Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ergonomic Changes

Recently, because of my carpal tunnel, my hand therapist had me take pictures of my posture so that she could evaluate my ergonomic situation. Here are some of the pictures I took to her.
She didn't think there were too many problems with this picture.
Not so much with this one.
So what did I change? Well. I've bought a keyboard tray, a laptop stand, a trackball, a vertical mouse, and another keyboard.
The keyboard tray hasn't been installed yet. The laptop stand is awesome and is at work, as is the trackball. The keyboard and vertical mouse are at home. Instead of a laptop stand at home, I'm propping up my laptop on several copies of Harry Potter.
Part of the idea was to decide whether I liked the vertical mouse or the trackball better. The trackball definitely wins (for me) I've been using it with my left hand and I love it. The keyboard is also something I'm enjoying. There's a way to prop it up so that it has a negative slope, which is better for my wrists. I've never had a split keyboard either but I enjoy this one.
Eventually I should also have a new desk chair at work as well, but that's something to tackle another day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

4 year olds + cameras = crazy

In 2005, I spent time at my grandparents cottage with my family, cousins, and grandparents. I loaned my digital camera to my then-four-year-old cousin and the following pictures are but a small sample of the pictures that resulted.
An interesting representation of me.
My grandmother would be mortified by this. Don't anyone show her!
My cousin's face and someone's arm.
My legs.
We could figure out where my cousin had been by what pictures were on the camera. Here's the porch door. Pretty good framing.
Back stairwell.
And the camera cord...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

England Food (Part 2)

I'm on a roll thinking about English food, so here's part 2.
Here's the table in our dorm kitchen. On the table are all the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and brownies.
which were cooked in this oven. Yes. This is an oven. And a stove top. Note the size of this, it's about the size of a microwave. In addition to the tiny, tiny size, if the oven was on, both burners didn't work. Only one burner worked. Dinner parties...not an option.

Now on to eating instead of cooking:
Fish and chips in a hotel room in Scotland. I bought a bottle of ketchup at the store on my way home from the chippy. Now I want some healthy fried fish :)
I love British yogurt. This is "Luxury Yogurt." The flavor is "Spanish Oranges." Why don't we have more orange yogurt?
Water, grapes, and chicken & bacon salad. A Boots lunch special. Sandwich, drink, and a side for £3 or so. Sweet deal.
OMG. Chocolate pudding. YUM! "Layers of chocolate chip muffin, chocolate sauce, chocolate custard and chocolate mousse decorated with milk chocolate curls."
Jacket potato with sour cream and bacon (and a side of salad).
Flapjack. If you've never had one, you should make some. They are pretty awesome. Here's a fantastic recipe. (Here's the associated article about the flapjacks.)
Full crazy tea. Egg and cress sandwiches, hot cross buns, scones, clotted cream, jam, grapes, milk, juice, and cocoa. Oh. And a millionaire's bar for good measure.
A crazy, crazy burger. This is the Kiwiburger from Gourmet Burger Kitchen. "Beetroot, egg, pineapple, cheese, salad, mayo and relish. We will make a voluntary donation on your behalf of 25p which will go to help save the Kiwi in Whakatane**"
Pineapple and yogurt. Yogurt that has peaches on the side. I love this yogurt. It tastes like England. It's one of the first things I buy when I get into London. Probably another flapjack in that paper bag.
Also, diets are sad.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

English Travels & Food (seriously abridged)

Ah! England & food. A perpetual joke to many. While many have negative things to say about English food, I didn't find it bad. I like a culture that embraces nutella and clotted cream. Seriously, how can you not love that! And they sure know how to make a roast, still...
even Vikings need a coke
and fries every now and again. Thank goodness for Mickey D's!
I however, didn't eat at McDonalds. I don't think I even ate there once. I remember eating at Burger King, Pizza Hut, and KFC (total let down as they don't have biscuits :( ) but not McDonalds. I mostly fed myself while I was studying at York and even when I travel I occasionally buy food and fix it myself (more pictures to come if requested). But this is the fridge in my dorm. I think that it was supposed to hold the food of about 6-8 people. The giant jar of red sauce is mine (spaghetti sauce which I would have added ground beef, onions, and garlic paste to) as is the small thing of milk on the door. The Utterly Butterly is not mine, sadly. Oh! And there is also yogurt (above the utterly butterly) on the door that is mine, most likely. I ate a lot of spaghetti as well as egg salad sandwiches that year. And a surprising amount of honey mustard chicken. My breakfast every morning was 3 slices of white bread (untoasted as we didn't have a toaster) with nutella on them, a banana, a yogurt, and a glass of juice or milk. (Ha! I say juice, but that meant dishes. I was not above drinking form the container.) And yet, despite this, I do miss it occasionally. But on the other hand, I'm totally psyched about the braised short ribs and the best mashed potatoes in the world that I'm making tomorrow night. That would not have been possible in this kitchen...or fridge.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Old Family Photos

