Thursday, June 08, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: Jim Horn

Today and every day I'm thankful for Jim Horn.

Jim was a postdoc in Tony Kossiakoff's lab when I did my undergraduate research there.  Prof. Kossiakoff was ostensibly the mentor, but Jim did all the mentoring.

Jim was (and I'm sure still is) smart, knowledgeable, accomplished, and affable, all at the same time.  He was ceaselessly patient: if I ever said or did anything to irritate him, he never once let it show.  He was unfailingly generous with his time and his expertise.  He was quick with a smile and a lighthearted joke, which was never, ever mean or at anyone's expense.

He did good work and was an accomplished scientist.  He was also a devoted husband and father.  He set an excellent example for professionalism and work-life balance: he worked Monday through Friday, eight to five, with zero exceptions.  He did not stay late when something did not go as planned.  He did not come in on weekends if he felt like he was behind.  I believe he read scientific papers on the train during his commute, but other than that, work was strictly at work, during work time.  At work, he was focused, but also accessible and friendly.

So much of my idea of what it means to be a professional was formed from observing Jim Horn.  I am extremely fortunate that he was there as a model during that impressionable stage of my life.  It strikes me that I am older now than Jim was when I worked with him, and it is up to me now to set the example.  Fortunately, I can remember what turned out to be a blessed time in the Kossiakoff lab, and keep looking to Jim as a role model, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: Henry James

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for Henry James, who is said to have said, "There are three things of importance in human life: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the way Mr. Bruemmer asked questions

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the way Mr. Bruemmer asked questions.

My high school had assembly every day.  (Well, some days we had something else in that timeslot, like advising or class meetings, but the entire high school convened a few times a week.)  During assembly, we often had a guest speaker, and Q&A aftwerwards.  Mr. Bruemmer, my ninth grade Non-Western world history teacher, twelfth grade War and Peace in the 19th and 20th Centuries teacher, and twelfth grade advisor (after Mr. Horlivy left), took detailed notes during every assembly.  (Something else for which I am thankful: one day I overheard someone ask him why he took such detailed notes, and he said it was to help him pay attention.  I started doing that, too.)  At the end of every assembly, he asked a question.  It's not that he didn't give students a chance to ask questions.  At the beginning of almost every Q&A, there's an awkward silence as people are formulating their questions.  Mr. Bruemmer filled that silence by asking good questions.  By the time the speaker was done with the question, someone else usually had thought of something to say.

I always wondered how he did it, asking a good question at every single assembly.

In eleventh grade, I went to Close Up (https://mobile.closeup.org).  There was a group from my school and a number of other schools, for a total of perhaps a couple hundred tenth- and eleventh-graders.  We went to all different parts of DC, and met with all kinds of different people, learning about the inner workings inside the Beltway.  Every time we met someone, there was an opportunity for Q&A.  At every single Q&A (and we had perhaps a half-dozen each day we were there), there were exactly two people who asked questions: Colleston, and some kid from one of the other high schools.

By the end of the first day, I thought, this is ridiculous.  There are perhaps a couple hundred of us, and I'm painfully shy, but what is everyone else's excuse?  Here we are on the educational opportunity of a lifetime: why aren't people making the most of it and asking questions?

And then I decided I would start asking questions.  If Mr. Bruemmer could ask a question at every assembly, I can ask a question at every Q&A at CloseUp.

And that is how I became That Kid at Close Up.  You know That Kid: every class has one.  I had hoped that by asking questions I would inspire other students into also raising their hands and questions, but it didn't work out that way.  For the rest of Close Up, it was Colleston, me, and that other kid from that other school raising our hands and asking a question each, at each Q&A.

What amazed me is that it worked.  Merely deciding that I was going to ask a question was enough to make me come up with one.  The power was within me the whole time.

Isidor Rabi, the Nobel prize winning physicist, famously attributed his success to the fact that instead of asking him what he learned at school that day, his mother always asked him whether he asked a good question today (http://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/19/opinion/l-izzy-did-you-ask-a-good-question-today-712388.html).  Today I firmly believe in the importance of asking good questions.  The way you get good at asking questions is the same way you get good at anything else: you practice by asking questions.  It's a terrifying prospect for introverts like me, but it can be done.  Mr. Bruemmer showed me I could, and I am thankful.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the Harper Lecture

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the Harper Lecture.

The Harper Lecture is that most Chicago of pastimes: a cerebral lecture followed by Q&A and swank hors d'oeuvres.  It was exactly the sort of thing I did for fun as an undergrad, and it's what we alums continue to do for fun.  I really treasured my time at the University of Chicago.  The Harper Lecture reminds me of that treasured time of my life, and I am thankful.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Today in thankful for: the right to a trial by jury

Today I'm thankful for the really positive experience I had serving as a juror. 

My understanding of what it would be like to actually serve as a juror was formed mostly from reading Homicide, by David Simon.  Reality, however, was nothing like that.  All of the jurors were very engaged, paid close attention to the trial, and took their responsibility very seriously.  Each of us did our part to serve justice, to listen to one another, and to genuinely consider what everyone had to say.  Our judicial system is not perfect, but it's much better than I thought it was.  I'm glad that we have a right to trial by jury, and I am thankful.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Word of the day: consigliere

The word of the day is consigliere:

a member of a criminal organization or syndicate who serves as an adviser to the leader.

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/consigliere)

"The two men were often in agreement about how to approach their cases—Bharara has called Zabel 'my consigliere and my closest friend'—but Bharara relied on him especially for his insight into white-collar opponents and their highly compensated defense lawyers."

 - Sheelah Kolhatkar, "Total Return: What happened when the Feds went after a hedge-fund legend", 16 January 2017 The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/16/when-the-feds-went-after-the-hedge-fund-legend-steven-a-cohen)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that really lovely time I had on my 21st birthday

Today and every day I'm thankful for the really lovely time I had on my 21st birthday, 11 years ago yesterday. 

