Sunday, March 30, 2008

Nice wood furniture comes to those who wait

We are slowly upgrading our furniture - real wood, nice couch, etc. It's quite the process, mainly because we're still cheap. It turns out nice furniture is usually expensive.

But not always!

When we first moved here I needed a dresser. As we unloaded our moving van and introduced ourselves to the neighbors I announced to everyone that we were looking for a dresser in case anyone had an extra. It turns out, someone did... only they didn't tell us about it until yesterday (a year and a half later).
Isn't it pretty?

Before the neighbors gave it to us it was sitting outside on their porch for a while, so it looks a little weathered. We may refinish it - now that we know how. And speaking of refinishing furniture, the tv stand we were working on is finally done and operational.
That turned out really pretty too.

Now we have to rearrange our apt again to fit all the new stuff - and it is feeling smaller than ever. Hopefully when we move again we will increase our living space (so far this has been the case).

Now for the rest of our stuff... anybody have a dining room table? How about a nice bed frame?

I am attempting something new this year - I am going to up the intensity of my gardening attempts to the level of seeds and bulbs. A few weeks ago I went on a shopping spree with a friend of mine and bought (way too many) packages of seeds and bulbs. I have been spending every dry sunny moments since outside trying to plant everything.

The first set of bulbs went in about three weeks ago. Every day I go out and squint at the soil where they were planted. Still today there was nothing. It would be very encouraging to see something, especially since I still have one more package of bulbs to plant. My attitude at the beginning was 'try it and see' but now that I've gotten my fingernails dirty and put in lots of sweat and grit I'd really like to see something come of it.

What's kind of fun is that the garden already has quite a bit of stuff in it from previous tenants. I'm randomly planting in and around all the stuff I think is already there (that stuff is coming up!). At least if my bulbs and seeds don't do anything I'll have some other flowers to look at (I'm keeping it all weeded this year too!).

Bite Me - I'm Organic!

We are not vegetarians but do appreciate good food so trooped down to the Seattle Center yesterday to participate in Seattle's annual VegFest. There were cooking demonstrations, various speakers on health-related topics, cookbooks for sale, and importantly a lot of food. Little bite-size samples of every vegetarian (and vegan!) product out there was given out at tables around a huge room and you wandered through and tried everything you could see. Most of it was good (aka edible), several things were awesome and a few things were (honestly) horrifying.

The most productive part of the experience was the information we got from the Circle Farms booth - this is a local farm that sells what they grow to the city-folk of Seattle. Circle Farms grows the food (organically) then throws together whatever is in season into a family-size box (giving you the option of picking it up every week or bi-weekly). They drive the boxes into the city and drop them off for people to pick up in their neighborhoods. There is lots of variety and many options to change what you get or cancel a box if you're out of town. There is so much good food grown in Washington that it would be a shame not to partake, so we took a brochure and will be signing up shortly.

We ate so much vegetarian food we were a little traumatized so had to eat a big pile of meat for dinner and lunch again today to recover. I think we're ok now. Actually, it was pretty neat to try out all that food.

PS - the title of this post is from a sticker they were handing out at VegFest. My Studly Hubby liked it so much he picked up TWO of them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I hate my Studly Hubby's sweet mac

I really hate my Studly Hubby's sweet Mac. It took all these really awful (but kinda neato) pictures of me one day when I was playing around with it. I'm going to post them here but you have to promise never to use them against me for blackmail or any other horrible purpose.

First my Studly Hubby had to show me how to do this. I had to get at least one embarrassing picture of him to post although it didn't turn out nearly as bad as I had hoped.

I think this is what my alter-ego look like on planet Venus.

This looks like some character from an old Disney movie. In fact if I was a cartoonist I would be totally inspired. Maybe I should become a cartoonist.

This is my personal favorite because it takes my well-broadcasted frowny-face and makes it something... magical. It brings tears to my eyes looking at this one.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Another Ski Adventure

In accordance with our vow last year to Take Advantage of the Awesome Northwest Ski Scene, we went skiing again yesterday at Steven's Pass Ski Resort (about 90 minutes away in the Cascade Mountain Range).

It was hard-packed, icy and cold. At first I was terrified to ski in these conditions but after a few runs I started to really have fun going fast. Eventually the ski patrol came out to warn everyone to slow down - and we were truly disappointed. A bigger disappointment was that the conditions prevented us from moving up to the next level (the dreaded 'Hogsback' green run, which is twice as long and twice as steep as the 'Daisy' green run we have mastered). And the Daisy run did get boring after a while - but I'm glad we didn't try Hogsback - by the time we were comfortable with the fast conditions we were really worn out and having trouble steering. We saw all kinds of crazy accidents and even a poor guy got taken down off the mountain on a toboggan.

We're coming into the end of ski season and a huge amount of snow has accumulated on the mountain now. It was amazing just to see it.

