Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Reading Challenge

2014 was the year that I started reading again. I read a lot as a child, but growing up seemed to pull me away from the pages. While I consume a lot of well written content via the internet, nothing replaces the feeling of gray matter saturated with words off of a page. Luckily, I have family and friends that are avid book-junkies who helped to inspire me to get back into reading.

I'm quite consistent in my lit choices—classics, sci-fi/fantasy, and non-fiction popular science. I also got into graphic novels and believe they are an important literary genre. But I am hoping that 2015 will bring the challenge of continuing to read more, in quantity and in breadth.

Image via Flickr; user pandora_6666

Herein enters the 2015 Reading Challenge. I spotted some Twitter friends discussing books for a couple of challenges and wanted to join in the fun. I created my own reading list by selecting some of topics listed by PopSugar's Ultimate Reading Challenge and BookRiot's Read Harder Challenge (there is some overlap between the two lists and I omitted several). I'm also going to "double-down" on some of the categories (identified by the "†"), which I think is reasonable.

I created a bookshelf on my Goodreads and will be tracking my progress throughout the year. Here's to a bookish 2015!

A book with more than 500 pages: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
A classic romance: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A book that became a movie: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A book published this year: TBD
A book written before 1850: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A book with a number in the title: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
A book written by someone under 25: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A book written by someone over 65: The Meaning of Human Existence by E.O. Wilson
A book that someone else has recommended to you: Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh
A book published by an indie press: 30 Days by xYz
A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A book with nonhuman characters: Animal Farm by George Orwell
A funny book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
A mystery or thriller: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
A microhistory: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
A YA novel: Looking for Alaska by John Green
A sci-fi novel: The Martian by Andy Weir
A nonfiction book: Quiet by Susan Cain
A book with a one-word title: Quiet by Susan Cain
A book of short stories: The Philip K. Dick Reader
A self-improvement book: Quiet by Susan Cain
A book set in a different country: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A popular author's first book: Looking for Alaska by John Green
A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
A book a friend recommended: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: Tom's River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin
A book that is a retelling of a classic story: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
A collection of poetry: 30 Days by xYz
A guilty pleasure book: The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
A book based on a true story: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: Blankets by Craig Thompson
A book based entirely on its cover: All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monson and Jory John
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A memoir: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman
A book you can finish in a day: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
A book with antonyms in the title: The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone
A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
A book that came out the year you were born (1984): The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
A trilogy: The Heir to the Empire (Thrawn) Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
A book from your childhood: Redwall by Brian Jacques
A book with a love triangle: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A book set in the future: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeling L'Engle
A book set in high school: Looking for Alaska by John Green
A book with a color in the title: The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
A book with magic: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
A graphic novel: Maus by Art Spiegelman
A book you own but have never read: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
A book that was originally written in a different language: if on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino
A book set during Christmas: Landline by Rainbow Rowell
A book written by an author with your same initials: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A play: Othello by William Shakespeare
A banned book: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A book based on or turned into a TV show: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
A book you started but never finished: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Total Books: 44

Monday, December 22, 2014

Craft, Paper, Scissors.

Paper has long been my favorite craft medium. As a young girl, I would check out all the origami books at the library, perfecting crisp and intricate folds to create figures out of single sheets of paper. One of my favorite school projects was an incredibly detailed paper-mâché electric eel (one could argue that the project really belonged to my engineer father, who designed the eel out of a corrugated tubing skeleton base).

I've made paper wreaths out of scraps and "carved" pendants out of stacked paper. As of a couple years ago, my most recent paper craft obsession is quilling (or paper filagree)—the art of rolling and sculpting thin strips of paper into on-edge artwork.

But nothing screams "winter craft project" like making paper snowflakes. The rise of geek culture over the past few years have prompted a creative challenge for artists to design snowflake patterns that are worthy of gracing the skies of the planet Hoth.

The past couple of years, designer Anthony Herrera has released new Star Wars snowflakes to try out, but I actually prefer this set of designs from Matters of Grey, because the centers have the rebel or imperial insignia. Are you more into Trek, Doctor Who, or BSG? Try your hand at these patterns.

However, my favorite snowflake designs of 2014 have to be these Nobel winning physicists. Einstein's hair is perfect for those frosty snowflake edges!

Monday, December 15, 2014

In Which I Watch Children's TV Shows...For SCIENCE!

This weekend, I discovered that The Magic School Bus was available to stream on Netflix. I spent my Saturday morning snuggling in with my pajamas, two pups, a cup of tea, and a blanket of nostalgia as I watched a couple of episodes. I thought about "The Frizz" and Bill Nye the Science Guy, and how they were just as influential as my "real life" school teachers in shaping my love of science as a kid. I wondered what science programming is available for children nowadays. Is there anything that has the potential to become an educational classic like all the shows from my childhood?

One day about a year ago, we were channel surfing and stumbled upon a kids show with an adorable looking CG-animated Tyrannosaurus rex explaining to his Pteranodon friends that "a hypothesis is an idea you can test!" My interest was piqued.

