, and the rear is fading back into a version of its former self - small and tight and just a shadow of what it recently was. As I begin yet again to branch out from running, I wonder what new shape my butt will find...

(PS I don't think my Studly Hubby or anyone for that matter has noticed any of this, so these differences may not have been so extreme from an outsider's perspective, but I've definitely noticed my butt and all kinds of other changes whenever I switch sports and I find it fascinating)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I love my Civic!

In my effort to cross-train/drive around more in our new Honda Civic, I went to hot yoga again tonight. It was super fun driving the Civic over there and feeling all fancy-pants in such a pretty car. Here's why I love the Civic so much:

1. It's a feel-good car. Honda cares about the environment, and the Civic gets really good mileage. Plus it used to be a FlexCar.

2. It's so pretty! The dashboard is pink and purple! It's sparkly and shiny!

3. It has cruise control. I've never had cruise control before!

4. It knows when I need a light on - and it knows when I need it back off again. It's so smart!

5. It's mean enough to run over a trash can every once in a while without any belly-aching.

6. It can go uphill! Even when two people are in it!

Well on a different topic, hot yoga was painful as always. But I'll probably go back because it's so much fun driving over there in the new civic.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

8 Mile

We are full-swing into training for the Seattle Half-Marathon at the end of November. Not only is it a 13-mile run, but the route goes through downtown which has some very steep and horrible hills. Normally I avoid running hills like the plague, so this worries me. Another thing that worries me is that we haven't run more than 5 miles since mid-July and we only have four weeks left to train. So last weekend we ran 6 miles, and this weekend we ran 8. No hills yet. I'm still attached to the around-and-around Green Lake running route because they have drinking fountains and bathrooms. It's also flat. This won't help me with the hills. So after I recover from today's 8-mile run, I will have to get myself psyched up to do some hills. Maybe I should do some stretching too, I've heard that's a good thing.

I started taking swim lessons at the Green Lake Community Center. For one thing, we just bought a sweet new (used) car and I wanted an excuse to take it for a spin through the neighborhood. For another thing, a friend from work signed up for the lessons and she made it sound like a fun and smart thing to do. Unfortunately it did not sound so fun and smart anymore as I was driving to my first lesson on Wednesday night in the pouring rain and freezing cold, but what kept me going was the nagging feeling that I definitely should cross-train (e.g. something other than running), and what better time to do that then the nasty rainy cold winter months? Plus I paid for six lessons in advance and I wanted to make it worth my money by actually going. So swim lessons first, then maybe some actual lapswimming later, if I can stay motivated beyond the lessons...

Friday, October 26, 2007

sooooome week

I've actually been in town all week, but racing from one thing to the next (sometimes literally). We are now in full-swing training for the Seattle Half-Marathon, which is at the end of November. We are behind schedule as usual. We are increasing our miles every week with wild abandon and suffering the consequences afterwards. I gave a Big Talk for a regional conference on Wednesday, which went well but the practice talks on Monday and Tuesday were awful, and I ended up practicing the talk about 4 million times Monday and Tuesday night - it was painful but worth it. I started swimming lessons on Wednesday night at the Green Lake Community Center and it was fun, but made for a really long day. Then Thursday I was wandering around at work like a zombie. Hopefully today I'll be able to get back to feeling normal. At least I'm blogging again.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The search for the perfect restaurant

Ever since the Studly Hubby and I moved to Seattle we have been searching for a few good restaurants. We are picky, so this is quite a task. We like to get consistently good food, reasonable prices, an accessible location (this is very limiting in Seattle, because traffic is so bad), and a mellow and pleasant atmosphere. In Minnesota we searched high and low and finally found two pizza places (Punch and Campus Pizza), a Mexican restaurant (el Norteno), an organic cafe (Birchwood), a BBQ joint (Famous Dave's), and a diner (Lake St Garage) that we just adored. That was quite a lot of choices, but we were there almost 6 yrs so we had a lot of time to find good restaurants. Even in our last year we were still discovering good ones, so it's definitely a process. We expected it to take a while in Seattle too, but we've been here over a year and haven't found anything we really like except a Mexican restaurant (Isla Bonita) way over on Bainbridge Island.

