Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have a happy merry joyful Chrismakwanzukkahfestivusnewyear!

I have been neglecting the blog lately and that is going to continue as the Dude and I leave tomorrow morning for a visit with our families in Pennsylvania. We missed the big storm last weekend but hopefully snow will still be on the ground when we get there! I hope all of you enjoy your holidays, wherever you are and whatever you're celebrating!

I'll leave you with a few overdue pictures of our Christmas decorations!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


When most people think about Penn State athletics, they think of football. When you ask most people about a long time, winning coach at Penn State, they think of Joe Paterno.

Most people should think again.

Tomorrow night and the Penn State women's volleyball team and their coach Russ Rose will be playing for their 101st consecutive win, Coach Rose's 1000th win, and their 3rd consecutive national title. Yes, you read that right. The last time these girls lost was in 2007. I caught them on tv once a few years ago and was hooked instantly. Women's college volleyball is nothing like the games you play at barbecues or on spring break; these are incredible athletes who make the ball float, slam, and appear to defy gravity on a regular basis. A good hit percentage in volleyball is similar to pro baseball: above .300 is good, above .4oo is amazing. Penn State has a senior hitter averaging better than .500 this year!

Tomorrow night's game is going to be nationally televised on ESPN2. I hope lots of you get the opportunity to watch these amazing athletes...and of course to root for PSU!

Let's go Lions!

*Disclaimer: No, I'm not talking about that kind of streaking. There will be no trench coats in this post!

Picture source:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Which I Can Finally Prove I Am Right

Although I like to believe that I'm always right, I rarely have hard facts to back it up. But today the Freakonomics blog (one of my favorites!) linked to an article in The New Scientist comparing dogs to cats. The pets were evaluated quantitatively in eleven categories and dogs came out on top, 6-5! Of course this was no surprise to me...I've always loved dogs since I convinced my mom to let me bring one home when I was five years old.

Dog lovers rejoice!

(A picture of my parents' dog Duke, because I figure you're tired of pictures of Max)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Max!

Tonight Max ate adult food for the first time instead of puppy food so I'm calling it close enough to his one year birthday.

Last year at this time the Dude and I had just moved into our new house and I was planning our wedding. Since we were so busy, we told everyone we weren't going to get a dog until after we were married, about 10 months away. Within a month, we had Max. He was 8 weeks old, weighed less than 10 pounds, and had us at hello.

No wonder we couldn't resist!

We watched him grow and counted how many tiles he touched when he slept. They're 18" square and when he got here he could stretch out and still be all in one tile. Here he is on Thanksgiving just a few weeks ago, stretched out in the kitchen and touching no less than eight tiles. He weighs in at 50 pounds.

Happy Birthday Max!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Best Christmas Special Ever: TONIGHT!

Sorry for the late notice but I just found out that THE BEST CHRISTMAS SPECIAL EVER is airing tonight! That's right, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" airs tonight at 7:00 Central (8 Eastern). Get ready!

I don't remember when Charlie Brown became my favorite Christmas special. I couldn't tell you why it's my favorite. It could be the excellent music, the humor, the dancing, or the chill I get every year when Linus tells the Christmas story (whenever I hear the King James Bible version of it I hear it with Linus' lisp). The show is somewhat religious, which I am not, but I think the show does a great job of getting across what Christmas is all about: inclusion, acceptance, generosity, and love for each other. Oh, and a lot of dancing.

(Linus tells the Christmas story)

I wanted to gather all my Charlie Brown Christmas paraphernalia for you and take a picture, but after two attempts I realized again I had forgotten something and decided it was good enough. So friends and family, if I left out something you gave me, please don't be offended. This time of year it's spread out all over the house!

(In the picture: 5 books, 5 ornaments, the Charlie Brown Christmas game, a skating pond where the characters skate while a song plays, the DVD, and two stuffed animals. Not in the picture: the soundtrack CD, numerous Christmas cards, and whatever else I forgot)

Something about the special just gets to me. I watch the whole thing with a dopey grin on my face. I dance along with the characters. The Dude even let me have the DJ play "Linus and Lucy" (the Peanuts theme song) as the recessional at our wedding. Don't worry, I danced then too.

After I watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas," it officially feels like a special time of year. I hope all of you have a tradition that makes you as warm and fuzzy inside as this makes me! Because, as Linus knows, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Classics Revisited

I've been home sick for the last few days with bad cold. This happens to me (and lots of other people) just about every year, so I have a routine to deal with it that involves chicken soup, grapefruit juice, and daytime tv. That probably sounds familiar to anyone reading this. When I start to get a little better and run out of Law and Order reruns I want to read, but I often don't have the concentration to continue my current book (in this case a 600 page tome about the 14th century). So, I turn to my childhood favorites. For the last few days I've been rereading the "Little House" books, but I also enjoy Roald Dahl, The Little Princess, and whatever else my upstairs library offers.

Do you have sick time habits that you'd like to share? What children's books do you return to over and over?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good News for Needy Kids

Following up from my post yesterday, the Salvation Army explains that they ask for Social Security numbers to prevent families from registering at multiple locations, not as a means of discrimination based on immigration status. Personally I think it would be great if they could come up with a way to do that which didn't use SSN but I admit it could be a challenge. I hope there aren't too many people out there trying to scam charities in the first place. Mea culpa to my readers for leading you astray!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Merry Christmas! (if you have the right paperwork)

I was greatly disturbed to read this article that Salvation Army will only be giving out toys to children whose parents can prove their legal immigration status. I understand that immigration is an extremely controversial topic, but it saddens me to see it taken to this extreme. Most of the kids who will not be getting toys won't understand that it's because of their parents' situation; they will just be disappointed that Santa didn't come to their house. Santa travels around the whole world, not just the USA. Shame on you, Salvation Army.