I turned in my honors thesis that morning, and I felt like in an enormous weight had been lifted from me.  (In hindsight, this was probably a sign that I was not going to enjoy grad school.)  To celebrate, I bought myself a copy of a Piled Higher and Deeper anthology from the Seminary Co-op, and read it over Thai coffee at the Social Sciences coffee shop.  After Greek class, I went to get a haircut at the Reynolds Club. I knew my friend Suzanne looked up to me, but I hadn't appreciated quite how much until she decided to tag along with me to my haircut and sat with me during the whole thing so that we wouldn't have to end our conversation. She was telling me about the difference between Virgil and Homer: Homer (as we both knew well) has difficult vocabulary but simple grammar; whereas Virgil, apparently, has simple vocabulary but complicated grammar.

I went out to dinner that evening in a hip neighborhood I had never been to before with, among others, Annie Roberts, Teresa, Matt, Logan Bee, Justine, and Nick Reich.  Nick told me his younger brother's birthday was on April 26, 1986, Chernobyl Day.  I ordered a glass of sangria with dinner, and while the server did card me, she did not comment on the fact that it was my 21st birthday.  Ron and Carolyn weren't able to come to dinner, but they did sign the birthday card, and it meant so much to me that people thought enough of me to do that.

I still have the shirt that I wore that day, and every time I look at it, I think of that day, what a nice day it was, and how touched I felt that people took the time to spend time with me.  It's a memory I'm always going to treasure, and I am thankful.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that time April invited me to BaltiCon

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time April invited me to go to BaltiCon.

I had never been in all my years in Baltimore, but once April called it to my attention, I got so excited I got an entire weekend pass and went to see the Girl Genius radio play, in addition to the day I spent with April.  I saw a great artist talk (which I never would have seen if April hadn't suggested it), got a little stuffed dragon souvenir, heard Connie Willis, and April bought me a copy of Doomsday Book.  It was so sweet of April to invite me.  I am lucky to have friends who think of me, and I am thankful.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Word of the day: tyro

The word of the day is tyro:

  1. a beginner in learning anything; novice.
1611, from M.L. tyro, variant of L. tiro (pl. tirones) "young soldier, recruit, beginner," of unknown origin.

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tyro)


"Over the next thirty years he worked in seventeen campaigns across Europe.  But he made his first important discovery while a tyro."

 - Sam Kean, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery

Today I'm thankful for: xkcd

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for xkcd.  This one remains one of my favorites: https://xkcd.com/552/.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that time Morgan watched the babies so I could see Twisted Melodies

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time Morgan watched not just Alice and Katherine but also their friend Ramona so Michelle and I could go see Twisted Melodies.  This is just one of many examples of how he goes above and beyond for me.  I really am lucky to have him, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Monday, April 03, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: my parents visiting

Today (and every day) I'm thankful that my parents came out to visit us this weekend.  We had a great time!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: Planet Money

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the Planet Money podcast.

They uncover stories I never would hear about otherwise, like this week's great episode on the (second) Bank of the United States, its downfall, and the subsequent Panic of 1837 (http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/03/24/521436839/episode-761-the-bank-war).  I dimly recall learning something about this in eighth grade U.S. history, but Planet Money explains it in a way that sticks.  Planet Money discusses economics and history in a way I can understand, and I am thankful.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: EPA's regulation of pesticides

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the EPA's regulation of pesticides.

Pests kill crops, which means that pests kill people.  A million people died in the Irish Potato Famine.  Humans have therefore developed pesticides to kill pests and protect human health.

You want to be careful when you're applying biocides to food.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) therefore regulates the use of pesticides.  Before a company can introduce a pesticide into the food supply, they send an application to EPA, who reviews it to make sure it's safe for humans.

The biggest threat to food safety right now is, unquestionably, bacterial contamination of fruits and vegetables.  We know that eating more fruits and vegetables is good for your chronic health, but the fact remains that you're taking your life into your hands every time you place a raw fruit or vegetable in your mouth.  We need interventions to reduce the risk of pathogens on these foods, not just to improve food safety, but also to increase our confidence in eating foods that are good for our longterm health.  EPA is responsible for making sure these interventions are safe, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: Morgan's taking parental leave

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the fact that Morgan was able to take parental leave.

I remember the day I woke up and actually felt well for the first time since the babies were born.  It was week 7, day 6, which is fortunate, because my employer allowed me to use only eight weeks' sick leave for a C-section.  This was not just the first time I felt well since the babies were born; this was the first time I had felt well since February.

I can only imagine how much more exhausted I would have been, and how much longer it would have taken me to recover, if Morgan hadn't also taken leave and done the lion's share of baby care.  He didn't just take care of the babies; he took care of me, too.  Alice, Katherine, and I are lucky to have him, and I'm thankful.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Word of the day: bilharzia

The word of the day is bilharzia:

schistosome

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bilharzia)


"Invalided back to France with bilharzia, he had opened a practice in Grenoble."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets

Word of the day: millenarian

The word of the day is millenarian:

  1. of or pertaining to a thousand, especially the thousand years of the prophesied millennium.
  2. of or pertaining to the millennium, especially of Christian prophecy, or millennialism.
1550s, "one who believes in the coming of the (Christian) millennium," from L. millenarius (see millennium) + -ian. As an adj., from 1630s.


