Monday, June 29, 2009

Potbellys = 141.8% of my daily protein!

My coworker introduced me to a slick web application for tracking daily food intake. MyPlate is part of the Lance Armstrong LiveStrong website. The application works off of user-generated content. Anyone can enter in the nutritional value for any food. This creates a huge database of foods that you can then search for the specific food you've eaten that day. It gets quite specific: 2% milk from Kroger, Kashi Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar, raw blueberries.

[Screenshot of website]

After putting in your food, it will calculate your nutrition intake, by day, week, month. I was pretty cheery when entering in my oatmeal and strawberry breakfast, but not so much with the PotBelly Big Turkey Sandwich for lunch, where my protein shot up to 141.8% daily value and sodium to 120.6%.

There are a few other nifty features, like being able to save a meal (e.g. cereal, milk & blueberries together as "breakfast" rather than entering each item in separately) or writing how your body feels each day.

I've always wondered how many calories I really consume each day. That, along with a growing suspicion that my body is not digesting dairy as well as it used to, will (hopefully) motivate me to use this for a few weeks.

Results forthcoming.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

For Instructions on Muenster Cheese Consumption, See Chapter IV.b.4

Today was a Very Good Day. A big part of my work responsibilities is to write grants, and I passed 2 major milestones in grantwriting today.

First, this afternoon, I submitted my first proposal to the National Science Foundation. NSF = big money, lots of paperwork. For example, this was actually not a proposal, it was just a preliminary proposal. It will be reviewed and we will receive a recommendation about whether to pursue a full proposal in November. It took several hours to figure out how to access the online application. Once everything was set to go, pushing the "submit" button was a 8-step 3-person procedure that went something like:

"When application (PI) is ready to submit proposal, each Authorized Organizational Represented (AOR) from the PI's lead organization must log on to the FastLane system, ensuring that said log ons are concurrent and in conjunction with the Standards of FastLane Coordinated Log On as outlined in the Grant Proposal Guidelines (GPG) Chapter V, Section 3.e.4.i.78.b. Once all log ons are complete, each AOR must enter his or her Secret Password, which can be obtained from the Office of Secure Services for Advancing the Equality of Proposal Submission (OSSAEPS). Please note that obtained the Secret Password can take between 3 business days and 7 years. Entered passwords will be verified by sub-contracted chimpanzees working in the lower level of OSSAEPS offices. Per Secret Password verification, AORs may then navigate through a small maze, the center of which contains a block of Muenster Cheese (MC). Upon obtaining the MC, AORs will be re-directed to the submission page. AORs may then all push "Submit Application" following which they will be asked to verify 3 times that they do, in fact, want the application to be submitted.

For questions, PIs and AORs are recommended to view our Frequently Asked Questions page, which contains insightful bits of wisdom, such as "Q: How do I submit a proposal to NSF? A: Visit this link for our step-by-step instructions written by the chimpanzees."

So you can see how actually submitting this preliminary proposal was quite an accomplishment.

Second (remember, there was a second thing), I found out today that one of my previously-submitted grants was accepted! The grant is from PBS for music education programs about content in a new PBS documentary called "The Music Instinct", which premieres tonight and which will mention us as a grant recipient.

It's not a huge grant, but it does equate to about 1/3 of my annual salary. And it makes me feel more validated in the work I've been doing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Fleeting Moment of Photos

After on-and-off (mostly off) experiences with our camera batteries, we purchased new ones last night. This morning I loaded up the new juice and downloaded the few photos we've managed to take since March. While clearing the camera's memory, it died again. So it wasn't the batteries' fault after all. Which means we're in the market for a new camera.

It's a mixed blessing. We got this camera discounted at $50 (good), but noticed that its sensitive point-and-click meant that whenever other people tried to take photos of us the pictures were always blurry (bad).

Anyone have camera suggestions? We're looking for something very affordable that takes decent pictures.

I am glad I got to capture the photos still in its memory. I should probably space out posting them over the next few weeks, since we're in for another dry spell while we camera shop. But I'm the kind of person who liked to eat her peanut butter cups in 2 big bites, to get the undiluted flavor/texture experience, so here goes. (Plus, there aren't many photos to begin with...)

This is from an Easter walk. Notice my many layers.

Mothers' Day was much more agreeable. Here you can notice how long my hair is getting. I haven't cut it since the fall.

Mothers' Day still. This is a flower. To remind me that Michigan can be beautiful.

Further evidence of Michigan's beauty. This is the Huron River, at a park about 5 minutes' drive from our house.

In June, Cub Scout Commissioner Erin with her plant identification field notebook (oak leaves), in preparation for teaching the forestry merit badge to the 11-yr-old scouts.

Abe 2 weeks ago, planting seeds for our herb garden. Notice his new buzz cut.

Erin preparing more pots for the herb garden. The soil at Lowe's only came in gigantic bags, so we ended up with about 10 pots of chives, dill, cilantro, oregano, parsley, basil, lettuce, and impatients.

The sowed pots. I've been a little worried about them getting enough sunlight and Abe's been a little worried about me forgetting to water (I tried growing a very small box of herbs last year and didn't water them for about a month, and then let them sit out until December).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

not without my handbag!

When I leave the house, I go through a quick mental checklist to make sure I have everything. The checklist used to be wallet, keys, good to go.

Then I got a cell phone and started wearing glasses. Wallet. Keys. Phone. Glasses.

Now the list is wallet, keys, phone, glasses, sunglasses, and iPod. Imagine if I made it a habit of always carrying a purse! I could add checkbook, change purse, screwdriver, tissues, miniature calculate, lip balm, miniature flashlight, granola bar, pen, miniature notebook, miniature fashion dog, a small collection of sea shells, extra socks, a smock, fish food.

