Friday, August 22, 2008

My blog is moving!

I will no longer be posting here. My new all-purpose blog (which includes lots of stuff about science) is at: - "I was lost but now I live here"

Please re-subscribe to that feed, change your bookmarks, etc etc. Thanks!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Got platelets?

A friend of a friend is in dire need of platelet donors in the Houston area. The blood type doesn't matter, but the number of donors does; the more people who donate on her behalf, the higher on the priority list she goes. If you're in the Houston area, please consider donating! See below for more information.

Please donate! Kathryn Meacham, Patient ID: 754592

Friends & Family,

We are writing because we hope you can help secure or donate blood platelets in the Houston area for our sister/cousin Kathryn (Katie) Meacham. Katie is presently undergoing treatment at MD Anderson for a very aggressive strain of Hodgkin's Lymphoma!!!

Kathryn (Katie) Meacham is 25 years old and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in April 2008. Katie underwent 3 months of unsuccessful chemo in New York. At that point, Katie and her mom made the difficult decision to move to Houston to undergo treatment at MD Anderson, which is known to have the best treatment available. Her current treatment plan includes a very aggressive chemo followed by a stem cell transplant.

When Katie has her stem cell transplant (in the next 2-3 weeks), she will be in great need of frequent, single donor platelets transfusions. Due to past negative reactions to multi-donor transfusions, single donor platelets are particularly important to Katie and often unavailable at the moment patients need them. We are in desperate need of finding people in the Houston area to give platelet donations for Katie. The more people who donate on her behalf, the higher on the priority list Katie gets. Blood type does NOT matter, the number of people donating does. We cannot overstate the importance of platelet transfusions to her treatment.

If you know anyone in the Houston area, please forward this message on to them and ask them to forward to everyone they know. We need platelet donors and words cannot sufficiently express our gratitude for your assistance and donations!

If you are interested in donating please call/email Lori or Wendy. We are trying to create a list of potential donors so we can contact people once the need arises. Unfortunately platelets have a short shelf life. With this in mind, please do not donate until we coordinate the donation with you to ensure it best helps Katie in her treatment. When you call or email us, please let us know your blood type (if you know it) and the best way to reach you.

Lori Rosen (Katie's sister)
Cell: 773-220-0418
Work: 312-277-1655

Wendy Clarfeld (Katie's cousin)
Cell: 206-375-2655


Call or email us with any questions and thank you for your support!!

Much thanks and love,

Lori Rosen and Wendy Clarfeld

Wendy, Alice & Katie pointing towards Paraguay, Argentina & Brazil

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Moving out, moving on

After tomorrow, we will officially be moved out of the house at Miramonte. It's amazing to see how much stuff you can accumulate, the amount of which you never really realize until you have to pack it into boxes. I think we've taken 6 small truckloads (little Toyota), 3 large truckloads (big Chevy), and 3 hatchback loads already, with maybe one more small truckload and hatchback load to go. This doesn't include my bike, Chris's motorcycle, and the three cars between the two of us. We've been having a continuous freecycle pile in our driveway and have taken a small truckload to Goodwill (via Paul) as well.

I watched "Into The Wild" on Sunday night while taking a break from moving. I'd read the book as well, and the movie version struggles a bit from having to condense more than a year of Chris McCandless's journey (plus several years back of context) into less than 2 hours. But it still makes you appreciate his desire to free himself of material wants, of the trappings of society, and "things, things, things, things, THINGS..." Maybe this message was driven home more forcefully by the fact that moving surrounds you with so many things. Suffice it to say, our new living room has barely enough space to walk right now. Craigslist, here we come!

Since I forgot to take any pictures of the new place (and have sold my camera, besides), some hand-drawn renditions will have to do. First, the view from the front:

It's a cute front/back duplex (technically a triplex since the owners converted the garage into another unit, but also technically illegal so it may remain a duplex), and we're in the front unit. There's a side alley on the right that goes to a shared laundry room which opens out on the other side to a communal cement patio. The patio is basically an extension of the driveway, which is on the left side of the house; in fact, it used to be the driveway when the back unit was still a garage. The picnic table from the old house is there now, along with our tomatoes and herbs, and there's a grill, woot! The best thing about the house is the kitchen, which has hardwood floors, bright red cabinets, and new stainless steel appliances, including a sweet five burner gas stove. The second best thing about the house is that it's painted bright blue with yellow shutters and doors. The inside of our unit used to have funky yellow and green walls in the living room too, but they decided to repaint it a neutral beige before we moved in. The big downside is that there's not much storage - the closets are fairly big, but since we have no garage and only a modestly sized living/dining room, we're going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff, mostly furniture. To give you an idea, here's the floorplan before and after we moved in (caution: fuzzy pictures!):

All things considered, it's a nice little place that's pretty new inside and there are definitely perks. The plum tree out front has delicious plums and we also have an apple, persimmon, walnut, and orange trees overhanging from neighboring houses. Our duplex neighbors are really nice and have already done neighborly things like order us recycling bins (she works at city hall) and water my tomatoes. Our street itself is just a tiny bit sketchy in that it's crowded and some of the houses are run down, but it's pretty varied in terms of who lives here and the location is great - about half a mile to Whole Foods, Safeway, and Target in addition to all the stuff on Woodside Rd, a bunch of shops, restaurants, and markets within a few blocks, and about a mile from downtown. It's also 2 miles closer to my work by bike and 15 miles closer to Chris's work. If I got a commuter bike I could pretty much bike to everything in just a few minutes! That's pretty rad.

