So…This is 39

Posted by barb on Oct 26, 2010 in Pictures, Random Thoughts

I’m a day into being 39, and it’s not so bad. I’m not actually one of those people who dreads certain ages; there’s no point in it really. In fact, I look at the “big numbers” as excuses to get all my girlfriends together – since they’re scattered across the country, I need an excuse every now and then!

I have to admit that 38 hasn’t been the best year….parts have been great and parts have not been so great. I was looking forward to 38 because 37 seemed to suck pretty hard. Now, I can hardly remember why 37 was so hard because it’s been eclipsed by the curse of 2010.

I suppose 37 sucked because I had just graduated (which was a good thing) and was on a job hunt (which was the bad thing). It was a year-long hunt that only garnered three interviews (still, not bad compared to most recent science PhDs without PostDoc experience). And it looked like I was going to have to take a job in Mississippi…without my husband for at least the first year. 37 felt like I was in a holding pattern the whole year. I was just getting out of that pattern when I turned 38 – I had been offered a job at my current work, doing the part of my job that I loved, and had just started working full-time. The rest of my life seemed like it should fall into place nicely.

Ares asks for belly-rubs after his surgery

Duncan settles on the triangle pillow

That lasted until January, when my kitty (Ares) was diagnosed with cancer. Another kitty (Duncan) had been losing weight. January through March were all about sick cats and getting them to eat. The house had a pall of sadness…it was bleak. Things turned around for Duncan when we figured out how often we needed to feed him. We had to wait until July to hear about Ares, but then the news was good – remission!

(I’m happy to say that my little girl, Artemis, has been healthy – we’ve told her that she is to stay healthy, because we can’t deal with another sick cat any time soon!)

Can I have a treat?

On the plus side, we got a dog in May…you know how some women yearn for kids? You know, they have an ache in their hearts when they see others with kids? Yeah, I could give a crap about having kids, but I had that ache for a dog. So you can imagine how happy I was when we got Aurora.

50 miles, baby!

I also accomplished a goal that I set in February – biking 50 miles in one shot. I honestly wasn’t sure if I could; I thought this was maybe too big a goal. And yet, in September, we did it!

OMG Ponies!!!1!!1!1

I got to have a fun girl’s weekend with my BFF in June…wasn’t sure we’d be able to figure that out, given our busy schedules (and her cute little guy!), but we did it. Not sure when we’ll manage again, but I think we’ve proven that it can be done.

So, I guess that parts of 38 were very stressful, but there was some awesomeness as well. I’m looking forward to 39!



One of many of my quirks – proper good-byes

Posted by barb on Jun 4, 2010 in Random Thoughts

Back when I was only working part-time, and even when I would sleep in on work-from-home days, my husband would often try to sneak out of the house without waking me. I know he was trying to be courteous, allowing me the extra sleep he wouldn’t get that morning. However, I need the proper good-bye. Most mornings, no matter how quiet he tried to be, I would hear the door close behind him. then I’d bolt out of bed, run downstairs and out the front door in my jammies, and I would demand my good-bye hug and kiss.

For a while I think he looked at it as a kind of game – could he succeed in getting out of the house without my noticing? But I kept telling him that I wanted…no, needed…that good-bye. Mornings that I woke up after he’d left, without my good-bye, I would cry. It took a while, but I finally got him to understand how much I needed that good-bye, and he would at least come upstairs and kiss me before he left for work – he had figured out that this was much less disruptive to my sleep than bolting out of bed to track him down.

To be honest, I’m not sure I even knew why I felt I needed the good-bye every morning – afterall, I would be seeing him again in a few hours, right? But if I think back, I have a feeling it comes from the death of a high school friend of mine. I still remember the last words we exchanged. He and I were walking out of chemistry class into the melee of the high school halls. It was a Friday. He said, “Have a good weekend.” I said, “I’ll try!” That was it. What a stupid thing to say. Why not, “Thanks you have one, too”? No, just “I’ll try”.

I know that we can’t plan our last words to anyone because life is unpredictable. But I do know that I can give my husband a hug and a kiss every day before we part. I suppose that has to be enough.



Just Hanging On

Posted by barb on Feb 23, 2010 in Cute Pets, Pictures, Random Thoughts
Duncan's tries the new bed, too

Ares enjoys the new crinkle bag

Artemis tries their new bed

I keep thinking I should blog more, but when I sit down to do it, I find I don’t have much to say. This year has been so stressful, and I find it hard to be inspired by much. The house has this pall of sadness over it, and every day at home is a slog. I’m watching Ares to see what side-effects of chemo he may develop, constantly watching what he eats and checking the litter box (yes, isn’t that lovely). Also constantly trying to see that Duncan has food any time he shows interest, and that it’s food he likes. One has few external signs that he’s sick, but I know the cancer is eating away at him. The other has lost nearly half his body weight and feels so fragile to the touch. It’s hard enough to face losing one, but facing losing two just seems inconceivable.