Turns out that show was Dinosaur Train, a PBS series that explores the prehistoric creatures of the Mesozoic Era by way of time traveling train. Nothing stimulates a young child's scientific imagination quite like dinosaurs. And I have no shame in divulging the fact that as childless adults, we found the show on Netflix and binge watched a few episodes.

A friend on Twitter also pointed me to Sid the Science Kid (the CGI predecessor to Dinosaur Train, both produced by The Jim Henson Company), which introduces basic scientific concepts and the scientific method of asking questions and making observations. She mentioned how the show uses age appropriate language, but doesn't make it hard for an adult to listen other words, age appropriateness without "dumbing down." This is so important in science communication!

Google searches also revealed a show called SciGirls, which is aimed at 8-12 year old girls by featuring other preteen girls doing their own science and engineering projects. In a culture that still reinforces sexist/gender-specific marketing for boys and girls (see the "I'm too pretty for homework so my brother does it for me" T-shirt fiasco), I think this show is a great attempt at empowering young girls to get interested in STEM fields.

And for older kids, nothing makes science look cool like the explosive production on Mythbusters or the wonder-filled storytelling in Cosmos.

Perhaps there is hope for children's science programming after all. None of these jump out at me as potential "classics," but who knows what our perception of media will look like in 20 years. And of course, there is a whole new programming medium for the digital age, with a plethora of great science-related YouTube channels available 24/7. I'll share some of my favorites in a future blog post.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hello, Three-Oh

Birthdays as an adult are funny. You wake up in the morning, feeling exactly as you did the day before. Instead of child-like excitement about your awesome themed-party and presents from your friends, you feel obligated to joke about getting older, and you comment about how you've matured or grown or learned more about yourself in the past year.

Social norms. Meh.

I'm 30 years old but that doesn't mean that I'm going to give up on my child-like wonder and amazement over silly things (like getting a lion toy plushie when we saw The Lion King a few weeks ago...because I totally giggled like a fool asking the cashier for one) that I geek out about. I'm not going to "settle" into adulthood and give up on some lofty career goals I still have for myself.  I only completed 1/3 of the challenges in my "30 before 30" list that I made for myself last year, but I'm very proud of them.

Here's to more surprises, successes, aspirations, and adventures as I commemorate my existence on this small rock, making one more revolution around a yellow dwarf star, in an infinite expanding universe!

30 before 30: December 11, 2013 - December 11, 2014
  1. Blog regularly (at least 2 posts a week)
  2. Start writing science blog posts for another website/blog See my posts at Paper Droids & Geekocracy
  3. Write a handwritten letter to a friend/family member at least once a month
  4. Go to DisneyWorld OR go on a cruise  - Caribbean cruise: May 26 - 31
  5. Reach my goal weight/get in shape - I didn't necessarily reach my goal weight, but did shed some pounds and have been able to maintain this weight for a few months. I've also started doing exercises daily (even if it is something simple like stretching), and have started training in Eagle Claw style shaolin kung fu, which I hope to continue next semester.
  6. Record an EP
  7. Prepare 3 pieces of classical piano repertoire at performance/concert level
  8. Successfully complete an online course
  9. Read 15 books I'm super proud of myself for this. Even though I'm bad at updating my Goodreads account as proof ;P
  10. Get an article published in an academic journal My name is searchable on PubMed! We're also working on getting my first author manuscript out to be reviewed soon.
  11. Learn to sew
  12. Play a DnD or similar RPG campaign
  13. Carve a pumpkin
  14. Make a gingerbread house
  15. Create a budget/savings plan - This was mostly Matt, but overall we are much wiser and more aware of our finances than we have been in the past. Yay adulthood.
  16. Audition for a show with a community theatre - I auditioned for Rent and A Chorus Line back in the spring, and while I didn't get cast, I will try to audition more in the future!
  17. Complete 3 "pay it forwards"
  18. Study the Bible daily/consistently
  19. Host a house show/concert
  20. Get better at playing guitar
  21. Make our own sushi rolls
  22. Replay all the Halo games
  23. Attend a lindy hop/swing dancing workshop or dance exchange weekendJumptown Invasion April 11-13...Sadly after that I stopped going to dancing events frequently. Summer was busy, and then I just got lazy.
  24. Purchase a record player
  25. Host our families for a major holiday - We had Matt's parents over for Thanksgiving! We cooked most of the meal (well, Matt did. I was in charge of mashed sweet potatoes) and had some great conversation & game time.
  26. Plan a surprise/do something special for Matt
  27. Attend 5 live concerts - Jamie Cullum, needtobreathe, The Dear Hunter, Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer, Gungor 
  28. Complete a photo a day challenge
  29. Re-open askLOLA on Etsy or another site
  30. Start a garden

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-Bilbo Baggins
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

I thought about starting a completely new blog space—start with a blank canvas and create something new and meaningful. But as I looked back at some of my old (and older!) blog entries here, the nostalgia of retracing the steps of my quirky life journey comforted me. I've been blogging here off and on for four years (!!!), and have ranted and fangirled and shared and pondered. Some posts are fun and frivolous, while others demonstrate my maturity as a writer and a person.

