Friday, August 31, 2007

One Thing Meme

Beth made her own meme! Because she made it herself, she is kickass and I'm going to participate. Also, she didn't tag anyone and like her, I'm just going to invite you to do it on your own blog or leave any of your answers in the comment section. Okay, here goes...

1. If you could recommend only one book for others to read, what would it be and why?
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Something about this book just really resonated with me. It was completely original. It was the perfect blend of being exceptionally written with an addictive plot. I'm not into science fiction really but the way the author played with the concept of time and perspective amazed me.

2. What is your one favorite song? Why?
This is tough because I like so many genres that I can hardly say one rock song is better than one classical song or whatever. Right this moment, my favorite song is Heart of Life off of John Mayer's Continuum. It is simple and melodic and beautiful and says what it needs to just perfectly.

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No, it won't all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good.

3. What is the one thing that is the biggest time saver in your life?
Brushing my teeth and peeing at the same time. That's all I could come up with.

4. What is one gadget you couldn't live without and why?
I've only had it for two months, but I already couldn't imagine life without my iPod!

5. If you could recommend one film for others to see, what would it be and why?
An Inconvenient Truth. It should be required viewing for everybody. If everyone saw it, maybe people would finally get serious about making sacrifices to save the planet.

6. What is the one cure or preventative measure you believe in and for what ailment?
Curing the hiccups: fill a glass of water, bend over and drink out of the glass from the side furthest from you, tipping the glass away from you to let the water flow over roof of your mouth before swallowing. I don't know why it works, but it works. Every. Single. Time.

7. What is the best advice you've ever received and from whom?
From my mom: don't engage in any sort of relationship with toxic people. This minimizes drama and stress and lets you focus on what is really important. It seems so simple, yet time and again I see other people making this mistake.

8. If you could introduce the entire world to just one band/musical artist, who would it be and why?
The Bad Plus. I see them live every year when I go home for Christmas. They are all Minnesota/Wisconsin boys and play shows locally when they go home to visit their families for the holidays. They are really well known in the jazz community, but I truly think people who aren't jazz fans would find their musics infectious.

9. If you could convince others you meet or know of one thing, what would it be?
Question everything. Be a skeptic. Now more than ever this country is rampant with liars and selfish people claiming to be sticking up for your interests. Before you believe anything anybody says, do your own independent research.

10. What do you believe is one of the greatest ways of wasting money and how do you combat it?
Without a doubt paying interest is the biggest waste of money ever. It is unavoidable and I am still paying off credit cards from when I was young and stupid even though I haven't actually charged anything to them in close to two years. But the best way to minimize paying interest is to simply live within your means. Don't buy a car or home without actually saving up a sizable down payment. Avoid financing appliances, furniture and electronics unless absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I am back in a life I am a little more used to. For fifteen weeks I thought everyday of sleeping next to my husband, snuggling my kitties, going to work with people who felt more like siblings than coworkers. And yet, now that I have these things once again I still feel unsettled. It could just be my tentative nature. But as much as I recognize how wonderful it is to be home, I still feel like something is not quite right. There’s a little knot in my tummy and my sleeping has not been sound. The sleeping thing is exacerbated by the fact that I actually got used to sleeping alone. Suddenly sharing a bed with another person AND three not-so-small cats isn’t a natural feeling. Add to it that one of the cats likes to bite in the middle of the night and that quiet bed in my dad’s basement doesn’t seem so bad.

Oddly enough, part of my brewing anxiety comes from still not having seen all of my dumpster kitties. Their schedule was pretty upended the last days I was gone with one of my friends catching a couple litters of kittens that had popped up just recently. As a result, I think they are keeping scarce and their feeding schedule has been thrown off by all the trapping. I'll be happier when the dinner attendance is a little more consistent.

