Monthly Archives: March 2012

28 Mar

My Secret Life as a Leprechaun

Posted by on March 28, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I discovered recently, after long holding beliefs to the contrary, that I am in fact part Irish. I’ve always enjoyed celebrating St. Patty’s Day, even when I wasn’t Irish, but now I can pompously claim that I’m just honoring my heritage when pinching greenless bystanders mercilessly.

‘Tis the wee feet of little lucky lads.

This year I decided to do something a wee bit special for my nieces and nephews to pay homage to The Emerald Isle. I sewed tiny drawstring bags out of appropriately festive fabric and filled them with chocolate coins. Then, when my family had their St. Patrick’s Day get-together, I arrived early to simulate a leprechaun visit with tiny footprints and a series of notes that led to the end of the rainbow. My leprechaun treasure hunt was a mystical success! Sadly, after all that work, not all of the kiddies were able to be present but the ones that were seemed to find it as magically delicious as I intended.

These bags may look super simple but without a pattern they took more ingenuity to make than you might think.

Seeing as I’m not quite short enough to be a leprechaun, I have vowed to give up my shamrock shenanigans for now. Who knows though, maybe next year I will break out the little feet and gold-laden cauldron again. After all, people have been telling me for years that I look elfish so maybe, considering my newfound Irish ancestry, my impish charades are only a wee stretch.

22 Mar

Nerds at the Park

Posted by on March 22, 2012 at 7:58 pm

When a bunch of chemistry geeks get together you might expect the periodic table of elements to get dragged into casual conversations and redox reactions to be discussed as if they were the flavor of the week. Perhaps your assumptions aren’t too far off but you may well be surprised by what else goes on when chemists gather. We don’t just enthusiastically gossip about the latest trends in silicones and quaternary ammonium compounds, as intriguing as those topics might be. Merely chatting about the functions of keratin is not enough for us; we scientists like to grab life by its keratin covered bones.

Jason was so toasty he opted for jeans when we were tubing regardless of whether they transformed him into Mr. Soggy Bottom or not.

Last week Jason and I spent a couple days in Park City with my chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. Admittedly, there was some hardcore nerdery involved. During the seminar portion of our meeting we learned how to develop green actives that target cell receptors. Additionally, one of our presenters, Chris Kilham the medicine hunter, talked about sustainable harvesting practices in the Amazon. You may have seen Chris featured on The Dr. Oz Show or Fox News. Yes, we mingle with the famous.

At Canyons Jason coached me on how to do a wall hit. My first attempts were sad indeed but eventually I started getting the hang of it.

After filling our heads with data we were off to Gorgoza Park to let our butts soak up the soggy snow. It was an incredibly pleasant buy cheap lasix without prescription afternoon. Most of our tubing group just wore light jackets or skipped jackets altogether. We geeks linked our tubes in a variety of geometric configurations as we traveled downhill at an accelerated velocity. Wahoo!

The view from the top of the Echo run was pretty spectacular.

That night Jason and I headed off on our own to sample Reef’s Restaurant. We’ve long wanted to try their Middle-Eastern cuisine. Yum! The food there was just the right mix of spicy and surprising.

Jason used to board at Canyons a few times a week in his college days so he was pretty excited about riding his old stomping grounds again.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather the next day when we hit the slopes at Canyons. With a high near 57 degrees Jason didn’t even bother wearing more than a thin hoodie. I did sport my coat but mostly for its plethora of pockets; I unzipped everything to allow for massive air circulation. We hadn’t been to Canyons for a few years and I have to say that it was hugely gratifying to go on some of the runs that I distinctly remember having difficulties navigating before only to find their terrain super easy now. Yes, I suck less!

By the end of the day storm clouds had gathered but after hours of uninterrupted sunshine it was okay.

What a nice mini-excursion: celebrity speakers, fun snow activities, and warm spring sunshine. Geeks know how to have a good time, just ask anyone who’s attended a D&D party in their friend’s mother’s basement.