Salvation Army requires proof of immigration status before giving children toys

Edited to add: The Dude and I just had a debate over this and he pointed out that whether or not I agree with it, it is within the Salvation Army's right to choose who they help. That is absolutely true. All the more reason to find out about the goals/morals/rules of a charity before you give them your money. For some people, this may meaning adding Salvation Army to the list. For me, it means removing them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Muppet Rhapsody

I'm sure many of you have already seen this, but the Muppets do a killer cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Kudos to Miss Piggy, as always, for reminding us of what's really important.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have a lot to be thankful for this year since it has been full of milestones. The following are in calendar order.
  • I'm thankful for my beautiful home (we closed 2 days before Thanksgiving last year and ate dinner in our old place surrounded by boxes).
  • I'm thankful for my crazy goofy gorgeous dog (who as I write this is almost fully recovered from his surgery and just ran upstairs to terrorize the Dude).
  • I'm thankful for my wonderful family and amazing friends (who came together from across the globe for my wedding and completely overwhelmed me with their love as I started down the aisle with my father).
  • I'm thankful for my parents (even though I am not with them today, I'll be on the phone with mom at noon ET to sing along to Alice's Restaurant. You should try it sometime.)
  • I'm thankful for the Dude, who is now my husband, and who makes me laugh and treats me like a queen.
We're cooking our first turkey today (and by "we" I mean "him") and having friends over for dinner tonight. It's going to be a good time. I hope all of you are surrounded by joy and stuffed by turkey today! Happy Thanksgiving!

PS Copying from Erin, leave your best turkey impressions in the comments!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday Reading

The first book on this list was one I finished before the holidays but the rest were the result of lovely downtime during the holidays (much of which was provided by a huge thunderstorm, Southwest and the TSA, but that's a different story). I hope you enjoyed your vacation reading as much as I did!

Isaac's Storm, Erik Larson
Following the trail of the Johnstown Flood, the next book on my list was Isaac's Storm. Again, it is nonfiction but Larson tells the story so well that it flows like a novel. His descriptions of the storm are absolutely favorite is "he heard the susurrus of curtains luffed by the breeze." The storm is actually a character in the story. Not to worry for those rational minded readers; the book is packed with facts and data. I was struck by the parallel of the attitudes of Americans in this time to those of the British who built the Titanic (I highly recommend Walter Lord's A Night to Remember if you're interested in learning more about that). Isaac's Storm is an insightful look not only at one of the worst natural disasters in American history, but at the people and attitudes that shaped the time.

Olive Kitteredge, Elizabeth Strout
I had read a number of good reviews about this but somehow missed the fact that it is a collection of intertwined short stories (think Spoon River Anthology). I am generally not a short story person but I really enjoyed this collection of tales revolving around a teacher in Crosby, Maine. Although the collection is named after Olive she is an incidental character in many of the stories. Each one made me care about the characters with remarkable swiftness. The tales have a dry humor but are poignant as well. The book had the added benefit of getting me excited for a cold wintry Christmas as I flew toward Philadelphia!

The Madonnas of Leningrad, Debra Dean
I found this on the sale shelf at the bookstore and enjoyed a second story about the siege of Leningrad from another perspective. This book follows Marina, an elderly woman falling into dementia. When she leaves the present she finds herself back in Leningrad where she worked at the Hermitage, a huge art museum. As the war came to Leningrad the employees packed away all the art and Marina memorized the entire museum. We learn about her past as her family does. I was completely enthralled by the story, both past and present.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
This was the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and as such I had read numerous reviews. Wolf Hall tells the story of Oliver Cromwell, a man who rose from unknown origins to become one of the most powerful advisors to Henry VIII. Most books I have read about this time period are either from the perspective of one of the royals or take a broader historical perspective so I enjoyed this different look. My only criticism is that Cromwell is always referred to simply as "he", which is extremely confusing when there are many men talking and which led me to reread many exchanges. Overall though I definitely recommend it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nerd Alert: Science Jokes Ahead

So, this video probably isn't for everyone but for all my dorky readers out there (and that's most of you) this is great!

It starts out slow but gets good around 1:00 and gets funnier the whole way!

(courtesy of Boing Boing)

Latest Reads Take 2

I posted my latest books, but because I was a good lil blogger and planned ahead (aka wrote each review after I read the book), blogger doesn't want that post to be at the top. So here it is!

Latest Reads

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Overheard at Work: The Bacon Craze Has Gone Too Far

Engineer #1: A turd would taste good if you wrapped it in bacon.
Engineer #2: Yeah man. Especially if you dip it in some garlic butter.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Road to Recovery

Lots of you have been asking how Max's recovery is going, which I really appreciate! It's been two weeks since the surgery and he's doing great. He has started putting weight on his leg again and is in high spirits. His fur is starting to grow back but he still looks pretty ridiculous. Here are some pictures of our favorite doofus!

Don't be fooled...he's not a delicate flower.

This is more like what I see every day.

"Hey guys, what's up?"

What I'm Reading

Re-posted, because for some reason blogger didn't put it at the top.

Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
This is the third Lisa See novel I've read and definitely up to her standards. The first two novels, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, were set centuries ago. Shanghai Girls is a departure from See's earlier works as it is more contemporary, beginning in the 1930s in Shanghai and following the lives of sisters May and Pearl. Their lives are turned upside down when they learn their family is bankrupt and they are being sold into marriage. This is the first time Pearl and May learn that things are not as they seem, a theme which is repeated throughout the novel. Watching Pearl and May grow and create new lives is by turns fascinating, frustrating, and compelling.

The Johnstown Flood, David McCullough
I've been interested in the Johnstown flood ever since I read a novel about it for a fifth grade class. In 1889, a huge storm overwhelmed a dam in western Pennsylvania, leading to one of the worst natural disasters the US had seen at the time. The town of Johnstown was completely destroyed and thousands died. David McCullough is a well known historical writer who manages to deliver tons of data without being dry. This was no exception; at one point I stepped outside and was surprised to see that it was sunny instead of gray and raining. The book is especially interesting for anyone from Pennsylvania or Penn Staters as it was not far from where we were. A word of warning: probably best not to read this during a rain storm for those of you in low lying areas!

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory
I've been a fan of Philippa Gregory ever since The Other Boleyn Girl came out (the book, not the movie). In The White Queen, Gregory goes back further than the Tudors to the War of the Roses. It's a period I'm much less familiar with and in her author's note she admits that this book has more fiction as there is simply not as much material available. Despite this, the book is enthralling and her ability to allow a little bit of the mystic is well woven in without feeling contrived. I've read so many books about the Tudors (including some excellent biographies by Alison Weir for those who are looking for nonfiction), and it's nice to start learning about another period of history. I see that Weir has written a biography of the Princes in the Tower and that will be added to my reading list. As for The White Queen, it's apparently the first in a series Gregory is writing about this period and I look forward to reading the rest.

Earning My Stripes stripes that is!

This weekend was Cory's birthday and his sports-themed party had a costume contest. Thanks to suggestions from a number of people I decided to be a NASCAR driver. The Dude and I set to work on Friday night and $19.06 later ($17 of which was for a Dale Earnhardt shirt), we were done!