After much deliberation (I even started to set up a blog over on Wordpress), I decided to keep writing on this blog, keep up most of the old entries, and just pick up where I left off several months ago. Rather than truncating parts of my life that I've chronicled in words, I'm choosing to follow where this blog continues to lead me. As always, I want to think I have a plan...that I will post consistently, have great content, and readers with whom I will develop closer relationships. But I'm not going to let my perfectionist standards to overcome the simply joy that I find in writing.

So here we go. One giant step back onto the path of imperfect, beautiful, random, profound, creative, and adventurous blogging!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

C2E2 Recap: Day 3

The third and final day of C2E2 was the perfect ending to a fantastic weekend. We arrived early to get in line for the Stan Lee panel. It was a surprisingly smooth process, and we grabbed seats fairly close to the front. There was an announcement that no photography was allowed after the first 5 minutes, so I was able to snap a quick photo when Stan Lee took the stage.

To be in the same room as such a geek culture legend was surreal. I suppose it's nothing for regular con goers, but for this first-timer, I was completely star struck. Mr. Lee had some great stories about the industry and his humble beginnings. He was incredibly humorous and light hearted about his difficulty hearing and short term memory loss when asked a question. And the most hilarious part was when he was in danger of breaching contract (SPOILERS!!!! He is going to have a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy! And what is the mysterious project for which he shaved his moustache?) and his PR person would start creeping toward the stage waving his hands and saying "you can't say that." It was also amazing that the last question was asked by a young boy doing a school project and requested a sound bite for his PowerPoint presentation. Stan was confused, but enthusiastic to participate :) So awesome.

Next, we attended Ian Doescher's panel. He is the author of William Shakespeare's Star Wars, The Empire Striketh Back, and the soon to be released The Jedi Doth Return. He did several readings from the books and talked about his process of translating the beloved film script to the Shakespearian style. It was super entertaining and also interesting to learn about the challenges he faced. How does one make Yoda when he already has an old Shakespeare-ish sound to his syntax? Read the book and find out <(-_)>

I forgot to post these cosplay pics I took from the 2nd day, so here there are. I really should've taken more, but there was just so much hustle and bustle, and I'd always forget to take my phone out to snap a pic. Next year I'll get more!

Matt found the TARDIS!! He almost stepped in for an adventure!
To close out our first convention experience, we attended an improv panel held by the guys behind The Thrilling Adventure Hour. Again, it was just really interesting to hear about the craft of improvisational acting and their stories of how they got their start and how they survive in the industry.

Hopefully we'll make C2E2 a yearly thing! It's so close, Nate lives in Chicago so we'd have free housing ;), and the whole event had something for all of us to enjoy. Maybe next year we'll even cosplay...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

C2E2 Recap: Day 2

On Saturday, we arrived around noon. Matt, Manika, and Nate went to see the "Rotten Tomatoes: Fan vs. Critic" panel (which sounded like a lot of fun!) while I roamed the floor a bit until it was time to meet up with some of the ladies of the IGGPPC! I stopped by Artist Alley and chatted with Yale Stewart for a bit (probably sounding like a rabid fangirl squee-fest) and promised I'd be back to buy some of his prints. As I walked toward the food court area, I spotted a San (Princess Mononoke) cosplayer posing for a photo and remembered that Summer mentioned she'd be dressed up. We were shortly joined by Erika and Noxy (but sadly we couldn't connect with Katy) and had a lovely time chatting.

I headed up to the panel rooms to meet up with my family, where we attended a really interesting panel discussion about the history of animation and it's impact on culture and entertainment. The moderator and one of the panelists were academics and the other panelist was the owner of a cartoon museum, so it was a robust conversation. Shout-outs to Batman: The Animated Series and Disney!

We then wandered around the show floor and Artist Alley where I bought a few goodies: Portal earrings, a dragon pet (who still needs a name!), and a Barry print from Yale Stewart's JL8 (Bruce is my favorite character, obvi, but Barry is a close second, and I thought his print was cuter...that sandwich! :-D)

The 24 Reunion panel was next, and it was...interesting. The three stars, Carlos Bernard (Tony), James Morrison (Bill), and Louis Lombardi (Edgar), all had an interesting sense of humor (very dry and sarcastic) which I don't think the moderator caught onto right away. So it was a bit awkward, and I'm pretty sure they were drunk as well...which made for much hilarity. 24 was one of my favorite shows (it's what brought Matt and I together!) so it was fun to hear some of their stories and insights on the television business.

To close out the evening, we watched the Champions of Cosplay competition. I was completely stunned by some of those costumes! It made me want to learn more about the craft (what the heck is vacuum forming?!) and I was truly inspired by their passion for detail. I wasn't able to take super great photos, but here are a few of my favorites:

(to be continued...)

