Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cah-raaaaaaazy cats

Roxie Pants! Randi's pants, to be specific.


Yes Randelinamire, I still have your pants that you loaned me almost 4 years ago after hot-tubbing with G. Yes, they've been packed and unpacked through three separate moves. No, I haven't worn them :-)

And since we're on the subject of cats, here's one I forgot to post a while back, of Roxie and Max getting ready for a trip through the washing machine.

(No, we don't actually launder our cats. Please don't call PETA.)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Good Idea, Bad Idea - TSA style

So the TSA is changing some of the screening rules about liquids and gels at security checkpoints.
...most liquids and gels that air travelers purchase in secure areas of airports will now be allowed on planes. That means that after passengers go through airport security checkpoints, they can purchase liquids at airport stores and take them onto their planes, said the official.
Makes sense to me. If you purchase it in the airport and it's marked as such, I think it's pretty safe to say that there's no chemicals or explosives in it. Good Idea.
New procedures also were being announced for products like lip gloss and hand lotion that passengers bring to the airport. Previously, those liquids have been confiscated at security checkpoints. Now, the official said, those products will be put in clear plastic bags at the checkpoint, screened and returned to the passenger if they pass screening.
Um, pass screening for what? Are you going to have a GC-MS set up at screening and analyze the chemical composition of my lip gloss to make sure there are no foreign substances in it? Bad Idea. Note that I still think that the ban was overreacting in the first place. But this is yet another example of "security theater" - playing up to the American public while doing nothing to actually make us "safer."

So in conclusion, I think we get a net gain of zero in terms of "safety" but at least they won't take my killer lip gloss. I wonder if they're confiscating spinach at security or customs though?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Christmas is coming


And I LOVE this shirt - it's so cute! Available at Catalog Favorites, if you're one to get your christmas shopping done early - size small, please ;-)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Risky?


Courtesy of Wired News.

Medical News

1. Two Republican senators (Jim DeMint, SC and David Vitter, LA) are planning on blocking the confirmation of FDA head nominee Andrew Von Eschenbach for political party reasons - halting sales of RU-486 and legalizing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, respectively. In the entirety of Bush's presidency thus far the FDA has been without a confirmed head for all but 18 months (source).

2. The CDC, through the AMA, has recommended that HIV screening become a routine part of bloodwork during physical examinations for patients aged 13-65 (just like you might get a cholesterol test or a glucose test). They hope to remove the stigma of HIV testing and reach an estimated 250,000 Americans that are unknowingly infected with the virus (source).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tidbits

A couple things I forgot in my previous posts:

- Beverages: Sourcy = good, Cassis = bad (Sourcy is like Sprite but not as sicky sweet, as they don't use high fructose corn syrup in their beverages. Cassis is blueberry juice and carbonated water, which sounds like it would be okay but it's really not.)

- Taxis: All the taxis are Mercedes, BMWs, and...Peugots. I didn't even know they still made those. I'm not sure I've ever seen a real Peugot before, much less rode in one.

- The Dutch: I think everyone in Amsterdam smokes and rides bicycles. Sometimes at the same time. We saw one woman riding a bike in a skirt and heels, smoking and talking on a cell phone. It was pretty impressive. They also have elaborate contraptions to tote their kids around on the bikes.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Travel Post, Part III

Last of the three! If you haven't read Part I (Friday-Sunday) or Part II (Monday-Wednesday) yet, go do that first.

The conference started bright and early at 8am Thursday morning, which is 2AM east coast time. I hadn't slept very well the night before, maybe 3 hours total. We went to bed around 11PM and I woke up a little after 1AM, and could NOT fall back asleep. I tried having a snack, listening to music, saying my multiplication tables (which usually works like a charm). I think I managed another hour around 5-ish before we had to get up.