My last week at my internship was good. I presented my main results to the group and it was a success. I met with my manager the last day. He complimented me and seemed to understand everything that I couldn’t say. After three months of feeling like no one was communicating with me, he said he thought I did a great job. He said he didn’t know what the group would be like when I was ready to graduate, or even if I was would be interested, but that he would be more than happy to write me an excellent recommendation letter to any other research group in the company if I wanted. This seems like the perfect solution and all indications I received throughout the summer were that my manager was a guy who would be listened to.

Yesterday I got back into the lab and it felt good to be out of the cubes and into an open space. Unfortunately all my pens and post-it notes are missing but like I said, we’re basically a family. What’s mine is yours, whether I like it or not. Now I have to get my paperwork in order, re-establish contact with collaborators (and friends), and try to figure out exactly what I was doing before I left.

I just wanted to check in and let you all know I arrived safely and am back in the lab. More later when I find my groove.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


My college roommate, Amanda, found this gem of a picture the other day and sent it out asking, "I have no idea where this is from. Any ideas?"

It's hard to tell exactly because the four of us in the photo have been friends for close to ten years. They are my girls. We don't talk every day or every week but when we get together it is as if no time had passed. Maybe it's because we know what's important and what's not. We are a support network who have been there through bad boyfriends and worse break ups. Through losing loved ones and at times our own minds. We come from different backgrounds and went into different careers, but after all these years we still know how to have a good time.

Even if a good time is a little more painful than it used to be.

The general consensus was that the first picture was taken about five years ago. We were experimenting with the auto-picture feature which explains the funny alignment. The "shot" sequence was taken last month during Girls Night, Summer 2007. For the record, I woke up drunk the following morning. Ouch.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reunion Weekend

My last weekend in Minneapolis was pretty fun. I spent the whole time with my mom and step dad. Saturday morning I tagged along while they ran errands. I helped them pick out a new stove while I drooled over all the kitchen appliances I still have to wait for until we move on up outta the ghetto. We had tickets to the Twins game so we tried to get a late lunch/early dinner at Gluek’s (sounds like “Glick’s”) because I haven’t eaten there since we moved. They were closed until later that evening for a private party. I was sorely disappointed and since it was raining and a little chilly we just crossed to street and ate at NBA City inside the Target Center. My parents are Timberwolves season ticket holders and they said NBA City was pretty good. But they will be the first to admit that their palettes are aligned more with pub food than fine dining. I was shocked. It was really very good. I had the pot roast, one of their signature dishes and I was very pleased. The service was phenomenal (it helped that we were one of maybe a half dozen occupied tables) and the waiter obviously knew much more about food than sports. When I called Dean that night for my nightly “check in” I had totally forgotten that he had eaten at the NBA City in Orlando several weeks back and had the same impression. He said he had thoroughly enjoyed the bleu cheese pasta- another of their specialties.

After dinner we went to the Twins game. This year is the 20th anniversary of the 1987 World Series win and they chose this weekend for the reunion weekend. Other than the actual game (which they lost- offense was deplorable as usual) it was very fun. They handed out 20th Anniversary Homer Hankies to all the fans to wave during the reunion parade. They got the 1987 team together, save for a few guys, and had a parade inside the Metrodome. Pickup trucks drove around carrying a couple guys in each and they threw balls into the stands while having their personal feats announced by Dick Bremer. They also played highlight reels of the post season games and celebration. Of course there wasn’t a dry eye in the house during the Kirby Puckett tribute and while the pickup truck meant for him drove by carrying his two kids instead. All in all it was so much fun going back to that time. 1987 wasn’t nearly their best season, but those scrappy guys made it to the playoffs and fought tooth and nail for each win. What I remember most about that season (I actually remember 1991 much better, I was 12 years old, versus a mere 8 years old in 1987) was the Homer Hanky. I wore that thing everyday and in every way. Tied in my ponytail, around my neck, around my head or through a belt loop. So waving mine at the pot-bellied, gray-haired Twins that brought us those thrilling moments 20 years ago was a joy.

