Archive for the '[Etc]' category

Long Time, No Blog

Sep 16 2015 Published by under [Etc]

I know, I say this often. I promise this will be changing.

The hummingbirds have headed south, so that shiny distraction is gone.

All my manuscript reviews have been submitted.

My daughter's wedding will soon be completed.

Blogging will once again become part of daily life.

One response so far

What I Am Reading: Timely Edition

Aug 25 2015 Published by under What I'm Reading

Work-life "balance" has become a big issue in the circles of professional women. Can we have meaningful careers and families? Never mind that men do this all the time; society still expects us to run the household and nurture the children, even when we make six-figures. In various career circles, a couple of strategies have been suggested, including "Lean In" (build a career that lets you have the resources to do stuff) and lean out (making part-time work a safer career option).

IKnowHowLaura Vanderkam now presents her work with women making it work. She obtained extensive weekly time tracking sheets from 143 women earning at least $100,000 per year with young children in the home, showing their lives for 1,001 days. She included single mothers as well as those with partners. Some were self-employed while others were in hierarchical companies. What she found will surprise most readers:

  • Most of these women worked less and slept more than they thought
  • Family time approximated or exceeded that reported by more traditional mothers
  • Creative approaches to family time made this possible
  • Housework suffered most, either by accepting "good enough" or outsourcing as much as possible

By looking at a week's worth of tracking data, these women were juggling all the pieces of a complete life while averaging more than 7 hours a sleep each night. They were achieving in their careers and their families were not suffering.

The only criticism I can make is that this work definitely favors the "Lean In" school of life, although she includes women who took the other approach as well. Myself, I am a "Lean In" kind of gal.

I recommend that everyone read this book when they feel overwhelmed by their lives. I especially recommend it for male partners who expect their "women" to take care of the household. If you sign up at Laura Vanderkam's website, you can get her tracking tool and examine your own week. You may realize your life is not as gloomy as you think.


No responses yet

Angry Birds

Aug 20 2015 Published by under etc

This week a wonderful article about hummingbirds appears on Slate.  For those of you unable to concentrate long enough to read this excellent piece, I will summarize:

Aztec origin myths aside, hummingbirds really are badasses. And there’s a biological reason why: Their lives depend on it.

The information in the piece only confirmed my patio observations. Last Sunday, I noticed that my feeder was empty aside from some dead ants. I noticed because a hummingbird hovered at it, then swooped by me. I know he wanted to tell me to get off my ass and get nectar out there.

So I did.

We then had at least 5 birds trying to make our feeder their territory. There may be more; they do not stay still to make counting (or photographing) easy, and several of them are the same type of bird.

King of the Feeder

King of the Feeder

I have identified the dominant bird of the past 4 days, shown to the right.

He is not the largest bird in the group, but he has successfully defended his quart of nectar. He spends much time perched on the feeder, sipping leisurely. If another bird approaches the spouts, he chases them off vigorously. At other times, he sits in a rosebush (just out of the photo frame to the left) and then ambushes the intruder.

Sneaky bird!

Despite his success thus far, he is not my favorite hummer in the yard, That title goes to the clever bird shown in the next photo.

Clever Bird!

Clever Bird!

Clever bird (to the left of the support pole) waits until King of the Feeder chases off an interloper. He then swoops in and feeds while the King is occupied. He gets chased off eventually, but only after a meal.

Of course, there are a couple of hummers that look like this guy, so they could be taking turns.

By yesterday, the King seemed to be tiring. He waited until intruders tried to drink, rather than attacking them as they approached the feeder. He also has done less defending from the rose bush, spending most time perched on the feeder itself.

These little guys are beautiful and fierce. Unless unicorns or dragons show up in the backyard, these little dudes will be the main show.

One response so far

My New Obsession: @ShoesOfPrey

Aug 12 2015 Published by under Fashion (or not)

Hot weather, blazing sun, a backyard pool, and cold beverages do not promote blogging. You will, therefore, understand how amazing this new site is since it got me to write about it immediately.

Have you ever imagined a perfect pair of shoes? The heels of one but the color of another, perhaps with an accent of reptile leather or leopard calf hair? What you imagine probably does not exist in stores, even if you have the money to purchase any designer out there.