We had a full breakfast waiting for us in the hotel, which was nice. Europe seems to be the home of free full breakfasts, but charges 22 Euros for internet access. The conference this year was a joint meeting of "Perspectives in Melanoma," which is the clinical area, and "Melanoma Research Congress," which is the basic science ares, so there were over 700 attendees. There were sessions all morning, and then after lunch we walked down to the beach for a little while and took our shoes off. We had some pictures taken of us in the North Sea, which was really stinkin' cold. There were still at least a dozen little old ladies out there swimming though, which I found pretty crazy. Staci gave her presentation during the afternoon session on the first day. She was noticably nervous, but hardly the worst presenter of the week and I think overall it went fine. John came to the session to watch her talk, even though he had been as sick as a dog with a fever and such the day before (I think he eventually thought that he had an ear infection). They had a buffet reception dinner that evening, and a concert. Apparantly two of the people at the conference, John Kirkwood (one of the organizers) and Dave Fisher (one of the speakers) were quite skilled musically and played with John Kirkwood's mother and the hotel pianist. It was pretty nice. We walked a little bit around Noordwijk that evening, although it was a pretty small town so there wasn't much to see other than the main drag of restaurants and shops.

Friday was a pretty long day - very full of sessions, and even the lunch was a "working lunch" about immunotherapy. The afternoon was pretty clinical material about sentinal lymph nodes and stuff, so I skipped one of the shorter sessions to walk outside for a bit since I was feeling a bit drowsy - it turned out to be pretty helpful to my overall feeling. There was another reception that evening, but it turned out to only be drinks and appetizers. Dutch food is really nothing to write home about. The interesting thing though, was that we were apparantly befriended during the reception by Lex Eggermond, who was not only the head meeting coordinator but also the outgoing president of EORTC (European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer). He's pretty much the most powerful person in cancer research in Europe, and he declared that Rhoda and I were going to be his dinner guests that evening, as he was going to a drug company dinner. So, with a mite of trepidation, I was off to Iels Anders ("Something Different") for a dinner with the head of Bristol Myers Squibb's melanoma immunotherapy division, Lex, Rhoda, and about 15 other prominent melanoma researchers. It was simultaneously awkward and entertaining, and I was very glad for my dinner etiquette class at Sweet Briar. I had beef carpaccio, glazed duck, and white chocolate mousse. Oh, and fries...everyone in The Netherlands eats fried potatoes, even with very fancy meals. But man were they good.

Saturday was the last day of the conference, and it was pretty good on the whole. My poster had gotten very minimal traffic, being placed all the way in the back of the room, but I suppose it was okay because there wasn't much data on it anyways. We finally left Noordwijk around 4:30PM and got back into Amsterdam around 6PM, by the time we had checked into our hotel. This time we were staying in the museum district in the southwest part of the city, which turned out to be a pretty "happenin" area. We went out walking to find a place to eat, and there must have been 400 restaurants in this part of the city - pretty much any kind of food you could possibly want. We settled on an italian place, and settled into "American or Not American?" with the people passing by.

After dinner we went walking/shopping. Rhoda has a bit of an insanity when it comes to shopping - it was all "oh look another store!" and then "oh look an H&M!" Before I knew it, we had walked halfway across the city! We ended up at the Palace and National Monument before we turned around. Then of couse, we had to walk all the way back. By the time we made it back to the area near our hotel, the Leidseplein (pleins are like city "squares") was in full action. I thought the guy walking down the street outside the italian restaurant wearing a leather vest and leather butt-less pants had been eye-popping, but here was a 95% nude man doing some kind of street performance with a rope on a big pole (like a tetherball pole). No, we didn't stick around to watch.