Yesterday was rainy again so we just went to the Mall of America and did some shopping. Seems everyone had the same idea as it was packed more similar to the holiday season than the dog days of summer. But it was still a fun time. I got a shirt, some funky new tennis shoes and these from Williams-Sonoma. So excited to try them when I get back.

Speaking of getting back, only 5 days left. I'm so wound up I can hardly stand it! Usually I have such mixed feelings about leaving Minneapolis. I always feel like I don’t have enough time. This time, I think three and half months was long enough.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Finishing Up

Well, it's really almost over. A week from tomorrow is my last day here, and I'll actually be sad to go. It seems like with temporary situations they end just as you are growing comfortable. My first few weeks here were filled with such anxiety, such upheaval that I never thought I'd get through it. The culture was so different but now I'm a part of it. And yes, to answer your question (and my manager's) I will be submitting my application for employment when the time comes. It remains to be seen whether I will be hired, to which department or even if I would accept. But I would be an idiot not to at least apply.

For three months I felt like I didn't really fit in and that I was in way over my head. Then last week, my manager's manager (a very important lady) asked if I was planning to apply after I graduate. My mentor (who I have a difficult time getting a read on) went a step further and asked if I was going to apply to our group. I was surprised at this development. But I will likely take the diplomatic approach of applying through HR to see what's available.

Yesterday, we had our quarterly departmental meeting where I got an award for teamwork. My manager read a short speech how I started out knowing nothing about disk drives and am now regularly contributing to the group's progress. I got a fake Oscar with Teamwork on it, but more importantly I will be receiving a monetary award in my next paycheck. I was very touched and again surprised. Yay me.

It is possible that I have misread the attitude towards me and my work. One thing (and maybe the most important thing) I have learned this summer is not to measure a private company with an academic yardstick. No, they are not there to coddle me or make sure I have the best experiences possible. This is a business and I was hired to do a specific job. I did that job to the best of my ability and it seems like it was good enough to gain a little recognition. Not all my bosses are going to be like my advisor, Dr. Hari. In fact none of them probably will be. The sooner I learn that the better.

Today was Intern Day, and I had to present my main results from this summer in front of the other interns and all the managers. I was pretty nervous about it, and the subject matter was still new enough so that I felt a little uneasy teaching it to others. Even though it wasn't my best presentation, I think I still have many of the more socially challenged physicists beat. For "graduating" from the intern program, I was then given a 6GB pocket hard drive. I'm cleaning up this week.

The best part though was that my manager and mentor were invited to all the Intern Day activities including free lunch and cake. Yesterday when I handed the agenda to my mentor, he read it out loud.

"8:30 to 8:45- mingle. Mingle? I don't think so." Typical physicist.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Brief History of Me

From the suggestion bin:

A little insight into how your opinions were formed, who were the people who influenced you most in your life and some of your hopes and dreams for your future

Where to start with this one?! I couldn’t decide exactly which angle I want to attack this from, so I might just try a couple. By “opinions” one could mean political opinions, opinions on particular events or people, or even more broadly one’s worldview and how it was formed. I’ll throw in a little of everything.

I was raised by a number of strong-willed and vibrant people, and I feel blessed to this day to have so many role models in my life. I was an only child (until Emma entered the picture) and while my mom put off working in my first few years, she started work when I started kindergarten. With both parents working, my summers were spent with my grandmothers. I am still so thankful to have been able to experience these strong women in their prime. Both my dad’s mom and my mom’s grandma (my great grandma!) are still alive though neither is in the best of health. My mom’s parents are alive as well, but both worked up until only recently. So I spent a lot of time in the summers switching off between spending time with Great Grandma Irene (my mom’s grandma) and Grandma Celia (my dad’s mom). My mom and dad (and now by extension step parents) helped me shape my personal ideology the most, I really do consider my upbringing as being a collective effort on the part of many thoughtful, wonderful people. While at the time this seemed like an ad hoc alternative to daycare, it turned out to be a lifestyle that I absolutely want for my own children. These experiences I think really brought the balance into my life that allowed me to become a well-rounded individual.