Mostly I try to celebrate them, taking pictures and snuggling copiously. Then, of course, I have to make sure that Artemis, our non-sick cat, gets enough attention, too. Often she feels left out because I’m not facing losing her sooner rather than later. So it feels like every day at home is just all about the cats. And all about the prospect of loss.

On the one hand, I know that it’s “just my cats”, not like it’s a human that’s sick. On the other hand, Ares has been part of my life since 1996, and Ducan since 2000. It’s hard to pretend it doesn’t matter because they’re “just a pet”, because I’ve never seen pets as “just pets” – they’re family members.

So for now, I’m just hanging on. Hoping for the best, and often cursing that hope. Follow her blog for any pets reviews.

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Oh 2009, how I misjudged you

Posted by barb on Feb 15, 2010 in Random Thoughts

Dear 2009,

I was ready to be done with you sometime in the middle of the year. Honestly, I wanted 2010 to come quickly, and put you behind me. I truly believed that 2010 would be present the opportunity for a fresh start, a shiny new year to bring a new attitude.

Sadly, it looks like I may have misjudged you, 2009. I may have been ready to be done with you too quickly. Little did I realize how much 2010 would suck so early on.

Sure, I was uncertain of my job situation much of last year, working less than full time most of the year. I traveled for a few job interviews, from New Paltz, NY to Midland, TX. Finally offered a job in Mississippi the same week I found out I could stay at my current job. Not sure why I had to go through all the interviews…seems like it was for nothing; though I suppose whatever doesn’t kill you, blah blah.

But that all seems like a bad dream now. 2010? Has sucked worse in the first month than all of you, 2009, all put together. Okay sure, I love that our basement has been re-done, complete with a full storage room. But that doesn’t outweigh 2010’s bad stuff. Okay, I could deal with the dumping of snow….don’t like it much, but I can deal with it.

The topper is that we have two sick cats. Duncan has lost almost half his weight, and we can’t seem to get it back up. Ares has cancer, which we first found out about January 4. So far we have had a slew of tests for Ares, removed a tumor from his ass, and started chemotherapy. He’s doing really well, and each time we decide on another therapy or treatment, I do some soul searching to make sure that we’re doing the best thing for Ares. I don’t want to put him through stuff just because I don’t want to lose him – I want to make sure that his discomfort is short and has some measurable benefit. The good news is that cats don’t respond to chemo as violently as humans tend to. The bad news is that the chemo is our last shot – the cancer is a bad one, that tends not to respond to chemo, and tends to grow quickly. But at this point, it’s either chemo or making him comfortable….certainly not ready for that yet.

Anyway, 2009, I apologize for underestimating you. After seeing 2010, you’re not so bad.

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I was there

Posted by barb on Nov 5, 2008 in Random Thoughts

I don’t usually get emotional about voting. In fact, up until 5 years ago, I was one of the apathetic many who didn’t believe that my vote counted for anything, so I didn’t vote at all. Four years ago, I knew that I had to vote. Even if my state wasn’t going to go the way I wanted, I had to vote so feel some power over the situation. I voted not so much for Kerry, but against Bush and his policies.

This year was so different for me. Sure, I was voting against Bush and his polices, which I really believe McCain would have brought to the presidency. But more than that, I was voting for Obama. I believe in Obama. When I listen to Obama talk, I feel inspired. I get that knot in my throat, butterflies in my stomach. Prior to this, I had NEVER felt inspired by a politician. NEVER. Ever.

I’m going to honest. Race never entered the picture in my decision. I honestly think that Obama is the best person for the job at hand, and he could have been purple, for all I cared. But after I cast my ballot yesterday, I found myself getting teary-eyed leaving the polling place. For the first time in this long, drawn-out process, I finally realized how historic it was that I got to vote for an African American for president. For the first time in a very long time, I was proud of my country.

And I get to say that I was there. I was there when the United States elected its first African American president. I was there for a truly historic event. I was there.



Political Dreams…

Posted by barb on Oct 22, 2008 in Random Thoughts

Huh. I dreamed that I met Barack Obama last night.

I was riding the bus through Vienna (VA, not Austria), and noticed him in the back of the bus, working on something. For a while I did the “looking but not looking” trick to see if it was really him. Once I confirmed that it was, indeed, him, I debated about heading back and introducing myself. At first I thought that, no, I didn’t want to interrupt him, but then realized that if he really wanted to get some work done, he probably wouldn’t have been taking the bus in the first place. So, I headed back and introduced myself. I sat in a seat near him, and we chatted as the bus toured Vienna.