Enter Shoes of Prey. This site lets you start with one of twelve basic shoe types, from ballet flats to stiletto platforms. You then choose from hundreds of materials to make exactly the shoes you want. In addition to varying the uppers, you can change the lining as well. You can add insets and accents and straps. Every single piece on the shoe can be a different material. The base prices vary with model, but they start at $129 for the ballet flats. With enough bells and whistles you could probably get a pair up to $300, but I have not gone there yet.

Needless to say, this can be a very deep rabbit hole to explore.

Designed by Pascale

Designed by Pascale

As a public service, I decided to try out the service. I had a pair of red ballet flats with some raggedy edges. I started with a basic flat and then chose a d'Orsay cutout on the instep. I added a pieced toe but kept it all in the same soft red leather. These beauties came today, and they are lovely works of art.

The site works in European sizes, and they recommended a slightly larger size than other conversion sites. The shoes fit perfectly, so I recommend taking their advice. However, if something does not come out right, the shoes are guaranteed with a 365-day return or remake agreement.

How can you go wrong?

Below is a video explaining more about Shoes of Prey:

Better yet, click on over and start designing your new dream shoes.


2 responses so far

On Further Consideration: What I May Be Reading

Jul 17 2015 Published by under What I'm Reading

GoSetWatchmanThis week Harper Lee's novel, Go Set A Watchman, hit the shelves of booksellers. The internet gave a collective gasp when early reviews revealed that Atticus Finch has racist views in this sequel, set in the 1950s. I know, because I gave one of those digital huffs. I could not believe that Atticus would be this way! I had no desire to read this book.

With further thought, I am reconsidering.

Racism does not have an on/off switch; it resides on more of a dimmer, with a variety of levels in between the extremes. I know* a lot of people who would agree that Tom Robinson got treated unfairly in To Kill a Mockingbird. They would agree that people of African descent should not be abused by others just because of the color of their skin. They also would not want "those people" living next door to them. They would express dismay when a professional sports team fielded an all-black starting line-up. They are racists, but not as extreme as the white jury of Mockingbird.

As I considered the bits included in reviews about "the new Atticus," I realized that he never professed to be a civil rights pioneer in Mockingbird. Readers really have no idea how he feels about African Americans, other than recognizing that Tom Robinson cannot have raped Mayella Ewell. Providing Tom's constitutionally-guaranteed defense does not mean that Atticus wants black people living next door or attending school or voting.

I will likely download and read Watchman in the near future. With current discussions of race, the "new Atticus" may provide more important lessons than our more heroic version.


*I may be related to some of these people.

One response so far

What I Am Reading: #GDIGFA Edition

Jun 26 2015 Published by under What I'm Reading

One of the plenary sessions at this meeting demonstrated the utility of Whole Brain(R) thinking.

Now, I assumed that I tried to use my whole brain most of the time, so I got the book, The Whole Brain Business Book, and read it en route to Puerto Rico. This model overlaps with a lot of other approaches to how we humans perceive the world, but it can provide a useful new frame for the problem.



Four aspects of human pattern preference occupy each quadrant of the diagram. The upper left thrives on logic and facts. The bottom left craves order and process. The lower right focuses on the human-emotional facet of things. The upper right is creative and big-picture. Many, if not most, people have a dominant quadrant. This doesn’t mean that we cannot appreciate the other perspectives; they just come less easily to us.

Many people have more than one quadrant that is relatively strong. The two upper quadrants are often found in inventors, scientists, and other creative yet data-driven types. The bottom half of the diagram, with its order and emotion, often finds professions like nursing supervisors. Those who favor the left side rely on facts, logic,and order, while those on the right tend to be idealistic.

As I read this book, I thought about the pharma booths I saw at recent clinical meetings. Ad agencies certainly know how to pull all of these perspectives into the show. Each booth featured big images, most often people living good lives with their disease (because of this drug, naturally). If not a patient image, some other emotionally charged picture appeared; fish out of water seem to be favored by pulmonary products. A tag line also dominates the big stuff, often with a message appealing to those D (upper right) quadrant folks: “Imagine a world without disease X.” Less prominent, but still big enough to catch the eye, are diagrams and graphs showing study results about the drug to start pulling in the left side of the diagram; after all, you have to get them close enough to take the reprints and package inserts that have the details they need to change their practice!

