Monday, December 19, 2011

The way to this girl's heart is through her mind...

I'm not big on the consumer-culture of the season, but who doesn't like a new toy every now and again?

Here is a list of neato-frito science gifts for the nerd-at-heart on your list. 

It is so hard to choose a favorite. I'm torn between the EcoSphere and the gallium

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Let's talk about evolution

http://cteg.berkeley.edu/~nielsen/2011/lets-talk-about-evolution/


I think scientists do a disservice to our peers, our children and our society if we choose to focus solely on research, and do not disseminate our findings in accessible language to the public.

Along this line, that has been a lot of talk in our lab about making short videos describing our current research projects. Some are in progress, and will hopefully be posted here soon. In addition, a group of Nielsen lab postdocs are developing short, interactive lessons about evolution including population genetics, comparative genomics, and forensics that we plan to present to Berkeley Area High School students in the Spring. In the meantime, I thought I'd plant the video-blog bug in your mind with this discussion of what evolution is, why it is important, and why it should be taught in school.



It is a compilation of several submitted videos, and although it is a little long, I think there are many great ideas to get out to the general public. One statement from the video really struck home with me, summarizing the integral nature of teaching evolution:

"To teach science without evolution is kind of like teaching sentence structure without the alphabet."

Baby sloths!

Do I miss having a television? Not usually. We have the internet and computers, and we rent movies each week. But then, something like this comes along, and I feel a little sad that I won't be able to soak in the whole hour of sloth adorableness:



For my last project, I considered spending some time in Costa Rica to collect data on sloths. It wouldn't have been this adorable (it would have been analyzing testis mass from road-kill sloths), but still may have gotten to see some live sloths. The only ones I've seen were in the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo in the indoor rainforest (which you should all go to, seriously, it's worth the trip to Nebraska to visit the zoo!).

Back to work.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Your daily cute (from a non-human ape)

This video is really cool, and makes me want to take a trip to the San Diego Zoo (hint, hint).



This little baby was born on June 17, 2011.

Also, gorilla babies:
- are about 2.5-3.5lbs when born
- can't support their own weight, so mom's hold them 24/7 (attachment parenting?)
- nurse up to three years
- start walking around 6 months

Ballet

Here's an article about my cousin, Sam, who is now a famous ballet dancer. I didn't get to see my cousins very often growing up because my dad and his brothers lived from one end of the country to the other. I remember spending time with Sam when we were both kids at a house in Oregon for our grandparents' wedding anniversary. The next time I saw him, was at our grandfather's internment at Arlington National Cemetery. Since then we've reconnected on facebook, but haven't seen each other in person. Maybe the next time we visit the East Coast we'll make a trip up to New York City. :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fiber One should highlight this research

A meta-analysis (meaning an analysis of many studies) concluded that every increase of 10grams per day of dietary fiber resulted in a 7% reduction in breast cancer risk. Wow!

I've recently started eating oatmeal (with bran and flax) every morning after my doctor recommended it (he scoffed at fiber additions like Benefiber instead of getting it unpurified through other dietary sources). It's been about a week, and I would say I definitely don't feel as hungry throughout the day, and feel like I have more energy overall (but maybe that's just daylight savings time). :)

It seems that the benefits of dietary fiber just keep piling up, including benefits to "bowel function, gut health, immunity, blood glucose control and serum lipid levels", as well as protection against colon cancer, and treating irritable bowel syndrome.

Now, I just need to find a tasty bran muffin recipe - looks like I'll be doing some baking soon!



For further reading:


Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;94(3):900-5. Epub 2011 Jul 20.

Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why sequence your genome?

I just attended a talk by Jasper Rine that started with the topic: Looking for good in the human genome.

He suggested that there should be more efforts towards looking for variants in the human genome positive, actionable, inexpensive solutions, such as changes in diet or exercise.

From the HGV2011 conference, I remember that one of the consulting agencies does this exclusively. They do not analyze or consider variants that do not have actionable solutions.

Although I think research should consider all variants, regardless of our ability to affect the phenotype, I understand and support efforts to publicize the beneficial variants, or those on which the average person can have some impact. Even further, perhaps, is to find variants that are just fun to know. This second aim, while not high on the list of most funding agencies might be the best way to increase public interest in genetics.

Here are variants (serious and fun) that I think would serve to increase public awareness/interest in their own genome (caveat: I'm not sure how much of a genetic component all of these have):
- predispositions to vitamin deficiencies (easily solved by a supplement)
- hair color/consistency
- eye color variants (do you have recessive mutations for blue eyes?)
- toenail/fingernail growth rates
- predisposition to back hair
- number of wisdom teeth
- lactose intolerance (infant, young adult and adult stages - can switch to diary-free)
- gluten intolerance
- second toe longer than first
- height-related genes (two "tall" alleles or just one?)
- allergy susceptibility (environmental and diet)
- how fast is your basal metabolic rate?
- skin elasticity (prone to stretch marks?)
- flexibility (are you more likely to twist yourself into a pretzel?)

Of course, one danger with any genetic analysis is that people might interpret it as limitations, instead of for fun, or as a challenge, or doing something useful with it.

For example, if there were a genetic component to flexibility and I found out I didn't have it, would I push myself as hard at yoga or stretching? I hope so, but part of me might give in with less effort. Then again, I think many people give in without any excuse, so perhaps knowing any genetic components might not have an affect.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 28, 2011

Turkey Day

We had a wonderful holiday weekend! Our good friend Sam came down for the weekend, and we had many adventures.

We've decided to start two Thanksgiving traditions. The first we actually started last year: we will donate to our local food bank. This year we donated to the Alameda County Community Food Bank. It was shocking to me to learn that this food bank serves approximately 49,000 people every week. Also, because they are so large, with large buying power, they deliver ~$5 of food for every $1 donated. Donate to your local shelter today!

Second, we are going to participate in a Turkey Trot. This year we got bundled up and made our own route through Berkeley.



Then we all pitched in to make our Thanksgiving dinner, especially the delicious stuffing (or dressing if you prefer). In addition to our small clan and Sam, some new friends from work came over (with Taiwanese chicken and homemade apple pie). We stayed up late eating, chatting and playing games - a truly wonderful day!