C2E2 Recap: Day 1

This past weekend, my siblings (Manika and Nathan), my husband (Matt), and I attended our first convention, the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2). It was an overwhelmingly awesome experience! Hopefully, it becomes a yearly tradition.


On Friday, we arrived in the early afternoon and picked up our 3-day badges and planned out what panels we wanted to see. Unfortunately, the first panel/presentation we saw was an epic failure. What was expected to be an interesting discussion about the multiverse theory in comic books and sci-fi turned out to be and random unorganized rambling of an over enthusiastic cosplayer who diverged into all kinds of non-sensical rambling about game theory. Bummer. So we left early and hit the floor to meet up with a friend from college and do some browsing.

After checking out some of the exhibitor booths, we headed to the Main Stage to line up for the Game of Thrones panel. They let us in early so we caught the end of Eve Myles' panel. I wasn't familiar with her work (Torchwood), but she was hilarious! The GoT panel featured Natalia Tena (Osha) and Kristian Niarn (Hodor) and they were great, despite having a moderator who asked awful questions and made pointless remarks. And we got to learn a lot about Hodor's "hodor"...

Following the GoT panel was the Thrilling Adventure Hour, a hilarious comedy improv show. The guest improv actors included Tim Ormundson, Janet Varney, and Molly Quinn. Funny story: before the show, Manika and I went to use the restroom and two girls rushed ahead of us saying "excuse us...she needs to use the restroom really quick!" At first I was annoyed that these people were skipping us, but then a guy passing by said, "I love you on Castle" and the girl turned was Molly Quinn! Her escort did a great job rushing her past us unnoticed :)

My one regret from the first day was not attending the "Why Geek Culture Matters" panel. It featured 8 academics discussing the impact of geek culture, and I love that kind of stuff! I heard from some friends that it was a great panel, so I'm still kicking myself in the head for not suggesting we stay for that one....

(to be continued...)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Science Saturday: Weekly Round-Up

A round up of some interesting science stories from the week:

- Crocodiles aren't necessarily the big, mean, green machine predators we make them out to be. Check out these photos of crocodiles being attacked and eaten by pythons and river otters. That's right...adorable little otters can take down crocodiles.

- From 30,000 year old Siberian permafrost, a team of researchers thawed an ancient giant virus and were able to revive and grow it in the lab. Pithovirus is 25% larger than any other known virus, larger than some bacteria, and infects amoebae.

- Last year, it was reported that a baby in Mississippi was cleared of HIV after a rigorous antiretroviral treatment given after birth. Those results have been reproduced in a second baby born in Los Angeles, who is currently 9 months old and free of HIV virus. The difference, however, is that this baby is still on the antiretroviral drugs (the Mississippi baby was off drugs and virus-free at 2 years of age), and it is not known yet when she will be taken off the treatment.

- An "Iron Man-like" cast aluminum alloy exosuit has been developed for deep sea exploration. It provides the wearer with protection from severe cold and pressure encountered at deep sea levels. The system is self contained, recycling air supply in the suit and providing up to 50 hours of support. Though, I think it's less Iron-Man and more Big Daddy.
- Lastly, don't forget to check out COSMOS, the anticipated sequel to Carl Sagan's educational series through space and time. Hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, this updated series aims to inspire awe and wonder of the natural world amidst a culture of reality TV programming.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2014

image via
Oscar night is here! As a self-proclaimed movie buff and lover of the art of film, I enjoy watching as many of the nominated films as I can to make my predictions. You can see the full list of nominees here. My predictions are as follows:

Best Picture: Her
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Animated Feature Film: Frozen
Cinematography: Gravity
Costume Design: American Hustle
Directing: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Documentary Feature: 20 Feet from Stardom
Documentary Short Subject: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Film Editing: Gravity
Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Music - Original Score: Her
Music - Original Song: Let it Go, Frozen
Production Design: Her
Short Film - Animated: Mr. Hublot
Short Film - Live Action: the Voorman Problem
Sound Editing: Gravity
Sound Mixing: Gravity
Visual Effects: Gravity
Writing - Adapted Screenplay: The Wolf of Wall Street
Writing - Original Screenplay: Her

Who do you think will win an Oscar tonight?

Friday, February 28, 2014

30 Before 30: Achievement Unlocked!

Click here to see my full 30 before 30 list
It has been several years since I've been involved in any musical theatre productions - not since college. It's something that I really enjoyed doing and miss doing. As an introvert, theatre is the perfect way to get out of the house and socialize, put on a "mask" by playing a role, and is actually a time when I feel comfortable being the center of attention (not in a diva-ish way, just in a I'm-on-stage-and-everyone-is-looking-at-me way).

When we moved to Madison, I immediately started googling community theatres in the area to see who was holding auditions. I found a theatre company that was holding auditions for two summer shows, Rent and A Chorus Line, and I signed up for an audition slot.