"After the Battle of Armageddon would follow the second coming of Christ, when his elected would reign in happiness and prosperity for a thousand years.  Much of what Darby preached was not new, but he wove the strands of earlier millenarianism and prophecy into a tightly spun system of his own, supported by Biblical texts, then communicated it to his followers in his endless writings and during his impassioned speaking tours."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Word of the day: roneo

The word of the day is roneo:

  1. :  to produce (printed copies) on a duplicating machine that is similar in principle to the mimeograph
    (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/roneo)

    "They had hastily typed out and roneoed forms bearing the words 'Paternal responsibility and rights of guardianship abandoned by me' – a necessary formula under French law – and leaving room for names and signatures."
     - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets

Word of the day: soutane

The word of the day is soutane:

  1. a cassock.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/soutane)


"He was a shabby, dishevelled-looking man, of great charm and energy, with an old soutane and shoes with flapping soles."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets

Word of the day: clinker

The word of the day is clinker:

  1. a mass of incombustible matter fused together, as in the burning of coal.
  2. a hard Dutch brick, used especially for paving.
  3. a partially vitrified mass of brick.
  4. the scale of oxide formed on iron during forging.
  5. Geology. a mass of vitrified material ejected from a volcano.
1769, from klincard (1641), a type of paving brick made in Holland, from Du. klinkaerd, from klinken "to ring" (as it does when struck), from M.Du., of imitative origin. 

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/clinker)


"The courtyard was made of clinker, which turned into dust in the summer and mud when it rained."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets

Friday, March 17, 2017

Word of the day: prevaricate

The word of the day is prevaricate:

  1. to speak falsely or misleadingly; deliberately misstate or create an incorrect impression; lie.

1580s, "to transgress," from L. praevaricari "to make a sham accusation, deviate," lit. "walk crookedly;" in Church L., "to transgress" (see prevarication). Meaning "to speak evasively" is from 1630s.

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/prevaricate)


"At every stage, the bureaucrats prevaricated.  The prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhône did all he could to keep too many would-be emigrants out of Marseilles, while the individual camps dragged their heels about transferring people to Les Milles, the only camp in which they were permitted to complete the formalities."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets

Word of the day: chilblains

The word of the day is chilblains:

  1. an inflammation of the hands and feet caused by exposure to cold and moisture.

"Unable to go outside, permanently damp, the inmates huddled close together; their faces were red and chafed, their hands and feet purple and covered in chilblains."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets

Today I'm thankful for: my immigrant ancestors

Today (and every day) I'm thankful my ancestors were able to come to this country.

On St. Patrick's Day in America, we celebrate Irish heritage.  I might be Irish: I don't actually know for sure, because I have had a cushy life in this country, and my specific ethnic background hasn't really mattered.

I would be terrified to pick up and move to another country, uninvited, leaving behind friends and family, not knowing the local language, and having to start over from scratch.  But that is precisely what my ancestors did.  And because they did, I had a comfortable childhood, I have had an excellent education, I have a good job, and I am able to provide an equally cushy life for my daughters in this great country.

Today, we are all Irish, which is to say, we are all immigrants, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Word of the day: rota

The word of the day is rota:

  1. Chiefly British.
    1. a round or rotation of duties; a period of work or duty taken in rotation with others.
    2. an agenda or circuit of sporting events, as a round of golf tournaments, played in different localities throughout the year.
  2. a roster.
  3. Official name Sacred Roman Rota. the ecclesiastical tribunal in Rome, constituting the court of final appeal.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rota)


"A 'commission for children and old people' was set up and arranged for deliveries of fruit, olives, jam, cereals, rice, milk products and, just occasionally, chocolate.  A rota was established, providing extra meals to the most malnourished for a fixed number of weeks."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

Word of the day: impetigo

The word of the day is impetigo:
  1. a contagious skin disease, especially of children, usually caused by streptococcal bacteria, marked by a superficial pustular eruption, particularly on the face.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/impetigo)


"The internees were now losing weight steadily and beginning to show the first signs of malnutrition: loose skin, weakened muscles, trembling.  The cold brought rheumatism.  Fleas made people itch and scratch, their bodies covered with sores, eczema and impetigo."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

Word of the day: gauleiter

The word of the day is gauleiter:

  1. the leader or chief official of a political district under Nazi control.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gauleiter)


"But the camp at Gurs had room for many more when, at dawn on 22 October 1940, the gauleiters Joseph Bürkel and Robert Wanger began to round up 6,508 Jews in the newly annexed territories of Baden and the Palatinate and, without consulting the French, dispatched them in sealed trains over the border into south-western France."

 - Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

Today I'm thankful for: that new-baby smell

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that new-baby smell.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: insulin, insulin pumps, glucose monitors, smart phones

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the modern technology that helps my sister-in-law Kara take care of her health.

I used to teach metabolism to medical students, and we taught them that no disease requires such active participation from patients in their treatment as Type I Diabetes does.  Modern technology can make this process easier, as Kara nicely demonstrates in this video (well worth the fifteen minutes): http://www.bootcampforbetics.org/blog/pre-existing-condition-coverage-is-an-effing-joke.  I'm thankful to have Kara in my life, and I'm thankful that modern technology makes her life easier.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Monday, March 06, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the gift of the Everyman subscription

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the Everyman Theater subscription Heidi and Steve got for us.

They didn't just give us the subscription; more importantly, they volunteered to watch Alice and Katherine during our theater dates, so we wouldn't have to make our own child care arrangements.

And as if that were not enough, they have even, on several occasions, also volunteered to watch Alice and Katherine's friend Ramona, so that Ramona's parents can go to the theater with us, and the four of us can have dinner afterwards.