Like all models, this one cannot solve every problem of interpersonal communications. It explains a lot, if you let it. And Ann Herrmann-Nehdi put on a rollicking work-shop this morning where we all learned a lot.


No responses yet

Our Private Wild Kingdom

Jun 01 2015 Published by under Random Thoughts

Nature and science are everywhere, even in a civilized front yard. In addition to the usual insects and lizards, my spouse encountered a shy copperhead and a small turtle while spreading mulch around our front shrubs yesterday. His scariest encounter was with a mallard hen. We saw her walking around the yard earlier, but as he moved toward the front door she flew out of the bushes at him.

We soon learned why:


This lucky duck feathered her nest of ten eggs right outside our dining room window, a mere 5 feet from our front entry. When she sits on the nest, she is really difficult to see. I thought the duck and eggs were gone this morning!

We will keep an eye on progress and update when things happen!

No responses yet

Random Thoughts: AP Classes

May 05 2015 Published by under Random Thoughts

I hear things. On the radio or television. Random elevator talk. These bits of information can inspire observations too long for a tweet, but not a substantial blog post. Thus, the Random Thoughts category begins...


Yesterday I heard a story on my local NPR station about advanced placement classes*. The story examined the possibility that schools were expanding the population of students placed into AP work for a variety of reasons. One result would be less "advanced" AP classes, perhaps resulting in fewer students qualifying for college credit.

Both of my offspring took a number of AP courses and tests. The classes challenged them, and I am sure it looked good on their transcripts. However, these courses would not have saved any significant amount of money in college tuition.

The main advantage I see of coming in with these credits is more rapid advancement of academic rank. In other words, you obtain sophomore, junior, and senior standing sooner if you come in with these credits. This gives the student higher priority in registration for the courses that they want or need.

*Thanks to potnia theron for supplying the link.


5 responses so far

Things That Make You Think

Apr 19 2015 Published by under Wackaloonacy

On my way to the hospital today, I heard the Top 40 Hits of this week in 1973. For you youngsters, the Top 40 involved the sales of small vinyl records with 1 song you wanted on one side and something completely random on the other. These small discs turned at 45 revolutions per minute and were often called 45's or singles. Based on sales, they ranked the top songs in the US.

Somewhere in the middle of the pack was the song, Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road :

This begs two questions:

  1. Why would anyone write this song?
  2. How did it make the Top 40?

Thanks to the power of the internet (and Wikipedia), we can answer question 1:

The lyrics describe a dead skunk in the middle of a busy road and the smell it produces for pedestrians. Wainwright said the song was an accident, written in 15 minutes

Question 2 may forever remain a mystery, although I feel it must be a testimony to the economic power of 12-15 year-old boys at the time.

3 responses so far

What I'm Reading: Herding Cats Edition

Mar 18 2015 Published by under What I'm Reading

Even an experienced speaker like Guy Kawasaki says, “Moderating a panel is deceptively hard--harder, in fact, than keynoting."

What makes a good moderator panel? We all know bad ones, or at least bad performances. Now Denise Graveline, an internationally renown public speaking expert who blogs at The Eloquent Woman, fills the gap in panel moderation. Her ebook, The Eloquent Woman’s Guide to Moderating Panels, provides a brief 51 page collection of thoughts and checklists to make moderation successful.

PanelsPanel moderation is too often an afterthought; she encourages planners to engage moderators with speakers early in the planning process. That way ground rules can be set, and the moderator(s) can reinforce his or her plans to enforce the rules. One section of the guide gives the reader 9 reasons to turn down an offer to moderate. For example, women often get asked to moderate groups of male speakers to provide an appearance of diversity. Just say no if that seems to be the case.

The usual roles of moderators are addressed, like better panelist introductions and calling on questions from the floor. One delightful section presents smart ways to interrupt speakers, primarily so you can shut them up and stay on time, for the win.

In about ten days I will join my colleagues in Boston for Experimental Biology 2015. I’m sure I will remember many of these points during symposia at that meeting and others farther in the future. I highly recommend this quick read for anyone involved in meeting presentations.


No responses yet

Older posts »