The next day we got up early and drove down to tour the Winchester Mystery House. This mansion has about 160 rooms, and is quite the architectural wonder. It was wonderful to see, but the tour was rushed (average of a minute per room) and our teenage tour guide was lack-luster.


Then, on Saturday we woke up very early to beat the crowds and hiked all around Muir Woods.


The park let us borrow the stroller, but we ended up carrying it for about half the hike as we went uphill and through the rocks/foliage. The trees are really spectacular, and the park is well-designed. There are easy-to-access trails, a wonderful lodge with locally-made snacks (and hot chocolate!), and park rangers that give "tree talks" throughout the day. Definitely a must-see in Northern California!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where's the money?

A series of plots by xkcd that show where and how money is distributed in the US and global economy.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breastfeeding tips

Also, I love nursing. I have from the beginning, but there were days during the first few weeks when it was really hard, and hurt, and I wondered if I was going to make it. It's okay. It comes more naturally for some babies than others. And, in the end, all that matters is that your baby is fed and loved, whether formula or breastmilk. But I also think there is a definite lack of support and information for nursing mothers in the USA. 

I'm not a certified medical anything (not "that" kind of doctor), so these are just things I, as a new nursing mom, found useful. I would take all of these things with you to the hospital, so you have them when you need them.

1. Soft shells for sore nipples 

They might have them at Target or Walmart, and definitely at Amazon (I got mine at Target). They are a little weird at first, but they help with airflow and keep you from sticking to your shirt.

2. Nursing pads (when not using the soft shells).

They're thin, keep you from leaking all over and keep the lanolin or nipple butter from getting all over your shirt.  I personally liked the Nuk variety longer term because they are very thin, but tried several other brands and didn't have any complaints about them. When we had a washer/dryer at home, I also used the reusable ones, but switched to the disposable when we moved. The reusable ones are nice, but, in my experience, don't seem to hold as much milk, so I had more leaking with them.


3. Nipple Butter by First Years.

The hospital will likely give you lanolin. Lanolin is nice, but gets hard when it is cold, and isn't always as easy to spread, which can be torture on already sore/cracking nipples. The Nipple Butter is very smooth, and lanolin-free (good also in case you have an allergy to lanolin). I liked it better, but that's my preference. It is definitely worth having it as a second option, and there are many others. In any case, however, it will probably help to have something to help soothe sore nipples and keep them from drying out (a friend I have even preferred organic crisco). 



4. Nursing tank, or some other "easy access" shirt. 

Although I didn't know I'd want it, I loved the nursing tank I got at my shower. It was from Target, and unclipped at each side. Now, I've found lots of "normal" shirts/tanks that can work, but the nursing tank was especially strait-forward and easy to use as a first time nursing mom in the hospital. You don't have to worry about all the extra layers.

Another option that I stumbled upon is the "yoga bralette". I haven't seen something else similar to this, and I really love it, especially now that I'm back at work and don't want to wear nursing tanks every day. It is great for nursing moms because it provides a little structure without being too restrictive (and inhibiting milk production), is very flexible for accessing breasts for nursing or pumping, and can be worn with any regular clothes, so you can start to dip into your pre-baby wardrobe again - yay!

There are so many types of nursing bras/tanks out there, that are probably better/worse based on your body type/breast size. I tried a few different ones, and realized, for my lifestyle and shape, the above options were best, but like jeans, it isn't one-size-fits-all.

5. Cool/warm pads
I used the Nuk/Gerber cool/warm packs. I would put them in the freezer and then, when engorgement hit, they were great relief. I never warmed them up, but I imagine they would be nice for that. The benefit of these versus a regular warm/cool pad is that there is room to leave the nipples exposed (especially if they are still healing).





Nursing has so many benefits for mom and baby, but it isn't always easy to go it alone, especially when institutional support isn't always the best. I hope these tips are useful, and wish you the very best in your adventures in breastfeeding!

Laboring medication free: part 2

I hadn't intended to write this in two parts, but as I started writing last time, I realized I had more to say about why, than a one-liner. Here's part 1. It's also given me a lot of time to think about whether I want to make this public or not. But, I realized that there is very little discussion about labor/deliver/recovery, and other soon-to-be moms might find this very useful. So here we are at the nitty-gritty.

PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

You can find me on google scholar

So, it's actually super-exciting for me to realize that people have actually been reading, and citing, the papers I've published! Sometimes I feel like I'm in my own little world, figuring out things that I think are awesome, and well-worth the time, but unsure of how other people perceive the work. Well, now it is easily quantified through Google Scholar: Check it out!

Monday, November 21, 2011

My grandma always used the right terms

...but she was a nurse. And not everyone uses the right terms, and, as my friend points out so clearly, we somehow think the word vagina is more naughty than penis. He says it better than I:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Helper dog and simple dog

I haven't even read the whole thing, but I'm sure this describes our dogs perfectly, especially before/during our move across country: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/11/dogs-dont-understand-basic-concepts.html.

Losing the forest for the trees

Oftentimes other people say things much better than I do. There has been a bit of a mini-frenzy surrounding the use of the word "fitness" in a sign my labmates took to one of the Occupy Oakland protests a couple weeks ago.

Granted, it is generally the nature of scientists to be sticklers for accuracy, but sometimes, just sometimes, it makes sense to relax and appreciate the broader context of a message instead nitpicking. My current research supervisor hit the nail on the head with his response.

Most of the students and postdocs in my group are from Europe, and many have not been here for long.  They have perhaps not quite gotten use to American political discourse and may not express themselves in a way that most Americans find convincing.  But at least they haven’t quite lost their sense of empathy and care for other people.  I figure that if I keep them here, in an American academic environment, for a couple of years more they will get cured of that problem and will be able to concentrate fully on their research careers without getting distracted by the economic and social problems they encounter in the neighborhoods around campus on their commute from and to work.  If I push them hard, the may even eventually end up getting real jobs and move up in the East Oakland hills. They will then never have to worry about the problems in West Oakland again, and can spend all their time making sure they include all components of fitness when making blog posts.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank you

Today is Veteran's Day in the U.S.A., and I'd like to say a special thank-you to all the military service members in my life especially my little brother, both my grandpas, my step-brother-in-law and some of my best friends from high school. Being a scientist, I am often surrounded by international researchers who may know one, or two people who have actively served in war-zones. Not me. I can think of at least a dozen friends and family members off the top of my head who have been in war zones  (Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as during the Vietnam war, the Korean War, WWII, and others I'm probably not aware of). Give me a few minutes and I can probably list two dozen.