I treasure these times, and Alice and Katherine treasure these times with their Nagymama and Poppy, and I am thankful.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Word of the day: indite

The word of the day is indite:

  1. to compose or write, as a poem.
  2. to treat in a literary composition.
  3. Obsolete. to dictate.
  4. Obsolete. to prescribe.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/indite)


"So I kissed his hand, and lay quiet, while he proceeded to indite a note to Biddy, with my love in it."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Word of the day: exordium

The word of the day is exordium:

  1. the beginning of anything.
  2. the introductory part of an oration, treatise, etc.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/exordium)


"There was something charmingly cordial and engaging in the manner in which after saying 'Now, Handel,' as if it were the grave beginning of a portentous business exordium, he had suddenly given up that tone, stretched out his honest hand, and spoken like a schoolboy."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: diapers

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for diapers.  Diaper technology is just amazing, and I am thankful.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Word of the day: wherry

The word of the day is wherry:

  1. a light rowboat for one person; skiff.
  2. any of various barges, fishing vessels, etc., used locally in England.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wherry)


"Early as it was, there were plenty of scullers going here and there that morning, and plenty of barges dropping down with the tide; the navigation of the river between bridges, in an open boat, was a much easier and commoner matter in those days than it is in these; and we went ahead among many skiffs and wherries briskly."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Word of the day: collier

The word of the day is collier:

  1. a ship for carrying coal.
  2. a coal miner.
  3. Obsolete. a person who carries or sells coal.
1276, "charcoal maker and seller," from M.E. col (see coal). They were notorious for cheating. Sense of "ship for hauling coal" is from 1625.

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/collier)


"At that time, the steam-traffic on the Thames was far below its present extent, and water men's boats were far more numerous.  Of barges, sailing colliers, and coasting-traders, there were perhaps, as many as now; but of steam-ships, great and small, not a tithe or a twentieth as many."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


Today I'm thankful for: my job

Today (and every day) I'm thankful I have a job, doing what I love to do, using my education, keeping the food supply safe, working with talented and dedicated colleagues.  I really am very fortunate, and I'm thankful.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

Word of the day: bow window

The word of the day is bow window:

  1. a rounded bay window.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bow+window)


"Selecting from the few queer houses upon Mill Pond Bank a house with a wooden front and three stories of bow-window (not bay-window, which is another thing), I looked at the plate upon the door, and read there, Mrs. Whimple."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Word of the day: superannuated

The word of the day is superannuated:

  1. retired because of age or infirmity.
  2. too old for use, work, service, or a position.
  3. antiquated or obsolete
"retired on account of old age," 1633, "obsolete, out of date," from M.L. superannuatus "more than a year old" (of cattle), from L. super "beyond, over" (see super-) + annus "year" (see annual).

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/superannuated)


"It was a fresh kind of place, all circumstances considered, where the wind from the river had room to turn itself round; and there were two or three trees in it, and there was the stump of a ruined windmill, and there was the Old Green Copper Ropewalk,—whose long and narrow vista I could trace in the moonlight, along a series of wooden frames set in the ground, that looked like superannuated haymaking-rakes which had grown old and lost most of their teeth."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: the MARC train

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the MARC train.

I live in Baltimore and commute to College Park.  This would be a soul-crushing commute, were it not for the MARC train.  My house is a short walk from the Camden stop, and my office is a short walk from the College Park stop.  It's not a short commute, but it is very convenient.  I can spend the time on the train reading, or hanging out with other MARC commuters, like April, and I am thankful.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: credit hours

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for credit hours.

Word of the day: moot

The word of the day is moot:

verb (used with object)

  1. to present or introduce (any point, subject, project, etc.) for discussion.
1154, from O.E. gemot "meeting" (especially of freemen, to discuss community affairs or mete justice), from P.Gmc. *ga-motan (cf. Old Low Frankish muot "encounter," M.Du. moet, M.H.G. muoz), from collective prefix *ga- + *motan (see meet (v.)).

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/moot)


"The largest of these disease outbreaks were known as cocoliztli (from the word for ‘pestilence’ in Nahuatl, the Aztec language)...

"There has been little consensus on the cause of cocoliztli — although measles, smallpox and typhus have all been mooted."

 - Ewen Callaway, "Collapse of Aztec society linked to catastrophic salmonella outbreak", 16 February 2017 Nature News (http://www.nature.com/news/collapse-of-aztec-society-linked-to-catastrophic-salmonella-outbreak-1.21485)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the day care's Facebook page

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the day care's Facebook page.  It's nice to see pictures of the babies throughout the day, and nice to know they made it safely to day care, and I am thankful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Word of the day: testator

The word of the day is testator:

  1. a person who makes a will.
  2. a person who has died leaving a valid will.

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/testator)

"He forged wills, this blade did, if he didn't also put the supposed testators to sleep too."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: Allegiance

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the opportunity to see Allegiance.

Allegiance is a musical about the Japanese internment camps during World War II.  I heard about it because I was following George Takei on social media.  Allegiance premiered in San Diego in 2012, then ran for five months on Broadway 2015-2016.  I didn't get a chance to see it during its lamentably short run.

But last Sunday, a recording of the show was broadcast in movie theaters, and I had a chance to see it when Alice and Katherine's great-aunt Robin and great-grandmother volunteered to watch the babies.  The songs were catchy, the performances were excellent, and the themes are as relevant as ever.  

The storytelling is complex: there's no shortage of conflict, but no villains.  Mike Masaoka, a historical figure, could have been an easy target, but instead was portrayed in a nuanced and sympathetic way.  Even the prison wardens come across as victims of tragic circumstances.  

We all have allegiance to our country, our family, and our own integrity, but how does that inform the choices we make?  Sammy and Frankie make different choices, and they're both patriots.  Neither one is wrong, but their inability to reconcile their different choices is what destroys them.  Allegiance is a cautionary tale not just for how we treat immigrants and their families, but also for how we treat those with whom we disagree.

The first movie theater I tried had sold out, and I secured the last two tickets to the second theater I tried.  I hope that means that they will broadcast this excellent play again, so more people will have the opportunity to see it.

This play is extremely important at this moment, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: Lilly Ledbetter

Today (and every day) I'm thankful to Lilly Ledbetter.

She never did receive restitution from Goodyear, but the fight was never about that.  It was about making the path easier for those who came after her, and I am thankful.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: dishwasher inserts

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for dishwashers and dishwasher inserts.

Every day, Alice and Katherine come home from day care with three or four used bottles apiece, each of which needs washing.  Each of Alice's Medela brand bottles has three parts, and each of Katherine's Dr. Brown's brand bottles has five parts.  The bottles fit nicely in the top rack of the dishwasher, and the other bottle parts (nipples, rings, valves, etc.) fit nicely in the dishwasher insert, as do the pacifiers.