After my Studly Hubby started making big bucks over at Microsoft we doubled our efforts to find a good restaurant and started with all the ones in our neighborhood. Unfortunately most were too pricey, unimpressively bland, too crowded, or some awful combination of all of those. We found a pizza place (Wallingford Pizza House) and a Thai restaurant (May's) that are both really good but not quite perfect. We were starting to think the magic just wasn't going to happen when we finally hit the right place last night.

It's a Mexican restaurant, Guadalajara, only ten blocks away from us that we run past almost every day. They recently changed owners and previously had a bad reputation so the place was very quiet, but totally fantastic. Just the right combination. Plus they are really close. Now I just need to get the word out that they're good so they get enough business to stay open.

It's amazing what a huge step it is to just find the right restaurant.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Studly Hubby's Crush

My Studly Hubby has a crush on Chef Ramsay. He has read Chef Ramsay's autobiography, watched his show Hell's Kitchen with fierce loyalty, and now that Kitchen Nightmares is on, the crush has reached a whole new level. My Studly Hubby has a spring in his step all day Wednesday because he's so excited that Kitchen Nightmares will be on that night.

I wasn't a huge fan of Hell's Kitchen (it stressed me out), but Kitchen Nightmares is really good. Chef Ramsay can enter any type of situation, hold his own through everyone's defensiveness and anger and denial, and then turn everybody around in the end so that they are successful and love him. It's very heartwarming.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Car Action

We've decided it's time to get a new bumper sticker for our new car. My old car had the most awesome bumper sticker ever, "Goddess on the Loose" but when we gave away my car and my Studly Hubby moved the sticker over to his car (it's on a bumper sticker magnet), he got made fun of. At his old job they even called him "Goddess". So he voted that when we got a new car, we got a new gender-neutral bumper sticker.

I vote we get one that speaks to our dedication to the environment or something pro-peace. That seems like it's gotta be helpful in some way.

So we went bumper-sticker shopping at our local propaganda store and were pleased to discover that they actually get a lot of their bumper stickers from our previous bumper-sticker source (home of the "goddess" bumper sticker), The Northern Sun in Minneapolis, MN. If you don't have a local propaganda store or other such bumper-sticker source, you can order bumper stickers from Northern Sun online.

The Studly Hubby found the perfect one for him, "Make Love, Not War" (this speaks to my Quaker roots, so I like it too) but I think he was looking for something more original. I've never seen that on a bumper sticker, so I think it's pretty original. I also liked "Tree-hugging dirt worshipper" and "Girls Kick Ass" (although the latter didn't fit our gender-neutral rule so was immediately discarded).

But oh, I will miss the "Goddess" bumper sticker.

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day, so we're all supposed to blog about what we do to help the environment and get everybody else to do that too. Well we both were raised by hippies in Hippieville, Iowa so we've always been pretty environmentally conscious (I have used recycled toilet paper as long as I can remember). But since we moved to Seattle, and my Studly Hubby got on the Live Earth project, we have picked up a few new habits:

1. Buy local, eat local to reduce food transportation energy. This means lots of local chocolate and local wine (yum!).
2. Support the companies that support the environment by buying their products. We are still figuring out which companies these are, but so far the list includes our local co-op, organic farmers and environmentally sustainable foods like bison, Honda (Honda and 9 other commended "green" Fortune-500 companies can be found here), and countless small or local companies that are putting out that extra effort to be green.
3. Unplugging our entertainment center and anything else that sucks energy.
4. Getting on the National Do-Not-Mail List to reduce our daily junk mail.
5. Paying bills and receiving paychecks online.
6. Changing out ALL our lightbulbs to fluorescents.

What we're working on for the next year:

Reducing our trash output by composting more and buying less packaged goods (this is tricky but speaks to #2 above).

And now I ask you, my dear readers, for your ideas. In particular, does anyone out there know of any other environmentally concious companies or have new ideas for how to reduce trash output?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Our Sweet New Honda Civic

Right before I left for the conference we bought a sweet 2004 Honda Civic from a dealer in Seattle. It's so pretty!!