Here is my brother, dad and grandpa, a few years ago:


I was planning to take this Veteran's Day to write a longer post about thanking all of our Military, and acknowledging that there are many atheists in foxholes. While my friends who have served in the Military tend to be overwhelmingly supportive of diversity (whether it be religious, sexual orientation, gender, or you name it), because they all work together towards their common goals, it seems many civilians have difficulty supporting the same thing (in or outside of the military).

But, that will have to wait for another day. On this Veteran's Day I am going to try to raise some awareness about the growing number of suicides among members of the Military each year. Here are two cartoons that really get the point across.

A recent report discusses the severity of this problem, proposing several reasons for the spike in suicides among active military members and also providing suggestions to reduce suicide rates. Some of the proposed reasons for the increasing rate of suicides among active Military personnel (suicide rates are predicted to be very high among veterans, but are quite difficult to accurately assess) are:

- The mental health screening process following deployment is flawed (anonymous surveys show rates of depression, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts were was much as 4 times higher than in the not-anonymous post-deployment screenings).
- Repeated exposure to military training as well as to violence, aggression and death dulls one’s fear of death and increases tolerance for pain, even among those who never serve in combat zones. (Thus, natural aversions to death and suicide are eroded.)

Further, it is estimated that one active service member dies by suicide every 36 hours and one veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes.

This is unacceptable. 

There is help. Now. Right now. Before any of the above issues are addressed, if anyone affiliated with the Military even has the tiniest inkling they might want to talk to a third party, they should be directed here:

Help for Service Members, Veterans and Military Families 
Veterans Crisis Line: 1.800.273.TALK (8255), Press 1


So, for my family and my friends, and all the people I don't know in the Military, please know that there is help. It will get better. Mental illness is not a weakness. No one will think less of you for seeking treatment. In fact, we'll be so very, very thankful to get to celebrate another Veteran's Day with you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Totes for Water

If you're looking for a gift this holiday season (Happy Christmas-Hanukkah-Festivus-NewYear!!), and like meaningful gifts, but want to give something more than a, "I donated in your name" card, then consider buying a Tote for Water.



The entire cost of the Totes goes to the project, to build fresh water wells in Haiti.

You can follow the link above for more information about the Totes specifically, or read more about how the project got started with this press-release.

An excerpt:

"I want to bring water to a dry, dusty place to bring life to its people who are struggling daily to eat, to bathe, to live with human dignity. I want to build a well in Haiti to help the people grow food to feed themselves and their families. I can’t build a well myself -- but there are people who can at Food For The Poor.
Instead, I can sew, and I am making tote bags to sell to help Food For The Poor raise the money necessary to build a well for a village in Haiti."

They also make handy baby totes (of course, I'm kidding, but who doesn't love a baby in a bag??):

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Venting

Background: Our ten month old daughter was up all night last night with a fever in excess of 102, stuffy nose and vomiting. Tylenol kept the fever around 100.0, but didn't take it completely away, and today the doctor diagnosed her with a viral infection. We are to keep her hydrated and use advil (the dr claims it lasts longer) per dosage instructions to treat when her fever starts to affect her behavior negatively. We are going to keep an eye on the fever and if it persists until Sat, or worsens, we will return for more tests.

Situation: We stop by the closest store (the Whole Foods Mart) to buy some infant advil to have on hand to treat her fever if we need it. Searching around, all I see is homeopathic placebos. An employee sees me searching and offers help. After I tell him I'm looking for infant ibuprofen, he says they don't carry it, but wouldn't I like to see their "natural" remedies.

What I wanted to say: No, asshole, I don't want to see the ridiculous wastes of money that will not treat my daughter's fever, and at most will make me feel better by giving the illusion that I'm doing all I can when in reality I should be comfortable with the fact that all I can do for her viral infection is to keep her hydrated, play with her, monitor her fever, and patiently wait while her immune system does its job. (Deep breath)

What I said: No. Then walked away.

End rant.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cathy Oliver

Cathy Oliver is a mother, but has also experienced the heartbreak of pregnancies that did not result in live births. She is also an atheist. Thank you, Cathy, for sharing your story.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy wall street

My dad posted this commentary by famed economist Dave Ramsey about Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

I have to say, I think he (Dave Ramsey) completely misses the point. I thought the essay was snarky, disingenuous, and sometimes just downright mean.

It is a very easy target, and not at all unique for Dave Ramsey to say that OWS has no specified goals. I am unimpressed. He starts this way so he can be open to choose individual signs here and there that he can point to and ridicule. But he fails to acknowledge that there is something very real pulling so many thousands of people together across the US, and after some real journalism, I was very impressed with recent NPR reports about what that is:

Participatory Economics

Or heck, just direct participatory government.

Even though there are a hundred different viewpoints, the reason they haven't just dispersed is that they've found common ground in the shared desire to come together and make decisions based on consensus.

Is this the best way to govern (versus the representative government that we have now)? I don't know. On one hand, who has time to participate, and make informed decisions about everything? On the other, how many representatives and senators actually make informed decisions? I have to think about this more, and am sure I could find some research that's been done on direct participatory government that would have more to back-up their claims that I have now.

The point here is that OWS is not about wall street, or the New York Stock Exchange, as Ramsey snidely distinguishes (Of course no one thinks the actual street is evil - Ramsey is especially dishonest in misrepresenting his opponents' view here). OWS is, I think, resulting from a desire to be involved directly in government and economics - likely as a result of the internet, social media and all of our options for instant-input (text messages, phones, video chat, facebook, twitter, flicker, and on and on).

To support his own movement, Ramsey ends his rant by claiming OWS is actually for something, that they are "protesting rich people who actually earned their money". This is patently not true, and yet another case of Ramsey building up a straw man, just so he can cut it down. Here he suggests that no OWS people are "rich", and further implies that none of them "actually earned their money". Furthermore, he makes other incorrect assumptions to make his own arguments seem stronger, such that most OWS protestors do not have jobs, and continually refers to the protestors as stupid. In direct contrast to this, survey results of occupywallstreet.com respondents show that nearly 70% of respondents had full (50%) or part-time (20%) jobs, over 92% have some level of college education. In addition, nearly 30% of OWS protestors earn over 50,000 a year. But even that is unfair because who is to say the 70% that make less than 50,000 do not

Ramsey is a wonderful writer, however, so I'll end by paraphrasing Ramsey. Regarding his own writing:

I'm not very impressed at the moment. I'm not impressed by your temper fit. I'm not impressed at your disingenuous representations and lack of genuine inquiry into the controversy. I'm not impressed by the fact that the only thing I see about your opinion article is ignorance and immaturity. Grow up.