I remember some conversation about how the town seemed to be heading downhill, and that it was a shame that all of the mom-and-pop stores were being left to go fallow. (Which is odd, because Vienna is actually thriving…maybe not so many mom-and-pop places, but they’ve completely re-done much of the downtown, complete with a town green.)

At some point, we stopped and got off the bus. His wife, Michelle, was at the stop, and I decided to ask if I could take some pictures with them. He kindly agreed, and even stood for some pictures with Felicia and Jo. (I think there was even another build-a-bear animal, maybe this puppy, but I don’t actually have one, so I’m not sure where it came from.)

While I was taking pictures, I remember lamenting that my niece’s “flat Kira” hadn’t arrived yet, since it would have been a really cool picture for her to add to her project. (“Flat Kira” is basically a Flat Stanley project, but with my niece as the main character. I’m hoping to get it soon so we can take her downtown and get some great pics.)

Shortly after that I woke up, so I don’t know if there was a rally in Vienna or what. Very weird, though…maybe I’m channeling Kirsten.

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Don’t get complacent

Posted by barb on Oct 21, 2008 in Random Thoughts


1. The polls may be wrong. This is an unprecedented election. No one knows how racism may affect what voters tell pollsters—or what they do in the voting booth. And the polls are narrowing anyway. In the last few days, John McCain has gained ground in most national polls, as his campaign has gone even more negative.

2. Dirty tricks. Republicans are already illegally purging voters from the rolls in some states. They’re whipping up hysteria over ACORN to justify more challenges to new voters. Misleading flyers about the voting process have started appearing in black neighborhoods. And of course, many counties still use unsecure voting machines.

3. October surprise. In politics, 15 days is a long time. The next McCain smear could dominate the news for a week. There could be a crisis with Iran, or Bin Laden could release another tape, or worse.

4. Those who forget history… In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote after trailing by seven points in the final days of the race. In 1980, Reagan was eight points down in the polls in late October and came back to win. Races can shift—fast!

5. Landslide. Even with Barack Obama in the White House, passing universal health care and a new clean-energy policy is going to be hard. Insurance, drug and oil companies will fight us every step of the way. We need the kind of landslide that will give Barack a huge mandate.

If you agree that we shouldn’t rest easy, please sign up to volunteer at your local Obama office by clicking here:

[Reposted from Migraine Girl]



To work or not to work, that is the question

Posted by barb on Sep 21, 2008 in Random Thoughts

A couple of weeks ago, my government manager mentioned that she had been talking to our project manager about taking me on full-time through the next fiscal year. Prior to this, I only knew that my full-time employment was only guaranteed through the end of this calendar year. For any normal person in that situation, with no future job on the horizon, it would be good news that their employment could be continued for another 8-10 months.

I’m not normal.

Currently I work on three different tasks at work – one is a research task for 50% of my time, one is a web development/science support task for 30% of my time, and the last is an education and public outreach task for 20% of my time. I only like one of these tasks – the outreach task. The others are things to be tolerated (an loathed).

Sadly, the full-time position that my one manger is offering, is actually an extension of the web development/science support task. This is the longest-running of my tasks, which started over 5 years ago. For over 4 years, I have hated that job. A big part of the problem is that I often have *nothing to do* – I’m not talking about nothing meaningful or nothing interesting, but rather nothing at all. Another problem is that when I write new text for a web page, I can’t get anyone to approve the text. The result? First, I have a bunch of new web pages that I’ve worked hard to research and write, that just sit on my computer without going live. Second, our web pages get further and further out of date. And does my manager think that turning this into a full-time job is going to relieve these problems?

My outreach position can continue my funding through May (at the 20% level), so I asked about maybe doing the new position at the 80% level through May so that I could at least continue some part of a job I like (that’s not how I worded it with my manager, of course). She didn’t seem to like that idea at all – she’s convinced that they’ll need me full time.

As it happens, Andrew and I are in a position where we can survive on just his salary (pending a large amount of budget-trimming). So, do I take the full-time position just so I’m taking in cash, feeling like I’m contributing to the household? Do I take some time off?

If I were to turn down this position, I would still be able to work the 20% time on outreach. In addition, I would plan on working on my writing – I’ve been told that my fiction is publishable, but to do that I need to polish up some of my stories and research which markets I should submit them to. The house needs a top-to-bottom cleaning and some work (painting and such). I’d also like to work on getting CraftyPhD
up and running. Plus, it would be nice to have some time for my science blog. There’s no way to fit all of that into my life with a full-time job.

But, is this just selfish? Andrew supports my desire to turn down the job. But I’m worried about how much we need to trim the budget. Will he start to resent me for turning down full-time employment when I had the chance? Will I feel guilty over pursuing my interests instead of contributing to the household? I know that when I do find a job, Andrew and I may find our positions swapped, with him having trouble finding a position in whatever town we move to, but is that really a good reason to turn down a job now?

