Sunday, May 31, 2009

Actual 5K Results

Yesterday was the 5K race. I successfully completed the race, although again I did not run the entire distance. Here I am pre-race with my number one fan, who had to be awakened before his usual time to make it to this race:
And here we are taking off right at the beginning of the race:
Jeff and Vinny were participating in the one mile fun run/walk, which started once the 5K participants were out of the way, so Jeff was able to take a few pictures of me running:
And here's the youngest race participant, making his way along the track:
Afterwards, there were some fun activities, like a little petting zoo with chickens, goats, sheep, and rabbits:
And an inflatable bouncy castle:

As for the race results, I finished the race in about 41 minutes. This is not as good as my time at work, which makes me suspect that the run at work was not actually 5K. But I did make a few beginner's mistakes that cost me some time.

I was pretty excited to be there and started off running too fast, which wore me out faster than I should have. Next time I will try to ignore all the people around me and know my slow and plodding pace.

Also, I got dehydrated. I didn't drink enough before the race because I was trying to have an empty bladder for the race (all that jostling makes me have to go and I don't have the best control anymore). Then, they were offering water and I probably should have taken some, but I thought I was almost done with the race so I declined. In reality, I was maybe about halfway through.

After we went home, I had a migraine, so I think I really was dehydrated. I still have not figured out how to balance the conflicting objectives of staying hydrated and not peeing in my pants. Any advice from you experts out there is greatly appreciated.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reconnecting, Remembering, and Recoiling

So I decided to join Facebook over the weekend. Jeff had gotten an account and told me about all the old friends he had connected up with. I was curious about some folks myself, so I decided to join too.

It's really interesting to see what some of my old friends and former classmates are up to these days. One is a law professor in a neighboring state. Another is a doctor in another neighboring state. Actually there are several who have become medical doctors. No other computational scientists, as far as I know.

I also saw the names of some of my old nemeses in the friends lists of friends. (I was badly bullied in junior high, at the hands of a pack of very mean girls.) At first I panicked at the sight of their names. I would have thought, after twenty years, I would be over it, but after I calmed down and figured out what they were up to as best I could, I reveled in seeing that one was a humanities graduate student* and I harbored a secret desire that another one was living an absolutely miserable life in our hometown.

I was surprised that I thought such things about these people; after all, the last time I really saw any of them was more than half a lifetime ago. I basically never think about them in my daily life, my self-esteem is at a level I would consider healthy and stable, and I really don't feel any ill effects from those years, or so I believe. But I guess this shows that I do.

* There's nothing wrong with studying the humanities, but I do take a certain joy in knowing that my annual income is nearly an order of magnitude larger than hers. (Petty, much?)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Metrology-Themed Cake

As promised, I made a metrology-themed cake. Like I predicted, I didn't get a chance to make it until the weekend. Since the World Metrology Day theme this year was "Measurements in Commerce," it seemed most appropriate to make a pound cake.

Pound cakes are so named because originally they were made with a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Those proportions in a cake today would be considered too dry, so today's pound cakes are a little different than that. But one thing that makes a pound cake a pound cake is the fact that the only leavening in it is the air that's whipped into it while mixing it up.

Once I'd settled on that, I needed to pick a recipe. I searched online for pound cake recipes, and soon came across one that claimed to be Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake. What's not to like about that? I had to make it!

Here are the main ingredients:

In case you can't tell, this recipe calls for two sticks of butter, seven eggs, and three cups each of flour and sugar. Also, it has you sift the cake flour three times, to maximize the fluffiness, I suppose.

I had a baking helper:

He helped to remove the wrappers from the butter and put the sticks of butter in the mixing bowl so that we could cream the butter and sugar:

and add the eggs, one at a time. This is the only "action shot" I was able to get of my assistant -- he's learned that when the camera comes out, it's time to say "cheese!!!"

Here's the final batter, after I'd beat it on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, just before I scraped it into the pan:

I used Pam spray for baking rather than buttering and flouring the pan, because it works way better than my best buttering and flouring. Here's the cake ready to go into the oven:
The cake goes into a cold oven (no preheating). Unfortunately my oven temperature is not very accurate or reliable, so my cake ended up getting a little overdone. I had to cut off the top, because it was burned.

