Friday, August 31, 2007

The Presidential Suite


The last week was a storm of conference activity and meetings with collaborators, so I had to go off-line yet again. The American Society for Microbiology Pseudomonas meeting was taking place here in Seattle and several different sets of collaborators were in town for it. My boss' wife was running the show so she got to stay in the Presidential Suite at the hotel, which is the coolest hotel room I've ever seen. It's 2/3 of the 47th floor (almost as tall as the space needle) with views of downtown, Mount Rainier, and the Puget Sound. It is comprised of a bedroom and living room, and a separate big conference room (shown in the picture above) with room for 90 people, a bar, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. I wish I could take you all up there and show you but the conference is over now and they've gone home. The best I can do is link you to a virtual tour. If you browse the hotel website, you will notice that they squeeze the space needle into just about every picture - this space needle is our defining city symbol, even though it is a building with virtually no function except to make money off tourists and stand out as a unique building structure in our city-scape. By the way, it is kind of fun to go up in it and check out the scene.

Well now the conference is over and it's back to work and a long holiday weekend to recover. I'm actually excited to get back to work - these conferences are always rejuvinating and inspiring (but also totally exhausting).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Where did that yellow smudge come from?

Yesterday morning when I got to work I had a giant mustard-yellow smudge on my face. My co-worker who kindly pointed it out to me said it looked like I had curry for breakfast (which I didn't, ew). There was so much of it that I got it all over my hands when I was trying to wipe it off and I finally had to go to the bathroom and wash my face with soap to get it all.

All day I was wondering, "what WAS that, and where could it have come from?" Since I had just come from home where I had looked at myself in the mirror several times while getting ready (I don't do much but I at least do that), there weren't a lot of possible yellow-smudge sources except my tea mug and my short walk to work.

I emailed the phenomenon to my Studly Hubby wondering if he had any ideas. None except for the possibility that something strange had gotten on my mug. I furrowed my brow in worry, imagining all kinds of poisons, and when we got home last night I ran to the mug and inspected it. There was a smudge of innocuous looking yellow powder in the lip of the mug but it didn't really look like enough to get all over my face (more like my face got it on the mug), and it didn't help me figure out where the yellow had come from.

Then Sat morning all of a sudden there was yellow on my face again. I ran through the apartment yelling "Hubby, help!" and he came at once to inspect the scene. Not five minutes before he had seen me without the yellow. We slowly retraced my steps but I had only walked from him to the phone to the sink to the bathroom where I then discovered the yellow. There wasn't much in between except...

"The flowers!" my Studly Hubby cried. "Did you smell the flowers?" We have a fresh bouquet of flowers on the table that I bought when my mom and grandma were here last week. I hadn't remembered that I had but when we took a closer look sure enough, there was a lily (the most aromatic of the flowers) with yellow stamens chock full of pollen hanging out of it. When I leaned in to smell it again the stamen touched my face and lo! another yellow smudge appeared there.

And there you have it, we solved the mystery of the yellow smudge on my face.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Will my Studly Hubby get a Mac?

My Studly Hubby announced last night that he may get a Mac for his next computer. My knees knocked together and the world swayed a little. "What!" I cried. He explained that Mac owners are simply better looking, they dress better, act cooler, and most of the ones in Seattle live in a hip part of town called Capital Hill. I think he's been watching too many of those Mac commercials, you know the one with the cool guy (who resembles Apple CEO Steve Jobs) representing a Mac and the ultra-nerdy guy (who resembles Microsoft founder Bill Gates) representing PC.
The Mac guy is deconstructed so anybody can obtain his super-cool attire.


Bill Gates (left) and Steve Jobs (right) really do resemble Mac vs PC guy (esp after some image manipulation)


Well after further questioning it turns out the Studly Hubby likes the Mac now for other reasons besides their new cool image. He's into graphics, and Mac has always had an edge on graphics. The program he uses for 3D animation, Myah, supposedly runs faster on a Mac. And now the new operating system for Mac can also run Windows, making it dual-purpose. In fact, a lot of people that work at Microsoft have Macs and run windows on them (weird!).

So I recovered eventually. Hopefully by the time the Studly Hubby gets a new computer I can handle having a Mac in my house.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another weekend of touristing

We held another touristing weekend for my mom and Grandma who came up for a visit. We did almost everything we could think of including gardening. They were up for almost anything and seemed to enjoy themselves, and we had a lot of fun. The Studly Hubby had to work for three of the days they were here so it was up to me to figure out where we were going and get us there, and for the most part I managed. I didn't wreck the car or accidentally leave someone behind, and although we got seriously stuck in traffic a few times we got around to quite a few places. More details with pictures will follow when I get a chance.