My quality of life has vastly improved since I had the insight that I do not, in fact, need to wash the bottles individually by hand, and I am thankful.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the WCC/Eli Lilly Travel Award

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time I attended the 2013 Fall American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in Indianapolis as a WCC / Eli Lilly Travel Award winner.
 
When I won the travel award, I was very excited, but I also felt like an impostor.  I had never expected to win the award when I applied for it: I applied more out of a sense that I should start taking advantage of every opportunity that I could out of principle, and at least I would get some experience applying for travel awards.
 
At the awardee breakfast, I felt like even more of an impostor.  All of the other students seemed to be in their third or fourth year (a perfectly appropriate time to be giving their first presentation at a national meeting), and well on their way toward wrapping up their projects and graduating.  Here I was, in my eighth year, and only now presenting my work at a national meeting, and my project was still woefully incomplete.  I felt like that I had fooled everyone, had cheated some more deserving student out of the travel award, and that at any moment one of the friendly, talented, and successful WCC members at the table might suddenly realize I didn’t belong and snatch my WCC pin away from me and go look for that more deserving student to give it to.
 
When Judy Cohen joyfully told us, “This award will change your life!” I thought, "Maybe for these other students.  But not for me.  I’m just an impostor."
 
When I attended the “24th Anniversary of the WCC/Eli Lilly Travel Award” symposium later that morning, I couldn’t really see myself being as successful as any of the travel award alums, and that I certainly wouldn’t be invited back to talk in another 24 years about what I’d be doing, probably because I would still be working on the same unsuccessful PhD project at that point.  But as the talks went on, the speakers started making comments that suggested that maybe they weren’t so different from me after all.  Margaret Chu-Moyer talked about how the first time she tried a total synthesis, it worked, but after that the yield gradually dropped to zero.  Malika Jefferies-El said that “the fourth year is a dark period of one’s career,” and that during her travel award experience at ACS she found herself “smiling for perhaps the first time in five years.”  And I had never heard anyone speak as candidly and specifically about what it’s like to live as a scientist as Mindy Levine did.
 
That afternoon, as I attended talks and visited the Expo, strangers started coming up to me and asking about the travel award ribbon on my badge.  Distinguished scientists asked me about my work, and they were actually interested.  Some offered useful practical advice, and many asked me for my card and gave me theirs, and really did want me to report back on how my project turned out.
 
The next day, at the travel award poster session, the very same amazingly talented and successful travel award alums I had seen the previous day came to visit my poster and ask about my work.  They listened with great interest, even those with chemistry expertise well outside biochemistry.  My new hero, Mindy Levine, told me, “That project sounds really hard,” and for the first time I entertained the possibility that perhaps my project’s lack of “success” wasn’t simply due to insufficient effort or talent on my part.
 
After the WCC luncheon, Amber Charlebois came up to me and asked me what I planned to do after graduation, whether I was interested in research or teaching or what.  I started to stammer out my usual answer about feeling like I wasn’t very good at doing research and that I might be happier doing something I was better at.
 
And then the most amazing thing happened.  She said, “Come and visit me at Fairleigh Dickinson.  You’ll give the chemistry seminar, and you can put that on your CV.  You’ll follow me around for the day, and you’ll see what it’s like to be a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution, and whether you think that’s for you.  The department can’t reimburse your travel, and can’t put you up in a hotel, but you can stay at my house.  That way you’ll get the whole experience of what it’s like to be a professor, at school and at home.”
 
I had just become an invited speaker for a seminar series at a university.
 
My confidence continued to grow as the meeting went on.  I felt more comfortable asking questions at seminars, and going up and introducing myself to interesting people.  I started to feel like I really did belong there, that I wasn’t an impostor after all.  By the last day of the meeting, I found myself walking around the convention center with a giant, ear-to-ear smile the entire day, I loved chemistry so much.
 
When I was told over breakfast that winning this travel award would change my life, I was skeptical, but the fact is that I left the meeting feeling more confident, excited about chemistry, and energized about my work than ever before.  In the weeks and months following the ACS meeting, when I saw opportunities, such as a job posting, writing opportunity, or other awards, my first thought was still, "Those opportunities are for other people, not impostors like me," but now I had the confidence to catch myself and say, "No, I am a WCC / Eli Lilly Travel Award winner: I’m smart, I work hard, and I deserve to give that opportunity a chance."

And winning the WCC / Eli Lilly Travel Award changed my life in one more important way: it was at that ACS meeting that I interviewed for a job with FDA, my dream employer.  If it weren't for the award, I wouldn't have been in Indianapolis, and I wouldn't have interviewed, and I wouldn't have my job today.

The WCC / Eli Lilly Award really did change my life, and I am thankful.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the Baltimore science cafe series

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for Project Bridge (http://www.projbridge.com)'s Baltimore science café series.

A science café is an opportunity for a scientist to talk about their work with the community in an informal setting.  We scientists frequently bemoan the sorry state of scientific literacy in this country, yet at the same time, too many of us think it's beneath us to talk to non-scientists, so we really are a not insignificant part of the problem.

Science cafés aim to change that.  They bring the scientist out of the lab and into the community.  They provide an opportunity for people to learn about the science going on in their own cities.  They help bridge gaps between scientists and non-scientists.  Everyone is better off when neighbors talk to each other.

Baltimore has its own science café series, and I am thankful.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that article Yen sent me about how you may not have to burp your baby

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that article Yen sent me about how you may not have to burp your baby.

I don't remember much from September 2016, but I do remember, after feeding babies in the middle of the night, trying to burp them.  At that age, they didn't like being up on my shoulder (plus, I was terrified of not adequately supporting their little heads), so I usually used the method of sitting them up on my lap, supporting their chin on my hand, and thumping them on the back.