This is the first car we've bought together and the newest car either of us has ever owned (only by 2 yrs though). The car we traded in for this one, the '95 Geo, was bought in '99 by my Studly Hubby who owned it for 7 yrs. We traded it in for $400. The car dealer was embarrassed to even have the Geo on their lot and immediately moved it to their "back lot" as soon as we signed it over. They kept trying to convince us to keep the Geo and have two cars ('wouldn't it be nice to be a two-car family??'). We were not tempted. We were also not tempted to try to sell it ourselves, since it is a stick-shift covered with midwest rust it is pretty worthless here in Seattle.

Yesterday we washed the new Honda and waxed it and put new plate-covers on it and cleaned the windows and the dash and took it out for a joy-ride around Green Lake. We got awesome new plate-covers that look like a monster is eating our license plates.

We also bought some touch-up paint from the Honda dealer and tried to cover up some of the dings and scratches on it. It was a Flexcar rental car so has quite a few scratches and dings but I consider that good for the nerves because now I won't be so paranoid about running it into a bush or a street sign. And it's a bonus that it was a rental car because the engine was meticulously taken care of as confirmed by our mechanic.

The car-buying experience was interesting. First we decided whether to buy a car and what price range would be appropriate, then we narrowed down what we wanted to four cars (Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda Protege and Hyundai Elantra) by studying the Consumer Reports and every car in our neighborhood. Then we systematically drove to dealers around the city to test drive the cars. We never got around to the Mazda but tried the others and liked the Honda the best by far (Corolla was second best). We checked that the car insurance wouldn't be too insane, went home to look for a better deal (the one we test drove was the best deal), looked up the CarFax report, and then went back the next day and bought it.

The only big pain in the neck was dealing with the car dealer. We walked in at 10 am on Saturday wanting to buy the car. By 5 pm that same day we were finally sitting down with their accountant going over all our warranty and loan options. The whole time in between we were sitting around waiting. Considering we were planning on spending a big heapload of money there I was pretty miffed at their inefficiency. I hate it when people waste my time like that, but it's hard to find a way out of it other than to throw a fit (which I was on the verge of). They knew we wanted their car so they knew we would wait. We probably won't go back to that dealer again (although they did have the best deal).

But we sure love our new Honda!!

The Party in Austin that Did Me In

Sorry I went offline again for a while folks. I was at a conference in Austin TX.

This wasn't just any conference. My former advisor from graduate school in Minnesota was there with several of his roadies, plus old friends from that lab and lots of other familiar faces from previous conferences and collaborations. I had lots of formal and informal socializing to do and had to plan it around a very busy conference schedule (talks went from 8:30 am to almost 10:30 pm every day).

Austin has an amazing night life. The first night we were there we went to a Rilo Kiley concert at a famous BBQ joint in downtown Austin called Stubbs. It was a huge outdoor venue (weird for downtown) that was quite crowded for a Sunday night. It ended early and beer in Austin is obnoxiously cheap so we went out afterwards and had fun dancing the night away at a small bar. I got back to the hotel late, lost my way in the super-dark hotel room, and ended up smashing my nose on the bureau and getting my first bloody nose ever. Worried I would end up with a black-and-blue face for the first day of the conference, I stayed up late icing it. My poor roommate woke up but didn't remember it in the morning.

The last night we were there we had a final banquet and then we headed out to see the Spazmatics, an '80s cover band playing at the Cedar Street Bar in downtown Austin. Again the large crowd amazed me (this was Wednesday night). The cheap beer tempted us all and pretty soon all of the nerdy scientists were dancing the night away, again, on the dance floor to '80s music. I even got hit on, not once but many times.

The days were full of good talks and interesting science, and I got to sample some of Austin's finest for lunch and dinner while having useful meetings with collaborators and colleagues. In Austin, chain restaurants and businesses are not welcome so every place we went was local and unique. And the locals at the conference directed us to some of the best. A friend of mine from way back that picked some of us up at the airport took us out to some taco stand in the middle of nowhere that was delicious, and my Seattle boss took out the whole crowd to a very fancy and expensive Austin steak joint that was some of the best food I've ever had.