14 Mar

Captivated by Blackberry

Posted by on March 14, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Until recently I was the happy owner of a Blackberry Curve. That baby was the best phone I’ve ever had. It lasted through multiple droppings and 4+ years of heavy usage. No matter what hot new mobile device hit the market I hung onto my Curve. Near the end its battery held about as much power as an 80 year old man after a marathon so alas, getting a new phone couldn’t be delayed any longer.

Choosing a replacement for my dependable companion was not easy. I debated several options. I know that practically everyone has an iPhone and all those people seem to think that it’s the best invention since butter but I can’t say I’m the biggest of fans. I text a lot and texting on an iPhone is highly inconvenient. After my Blackberry’s easy keys I don’t think I could handle struggling to squeeze my fingers into tiny spots or flipping from screen to screen to find punctuation marks. Thus, I said no to the iPhone despite the many acquaintances telling me I “had” to get one. I seriously considered getting a Bold, the newest in the Blackberry line, as my replacement but Jason convinced me to try an Android for a change. I chose the Samsung Captivate Glide. I’m still not sure if I made the best decision; I miss my Blackberry. Here is some of what’s not right in the world without it:

1. My messaging life is practically unmanageable without a blinking light telling me when something new has happened. Does Blackberry have a patent on that or what? Why else would every phone not have a similar function? I have a tendency not to check my phone on the weekends so I loved that light. It meant I could ignore my phone but not miss anything. Now sometimes it’s 48 hours before I realize I have a message or missed call.

2. Smart phones are really dumb when it comes to power usage. My Blackberry, once charged, was satisfied for nearly a week but my Captivate is so needy. It gobbles energy faster than Pac-Man eats dots yet it’s too dignified to let me know when it’s drained. It just quietly shuts itself off. I’m accustomed to neglecting my phone; this charging regularly thing is something I’ll have to get used to.

3. My call log was much easier to sift through on the Blackberry. The Captivate lumps text messages and calls together so, since I text a lot, if I need to return a phone call I usually have to do some serious scrolling to find that call.

4. While my new phone has a retractable keyboard, the spellchecker doesn’t work when you have it extended. Someone in quality assurance must have been taking a snooze. So to those of you that have gotten texts from me that are so jumbled that you’ve assumed I’m speaking Swahili, my apologies. I blame the phone of course not my very substandard spelling skills.

My little Blackberry may look miniscule next to the Captivate but it is actually quite tough and served me well.

Here are a few things I quite like about my new gadget:

1. The whistle sound it makes when you get a text message is delightful. What a happy noise.

2. The slide out keyboard is pretty sweet. I especially love that it has arrow keys. I haven’t quite gotten used to it enough to text at the supersonic speeds I used to on my Blackberry but give me time.

3. The Facebook updates on the home screen are right at hand and easy to flip through if you find yourself having a moment of boredom.

4. The notifications bar in the top corner shows you all the missed calls, voicemails, text messages, emails, Facebook updates, etc. that you’ve received. I like this feature a lot even though I still need to figure out what all the symbols stand for. Some aren’t as self-explanatory as you’d think.

5. The screen is much bigger than my old one. No complaints there.

I do like the fancy functionality of my new phone. It’s pretty nifty but dang it if I don’t miss my flashing lights and roller ball. I don’t care if Blackberry is pooh-poohed by those that claim more sophisticated tastes in phones. Say what you want, my steadfast mobile lasted through a couple of Jason’s phones, including an iPhone. So, as far as I’m concerned, you can all go call yourselves!

The jury is still out on whether the Bold would have been a better choice for my particular preferences than the Captivate Glide. Maybe this isn’t the droid I was looking for? But for now I’ll take my big screen, cute sounds, and nice keyboard. Just don’t be surprised if my texts from here on out look like they were written by a second grader.

6 Mar

My Knitty Teenage Nights

Posted by on March 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm

When I was a teenager I volunteered to take part in a service project organized by my local church which involved knitting slippers for some of the less fortunate. I didn’t know how to knit but instructional help was promised for those with no skills like me. That instructional assistance came in the form of Gretha, an elderly Norwegian lady that lived in the neighborhood who had been knitting pretty much her whole life. She was a very patient teacher and when I didn’t finish my slippers in the allotted time at our church she offered to give me some one-on-one assistance later at her house. That one evening spent knitting and chatting in her tiny home was the beginning of a great friendship between us and many more such nights.