October is National Shelter Month

We have two rescued chihuahua mixes. Although they (especially one) cause some frustration, they are a joy to have, and are definitely part of the family.

The first thing that comes to mind is a post by my friend, about National Dog Day, back in August: about her dog, Tootsie, finding her forever home.

I also wanted to draw attention to the Northern California Chihuahua rescue (please forgive their terrible web design).

Also, of course, the Centre Country PAWS shelter where we got both of our furbabies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

science-related posts

I've gotten a kick in the pants to start writing more science-related posts at my new lab's blog (http://cteg.berkeley.edu/~nielsen/blog/). I think I'll try to post something science-related there once a week, and give you a link here. So far, I've written three posts:

Peer review: not as dark as some might propose

Postdoctoral fellowships

Which exome platform is best?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Feminism in the 21st century

I'm often torn about the f-word. To me, feminism evokes images of bra-burning women, fighting against butt-slapping, boob-watching men. Because the sexism I experience today is so different from what I think of feminists fighting against, it's hard to call myself a feminist, or to want to be a feminist. Day to day, I would generally say I don't experience overt sexism (except for one glaring example during graduate school, which I'll tell you all about later). But, if I sit down and think about how the media reports on and portrays women, it makes me frustrated.

How am I supposed to teach my daughter that she can be anything she wants, when there are so few examples for her to look up to (e.g. only 3.6% of career firefighters are women)?

How do I deal with the information that wearing make-up (i.e. being more beautiful) makes me appear more trustworthy?

What do I do with the information that women across all fields still earn less, on average, than men (no, I don't think it is all blatant discrimination, but there is, as the article states, a higher likelihood of women working lower-paying jobs, and men working higher-paying jobs - why is this?).

Is it fair, to women or men, to expect such ridiculous body standards?

Oftentimes when I think of gender biases, I find myself drawn to thoughts of how changing standards for men and women will reduce biases, and make life better for all sides. Certainly all people are not the same, and I don't want everyone to conform to some idea. I do, however, think that it should be okay for men to speak softly or have dyed hair, or wear frilly clothes. But burly, buff, jocks, can be just as much of an ally in making sure everyone has similar opportunities. Petite, busty women should be able to pile on the makeup and miniskirts, if they wish. But a woman with a crew cut shouldn't given any fewer opportunities (assuming they both have the same skill set), because she someone doesn't think she's as pretty.

Maybe one of the biggest challenges with gender equality is that ensuring equal opportunities doesn't mean everyone is equally qualified for every opportunity. What I mean by that is that we all have different interests and talents, and we shouldn't try to change the system so anyone can get into medical school. Instead, we should start from the ground up, in pre-school/kindergarden, and make sure every student has the training (perhaps even extra attention, given different home/economic situations), to be prepared for, and encouraged to pursue, whatever life path they choose. Especially we need to make sure that the options are known. I was aware of pathetically few options for my life when I was in high school - and maybe I wouldn't have cared about them if they'd been in front of me - but at least some of them might have stood out. Are there people who study this? The advantages of being well-informed early in life?

Ah, clearly, I have a lot of thinking to to about it still, and will try to work out some of those thoughts here, but in the meantime, I think I'd like to see this movie:


 

But what if its the wrong thing?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

For your listening pleasure

While looking for the original version of this song, I came across this cover, and I really like it!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What to do when your paper is rejected

You have just spent the past several months (or years) of your life preparing a research manuscript for submission to Journal XX, waiting while it was out for peer review, only to have it rejected. What to do now? Well, read more here from the editor of Molecular Ecology.

Back in the saddle again?

It's been awhile - longer than I like to go without posting, and unfortunately I don't have anything in depth to post her now, so I'll placate you with some pictures. In the past several weeks we've been busy.

We've gone hiking at Tilden Park, giving the doggies some outdoor time:




Attended a wedding of some good friends from State College, who got married right here in Berkeley:



Went to Jake's Steaks to watch Penn State barely pull off a win against Temple (although I was secretly rooting for Temple because they were so very excited and did play very well):



Visited Pier 39 and took baby girl to see the Aquarium, where she loved watching all the fish swim overhead:



And last week had a wonderful visit from my mom:



This past weekend we were in Little Rock, Arkansas for a wedding, but I haven't downloaded the pictures yet, so I'll leave that for another post. More pictures are surely to come, along with many visitors (yay!!) in the next few weeks. First we have a very good friend of ours is coming to visit from PNNL, then my friends from Denmark are stopping by for a couple days, and it rounds out with my dad and stepmom coming up for some baby time and to spend Halloween weekend. I am so, so excited! It's wonderful to have so many visitors, and I'll be feeling lonely when they all leave, so if anyone else wants to come visit, I can guarantee that you won't be bored in Berkeley!







Monday, September 12, 2011

I want this shirt


Scott and I got in a debate about orders of infinity yesterday. Afterwards, I realized how much I love being able to have those kinds of discussion with the guy I'm spending the rest of my life with. And, I NEED THIS SHIRT. :D

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Laboring medication-free

I think part of my hesitation with blogging about labor is that I have been nervous about how people will perceive it. I have had a lot of people make the comment that, "no one gives you a medal for laboring without pain meds", which implies to me that they think people who labor medication-free are looking for some kind of bragging rights. Maybe some are. Not me.

I chose to start labor pain medication-free, with the intention of going without interventions unless necessary, but willing to accept whatever was needed to make sure our baby girl arrived safely. Some may wonder why anyone in their right mind would choose an "unmedicated" birth. I'll just say, it wasn't really much of a decision. I didn't sit, conflicted, wondering about how I wanted to labor. I am just a person who prefers not to take pain medication, and think I have a normal-to-high pain tolerance.

If I really think about it, I can come up with reasons, listed below, but they all boil down to this:

I didn't want to add anything to my body that might adversely affect the labor and delivery process.