The Steven's Pass parking lot, carved into 15 feet of snow (this is how much has accumulated, not just how much got piled up from the parking lot - we saw a house that was almost completely covered and some treetops and streetsigns that were barely poking out of the top of it as we were driving there).

Me, on top of the Daisy run (just after we got off the chair lift right behind me). Note that although I look like I'm on top of a mountain, this is only the 'short' run that is supposed to be for beginners.

It was a fun afternoon but we woke up this morning feeling pretty destroyed. Good thing we had nothing planned for today!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mice Can Sing!

Did you know that mice can sing? That's right, they can. Apparently male mice having a mating song, sort of like birds, that is too high-pitched for us to hear by the naked ear. But when you lower the pitch and slow down the speed, they say it's a very pretty sound (I couldn't find a link to an audio clip that I didn't have to pay for so I'll just have to trust the reviews I found).

You can read a National Geographic article about it here.

This explains a lot. My Studly Hubby plays a lot of air guitar, especially as soon as I enter the room he's in. He also often sings a solo into a fake microphone to me when he sees me first thing in the morning (he's doing this right now actually). He practices his singing in the shower (a lot) and when he really gets serious about practicing he goes to a Blues Jam. I thought all this time that he was just musically gifted (he is quite good, at least with the guitar), but perhaps not...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Glowy Fish Bacteria

I got together with some of my homegirls from the research lab today and went out into the community to teach junior high age girls about how awesome microbiology is. This was part of the Seattle Expanding Your Opportunities program (SEYH) and is a workshop held every year for girls in the Seattle community that are interested in science.

We spent quite a bit of time preparing a one hour workshop (which we repeated three times) on some of the different aspects of bacteria - we explained what bacteria are (and what we do with them at our jobs), had the girls look at bacteria samples under a microscope, and guess where they are in the environment (and then look to see if they were right). We also did a couple of biochemical experiments to look at what bacteria produce - one bacteria (Flavobacterium) produces a color pigment that changes when you add acids or bases to it (like the Horse of a Different Color from the Wizard of Oz). Another bacteria (Bacillus) produces an enzyme called amylase that breaks down starch to make sugars (this is used to make ice cream!). And a third bacteria (Vibrio fischeri), my favorite, makes light. They played with each of these bacteria and we got to hear lots of squeals of delight and gasps of amazements when they saw what the bacteria could do. It was exhausting but very fun.

This is one of 50 plates we made for the glowy fish bacteria (Vibrio fischeri) that glows in the dark when it grows to the right stage (the glowing letters in the picture are made from bacteria). The girls all got to take home a plate of glowy bacteria to show off.

Glowy fish bacteria live on fish and glow in the dark in the ocean. They get nutrients from the fish to live, and in exchange they produce light for the fish. The angler fish in Finding Nemo uses glowy bacteria to attract unsuspecting prey (like Nemo's dad and Dora). The fish and the bacteria use each other for their own benefit, which is called a symbiotic relationship.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Falling in the toilet

Why do women insist that their men keep the toilet seat down?

- Because women don't always look before they sit, and it is NOT FUN to accidentally sit on the rim of the toilet, not only is it COLD, it is also often DIRTY and is WIDER than you expect so that you may slip and land in something you don't want to.

Case in point: my good friend's 3-yr old daughter recently FELL IN the toilet because her dad had left the toilet seat up!

The bottom line: put down the toilet seat! and ladies (especially the ones with small tushies): watch out!!

Weekend Ski Adventure

Last year, at the end of winter, we went skiing out in real mountains with big fluffy piles of snow everywhere and had a blast. Afterwards, ski season was almost over so we vowed to go a bunch of times this year. Unfortunately I've been sick almost all winter this year so haven't had a chance to ski until this past weekend.

While the flowers are blooming here in Seattle and we've had beautiful weather in the '50s and '60s, the ski season is still booming out in the mountains where it's a perfect 20-30F all the time. All we had to do was drive a few hours out of the city first. We decided to go to a ski resort near Vancouver (BC) because we have some friends that moved there recently that wanted to go with us and they don't both have Visas to come to the US yet (they're originally from Brazil). Vancouver is about 2.5 hrs from Seattle and the ski resort we went to was only about 30 minutes from Vancouver - out of town and straight up a mountain. We went to Mount Seymour, a 'locals' ski resort (as compared with Whistler or Mt Baker, which is higher profile).

It was a foggy, warm day so the snow on the mountain was slushy and I was at first worried this would make for bad skiing but it turned out to be great - not as many people were there because of it and we don't know how to ski so it didn't matter to us anyway. We taught our friends what little we knew and then spent the day on the rope tow slope (which is as hard as anything I've ever done). Once we mastered that, we attempted the easiest route to the bottom of the chair lift a couple of times before we were too tired to move, at which point we drove back to their apartment and collapsed on their floor (they still haven't bought any furniture).