Sunday morning we went to a little cafe for pancakes (mine had apples) before we had to leave for the airport. We ended up taking the bus back to Schipol, which ended up being waaay cheaper than the taxi+train combo, and had the added benefit of letting us see a little more of the city (the financial/judicial district this time). The first leg of the flight was again uneventful, and we had another free hour or so in Iceland. I bought some beautiful postcards that I framed along with an Icelandic coin for our hallway. Rhoda was ALL about the duty-free shops. I think she went to every single one in the airport. We had to go through additional security since we were flying into the US, and then on the plane again. I'd say that this was the least pleasant leg of all four; it wasn't terrible but it wasn't great either. The meal wasn't as good as the previous three (fried fish with some kind of curry sauce and what i thought was cole slaw but turned out to be fish salad). I had planned on taking a short nap, but there were FOUR fussy children (ranging in age from 2-10) in the row behind us, and the mother wasn't making much of an effort to deter their crying and kicking and such. I ended up watching the in-flight movie, which was The Davinci Code.

We landed around 6:30PM, made it through customs in like 5 minutes, and finally got our bags. Rhoda's husband picked us up from the airport and took me back to Hopkins so I could get my car, and I drove home. I got there around 9pm and was in bed about half an hour later, having been up for another 18 hours straight as I had at the beginning of the trip. I slept until about 9:30AM today and spent a pretty low key day at home doing all my laundry and picking up a few things - some one-hour photos at Wal-mart, frames for my postcards and pictures, and the new Virginia Coalition CD from the concert that Phil and I went back to in January.

So that's everything, I think. Again, the pictures from The Netherlands are here if you didn't look at them from the last post. Thanks for sticking with me through all the details!

Travel Post, Part II

Okay, so if you haven't read Part I (below) about Kim and Mike's wedding, go do that first since it comes before this chronologically!

I stayed up until about 12:30AM packing and getting other things ready for Matt, and got up at 6:30AM in hopes that I would be tired enough to sleep on the plane that night. When I went to the bank after lunch on Monday to pick up my currency, I was immediately taken back to see the bank Vice President, who apologized profusely and had the Fed-Ex envelope on her desk. Well remedied, but BoA is still on probation until they credit the money from the first order back to our account.

We took a taxi to BWI and got there at 5:30PM, and there was practically no one there. We got through ticketing and security in about half an hour, and then had like 2 1/2 hours before boarding. It was a little weird that all the gate area TVs were playing the news reports on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. We just basically sat around and read for a while.

I tried to sleep on the first leg of the flight but for the most part was pretty unsuccessful. It wasn't that I wasn't tired; I just couldn't get comfortable enough to fall asleep. We had dinner on the plane, and then around 4 hours into the flight, an attendant came over the intercom asking if there was a doctor on the plane. Rhoda looked around for a minute to see if anyone else would stand up, and when no one did, she finally stood up and said "I'm a doctor." They asked her to come back and assist a woman who was having chest pains. It turned out that the woman was having a heart attack, but we were two hours away from land so there was nothing the plane could do in terms of an emergency landing. Rhoda did what she could in medical terms, and the woman (who was Icelandic and didn't speak English) ended up making it off the plane still alive and conscious; they had an ambulance waiting and EMTs boarded the plane as soon as we landed. At one point one of the flight attendants asked Rhoda "What kind of doctor are you?" When Rhoda told her "I'm a dermatologist" she asked "Do you know what you're doing??"

So we landed in Keflavik (right outside of Reykjavik, on the southwest tip of Iceland) at around 6am local time, and I've been up for 18 of the past 20 hours. We had about an hour and a half to get coffee and browse through the shops on the concourse. Two notable things about Iceland - one is that people really do look like the stereotypical Nordic, especially a lot of the flight attendants (tall, blonde and beautiful). Apparantly this is because their population has been relatively "undiluted" for almost 1000 years, and geneticists use Icelandic DNA for gene studies because it's such a pure population. The second is that people drink beer in Iceland at 6AM. I'm not kidding.

