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Homemade muesli-nola

I have a little cup of this with some yogurt every day with my lunch:

Combine:
4 C rolled oats
1 C pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 C almonds or pecans or hazelnuts, chopped
1 C coconut flakes

Heat up: A couple Tbsp of olive oil with a couple Tbsp of honey.

Drizzle the honey-oil mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine. Spread in a pan (9x13 baking pan works fine), and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir and then bake some more (maybe another 15 minutes?).

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then add 1 C dried fruit (I usually add Zante currants, but chopped up dried apricots are great, and same for chopped up dried cherries).

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All the Feels

My parents came out to the east coast for a visit, and arrived to visit me on Saturday, so the weekend was even more hectic than usual with the combination of both grading and socializing. (not to mention the extra scramble with getting geared up to give the students their second exam next week)

My mom had e-mailed about plans ahead of time, and has been noting that this is almost certainly the last big trip that my father will get to do before he dies. The last time I was able to visit them in Seattle was in May, over Memorial Day, which they've noted in hindsight was a high point for my dad's health in the time since his initial cancer diagnosis: he'd been building up his training for the Seattle-to-Portland and was finally at a point where a lot of the acute side-effects of chemotherapy were beginning to wane.

For a while I'd been thinking that his liver was going to be what would give out first, but now it's seeming more like his lungs. When he concluded the ineffectual chemotherapy about a year ago, they'd started to find evidence of small tumors in his lungs, and by now he has a chronic cough and shortness of breath as the lung tumors have grown. He was indeed able to complete the full STP in July, but says he's never been so exhausted in all his life.

It's kind of hard to keep it together during a family visit where I'm left thinking there's a good chance this could be the last time we get to spend together. That time together is precious, but also clouded by the fragility of the human body and all its various failings.

The weather was cool but sunny on Sunday, so we were able to do a bit of walking around, through the big park close to our house, where the leaves are turning on the trees. We went to check out a small used bookstore that didn't have a book my father's been looking for, but that was okay. Just getting to walk around and have a small adventure is a lot for me, these days. My dad was ready to head home after that, but my mom still had some energy, so [personal profile] scrottie walked home with my dad while my mom and I walked to the state capitol plaza and looked around some more. She always likes to have a chance to get oriented to the places where her kids live, which is understandable.

Over lunch I learned that Oscar Romero has just been canonized. Good things can still happen in this world.

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This is my life these days

I was literally doing Punnett Squares in my dreams last night.

You're welcome, students. You're welcome.

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Let's read about a few things

I am deeply appreciative of this concept of co-produced research as an important alternative to colonialist methods. Another important facet of this, to me, is the idea of focusing one's research efforts on topics and systems that are locally relevant. That might sound somewhat hypocritical coming from someone who has just trucked ants and crickets all the way across the country, but to some extent those ants and crickets are stopgaps for me while I also spend time getting to know the local flora and fauna and thinking about how to transition over to local systems.

Apropos to the most recent grim forecast from the IPCC (story from The Guardian), a reminder of an older XKCD charting out a timeline of Earth's average temperature, putting contemporary temperature changes into perspective: https://xkcd.com/1732/

I also recently read a commentary piece from the New Yorker on narrating stories of biological loss, which made me think differently about what's happening right now in terms of sea ice loss. I'd been thinking about sea ice loss as a fairly abstract thing, but suddenly the NY piece made me think: there are people whose research programs consist of taking ice cores and then analyzing characteristics of the layers within those ice cores, to make inferences about previous climatological conditions. (Yes, mostly Antarctic, but surely Arctic as well?) With the ice now turning over more frequently, the time-depth of ice core samples must be changing, too. The reality is just hitting home in different ways now.

These climate change reports have been repeatedly warning that drastic cutbacks in carbon dioxide emissions are the only way to reduce the forecasted negative impacts of climate change. As with many other people, I wish I could be optimistic about humanity managing to make those cutbacks. But I have a hard time envisioning that happening, especially in the U.S., when I read reports about increases in how often people fly on airplanes, and when I see how many people have lifestyles that seem inextricably car-dependent. Not to mention the fact that a lot of the recommended changes have to occur through political will rather than via individual decision-making, and let's see, the last time I looked at the state of politics in the US, well, yeah.

But at least there are occasional sources of hope. This one doesn't address climate change directly, but was still heartening to read about: a program in NYC is taking used oyster shells from restaurants and using them to re-seed oyster reefs in the New York Harbor. We've got to keep trying, while also preparing for the worst.

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When I got up this morning, it was raining. I was a bit slow to get moving, but I did manage to get myself up and out of the house, off to practice. Once I was actually out in the weather, it didn't seem nearly so bad - just a gentle rain with occasional breezes.