In chronological order:
This is a relative, we think. We don't know who she is, but she appeared in a photo album from the early 1900s of a trip of a relative to visit other relatives in Alberta. She is, as far as we know, the only person on my mom's side of the family who looks like me. Freakishly like me.
I believe that these are my paternal grandparents. (Unlabeled pictures! Grr!) I never knew my grandfather well, but I knew my grandmother. I don't remember her as being this elegant though, which is what is throwing me off. In my life I knew them as Noni and Nono. (Yeah, Italian scholars, I know it should be Nona and Nono, but my fam lives on the wild side...)

My maternal grandparents with my mom, aunt, and uncle. This would have been their first Christmas together.
Aw! Look. It's my mom and her sister grown up a little. Yes they're twins. However did you guess? Apparently this was taken in Newfoundland where they lived for their first 3-4 years.
My dad looking all young and wearing his crazy hat, showing off my little brother. He looks awkward. It cracks me up.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This was last year's Thanksgiving. On the top of a "mountain" in Kentucky with my family and Ben (minus Anthony), peeling off layers because it was warm. (But not warm enough to take off my hat, apparently.)

This is Thanksgiving in Minnesota in 2006. All my cousins (and their kids) were there and it was warm enough for a short-sleeved backyard soccer game.

This year, I'm in Iowa (sorry no pictures yet) and it's cold. We outran (kindof) the freezing rain/snow/sleet mess leaving the Twin Cities yesterday and got here to a layer of water covering everything and 34 degree temps. Today the high was maybe 20 with some seriously cool windchills. I was glad I had flannel lined jeans, a warm coat, and a giant scarf. Luckily it's supposed to warm up tomorrow and I think we vetoed the 3am waiting-in-line-for-stores-to-open move. I sure hope we did. I have some turkey to sleep off.

Happy Thanksgiving to you Americans and I hope the rest of you had a good Thursday (it's almost the weekend.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

Someday I want a GIANT John Deere mixer. And somewhere to put it. In the meantime, I will have to go get my fix at Isles Bun and Coffee. They have all you can eat frosting. I try not to eat as much as I can. I find that my stomach is not a fan of that hard core approach...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Choir Collaboration

I haven't written recently about my choir, but I figure the time was right because my choir was just featured in the Star Tribune.

This fall we collaborated with Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and did one service at their church and one at ours. (Sadly I missed the service at our church last Sunday because I was at home with a migraine...hence why I am in none of the pictures.) We sang three pieces together (one chosen by each director and the third jointly chosen?) Amusingly Philip chose a very gospel-ish piece, "What a Mighty God" arr. Abels featuring a FMBC soloist while Sanford chose a Rossini piece featuring one of our soloists. The third piece was a gospel-y arrangement of "Come Thou Fount."

We met for the first time the Sunday that we sang at FMBC. I was interested that not that many of our choir members had ever seen an alter call and that some of them thought that perhaps the service we'd just been in was a praise service.

I grew up in a non-evangelical Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Palmer, Alaska. I went to the church camp up by Fairbanks. Then I wanted to go to the closer church camp that all my school friends went to (not PC USA). It was a very evangelical camp. Praise songs, alter call, tears, gasoline on giant piles of logs and then lighting them on fire (to make a point that is long forgotten), bible study via mail throughout the school year. That lasted two years. Then I couldn't do it any more. It wasn't me, I didn't really like many of the people and so it was back to Fairbanks. But I say this all to explain that I've seen both sides. Most of my friends went to a contemporary church in a school gym, when I was in middle school, so I've seen that style of worship.