Also a big Thanks goes out to Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bruce who recently sent us a grill cookbook for our new grill. We love it Bruce! Just that very day that we received it we were talking about trying to grill something other than chicken and hamburgers - now we can do it right!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Moving to Ballard

We were lucky enough to find a good place to live here last year (in the wonderful Wallingford neighborhood). We decided to stay another year so thankfully we don't have to move this summer. Some friends of ours weren't so lucky. On Saturday we helped them move from their expensive 2-bdr apartment on a busy street north of the University District into a quiet cheaper lovely 2-bedroom townhome over in Ballard. Ballard is a neighborhood west of us that was originally its own city (annexed by Seattle in 1907) and was centered around the fishing industry and the Fisherman's Wharf and the locks separating Puget Sound from Lake Washington. Until very recently Ballard was a very blue-collar neighborhood (like a lot of Seattle, but Ballard is even more so). Nowadays Ballard is an interesting mix of yuppie and hippie and working-class. It reminds me of the midwest (and it's flat like the midwest too). Importantly they've got a dense selection of historical and ecclectic bars and restaurants and markets over in Ballard that are all undiscovered by us thus far. Until Saturday we had only ventured through there once or twice but now we have good reason to go again.

So I should probably explain "Free Ballard." Apparently Ballard didn't want to be annexed by Seattle in 1907, but they had to relent due to a water shortage. The whole Seattle area was growing like crazy and they wanted to acquire Ballard and other suburbs so they could get all their taxpayers and census counts and really become the big city it was turning into. So in May of 1907 the city of Ballard became a suburb of Seattle, and the Ballard townspeople mourned. They got their water, but despite paying the same taxes Ballard has fewer policemen, less road repair (even we could tell this) and other problems that are getting ignored. So for the centennial anniversary of their annexation, Ballard had a sort of "anti-celebration" where people wore black, tolled bells, and drank from special black Ballard water bottles and put up "Free Ballard" signs and bumper stickers as a way to quietly and peacefully unite the former city against their unjust treatment. Interesting huh?

Well Ballard is fun but the move itself was awful. Our friends have a 3-yr old and another on the way, and they had so much stuff I couldn't believe it. We filled a 16-foot Penske truck up to the brim three times and still had stuff left over. The Studly Hubby and I helped move for 12 hours and were destroyed the next day. Next time someone asks us to help them move I think I'm going to hire a few movers to help them instead.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Crazy Errand Day

Today we went out and ran errands, all day. Not only did we have a crazy amount of errands to run but we had a bunch of crazy experiences on the way, like:

1. Crazy Sweating Sweat Pants Guy. Every week we refill our five-gallon jug of water at the co-op (for only $2.25) and had to wait today for a crazy sweating sweat pants-wearing guy to complete some strange water-refill ritual. He had two 20-oz water bottles but before he filled them he wiped off the counter around the station vigorously with a paper towel while running the water through the system (to flush it?). Then he put in his bottle, filled it up partway, stopped the water, took a swig, capped and shook up the bottle, and dumped it out. Then he filled the bottle up all the way and let it run over for a few minute before dumping out a little at the top and starting the process over exactly with the second bottle. It was almost entertaining enough to make us forget we were waiting behind him.

2. The 'relaxin' dude. We went into a little T-shirt shop in the artsy Fremont neighborhood to poke around and as we were leaving a guy came in and said to the cashier, "hey! how's it going?" and the cashier responded, "I'm relaxin' dude!" I thought that was a great response and immediately reported it to my husband and declared my intention to use it the first chance I got. Not three seconds later a homeless guy we passed said "How's it going?" and I thought fast and responded, "I'm relaxin' dude!" It came out nice, I think I'll use it again.

3. The amazing ice-cream/indian food switcharoo. We were on our way to a Cold Stone Creamery to get some watermelon sorbet when someone mentioned Dairy Queen, which led to Annie's and their pretzel dogs, and somehow we ended up at an almost totally random indian restaurant piling up our plates at their buffet table. As we sat down with our full plates we wondered, "how did we get here?" and "Weren't we just going out for ice cream?" Then we looked across the street and said, "hey isn't that a VW dealer over there?" and suddenly we were wandering amongst VW Jettas and Beatles wondering whether we should buy one. It may be a good idea to leave the credit cards at home next time we venture out for ice cream.

4. The new troll named "Jo." There's a new troll in Fremont! Her name is "Jo" and she left footprints from where she resides at the Fremont Sunday Market to the Theo Chocolate factory down the street from her. We followed the tracks and poked our noses into the factory gift shop and ended up with some chocolate. We may have to go back someday for a tour.

Finally, A New Fridge!!

On Friday, we finally got our new fridge. By the time we got it, everything in it had gone bad except for our beer. That included the yogurt, the soy milk, and even the jelly. A week and a half is an awful long time. We were too busy to get to the grocery store until two days later but we did get our magnets put up on our new fridge and the towel put in the door handle:
Our awesome refrigerator art from some nieces and younger brothers is all sitting in a stack on a chair nearby and will get put up very soon.