And here is the final product, cooling on the rack:

I decided that it would be really delicious with fresh, local strawberries from the farmer's market (which are so much more flavorful than anything shipped thousands of miles to your grocery store):

and whipped cream, whipped in the mixing bowl I stuck in the freezer after I'd finished washing the remaining cake batter out of it:

I bet you wish you could try a piece:
It was really good! Elvis knew what he was talking about!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

Hope you're all having a great time this weekend. We spent most of the weekend with visitors -- my aunt and uncle from Urbana and their daughter. My cousin, their son, was in a rowing event that was held here in town, thus prompting them to finally make the trip down here nearly four years after we moved away.

On Friday afternoon, they got a fantastic tour of my workplace. I tagged along and saw a lot of stuff I hadn't known anything about before. After the official tour I took them into the machine room to touch the big supercomputer, up close and personal. (Don't worry, gubmint auditors, they touched only the cabinets!)

After the race on Saturday morning, we headed for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where we saw Elkmont and then took them up on Clingman's Dome. We returned home and had pizza out on the deck with my rowing cousin and his friend -- in the dark. But it was kind of like a candlelight dinner.

On Sunday morning, I fed them the obligatory pancake breakfast before they left to see the final race. They left from there for home, stopping at my Dad and Marvis' house for a break.

It was really good to see them. The thing I miss the most about Illinois is living 8 blocks away from them. Hopefully Tennessee is no longer quite so far to them, and they'll come again sooner!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pre-5K 5K

Yesterday morning, as part of my workplace's "health month" festivities, they held a 5K event. I decided to participate as a preview for what it would be like to run in the 5K race next weekend.

I knew immediately upon arrival that I would be smart to start just in front of the walkers, but at the very back of the runners group. Soon after the run began, the packs formed: actual runners at the very front, followed by a long, empty distance; me (and my colleague/coach, who graciously ran at my pace), followed by a shorter empty distance; and the walkers bringing up the rear.

My fearless coach told me to run as far as I could, then she'd let me walk for a certain amount of time before running again, then walk a short time, run, etc. I managed to run the entire first mile of it. For the rest of the course, I would run until I was really tired, then tell her something like, "I'm going to stop running at that shadow," and she would try and talk me into running a little bit farther ("If you run to that crosswalk, that will make three minutes of running."). This usually worked. At one point there was a photographer, and as we approached him she told me to run so that he would have a good picture to take!

The thing I enjoyed the most about our run was that we had the run of the road because the police had blocked off the course. It was cool to be so important that the road was cleared and you didn't have to watch for cars.

I finished the 5K run in 33 minutes and 36 seconds, the fastest I've ever covered three miles under my own power and without the aid of simple machines. (I was going to say engineering, but the flat, paved surface of the road is engineered, and furthermore, I suspect that my shoes and sports bra would be considered engineered devices.) That means I did roughly an 11-minute mile, which is pretty darn amazing in my book!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy World Metrology Day!

Ever since I found out about World Metrology Day, it has been my favorite math-related holiday. (As cool as Pi Day is, it's just not as applied as World Metrology Day, and I am an applied mathematician.) I am so excited to be celebrating it again this year! This year's theme is "Measurements in Commerce: Metrology Underpinning Economic Growth."

In honor of World Metrology Day, I will (of course) be baking a metrology-themed cake, although due to time constraints, it may not be today. Stay tuned, vast blogging audience, for pictures!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Life Is So Uninteresting

... that I can't think of anything to say right now. I'm sure I'll overcome the writers block soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Letters to Our Daughters

The ever-fabulous Dr. Isis has started a brilliant project called "Letters to Our Daughters," in which senior women scientists write letters of advice to their scientific daughters. If you haven't been reading these yet, I'd encourage you to do so.