Until October, I'd never been in a self-proclaimed "Black Baptist church" before on a Sunday morning. And WOW was it powerful. It reminded me of Black Music Ensemble performances in college. There's a certain spirituality that is innate in their service. You can feel the vibe and that is impressive to me. There was so much love and care in that congregation and choir. I've been singing in the choir for almost five years. I've sung in at least 8 different languages on probably 150 Sundays. I feel the love that my choir has for the music, for the history; how much we enjoy singing difficult two choir pieces by Schubert or obscure pieces by Giovanni Martini. But I have never heard (or felt) as much innate joy in singing as I did singing with the FMBC choir.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My geekiness comes out

Recently, I bought a Kensington 64325 ExpertMouse trackball. The point of it was to help my carpal tunnel and tendonitis by decreasing the stress on my wrists and the twisting required to mouse. (I also bought a vertical mouse, but that's another story.) I set up the mouse on my macbook and got it all configured the way I wanted. Most notably, I'm using it with my left hand, even though I'm right handed, so it needed to not have the default configuration. (This is due to the fact that if you have the alphabet part of your keyboard centered on your desk, you will have to reach further with your right hand than your left. I did not come up with this, I got it from one of my professors.)

The trackball has 4 buttons, a trackball, and a scrollwheel. Two buttons on top, two on the bottom. I set them up (on my mac) so the top right was the click, top left: right click, bottom right was forward (in a browser) and bottom left was back. Everything was grand and I started getting good at navigating my computer without a normal mouse or my touchpad.

Then I brought the mouse into school. To plug into my Ubuntu desktop. I knew it would work on Ubuntu because that's the system I'd tested out before I'd bought mine. But the button mappings were all wrong. Combine this with the fact that there wasn't a special program to redo mappings (aka ExpertMouse?) in Linux and the fact that I have no admin rights on my computer and I was stumped. So I hooked the trackball into my mac and connected them using Synergy. Since the mouse was primarily on my laptop, everything worked on my desktop the way I expected. Until today...when the internet was insanely slow, so I couldn't move my mouse between computers. Then I decided to fix this, once and forever.

I started searching the interwebs. (These specifics work in tsch, I haven't tried them in other shells.) I knew I was supposed to be able to fix the problem with something looking like this:
xmodmap -e 'pointer 3 2 8 1 5 4 7 6'
but I couldn't figure out what the numbers meant. I did a little more searching and came up with a slightly better mapping. I'll explain it here because I was so baffled by the online solutions, that I want to have this on hand for me and thought others might find it interesting/useful.

When the mouse is in it's default position, the numbers would read 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, I believe. A normal two-button mouse is just 1 2. A lefthanded mouse would be 2 1.
  • 1 - normal click
  • 2 - right click
  • 3 - middle click
  • 4 - scroll up?
  • 5 - scroll down?
  • 6 - ?
  • 7 -?
  • 8 - back (in browser)
  • 9 - forward (in browser)
This is the solution that I came up with. The 7 was added because I needed all 9 consecutive numbers otherwise I got an error.
xmodmap -e 'pointer = 8 3 9 4 5 6 2 1 7'
This works the same as on my macbook. Top right is the click, top left: right click, bottom right is forward (in a browser) and bottom left is back. The scroll wheel hasn't changed.

Ah, adventures in making simple things more complicated!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Minnesota Winter

It may still feel like fall (or summer!) in some parts of the country, but in Minnesota, it's winter. We've had a good 8 inch snowfall (which I missed and is mostly melted) and last night got a good dose of freezing rain. I'm pretty sure that I need to ramp up from my dinky skater gloves and fall coat to something more substantial, but that would mean admitting it's winter.
Granted, I love winter. This is a picture I took of downtown St. Paul the weekend I visited grad school. I think it snowed 10 inches. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
I grew up with snow, and so if snow (and winter) don't negatively impact me, I love them. But when I'm not dressed warmly enough, or my bus is an hour late, or I can't walk on the sidewalk, I get a little bitter. I love the glow of the light on the snow and I'd much rather have snow than rain. Now if only the snow would stick...I guess we'll see what this week's storm brings :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Homemade Pizza

My homemade pizza isn't nearly as good as my dad's, but it's still pretty good.
Well, except for this one. White pizza with shaved asparagus = FAIL.
But red pepper cream sauce with broccoli, bacon, and grilled zucchini...massive win.
And from this we got about a week's worth of leftovers. I obviously need more people to eat my pizza.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Neurologists rock! (Or mine do...)

I promised you another migraine update after I saw my neurologist, which I did yesterday. My brains aren't behaving as they should (more here) and so we talked about medications and possible solutions. These are pretty much what we always talk about. I also brought her my new headache calendar.