I had to thump them pretty hard to get the burps to come out.  The babies didn't seem to mind getting thumped, but I didn't like doing it.  Even if I was willing to thump the babies pretty hard, burping still had a low rate of success.  So there I was, in the middle of the night, frequently faced with the choice of whether to stay up longer to continue to try to burp (with a baby happily snoozing with her chin in my hand) or to put the baby back in her crib, worried that she would then spit up because she was inadequately burped.  My rational, well-read self knew that babies who spit up while lying on their backs in their cribs are not going to drown (the spit-up just flows down the side of the baby's face), but in the middle of the night, sleep-deprived, and still recovering from major abdominal surgery plus the previous nine months' illness, it was very hard to be rational.  So I did, in fact, spend many hours in the middle of the night trying and failing to burp babies, feeling demoralized that I was unable to do something that is supposedly so natural.

Then, Yen sent me this article: https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/growth-curve/maybe-you-dont-need-burp-your-baby.  The study has its limitations, certainly (and the article does a good job describing them), but it reminded me of what should have been obvious: burping your baby is not, in fact, necessary for her survival.  She'll be fine if she doesn't burp.  You all can go back to sleep.  If she does spit up all over herself, you can wash her off.

This article at this moment was an important perspective check for me.  I am lucky to have friends who are looking out for my well-being, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Word of the day: chump

The word of the day is chump:

  1. Informal. a stupid person; dolt
  2. a short, thick piece of wood.
  3. the thick, blunt end of anything.
  4. Slang. the head.
1703, "short, thick lump of wood," akin to O.N. kumba "block of wood." Meaning "blockhead" is first attested 1883.

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/chump)

"This mental exercise lasted until Biddy made a rush at them and distributed three defaced Bibles (shaped as if they had been unskillfully cut off the chump end of something), more illegibly printed at the best than any curiosities of literature I have since met with, speckled all over with ironmould, and having various specimens of the insect world smashed between their leaves."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Word of the day: iron mold

The word of the day is iron mold:

  1. a stain on cloth or the like made by rusty iron or by ink pigmented with an iron derivative.
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/iron+mold)


"This mental exercise lasted until Biddy made a rush at them and distributed three defaced Bibles (shaped as if they had been unskillfully cut off the chump end of something), more illegibly printed at the best than any curiosities of literature I have since met with, speckled all over with ironmould, and having various specimens of the insect world smashed between their leaves."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Word of the day: courser

The word of the day is courser:

  1. a swift horse.

large, powerful horse," c.1300, from O.Fr. corsier, from V.L. *cursarius, from L. cursus (see course).

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/courser)

"'Where was the coach, in the name of gracious?' asked my sister.
"'In Miss Havisham's room.'  They stared again.  'But there weren't any horses to it.'  I added this saving clause, in the moment of rejecting four richly caparisoned coursers which I had had wild thoughts of harnessing."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Word of the day: caparison

The word of the day is caparison:

  1. a decorative covering for a horse or for the tack or harness of a horse; trappings.
  2. rich and sumptuous clothing or equipment.
1598, "cloth spread over a saddle," also "personal dress and ornaments," from Fr. caparasson (Mod.Fr. caparaçon, from Sp. caparazon, from augmentative of M.L. caparo, the name of a type of cape worn by women, lit. "chaperon" (see chaperon). Pp. adj. caparisoned is attested from 1600, from a verb caparison (1594).

"'Where was the coach, in the name of gracious?' asked my sister.
"'In Miss Havisham's room.'  They stared again.  'But there weren't any horses to it.'  I added this saving clause, in the moment of rejecting four richly caparisoned coursers which I had had wild thoughts of harnessing."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Word of the day: beggar

The word of the day is beggar:

  1. to reduce to utter poverty; impoverish:
  2. to cause one's resources of or ability for (description, comparison, etc.) to seem poor or inadequate
early 13c., from O.Fr. begart, originally a member of the Beghards, lay brothers of mendicants in the Low Countries, from M.Du. beggaert "mendicant," of uncertain origin, with pejorative suffix (see -ard). Cf. Beguine. Early folk etymology connected the English word with bag. The feminine form beggestere is attested as a surname from c.1300. The verb meaning "to reduce to poverty" is from 1520s. Beggar's velvet was an old name for "dust bunnies."

"I played the game to an end with Estella, and she beggared me.  She threw the cards down on the table when she had won them all, as if she despised them for having been won of me."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: The Baltimore Sun

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the Baltimore Sun.

An independent free press is crucial for any democracy.  All politics is local, so a local newspaper is even more important.  The Baltimore Sun is still here, and I am thankful.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the Sigma Xi SmartBrief newsletter

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the Sigma Xi SmartBrief newsletter.

My New Years resolution last year was to read less clickbait and more curated news from trustworthy sources.  This is a resolution I'm still working on.  It still takes effort to remind myself that instead of reading whatever trash I'm reading on the internet, I could instead go read something from one of my trusted sources.  To mix metaphors, someone has already waded through the chaff and picked up a few gems for me: I just need to accept them.  I'll read higher quality journalism by going with curated news.  And if I'm concerned about confirmation bias, these trusted curated sources are undoubtedly better at providing me with balanced news than the algorithms of social media are.

One of my trusted news sources is the Sigma Xi SmartBrief newsletter.  Every day, I get brief summaries of about ten science news stories, with links to their coverage in the popular press.  If it's a big science news story, the newsletter won't miss it, so it's not like I need to keep my finger on the pulse of social media to know what's going on.  The newsletter does a good job of covering a variety of disciplines, so I get reliable news that I probably wouldn't have heard about otherwise.  It's great to hear about the products of scientists' hard work and to get a break from the outrage on social media, and I am thankful.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Word of the day: recrudescence

The word of the day is recrudescence:

  1. breaking out afresh or into renewed activity; revival or reappearance in active existence.
1721, from L. recrudescere "re-open" (of wounds), lit. "become raw again," from re- "again" + crudescere, from crudus "raw" (see crude) + inchoative suffix -escere.