Now, I know what you're thinking: that is without a doubt the best costume I have ever seen! But you would be wrong. Tragically, I came in second in the costume contest to a late entrant. However, this turned out to be a plus since the prize for second place was infinitely better than that for first place. Check me out...I call this picture "bedroom eyes."

The best part is, these wind up and the mustache and eyebrows wiggle! Awesome!

What are some of your favorite costumes? Pictures are encouraged!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I have an iphone and I absolutely love it. I use the integrated calendar, maps, and weather. I also check my email and keep lists on Evernote. But I know there's a lot more I can do. Help me out by giving me some fun tips, or share your favorite app! I'm sure we all have tricks to share.

My recommendation for all of you is to get the ESPN scorecenter app if you don't already have it. It's free and you can set it up to show you the scores for all your favorite teams in lots of sports. I use it all the time! Now, I want to hear what you can't live without. Comment below!

Honeymoon in Paradise

After the wedding, the Dude and I headed to El Dorado Maroma for a week to relax and enjoy being married. We loved this resort because it was all-inclusive but still small. The food was truly gourmet, the service was outstanding, and the beach was beautiful. We hope to go back soon!

Since the Dude likes his privacy, Sid the sloth offered to be a stand in for picture purposes. Enjoy the slideshow below (with captions) to see what a great time we had!

War and Peace

I have read a few books about World Wars I and II lately, so I thought I'd put them all together in one big review. Enjoy!

Gifts of War, Mackenzie Ford
This book begins with the Christmas truce of 1914. A German officer and a British officer exchange gifts, and the German officer reveals that he has a girlfriend who he left behind in Britain. He asks the British officer to find her and let her know he's alive. When the British officer finds her, he falls in love and so begins his deception. The plot alone is interesting, but I enjoyed the look at British life during the war and the insight into how the Brits related to the Germans. There are also subplots into the birth of modern psychology and medicine. It's an excellent and nuanced read.

The Bronze Horseman, Paullina Simmons
This is the tale of an unlikely romance in Leningrad during World War II. Tatiana, a young Russian girl, meets Alexander, a soldier in the Red Army, and they fall in love immediately. Their relationship is complicated by Tatiana's family, Alexander's secrets, and the world crumbling around them. I haven't read much about the siege of Leningrad and I learned a lot. Tatiana and Alexander are well written; at times I would be annoyed with them because they were so human and had faults. The Bronze Horseman is a long book that wraps you in its world and releases you only reluctantly at its close.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This was the first book chosen for my new book club and it was a great choice. The book is told all in letters written between the characters, a device I enjoyed as a child in Daddy Long Legs and more recently in Ella Minnow Pea. The novel is set on the island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands between Britain and France which was occupied by the Germans for five years. The Literary Society begins as an excuse for breaking curfew but grows to become an important part of the social fabric of the island, bringing together residents who would otherwise never have been friends. Although the book as a whole is upbeat, it does have sadder plots woven in. Erin is borrowing it next but feel free to get in line!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our Little Gimp

A few months ago we noticed that Max would occasionally pull up his right hind leg and he began to favor it more and more. We took him to the doctor and it turns out he needed surgery. He had the operation yesterday and came home today. He is definitely tired but he is doing ok and actually was able to hop around more than expected. The biggest challenge is going to be keeping him from running around for the next six weeks. Get well soon Max!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fair Weather Fans

One of my pet peeves is the fair weather fan. This person ignores a team all season long until they are close to a record, or a championship, then runs out to buy a jersey and tell everyone how his cousin's hairdresser's husband knew that one player in high school and beat him in mini golf.

I'm not the only one who feels this way; Penn State has had lackluster student attendance at football games this year. It's easy to see why (Akron, Temple, Syracuse, and Eastern Illinois all started at noon) but some people think that's no excuse. I was lucky enough to have season tickets for all four of my years at PSU and took advantage of them, even though I had to walk 10 miles in the snow uphill both ways and stand on flaming coals to watch the team have 3 losing seasons in 4 years.*

Which is why I am just that much more embarrassed to admit what I have been doing most nights for the past week: watching the Phillies in the World Series. I can count how many regular season games I watched on one hand and now I'm glued to the tv. But hey, it's my inalienable right as an American to be a hypocrite. So let's go Phils!

*Only one of those qualifiers is true; I'll let you guess which.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm a Wifey!

I owe you all quite a few posts about my wedding, honeymoon, and the many many books I read therein, but for now I will just give you the beautiful pictures the photographer took. Sorry to those who have already seen them!

Amazing Pictures

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Getting Hitched!

The Dude and I leave tomorrow morning for Philadelphia. We're getting married on Friday then heading South for a week of sandy beaches and frozen drinks. I'll leave you with this picture of Max enjoying a new toy. I hope everyone has a great couple of weeks!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

8 days to go!

From Jen's blog.

watching...Flash Forward

smelling...the reed diffuser sitting on the console table

reading...the blurbs about the 13 books (10 library, 3 purchased) that I got for the wedding/honeymoon so that I can decide which ones to read when.

enjoying...the knowledge that after 1 more day of work, I have more than 2 weeks off! the laundry machine cleaning the clothes for my trip!

knowing...that in 8 days I am going to have a fabulous day with the ones I love

drinking...Diet Pepsi so I can stay awake

embracing...the excitement in my life! (and Max, naturally)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Fall Fun

Since this is our last full week at home before the wedding I wanted to get the Halloween decorations up. I'm excited to have a real house to decorate and I'm hoping that we will get lots of trick-or-treaters! I think the decorations look pretty good but I admit I'm biased.

I named the monster on the left Gus.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Joe Paterno has definitely had an up and down relationship with the press over the years. Apparently back in the day (before I was born, let alone watching football), there were a number of reporters he hung out with and had over for Italian food after the games. But as technology and journalism have intersected and every statement comes under intense scrutiny, Joepa's relationship with the press has become more closed and even antagonistic at times. Still, he manages to have a good time during his weekly press conferences. Just don't ask him about a game later in the season (he hasn't thought about that team yet; he's focusing on this week) or whether the team is good this year (it's a good group of guys but we'll see how they do).

Someone took this time to put together a humorous look at Joepa behind the mic. Enjoy!

Fall is Here!

Watching football used to mean the beginning of fall, but now that I live in Texas it still feels like summer. However, the temperatures have begun to drop and today was finally fall. I drove home with the top down and the music blaring, took Max for a walk, and sat outside for a while to read a book.