But when I reached the boathouse, the verdict was that it was too gusty to row. Time to erg! Nothing like 4x12-minute pieces with 3 minutes of rest in between to tire a person out.

One silver lining: Coach Y made me watch the power curve display, and then pointed out where I'm trying to get too much reach with my upper body. When I tried to correct my overextension, I could see immediate results in the changed shape of the power curve.

It's hard to hold onto that change, though: my muscles have grown accustomed to overextending, so I will need to be really systematic to retrain them to only extend to a shorter distance.

For some reason, this concept is clicking for me more now than at previous times, in part because I'm thinking back to teaching students about length-tension curves for muscles: these curves basically show that maximal contractile force (tension) for a muscle occurs at an intermediate length: too stretched out and there isn't as much overlap between actin and myosin; too compacted and the overlap is too great.




I'm ready for naptime now.

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Excerpt [AZ life]

Amazing phrase I encountered last night in the book I've been reading:

"yuppie taco-deco ranchitos and golf courses of Sierra Vista"

The quotation is by someone who lives right along the Arizona-Mexico border, in the book A Great Aridness, which is about forecasted impacts of climate change on the desert Southwest.

Border politics factor in heavily, for good reason.

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Monday Funday

Oh Mondays. Yesterday looked like:

-Scramble to finish grading ahead of office hours and the start of class
-Hooray, students are finally using office hours to their advantage!
-Teach
-Scramble to finish the online grading
-Scramble to finish assembling lecture material for the week (I'm not sure I'm done yet)
-Scramble to finish writing and post this week's homework assignment

-Head home at 7:30 pm (arrive home at 8:20 pm), eat dinner, go to bed

I did take a few minutes to make up our brand-new guest bed, since the mattress pad finally showed up. We have a wonderful wealth of beautiful handmade quilts, with the most recent addition being a quilt made by my Aunt B:

Well-decorated guest bed

It's on top of the third quilt from [personal profile] scrottie's mom - I think we have 4 bed-sized quilts from her, plus a purple lap quilt that is Emma's favorite thing for curling up and sleeping.

So at least there will be a nice place for my parents to stay when they arrive next Saturday.

-

For this morning's rowing practice, we first had to re-rig boats. Then I got sent out in a 2x with our team's other young rower (besides Coach A), E, who only started rowing this past June. I think I can sum things up via a Coach Y question: when we got back to the dock, Coach Y asked, "Well, is there any hope?" to which I said, "Yes!"

I should have pointed out that he's probably more coachable than I am, at this point, because my bad habits have been getting ingrained for years. Apparently this was one of the first times he's been put in a boat with a rower with substantially better technique - one of the best ways to learn how to improve. I said a lot of things about boat feel.

-

When it rains, it pours: I had a couple of months without any manuscript review requests, and now I'm sitting on two.

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Head of the Housatonic

On Saturday we had our first "away" regatta for the fall, down in Connecticut on the Housatonic River. Because of my timing in when I joined the team, I hadn't signed up to race in this regatta when the registration deadline rolled around. But at the last minute one of the rowers who had registered had a family situation come up, so my last-minute name-add got me on the rolls.

The host park is about a 2.5 hour drive from Albany, so I wound up getting to have a lovely dinner plus sleepover on Friday night with a teammate whose house is off in the direction of the regatta. It was fantastic to have the chance to get to know A better, and she was an incredible hostess.

As with most regattas, we woke up before the crack of dawn, in "dawn's colon," as an acquaintance once put it. We arrived with ample time to get oriented and listen to the coaches and coxswain's meeting - always helpful when racing on a new course.

Coaches n Coxswains Meeting

The weather was perfect: overcast but not raining. There were some puddles and muddy patches out in the fields where teams had their boats all set up, but it wasn't a total mudbath.

Boats and such

Our coaches managed to park our boats and trailer right in front of one of the launching beaches, so things were super convenient.

My first race of the day was in the 2x, with H. We had a great time, although she kept busy with steering us around other boats. For some reason, we both thought the race length was much shorter than it actually was - she thought 2.5 km, I thought 3 km - so things got extra interesting for us towards the end (lots of "trying to look around with peripheral vision without actually looking"). One way or another we kept at it until we finally heard the finish horn...at the 4.3 km mark. Still: a-plus adventure, will race again anytime.

Altogether our raw time would have put us in second place, but after age handicaps factored in, we wound up in 5th place. Meanwhile, the other double from our program edged up to wind up in 2nd. I should nickname the other double the Sweet Double, because both rowers are exceptionally sweet (though still with a healthy competitive streak).

Anyway, I think this means that we need to race the Sweet Double head-to-head in practice, starting out with staggered starts based on our respective age handicaps. At the moment H and I basically have a 12-second gap to make up if we want to be able to beat the Sweet Double, age handicap and all. Good motivation to keep getting faster.