Specifically:
- I wanted to be able to stand/walk/use the lower half of my body immediately after delivery.
- I didn't want anything to potentially impede my first experience nursing my baby (there are debates about how narcotics or other pain medications pass the placenta boundary and affect the baby's ability to nurse immediately after birth).
- I have asthma and low blood pressure and have read research papers linking epidurals to drops in blood pressure. I didn't want to risk passing out or increase my likelihood for needing oxygen during delivery.

- I've had experiences with numbing agents (e.g. during tooth extraction) that didn't work completely, and so didn't want to pin any hopes on a pain-free (reduced?) delivery when there was a reasonable chance they might fail. 

Even with all of those thoughts, I kept my mind open and willing to accept pain assistance if everything got too much to handle, or labor-inducing meds if progression stalled, or IV fluids if I got dehydrated, or a Cesarian birth if our little lady required it. 

I'll tell you now that I am not super-woman, but am an advocate of birth-your-way (in a safe-for-mom-and-baby environment with medical professionals). In my case that meant that I did labor and deliver medication-free (and even IV-free, just sipping cold water and crunching ice chips). I was also very happy to be able to nurse and shower right after delivering. Stay tuned for the next episode, where I'll go into the gory details of labor/delivery.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The evolution of laughter

Going into labor!


I realized I haven't blogged about a very blogable event. The arrival of our baby girl! We have several friends who are expecting soon, but we're so far away now that I feel like the only thing I can offer is my perspective, and to tell them that everything will work out, even if it isn't exactly according to plan. We are lucky to live in a country with great medical care, and as much as I hope the labor/delivery/birth experience is what you are hoping for, the most important thing is that you have a happy, healthy baby. That said, the labor/delivery/birth do matter, and so speak up if there's something you do or don't want (if you can speak... I was kind of mute throughout most of my labor). :)

So, let's start at the beginning.


I was certain I was going into labor when we went in for our check the day before my due date. I was so excited. I told my dad and Scott that we'd better get ready for the baby, and couldn't wait to get to our check-up.

I told the doctor "I think I'm having contractions!" with a smile, and he responded, "If you're feeling like that, you're not in labor". But, dutifully, he checked and said that things looked like they might progress soon, and to be prepared. But, he was concerned about a few things so said that if she hadn't come in a few days he would feel better if we scheduled an induction (but, being the very diplomatic OB, said that I could wait longer if I wanted). I said, sure, let's schedule it (but secretly felt disappointed with myself that I might have to be induced, even though that's silly). I almost cried when we got in the car because the contractions were just  Braxton-Hicks and we weren't going to have the baby on time, and just because I was pregnant, I guess. It's amazing how much that stupid "due date" affected me psychologically. I know that they can be off by as much as two weeks, but pregnant-me was really fixated on this date, and going to be very frustrated if we overshot it.

We went home and did our best to distract me, and enjoy time with my dad, who had come out for three days. His flight was scheduled to leave Wednesday afternoon (and we were scheduled for induction on Wednesday morning), so I was also sad that he came out to Pennsylvania from Arizona and wasn't going to meet his grand-daughter. Sad, pregnant-me was up most of the night on and off, being uncomfortable and disappointed, but by the next morning decided I'd just enjoy the time with Scott and my dad. We got up and explored the town a little, then came home and had lunchmeat sandwiches and sat down to watch an old Jackie Chan kung-fu movie.

About half an hour into the movie I felt the first "real" contraction, although I didn't know it yet. I got up and tried to walk around and then the next one took me a minute to breathe through. I didn't want to raise a false alarm again, so started quietly timing them, and then when I realized they were somewhat regular and strong, and noticed I might be slowly leaking amniotic fluid, I decided it wasn't a false alarm, but still didn't want to make too much of a big deal. So, I told my dad and Scott what I was suspecting and we decided that since it was still office-hours that we should call the OB office and see if they could check me before we went to the hospital (to make sure I wasn't overly excited again). We quickly grabbed our prepared baby bags and headed over to the office where he confirmed that I was 4-5cm dilated, and definitely in labor. They handed us a wad of towels and said to head immediately to the hospital, and be prepared for my water to break on the way. Eep!!

The contractions were getting stronger and more frequent on the way there, but luckily no breakage. The hospital was prepared for us, and took us upstairs to the birthing room. After getting checked in and changed into my gown I was on the bed when my water broke. I told the nurse the next time she came in, who was a little skeptical, but after checking confirmed I was right, and then... the real labor started. I'll continue this another day (with warnings for the faint of heart). :)

Correlation? Nope.


best

"But who can say what's best? That's why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives." 
 Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

thief

This is especially funny to me because our little brown dog always steals (blankets, pillows, treats, toys) from our anxious black dog:

A deathbed story I would tell

After reading this commentary about a book and story from R. Feynman's life, I realize that I do not fall into the group that agree with the commentator, and rather, fall with the scientists. But I think it is a little more than that. I disagree with the sentiment in the piece that scientists are not emotional. Just because a scientist may rely on observations and dismiss coincidence, does not mean that we do not still feel the emotional value of life's experiences.

In fact, I find it offensive and dishonest when people try to take something personal and meaningful, in this case the death of a spouse, and turn it around so that the focus isn't on the people and the real events anymore, but is on some supernatural poppycock. In doing so, I think the human experience is belittled. We are all here to occupy our small space and time, and I think we should spend that time focusing on our own experiences and those we care about, not whether "the Universe" or some other supernatural personification gives two cents about us.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

smog

We live close enough to campus that we both walk in every day. We walk baby girl to daycare, walk to the gym and the grocery store, and even live close enough that I walk the dogs to the vet. We have a car, for emergencies (like when I was miserably sick last week) and for longer trips, but since we've been here, I think we've used it about once a week. We've discussed going completely car-free, for both economic and environmental reasons, but with a baby, have decided it is safest to keep it.

I'd like to maintain this type of commuting anywhere we move, although we might add bicycling (it isn't safe to bike with the baby yet).

I'm just not sure how to convince other people that this kind of commuting is best. Maybe this warning message we received today would help:

Tomorrow, Friday, September 2, is a Spare the Air Day in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy tomorrow. Hot temperatures and light winds will combine to produce poor air quality for the Bay Area.