So far there have been four outstanding letters, with more to come. I especially enjoyed the first one, from Dr. Pascale Lane, about being a "bitch." My experience supports what she's saying, too. If I'm being called a "bitch," it probably means I'm doing something right!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Running Update

I am still running. I am going to be in a 5K race on Saturday, May 30. My colleague/running coach is working me up to 5K. We've been running longer distances and for longer stretches of time. With any luck, by race day I'll be able to run the whole thing.

The race is to benefit the local CASA chapter, which one of my other colleagues is a volunteer for. She approached me to run in the race after she saw my running gear in my office. I am a total sucker for children and I think CASA is a very important program, so of course I said yes. I'd probably crawl the 5K to support CASA.

We have a whole team of people who have joined the race, some running, some walking the course. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fairy Tales, Fairness, and Modern Sensibilities

Since Vinny is a boy, we've been (luckily) mostly isolated from the whole fairy tale business. Nobody buys him pretty princess outfits or anything, since he has the "wrong" private parts for all that.

But he has received a few of the less princessed Disney fairy tale DVDs, such as Pinocchio and Peter Pan. It's quite a relief now, watching these from an adult perspective, that I finally have the words to express what felt so wrong about them years ago.

Pinocchio, in the eponymous movie, is simply a very naive and trusting lad. And why wouldn't he be? He has no experience in the world. But the consequences for his naive, unwise choices are inappropriately steep: if he doesn't "behave," he won't become a real boy.

Yet he has no idea how to behave! He doesn't understand anything about how the world works -- in the fraction of a day between the moment he came into being and the moment he set off for school, he had no chance to acquire even the limited wisdom of a young schoolboy!

It strikes me as an incredibly unfair burden on this naive little child -- why does Gepetto not walk him to school, at least on the first day? How is Pinocchio, who has only just learned of the existence of school (not to mention the theater!), supposed to understand the importance of school? How is he supposed to know that the men who lure him into the theater are not trustworthy?

Pinocchio's future depends entirely on him making good choices, but he has no ability to discern good and bad choices. It's a frightening spot to find yourself in. Perhaps this incenses me so because as a child I faced a similar nightmare situation when age-inappropriate behavior was expected of me (e.g., being "thoughtful" at the age of 4 -- the age at which I was firmly in the middle of the preoperational period of cognitive development and essentially incapable of seeing any viewpoint different from my own).

I don't want my son growing up with that kind of burden on his mind, so I don't think Pinocchio is going to be a staple in his viewing schedule.

Peter Pan won't either. I didn't watch that one myself, but Jeff did, and he found it sexist and racist. I guess some of the "oldies but goodies" aren't so great from a modern perspective.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mothers' Day!

Hope you've all had a fantastic Mothers Day. I had a really good one.

I spent the morning playing with Vinny. We got out some tinkertoys (hand-me-downs from his older cousins), which he really enjoyed playing with. He could make things that went round and round -- what's not to love about that?

Jeff cooked me a special feast this afternoon, including steak, chicken, corn on the cob, and several other items. I made the dessert -- strawberry shortcakes. We ate outside on the deck -- it was a nice day (the first in over a week). It was nice to get a chance to enjoy some sunshine with our meal.

What a great, leisurely day with my boys!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Back from Atlanta

We got home last night from Atlanta (not Aunt Laura). The conference went really well, my presentation was a success, and a good time was had by all.

On Tuesday night, we went with some of my colleagues to a Brazilian steakhouse, where you get served lots and lots of meat until you think you're going to explode. The meat was delicious but I felt rather gluttonous afterwards. It was also really expensive, although luckily, they didn't charge for Vinny. I think it was a good experience to eat there once but I don't think I'll ever do it again.

Instead of going to the conference event by myself on Wednesday night (or paying $50 for an additional ticket), I skipped it and went to Johnny Rocket's (a 50's-themed diner) with my boys. We had a low-key evening together, stopping to play in a park before heading back to the hotel.

I'm glad to be home, though. Luckily I don't have any travel planned until next month.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Cute Story

I have a conference this week in Atlanta, and my boys kindly accompanied me. Yesterday, we told Vinny where we were going for the next few days. He was very enthusiastic about it, and excitedly asked, "I see Grandpa too?"

Turns out he thought we were going to "Aunt Laura," not "Atlanta!"