I attended dance call first, and wow...was I completely overwhelmed! I have always been a "dancer," not really having any formal training, but have always felt comfortable and natural in the way my body perceives movement. Though I did almost attend ballet school as a child, and have taken several random ballet/jazz/tap class here and there - so I'm familiar with choreography and dance terminology. And of course, I'm an avid swing dancer/lindy hopper. Anyway, the choreography we learned was the opening dance number in A Chorus Line (should've seen that coming) and after a quick warm up floor sequence, she taught the routine SUPER fast. The combination of not having danced for years and being out of shape definitely took it's toll on my ability to learn it. I probably would've been fine if we spent just a liiiitle more time learning it. But at least I still rocked my double pirouette!

I thought my vocal audition went well, and there were only two other people in my audition slot, so I wasn't extremely nervous or fearful of being compared to them - I just sang my best and tried to emote through my song selections to show off my acting skillz as well (Uptempo: Spark of Creation from Children of Eden, Ballad: I Know the Truth from Aida).

Ultimately, I didn't get cast in either show, but it I was proud of myself for just getting out there and trying out. It's hard being new and showing yourself to a close-knit group with a lot of talented people in it. I'll still be keeping my eye out for future auditions in the area.

And I'm actually relieved that I don't have the commitment for our first full spring/summer in Madison ;) There's still a lot to do and explore!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On Networking, Self-Identity, & Design

My shiny new business cards! Contact info is on the back side.

As an introvert, I constantly have a million thoughts stirring around in my brain, but they rarely make it out of my mouth in the form of coherent sentences. I have extreme difficulty expressing myself if I don't have enough time to mentally prepare what I'm going to say. This is why I hate small talk and why I hate the idea of networking. If I don't mentally prepare for conversation, I ramble on, I'm awkward, and I don't present the best and most comfortable version of myself.

That being said, it was networking and cold-emailing that has landed me the last few jobs that I've had—jobs that are in my career interests and were/are beneficial to my personal growth. Just today, I sent out a couple of emails to network and reach out to some people who would be great resources in the area of science writing. But those were emails, a medium which I am completely comfortable with since I can think and plan before perfectly executing what I want to say. And in this case, meeting them in person won't be too bad, either, since I have time to prepare the questions I want to ask and know what to expect from our conversations.

But another fear I have with networking, is that I have many different hats and many different interests. How do I present myself in a niche area when I also have one hand in another niche area? How do I make sure that I stay true to all of myself while also trying to show off my best self in one given area?

I decided to label four self-identities, different areas in which I hold a niche interest (and all areas in which I have had business-type opportunities in the past, present, and hopefully future), but define a part of who I am as a whole person.
crafty pants. I still haven't managed to reopen my Etsy shop, askLOLA, since moving back to WI, and I haven't really made much time for my creative pursuits. But this hasn't stopped friends from ordering custom projects from me: Halloween pumpkin hats, quilled monograms, graphic design projects, etc. One thing I've always regretted was not having a business card to hand out when someone asks me about a custom project. But simply, I love to create and make things, and I hope that will always be a part of me. 
geeky nerd. I've always been known as a "geek" or a "nerd" and have thankfully never been made fun of for it, but rather embraced for it - at least not that I'm aware of! As little kids on the elementary school playground my friends and I pretended we were characters from TMNT, and my boy friends were cool with the fact that I didn't want to be April, but Raphael. As a high schooler, I'd constantly reference Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Lord of the Rings with my band buddies and quoted Yoda for my senior year quote. Now it's "cool" to be a nerd, and the term has lost it's stereotype and instead become a cultural trend. But I will always be extremely obsessive passionate about the things I like and will always take the opportunity to drop a geeky reference, even when cultural trends change. 
music maker. I've loved music since I was 2 years old and have been making music since I was 4 years old. I've been a piano accompanist, a piano teacher, a wedding singer, a marching band drum major, and more. Now I am in an indie folk rock family band with my husband and siblings, and we are learning how to be songwriters. I had business cards for my piano teaching business, but now that I'm branching outside of just teaching, this self-identification hits all the right notes (*ba-dum-CHING!*). 
truth seeker. This one has a double meaning. I believe in seeking the truth, pursuing the facts, and using reasoning to understand the world. This is why I love science and want to continue working in the science field. I also believe in seeking the Truth, and believe in a story of personal redemption through a man named Jesus. I also believe that science and faith are not mutually exclusive, and one can and should seek the beauty of truth in both cases of the word.
I hope that by highlighting these four identities, I can demonstrate that any one personal or professional interest doesn't define me, but they are all a part of me (*cue Katy Perry song*) and contribute to my one identity.

