Friday, October 18, 2013

Taking a breath

Maxi's Oct '13Whew!

It’s been a busy week, and today I finished up the bulk of what I needed to do before vacation. After doing kitty care at Shane’s, I came home and did a couple of small loads of laundry. I like having all the laundry done before vacation, how about you? You know you’re going to have a bunch when you get back, so I like to have that done before taking off. Then I decided what to take and got all that folded and laid out. I took my final exam in the History of Rock course (29 out of 30! I missed a Beatles/Beach Boys question, darn it. I could take it again, but I’m cool with 29/30.), and I feel like I got the majority of things done. Now I can just enjoy an evening at home, and not have a stressful afternoon tomorrow trying to rush around before the game.

Notre Dame plays USC tomorrow night, and that’s always a big game. We found out earlier this week that our friend Andy was flying out to attend the game with his Dad, Bill. It worked out that we were able to get together with them for dinner last night, and we had a great time! If you recall, Andy is the one who got his doctorate from Cal Tech, and Ken and I went to his graduation at the culmination of our Route 66 trip.

We got to talk and get caught up while enjoying a super yummy dinner at our favorite local place, Maxi’s. (Thanks, Katie!) It has definitely become our go-to place for when family and friends come in from out of town to visit. Although if you’re a vegetarian, you might be out of luck. Their steaks are delicious, and I’ve tried several other items there. I’ve never had a bad meal there, and we love to treat people when they come to visit! So come on by and we’ll take you to Maxi’s!

Andy and BethBill recently retired and is loving it. I’ve never understood people who hate retirement. You can’t let work define you. It can be a big part of your life, and it was for me for many years. Then you’re done and you can enjoy all the things that you never had time for when you were working! I’m very happy for him and glad that he is enjoying his retirement so much!

Andy is doing great, too. He’s dealing well with his six months in Afghanistan. Something like that can really put things in perspective and profoundly affect a person, but he’s okay. He’s dating someone and seems happy about that. He still seems to be trying to find his special purpose, just like Navin Johnson. I don’t doubt that he will find it. He is incredibly smart, has a personality that just lights up the room, and he makes no bones about it: he wants to change the world!

It was a wonderful evening, and I was so happy to be out and about with three great guys. We’ll try and hook up with them at a tailgate tomorrow before the game. I hope that works out.

Next big thing: New Orleans! I’ll try to update as much as possible. George is meeting us later in the week, and it will be great to see him, too! Good times, people, good times!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


BSL 4No, not for real, and not the crappy movie, either. (I almost threw things at the TV when a lab tech stuck his hand inside a centrifuge in a Biosafety Level 4 lab. NO! That would never happen!) Incidentally, the picture is from a BSL4 lab. I never worked in BSL4. The highest I got was BSL3, which was our TB and fungus room. We also did some anthrax testing in there, when that scare happened right after 9/11. I would love to get a chance to go inside a BSL4 lab, though! There are only a few in the world.

This has to do with my latest online class, Epidemics. In addition to the course video, forums, and quizzes, they are doing a real time epidemic simulator using mobile devices. I don’t know exactly how they designed it, but apparently, they have designated a certain number of cases and places where they are occurring. When we scan our location, we find out if we’ve spotted the local cases, and they are considered to be isolated. I’ve found four in my area. Out of two million cases, some 3,000 have been found and isolated, so that should give anyone pause. People are often contagious but not symptomatic, so that guy sitting next to you on the subway could be shedding virus or bacteria ALL OVER YOU. Think about that on your morning commute tomorrow!

The truth is that if an agent is highly transmissible, it would spread like wildfire. (There is a reason Michael Crichton named his surveillance program and facility Project Wildfire in The Andromeda Strain.) With the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices and high level of travel today, I think this will give a fascinating look at how rapidly something like this can spread. I should have a big week coming up, because we’ll be going to the Notre Dame-USC game on Saturday (massive influx of people to the area, 80,000+ people in the stadium), and going to New Orleans on Sunday. I’ll be able to pick up a lot of infections at both. Not literal infections. Virtual ones. At least I hope!

This course, as well as the course connected with “The Walking Dead” out of UC-Irvine, promises to delve into various aspects of a pandemic and the epidemiology associated with it. There are also sociological and psychological implications that will be addressed. All of these things are some of the reasons I love the show, so I think it will be fun to go a little deeper and think about it a little more.

Stay safe out there!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Dead night

Zombie nailsI found myself a tiny bit bereft today, because the season premiere had come and gone!

I think it was one of those deals where you anticipate it so much that once it’s over, you’re like, “Aww, man.” There was a little bit of that involved with the Stones show back in May, too.

I won’t write about it here—I did that on Facebook—but suffice it to say that despite a rather bucolic start, I’m pretty sure that shit is gonna get real very quickly. I think my prediction might come true. I think some sort of infectious disease other than the zombie microorganism is happening. The visual of the zombies coming through the roof was just fantastic. The splats were super cool, as was the zombie hanging by his guts. Wow!

I was pretty pleased with how my “zombie nails” turned out. I texted the pic to my sister and she said they looked infected! Perfect! That’s exactly what I was going for. Pus-filled nails? Success!

SlimeballsThe Slimeballs were also a success, and I think I might have to have some more tonight. Yum!

This week is going to be busy. I’m working on getting ready for New Orleans, and will have to start packing soon. This is also my busiest week with the online courses I’m taking. In addition to History of Rock and Vaccines, today the Walking Dead class started, and tomorrow, the Epidemics class starts. The latter two are kind of nice tie-ins.

The Walking Dead class looks like it’s going to be very interesting. I watched the intro lecture today, as well as a video where they talk to some cast members about the show (a nice feature). The Epidemics class will look at pandemic infections from a purely epidemiologic point, but the Walking Dead course is going to explore the sociological and psychological impacts. I think it’s going to be fascinating. My friend Lisa is taking it, too, so it will be fun to discuss with her!

If my online presence is down this week, this is why. Just a lot going on, but you can watch for New Orleans updates next week!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Something to cherish

RoyalMom had told me a while back that she’d cleaned up the case of Dad’s old typewriter. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with it, but he knew that Dad would be pleased at how well it cleaned up.

She said he typed all of his letters on it and used it often. As you can see, it’s an old Royal, and it’s a manual. I said if she was okay with it, I wouldn’t mind having it for the Retro Lounge. Not only is it a cool old typewriter, it was apparently a well-used and treasured thing of my Dad’s.

The thing is really heavy. If anyone ever breaks in here and goes all Annie Wilkes on me, I’ve got a Royal typewriter to bash her in the head with. I love that it’s turquoise and white—great retro colors that match the colors in the Retro Lounge. I’m not sure where I’ll put it, but I’ll find a spot, and I’m pleased to have it.

When we were at Mom’s today, I opened it up and was checking it out. For some reason, I’m fascinated by old typewriters. I guess I’m my father’s daughter! I took a typing class in 8th grade, and I learned on an electric. But we had a really old Royal manual—even older than Dad’s—at home that I often used to type reports for school. It still worked very well, although you had to really apply some force to the keys to get them to work. These things are almost works of art to me now.

Anyway, I opened it up and looked at it. There was a sheet of paper in there, and it looks like Dad had typed a few letters, probably just checking it to see if his old friend still worked well. A string of symbols and letters and then…

Royal2My name. The very last thing my Dad ever typed on his typewriter was my name.

My initial reaction was to smile and say, “Aww!” But as I thought about it a little more, I could feel myself becoming sad. I pushed those thoughts away.

For whatever reason, at that moment in time, I was in my Dad’s thoughts. I hope they were good thoughts, and not worried ones. That’s a reason to be happy, not sad.

I was going to cherish the typewriter already. That piece of paper with my name on it makes it even more precious to me, and the paper will remain in place.