Grandma Irene definitely reinforced my early interest in reading. She read like a fiend before she lost her vision. She is also incredibly curious, loves learning new things. Her curiosity, however, has a macabre side- she had me hooked on Stephen King in middle school and watching horror movies. Beyond that, she has a deep pride in her own roots. She has always been fiercely patriotic, yet enamored with her Irish and German ancestry. It is because of her that I identify not only as an American, but also as my own melting pot- a microcosm of America who mustn’t forget all the places from which I am descended as well.

My Grandma Celia is a free spirit to the highest degree. Her love of animals definitely rubbed off on me and I hope some of her pure golden heart did as well. She was a firm believer in letting kids pave their own way and nurturing their imagination. But while she always let me let me run wild (both figuratively and literally), she also played an active part in my games and silliness. She was a visionary in animal welfare- she always had stray dogs and cats living with her. She made her own dog food (which still seemed eccentric until the recent scare surrounding commercial pet food) and would sterilize any cat that crossed her path, sometimes to the dismay of the neighbors. She still has a few feral cats living in her home – the result of a “rescue mission” about a decade ago. For a long time I have meant to discuss both of these amazing women and not just when they were my grandmothers, but as women growing up and making their way in the world. They both have fascinating life stories that need more dedication than I can give in one post.

As for my parents, they instilled in me all of the moral fiber I possess. My sense of right and wrong, fairness, and the importance of equality. My mom and step dad work together in a county hospital pharmacy and they deal with the outcome and fallout of government. They see people whom government has failed. People who take advantage of the help given them. People who are trying to pull themselves up from the darkest imaginable situations and people who cannot control their own spiraling self-destruction. But mostly they see people who are trying to live the American dream, a dream that often simply consists of a modest, steady paycheck. While I am quite a ways away from those meager aspirations, my mom and step dad have always taught me to be thankful for what I have. That no matter what I’m griping about, there are people much worse off than I am, and they live in my own back yard. My mom has taught me the value of humility. Not only that, she taught me to tip well, make friends with the janitors and make new people feel welcome. Life isn’t easy for anyone, but it is easy to make someone’s day a little bit better. Oh yeah, and she taught me all about baseball at the ripe age of eight years old. (That was 1987, for those of you counting- a fortunate year to start following the Twins.)

My dad has always been the one to encourage me to explore. Both intellectually, and in life. He is responsible for getting me into playing the piano as a young child, but as an ex-professional musician he also steered me away from it as a career. He recognized that science could satiate my curiosity of the natural world. He eagerly encouraged me to experience the world beyond my small little corner. And even though my political opinions mostly align with my dad’s, it is not because he taught me to be liberal, he taught me to be an independent thinker. The political leanings came after years of reading and soul searching. Knowing how to teach oneself is a valuable tool.

So there you have it. The four people that influenced me the most growing up. Of course there were others, my mom’s parents, not to mention aunts and uncles, and family friends. Maybe some day I’ll talk about them as well (the family friends were an especially interesting group) but this has been long enough. As far as future hopes and dreams, I will just say this: I hope my own kids can enjoy their family as much as I have enjoyed mine. I hope they can spend many many years getting to know their grand parents and where they come from. I’m excited for my future, but I wouldn’t say I have any dreams. The way my life has turned out is so much better than the dreams I ever I had as a kid. I can only hope that the future keeps revealing new and different things that I haven’t even thought of yet.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bittersweet Weekend

I still have one more topic to write about from my suggestion bin. It’s really a good one and I can’t wait to get to it. For today though, I thought I’d fill you in on my weekend with Dean.
The emotional issues aren’t quite as extreme as they have been in the past. Either (a) we are getting used to this arrangement or (b) I am so excited at the prospect of going back to Florida in just three weeks that I’m determined not to let anything bother me. I prefer to think it’s the latter.