I designed a business card to be printed and my order came in the mail today. I've always been drawn to a minimalist design, not because I live a clean & simple minimalist lifestyle (Far from it! Just ask my husband.), but because I think it looks classy and smart, while evoking a sense of abstract mystery. I was also told by a friend that if I was a font, I'd be Futura for those same reasons. Finally, I've also always identified with the color red, specifically this darker shade (hex code #99000). By combing all those elements I think I accurately captured a 3.5 by 2 inch cardstock representation of myself. Now I have something to give to anyone who asks for my contact information—whether it's to create something, comment on geek culture, play a piano sonata, or write a science article.

Do you enjoy networking - is it beneficial or not? Do you self-identify with one or with many areas of interest? How do you determine whether to separate your personal and professional identities or not? What would your "business card persona" look like?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Impromptu Game Night

My brother and sister came for the weekend so that we could have a Songs Like Trees rehearsal, so we decided to have an impromptu game night as well. We started out with Takenoko, an adorable game in which you cultivate plots of bamboo gardens through the help of the gardener, and try to eat certain bamboo pieces as the panda. I lost horribly (I was so focused on one of my goals, that I completely missed one that I could've achieved a lot easier), but it was still fun, and a good warm up game.
The cute little panda!
We also played Alhambra, a tile placement/building game, and then a card game called Five Crowns. The big game of the evening was A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. I've played it a couple times before, but every time it's like learning the rules all over again because it's so complicated ;-P The house cards are dealt out randomly, and I played this game as the Starks. They have a decent starting position, since they have most of the northern territories without anyone invading, but then face a bottleneck when trying to invade into the south. I was doing alright, but my brother had the Greyjoy's and completely dominated the middle of the map. It also helped that the Lannisters were completely wiped out, allowing him to easily take their territories.

Those poor Lannisters, about to be killed off.
We don't often get to play these big strategy games, so it was a blast being able to sit down and game for several hours (while munching on delicious snacks like beer bread, beer cheese, hummus, and trifle dessert). What are your favorite games?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

30 before 30: Achievement Unlocked!

Click here to see my full 30 before 30 list

I am now a contributor to the science & technology column at Paper Droids! They are an online magazine written by and for women to provide them with an outlet to geek out over their passions and support women in all areas of geek/nerd culture. My first piece was posted today - check it out here. I hope to submit posts to be published weekly or every other week.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

In the Beginning...

"In the beginning, God created..." - Genesis 1:1

The first verse of the Bible begins the greatest story ever told with this simple statement. That statement is sufficient for my faith and hope in the beautiful story of redemption that we are a part of. "Genesis shows that God, by his very nature, is Creator. That He is there before the beginning of the Story."

As a Christian, a believer in the Creator, I struggle writing this post for fear of judgement - that I'll be accused of headed down a slippery slope of atheistic thought.

As a scientist, an explorer of the created world, I struggle writing this post for fear of judgement - that I'll be accused that believing in God is nothing but a fairy tale and inhibits rational thought.

But "it's not as simple as 'A vs B.'"

I'm writing to tear down the false dichotomy, to bridge the gap, to give hope that science and faith are beautifully woven together and are not mutually exclusive.

On Tuesday night, I was one of the ~800,000 tuned in to the live stream* of the "historic evolution/creation debate" between popular science communicator Bill Nye the Science Guy and Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham. I went into it expecting that I would agree with Ham on basic theology (God is Creator, the power of the Gospel message, etc), but would mostly agree with Nye on scientific facts regarding evolution. The difficulty in watching the debate was that the two men were debating different things: theology and science. The two are not mutually exclusive nor do they belong in a debate against each other.

Ken Ham insists that "creationism" is reading the Bible as a literal historical account of our origins. He admitted that there Christians who do not read Genesis as a literal account (24-hour days), but basically says that they are wrong. His view of Genesis is that it is historically valid as a scientific text. This is where I strongly disagree. 

I am a "creationist" in that I believe God created. But nowhere does God's Word claim to explain the scientific laws of nature that were created. The fact is that while the Bible is a "living document" (still applicable to our lives today), it was written by and for peoples who lived in an ancient culture. Would Moses be able to read and understand a scientific textbook about gravity or the speed of light? Would Noah be able to understand the complexities of neurological disorders like autism or muscular dystrophy? Most likely, they wouldn't...most people today don't even fully understand these things. Doesn't it make more sense that the inspired Word of God would be more focused on explaining WHY there is a Creator rather than HOW did He create?

I fully admit that I don't have clear cut answers. It's possible that by a miracle, God created in literal 24-hour days. It's possible that a "day" to God is a mere millisecond, and that millions of years could had passed. I DO believe that God created. I DO believe that he chose to create man in his image - not his literal physical image, but that we have the intellect to know him and seek truth. It is through this gift of intellect that man has continued to seek for truth in our world...and this includes science. 

Bill Nye explained several different scientific points - observable data from our natural world (our created world) that evolutionary principles are fact. Ken Ham asserted that any belief in evolution is a "naturalist" view of the world and that there is no compatibility with a Creator. However, Bill Nye confirmed that there are millions of people who have no problem reconciling** their faith beliefs with scientific discovery, even though he himself takes on an agnostic/atheistic worldview.