Her first remark? "Wow. You get a headache everyday. We need to fix that." Yes. Yes we do. But how? First, we're upping my dose of zonegran to a level that's more consistant with stopping migraines. That should kick in in about 3 - 5 weeks. Next, she asked me about jaw and neck pain. Apparently if someone has headaches everyday, they usually have jaw or neck pain. I mentioned that I have a very tight neck, which isn't painful per se, and that I've been having some weird jaw stuff lately. Many people, when they're getting a migraine, get an aura. This is a visual disturbance that signifies that a migraine is coming. Other than a handful of times, I don't get these. Instead, recently with bad migraines, I've been getting aching jaw pain. Just a bit, but enough to let me know I need to get some meds in me and go to sleep before the pain kicks in.

So these things made her suspicious and she started doing a bit of an exam. It was kindof weird, because usually neurologists don't touch you, but she was having me move my head around, feeling my jaw, and feeling my shoulders. The result? My neck movement is slightly limited due to tight muscles. My jaw freaks out when I fully open my mouth (it audibly clicks into place and shifts around and is generally weird). And then she felt my shoulders. Apparently my traps are so tight that my left one feels like it has an egg in it. A HUGE ball of muscle mayham. So all this combined with something my dentist said and my posture, means two things: intense physical therapy with someone who specializes in headaches as well as myofascial therapy (2 times a week for six weeks!) and an appointment with the UMN Oralfacial Pain Clinic.

The final part of our plan is figuring out what I'll do if I have a migraine that my normal meds (imitrex or relpax) can't beat. If I get one during business hours, my neurology office has an "infusion center" where I could go to get medication that is approved by my doctor. This would let me avoid the ER and the random (yet excellent) treatment in the urgent care. And since they're used to treating migraines, they know what they're doing. BUT if the migraine strikes outside of business hours, I have a percocet prescription to take to try and bust the migraine up.

So...that's the current plan. I see the neurologist again in mid-December. (Well, that is the Dr. neurologist. This was the CNP neurologist, who is AWESOME as well.) Hopefully I'll have made progress by then.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I'm back on the wagon after a day of massive sickness and travel. I got home to a mailbox with a Zingerman's catalog in it. (If you don't know Zingerman's, click on the link...) Ben makes fun of me everytime I read a catalog. I try not to drool, but I always end up saying, "Ohhhh. I want that. And I want that. And that looks good!" I'd heard about Zingerman's for a few years, tried a coffeecake imported, by hand, from Ann Arbor, and last Christmas, decided to splurge.
My family was coming for Christmas. AND I had a coupon. It was obviously a sign that I needed coffeecake, peppered bacon bread, chocolate cherry bread, a chocolate bar, a bacon magnet, and a wedge of piave cheese. Mmm. That was good. But then I was on their mailing list. And the real life mailing list isn't so bad. It's tempting, but you don't get told about sales, etc. The e-mailing list? That broke me. This summer bread was on sale. Like almost as cheap as we buy it at the grocery store (including shipping) but better tasting.
The sneaker is for scale. Big box=lots o'bread.
Oh look! SO MUCH BREAD. (And some peanut butter and a coffeecake.)
This was late July, bread bagged and ready to freeze. (They provide bags and twisty ties.) What haven't we eaten? The lemon poppyseed coffeecake and chocolate sourdough. All the other bread was gone by mid September and the peanut butter disappeared last month. It's probably a good thing I don't live closer to Ann Arbor!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Old Photos

Today I met up with two old friends. We reminisced about college and our awesome sleepover of 2007.
This is how our picture would have looked 100 years earlier.
But this is how we really look...

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Recently, my friends Reid and Erin moved to the East Coast. Reid got himself a real job, which also meant he wasn't on a grad school salary anymore. This means that he had fun mailing me some random packages. Officially they were for Ben, but I wasn't about to carry the second one home after the first arrived.
See the paper? He sent one box just full of paper. (That was the one I carted home on the bus, after carrying it for 15 minutes across campus.) Then I got this box. I opened it. In it was paper...
a tent fly, tent fly stakes, and a ziploc bag containing the top portion of a dried out cow femur. Just want I needed that Friday.