Here we are, post-race, with our teammate J doing a hilarious photobomb:

Double trouble

After the 2x, we had a couple-hour gap and then the Women's Masters 4x. We knew that the 4x was going to be an interesting race well ahead of time, and indeed, it was...eventful. First, our lineup consisted of: myself, Coach A (who is 21 and a beast), Sweet A, and then H in bow again. So we figured we had a chance of being fast. But then, our bow number had us as the very last boat in our event. So we mentally prepared ourselves to have to pass other boats - however many we could. (in addition to mentally preparing for a full 4k this time!).

Race time arrived, and indeed, we passed boats - at least 6 of them, if not 7. Unfortunately, not all of the other crews quite knew how to react when being passed, and multiple boats (at least 3!) failed to yield right-of-way to us. That number included another 4x from our own program! So we wound up having to stop 3 times during the race, including clashing oars twice. To make things worse, even though one of the clashes happened literally directly in front of one of the safety launches along the course, the referee in the safety launch apparently didn't see anything. Harumph!

We considered protesting, but upon further consideration decided it would be bad juju to protest against another boat from our own program. Besides, since Coach A is only 21 years old, we had to row exhibition anyway - apparently this regatta did not include the Masters AA category for some reason.

Meanwhile, Coach A declared that it was the most exciting race she'd ever been in. And I've got to admit, she has a point. It was wild. Our bow seat, H, did a fantastic job under all the pressure, and we raced to our fullest potential.

It was also so nice to have time at the regatta to get to know my new teammates better. I probably told a few too many stories about previous rowing adventures, but people took that in stride and we were all happy to be out rowing and racing together during daylight hours. I also discovered that Sweet L is a fellow lucky penny collector. She says the reason that she and A were able to beat us in the 2x race is because she had found a lucky penny in their hotel parking lot that morning. We'll see about that: I picked up a nickel and a penny this morning, so perhaps I can turn tides in my favor now.

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Ka-whumpf

Late in the afternoon yesterday, there was a commotion in the hallway outside my office: the teaching lab across the hall had a small flood due to water coming back up through a floor drain. Upon further inspection, we discovered that my animal room was also flooded. At least I don't have any animals in there yet, phew. As of this morning it sounds like what happened is a holding tank that is designed to help neutralize any acidic waste material that's put into the lab sinks, has filled. Apparently there were a lot of eppendorf pipet tips in there, too.

You'd better believe that I'll be teaching all my students about proper drain disposal. I would have done that anyway but now I've got an example to jab my finger at.

It was nippy and blustery this morning, so instead of rowing we just focused on de-rigging the boats to prepare them for tomorrow's regatta. We've been encountering a lot of duckweed out on the river lately, perhaps as a product of extra nutrients from rainwater runoff. It winds up accumulating on the boats, which we always wipe down at the end of practice. I decided that instead of calling it duckweed we should call it "river confetti." More festive that way.

S went off on a daytrip to NYC yesterday, but just before he was about to get on a train to come back, a New Jersey commuter train derailed (minorly) and the whole system ground to a halt. He got home at around 1 am, so it was a night of fragmented sleep. Ah well.

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Ride those waves

Anxiety waves still.

Questions like: What's the point of teaching students about Mendelian Genetics? I get it that the problems are fun tests of problem-solving skills, but nowadays we tend to sequence everything and think we know what's going on instead of doing a million crosses. They do still need to understand about diploidy and haploidy.

The view out of my office window is of the tops of a stand of trees in a small wetlands area along one edge of campus. Yesterday a hawk flew over and perched in the branches. It was too far away for me to tell what kind of hawk. I saw it perched somewhere else later on, while riding my bike home from work.

Apparently our landlord stopped by yesterday early in the evening to see what's going on with our electricity. The situation stumped him, too, so the handyman is supposed to be over there right now. It's not that I really mind the dim lighting at the dining room table, but sometimes it's nice to be able to see what you're cooking and eating.

I had a potential lead on a replacement bike that would have been awesome except it's too big. Drat.

We have a pair of regattas this weekend. The Saturday race is in Connecticut, the Sunday race is close to home. We practiced in our race lineup this morning. We have a boat full of lots of power. I hope I can row to my utmost potential so as to not disappoint my teammates.

My instinct, when I feel these kinds of anxiety waves, is to think, what are these feelings trying to tell me? Sometimes I think maybe the lesson is one of compassion towards others; compassion towards students who are struggling with demons whose nature I may never know. At other times: is this a time to stop and think about which struggles and experiences are most important in life? Is this that repeated refrain of "What am I DOING with my life?!" Is it a manifestation of dread and grief over knowing that all of our time on this planet is too precious and short?

Hard to know.

I should probably be working on a manuscript.

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