Dean flew in late Thursday night. And since I’m a peon with no vacation time, I had to work Friday so his parents got him all to themselves. After work though, we met up at the Mall of America to take the light rail to the Twins game. We usually do this because his parents’ house is close to the mall and we’d prefer to park there rather than downtown and deal with parking and traffic. In light of recent events, that was probably the smartest thing to do, and it seems every other Minneapolitan going to the game agreed because the light rail was packed.

The game was unremarkable. For somebody who as of late enjoys running his mouth to the media, Santana has not looked like a reigning Cy Young award winner. Both Matt Garza and Scott Baker have out-shined him in their most recent starts. Granted, as usual our offense didn’t give him much run support. But if you are going to blast the Twins organization in the paper, at least keep the ball in the ballpark for one start. We did have amazing seats however. Thirty-one rows back directly behind home plate. We could have been in Hammond Stadium rather than the Metrodome. We only snacked at the game and afterwards we walked over to Seven Corners, one of our old haunts from our days at the U of MN.

To get there from the Dome, you walk up Washington Avenue, across the 35W overpass. Even south of Washington Avenue, 35W was closed off. We were thoroughly creeped out at the sight of an empty 35W, the only freeway running North-South through Minneapolis. We couldn’t see the bridge from the overpass, but we were very close to where it used to begin. The overpass also approached the back side of the Metrodome Holiday Inn, where the media and the victims’ families have been staying. The back lot was full of vans- CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, etc. That was a strange sight as well. Our initial thought was to walk up to the 10th Ave Bridge, the bridge directly to the east (and the other one in all the pictures). We were surprised to see that it was closed because it would have definitely been the most logical 35W detour. We were unaware of the extent to which city officials were going to keep onlookers away from the site. Instead, we stood in the parking lot of the Seven Corners apartment building and were able to see just a little bit. We saw the doubled over south side of the bridge and all the twisted metal. We were able to infer how the road was plunged into the river, but we couldn’t see any further than about half way down. The deformed metal blocked the view to the north side of the road, but we could see the very top where some of the cars were still stranded. It was an eerie sight indeed and brought tears to my eyes.

I was sad of course because of the magnitude of this tragedy that our city is facing. I was sad that all the news people are here and making a circus of the situation, and making our city into a poster child for poor infrastructure. But selfishly, more than this I was sad because Dean and I were standing so close to where some of the best times of our lives took place. We hadn’t been back to the East Bank of the U since we moved to Florida. It’s not that far, we just never had time or reason to. We regularly walked across the 10th Ave Bridge, which was now closed off with police cars. Our old home was just on the other side, but out of reach. When we packed up and moved away (and yes drove across the bridge) five years ago, we never ever expected that the next time we looked out across the Mississippi we would see a disaster. In fact, on my list of things to do while here, I had planned on going to the old neighborhood, perhaps taking a nostalgic trip past my two old apartments and eating at the fantastic restaurants in Dinkytown. Probably not likely at this point.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful, just enjoying each other and family time. I missed Dean but thought it was important for him to spend time with his brother before he goes away to college in just a few weeks. I am proud to report there were no tears at the airport, just a promise to see him in three weeks and not leave his side for a very long time.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'm Okay

Hey All-

Just wanted to post a quick not to let you know my family, friends and I are all safe. Yesterday's catastrophe came as a huge shock. As you probably have learned the 35W bridge over the Mississippi is a major artery and things will be disrupted here for quite some time. To give you some perspective, the exit off of 35W just over the bridge heading north was only a few blocks from where I lived as a student at the U of MN. My family and I used to traverse it regularly to see one another. The Twins play just to the south and my mom and step dad work close by at Hennepin County Medical Center, the level one trauma center where the injured were taken. They were pretty much on call all night but not needed. My mom, step dad, his family and I were out to dinner when we first heard the news and we couldn't get a good picture of what was happening. There were conflicting reports from restaurant patrons and nobody's cell phones were working. It took us awhile to finish our dinner and make it home. Seeing the demolished bridge just a few miles from our home being flashed on CNN rendered us all speechless.