The second leg of our flight was uneventful, and we made it to our hotel around 3PM, after a short train ride from Schipol Airport to Centraal Station (our hotel was right across the street). We showered and changed and then went out into Amsterdam. We hadn't eaten since breakfast on the flight, so we stopped into a little tapas cafe for some bread and cheese (how very European). We walked around the Red Light District (during the day), which was an interesting experience. The marijuana cafes look a lot like regular coffee shops, except they don't have glass in the front windows. Instead, there's just big mattress-like couches, with guys lounging around doing bong hits. I've never seen a marijuana cafe right next to a McDonalds, but I guess from a practical perspective, it makes sense because if you get the munchies you can just go next door. They also had mushroom cafes (psilocybin), and some very interesting souvenir shops - places where you can buy such things as a set of salt and pepper shakers painted in the traditional delft pottery style. Except that they're shaped like giant penises, and they're painted with marijuana leaves. Oh, and they also have prostitutes in this area of the city, except that they're kind of old (45+ in my best guess) and pretty large.

So after that we decided to go to the Anne Frank House, which was pretty incredible. This was the house where the Frank Family hid out from the Nazis for two years, and Anne wrote her diary that was later published. So, you go through the warehouse area first, which was the cover for "The Annex." Then they have the bookcase that hid the secret stairs pulled halfway out, and you go up the stairs into their hiding place. It was pretty amazing. The furniture was gone, but they had pictures of how the room looked when they were there. Anne's room still had all the magazine pictures and movie stars glued to the walls. They had footage from Bergan-Belsen (where she died) and interviews with some of the other people (her father Otto and Miep, his secretary who was smuggling them food) at the end. I was glad I was able to see it all.

We went out for a glass of wine that evening and then crashed around 9:30PM - for 14 hours. I don't think I moved all night. The next day, we did a couple canal boat tours of the city and went to the Van Gogh Museum. The canal boat tours were great; you got to see a bunch of different places in the city and didn't have to walk. Well, that's the theory anyways. We took the first line that goes around the west part of the city and got off at the Museum, and spent a couple hours there. You're not supposed to take pictures (though I don't understand why), but I got a pretty decent one of Sunflowers and a slightly less decent one of Irises. Unfortunately my favorite painting was on loan in New York (two points if you know which one it is). Then we took the canal boat back up to Centraal station, and got on the line that goes through the east part of the city. We got off at City Hall to walk around and do a little bit of shopping, and got back to the boat stop at 6:08 for the last boat at 6:15...which never came. We waited for about half an hour before we decided to walk back to our hotel; I'm bad with distances but my estimate would be that it was something in the range of 1.5-2 miles. It was kind of nice to see the city though.

We took a train to Leiden that evening and then a taxi to Noordwijk (which ended up costing 35 Euros, almost $50, for about 20 minutes). The hotel we were staying at, Hotels van Oranje, was right on the coast of the North Sea. It was pretty awesome.

Pictures from the entire week are here, although Thursday-Sunday will be covered in Part III. Keep reading for more!

Travel Post, Part I

The first of a three-part series. It's been so long since I posted (though not as long as Steve!) and I've done so much that I decided to break this up into a couple separate posts for easier reading and commenting.

So, we went to Blacksburg for Kim and Mike's wedding on the 8th. We got in to B'burg around 12:30 and met Matt and Sarah at Fazoli's for the first of our throwbacks to the college dining heyday. The pasta and breadsticks were as good as I had remembered, which isn't too bad for fast food italian. We went to their place after lunch and hung out for an hour or so before the rehersal.

The rehersal was a little rushed, partly because several key people were running late (so we had various others stepping in and out of their roles, which occasionally got a little confusing) and we *had* to be out by 4pm because the church was setting up for a concert that evening prior to the wedding the next day. I was paired with Mike's friend Lane, who was just a hair shorter than me when I was in heels the next day. Matt was one of the door holders, so he was at the rehersal as well. Kim gave us our gifts at the end of the rehersal; I got the Burts Bees hand care and foot care sets and Sweet Pea lotion and room spray, while Matt got the Harrington on Hold'Em poker workbook. We then went to the rehersal dinner at the Sigma Grill in the VT Corporate Research Center. It was a nice little place, and after the meal Matt and I played pool. I won the first game and he won the second; by then there wasn't enough time for a rematch as most people were starting to leave.