Welcome to Texas, fall!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Avast mateys! Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day! So raise a mug of grog to the scurvy scallawags on your ship and treat yourself to a new eye patch!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cover Couture

As more and more people buy iphones and ipods, the range of covers for them continues to expand. These covers can be quite pricy; mine is just a simple black one but it was still $19.99. Luckily in this down economy one company has come up with a simple, innovative design that they are selling for the remarkable price of only 99 cents. If you buy 10, it's only $7.99! And you can even get it personalized. So, who wants one?

click here for an awesome iphone cover

*Note: I highly recommend clicking this link and reading the FAQ prior to purchase.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Carrot Contingent

I tend to blog a lot about Max but he is just one inhabitant of the small petting zoo in my home. This weekend The Dude and I gave the rabbits some grooming and I took the opportunity to catch these furry snoutalicious photos.

I really wanted to get a close up of Littlefoot's nose wiggle but this was the best I could do. He's not a big fan of getting a manicure from us; he doesn't think it's manly enough.

Silver doesn't mind spa day nearly as much. He lays back and enjoys the good life.

Naturally, he wasn't too pleased that I was going to put his photo on the interwebs while his hair was all wet so I promised to put up this other one after his blowout.

Of course Max saw that the rabbits were out and thought that meant it was party time, so he pretty much glued himself to us and this is what we saw all afternoon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

1 Part Truth, 2 Parts Mystery

A History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage
This book traces the history of civilization through six broadly defined eras in which the primary drink was beer, wine, liquor, coffee, tea, and finally cola. I most enjoyed the first three sections (beer, wine and liquor) because they dealt with civilizations from thousands of years ago. Once the book got to more modern times the premise sometimes felt stretched. For example, the author cited first taxes on whiskey and later those on tea as inciting the American revolution. While they certainly both contributed, the author tried to make the same point twice and didn't really acknowledge the inconsistency. Even so, it was an interesting book and made me think a lot more about what I drink!

The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters
After World War II, England was at a crossroads in that many parts of it were modern, but in the countryside buildings and social mores had not changed for centuries. This novel follows a family of country gentry as they deal with these changes. However, it's a bit of a mystery and a ghost story. I'm not usually a big fan of these types of things, but The Little Stranger was well written; it remained creepy without slipping over into ridiculousness. The narrator, a doctor, acted as a device to win over the skeptical reader (such as myself). The writing is good and I'm interested in seeing what else Sarah Waters has written.

The Lace Reader
, Brunonia Barry
This one came recommended from Erin and I'm so glad she lent it to me. The novel follows the homecoming of Towner Whitney, a self-proclaimed "unreliable narrator" who returns to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts for the first time in fifteen years. In this book nothing is as it seems; the witches are on the good side and a popular preacher is abusive. As the story progresses, the reader learns more about why Towner left Salem so long ago and how it impacted the entire community. The title comes from a special talent of the Whitney women; they can "read" lace and see the future. The book is mystical without being unrealistic and draws you completely into Towner's life. Quick everyone, ask Erin if you can borrow it next!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thoughts on PSU Football

Here are my thoughts, immediately post game:
  1. We have no running game right now. Handing off to Royster and letting him run up the middle does not count. When we get into tougher games later in the season, we can't rely on our passing game.
  2. I would have liked to see the shutout for the defense. But even without it, Sean Lee and Josh Hull are machines. Some of the closeups of Lee's face before a play were unreal...I would not want to line up opposite him.
  3. What is the deal with this 60s day thing? Blue and white people. We are Penn State. We don't need gimmicks.
  4. I miss tailgating.
Plan for the rest of today: remain on the couch and hope that Michigan and Ohio State don't embarrass the Big Ten against Notre Lame and USC.

Next week: Temple. Should be a little tougher competition than we've seen so far; hopefully the team's level of play continues to improve.

Welcome to fall! Let's Go State!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How I Ended Up With a Library

3 weeks ago, I was looking for a Starbucks where I could pull over and use the restroom while the Dude got coffee. I found one and it turned out to be attached to a Barnes and Noble. I told the Dude not to let me stay long, so I only walked out with one hardback (from the bargain books) and a new paperback that I had read a review of.

Tonight, I went to the library's website to reserve a book that wasn't on the shelf the last time I visited. Apparently no library in the county owns the book, so I went to to buy it. It was only $9.00, so in about a minute and a half I found another book on my list and a third book recommended by amazon to give me the $25 total needed for free shipping.

Hey, at least I don't collect Manolo Blahniks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Now is the Season for Action

As you probably know, Obama gave a speech tonight about health care. My feelings are plain.

Everyone in the United States should have access to comprehensive health care coverage, regardless of their income or employment. Period.

Granted, that is a lot easier said than done. How do you define "comprehensive"? How do you pay for health care who can't afford it for themselves? These are tough questions but that does not mean we shouldn't try. It doesn't mean partisan bickering should interfere with a health care bill being passed.

Please take the time to contact your Congressional representatives and tell them this issue is important to you. If they're Democrats, tell them to reach across the aisle if that's what it takes. If they're Republicans, tell them that flat out not negotiating because of a public option is not acceptable. They need to be willing to sit down and work hard to make this happen and if political grandstanding continues that will never happen.

This issue affects every single American. Regardless of how you think we should fix it, you have to know our health care system needs fixing. Let's let Congress know they need to get to work.

Find out how to contact your Representative here.

Find out how to contact your Senator here.

Tell President Obama what you think here.

*title of this post taken from Obama's address

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Slothness

I hope your day is going just as well as this little guy's! Mine is!

...courtesy of Cute Overload!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Now That's a Bargain!

The average wedding in the United States in 2008 cost $20,938. As I have learned first hand, a lot of brides are looking for ways to save. The 99-Cent Only Store may be offering the ultimate bargain. From this article:

"The 99-Cent Only Store is offering nine random couples a chance to marry on the extremely cheap on Sept. 9, 2009 – 9/9/09...The wedding, of course, will be held with items from the 99-Cent Only Store, including 99.99-cent place settings and a 99.99-cent wedding dress made of white T-shirts, table runners and loofahs."

Although I have already bought my dress (and paid quite a bit more than 99 cents for it), I am really curious to see what the dress made of "white T-shirts, table runners and loofahs" looks like. Right now you're probably imagining the awful wedding dresses made out of toilet paper at many wedding showers, but that's because you haven't seen these:

Toilet Paper Dress (source)

Duct Tape Dress (source)

T-shirt Dress (source)

Of course, even if the dress from the 99 cent store isn't as beautiful as these, I'd still be interested in finding out whether it can rival the Waffle House Wedding.