Dean is flying in to Minneapolis tonight (we planned this several weeks ago) so I will be away until after the weekend. Again, thanks to all of you who checked in with me, I truly have a national network of people who care. I am one lucky girl.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

In the Beginning

e.b. suggested that I write a post about my first date with Deano. While our first date was memorable, in my opinion it is worth it to preface the date with just how we got there…

Dean and I met in August of 1998 when we were both sophomores at the University of Minnesota. I had just moved in to my first apartment in Dinkytown with three other girls. I had met up with Amanda in freshman composition class and we are still very close almost ten years later. She needed a roommate and we seemed to really hit it off. As for the other two we picked up along they, that’s a different post entirely. Similarly, Dean had just moved into a large house with eight other guys. My roommates already knew Dean from the dorms, where they all shared the same circle of friends (in fact Amanda was dating one of the guys in the house). As a group, us girls would often go to the house and hang out with the guys. You could count on it to get rowdy and out of control and still some of my favorite memories are of those times. In general, I look back so fondly on my college days (much more so than high school), but unfortunately I don’t have time to address everything today. For some reason, I always gravitated towards Dean at those get togethers; he was always so sweet and funny. He never brought any girls over, and despite my sporadic and failed relationships, I rarely mixed the guys I saw with the boys I liked to just hang out with. Maybe because I felt more comfortable with those guys than any of the guys that would try to be my boyfriends. And the few times I did, I received unbearable flack from my “protectors”. So on the evenings when we would all just hang out, towards the end of the night when people would pair off, Dean and I would sit and flirt and drink and talk about baseball and music and life.

This casual friendship continued for well over a year. Things changed in December of 1999. I clearly remember having all the guys over to our apartment for the Vikings-Packers game and getting a phone call from the guy I was sort of dating at the time. I was sitting in my room talking to him on the phone with my door open so I wouldn’t miss any of the game or any of the social action. (In retrospect, it was pretty obvious I wasn’t into this guy.) But as the phone call continued I was paying more attention to Dean and Amanda, who were deep in conversation. I was feeling a little indignant because Dean usually had these introspective conversations with me. Not her. But they kept looking in my direction I can’t even tell you what my then-suitor and I were talking about, I just remember the looks on Amanda’s and Dean’s faces while they were talking.

Later, Amanda pulled me aside and told me what she and Dean had been discussing. She told me that Dean had confessed to her that he had feelings for me, but he worried I didn’t feel the same way. Very honestly, the thought had occurred to me, but I was frightened I would break his heart. I was very unsure of exactly what I wanted out of anyone and Dean wasn’t someone whose feelings I could take lightly.

I spent the next several days agonizing over that conversation with Amanda. I ditched the boy on the phone that night. And I decided I wanted to kiss Dean at midnight, during Amanda’s New Years Eve party. Her parents had everyone over for a celebration and at 11:54, I asked Dean if he would kiss me for New Years. And at midnight, he did. While everyone else celebrated the new year, we pondered what this meant for us. A couple minutes into 2000, he asked me on a date. And I said yes.

So after that story, our first actual date doesn’t seem quite as romantic, but I owe it to e.b. to share what it was. On January 5th, we went to the Gopher basketball game. I was alone in the apartment on winter break and it had snowed all day long. Neither of us had a car on campus, so he picked me up on foot in a parka and together we trudged through the six or so inches of snow through Dinkytown to Taste of Manhattan pizza on Washington Avenue. We had slices of pizza and each shared memories of when we had been to New York. I was wearing a dark blue v-neck sweater and jeans. He wore his trademark button down plaid shirt and khakis. Then we walked up 4th Street to the Barn and watched the Gophers beat the Wolverines. Even then we knew it was much more than a first date, we knew it was the start of a long journey together. I don’t think either of us could have predicted where it would take us, just that we wanted to do it together.

Now almost eight years later I was happy to think about the early days of our relationship again. There are so many things that we do that just kind of blend in with the other ordinary memories but it’s amazing how we remember the most monumental moments of our lives, the ones we knew would change everything.