We headed back to Matt and Sarah's place, after which I got a call that the girls *were* going out that night. So I went back over to the hotel, and a few of us took Kim out for the evening. We had to go to Wal-mart first, as we needed something to identify her as the bride-to-be, and because everyone goes to Wal-mart in college. We jazzed her up with some pink fixins and a bride's veil, and throughout the night had at least half a dozen people ask her "Is it your birthday?" We were taking pictures in the front of the store when the greeter came over and told us that it was against Wal-mart's policy to allow photographs without the permission of a customer service representative. Okay, everyone who's ever taken a picture inside of Wal-mart, please raise your hand. That's what I thought. So we just left and went to Applebees for munchies and drinks afterwards, where the waitstaff was MUCH more helpful than Wal-mart in taking pictures of us. Thank you, Andrew (our waiter) and Amy (the hostess)!

When I got back around 10:30 (can't keep the bride out too late the night before her wedding!) Dave and Christin, the other couple that was staying with Matt and Sarah had gotten there and everyone was drinking daquiris and playing Dirty Minds. I joined in with the next two games and won both of them. Then we played Battle of the Sexes, which was thoroughly entertaining. The guys won, but only because about halfway through the game they got a card that let them move one of their pieces into the endzone; otherwise it was very close. The best moment of the night, in my opinion, was during the question "What is the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate?" posed to the girls. None of us knew, but Sarah knew that it was 90 feet base-to-base. So I did some quick trig estimates in my head using 90 feet as the hypotenuse of a right triangle. Then this was said:
Me: It's somewhere between 50 and 60 feet.
Matt (Holding the card): I need a more specific answer.
Me: 60 feet.
Matt: Sorry, it's 60 feet, 6 inches.
Me: I did TRIG IN MY HEAD and you're going to dock me for 6 inches?
Matt: Those are the rules.
Me: I'll dock you 6 inches!!

Anyway, by the time we went to bed it was 2:30am, and I had to be at the salon at 9am for hair and nails. So needless to say, I was pretty tired the next morning. I had my nails done first, and while I thought the pedicure was great, I was less than impressed with the manicure. She put the polish on way too thick, so that 3 hours later it was still gummy and I was messing it up on my dress hanger. Then I had my hair straightened and pinned back. We went back to the hotel to eat lunch from Macado's (yet another B'burg throwback) and then over to the church to get dressed. I was the last one ready because I had to help Kim lace up the back of her dress, but it was still in plenty of time for pictures. The wedding went well; as Kim said immediately afterwards "No one fainted, no one gave birth!" (Her sister Jessica was 9 months pregnant).

The reception was nice - we were seated with Matt and Sarah, Carly and Eric, Matt Green, and Ryan at the "West Ambler Johnston" table (all the table cards were the names of buildings at VT). They played the Hokie Pokie, of course, as well as the electric slide (as she's getting up, Carly says "I've never been to a wedding where I haven't done the electric slide!") and the YMCA for the guys, because they had to wait for the garter toss since Kim realized right before it that she had never put the garter on and had to run back to her room to get it. After the reception was over we changed and went over to Jim's place, where a bunch of people from the wedding as well as Nick and Paul were watching the Texas-OSU game. I was disappointed that Texas played so poorly, but it was good times nonetheless.

We went to Owens with a bunch of people on Sunday for lunch. I wanted a chicken taco salad, but for some reason they redid the menu and the taco salad no longer comes in the shell bowl, which was like the best part. So I had a philly cheese steak and a smoothie instead. We went to the bookstore after that, so that Matt could get a new VT hat; I also got a VT t-shirt that actually fits instead of the one I got from Ryan that I can only sleep in. We drove back in the afternoon and got some chinese food for dinner so I wouldn't have to cook, and I spent the rest of the night doing laundry and packing for the rest of the week.