Skiing out here is so fantastic. On our way home on Sunday we had each other convinced we should buy ourselves some skiis and go again before the ski season is over, but I changed my mind at the end of the car ride when I tried to get out of the car and couldn't because I was so stiff and sore (and bruised and cut). We are, however, beginning to plan a big group trip to Whistler next year - which I should probably get out and practice for.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Prim and proper primroses

Last weekend a friend and I went on a flower-shopping spree at Home Depot to get ready for spring. We bought bulbs, strawberry plants, daffodils, and on the way out the door saw that primroses were on sale each for $1. We went crazy and bought ten plants apiece, all different colors. They are very pretty! And they like shade, which is our whole backyard! I came home and planted much of what I had bought but only got a few of the primroses in the ground before night fell and the week swept me out of commission. This morning as I walked in to work I was thinking about where to plant the rest of my primroses when I noticed that many of my neighbors had recently planted primroses too (and pansies!). Except instead of planting every color there is all over the place (as was my plan), they had all neatly planted them in perfect rows of all the same color or alternating colors, neatly surrounded by mulch in perfect little flower beds. How prim! How proper! I briefly considered following their example but decided not to - primroses probably get sick of always being prim and proper so I think mine will really appreciate some freedom and expression.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Grow bacteria GROW!!

I have been spending a lot of time at work lately watching bacteria grow. That's right. The more education you have, the simpler it gets.

This is my growth curve from today. Those of you who do science may be impressed. That's one fine looking growth curve. The strains I'm growing are ones I made (The Mutants) and the growth curve is for an experiment I'm planning to do where it's very important to get them all growing in a predictable way.The OD600 (y-axis) is the cell density, which represents how many bacteria there are. As you can see, they grow fast at first and then slow down. These are specific stages of growth that are common to all bacteria (log phase, or 'fast' growth, then stationary phase or 'slow' growth). The Mutants are behaving themselves very well, especially now that I've figured out all the little tricks - don't pressure them, give them lots of love, and let them do their thing. The first time I did this I actually screwed it up just from checking them too many times.

I have never thought so long and hard about bacterial growth as I am this month. It is not easy getting them to grow just right. They are easily affected by temperature changes, oxygen levels, psychic energy, luck, and what color socks you have on.

Hopefully soon I will be finished with the growth analysis and can move on to the next big thing... microarrays!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mr. Macman

My Studly Hubby finally got his new computer... and he indeed bought a Mac. It frightens me. The apple logo is so white and pretentious. At first I thought I might like it but as soon as he pulled it out of the box I remembered... oh yeah, I HATE Macs!!

Now we're back to being a two-computer family and it's already paying off - I'm posting on my blog again! My Studly Hubby went almost three months without a computer, can you believe it? Not even in the wee early years of college when we were wearing dirty socks and eating paper did he go without his own computer for more than a weekend. I credit this amazing new turn to his budding social life in Seattle and the Wife That Makes Him Go Outside (me), without which he definitely would have cracked.

FYI in case you're thinking 'wow, they've bought a lot of stuff recently' my answer is yes, you're right! In fact, our credit card exploded last weekend from the strain of it. We had to take it to the hospital. The doctors say it should be ok, but we may have to go back to dirty socks and paper for a few months.

The !@#$ Furniture Project

We needed a new tv stand for our obnoxiously big tv (which we received last Sunday) and vowed not to buy any more cheap furniture from Target or Ikea... so it was off to the REAL furniture store for us. We're still pretty cheap though so ended up buying something unfinished. We also wanted to get it faster and have a fun little project to work on. Well, it turns out that finishing furniture is only fun when you know what you're doing or you don't care what it ends up looking like. But we are definitely learning from our mistakes:

1. Never stain in bad lighting
2. Pick a location separate from the house, that is not underneath your neighbors' bedroom
3. If you start running out of stain, go buy new and DON'T scrape the bottom of the container (the pigment is a different color down there, which looks really bad when you're trying to touch up)
4. When sanding off your mistakes, check first that there's enough wood to sand
5. Wear gloves

We found that the more we did, the worse it looked. Finally on Sunday we called up some friends with some experience finishing furniture. They brought over a box full of power tools and plenty of moral support and got it all fixed up in exchange for a pizza.

The Studly Hubby on the first staining step, workin' hard..

Don't worry, we pretty sure it's still going to be usable!!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Zephyr the Magic Cattle Dog

We had Ms. Zephyr the Cattle Dog for an entire week and she finally did warm up to us. She even helped me garden a little bit before we gave her back on Sunday. Now she loves us like her god-parents and comes out to greet us whenever we are around. She even runs to the front door and barks when she hears us coming home.

Ms. Zephyr is a very, very good and polite dog who let us sleep until 7 am and never ever misbehaved. She's definitely a country dog (her owners used to live in the country) - you could see the need to run free just behind her polite gaze every time we went outside.

Dogsitting is turning into a second job for us! We made some more sweet c-c-c-cash on this deal and spent it immediately on cigarrettes and booze.