It may seem strange that a 14 year old would enjoy the company of a lady 60 years her senior but it’s not so strange when you consider that Gretha was kind, energetic, and nonjudgmental. I always felt welcome in her home and eager for her company. She had lived through the Nazi occupation of Norway and the tales of her life’s adventures were perpetually engrossing plus I had no difficulty relating to her tenacious stubbornness.

I knitted myself a matching scarf and beanie out of alpaca yarn. They aren’t super fancy but they’re cute and comfy all the same.

She taught me to not only knit like a pro but to cook some fantastic Norwegian cuisine. Unfortunately, in my adolescent stupidity, I didn’t write down any of the recipes we made together so I can only vaguely recall how to prepare them now. Why are teenagers such idiots?

Many pairs of slippers, a sweater, oodles of woven Christmas tree decorations, and countless pounds of marzipan later my family moved making it more difficult for me to see Gretha. But we kept in touch and I traveled to her house periodically for knitting sleepovers until she passed away just a year or so later.

I hadn’t knitted since Gretha’s death until a few months ago when I decided I really needed to pick it up again. After nearly two decades of no knitting the whole procedure was pretty hazy in my head but thanks to a couple classes and some muscle memory I am now on my way to being a knitter again. So far my knitting renaissance has only resulted in a couple simple scarves and a beanie but I look forward to further needle fruition.

I have a soft spot for this fellow so I made him a soft scarf.

I will always look back on my youthful nights of knitting with warmth and fondness. Thanks Gretha for changing my perspectives, improving my skills, and proving that there are no generation gaps where kindred spirits are concerned.

So many of life’s great lessons are learned just by being in the presence of great people.

1 Mar

Battle of the Trek Geniuses

Posted by on March 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I have been a Trekkie, or a Trekker if you want to be politically correct, since adolescence. My teenage heartthrob was Mr. Data. Need I say more? My brother-in-law, Ryan, is perhaps an even more despicable fan. You know, the type whose basement is packed with impenetrable airtight/waterproof containers full of model ships, autographed plaques, and unopened communicator collectibles. So naturally when Star Trek Scene It? came out an epic battle between me and Ryan to determine Trek supremacy was imminent, as imminent as a warp core breach after an antimatter containment failure. That historic skirmish happened on stardate 65599.2 AKA last Saturday.

Ryan and I each prepped for our cosmic competition by watching a great deal of Trek. The Star Trek franchise is a galactic behemoth. Between all the various series there are over 600 episodes and 500 hours of television. Since we’re not Peggy Bundy, and don’t have unlimited vegging time, our “research” had to be selective. I have been slowly re-watching The Next Generation, my favorite Trek, since Jason bought me the box set a year ago and a few months back I started supplementally tackling a mix of Voyager, Enterprise, and The Original Series. Ryan decided to concentrate his efforts on The Next Generation and Enterprise before our big showdown. He completed viewing both in their entirety. Not that it did him any good. Wahaha!

Everyone wanted to try on Jason's Starfeet uniform. At least it wasn't a belly shirt on Benson like it is on Jason.

Finally, the chosen day came and our battle was afoot. The difficulty of the game’s questions varied considerably from super easy to nearly impossible. Although each of us had a couple teammates, teammates that proved more useful than those red-shirted security fellows, it was really Rachel vs. Ryan for the most part. With a little luck, and some super amazing memory recall skills, team Rachel warped ahead at first. Eventually Ryan got his dilithium crystals aligned properly and he sped up to nearly take the victory. But in the end he just couldn’t make her go any faster. He basically choked on his last couple questions. One involved some simple Enterprise trivia and the other an Original Series query about the Botany Bay. I guess some people just can’t handle the pressure of command. Fortunately, I was able to quickly identify the Botany Bay for the win before Ryan could regroup his forces.

Ryan was "stunned" by his defeat.

I know Ryan considers himself a venerable vault of Trekkie trivia so I’m sure this defeat will haunt him and fill him with the deepest shame for many years to come…or until we have a rematch. He made a good effort but you just can’t win them all, especially if your opponent is me or Q.