I think bad things definitely happen in threes. Right after we restocked our refrigerator I went into our laundry room and found water had leaked all over the floor from the water heater. So we put in another phone call to the landlord (we have her number memorized). This time I'm going to be serious from the very beginning: in order to take legal action against your landlord to get your stuff fixed you need to write a formal complaint letter and not just make a phone call. I will be sending a letter tomorrow (our neighbor recommended sending it certified). In 72 hrs if the water heater is not fixed I will have full authority to take action. I'm not sure what kind of action, but action nonetheless. That way we can move fast if our hot water goes out.

So if bad things happen in threes I wonder what's next? I hope it's our car. Then I can finally get a new VW Bug.

Friday, August 10, 2007

My mom and dad

My mom and dad are a funny pair. They split up before I was born, so they've never been together in my mind. And I never wanted them to be (as far as I can remember). They are completely incompatible and too much alike all at the same time. What's weird is that even though their lives collided only briefly, they have continued to act in parallel ever since. Two of my brothers on each side are exactly the same age. They remarried the same year. They went back to school the same year, started their careers around the same time, and even like the same kind of car (Toyota Camry) although they owned them in different eras. And last year they both moved out of their long-time dwellings and into new houses within the same two months of each other, and they both picked similar suburbian ornamental modern houses too (a surprise to everyone but me).

Last night, both my mom and my dad called me within one minute of each other. Not only do they rarely call me on weeknights, but my mom is at a conference right now, so the phone calls were both totally unexpected.

Sometimes I think that even though we aren't the typical nuclear family we are still connected somehow. Except I'm the only one to witness it. Well now I've documented it so you can all be my witnesses too.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Fridgeless

How to get by without a refrigerator (i.e. the lessons we learned the last week and a half):

1. Soy Milk. This is a trick I learned in college: buy soy milk in cartons and until you open them their shelf life is virtually forever. I know it doesn't taste quite the same as milk but it'll do in a pinch (and it works just fine for baking). We've found that even an open container of soy milk lasts quite a while at room temperature (as in 1-5 days depending on how warm the room is), and you can buy individual sized ones if you don't want to take any chances.

2. Yogurt. Yogurt is made at room temperature, so if you don't refrigerate it, your yogurt just gets more yogurt-y. The bacteria that make the yogurt are good and produce a lot of acid that other bacteria can't grow in, so that helps preserve it (although not forever). Usually the yogurt gets too yogurt-y before it goes sour (e.g. soupy and curdy).

3. PB&J. This is our favorite lunch staple and in an emergency works for dinner too. Peanut butter and jelly are both sterile when you open them and are naturally preserved by the salt and sugar in them (yes sugar, in high concentration, acts as a preservative - this is why pie and other desserts can be kept out of the refrigerator).

4. Canned tuna (and other meat). This one seems obvious but didn't occur to us until a few days in. With pasta and tomatoes, it makes a completely refrigerator-less meal. Be sure to eat it all up though!

5. The grocery store is your friend. If you live near a grocery store (as we do) you can plan your running route past it, walk there after work, or just plain drive up there real quick before dinner and buy everything you need right before you're going to cook it. Go ahead and get friendly with the checkers there because you're going to be seeing a lot of them.

6. The burrito stand on the corner is yummy and won't poison you. Even though it looked like a ghetto burrito stand that is not to be trusted, we gave it a shot and it turns out it's great. And the burritos are only $4!

So with a few strategic adjustments, we've managed to get by. Supposedly we're finally getting a new fridge tomorrow. If not, I'm hiring a lawyer AND moving out. This is the negative of renting: when the refrigerator breaks you are dependent on someone else to get you a new one, and they can take however long they want (although the law says they can only take 72 hrs, hence the planned lawsuit).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Pow-Wow

I was temporarily offline this weekend because I was out in the country pow-wowing. We drove East to the Kalispell Indian Reservation, met my Studly Hubby's aunt (she's a park ranger for the tribe) and other aunt (who lives on their native reservation in South Dakota) and Grandma (who splits her time between the two reservations), and we all pow-wowed together. We even set up our tent near some tee-pees (D's aunt has a little trailer). Our tent is the yellow and tan one in the picture to the left. The tee-pee was one of many right next door (although there were far more tents than tee-pees - they look like a pain to put up but what do I know?).


Highlights of the trip:

1. The Indian Stick Game, which is a betting game where people sit in rows banging on drums and chanting, someone hides some sticks, and they all bet on where the sticks got hidden (at least this is how it was explained to me). This was so much fun they were playing until the wee hours of the morning (e.g. when we got up) - I guess they were having a tournament and there was a $20,000 pot for the winner!

