Friday, January 30, 2009


From Jesus and Mo:
I thought this comment was particularly relevant today given announcements and admissions of the Rev. Ted Haggard's hypocritical activities. It seems to be a common theme throughout history: people reviling a particular action in public, while partaking in private. 

Perhaps we are predisposed to it, because I think, on some level, we all do it. For example, while in traffic, I get upset when someone does something irresponsible while they aren't paying attention.  While, at the same time, when I get distracted, and potentially confuse traffic or cut someone off, I feel embarrassed, and hope that the other car will understand that it was an accident.  

Still, there certainly are levels of hypocrisy that I hope I never stoop to - such as asserting that some groups of people are not eligible for the same basic human rights that I enjoy, such as the freedom to marry, to adopt children, to have a fair chance of getting a job, to serve in the military without hiding who I am as a person.  Decidedly, these things can be difficult or impossible for people in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi and transgender) community, but also, depending on the location, they can be challenging for atheists and those in non-Christian religions.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The art of bartering

I just learned about a new site today that encourages sustainability, well, it is a start.

It is called SwapTree. The idea is that you list items you have, then swap with those who have what you want. I like that it encourages utilizing what you already have - I'm not sure that shipping items all across the country is as great of an idea as it could be.  For example, a local swap would be better than the national swap, but it is a very good place to start. 

Craiglist, which has both a "barter" and a "free" section, is also nice, as well, as locally here in State College there is State College Classifieds.

Please comment with other good sites for trading, borrowing, selling used stuff (aside from the well known amazon, ebay, etc.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The difference between people and ideas

As we all saw in the last election cycle, it is easy to get caught up in hating ideas, and projecting all of those negative feelings towards an individual.  Even more than the extreme examples of racism, bigotry and misogyny from the election and even the daily paper, I think that fear, of the unknown, of what we dislike, or of what might result from a particular decision, can drive each person to say things and do things that misrepresent their true intentions.

I know when I get fired up about something, I'll defend it further than I have to. I'll push harder and dig deeper, just to make sure I've done everything in my power to support the person/idea/issue that I truly believe in.

But, I also believe that most people are acting with the best of intentions, that we all want our world, our country, to be a safer, healthier, happier place. Theft, murder, rape, bullying; These things would nearly drop out of existence, I think, if we weren't so good at making "us" and "them" categories.  It is easy to lose the emotional connection to them because, who are they? We don't know them. They don't think, feel or act the same way was as we do, right?

To that, I say, YES!, they do think, feel and act in similar ways, with similar intentions. Similar good intentions (most of the time). So, it is on this note that I wanted to share a recent interview between Cindy McCain and her daughter. I never disliked John McCain - in fact, he helped get my dad off the Terror Watch List!  I disagreed with some of his ideas, but I also agreed with some (the same is actually true of Barack Obama as well). We'll leave the VPs for another discussion. I especially like this interview because it really does feel like a conversation between mother and daughter. It is fluid, open, and helps remind us that regardless of differing opinions, we're all still people.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Right here, right now

I like being aware of the events that make an impact on history, when they occur.

I was in middle school when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred. I remember being worried about family and friends back in Oklahoma (we were in Arizona at that point, but I was born and still have family in OK). I remember seeing pictures and wondering why someone would attack so many people they didn't know. It was my first encounter with terrorism, and I suppose it has shaded all of my perceptions of subsequent acts. 

I was a sophomore in high school when Columbine happened. Overnight there were more restrictions on when, where and how people could travel through the halls, stigmas associated with the kids who wore trench coats were (falsely) validated, and all fire alarms were now suspect.

My freshman year of college four planes were hijacked, one crashed in PA, one into the Pentagon and two into the Twin Towers, on September 11th. Stripping is now a useful skill to pass through security quickly, toothpaste is considered a weapon, and yet somehow I made it through three different states' security checkpoints with a 4-inch pocket knife my Uncle had given me that I'd long forgotten about in the bottom pouch of my backpack.

A lot of the good memories seem to be lost in the frustration of the over-reactions to terrorism.

Maybe that's part of the reason why I am so excited for tomorrow. Tomorrow a person I spent hours researching, discussing and defending, volunteered weeks for and stood in line two hours to vote for will become the 44th president of the United States of America. I understand that Barack Obama is not perfect, that his vision and mine are not identical, but, until I am proven wrong, I believe that he will openly listen to my opinions and honestly consider my viewpoint. And, when it comes down to it, I am confident that he will make well-informed decisions, whether I agree with them or not. So, let's welcome the 44th president with our own eyes open, with a willingness to work hard, and above all to compromise.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quarter of a Century

Yesterday I was half as old as my mom, and today I'm half as old as my dad - how cool is that?!

Thank-you for all of the birthday wishes!! I am very lucky to have so many wonderful friends and family! 

What else happened on this day in history, you may wonder? Many things! Although, it seems like most of them are not exactly things I would want associated with me (e.g. passing prohibition in 1919, Cheney's, I mean Bush's, second inauguration in 2005, attacking Iraq in 1991). We'll let's make sure more good things happen today!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Seeing as a lot of people I love have been to Iraq or Afghanistan (or elsewhere with the military), I thought it was relevant to post these two links. The first is a comic book designed as a final project to the Comparative Genomics course taught here at Penn State, and the second is a compilation of photos set to music by the same student that developed the comic book. 

