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.


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


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


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


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


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)

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


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!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Somebody's kid

They aren't my children, or family or friends, but looking through these pictures, I feel like any one of them could have been. The pictures are so full of life, and I can't imagine what their families must be going through.

These are the victims of the Oslo bombing and shooting.

Oh, to be Dutch

Freethinking church officials? I say, the more the merrier.


As I walked to pick up Claire from daycare I passed an cafe with lots of outside seating. I noticed (what I assume was) a mom bottle-feeding her baby. My first thought was, "Huh, I wonder why she isn't nursing? Maybe she's embarrassed, maybe her milk didn't come in...". and then I realized what a shift that was from what I would have thought a year ago. Sometime, during the past seven months, breastfeeding has become the norm, whereas before I would have always thought that bottle-feeding was the norm.

But, I am just one person, how do we promote this shift among the general population?

Just after our little girl was born a friend's girlfriend mentioned to me how shocked she was when a lady started nursing her baby in a restaurant they were at. At the time I was more diplomatic, but now my response would be less forgiving. Of course this woman should feed her child, wherever she is. I know that I have often bowed to peer pressure and put off nursing until I could find a private location, but the more I think about it, the more backward this is. Babies should eat when they're hungry, wherever they are, whether it is out of a bottle or from a breast.

Because "Americans only have children on accident."

I don't understand why there is this perception that being on birth control will cause girls to sleep with anyone indiscriminately. I guess there are double standards for guys, then, because they don't need to worry about getting pregnant, right? That's why all guys sleep with every girl they meet, right?

Furthermore, how can anyone equate birth control, breastpumps, and counseling for abuse with getting a manicure? Grrrr...

I really can understand if someone thinks the government shouldn't pay for medical expenses, but that should include all medical expenses, and shouldn't exclude those that specifically help women (although counseling for abuse is beneficial for both men and women). 

I would like to add that I am completely in love with my daughter. And, despite the suppositions of socially conservative US politicians, I have a beautiful daughter, after being on birth control for many years, at a time when I am both emotionally and financially stable. Being able to plan for when her father and I were both ready for her resulted in me having the time to make sure I was in the best health I could be (updated on my vaccinations, taking prenatal vitamins, exercising and eating healthy), before we got pregnant. I think this helped reduce my stress, and helped me be really excited and prepared for about our baby.

I can only imagine how different our society would be if most pregnancies were planned, after women had time to complete the education/training that they wanted, and when most couples had had some time to themselves, as well as time to prepare (emotionally and financially) for being a parent.

That said, can you ever really be prepared to be a parent? Not completely, but you can do your best, and birth control gives women some small bit of control over the timing of their entry to motherhood.

I haven't even gotten into the benefits of providing breastpumps, so I'll save that for a later date.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Repost: Honey I shrunk the Kids!

This article discusses some research about and implications of how height and weight measurements of children vary throughout the day. It was surprising to me that BMI measurements varied more between morning and night for girls than boys. The few that shifted from healthier categories to less healthy categories (e.g. from healthy to overweight or overweight to obese). The research was ignited by yearly studies done in England on hundreds of thousands of kids. The major implication is that, of the over 150,000 girls measured, as many as 6017 may have been mislabeled as being overweight. And, as the author discusses:

"Arguably of more importance is that potentially 6017 parents and children would be informed that their child is overweight, due to their misfortune of being measured in the afternoon as opposed to the morning. We know that children labelled as overweight may be at greater risk of stigmatisation, teasing and anxiety; it is not unimaginable therefore that such a letter could trigger unhealthy activity and dietary habits and unnecessary parental intervention."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Accessible Research: the beginning of Tasty Tidbits for the brain

I've been thinking about ways to motivate myself to blog more about science, and I think, do this, I'll just write about the key results of the many research articles I'm planning to read through.