2. The dancing and the costumes - these were amazing. This was a competition among the Native Americans, and not just a demonstration, so they went all out and there was much excitement in the air.

3. The drummers - this was also a competition with a large pot for the winner so famous Indian drummers showed up from all over the country and competed in a drum-off that was held in the middle of the night (we missed it because it was at 3 am). The rest of the pow-wow the drummers played awesome songs for the dancers. At first I thought they were just randomly beating on the drum and wailing but I soon realized they were playing songs, and they were beautiful. They would play in groups of around five around a large drum in the center and everyone would chant in harmony and beat to the same rhythm.

4. The food - we had Indian fry bread! and huckleberry ice cream!

5. Serving breakfast - the reservation had space for vendors and the Studly Hubby's Studly aunt decided to take advantage and serve some breakfast. The Studly Hubby got to try his hand at being a short-order chef, and I helped take orders. We served greasy eggs, greasy hashbrowns, greasy bacon or sausage, and toast slopped with butter. At the end of the morning when we were running out of things, we served a "light" breakfast with just the eggs and sausage and toast, and some extra grease. We weren't very good at taking orders or making the food, and it's a miracle we didn't get any complainers. Once when I screwed up someone's order I tried to make the excuse "sorry, it's kinda chaotic here" but when I looked around I realized that at the time they were the only customer, and they were looking at me very strangely. We made a huge mess and only averaged $1 per hour each. I would not recommend it as a money-making venture.

6. The country - I miss the country. My Iowa roots called to me when we saw the Studly Hubby's Studly Aunt's house out in the country with woods and open views on three sides, a happy lab running amock in the yard (with porcupines sticking out of her nose, she had found some trouble the night before), and the close-knit community they have on the reservation.

7. Seeing the scenes - we got a brief tour of the high points in the area including an old lookout spot for fire-watching and a really cool cave.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Blue Angels in Seattle


This weekend is Seafair, a much-anticipated all-weekend party featuring shows by the Blue Angels (F18 fighter jets). They were practicing for the shows on Thursday and Friday last week and there was much excitement at my lab every time they flew past (and it was hard not to notice them because they are LOUD!).

But alas, we will miss it again this year, because we will be at a pow-wow in Eastern Washington. See you all on Monday!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Angry Women

I rarely ever blow my top, but if I do, I make sure I don't do it at work. For one thing, it's unprofessional. But mostly, I think it's because angry women don't get far at work.

A recent study confirmed this. Apparently angry women at work are considered incompetent and out of control, whereas angry men are seen as having high status. You can read about it on CNN.

I experienced this myself. When I was in college, I had an altercation with a teacher. I went into my lab and angrily relayed the story. I was looking for some advice, but got a very unreceptive and cold response from the guys there. As I was leaving, one turned to the other and said "wow, she must be having PMS." To them, I was out of control and not worth talking to. I had a sneaking suspicion that instead, if I told the story in a calm and neutral voice, I would have had a totally different reception. From then on, I vowed to keep my negative emotions under an extreme check while I'm at work as much as I could.

It's nice to finally know I had good reason for this.

But here's a thought (and this was mentioned in the article): given the results of this study, what kinds of challenges do you think Hilary is going to face in her Presidential campaign (and if she actually wins)? As President, it seems one needs to show some anger every once in a while (although too much anger is never good, even from a guy - Howard Dean demonstrated this clearly in 2004). But as a woman, the public will hold her to a different standard than all the other guys. Or maybe not - Hilary may be manly enough to pull it off. It'll be interesting to watch.

(the picture is from the CNN article)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Battle of the Grill vs. the Refrigerator

We shouldn't have put together the grill in our kitchen. Apparently the refrigerator couldn't stand it. The two don't get along you see. The refrigerator and the grill tore the whole place apart fighting that night and in the end the refrigerator lost. We had to throw all our meat away and now we're eating cereal with no milk because the milk has gone bad. Our landlord was stunned. "That refrigerator was only 2 yrs old!" she exclaimed. "Now I have to buy a new one!!" We shrugged. "We're sorry, but it's not our fault - it was the grill," we replied.

The grill was worth it. We grilled last night: chicken breasts (thanks for the suggestion Uncle Bruce!) and corn on the cob. Mmmm-mmm GOOD! And once again, we were thrilled to be renting. A new refrigerator will be delivered to us tomorrow. Maybe we'll get a sweet stainless steel one! With an ice dispenser!

Tragedy in the Mini-Apple

The tragedy in Minneapolis last night was horrifying. I had nightmares afterwards because I spent the evening stupidly poured through the pictures on CNN and the local news channels. It's horrible whether or not you have connections there. My heart and deepest sympathies go out to everyone in the city and in particular to the people who were on the bridge or know someone that was on the bridge.