I have to give my decision to my manager tomorrow. I’m honestly not sure what will come out of my mouth at that time. Wish me luck.

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Yummy Key Lime Bars

Posted by barb on Jul 22, 2008 in Random Thoughts

I went scrapping with Laurie last weekend, and when I go up to her place, I usually bring a treat of some sort. This weekend I made up a recipe after seeing key limes at the grocery store. It turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. So, for posterity, here is the recipe, with modifications I’d make next time in red.

Summer Key Lime Bars

3 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick) (I’d use 3/4 cup next time)
1 cup sugar

16 oz. cream cheese, softened (2 pkg)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
juice from 12 key limes
12 oz pkg. white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13″ pan (I used canola oil spray, but it would probably be best with butter or butter-flavored spray.)

Mix ingredients for the crust (graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar). Reserve 1 cup of crust mix for later. Press the remaining crust mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, mix cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lime juice with an electric mixer until smooth. You can get excellent results while juicing if you follow the Expert Juicer Reviews guideline to a tee.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the white chocolate chips for later. Hand mix the remaining white chocolate chips into the cream cheese mixture.

When the crust is finished (it will be set, but shouldn’t be browned), spread the cream cheese mixture over the baked crust. Sprinkle the reserved graham cracker mix over the top of the filling. Finally, sprinkle with the reserved white chocolate chips. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the cream cheese mixture is set. (The chocolate chips will brown — I wasn’t sure I liked that, but JD said that he like the chocolate chips on top.)

Note: JD suggested that the filling section could be a bit thicker, so I thought that adding a small container of ricotta cheese might do the trick – adding some volume to this layer, but not adding quite so much fat and calories. I might try that next time.



On why I’m still leaving Netflix

Posted by barb on Jun 30, 2008 in Random Thoughts

Those of you who use Netflix Profiles know that two weeks ago they were planning on unceremoniously removing the Profiles in September. On Thursday, June 19, at the very end of the day, Netflix sent out the following e-mail to their Profiles-using customers:

We wanted to let you know we will be eliminating Profiles, the feature that allowed you to set up separate DVD Queues under one account, effective September 1, 2008.

Each additional Profile Queue will be unavailable after September 1, 2008. Before then, we recommend you consolidate any of your Profile Queues to your main account Queue or print them out.

While it may be disappointing to see Profiles go away, this change will help us continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.

I was pissed. I sent this note to them within an hour of the e-mail hitting my inbox:

I am highly disappointed to hear that you will be eliminating the Profiles feature of Netflix. To be honest, that was the best feature that you’ve created, and the one feature that truly set you apart from your competition. When recommending Netflix to friends and family, it was the highest selling point that I would tout.

To add to this mistake is not offering customers a way to easily reintegrate their queues into one. My husband and I have three queues – one for me, one for him, and one for us – with over 100 movies in each. Consolidating these movie-by-movie into one queue will be a huge undertaking. A large enough undertaking that I might just as well start over at, say, Blockbuster Online.

Over the past couple of years, we have occasionally supplemented our Netflix movies with a trip to Blockbuster, and while I don’t like their business practices in general, I’ve been tempted to switch because of the convenience of trading movies in their stores. Please reconsider this decision. I’d rather stick with Netflix, but this is enough of a reason to look seriously at my alternatives.

I can, perhaps, understand that if one feature is slowing down the entire website, it may need to be eliminated. However, the slimy part is that Netflix’s solution to them closing down my queue was to “consolidate any of your Profile Queues to your main account Queue or print them out”. People I know who manage databases have told me that it should be a simple database query for Netflix to reintegrate our queues for us. Rather than offer that solution, they wanted me to print out my queue, and re-enter my over 100 movies by hand to our main queue.

To me, Netflix has shown its true colors. I know that Blockbuster is slimy, but then, they’ve never pretended to be anything else. Netflix pretended to listen to its customers, relying on power-users to drive some if its features. But as soon as Neflix felt that it had a large enough customer base, it was about to yank the one feature that most power-users used.

June 23, I signed up for Blockbuster Online. I’ve already switched my queue over, and have movies in my house.

Now, a week and a half after the original announcement, I got this from Netflix:

You spoke, and we listened. We are keeping Profiles. Thank you for all the calls and emails telling us how important Profiles are.

We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. We hope the next time you hear from us we will delight, and not disappoint, you.

-Your friends at Netflix

Too fucking late. Netflix, you and I are no longer friends. I know that I’m now onboard with “the evil empire”, but that means that they can’t disappoint me. If they screw up like you guys did, at least it won’t be a surprise.


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