Is this why women have so many purses? There's so much to possibly carry that you have to distribute the essential nonessentials among various handbags, and use different ones depending on both outfit coordination and anticipated emergencies. Bus ride into work: black satchel with ballpoint pens, Macbook, favorite magazine, and body spray. Day at the beach: cherry basket weave with Nalgene water bottle, retro sunglasses, lotion, the Twilight series, favorite sunshine yellow towel, and tiny drink umbrellas. Drop off in combat zone: sandy camo with matching hand grenade clip-ons, equipped with combat boots, parachute cord, and a set of miniature carabiners.

Lest you think I am disparaging the all-purpose handbag, check out this old claymation feature that emphasizes the importance of a purse to lady.

Wallet, check. Keys, check. Directions to the underworld, check.

(If you're interested in more claymation, here's another favorite: Creature Comforts: An interview of London Zoo animals. Sorry, no embedding option. )

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lost & Found

My dad has a saying for times when you are searching for lost items: "It's always in the last place you look."

Today I met up with Abe for lunch on campus. At work we usually do the crossword puzzle during lunch, so I brought a copy with me. Which means I also brought my glasses, so I could read the clues without squinting.

The walk to campus was sunny and nice - certainly not weather for wearing glasses. I tucked them into my shirt collar. I remember them getting tangled with my ipod's earbud cords.

When I saw Abe on the lawn outside of the art museum, I ducked underneath the chain ropes to the lawn and met him there. We sat down (me in dappled shade, him in complete shade) and I commented on how this felt just like our lunch dates at college when we were first together.

We opened up the crossword and I reached for my glasses. Which were, of course, no longer there.

Thinking they must have dropped when I bent under the ropes, we searched back and forth along their length, and in the grass between. No luck.

Later, when I got back to work, I couldn't focus my eyes on the screen or papers in front of me. I'd basically given up on being able to find the glasses, so I got a recommendation from a co-worker for a cheap place for an exam and new glasses.

I walked to the bus stop, ready to go home, grab the car, and go get new glasses. At the stop, I called Abe, who said the only problem was that he had the car on campus, and needed it soon. So I changed directions to go meet Abe, get the car, drop him off, and then go get my new glasses.

It happened that Abe was in the building right next to the art museum. He needed a few minutes to wrap up his work, so I walked the length of the roped side walk - one last time.

And there, bright red frames against the green grass, were my glasses. In the last place I looked.

Incidentally, in my utter joy and astonishment, when I picked them up I immediately dropped them again. They skidded along the concrete sidewalk and now have a visible scratch in the center of the right lens. I'll try to think of it as a permanent reminder of good fortune.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Aa-choo! Could you pass me a blanket?

My pink baby blanket was my greatest childhood defense against unreasonable and upsetting parents. Suggestions from Mom and Dad to turn off the TV after 4 straight hours of cartoons or clean up the kitchen after my attempt to create the ultimate chocolate chip cornbread cookie loaf (failed, need I say) sometimes offended my 7-year-old pride.

Times like these, I ran screaming upstairs to my bedroom and closed the door. Then I remembered that a good, hard slam is usually more effective, so I opened it and gave it a yank closed that left my ears ringing. I was still screaming, though, so I didn't notice too much.

Next in the routine was to lay down on my back on the bed and pound the wall with my feet in blue lace-trimmed socks. This angry perpendicular march pounded into my head just how mad I was. And when that wore off I got even more mad that no one answered my pounding and I had to keep going even though my hamstrings were getting tight.

Once I convinced myself that the soles of my feet were developing blisters, I performed a graceful decrescendo in my foot parade with all the dignity I could muster. It was part of the plan. Silence, I told myself, would speak more loudly to my parents, who would worry they had driven me to some unheard terror.

Eventually I heard dinner plates being set at the table, casseroles being pulled from the oven, and - most insulting - my siblings laughing at some joke they shared without me. Did they not understand the complete injustice committed against me? Wouldn't they be having more fun if I were down there with them? ... and wouldn't I?

I wanted to be down at dinner, like none of this had ever happened, but I wanted my family to feel guilty and amend their wrongs. In short, I had put myself in a fix. With an ingenuity attesting to my mental development at the time, I found the perfect solution. I would pull my pink baby blanket over my head, Cousin It style, and go downstairs. The blanket would be a strong visual signal to them that apologies were in order. But I would still get to eat dinner.

I don't know how many times I went through this routine before growing out of it, but even now there are times I wonder if I'm still wearing my pink baby blanket.

This afternoon I called Abe after work to see what he wanted to do tonight. After a brief conversation that led to no real conclusion, he suddenly seemed to get very short with me.

I immediately went on the defensive: "Great. I just call him to see how his day was, to show that I'm so excited to spend the evening together, to give him cheerful ending to his workday, and here he has the nerve to get upset because I'm interrupting his work or being indecisive about what to do tonight. It's not I knew he'd be in the middle of something. He didn't have to answer the phone. Maybe I wanted to decide what to do together, be considerate of his feelings and mood."

Of course, that was all a mental note. My actual conversation went something like. "Okay. ... Well. ... Yeah. ... Bye." (click).

Which was also what I said an hour later when Abe called to say that he was on his way home. Except maybe without the "Bye" on my end. After all, the nerve of him.

When he got home I was out on the front lawn reading a book. I was laying on a blanket, but I may as well have had it over my head. After a minute Abe said, "So, I think you may have thought I was mad at you earlier on the phone."

I looked up, somewhat surprised. He wasn't even going to give me a chance to pound my feet against the wall?

He continued, "You see, I was about to sneeze, so ... you know how it gets. My words, my breath, got really short. But I was just trying not to sneeze."


That's why we could never do a long-distance relationship. He just doesn't do well over the phone.