To help prevent smog tomorrow, please:

- Carpool or vanpool with friends or co-workers
- Take public transportation
- Telecommute -- work from home instead of driving to work
- Link necessary trips and postpone errands if possible

To plan your commute online, visit 511.org.

To monitor current air quality conditions, visit http://www.sparetheair.org  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

meeting other moms

It's hard to meet other new moms. It is doubly hard to meet other new moms when you work during the day, then want to spend time with your family in the evening. This morning, however, I met for coffee with another mom who is also a new postdoc, whose baby is nearly the same age as ours. Her daughter was born just a few weeks after ours, she moved to Berkeley from Palo Alto, but all their family is up north, and, for all our differences, we have an awful lot of similar experiences.

The biggest similarities come with feeling sad about leaving our babies all day, but also feeling frustrated that we can't spend longer at work (and nervous that everyone else notices that we don't spend as long at work as we might want to).

For me, I try to get into lab around 8am, but usually don't make it there until 8:30am. The hard thing is that I have to leave at 4pm every day to make sure I have enough time to get to daycare to pick up baby girl. Then, between lab meetings, journal clubs, seminars, pumping and just taking a few minutes to be social with labmates, the time seems to slip away. I'm fortunate that I can work from home also, so I try to save the bigger writing tasks for the evening, after baby girl has gone to bed.

I've decided, however, that for me, for us, the daycare that we found (small, family-run) really is the best option. I have a hard time being home alone with baby girl all day everyday. I think, if we had family or close friends nearby, I wouldn't mind being a stay-at-home mom. But here, where it's strange and there are so many sketchy people wandering around, and I don't know anyone, it is very stressful to be alone all day. Thus, going back to work not only means I have the time off to focus on other parts of myself, it lets me be a better mother when I am home. This is particular to my personality, but it does help.

Now, although baby girl is napping, I still feel inclined to do "domestic-type" things when I'm at home, so I'm going to go make some bread and get dinner started.

routine

Sometime over the past week our little girl decided she didn't need to nap during the daytime, and instead, all of a sudden, takes an hour to hour and a half nap around 4:30 or 5:00pm. Then, she gets up and we play/eat/bathe/read then play some more until she is tired enough to fall asleep. As much as we've tried to get her to go to bed earlier, I think she's taking after her daddy. She tends to sleep from about 9:30pm-7:30am.

But, of course, as soon as I write about it, it will change. It seems like she hasn't really had a routine that lasted longer than a week or two since she was born, so I'm just trying to enjoy it for the moment.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Caffeine free Teeccino? Yum!!

It's been over two years since I cut out caffeine. I was much more strict during and immediately after pregnancy. In the past several weeks I've had some half-caf coffee, and some green tea, but am still limiting my caffeine. The problem is that I really like the flavor of drinks that happen to be caffeinated. Of course, I'm always a fan of water (and especially of the delicious tasting water here in Berkeley, CA), but I'm always on the lookout for new caffeine free drinks.

This past weekend I stumbled upon teeccino, a product sold as "caffeine free coffee". Huh? It is a blend of roasted carob, barley, chicory root, figs, dates, almonds, and some other ingredients specific to each blend. It is a ground substance that you brew just like coffee.

It is delicious!! It is rich and fulfilling, and not just decaffeinated, but caffeine free. We have only tried the Hazelnut variety, but it is enough to make a fan out of me. This review has me excited to try some of the other flavors.

My favorite part is that I can drink it anytime of day without worrying about staying up too late, or giving baby girl a boost of caffeine that will keep her up. Yay!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Learning how to learn

One of my biggest complaints about my formal education up until graduate school is that, for the majority of it, I was taught how to remember, not how to learn. I did have several experiences that encouraged me to think critically, but most of these were on field trips, or with my family. I think this essay does a good job of describing the benefits of learning how to learn, and how the ability to think critically can apply to many different parts of our lives.


A good weekend

This past weekend we explored the Berkeley Marina. On Saturday during brunch over the bay we saw a seal paddle by, and a small white bird with a long, flat bill fly by the window. Afterwards we walked by the rocky shore and saw an enormous brown pelican. The pelican didn't much care for the extra garlic bread we'd brought, but a very beautiful brown seagull swooped down and obligingly ate it up. I've never seen brown seagulls before, and I think they're lovely.

On Sunday Scott ran to the marina and baby girl and I met him there. We explored the parks and walked down the pier:

One of the kids' parks was especially unique. It was full of recycled material and old planks of wood. The kids could paint, saw, hammer and just be creative, building and changing the playground (under adult supervision). Neato!

Also, we saw a one-legged white seagull on Sunday. The neat thing was, I couldn't see any trauma where it might have lost its leg, so am curious now whether it was born that way or what could have taken the entire leg.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wine tour

Last Saturday (prior to the gastroenteritis debacle) we toured some wineries with some of Scott's labmates. Sonoma? No. Napa? Nope. Livermore.

Yes, we went south to the wineries in Livermore, CA. The last time I was at a winery was just before we found out we were pregnant with baby girl. So, it's been awhile (17 months) since I've had anything alcoholic, but I have to say, I didn't taste a wine that I wanted to try again. Scott found one he liked, which we purchased and is sitting in our kitchen, but try as I might, I didn't like any of them. It is hard to describe (clearly I'm not a wine gal), but the best I can say is that they were very strong-flavored, and a little bitey. I prefer much milder tasting wines, generally a little on the sweet side (Wine sushies at Otto's are my favorite!!).

One big difference about wineries in California versus Pennsylvania is that nearly all of the grapes used are local to the area (which I like). But, that means less variety in any given area, and so if you don't like the wines at one location, you probably will not like the wines at the surrounding wineries. Still, the town of Livermore itself is beautiful. It is very clean with lots of quaint little shops and eateries. I would be very happy to go back and spend a lovely day strolling around there.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Misleading science headlines

I just read this headline "Fossil redefines mammal history" and after reading the article, I think the title is completely misleading. The fossil does nothing of the sort. In fact, as is stated in the article:
"The Liaoning specimen is especially significant because it means the fossil record now sits more comfortably with what genetic studies have been suggesting about the timing of the emergence of the different mammalian lineages."
There is some grey area in exact dates based on fossils (because not every individual that ever lived was fossilized), that we are now able to fill in with genomic data. Certainly, there will still be specific timepoints that scientists will debate, but many of the major divergence times between mammals (likely further out, but I'm most familiar with mammals) are generally accepted across the board.