I'm an "evolutionist" in that I believe that God has gifted us with the joy of scientific discovery so that we can better understand the universe he created and know him. Current scientific evidence of evolutionary principles is real, is observable, and is NOT a gateway to an atheistic worldview. "If the earth is really billions of years old, then I can trust that God is patient." It's simply awe-inspiring to think of the grand scale in which God works. I can enjoy pursuing scientific discovery through the lens of a Christian worldview and simply learn more about God through the observable world around us.

But none of this really matters. Salvation is not based on if you are a young-earth creationist, old-earth creationist, theistic evolutionist, evolutionist, or whatever made up -ist title you want to give yourself. 

We need to stop promoting a culture of scientific illiteracy and instead choose to pursue scientific discovery with open minds. We need to stop finding ways to divide the body of Christ and instead choose to celebrate the much greater story that started "in the beginning..." 

via - my Career Day talk as a service through our church

*You can still view the archived debate for a while longer. They did not give a time period when it would be taken down, but I believe Answers in Genesis plans to sell DVDs as well.
**Here are several responses from Christian scientists and scholars who are part of the BioLogos Foundation. Also, I wrote a bit about NIH director Francis Collins' book before...a must read for anyone who wants further insight on the evolution/creation dichotomy and that there is #anotherchoice.
***I'm open to explaining/discussing more details on the topic of this post if people want clarification. Comments are open. But only respectful, civil discourse will be allowed.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Deep water rave: Biofluorescence in fish

From the magical glow of fireflies at night, to the mesmerizing orb of the deep sea angler fish designed to lure prey, most people are familiar with nature's glowing creatures. This is due to a process called bioluminescence. These animals create their own light by producing a chemical called luciferin, which chemically reacts with oxygen to release energy in the form of light.

A similar process called biofluorescence occurs when one wavelength of light is absorbed, and then converted into a lower energy and higher wavelength, resulting in a different color of light. Recently, it was found that  more than 180 species of biofluorescent fish swimming in the waters. Fishes from the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, and the Solomon Islands were imaged and scanned for fluorescence using special LED light sources and filters, and the results presented a wide variety of patterns and colors.
Diversity of fluorescent patterns and colors in marine fishes.

A, swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum); B, ray (Urobatis jamaicensis); C, sole (Soleichthys heterorhinos); D, flathead (Cociella hutchinsi); E, lizardfish (Synodus dermatogenys); F, frogfish (Antennarius maculatus); G, false stonefish (Scorpaenopsis diabolus); H, false moray eel (Kaupichthys brachychirus); I, false moray eel (Kaupichthys nuchalis); J, pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus); K, sand stargazer (Gillellus uranidea); L, goby (Eviota sp.); M, goby (Eviota atriventris); N, surgeonfish (Acanthurus coeruleus, larval); O, threadfin bream (Scolopsis bilineata).doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083259.g001
 In deep sea waters, red, yellow, orange, and green light gets filtered out, leaving only the wavelength of light that we perceive as blue light. Using biofluorescence, these fish species absorb the blue light, and convert it back to a lower energy of light, thus re-emmiting the red, yellow, orange, and green colors seen above.

Scientists are currently studying this broad diversity of biofluorescence to determine it's evolutionary advantages and adaptations to marine life. One hypothesis is that the variations of color and patterns may be used to attract a mate, similar to the way a male peacock will flash his patterned feathers at a female. Another possibility is that different colors and patterns are suited for camouflage within biofluorescent coral reefs. There have also been studies about using biofluorescence as a type of "hidden communication" between the species; they flash their light to one another to signal that a predator is nearby. This silent communication is possible because the light emitted is at a wavelength that the predator itself can't see.

While most of us will never get to see these beautiful creatures for ourselves, we can close our eyes and envision ourselves swimming in the dark surrounded by glowing flashes of reds, yellows, and greens - nature's version of a dance rave in your imagination!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club

Last year, I was introduced to the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club (or IGGPPC) through several bloggers/Twitter friends, and I was quite intrigued. Wanting to get back into the lost art of written communication (something I am still working on!!), I signed up and started on an amazing journey of friendships with a group of awesomely geeky women (most of whom I have never not yet met in real life).

What started out as a simple idea born out of the brilliant minds of Leslie (aka Stewie) and Emily (aka Farquharson or Frogmella) quickly became an internet phenomenon. The goal of the club is to pair up like-minded individuals based off of their "Top 5 Geek Loves" and encourage friendship building through sending letters, postcards, and care packages - often to the other end of the globe! My first pen pal I was paired with is an amazing artist from the Netherlands and my second pen pal now runs a blog with me.

In addition to the pair-ups, the online community is very strong. A few days ago, the IGGPPC launched a brand new website with interactive forums, a leaderboard for achievements to unlock around the site, and of course, registration to be paired up with a pen pal who shares your geeky interests. The are currently in their 10th round of pair-ups, and according to their official press release, nearly 10,000 people have been hand matched through nearly 50,000 geek loves!