The only negative was the payback I was due when I finally ended the whole thing. I don't do well on little to no sleep, especially many days in a row, and started throwing up as soon as we got to the airport. This is not fun, let me tell you. I am not sure if I was severely hungover and tired or actually sick (a friend I was partying with on Sun also got sick that week) but whatever it was blossomed into a killer cold that kept me home the next day and mos of the weekend. So I have yet to go back to work. Meanwhile I'm enjoying being back home with my Studly Hubby, eating home-cooked food and watching movies and sleeping many many hours.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Going Car-Less

Before we decided what kind of car to get, we actually had a bigger decision to make: whether or not to get a car. So early this week we did some research into what kinds of options we have for going "car-free" as they say (many people here in Seattle actually do this and it works for them). There's quite a lot of good stuff going on, like:

1. Public transit. This works well here. Buses go to useful places and run all weekend and late into the night. My Studly Hubby currently takes the bus to work every day.

2. Bike. This could work well here, because the weather is very mild (when it rains, it's just a light drizzle). Unfortunately, it doesn't. Seattle is a little behind on making this a bike-friendly place, although they claim this is on the to-do list. Here are some examples of lost potential: (i) Everyone is very proud of this awesome bike trail that goes around North Seattle (the Burke Gilman), which is a pretty good trail. But, it's only one trail. And because it's all there is, it is so crowded with bikers that it is notoriously unsafe for pedestrians. Plus it's not well lit (making it worse for pedestrians) and there are no enforced speed limits (making it bad for both pedestrians and mediocre bikers like me). (ii) Many buses pick people up at hubs that you can bike to. The hub my Studly Hubby bikes to was recently "renovated," which meant that all the bike racks were ripped out about a month ago. We're not sure what they're planning to do next. Therefore my Studly Hubby can't bike. (iii) The city took the initiative to add bike lanes to all the streets. This was very nice of them, but they didn't physically add anything. They just painted lines on the street designating two feet of space for bikes between the already-narrow car lane and the already-narrow parked car lane. Would you feel safe biking here?

3. Flexcar. This is awesome. It's a car rental program with a twist: you can rent by the hour, and the cars are parked in convenient locations all over the city so you can usually walk to one from your house (there are four within ten blocks of our apt). Unfortunately it is not so great for long weekends (too pricey), car availability is sketchy, you still have to carry car insurance, you may have to pay a monthly fee, and the hourly fee is not that cheap ($10/hr in our area). But I know several people who have it and rely on it and love it, it just depends on how flexible you want to be.

4. Standard car rentals. This is still the stand-by for my car-less friends. For only $100 or so, you can rent a car for the entire weekend. If you rent a few weekends a month, it's still way cheaper than insurance and car payments. I think this is a pretty common thing in Seattle because there are car rental places everywhere and one close enough for us to walk to.

Well despite all that good stuff we decided in the end that we still need a car. Mainly because I work strange hours sometimes, we aren't very organized, and we felt like we could afford it. So when I get a chance I'll update you on our ongoing Adventures of Car Shopping.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Getting drunk with the in-laws

We had a grand ole' time with the in-laws this weekend and managed lots of new adventures. One of my favorites was a guided tour through a local winery the Chateau Ste Michelle. What I liked about it was not that we saw how their white wine is made (which was pretty cool) but that they took us by the hand and taught us about wine without any pretentiousness. We learned about the regions of Washington where grapes are grown, why they grow well here, how the different varieties are fermented to make wine, how they determine fermentation length and oak aging (my oh my those oak barrels are expensive) and how to correctly taste wine. We picked up some cool wine lingo and came out of the tour feeling like newly minted wine experts.

After the wine tasting we headed downtown to the fancy restaurant 94 Stewart to celebrate my Father in-Law's birthday (he turned 29, again). We were feeling very fancy so we ordered not one but TWO bottles of wine and subsequently shared all our newly learned lingo with anyone who would listen, which was mostly each other. I liked 94 Stewart a lot too, again because of something very abstract: it was fancy and upscale without being pretentious and our waiter was sincerely nice and helpful. And the food was very good too.