"Baldwin could not have known about Ferguson and Black Lives Matter, about the presidency of Barack Obama and the recrudescence of white nationalism in its wake, but in a sense he explained it all in advance."

 - A. O. Scott, "Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race", 2 February 2017 New York Times (https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/movies/review-i-am-not-your-negro-review-james-baldwin.html)

Today I'm thankful for: EPA's regulation of tap water

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s regulation of tap water.

My ancestors would be amazed: everywhere I go in this country, potable water springs from a tap.  I don't need to haul it back home, and I don't need to filter or boil it before drinking it.  Most of the time, I can even control the temperature.

Maintaining a safe supply of running water is a huge investment, and EPA oversees the process to make sure the water is safe to drink.  There have, of course, been a few spectacular failures, such as the Cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee County when I was a kid and the lead contamination in Flint, MI.  To use the cliche, these exceptions prove the rule: these failures are so shocking, horrifying, and unacceptable precisely because we have come to expect safe, clean drinking water to spring from the tap.

As with so many public health initiatives, EPA's regulation of tap water has become a victim of its own success: EPA has done such a good job that we have forgotten what it was like to not be able to depend on clean, running drinking water at every turn, even in our own homes, so cheap that it's practically free.  I know I've been privileged enough that the only times I have been unable to depend on safe tap water were times I've traveled out of the country.  We've made an investment in safe, running drinking water, and the people at EPA work hard to maintain it, and I am thankful.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the way Ed Machuga gave positive feedback

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the way Ed Machuga gave positive feedback.

I am someone who responds well to positive feedback.  If someone tells me I did a good job doing something, I want to do that thing over and over and over again.  I think this aspect of my personality explains my Toastmasters career: whenever I did something for Toastmasters, people (as good Toastmasters do) would tell me how great my work was and how much they appreciated me, in a way that the world of research never did, so I wanted to spend more and more time and energy on Toastmasters, and less and less on research.

When I started at FDA two and a half years ago, my supervisor was Ed Machuga.  Before ever sending anything (such as an email) to the outside world, I would send it to him first to make sure it was ok.  It was never just ok.  He usually wrote back to say "Looks good!" or "Great!"  This is not to say he rubber-stamped: if I made a mistake, he caught it, and told me (in a kind and encouraging way) how to fix it.  I would fix it and send it back to him again for his review, and then he would say, "PERFECT!!!"

I've only been an acting supervisor a couple of times, and no one has yet consulted me in a supervisory capacity, but when they do, I plan to implement enthusiastic positive feedback, the way Ed did.  Maybe not everyone responds to it to the same extent I do, but it doesn't cost anything.

I felt Ed brought out my best work and enabled me to do a good job, and doing a good job is extremely important to me.  Ed's positive feedback empowered me to do good work, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: hand-me-downs

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for how generous everyone has been with hand-me-downs.

Infants go through a lot of clothing, as it turns out.  I don't want to be gross, but they're still learning how their bodies work, so various bodily fluids leak through assorted orifices.  Alice and Katherine are starting to eat baby food, which ends up smeared all over them, despite everyone's best efforts.  Twins need twice as much of everything: onesies, pants, pajamas, bibs, and more.  But despite the sheer volume of clothing these kids go through, we have not had to buy anything ourselves.  (Not that we haven't bought anything: some baby clothes are too adorable to pass up, even if we don't absolutely need them.)  That is because everyone had been extremely generous with their hand-me-downs.  We are not that conscientious about doing laundry frequently, but because of everyone's generosity, Alice and Katherine have never wanted for clean, adorable clothing.

And not just clothing: we have hand-me-down bouncy chairs, baby carriers, bath tubs, and feeding chairs, all of which have proven to be extremely useful.  Having two newborns is hard enough without having to run out and buy stuff for them, and I've never had to because of everyone's generosity, and I am thankful.

Word of the day: thrutch

The word of the day is thrutch:

Push, press, or squeeze into a space when climbing

(https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/thrutch)

"I kicked to make toe hooks and heel hooks, felt for pockets where I could jam my fingers, and knobs to pinch and slopers to cling to, breathing snoutfuls of dust and sediment, thrutching ever upward."

 - Lori Lansens, The Mountain Story

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that time Eugene Markovitz chose not to give up on young people

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time Alice and Katherine's great-grandfather chose not to give up on young people and in so doing, inspired a daytime Emmy-award-winning film, "The Writing on the Wall."

You should watch "The Writing on the Wall", but if you don't have time to go do that right now, you can read this article in the LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2003/oct/04/local/me-markovitz4

I never got a chance to meet Alice and Katherine's great-grandfather, but this story gives me hope for all of us, and I am thankful.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Word of the day: choss

The word of the day is choss:

Friable, crumbly, or loose rock, typically considered unsafe or unpleasant to climb.

1930s; earliest use found in Margaret Mitchell (1900–1949), novelist. Representing a colloquial or humorous pronunciation of chaos.

(https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/choss)


"My hands were torn and bleeding already, so I paused to wipe them, one at a time, but I lost my grip and bounced from front to back over the choss, transferred by the tumbling rubble to the bottom of the wall."

 - Lori Lansens, The Mountain Story

Today I'm thankful for: that time Mr. Taft taught me how to shake hands

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time Mr. Taft taught me how to shake hands.

When I was in eighth grade, on the first day of school, someone came up with the cute idea of everyone in the middle school's shaking everyone else's hand in the middle school.  As an introvert, the idea was a bit overwhelming to me, so I wasn't terribly enthusiastic.  When I shook Mr. Taft (my eighth grade U.S. history teacher)'s hand, I pinched his metacarpals (not intentionally), and he said, "Ow!"  But then he stopped, and showed me: note the web between your thumb and forefinger.  When you shake someone's hand, your web should intersect their web.  If you do that, you can squeeze someone's hand as hard as you like, and it will come across as firm, never painful.