The comic is the result of a project studying potential genetic elements that might make a person more or less susceptible to experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The student describes it as "Trauma in the Brain: A Conceptual Comic Book about Psychiatric Diseases and Our Genes." In just a semester he was able to identify a putative allele (a variant of a gene) that, when present, is linked to an increased likelihood of experiencing PTSD.

To explain what an allele of a gene is, take this example:
Assume Gene1 determines eye color. All people have Gene1, but there are many variants (alleles) of Gene1, such that one variant (or allele), we'll call it Gene1A will cause brown eyes in one person while a different variant (or allele) of the same gene, we'll call it Gene1B will cause blue eyes. Thus, two people having brown eyes and blue eyes, respectively, does not mean that the two people have different "genes", just that they each have a different allele (or variant) of the same gene. 

So, initial work with this student's project seems to indicate that one variant of the same gene may make one person more inclined to experience PTSD than those without this particular variant.

Please share these with all veterans (and non-veterans) in your life.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

San Luis

While in Arizona my Dad, Deanda, Scott and I spent a day on a Medical Mission trip with a variety of medical personnel (MD, PA, RN, PT), and a few of us regular Joes. The trip is organized monthly by a doctor my dad works with. Apparently each time the location visited may or may not be the same, but the purpose is consistent: provide basic medical examinations, and medicines, as well as daily vitamins, to the local townspeople. 

You can see more pictures from the medical mission trip on flickr.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Yesterday we decided to try the Carrot Cake Cupcake Recipe from Happy Herbivore, and it was delicious!!  We took them over for dessert with my (step) siblings.  Four remarks if you're going to try the recipe:

1. Yes, you really do need to fill them to the top of the cup because they do not rise very much.
2. Adjust the baking time according to your oven, we cooked them nearly twice as long, but be careful not to overbake - they will retain a lot of moisture while baking and some of this will evaporate while they cool.
3. 1 cup of powdered sugar is MORE than enough for the frosting - the consensus was that half a cup would be sufficient.
4. Unless you're someone who eats frosting with a spoon, the frosting recipe is good for a double batch - or just forgo the frosting altogether for a healthy breakfast bar!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Save the (towel) Animals!

My dad (George) and step-mom (Deanda), recently learned how to make towel animals on a cruise they took along the west coast. Here are some pictures of my dad showing us how to make a towel elephant. 

Arizona is beautiful this time of year (of course), and we have really been enjoying our trip.  We arrived and got to try out the new light rail system. It only covers about 20 miles of the city, and less than 10 in the direction we needed to head, so, with the help of two very friendly strangers, we caught a bus that took us to within 5 miles of my dad's place, where Deanda came and picked us up. While waiting at the gas station, who should we run into but a couple from Hershey and Lancaster PA. The two just moved out here three days ago! 

We toured the Rock and Mineral Show, where I picked up a cool fish fossil! I'm going to have to figure out how to mount it in a shadow
 box, and which wall I'll put it on. I was trying to come up with a name for it, but I think, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the publishing of the The Origin of Species, and the 150th anniversary of his birth, I'll just call it my Darwin Fish.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


So, if you have any resolutions (new or old), feel free to share them here!  You know, accountability (i.e. peer pressure) helps to keep you on the right path. I know having the support of my friends and family helps keep me going. 

I have two new resolutions:
1. Do yoga every morning after I wake up (if even for 10 minutes)
2. Log 5 miles a week (walking, running, elliptical, but miles on a bike have to be divided by 3)

So far it is day 7 and I am going strong! ExerciseTV has a variety of yoga workouts, so that helps to motivate me at 6:30 every morning.  Also, not requiring that I run the 5 miles seems to really help out also.  I feel like I spend longer (and probably get more cardio in) on the machines because I don't feel obligated to run the entire time. Also, I am keeping track of the miles and minutes each week; it makes me want to work out 5 minutes longer each day, just to add to my totals.  Let's see how long I can keep it up!!

My dad mentioned he will be planning a trip to Machu Picchu in the next year, which I am VERY excited to get in on.

In other, non-academic goals, I'm hoping to incorporate more healthy eating habits into my life (with some advice from the Happy Herbivore), improve my knitting/crocheting skills, and spend more time with my friends and family throughout the year. 

Academically, I'm working to get enough research done to present at two conferences this summer.  While there, I'll be looking for potential post-doc advisors/positions, as well as opportunities to work as a director of Science Outreach. For all of those inquiring minds, I'll write more about my research in future posts, because I know you'll find it as wildly interesting as I do!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dress for Success

Last semester the Graduate Women in Science (GWIS), here at Penn State, tried to organize a clothing drive to support Dress for Success, but it turned into a much larger drive, where we collected over 40 boxes of clothes (ranging from winter coats to swimsuits) that we donated to the Goodwill.

Well, now it is looking like maybe we had better pursue our original goal. Apparently Dress for Success, like all other charitable organizations, is having a tough time, losing funding and support nationwide, in a time when we desperately need to encourage everyone in their efforts to find employment. 

Surely we can't all have our dream jobs, but those of us fortunate enough to have some sort of consistent employment, might be able to take some time to support those who don't.