Another neat thing we did this weekend was officially initiate some car-shopping. The Studly Hubby and I, having low standards and all, have never been on the market for a car. So we needed his parents support and encouragement for that first test drive. What you are probably wondering is what exactly we are in the market for. Well, let me tell you what I want first.

A Lime-Green Volkswagon Beetle (convertible), much like this one:
Isn't that a cool car?

Well it isn't very practical. We don't have a garage or any off-street parking to speak of, we live in a high-theft, high-accident neighborhood (our car has been hit twice this year), and we don't even drive very much.

So we're going for a more practical (a.k.a. more boring) type of car, like perhaps a used Honda or Toyota. My favorite car in the whole wide world, the apple red 1989 Toyota Camry, unfortunately is getting hard to come by (especially the kind we would want - one with no rust, low miles, and a warranty). So we'll see what else we can find.

Meanwhile, the manager at that first dealership fed us some lines to remember. He looked over our car to determine what the trade-in value is, and declared it a "ticking time-bomb." Then when we hedged on the cars we test drove (the Kia had no power, the Jetta was nice but overpriced), he said, "what can I do to get you excited enough to buy a car today?" We laughed hysterically, which I don't think was the answer he was looking for.

And we're off to our next adventure.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Visit from the In-Laws

An update from the (crowded) homefront:

All is well.

The in-laws didn't mind sleeping on the airbed in the living room. My allergies haven't gotten any worse (although they will be slow to get better). The Studly Hubby and I both had a nice night of sleep last night. And it's sunny outside.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Big Carpet Cleanup

Today we got our carpets cleaned. Out here in Seattle they do serious carpet cleaning because if you've got mold, the usual shampoo treatment just doesn't cut it. What they did was a high-heat (>220F) heat extraction. They did the bedroom and our stinky mattress and then set both up to dry with a fan.

While the apartment smells a ton better unfortunately we still aren't in the clear. My Studly Hubby's Studly Parents are due to arrive any minute and as you can see our bedroom is completely empty, leaving all the normal bedroom furniture and junk all over the rest of the apartment. Last night we were up past midnight trying to make some sense of the chaos, and it worked. We folded down our kitchen table and put it in storage, folded down our dining room table and put it in the kitchen, put the boxspring in the dining room, blew up the air mattress and put that on top of the boxspring, and viola! we have a new bedroom in the dining room. Oh! they're here!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Drinking for Science

I just got back from a work-related departmental retreat. This is where everyone in my department at work cruises out of town to some cute scenic getaway place and spends a day and a half or so bonding and updating each other on what we've been working on. Typically it involves lots of science and some booze and some nature.

This year our department went to Port Townsend, a touristy town across the way by ferry. We went to a old haunted military base and stayed in soldier's barracks (the faculty got to stay in the fancier lieutenant's houses). It was very pretty and a lot of fun especially now that I've gotten to know people.

A lot of the faculty in my department fancy themselves as experienced wine drinkers. One faculty member is even part-owner of a wine shop in a fancy party of town (Capital Hill). Therefore it didn't surprise me one bit when some fancy wine got brought out at the end of the day. What did surprise me was that they figured out a way for us to actually drink for science.

The hypothesis that was tested was that expensive wine will taste better. Therefore we had a 'wine tasting' where we blindly drank wine and rated it based on taste and smell. We also guessed at the grape and the region (all the wine was from the state of Washington, amazingly). After we drank heavily and handed over our ratings sheets (splattered with wine and some only half-filled out) the results were tallied and it turns out:

price corresponded slightly with preference, if one outlier was removed (the most expensive bottle at $42, which everyone hated but I loved). Interesting!

What I thought was fun was that we were drinking for a purpose, something I've never really done before. In order to help out, all sorts of people joined in the wine-tasting, everyone got drunk, and we all finished out the night sprawled on the floor as equals.

And I never saw the ghost. Although, I have to admit, I got a little freaked out a couple times.

Note: the picture is artwork available at the Chateau Ste Michelle, a local winery.