Science and results are interesting, but by propping them up on misleading headlines the press will hurt, rather than help promote general scientific education. We live in a soundbyte era, and so many people will read the headline, then stop, retaining only that one, shockingly inaccurate misinformation.

Coming soon

I am very excited to have been invited to update the entry on the Pseudoautosomal Region (PAR; see a cursory description at wikipedia) for Brenner's Encyclopedia of Genetics. The previous entry was quite short, and didn't really go into any detail about what a PAR is, or how it evolved.

I am planning to add quite a bit more background about the evolution and function of pseudoautosomal regions (and how species without PARs might get along). If this seems a little vague, don't worry, I'll link to it as soon as it is accepted.

I especially like that this newest edition will:
- have longer entries (1800 words)
- allow figures for every entry
- include up to 15 references
- be accessible electronically

My article is due in October, and will go through a review before publication, so I don't expect the newest version to be available until mid-2012 at the earliest.

I've never updated a Wikipedia entry, maybe I will be inspired to do so after completing this article.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Misery

No, not the Stephen King classic, but true misery.

I posted a couple days ago about how baby girl emptied the contents of her stomach all over me in the middle of the night. I wish that were the end of the story. As it turns out, it was just the beginning.

I intended to go back into work in the afternoon, but when Scott came home around 2pm, I didn't feel well. I thought I just needed a quick nap, since we had been up most of the night with a sick little girl.  Scott wanted to go do the laundry (covered in baby throw-up) and as much as I wanted to go with him, I couldn't muster the energy to do it, but I didn't want to be home alone either. I think he was probably getting a little frustrated with my procrastinating until about 4:30, when the floodgates opened. I spent the next three hours in and out of the restroom every 10-15 minutes. I could hardly respond when Scott loaded baby girl and me up in the car and headed to the ER. It took three miserable hours of waiting (no water allowed) before we were seen by the doctor, who immediately put me on iv fluids and told me to drink some water. Five hours and 5L of fluid later my blood pressure finally came up and they gave us the choice of another liter of fluid or going home. Since Scott was starting to feel bad, and needed some sleep, we opted to head home.

Baby girl only slept a few hours the whole time we were at the hospital, but hasn't shown any other symptoms since early Monday morning.

Scott seems to have kept it mostly at bay by sleeping most of yesterday and staying hydrated.

I am just about ready to start introducing solid foods again. I tried some chicken noodle soup last night that nearly set me back, but feel pretty good this morning.

Today we've done a lot of cleaning around the house. We also went to the laundry mat to wash everything that came in contact with all of us the past three days. We choose perfect timing though, because it was nearly empty when we arrived, so we finished all eight, yes, eight, loads of laundry in less than 90 minutes.

We're going to do a little more cleaning/disinfecting this afternoon, and take the rest of today easy.

The doctor said to wait 24-48hrs after the last symptoms subsided before going back to work. Since I have one pregnant labmate, and one labmate whose wife is pregnant, I'll definitely err on the side of caution. I can't imagine being pregnant and being this sick, which makes me feel really bad about our dinner guests on Sunday.

We had no idea this was coming, and Sunday night had spent a really great evening with friends, who are expecting a baby boy in four months. I wish we had some kind of warning to tell them to stay away, and very much hope they don't come down with it. So far they seem to have avoided it, and, given how fast it seems to have travelled, I think they may be in the clear.

I've hardly ever had to use sick days, but, given our experience the past three days, I'm very glad we have them. Now, I think I'll go be a good patient and rest - as much as is possible with a very mobile 8 month old baby.

Monday, August 22, 2011

science parenthood

Last night our baby girl woke up at 2am and proceeded to vomit all over me until her stomach was empty. I took a quick rinse in the shower while Scott cleaned her up, then I walked around with her while Scott googled possible causes. After concluding that the best thing we could do, for now, is to help her get some sleep and make sure she stays hydrated we all drifted off to sleep.

This morning came earlier than normal, and I rushed out to get in a few hours in the office. I came home at mid-morning so Scott could shower and get in to work for a meeting. Then, when he comes home, I'll head back into work for the afternoon.

Baby girl is currently sitting next to me, content to explore the intricacies of the white hemming on my grey sweatshirt.  She's been in a good mood all morning, so hopefully last night was a once-and-done experience.

Since my work is computational, I'll be multi-tasking today, making sure she's safe and happy, and reading though the second chapter of "Population Genetics" by Hamilton. I tried to do it on my own, and always found other things to take precedence. Now that there is another postdoc in our lab who is also interested on boning up on the subject, we've decided to work through the book, one chapter per week (with the exception of this week where we'll be reading ch1 and ch2). I'd like to blog the summary of each chapter here, for it each Wed/Thur.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Optical illusions

Neato! I wonder what kind of implications this optical illusion has. I think it easily shows how our brains can be fooled into thinking we're sure of how two things compare to one another, when really all that differs is the existence of a shadow:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tomorrow

Sometimes the benefit of science funding (a half of a drop in the bucket of government spending) is to keep us dreaming of what tomorrow will bring:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

business

Today I had two meetings over Skype. The first was about science, meeting with my graduate advisor. The second was about Graduate Women in Science, spanning six time zones (Hawaii, California and Pennsylvania).

I'm not going to lie. It is really awesome to be able to instantly connect with people thousands of miles away.

Both were very successful meetings, and now I'm very, very tempted to look for a full-time faculty position in Hawaii. I can think of very few downsides of waking up every morning to paradise. Paradise with dolphins!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

How to celebrate a two year anniversary?

With "3.15 hellish miles"! Yep, Scott and I are going to do the Warrior Dash!! Will it really be "hellish"? Highly unlikely, although it does make for good advertising. I expect it to be a lot of fun, and can't wait to try all of the obstacles. Now, costume ideas...

And, on a completely unrelated note: because I love magic tricks, here's one for your entertainment.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Graduation

Today was summer graduation in State College, PA for Penn State. I am 3,000 miles away, sitting on a couch in Berkeley, CA, my baby girl fast asleep on my lap, dog curled up next to me, talking to my husband (yes, I'm multi-tasking).