Though it can be fun to set up house in a new place, I'm really looking forward to the day I have my own house and don't end up moving every year. I could garden to my heart's content, install a porch swing, paint the walls spring green, and get a cat and a dog instead of just fish (sorry Doc and Marty, but you're just not super exciting). That's when I think it'll finally feel like I've moved on with my life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


It's been a rather crazy June, an even crazier July, and is looking to be a crazy August. So much for the lazy days of summer! For a quick run down:
  • May 31-Jun 1 = Cal States tourney, Santa Cruz
  • Jun 26-29 = Boston Invite tourney, Devens
  • Jul 3-7 = Potlatch tourney, Seattle
  • Jul 7-9 = Conference, Bethesda
  • Jul 9-13 = Visiting home in NJ, friends in NYC
  • Jul 17-22 = Conference, Toronto
  • Jul 26 = Mixed mixer tourney, San Rafael
  • Jul 28-30 = consulting workshop, San Francisco
  • Aug 6-7 = BioBarCamp unconference, local
  • [ Aug 8-10 = college friends reunion???, Atlanta ] - looking unlikely with my schedule and finances... :(
  • Aug 11 = open science informal meetup, local
  • Aug 15-17 = Wedding, Boston
  • Aug 23-24 = Spawnfest tourney, Seattle
  • Aug 30-31 = Labor Day tourney, San Francisco
Sometime in August I will possibly be moving to farther north on the peninsula, which means now is when the house hunting madness starts. We're looking somewhere between Palo Alto and South San Francisco, though I guess if we're willing to move up to SSF, we might as well go all out and give city living a try. But it really just depends on whether there are any decent and affordable 1 or 2 BR places that aren't apartments. If we do move, I'm going to have to figure out how to transport my tomato plants, which have started outgrowing their little enclosures. I planted them in buckets for just that reason, but given how big they've gotten, I have no idea how they'll react to 20 or 30 miles on the highway! They're one of the only things I've planted that have thrived, so it would be sad if they didn't make it.

Despite the crazy schedule, I've still found time to read (long flights and delays help). Since finishing "Kitchen Confidential", I've read "Under the Banner of Heaven" and "Into the Wild" by John Krakauer, "Complications" by Atul Gawande, most of "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" by Mohsin Hamid, and am now reading "Merle's Door" by Ted Kerasote. I've enjoyed all of them (and am now again running out of books to read...)

Off to prepare for my next conference!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Feeding frenzy

I don't diet, but I do think quite a bit about what I eat. This is motivated mostly by a desire to be "healthy" but I would hope not in an unhealthy way. Growing up in an Asian household with a mother who loves and excels at cooking traditional Asian dishes, this meant that I ate a lot of different kinds of vegetables, seafood, and stir-fried fare as a kid. Sure, I ate my own fair share of junk food, too - I'd demolish half a party-size bag of Doritos in one sitting and often had dinner-sized snacks (consisting of last night's dinner) right before dinner, but I escaped becoming another obesity statistic through my devotion to Ultimate Frisbee. (I wouldn't say genetics has that much to do with it, since it appears my immediate family is quite capable of packing on the pounds when limited to a sedentary lifestyle.)

At any rate, my culinary tastes have changed quite a bit since then, but virtually all in good ways. I did not enjoy cheese, yogurt, or seafood a great deal in those days, but now love all three. And I still love fruits and vegetables and will try almost any dish put in front of me, courtesy of being exposed to exotic Chinese foods like tripe and pig ears at an early age. My typical route through a grocery store consists of a beeline to the meat and produce sections, with the occasional visits to dairy, juice, pasta, and baking aisles but rarely any others. Without really making a conscious choice, it turns out that I rarely eat anything that's been processed and can count the number of times I willingly eat/drink junk food in a year on two hands (and maybe a foot). Then again, I probably eat as many or more calories now that I've discovered the joys of heavy cream, baking bread, and cooking with butter. Ah well.

So I'm a (mostly) healthy eater, right? Well, let's just say that after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma it's apparently not that simple. That book can strike fear into the gut of even a relatively balanced eater like myself. Cows are corn. Chicken are corn. Fish are corn. Juice is corn. Toothpaste is corn. Basically, corn is the Borg and resistance is futile. Think we're 90% water? Wrong - we're like 99% corn. Even most so-called "organic" products and "free-range" animals aren't the rosy sun-over-pasture image depicted on their containers. Not to mention the carbon footprint made by transporting asparagus from Argentina. Here in California, we can kind of get away with it because much of the produce in our stores are actually grown in California, and there are farmer's markets every weekend the entire year. (Growing season? What's that?)

But whenever you rationalize one thing about food, another bogeyman pops up. Take caloric restriction and aging, for instance. Just the act of eating - nevermind what you're eating, though this has an impact, too - is thought to damage the body. Digestion produces destructive molecules called free radicals that can go around and beat up your cells. Some foods, like those high in antioxidants (like berries and pomegranate) help to reduce the damage free radicals inflict. But just the act of consuming calories damages your cells, which contributes to aging. When mice and worms are starved (something like 1/3 of their normal caloric intake), they live significantly longer. Although the effect hasn't yet been reproduced in humans, the fountain of youth beckons many, and caloric restriction has become a trend as people strive to live longer by eating around 1000 calories a day. I heard there's this one professor studying aging who claims that just looking at food causes you to age (albeit imperceptibly).

In the midst of this national personality crisis about food, I'm reading books about the joys of cooking and eating, participating in cooking and eating, and having a good time cooking and eating. Food, whether it be making it or consuming it, is one of the few things that consistently makes me happy, so I think I'm willing to forgo a potential bonus in lifespan to have what I know is good right now. After all, I'm pretty risk-averse, and while to some that would mean going caloric restricted to the max, to me it means going for the sure thing - food bliss.

By the way, here's a delicious recipe for cold sesame noodles!