Hubba Hubba Hubby

I have always been a fan of Ben and Jerry's and am admittedly biased toward them since:
1) they took a short course on ice cream making at Penn State
2) they give out free cones to everyone one day a year and
3) I lived above a Ben and Jerry's in college and at $2.99, a pint of ice cream was a cheap and delicious meal.

I am also aware that the company is known for being vocal politically and today they did something I think is awesome. In honor of gay marriage becoming legal in Vermont, they sold pints of "Hubby Hubby." Unfortunately if you don't live in Vermont you probably won't be able to get a hold of it, but you can use a permanent marker to re-label your own Chubby Hubby (the ice cream, not your loved one).

Congratulations Vermont!

Where I learned about this:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer Book Reviews

I have put this off for a while so instead of three books I have FOUR for you! Try to contain your excitement everyone.

My Life in France, Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme
As I mentioned in my last book review, I was trying to read this so I could go see the movie. Not a problem. I started it on a Friday and was done by Saturday night. This book was so engaging and fun; it really felt like Julia was just chatting with me. It was fascinating to learn more about her life and how she went from an American in Paris to the Julia Child we all know. My first introduction to Julia was when I was young and my mom watched her show on PBS. I remember thinking of her as the woman with the funny voice who used lots of butter (not too far off!). I was surprised to learn that Julia was interested in the science of cooking and spent days recreating recipes to ensure that they worked every time and could be replicated by the home cook. The book was a great read for everyone, even if you're not into cooking. I did see the movie a few days later and enjoyed that too. They had clearly done a lot of research and the Julia portion of it was accurate and hilarious. Two drumsticks up!

Book of Lies, Brad Meltzer
I first read Brad Meltzer's books in high school. He was like a younger John Grisham then and I enjoyed it. Now he's trying to be the next Dan Brown and frankly it's not working. The plot did keep me interested but the characters were flat. The addition of a Biblical basis for the plot seemed contrived. I think he was a better writer when he came up with his own story lines. I would recommend his earlier work, such as Dead Even or The Tenth Justice. Still, this is not bad if you're looking for a quick vacation read.

Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, Natalie MacLean
This book was a shower gift from some very special ladies. In it, the author takes you all over the world of wine, from Burgundy in France to Napa Valley to Chile and Australia. She did get a little wordy and technical at times but I learned a lot about how wine was made and it definitely made me want to try a real tasting some time. The last chapter gives recommendations for what types of wine to drink with different foods so that will be a great reference for me.

Sarah's Key, Tatiana De Rosnay
I had read a review about this and then stumbled on it again in the bookstore. It blew me away; I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours and that includes a work day. It's the story of a young Jewish girl in Paris who is rounded up to be sent to the camps. Her brother hides in their secret cupboard and she promises to return and let him out. Sixty years later an American woman living in Paris discovers a connection to the story and sets out to discover what happened. The action goes back and forth between past and present. It's haunting and gripping. The characters and plot are well developed. This book was amazing and I expect all my readers to clamor to borrow it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Remembering Senator Edward Kennedy

Senator Kennedy was a great man who championed causes close to my heart: civil rights, education, and recently health care reform. With his passing the Senate and the United States as a whole loses a great force.

I can't say it better than Paul Krugman

Friday, August 21, 2009

Beware of the White Out!

Fall is approaching fast (not that you can tell based on the weather here in Texas) and that means it's time to get excited about football! In particular for me that means Penn State football. While I definitely consider myself a big fan I admit I am no expert on the game itself so here are my top 10 "Things you need to know about Penn State football even if you don't know much about football."* Catchy right? Letterman's going to hire me any day now. Without further ado here they are!

10. Beaver stadium rocks. Just look at this video...

...and read these quotes from other Big Ten players. Every time the boys in blue walk onto that field they have a huge advantage, which is awesome since we have eight home games this year. Despite that I still think that...

9. Our schedule sucks. Not because it's difficult but because it's too easy. When it comes time to rank teams and we have the same record as someone else do you really think voters will look at wins against Akron and Eastern Illinois and rank us ahead? No they will not. Even if we are lucky enough to go undefeated (which I am in no way expecting...remember Iowa last year?) I can totally see a one loss team being ahead of us. It sucks but that's just one more reason we need a playoff.

8. Our most valuable commodity is quarterback Darryl Clark's head. He's already had three concussions. Last year we had an awesome backup, Pat Devlin, but he wanted to be a starter so he left. That means this year if Clark takes a hit our QB will be true freshman Kevin Newsome. This kid is supposed to be really talented and I'm looking forward to seeing him play but not this year unless we are up by 12 touchdowns against the Little Sisters of the Nearsighted (see item 9).

7. If Clark can stay healthy our offense can rock. Check this lineup (ok it's from last year's team but most of them are still here and I wanted to post this picture).

Left to right: Quarterback Darryl Clark, Tailback Evan Royster, Wide Receiver Deon Butler, Wide Receiver Jordan Norwood, Tailback Stephfon Green

Royster is already on the watch list for lots of awards. I could look up which ones but a) I am lazy and b) this list is supposed to be for people who don't know what all those awards are anyway so stop complaining. Yeah I'm talking to you in the cheap seats.

6. We are Linebacker U. This year we return senior Sean Lee after he was out with an injury last season. He's on track to break some records and if that means breaking the hopes, dreams and possibly a few small bones of opposing QBs on the way I'm fine with that. We also have Navarro Bowman who changed his number to 11 after PSU linebacking great Lavar Arrington. Reportedly (according to my mom who watches the Big Ten Network) his teammates are calling him "Lavarro." I LOVE IT!

5. Weak schedule = too many early games. Noon games were bad enough on the east coast but they're worse here in the Central Time Zone. I like beer for breakfast as much as the next person but it's a lot harder to get pumped when the game is over in time for the early bird special at Luby's. Plus the new neighbors will probably look at us sideways if we start tailgating at 6am in the driveway.

4. Joepa still rocks. I know this is probably the most controversial thing I will write here but he is the man. Look, Penn State is an amazing program with a long history of success and an incredible fan base. But if you don't think that we are getting at least some of our recruits because they have been dreaming of playing for the guy in the coke bottle glasses since they were just a twinkle in their parents' eyes, you're kidding yourself. Last year we had an incredible senior class that had entered the program during one of our worst losing stretches in recent history and they frequently mentioned Joepa. The man is a legend.

Let's go Joe!

3. Win or lose, you can be proud of this team. They're not all perfect but in general acting stupid and getting poor grades gets you off the field and even off the team. Every summer they put together a fundraiser for kidney cancer. They've raised over $400,000 in seven years since they began. Especially right now when so many athletes are poor role models I think this is amazing. If you want to learn more, go here.

2. We have this guy.
I admit that I don't necessarily believe we will win the game if the drum major lands his flip. But he goes out there every game and tries. That's why I love college football and PSU football in particular: every team has their own traditions that get the fans and players excited.

1. This could be our year! Ok, so maybe it doesn't look that way on paper. But that's the beauty of college football. You never know when your team is going to surprise you so you wake up early on Saturday, paint your face, scream yourself hoarse and support your team for every game. So get out there and enjoy it! Let's go State!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

I have actually managed to go a month without posting pictures of Max, so naturally I need to correct that.

Showing off his handsome physique.

This is what happens when he hasn't been brushed in a while.

Hanging out with Molly.

We had these other applicants attempt to join our zoo but we had to inform them that we are currently running at full capacity.

"Are you done yet?" Yes, I am. No more pictures...for now.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Showered with Books

The Woman Behind the New Deal, Kirstin Downey
This book was a gift from my aunt at my bridal shower (yes, I know it seems random, and that's because it is...I love my family!) It's about Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor. Eleanor Roosevelt gets a lot of credit for being a powerful woman but Frances Perkins was unbelievable. She was the first ever female cabinet secretary. She spent her whole life fighting for laborers, advancing the 40 hour workweek, the end of child labor, and the beginning of unemployment insurance and Social Security. You've probably seen bumper stickers that say "The 40 Hour Work Week: Brought to you by Unions". Well they should say brought to you by Frances Perkins! As for the book itself, I really enjoyed it. There were a few chapters in the middle that got dragged down in policy and lost focus on Frances in particular but overall it was a great look at an incredible woman. Thanks Aunt Ellen!

Room With A View, E. M. Forster
As much as I have read, I often see lists of the classics and realize how much I haven't read. I sometimes take issue with "must-read" lists of "classic" books just because not everybody is going to like them all. Still, I try to give them a chance. I enjoyed Room With A View but it's not a book I'm going to read twice. Ah well, check it off the list! I am definitely going to check out the Merchant Ivory film made about it with a star studded cast.

The Coffee Trader, David Liss
This was another shower gift (thanks Nujoud). It's the story of a Jewish merchant in 17th century Amsterdam who is looking to regain his fortune through an investment in a new commodity: coffee. But the theme of the book is really about people and how we can lose sight of the forest for the trees. I really enjoyed this because as the plot progressed its complexity grew, but it only served to illuminate the characters even more. In the last hundred pages I was completely engrossed. Aside from the characters, the historical perspective was fascinating. British banking looked to the Dutch at that time as examples. They had the first modern stock exchange with futures changing hands and bubbles that left people poor as quickly as it had made them rich. Sound familiar? This is definitely worth a read for all of you because it has something of everything: history, economy, mystery, lust, and greed. I'm adding the rest of David Liss' books to my list to read. High praise!

Next up: Julia Child's memoir My Life in France, so that I can go to the movies to see "Julie and Julia"!

Monday, August 3, 2009

How much do you cook?

Today I read a really interesting article in the New York Times. Go read it, then come back.

Ok, back now? Thanks!

For those of you who cheated and didn't read it, the article is about how cooking has changed in the last 50 years. We spend less time preparing food in total, and much of what we call "cooking" now is really assembling prepared ingredients. Despite that though, reality shows about cooking are doing well and the Food Network is highly successful.

I enjoy cooking and I think I am a decent cook. However, I am not someone who comes home from a long day at work and thinks "Boy am I stressed. I am going to cook a big meal to make myself relax!" The Dude and I do make most of our own meals, but during the week we use plenty of frozen vegetables, 90 second rice, prepared pasta, and bottled salad dressing. I do like cooking from scratch and finding new recipes but it's more of a hobby than a daily routine. Part of why The Dude and I try not to eat out too much is because we definitely eat much healthier at home...even an unhealthy home meal is usually better than what we'll get at a restaurant. I definitely agree with the article that eating more prepared foods contributes to obesity.

I'm curious to hear what other people's habits are like. How much do you cook? Is it still "cooking" if you don't make everything from scratch?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Starting the Day Off Right

One of the highlights of wedding planning: cake for breakfast!

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Future of Human Spaceflight

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to go to a public meeting of the Review of US Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, often referred to as the Augustine commission. They were here in Houston for presentations from various NASA officials as well as for public comment. If you're not familiar with the committee and their purpose, check out their website.

I took a ton of notes but for those of you who aren't space dorks, I'll summarize my personal impressions in the next section and I won't be offended if you choose not to read further, or if you only read certain parts; I'll try to organize it so you can pick and choose easily. I did my best to distinguish between my opinions and facts but no matter what, my impressions are biased, so do your own research as well!

My personal thoughts on the day
My overall impression is that this is one smart group of people. Hearing them have open and spontaneous discussion, I was impressed by the questions they asked and the way they interacted with each other. The panel is very diverse, with former astronauts, scientists, military personnel, a commercial spaceflight representative, and more. Although it was certainly clear that each member is influenced by their own background, it was equally obvious that they all want the best for this nation's future in space. They have a daunting task ahead as they have been asked to assess a lot of options in only 90 days, and whatever they propose is supposed to be within the current budget, which is almost impossible. It's important to note that they have been asked to present options, not recommendations, although by presenting only some options and not others they certainly have the opportunity to exert great influence.

A couple of the themes that came up focused on the tension between political and technical needs. Everyone agreed that once the US picks a course, we need to stick to it, because one of the easiest ways to waste money and lose focus is to hop from one project to another. In addition, a number of people brought up the need to invest more initially in order to save money overall. These have both been serious problems in the past and as long as NASA is funded on a year to year basis I'm not sure they will ever go away. Neither of those two observations were new to me but the next two were. First, there seemed to be a broad consensus that NASA should get out of the business of taking cargo (and possibly people) to low earth orbit (LEO). This should be done by Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) vehicles, such as those currently in development by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. In addition, there appeared to be strong support for working with International Partners (IPs). Hopefully that gets most of the acronyms out of the way for you non-space people but if I use some you don't recognize just shoot me an email!

It was great to see the variety of people who came to the hearing. There were college students, retired NASA engineers, current NASA employees, astronauts, and contractor executives, pretty much spanning the community.

This group genuinely wants to hear from you, and with only a short time at each meeting for public comment they are hoping people will send inputs through their website. Here's the link; use it!

Mike Coats, Johnson Space Center Director
After the opening comments from chairman Norm Augustine, Mike Coats came up to present some charts and answer questions. A lot of what he talked about was definitely an effort to show how important JSC is and will be for NASA. Coats said the two greatest threats to US human spaceflight are 1) the gap between Shuttle retirement and Orion flight, and 2) being stuck in LEO. He noted that in the past we have worked with IPs but have been reluctant to put them in the critical path, and thinks that may need to change.

Coats talked about a heavy lift vehicle to go beyond LEO and I thought it was interesting that he spoke about Orion but didn't mention Ares. I could be reading too much into that though since most Ares work is in Huntsville, not Houston. Coats supports Mars as our goal, with both the moon and ISS as training vehicles. He also spoke about spaceflight as a motivator for education to get more US students into math, science and engineering.

One interesting statistic he noted relates to choosing crew for long duration missions. A full 30% of the otherwise qualified candidates for the last astronaut class were not medically qualified for long duration missions.

Coats addressed a side effect of the spaceflight gap, which is losing technical knowledge. He noted the efforts JSC is making to avoid losing critical knowledge.

He said that the biggest difference between industry and government is competition and said that NASA needs to act with more urgency, as though it is in competition. NASA is competing for government resources and competing with other nations' space programs.

Next the panel asked him a number of questions. Former General Les Lyles asked about why he hadn't reached out more to other government agencies involved in space, such as DoD, the Air Force, the National Security Space (NSS) team, and the Pentagon. Coats noted that this is something he needs to do. He was also asked about the "paper NASA vs. real NASA", in that the agency has grand plans and gorgeous pictures on charts but often fails to live up to them. Coats gave a really honest answer. He said you can't fit a 50 lb weight in a 5 lb sack, and that right now the government is asking the impossible with the funding NASA has been given. He talked about minimizing lifecycle costs by increasing up front investment and finally said "I don't have a good answer." To me personally that was a better answer than glossing over problems. However, I didn't like that he was pretty much giving up on getting that large up front investment. I think that he and other influential NASA personnel need to push as hard as they can for the resources they need.

Input from Local Government Officials
This next part of the day was the least exciting. There were letters read and video messages shown from local Senators and Congresspeople. Most of these were pretty boring and run of the mill, with the officials praising NASA and pushing for more money for their constituencies. Sadly one of the Congressmen who is actually on the committee that allocates funding for NASA twice called ISS Skylab! UGH!

Steve Lindsey, Astronaut Office
The next pitch was one of a few from the panel's STS/ISS subcommittee. Steve Lindsey is the head of the Astronaut Office at JSC. He stated again that LEO is a dead end and said that the next architecture should have the capability to take us to multiple destinations.

The panel noted that NASA's culture is often criticized as being risk averse, yet his charts emphasized that the next crew vehicle should be an order of magnitude safer than this one. They asked how he would balance that. He responded with one of my favorite statistics of the day. The chances of dying when you launch on a space shuttle are 1:64; in climbing Everest, 1:62; for a soldier on D-Day it was 1:62. He said that as an agency NASA is not risk averse because every time we launch a shuttle we roll the dice with the future of the agency. While that is entirely true, I disagree with him that NASA's culture isn't risk averse. In my experience risk is viewed as inherently bad and is avoided instead of evaluated. Lindsey and the panel went back and forth on this for a while and there was definitely some disagreement. Once they moved on from that discussion they talked a bit about COTS vehicles which Lindsey supports. He also talked about how much the shuttle program has changed from what it was initially designed for an emphasized again that the new vehicle and architecture need to be flexible to accommodate changing goals in the next thirty years.

There was widespread disagreement on using ISS, the moon, or both as training for Mars so I'll try to note what each person said about it. Lindsey supports using both the moon and ISS. He said that in his personal opinion we don't understand the moon as well as we think we do, and it would be worthwhile to learn more about it.

Jeff Hanley, Constellation Projects Director and Mark Geyer, JSC Project Manager
The next pitch was about progress on Constellation, particularly Orion. Most of it was just a status on where the program is so I'm not going to repeat it all here. Geyer did note that currently the long pole in the direct path for Orion is qualification, not hardware, which was surprising to me. Most of the interesting information came in the questions and discussion with the panel.

The panel asked about the 6 vs 4 person crew. The original plan was a 6 person crew but ISS and the moon only need 4 people. The panel asked what impact reducing the overall requirement to 4 would have. Geyer noted that at this point in the process it's too late for that to make a large difference, and that it would create packaging and scheduling issues. He said that lifecycle costs are generally not strongly affected by crew/vehicle size so it wouldn't help there.

Dr. Sally Ride, chair of Shuttle/ISS Subcommittee
It's going to be harder for me to be objective in this section because I was so impressed with Sally Ride. She really dealt in reality and said a lot of things I agreed with, although I didn't agree with everything. Her subcommittee is focusing on three primary questions: 1) How long, realistically, is the current gap? Can it be shortened? 2) What is the best flyout scenario for shuttle? 3) Can ISS be extended past 2016, and if so, how?

Dr. Ride noted that the committee's mandate is to come up with at least two options within the current budget, which is not an easy task. She said that her subcommittee is working firmly in reality and jokingly called them the "Doom and Gloom" group.

First, she talked about a reasonable Shuttle flyout scenario. I'm sure everyone reading this who works on the shuttle and ISS programs will agree with her that completing the current missions on the current schedule is just not going to happen. Since Columbia, there has been an average of 115 days between shuttle flights (which does include the full year gap between STS-114 and STS-121), but the current schedule shows an average of only 62 days between flights. Her group assumes 90 days is a more realistic number which puts shuttle's final flight in March of 2011.

Her group also predicts approximately a 2 year slip in the Constellation schedule, due to budget cuts, technical issues, and all of their research. This, combined with the predicted shuttle schedule, puts the gap at more than six years, which would be the longest for the US since we started putting people into space. They assumed that ISS will be extended until 2020. All this together would put us $15.3 billion over budget ($1.3 billion shuttle, $4.7 Constellation, $9.3 billion ISS). She said "[that $15.3 billion] is why we're here." She thinks it's unlikely that the gap can be reduced from the right (ie by moving Constellation up).

Her group discussed three shuttle flyout scenarios:
1) Current missions as planned, finishing around March 2011 (leads to $1.5 billion over budget)
2) Current missions as planned plus one more mission in 2012, because there is one extra external tank.
3) Extend shuttle for 1-2 flights per year through 2014. This would require restarting external tank production and re-certifying shuttle. Her subcommittee does not recommend this option.

As far as extending ISS life, the subcommittee strongly recommended supporting ISS through 2020, for a variety of reasons including science, politics, and international partner commitments. Lester Lyles talked about international cooperation. He has spoken with lots of countries, including some which are not current ISS IPs. He said that everyone he spoke to wants to be involved in future work, and also that they want to see ISS continue post 2015. They see it as proof of the value of international cooperation and as a valuable resource for climate research and other science. He said other countries are looking to President Obama to make a statement expressing support for international cooperation in space.

Overall Panel Discussion
Norm Augustine opened the panel discussion by making three controversial statements (his words) which the group talked over for quite a while. Here they are:
1) There have been a lot of great arguments for international partnerships. However, we currently have IPs in the critical path and everyone is complaining about it (by which he means reliance on Soyuz to transport crew to and from ISS during the gap).
2) Would taxpayers have been as happy to pay for the Apollo program if Neil and Buzz had put a UN flag on the moon?
3) Much of the scientific community has indicated that ISS really isn't a great lab for science. If it's not a lab, what is it a test bed for? Not Mars, because the moon is supposed to be a test bed for Mars.

The rest of this is just notes on an open ended discussion so apologies if it's not too well organized!

Sally responded to statement 2 by saying that in 1969 people probably wouldn't have been as supportive of a UN flag, but times have changed and now they would be. There was talk about how the US can influence other countries and someone (I wish I knew who!) said that leadership is making people want to do what you want them to do.

The panel talked about whether ISS retirement is even their decision (or the US' decision) to make, given the level of commitment by the IPs, and by us to them. They debated whether they should make ISS extension until 2020 a part of all scenarios. Dr. Chris Chyba outlined five reasons to keep ISS. Two political (the absurdity of de-orbiting a $60 billion investment after only 5 years; commitments to IPs); one that is both political and technical (encouraging private sector development of COTS vehicles); and two technical (the potential for important science, and ISS use as a testbed for Mars). He emphasized that the two technical reasons may not be credible and that the committee should not oversell them.

Someone questioned whether extending the shuttle would undermine COTS. Sally Ride referenced a graphic showing our huge (I mean HUGE) loss in upmass and downmass capability with shuttle retirement and showed that even if shuttle is extended we are still short of mass capability and need the COTS vehicles. Right now mass issues restrict us to about 50-70% of rack capacity on ISS.

Sally had said a number of times that she thinks working in reality assumes everything costs more and takes long. Jeff Greason (co-founder of XCOR aerospace, who had asked a lot of COTS questions) said he didn't like that assumption. He said that by turning on multiple competing crew providers we have a chance of one of them being on schedule and on budget and not to just give up now.

The session closed with public comments which were quite varied so I'm not even going to try to summarize them here.

Whew! That was a lot of writing! I hope this is helpful and interesting for people. Please feel free to pass this along or ask me questions about what I've said. Get involved! Contact the committee! NASA belongs to you; own it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Think I'll Take A Little Nap

Confession: I love naps. Is there anything more relaxing and decadent than saying "The sun is high in the sky and people are bustling about, but I'm a bit yawny so I'm just going to snuggle down and close my eyes"? Despite my feelings for naps it's pretty rare that I actually take one, which is why I was so surprised to read the statistics in this article.

Do you like naps or do they make it hard for you to sleep that night? There's definitely a fine line between a refreshing nap and a sleep disrupting one.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Love My Job

I haven't been around much because I'm my group's lead for this shuttle mission. It's easy to get worn down. But today I sat down the hall from the room where Mission Control was during the moon landing, talking to other engineers about how many inch-pounds of input it meant when an astronaut said he really "honked down" on something. Can't beat that.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Showered with Books

The Miracles of Prato, Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz
I picked this book up off the new arrivals shelf at the library and wasn’t sure what to expect. I have enjoyed quite a few books about Italian Renaissance art and if I ever go to Italy I’ll have trouble remembering what about the artists is fact and what I have read in fiction. That’s fine with me though! This novel focuses on Fra Filippo, a monk/artist in the Italian town of Prato, and Lucrezia Buto, a merchant’s daughter who is sent to the convent in Prato after her father’s death. Fra Filippo meets Lucrezia and uses her as a model for the Madonna in one of his paintings. Lucrezia is caught between her desire to be a good person and longings for the secular life. Both she and Fra Filippo are manipulated by many people who are motivated by greed, lust, and fear as much as they are by a desire to be close to God. I enjoyed the novel as a quick read but if you are specifically looking for something about this time period I’d recommend The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease, or The Lady and The Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. And if you do read The Lady and The Unicorn then you'll definitely have to read her other book The Virgin Blue because it is fabulous.

Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
I had seen this novel recommended on multiple blogs so I was thrilled when I actually found it on the shelf at the library and didn’t even have to wait for it to come in. When I see something recommended so many times I go in with high expectations and this met them. Brooklyn is the story of a young Irish girl named Eilis who comes to America to get work and finds herself torn between her old life and her new life. Although the novel has plenty of plot to keep it moving, the real page turning force is Eilis’ personality and her struggles to define herself in America and reconcile that with the life she had expected to have in Ireland. In addition, there are great period details about the social divides between Italian and Irish immigrants. I read the whole book in one day and my only disappointment was that it had to end.

The reason I got so much reading done this weekend was because I had time on the plane to and from Philadelphia. My wonderful friends and family threw me a bridal shower at my mom’s house, and I’ll be posting more about that later. The bridal party suggested that people give me books to go with their gifts and I was thrilled with an abundance of cookbooks, nonfiction, and novels. At the request of some of my cousins here’s a list of the non-cookbooks I got. I can’t wait to dig in!

My Life in France, Julia Child
Red, White, and Drunk All Over, Natalie MacLean
The Woman Behind the New Deal, Kirsten Downey
History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage
Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, Karen Rauch Carter
The Coffee Trader, David Liss

On the 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.

Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United States, for we have given this program a high national priority--even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us. But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold.

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."
Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

(excerpted from President John F. Kennedy’s speech on September 12, 1962)