A strong handshake is a simple thing, but crucial to success in America.  It wasn't part of his lesson plan, but Mr. Taft saw an opportunity to teach me something, and went ahead and did it, and I am thankful.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that time my dad flew out to take care of the babies

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time Morgan had a meeting in California, and my dad flew out for a week to help take care of the babies (as we speak).  Alice, Katherine, and I are lucky to have so much support in our lives, and this is just one example, and I am thankful.

Word of the day: oxblood

The word of the day is oxblood:

1. a deep dull-red color.
 
(http://www.dictionary.com/browse/oxblood?s=t)
 
"Nola, with her soulful blue eyes and neat silver hair, strode by in her oxblood poncho, and I remember thinking that a person would be able to see that shiny red poncho from space."
 
 - Lori Lansens, The Mountain Story 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the ACLU

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Word of the day: noodle

The word of the day is noodle:

1. Slang. the head.
2. a fool or simpleton.

(http://www.dictionary.com/browse/noodle?s=t)

"'Well to be sure!' said Joe, astounded,  'I wonder how she come to know Pip!'
"'Noodle!' cried my sister.  'Who said she knew him?'"

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Friday, January 27, 2017

Word of the day: sportive

The word of the day is sportive:

1. playful or frolicsome; jesting, jocose, or merry.
2. done in sport, rather than in earnest
3. pertaining to or of the nature of a sport or sports.
4. Biology. mutative.
5. Archaic. ardent; wanton.

(http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sportive?s=t)

"'She wants this boy to go and play there.  And of course he's going.  And he had better play there,' said my sister, shaking her head at me as an encouragement to be extremely light and sportive, 'or I'll work him.'"

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: infant formula

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for infant formula.

Nursing and pumping are both great options for feeding babies, and while they work great for many people, they don't work for everyone, and fortunately for us, we have infant formula.  Scientists have studied what nutrition is necessary for growing babies, and infant formula stays on the cutting edge of that science.  Not only does it include everything we believe babies need, but it is also getting updated all the time as we learn more about the components of human milk.  Some babies have special dietary needs, and we have specialty infant formula that meets those babies' needs, too.

Before an infant formula manufacturer can introduce a new infant formula, they need to notify the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who reviews the formula to make sure that it is safe and nutritious before it can be sold in stores.  I have worked with the individuals on the infant formula team at FDA: they are all highly qualified, hardworking people who are dedicated to the work they do, and I am glad that they are on the case.

I am also thankful to the manufacturers of infant formula themselves, who are committed to making formula not only safe and nutritious for infants, but also user-friendly for their sleep-deprived parents.  Powdered infant formula comes in a very fine grain, which dissolves very easily into water, with very little work on my part, while still being coarse enough to not float into the air in the way that, say, powdered LB broth does.  And for those times when you don't have the wherewithal to even mix the easy-to-use powder with water, ready-to-feed liquid formula is also available, which has already been pasteurized and is ready to go.

Another benefit of infant formula I learned to appreciate just a few weeks ago, when I was sick with some dread contagious disease, and managed not to infect the babies, which I'm not certain I could have done without infant formula.

Alice and Katherine, and so many other babies, have infant formula as a safe, nutritious, and user-friendly option, and I am thankful.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Word of the day: perspicuity

The word of the day is perspicuity:

1. clearness or lucidity, as of a statement.
2. the quality of being perspicuous.

1470-80; < Latin perspicuitās. See perspicuous, -ity

(http://www.dictionary.com/browse/perspicuity?s=t)

"Joe recited this couplet with such manifest pride and careful perspicuity, that I asked him if he had made it himself."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: that time I was IPP

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time I was immediate past president of the Hopkins Toastmasters Club.

I have learned so much from Toastmasters, and possibly the most important thing I learned was when I was IPP.  

When I was president, the previous year, I poured my little heart and soul into the club.  I had no idea what I was doing, so I made lots of mistakes, learned from them, and through my experience, formed strong opinions about what worked and what didn't work.

The next year, the club had a new president, who didn't necessarily do things the way I would have done them.  And once again, painfully, through making mistakes, I eventually learned perhaps my most important Toastmasters lesson yet: that just because someone does something differently than how I would have done it doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong.  

Knowing the difference between an actual mistake (which, depending on the situation, may require my calling attention to it) and just a different choice than I would have made is a crucial skill, in all areas of life.  It's a skill I'm still trying to develop every day, but, because of my time as IPP, I'm much better at it now than I was, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Word of the day: purblind

The word of the day is purblind:

1. nearly or partially blind; dim-sighted.
2. slow or deficient in understanding, imagination, or vision.
3. Obsolete. totally blind.

1250-1300; Middle English pur blind completely blind; see pure (in obsolete adv. sense), blind

"Much of my unassisted self, and more by the help of Biddy than of Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried and scratched by every letter.  After that I fell among those thieves, the nine figures, who seemed every evening to do something new to disguise themselves and baffle recognition.  But, at last I began, in a purblind groping way, to read, write, and cipher, on the very smallest scale."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Word of the day: execrate

The word of the day is execrate:

1. to detest utterly; abhor; abominate.
2. to curse; imprecate evil upon; damn; denounce.
 
verb (used without object), execrated, execrating.
3. to utter curses.

1555-65; < Latin ex (s) ecrātus (past participle of ex (s) ecrārī to curse), equivalent to ex- ex-1+ secr- (combining form of sacrāre to consecrate; see sacrament ) + -ātus -ate1

"Water was splashing, and mud was flying, and oaths were being sworn, and blows were being struck, when some more men went down into the ditch to help the sergeant, and dragged out, separately, my convict and the other one.  Both were bleeding and panting and execrating and struggling; but of course I knew them both directly."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations