Sunday, October 31, 2010

"I take you to be no other than yourself,

...loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, with respect for your integrity and faith in your love for me through all our years and in all that life may bring us."

One year later, as GI Joe and a Treasure Troll, we celebrated our first of many anniversaries:

Happy Anniversary! I love you!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

week 23 of plowshare produce

We only have one more week of our CSA from Plowshare Produce left. Unfortunately we won't be here next summer/fall, and so aren't signing up again, but I encourage all of you to consider signing up for a weekly, or bi-weekly share!!

This Week’s Veggies: potatoes or sweet potatoes, butternut squash, onions, beets, celeriac, broccoli, radishes, kohlrabi, kale or chard, spinach, mesclun, parsley or dill, thyme  

We choose not to get the mesclun or herbs because I don't want them to go to waste. You'll see we also picked up a loaf of locally baked bread (from Gemelli's) and a dozen "happy chicken", cage-free eggs.

When it gets cold, it's nice to have hot soup, but sometimes they are a little heavy. Below is a keilbasa soup I ate growing up that I really loved, using mostly ingredients from out plowshare:

Keilbasa Soup:
1 keilbasa (here I used turkey keilbasa)
1 small cabbage (from last week's plowshare)
4 small potatoes, diced (from last week's plowshare)

~2 cups green beans (these were frozen from a previous plowshare)
1 can stewed tomatoes

Layer ingredients in a crock pot (works best if potatoes are on the bottom). Add water until veggies are just covered. Cook on high until potatoes are fork tender. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Penn State prepares for Halloween

My friend shared an article from our student-run, University newspaper. I thought I could keep my comments to myself, but ended up writing more than he probably wanted to read on his facebook page, so I'm going to post it here as well.

Regarding this article about Halloween at Penn State.

I am, at the same time, speechless, and brimming with things to say.

As my favorite holiday (and wedding anniversary), I tend to expect a lot more than other people out of Halloween costumes. Yes, it is a time to dress up, but not just to be skanky. Furthermore, it isn't as if skimpy, low-cut tops, and nearly absent skirts are a rarity in State College on any Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. Sure, costumes may show off bare skin, or be skin tight (for both females and males), but take some initiative and put a little thought into it. It is entirely possible to come up with something unique and creative that can be somewhat provocative and show off ingenuity. How about that? Girls can be both smart AND sexy.

Also, as a biologist, and a rational human being, am quite frustrated that the author tries to blame dressing like a trollop on some biological imperative, and then goes on to contradict herself by saying that, in reality, the kinds of "relationships" that will be produced by this sort of behavior only last 8 hours or less. It is not particularly advantageous to a female, who will be investing a large amount of time and energy into her offspring, to mate with the first package of semen that walks by. There are so many social mores that shape how and what we think, independent of evolutionary history, that to boil it down, and not even get it correct is annoying.

I'm distraught by how accepting, and even embracing, the author is of the slut-fest that costume manufacturers cater to. I don't think that costume-makers, or any other business in our capitalistic society make items and expect people to buy them because that is what is available. They make these outfits because that is what people are choosing to spend the most money on. If people quit buying "skirts up to here" costumes, the companies would put out other products.

Her main thesis, though, it seems, is that, more than any other holiday, Halloween is the time of year to whore-it-up, and that's exactly what college students, such as herself, should do.

Way to keep it classy, Penn State.

As an aside, I am taken aback by how many words there are to describe a female who is perceived to be sexually disreputable, and the glaring lack of similar words that apply to males, or that are gender neutral. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

the right to discriminate

I couldn't agree more with the sentiments expressed in this editorial about the Boy Scouts of America choosing to discriminate which people can and cannot be affiliated.

As a private organization it is their right to choose who can and cannot participate in Boy Scouts, but as an American who supports diversity, and equality, I can choose not to support their bigotry.
"But if someone willingly joins a private club that discriminates against a particular segment of the population, then each time that person pays dues or attends a meeting, he or she is indirectly expressing agreement with the discriminatory policy."
I don't know the history previous, but finally, five years after I suggested it (and it was unceremoniously shot down), some turnover in leadership, and the efforts of several other people, the mission of the Graduate Women in Science, GWIS, are now gender neutral. As a woman in Science I think that working towards gender equity should be the primary goal, not inadvertently (or purposefully) discriminating against men. Further, we also now open membership to anyone who has a Bachelor's degree in a STEM-related field and supports the mission of our organization.

While I can understand that discrimination against women has left a huge scar on the collective psyche of women scientists, even those just 5 or 10 years more advanced than myself, I really do believe that the only way to move forward is to be inclusive, to not fall prey to an "us versus them" mentality. We need to listen to and genuinely consider the viewpoints of both men and women (and transgender individuals) when working towards policy changes, and having active participation from all parties can only make us stronger.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


That's how many slime samples we made (in two nights) in preparation for the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Four thousand, three hundred and fifty-four. Wow! I'm so impressed with our volunteers, and I know they'll do an amazing job in DC.

There were quite a few Nu chapter GWIS members, Scott helped by recruiting some of his labmates, as did some other labs,  a few volunteers brought their significant others and roommates. There were also girls from AWIS and SWE. So we had a good distribution of postdocs, grad students, and undergrads working together to get this all done. We had a pretty good assembly-line set-up.

People stapling labels to bags.

Making the glue solution. 

Mixing the glue with borax solutions.

(Some messier than others)

Kneading and partitioning slime.

Divided based on different colors.

 Packaging slime partitions.

And finally, after food coloring, mixing, resting, partitioning, labeling and sealing, we have our final packages!

Well done everyone!!

What do you call alternative medicine that works?


The mouse-over is so great, I had to share it to make sure you can read it:
"Not to be confused with 'making money selling this stuff to OTHER people who think it works', which corporate accountants and actuaries have zero problems with."
Also, this is not to discredit medical practices that, while still useful, have merely fallen out of favor with the development of new technologies (generally called "natural" medicine, but that can sometimes get confused with homeopathy). Oldies can be goodies - for example, putting sugar in a wound to help prevent infection. I helped with this procedure when I was a Nurse Aid after one of our doctor's prescribed it - and a recent study (Chiwenga, Dowlen and Mannion, 2009) finds significant benefits of sugar-wound treatment in Malawi.

week 22 of plowshare produce

As a preface, we didn't take everything this week because 1) we still had plenty leftover from last week, 2) we are going to be out of town this weekend, and 3) we know it'll go to a good home (leftovers are donated to neighbors/others who will appreciate the fresh veggies!!)

This Week’s Veggies: potatoes or sweet potatoes, onions and garlic, carrots, broccoli, rutabagas, cabbage, kale or chard, spinach or lettuce or mizuna/arugula bunches, peppers, herbs, hot peppers   

I've been wanting to make a cheddar-broccoli soup, after seeing the linked post by one of my friends in Nebrasksa. But, I also knew we had a lot of veggies to get through, so I made up my own, with hers as inspiration. We'll call it, Hearty Broccoli Soup.

Hearty Broccoli Soup
* 1 large onion, diced
* 1 head of broccoli, diced
* 4 med potatoes, diced
* 4 med turnips, diced
* ~3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
* 1 cup skim milk
* 2 cups shredded cheese (I used 1 cup shredded yellow cheddar and 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar)

In a large pot, saute onion until tender (in water or oil). Add diced veggies. Add enough broth to just cover veggies, cover pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Cook until all veggies are fork-tender. Remove pan from heat and puree veggie mixture. I did this in the blender in two batches, adding 1 cup of milk as the liquid for the first batch, and the vegetable broth for the second. If you're lucky enough to have a hand mixer - that would probably be much easier! Just add the milk to the pot, or omit milk and add enough broth to get the texture you prefer. Once the mixture is well blended, return pot to medium heat and stir in the cheese. I am generally not a fan of sharp cheeses, but recommend sharp cheddar for this soup because you'll get more "bang for your buck" with respect to the cheese-to-soup-flavor (i.e. more cheesy flavor, less fat). Using the potatoes also gives this soup a rich, hearty flavor, without the cream, and blends for a thick texture quite nicely without the butter/flour combo generally used. 

I also sliced a lot of the onions we had, caramelized them, mixed in a can of Yuengling Black and Tan and added some brauts that Scott seared on the grill. I actually didn't eat any of these, but our friends who came over seemed to enjoy them. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Accessible research: Whooping cough

Once a month the Bioinformatics and Genomics option holds a breakfast meeting where students and postdocs can present their research to their peers (less formal than a seminar populated mostly by faculty), and receive constructive (hopefully) feedback.

Today's presentation was by Jennie Lavine from the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. It was a fantastically comprehensive talk about the infection dynamics of whooping cough, a disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. You can find a summary of her work at the link to her name above, or by looking up these papers:

Lavine, J., Broutin, H., Harvill, E. and Bjornstad, O. In press. Imperfect vaccine-induced immunity and whooping cough transmission to infants.  Vaccine.
Roy, S., Lavine, J., Chiaromonte, F., Terwee J., VandeWoude, S., Bjornstad, O. and Poss, M. 2009. Multivariate Statistical Analyses Demonstrate Unique Host Immune Responses to Single and Dual Lentiviral Infection.  PLoS One 4(10): e7359 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007359.
Lavine, J. S., Poss, M., and Grenfell, B. T. 2008. Directly transmitted viral diseases: modeling the dynamics of transmission. Trends in Microbiology 16:165-172.
The messages I took home from her talk were:
1. There have been changes in the distribution of which age groups are significantly infected with whooping cough after the introduction of vaccines - changing from mostly young children (0-5yrs) to teenagers.
2. Although still MUCH LOWER than pre-vaccination levels, there has been a steady increase in the incidence  of whooping cough since 1979, likely due, ironically, to lack of continued exposure to the infection.
3. The most infected individuals are still babies 0-6 months and, surprisingly, teenagers, beginning at ~12yrs. Curiously, their infection dynamics are different, with the yearly infection rate peaking for babies during the summer, and for teenagers during the winter - indicating that there is likely little teenage-to-baby transmission. The peak for teenagers is likely due to higher contact during the winter months. The infection of infants is likely to to asymptomatic adults (adults who are infected, but with no outwardly visible symptoms). Note that although the bacteria is still more fatal in infants than teens, the disease can take 4-6months to run its course, making things very unpleasant for the teenagers. 
4. The models of infection, even with vaccination still predict sections of outbreak, so the recommendations for boosters are to give booster vaccinations to both teenagers and to adults who will be in contact with children less than six months (parents, caregivers, daycare workers, etc) to cocoon the infants.
 I've already gotten my booster shot for this, but we need to make sure Scott gets it soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

making slime

If you're free, please stop over and help!!

Wednesday October 20th
216 Whitmore
5:30pm - until we're done

take that, proposal!

I just submitted my application - all 29 pages of it - for the NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology! I know, I know, there's a 5% chance of being awarded the fellowship, but I have such a sense of accomplishment just completing it!

One other fellowship is completely submitted and finalized. Two other fellowships are submitted, but waiting on materials from my references and sponsoring scientist (so some gentle reminders will go out soon). That just leaves one. The big one. The NIH postdoctoral research fellowship. Well, one and a half - there's a smaller grant I'd like to apply for, due in January, but it's not as high on my list of priorities.

 So, what will I do with all my free time now? Well, other than start the NIH postdoc application, finalize my next manuscript to go out to our collaborators, and catch up on writing the review article, I am going to try to make ~2,000 slime samples tomorrow afternoon with a group of volunteers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

another marathon day of cooking

I know tomorrow I'll be working on finalizing my NSF postdoctoral fellowship all day, so I tried to take today for cooking (and fun?).

Scott went golfing this morning, and while he was gone I flitted between cooking and re-reading through the requirements for the NSF app.

The first thing I made was a batch of these sweet potato muffins. Maybe it is the cooler weather that has set in that makes the spicy pumpkin-y deliciousness of these muffins really shine, but I think these are the best muffins I've ever made (don't let their unassuming exterior fool you).

Sweet potato muffins
1.5 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, ginger and cloves
1/4 c. oil
2 eggs
1 c. pureed sweet potatoes (add up to 1/4 c. water for smoother consistency)

Whisk ingredients together well. Spoon batter into 1 dozen muffin cups. Bake at 350F for ~20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

I made more doggie snacks out of the sweet potato peels - baking them at 350F for ~15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. We gave some to our friends to try with their picky dog, and he loved them as well!

While the muffins were baking, I started cleaning out the spice cabinets, and came across this box of gelatin.

I used it to make some homemade jello - pink lemonade and pineapple juice jello! It's so tasty - I think this fruit juice jello might be my default instead of the usual artificially flavored sugar packets you buy in the store.

Then, I started dinner. A couple weeks ago we went to the beer and food pairing at Wegmans. Scott got double beer samples, but also really loved the slow-cooked country pork with sauerkraut, so I tried to replicate it, kind of. I sliced and braised the pork, then cooked a sliced onion with the sauerkraut, and decided to add some potatoes.

But I found a little man in one of our potatoes! (Don't worry, I didn't cook him.)

I put it all together and set it in the crock pot for the next few hours until it all fell apart in a mouth-watering mix (well, mouth-watering if you like pork and sauerkraut). 

I still had a bunch of sweet potatoes leftover, so I made a couple sweet potato pies (the pumpkin and squash in the picture are misleading - they're only there for their pretty faces). 

I followed the Libby's pumpkin pie recipe, cutting the sugar by 25% and adding nutmeg, and made my first homemade crust (2c. flour, 1c. shortening, 1tsp salt, 1/2 c. water, refrigerate for 4 hrs). Even warm, it is pretty good pie. Again, you'd never know the difference between the sweet potato and pumpkin.

I had leftover crust (I like a thinner crust), and I remembered seeing this post about homemade poptarts, so I thought I'd give it a try. I just rolled out the leftover dough, and used the recipe for cinnamon-sugar filling.

They were light, crispy, and very tasty! I would definitely make these again!!

And, with that, I'm done with cooking/baking for a day and all prepared with snacks for working tomorrow!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Like a chicken with my head cut off

Yesterday was all about making sure we don't waste anything from our CSA, but there are lots of other things I need to get done as well before the baby comes, especially in the next week.

As time wanes between now and the USA Science and Engineering Festival, I'm trying not to get stressed out about getting everything done. I'm coordinating over 30 volunteers to work the booth and help make the ~5,000 slime samples we will be taking to DC for this event (expecting 100,000 people to be on the Mall the 23rd and 24th of October for this festival)!

The 50 gallons of glue are waiting for me to pick them up. I have someone working on making up the Borax solution. I ordered the paper labels (just plain paper that we'll staple/tape to the bags), and picked them up today. I still need to purchase the baggies, food coloring, tape, trash bags, a case or two of water, and any other items. I also need to send out final information to the volunteers to make sure everyone knows where to be and when. Then, Scott and I will be driving down to help run the booth and make sure everything goes smoothly on the 23rd and 24th. Oh, and we need to find someone to watch the rats while we're gone.

Speaking of the rats, Chip (small brown dog) has been worrying me lately. He has had a few accidents in the house, and keeps "bowing", he stands, then bows his front half down to the ground (almost as if he were stretching) and just stands there in this position. We read that it means he probably has some abdominal pain (likely what is contributing to his accidents. We cut down his food, and snacks, and he hasn't had any accidents the past two days, but I'm still worried about him because today when I took him out after coming home, he didn't pee or poop. Nothing. No accident inside, nothing outside. Eventually a couple hours later he peed, but still no number two. So, going to keep an eye on him and if things don't get back to normal soon, take him into the vet.

In food news, I did make the cheesy cauliflower, and it was pretty tasty. We at it alongside the DELICIOUS butternut squash soup for dinner tonight.

What I really like about it is that it is fairly low cal, and just about as tasty as cheesy potatoes. 

Cheesy cauliflower
*1 head cauliflower, chopped and boiled/steamed
* 2 cups skim milk
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 cup shredded colby or cheddar cheese
* 2 Tbs corn starch mixed with water

Preheat oven to 500F. After cooking cauliflower, bring milk to a boil, add corn starch and water mixture, stirring constantly until well-incorporated and mixture thickens. Add more corn starch and water mixture if you want it thicker, and season with salt and pepper - I used about a half a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Pour milk mixture over cauliflower. Top with shredded cheese. Place in oven for 10-13 minutes until cheese starts to brown (less if you just like melted cheese). 

Now I'm going to work on updating the manuscript for my second research article - hopefully to finish it and the changes to the figures by tomorrow morning so we can send to our collaborators in England. This weekend I'll finish section 2 (of 4) of the review article I'm writing. This weekend I will also need to spend a good amount of time updating my NSF postdoctoral fellowship, and compiling and uploading the information from my sponsoring scientists - it is due on Tuesday!

Friday is a going-away celebration for the first postdoc in our lab - he has a new job in Japan - Congrats Hiroki!!

Next Monday (before our birthing class) and Wednesday the volunteers will be coming to make slime, so I'll need to get the 5,000+ labels cut and make sure I have enough boxes for all the samples (I've slowly been pilfering cardboard boxes after the different labs on my floor order supplies. 

Thinking of supplies, I also need to train one of the new graduate students in our lab how to order supplies (I just put in a big order today, but she wasn't around), so in case anything needs ordered while I'm out of the office, she'll be prepared. In addition, I need to meet with our new postdoc, to help him figure out how to submit a new IBC protocol to the Internal Review Board, and remember to fill out the paperwork to add him to all of our current IBC and IRB protocols (that allow him to work with the materials in our wet lab).

Finally, I need to sit down with Scott and figure out the details of our Halloween party (and anniversary party!), as well as figure out what else I need to do for the baby shower. 

To try and maintain my sanity, I've been doing my best to make time to go to the gym (either for some low-impact aerobics, or biking on the recumbent bike and stretching), but it seems like I'm still packing on the pounds. I'm hoping the extra weight is distributed mostly to my belly so I will be able to survive with the few pairs of pants I have. I know, I know, preggos are supposed to gain some weight, but I'm not really eating for two people, just one person and one tiny developing soon-to-be person. Although this little sea monkey is really starting to throw my back out of alignment. She's starting to seem less small and more like a pumpkin!

In conclusion, I'm doing my best to find the balance, but this week it has been a little more difficult than normal. Thank goodness that all things pass in time. :)

Exercise is good for you? Who knew!?

The latest results are uniquely beneficial because rather than focus on exercises usually done at a gym (which requires $$), the researchers studied that amount of walking, outside, each patient did. This is huge because anyone with the ability to walk, can walk outside. What they found was that walking six to nine miles a week can help reduce the likelihood of losing brain function.

I realized that this might seem a little overwhelming to some people, but when broken down over a week, is not very much. You could get this much in by walking 1 mile a day, broken into 1/2 mile in the morning and 1/2 mile in the evening. That's only a quarter mile out and quarter mile home. Easy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The return of beets

Finally, I sliced and boiled the beets, then peeled them and pureed them. 

I put some in a jar, for later use. 

I used the rest (~1 cup), along with some of our powdered peanut butter, to make some chocolate peanut butter muffins.

Chocolate-peanut butter muffins
1 c. cooked, peeled and pureed beets
Combine in large mixing bowl and beat well:* 1/2 c. sugar
* 2 eggs
Add along with pureed beets and beat well:* 1/4 c. cocoa
* 1 T. vanilla
* 1/4 c. peanut butter (dry mix with water)Gradually sift into batter, mixing till blended:* 1 c. whole wheat flour
* 1 t. baking soda

Spoon batter into cupcake tin with muffin cups. Bake at 350F for ~20 minutes. Allow to cool completely then top with your favorite frosting or peanut butter, eat with ice cream, or just enjoy as they are.

A variety of uses for sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes!!  

I peeled them and baked the peels in the oven until crispy, to use as dog treats. The dogs really, really love them. 

I diced and boiled a them, then pureed them. I'm hoping to make some sweet potato pie this weekend.

One sweet potato I cooked in the microwave (~1 cup when mashed), to make chocolate chip sweet potato muffins.

Chocolate chip sweet potato muffins
* 2 eggs
* 1½ cups whole wheat flour
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp baking soda
* ¾ cup light brown sugar
* 1 cup sweet potato, mashed
* 1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix ingredients well. Spoon into muffin cups. Bake ~20 min, check at 15, done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Butternut Squash Soup

I wanted to use the butternut squash from our garden, but because of the odd shape, they tend to cook so unevenly. I peeled and sliced the tops, then scooped the seeds out of the bottom half and roasted them:

I then used the roasted and the rest of the butternut squash squash to make this delicious soup:

Butternut Squash Soup
* 3 medium butternut squash, roast the bulbs in the oven, peel and dice the top "meaty" half
* 1 diced onion
* 4 cups chicken/vegetable broth
* ~1/4lb diced pork

Cook diced pork on high heat until browned. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add broth and diced butternut squash. Cook until squash is tender, then mash with a potato masher. Peel and puree the roasted squash with some of the broth or water. Add puree to soup. Season with salt/pepper to taste.

week 21 of plowshare produce

Yay! We remembered to get our veggies this week, and I'm determined not to let any of it go to waste! In an effort to do so, I'll put up a few posts!

This Week’s Veggies: pie pumpkins, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic, beets with tops, broccoli and cauliflower, turnips, fennel,  herbs, hot peppers  

From last week, I chopped up cauliflower, to boil - later this week I'll make some cauliflower gratin.

I also made some applesauce,  following a recipe from friends. I left it chunky, and we've been eating it on oatmeal - delicious!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Just seeing how posting from my phone works :)

Text is okay, but can't seem to post pictures. That is unfortunate.

But I can still update from Amazon, so can tell you (with pic) that we are watching a Komodo dragon attack a water buffalo. The poison takes about three weeks to take enough effect for the final kill. Patient beasties. :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Breast is best, now that's a tongue twister :)

Recent statistics from the CDC indicate that more women are attempting breast-feeding, but that the amount who continue at 6 and 12 months, respectively, have not changed much.

From the CDC report card, Pennsylvania does pretty poorly, overall, while Nebraska, and the Western half of the US are somewhat better (reaching nearly 50% or more of children being breast-fed at 6 months).

Some of the challenges to breastfeeding are not enough support, both from the immediate social environment, and on a more national-scale. Breastfeeding needs to be widely socially acceptable in order for it to flourish.

I understand that breastfeeding is very challenging (although, I'll have some first-hand experience here soon, so look for an update soon!), but find it frustrating that a quarter of the mothers don't even try to breastfeed initially, and that more than half have quit before 6 months. The benefits of the particular proteins, antibodies and other "good stuff" in breast milk are only now being really hashed out; preliminary results indicate a lower risk for obesity and lower blood pressure for the baby, and a reduced risk of cancers for the mother.

These benefits aren't necessarily reserved for full-time breastfeeders either, even part-time breastfeeding, with supplementation can have a positive impact. So, for those moms that are physically unable to produce enough milk, even a little is good, don't give up completely!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


This will be my 350th post! Yay! I realized this accidentally, which is especially funny given my original intention for this post.

I'm here to comment about pregnancy brain. Real? Well, that depends. Am I forgetting things more often? Yes.

On Monday, I booked dinner with friends of ours at the same time as our first childbirth education class. Tuesday I booked an ultrasound at the same time as a meeting I was organizing (to be fair, it was the only free time for the ultrasound). Tuesday I also COMPLETELY forgot to pick up the vegetables from our plowshare - not like we haven't been doing it at the same time every Tuesday for the past 19 weeks. Last week, even after my reminder the day before, I just forgot to show up for a morning meeting (thankfully it was two buildings over, and the woman was very understanding and called me when I was 20 minutes late to remind me).

It has kicked me into reality a little, so I'll be doing my best from here on out to put everything on all my calendars (work and home).

Needless to say, there will be no plowshare photo this week, although I did make delicious chocolate chip sweet potato spice muffins this morning with a potato from last week. I'll try to post the picture later.

The End.

Reading through comments on the blog of Michael Behe's son, I came across this one from sherkaner that struck a chord with me:
Strangely the most disturbing thing to me being brought up devoutly Christian was the concept of Heaven. Hell made sense; eternal suffering. Suffering happens on earth and Hell just offers lots of that forever. Fine, I'll avoid that.
But then I started pondering the idea of eternal existence without pain or sin. Rather than more of something we have on earth, Heaven removes something. What would that "world" look like? What would I do for eternity without even the threat of the pain of failure to drive achievement? What would it be like to know somebody I loved was in hell without the ability to feel anguish? Heaven started to sound like torture -- an inhuman, lobotomized existence without end.
And I was like 10 years old here. Sh** was traumatic.
FeepingCreature follows up with:

Heaven is worse than torture.
Not only would you be effectively lobotomized, you wouldn't even be capable of noticing this, since doing so would detract from your perfect permabliss. It's not far above brain death. Some afterlife.
I suppose it depends on whether you really think ignorance is bliss. Would you rather be willfully ignorant and completely unable to feel concern for anyone you cared about? Some of the best feelings (relief that a loved one is safe, satisfaction at mastering a task, joy at an unexpected surprise) are only possible if contrasted by the negative feelings (conversely, fear for one's safety, frustration at failing and disappointment or boredom with the status quo).

As simple as it sounds, even the fulfillment that comes from getting a good night's rest in a warm comfy bed is much less meaningful without ever having experienced sleep deprivation or falling asleep in a chair.

What about food? I love eating. I love the contentedly-full feeling that comes after an especially delicious meal, savoring a special dessert, sneaking a salty snack. Kind of hard to do without a body. Or, if I had a body, I would overeat, miss meals, sweat, urinate, defecate, get upset stomachs and gas. Alternatively, I suppose I could just remember what it was like to eat.

The arguments could go one forever, but it boils down to this for me:

I don't want to be a mindless, numb, dumb, lump. I'm very much at peace with the idea that when my body expires, so will my brain, and all the emotions and thoughts it processed. With any luck, I'll be missed by my family and friends, but I won't be here, or anywhere, anymore.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rhesus what?

Today I got a Rhogam (Rho(D) Immune Globulin) injection to help prevent my body from making antibodies to the baby's blood-type. (Basically to keep my body from destroying the baby's blood.)

There are lots of things to consider when looking at compatibility of blood types, but generally the most important are the ABO blood type, and the Rh factor. Although there are quite a few Rh negative alleles (gene forms) in the population, it is recessive, so most people are phenotypically Rh positive (the positive allele is dominant over the negative allele).

We all have two copies of each gene, one copy from mom and one from dad. With recessive and dominant alleles, here is how the phenotype (what we observe) will be between different possibilities of R (the positive, dominant Rh allele), and r (the negative, recessive Rh allele):

Observed   Allele1    Allele2
Negative        r               r
Positive          R             R
Positive          R             r
Positive          r              R

So, even though three of the possibilities above include at least one recessive (r) allele, only one person is observed as being a negative Rh factor, because the little r is always masked out by the big R.

I'm Rh negative, and Scott is Rh positive, so there's a pretty good chance the baby will be Rh positive as well. There is a 50:50 chance it will be positive if Scott is heterozygous at the Rh allele (that is, he has one positive and one negative gene form), because to be negative, I must have two negative alleles. If he is heterozygous (Rr), then the baby could be:

Rr      OR      rr

with equal likelihood.

However, if he is homozygous (has two dominant copies, RR), then the baby can only get a "R" from him and a "r" from be, so it will be "Rr" meaning it will have a postitive Rh factor with a probability of 100%, and my body could recognize it as something foreign and try to destroy the positive Rh factor blood cells.

What that all boils down to is that it is best to treat for the potential problem (one injection now, one after the baby is born), to prevent the risk of future complications.

Monday, October 4, 2010

being sentimental about our dogs today

I know they won't live forever, but I look forward to many, many more years with our dogs. I know my heart will be completely broken when they pass, but this story about old dogs, helps me remember that they're worth it.