The IGGPPC is on a mission to maintain the lost art of letter writing in the technological age, inspire new friendships, and spread geeky awesomeness around the globe. You can sign up NOW for Round 10 of pair-ups, and within a month, you'll be sending and receiving goodies from the long lost friend you never knew you had. What are you waiting for?!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Underneath as white as snow

Snowfall is always beautiful.

The delicate white powder, gently falling from the sky. A peaceful silence as the freshly laid blanket absorbs sound. The symbolism of purity and something being made clean. Like the old hymn (one of my favorites) says, "Jesus paid it all / all to him I owe / sin had left a crimson stain / He washed it white as snow."

Today is not one of those beautiful winter days, however. After the Great Freeze of 2014 earlier this week, the slightly warmer temperature has turned snow into freezing rain, mushy roads, dismal fog, and an overall sense of seasonal despair.

I found myself thinking of today as another grand metaphor for our spiritual lives. A lot of times, Christians put on a mask of being 100% happy and bright and shiny, because they have Jesus in their heart and their sins have been washed away!! But the reality is that like the fresh blanket of white snow, underneath there is still a melted mess of muddy muck; we are still sinners, still mess-ups, and we will inevitably say something we regret or act on bad decisions. I can guarantee you that the Christian who looks like they have a perfect life does NOT have it all together.

Yet, this is why my faith is still so important to me. Because Christ spoke of this thing called grace. That despite our failures and our persistent sinful nature, He will unconditionally love and forgive and "wash it white as snow" again and again if we believe and follow Him.

And that is truly beautiful.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Oh My Darling Clementine

"WOW. So there are only a few movies that will guaranteed make me cry, but other than that, I rarely cry during movies. Well, The Walking Dead video game had me BAWLING by the end. I can see why it won Game of the Year for so's less of a "game" in the traditional sense, and more an interactive story/movie. And wowza, do they get you emotionally invested. Whew. Wow."
I wrote this status update after playing through The Walking Dead: Season One video game in December 2012. It was one of my favorite gaming experiences and left me excited to continue the adventure in TWD: Season Two. I finished playing the first episode yesterday, and am glad that the game picks up where it left off and continues to bring the player into the story in a creative way.

via TWD wiki
The plot follows a young girl, Clementine, though this time instead of playing a character protecting her, you play as her. She is one of my favorite video game characters because she is such a sweet innocent child, but yet she also is determined and will do whatever it takes to survive and to help those she trusts.

Gameplay is the same, more like an interactive movie than an action based video game. You have various dialogue options and decisions to make, and every choice you make really matters. The thing I find so intriguing is that the developers have you perform these simple actions (by doing things like pressing "A" repeatedly) which in any other game would feel like button mashing...but they purposefully combine it with emotional storytelling so that you actually FEEL the tension of the situation, even if all you are doing is pressing a button.

The game is also so visually unique, like a comic book come to life.

Both Season One and the first episode of Season Two are available to play on pretty much every gaming platform, so if you are looking for a unique game experience, definitely check it out! This game series will win you over, even if you aren't a huge zombie fanatic.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dogs poop in alignment with Earth's magnetic field

Call me crazy, but I think watching my dogs poop is hilarious. The way they sniff about, scurry and circle around the perfect spot, to finally awkwardly hunker down into position. A recent study suggests that there may be a method to this madness, and the explanation is magnetism.

70 dogs of varying breeds, age, and sex were observed for two years while they took care of business (defecation and urination). The alignment of their body axis was analyzed in conjunction with the magnetic field conditions of Earth during the observation period. Geomagnetic conditions fluctuate depending on time and location, and magnetic declination occurs when magnetic north is deviates from true north (the physical direction moving towards the North pole). When magnetic declination is at 0%, compass north and true north are the same and the condition of the magnetic field is considered stable. When there is deviation from true north, the magnetic field is considered unstable. What researchers found was that under stable "calm magnetic conditions", dogs preferred to align themselves with the north-south axis when dropping a deuce.

It is still unclear exactly why this response occurs only when the geomagnetic conditions are stable and why the dogs assumed a north-south alignment (as opposed to the east-west direction). The study also mentions that female dogs assumed this alignment while urinating as well, whereas male dogs aligned themselves slightly angled at north-west, possibly due to the "leg lift" position. Domesticated dogs are also dependent on their owner's calls and commands, which may have an influence on responding to natural instincts and sensitivities to their surroundings.

The subject matter may be strange and begs the question, "WHY?" Yet, the implications may lead to further understanding on how geomagnetic sensitivity affects animal behavior. Similar studies have also been researched in other mammals, such as deer, cattle, and foxes, in regards to grazing/feeding, hunting, homing, and other navigational behaviors in the wild.

Just the other day, I observed both my dogs doing their thing while facing toward the same direction. Is it because of their innate sensitivity to the Earth's magnetic field or just pure coincidence? I should invest in a good compass to figure it out.