A small photoset of pictures from the reception is here; I didn't get that many and I wasn't able to take any at the wedding (since I was in it) but hopefully Kim will put hers online when they come back so I'll be able to swipe a few from there then.

Thus ends the first chapter - keep reading for more!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Pretty pretty


Matt and I at Kim and Mike's wedding. More coming later.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Why, UPS?

Why do you hate me?

I am just having NO luck with packages lately. I paid for two-day shipping on my Payless order (black boots and pink flats). I placed the order on the 3rd, and for whatever reason, it didn't actually ship until the 6th. Okay, so that meant they'd try to deliver on the 8th, which didn't work for me because we're leaving at 7:30am tomorrow for Blacksburg. I asked at the UPS center and they said I could call before 9am tomorrow and ask them to hold it (instead of trying to deliver it) and I can pick it up on Monday before I left. WELL, I just looked at the tracking info, which previously confirmed my two-day delivery, and now it's been rescheduled for delivery on the 11th. Which is NOT two-day shipping, but five-day shipping instead, and now I won't get the package until after I get back from Amsterdam.

AND I placed yet another order at Old Navy on the 2nd, including a bracelet that I wanted to wear with my outfit for the rehersal dinner tomorrow, except it didn't get picked up by UPS until an hour ago. So I won't have that until I get back either. RAWR.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Look out, Bank of America

You're ON NOTICE.


So I went to the bank today to pick up my foreign currency that I ordered last week. Apparantly you can't do that at the regular teller window, so I had to wait about 25 minutes for one of the customer service people. I get back there and tell her that I needed to pick up a foreign currency order. She says she doesn't think they've received a shipment, and calls two desks in the bank to ask if they've gotten one. Then she calls up my account and verifies that the transaction was debited from my account (on the 31st). So she calls the BoA foreign currency center to try to track my order. After 10 minutes or so on hold, she finally gets through to someone who looks up my order and said that it was processed, and that they'll try to track it using the FedEx number. Another 10 minutes go by, before someone finally comes back on the phone and tells the bank rep I'm with that the FedEx tracking says it was delivered on September 1, and was signed for by....the bank rep I'm talking to. So now she's frantically searching file drawers, her desk, etc. She can't find it. So she apologized profusely and said that she would immediately reorder it, and not charge me the handling/delivery fee. But the only problem is that I won't be able to pick it up until Monday. So if there are any additional problems, then I'm not going to have any cash with me on this trip. Needless to say, after an hour of bank trauma I was pretty unhappy. Grrrr.

But, the day got better. I finished the baby blanket I was working on last night (forgot to take a picture though - it was light green and navy blue fleece squares with a white back, and a fleece "B" on one corner). We went to see Sean and Jen and baby Bennett and to drop off some food from Let's Dish that I had made when I went last night. Ben didn't like me so much...he took to Matt a lot better. He's so little! And pretty good-looking for a 5-day old baby...I hear sometimes they can look a little lumpy at first. And then we went to Chili's for dinner, which was nice.

We took our 2006 lab photo today - we're really grown over the past year:


(Back row: Leslie, Byungwoo, Dave, Amena, Jason, Nick; Front row: Swathi, Megan, Raka, Rhoda, me, Staci)

Oh, and one more - the August birthday girls:


Aww.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Holy calendar, Batman!

So, September is shaping up to be a wild month! Already in just the first two days (I was supposed to post this on Saturday but Ryan is a slacker) Matt won $1,110 in a multi-table poker tournament, Jennifer had her baby, and Ryan got engaged. Plus I've got Kim and Mike's wedding this weekend and Europe next week. Whew!

We had a nice, low-key weekend. Mostly just hung around the house, got some chinese takeout for dinner on Friday, went to the mall on Saturday for a little shopping. I finished watching the first season of The OC (the thanksgiving episode was great) and worked on some personal projects. The rest of the week is going to be Let's Dish, work, finishing my poster slides, going to see the baby tomorrow, and packing.