I understand the value in explaining background so that everything is in context, but a lot of times that deters me to writing because I don't think I have the proper amount of time to devote. So, I'm going to try a new technique where I summarize the main findings of a paper, that I think will be useful for me to remember, and then link to the paper so those who are interested can go read more. I'll do my best to make sure these are open access articles, but that isn't always possible.

I am hoping this technique will help me to read more critically and efficiently, and maybe even spur some questions and discussion.

I'm sure the format will change as time goes along, and I'll be happy for any suggestions as to how to make it more useful to readers.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

We aint nothin' but mammals

So, I was struck today by this thought, "I am a mammal." What brought on this realization? I was getting ready to pump milk, like I do every day at work, and it just crossed my mind how cool it is that we feed our babies milk. To my knowledge, mammals are the only set of species with mammary glands, whether rudimentary like the platypus - who just secrete milk from their mammary glands onto their furry bellies for their babies to lap up, or a pair, like great apes, or multiples of two for whole litters, like mice or dogs or pigs.

We all make milk to feed our babies. I am curious how the content of the milk differs from species to species.

Also, since I've been reading these science fiction books lately, I wonder:
- what would an alien species think of us secreting proteins and fluid from mammary glands to sustain our youngest individuals? (I suppose this includes the assumptions that an alien species would be thinking about anything at all.)
- how would aliens likely feed their young'ins?

Then, I wonder, how many of my assumptions about non-Earth lifeforms are based off of Star Trek, and other science fiction I've seen growing up. How can I start to really think outside the box when thinking of alien life. And then, there's the arguments about what constitutes life. Is self-replication required? What about parasitic life? What about single strands of RNA? What if non-Earth life is not based off of a phosphorous backbone with purine and pyrimidine bases (like RNA or DNA), but some other chemical structure entirely?? What if there were carbon-free, phosphorus-free lifeforms? Are there elements abundant in the universe that we haven't discovered yet?

So many questions! Seems like science is a good career path for me. :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 1, 2011


Okay, I know I have work to do, but I have to finish out the series. I actually finished reading Extras last night, but haven't had time to sit and blog about it until now.

WARNING: I may give away something about the first three books (Uglies, Pretties, and Specials), and maybe even about this book, so proceed at your own spoiling risk.

After finishing Extras I would definitely say that there is the trilogy, mentioned above, and this is sort of an epilogue. The characters from the Uglies trilogy make appearances, but the real story focuses around new characters, in a new town, with a new storyline. I really, really like that this book takes place in Japan - not many of the books I've read (granted this is self-selection) have taken place in East Asia, and so I was glad to have a mainstream book set there.

Once I got over the disappointment of the story not being about Tally, I really got into it, until the big "shocker" that the story centers around, about a quarter of the way into the book. This very strange thing happens and all I could think was, "wait... what?!". I had to put the book down and take a break to consider if I wanted to continue reading, wondering if Scott Westerfeld had just decided to pull a fast one on the readers. Pulling myself together again, I finished the book, and I have to say, it's worth reading, if you liked the trilogy. That said, I didn't feel as connected to the characters, or their world, as I did throughout the Uglies trilogy. Still, there is a lot of neat imagery, and it is a fast-paced, easy read - something that you can put down and come back to without feeling lost.

I've never read anything remotely sci-fi before now, and I think I could get into it a little more. But, I still have two more books (both the first of trilogies) that my friend lent me, so it'll be a little while before I come back to science fiction.

Cop out

I am in the midst of finishing my last thesis project (studying gene loss on the human Y chromosome), and am a little behind (my own) schedule, so I'll be focusing on getting some programs run and written this week.

In the meantime, here's a couple neat articles.

The first one reviews a new combo-synthetic/natural gel that is malleable until hit with LED light. Neato!

The other is looking at the probability of getting pregnant, relative to the woman's age at conception. They bring up some interesting topics, like how eggs donated to IVF tend to come from younger women, and how there might be good cause to encourage women to freeze their eggs when young to help with fertility success later in life.