Instead of attending graduation today, we shared an omelet and pancakes for breakfast, I went into work for a couple hours, came home and took a nap with baby girl, then we walked to check out the outdoor store and do some grocery shopping at Berkeley bowl, made fish and asparagus for dinner, and then spent some time playing with the baby before she passed out on my lap.

I thought I would miss graduation a lot more, but it just seems so much less important that it did a few months ago. I already celebrated with my family (both my mom and my in-laws came to see me defend) in April. I sent my bound thesis to my graduate advisor, my mom and dad. I've already moved across the entire country and started research for my postdoc. Attending a ceremony now, I think, wouldn't really feel like the closing of a chapter. It has been closed for months now.

That being said, I do miss State College very much and all the people there. Maybe there will be a couple job openings there in the future?


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 12, 2011

tiny wires

Here are two blog posts that talk about new, flexible, electronic technology that can be stuck to skin.

It has a lot of potential uses described here and here. Notably, it is a much less obtrusive way to continuously measure medical stats (like heart rate or brain activity). Thinking of when I worked as a nurse aid this would be really fantastic for itty bitty babies (so that you're not taking up too much room on their skin), but also for patients that tend to be non-compliant (who rip off monitors). 

Certainly, I'm sure there will be some other applications. If I let my brain stretch a little I can imagine how this might be used to transmit sound (a new handsfree cell phone?), or, in the not-so-distant future, measure eye movement to control a video game, or measure brain waves to control prosthetic limbs (how cool would that be?!).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tips for Estimated Taxes

Whether you have a regular job or a fellowship (like the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, or a Postdoctoral Fellowship), you need to pay taxes. And really the one (very small) downside to having a fellowship is figuring out and paying your estimated taxes. Lots of other people (self-employed, for example) also have to figure out their own taxes. And, if you owe more than 1,000.00 for the year, the government requires that you pay estimated taxes (in no longer than quarterly intervals). It can seem a little overwhelming. Luckily, we live in the electronic era and there are two freely available tools (from the government, no less) to help you.

First, you can use the withholdings calculator provided by the IRS to get a handle on what you will likely owe. Way to go IRS, for making something user-friendly and extremely useful! Then, once you have estimated out how much taxes you will owe, you can pay them online using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). I am very glad to live in a time where I have these electronic tools to help me, instead of having to figure them out by hand, and mail in physical checks, wondering if they got lost in the mail, or are postmarked on time.

How people in science see each other (by @biomatushiq)

http://sotak.info/sci.jpg

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tasty Tidbits: The Horse Y Chromosome


I am  particularly interested in anything about the Y chromosome because, as far as sex chromosomes go, it is often overlooked, or intentionally ignored. In genetic sex determination (meaning there is a gene or chromosome that determines whether an individual is genetically male or female), the Y determines maleness. However, it also does not recombine, and is often very small and degenerated relative to its partner, the X chromosome. The Y chromosome also often contains lots of repeated sequences (that may or may not be functional). These repeated regions make it difficult to sequence. The regions of the Y chromosome that are easy to sequence are those that are similar to the X, but, because they are similar to the X, these regions can sometimes be mis-assigned.

So, now we come to the horse Y chromosome. The paper summarized here by Paria et al (2011) is really pretty cool. Without getting into the dirty details I'll say that they do a lot of work making sure the sequence they're analyzing is male-specific.

What they find (and why it's important):
  • There are some Y-linked genes that are shared across the mammals studied (confirming the shared evolutionary origin of the Y chromosome).
  • There are some horse Y-linked genes that have been acquired only along this lineage (showing how species-specific gene movements can shape the future of the Y chromosome).
  • Some of these genes are expressed in many tissues (these tend to be the ones conserved over long evolutionary distances and argue for their importance).
  • The genes that have tissue-specific expression are expressed in male-specific tissues, like testis (highlighting how male-specific functions can easily accumulate on the Y, the male-specific chromosome). 
I should go into more detail, but I'm off to relieve my better half of a yelling baby who thinks she's grown too big for bedtime.

For more, please see the original paper:
Paria N, Raudsepp T, Pearks Wilkerson AJ, O'Brien PCM, Ferguson-Smith MA, et al. (2011) A Gene Catalogue of the Euchromatic Male-Specific Region of the Horse Y Chromosome: Comparison with Human and Other Mammals. PLoS ONE 6(7): e21374. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021374

Monday, August 8, 2011

distraction

I intended to blog something science-like today, but I got wrapped up in meetings. We had a tasty lab lunch at CU Sushi to say farewell to a visiting professor, then I had a really fascinating conversation with one of the faculty here, whose course I will be auditing this Fall. Apparently he is doing some work that may be very closely related to one of my project ideas (something to do with confidently mapping short reads to repetitive regions) - yay!

While all this was going on, I didn't blog, so here's something to distract you from that fact: an adorable baby.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

where did the weekend go?

Let's see, I don't think I update about the mundane stuff often enough, but I think it is good to bring it up now and again. Scientists (or scientists in training), when we're not holed up doing research, do the same everyday things as everyone else. It sounds funny to say it, but I remember reading some magazine looking a celebrities with the caption, "they're just like us", and I realize how easy it is to place people into "them" categories. Of course celebrities are just like us. Well, aside from the multi-million dollar paychecks, and worrying about paparazzi and stalkers. 

So what did us exciting science-type people do this weekend? Friday night after work we ordered a delicious bbq chicken pizza from a place down the street and enjoyed some family time.

Saturday we walked up to College street, here in Berkeley, had breakfast then chatted with some nice people on the street while we waited for the stores to open. I'm still not used to how late everything opens in the morning (10 or 11 am usually). Then, we picked up a bridal shower gift for a friend of ours, and explored some fun kids stores. In the afternoon baby girl and I attended our first Bridal Tea. It was so fun to have little tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and lemon curd, and petit fours. I don't think I dressed up enough for it, but I think everyone forgave me because I brought the world's cutest baby with me. :)

And today... pancakes for breakfast, then laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the floors, making dinner and now helping baby girl get to sleep.

Oh, also today, my jaw dropped to the floor when my 7 month old daughter pulled herself up to standing, then, holding onto my outstretched leg, toddled from the couch to the ottoman. 

So, as boring as this update is, here it is. I hope you all had lovely weekends as well!