Ben refuses to accept the femur, because he "gave" it to Reid, telling him of his expectations that it would be displayed anytime we visited. Therefore I guess the femur is mine. Thanks Reid?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homecoming Day 2

I was at the college starting at 7:30am today. I got home around 6:20 and spent most of the day with people. Except my walk back from campus when I called Ben, whose birthday is today. Yay for Ben! He is in the snowy northland and the high here today was 70. :/

Anyways, I have exciting things to say and pictures to post. BUT Julie Stewart has most of the pictures and my brain went to sleep 3 hours ago, so I will just say that the Health Insurance debacle of 2010 was resolved. At least they told my insurance company to reinstate my insurance and it should be back by Tuesday night. YAY!

I plan to be back in full force tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Homecoming Day 1

We think hard when we're back at college...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Health Insurance

Yesterday I got a notice that my health insurance was cancelled retroactively back to September 1. After many tears, I sent an email to clarify and learned that it was nothing that was my fault, but rather the people who are supposed to pay my premium hadn't paid it. Another few emails and it's theoretically being taken care of. But that's not why I'm writing.

I had a horrible migraine that was getting worse by the minute and all I could think of was, there's no where I can go for help. I can't afford anything. Already, since Sept 1, my insurance company has been billed more than 25% of my annual income. They probably only paid half that, but still, for me that's a huge sum of money. (I don't earn much, but I've seen a lot of docs and gotten a lot of meds in the past 2 months.) So while I'd normally go to the urgent care, I couldn't. I could've also gotten a refill of a prescription that might have helped with the migraine, but I worried about the $300 price tag. It turned the way I think upside down.

All of a sudden I thought I'd have to cancel my appointment with my neurologist next Wednesday and my physical therapy that afternoon. But how could I handle my migraines without my neurologist? (Seriously, I love my neurologist(s). They rock. Everyone I've interacted with at that clinic is awesome. They even wished me a belated happy birthday the week after my birthday. That's how cool they are.) My mom was reassuring me that everything should be worked out by next week, but the truth of the matter is, without insurance I couldn't get almost any of the care I'm getting. This fall I've seen doctors for three things: migraines, carpal tunnel, and ankle problems. The migraines don't result in many visits, but the visits I have are expensive and the medicine is pricey. The carpal tunnel and ankle problems both resulted in 8+ weeks of physical therapy and the ankle problems also led to me needing new orthotics. So if I didn't have insurance, my vision of myself this fall involves massive amounts of pain, from my head, wrists, and ankles. (Yeah, I know, I'm falling apart...)

I know that I'm lucky. I grew up with health insurance and have never had a day without it (that I know of). That's a lot more insurance than many people I know. But I'd also never envisioned a day without it. The fact that I can't comprehend my life without it is a wakeup call to me, showing me how privileged I am that I can, through the grace of insurance, afford this care. This is not meant to be a political rant, I'm not talking about universal health care. I know that some of you have insurance and some of you don't. And I hope that most of you don't need it very often, but for me it is vital. That's something that I hadn't fully realized until yesterday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Today I don't want to write anything. It is kindof like the day this picture was taken. It was 2004, I was on my first full day of travelling around Germany. I hadn't gotten my railpass stamped in advance because I didn't know that the train station would be closed until 9am. So I bought a ticket to station 1 (of 4 for the day). They couldn't validate either. They tried to sell me a ticket to Berlin, but I wanted to go in the opposite direction, so I bought a ticket from the machine to get me all the way to station 4. Then at station 2 I had to wait outside for 1 hour in 40 degree temps with lots of wind (note my bangs). That wouldn't be so bad if I had more than just a windbreaker to protect me. But there I sat. Waiting for my train, thinking how much the countryside looked like I imagined East Germany would look, for I was in East Germany. At the end of the day, though, I had a smile on my face as I curled up in my down duvet. I made it to the King's Singers concert with 3 minutes to spare and had a comp ticket waiting for me. Win-win.
Today, not so much on the wins. Both my parents get gold stars for dealing well with a migrainey, teary daughter. Blogging lesson learned: I should really pre-write some blog posts so that I can just press send and not have to write anything on days like today...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Alligator Fears

Long time readers will know that I have a fear of bears. This has been previously documented on this blog. But you may not realize I also have a fear of alligators. And most other things that can kill me. I like to think of this as a healthy fear.
This is how I react to bears. Even when they are behind a fence in the zoo.
This is how I react to alligators at my elbow. Not in a zoo, but a nature preserve. There are no fences.
I have no pictures of me encountering these sorts of animals in everyday life. Most of the vicious creatures I encounter regularly are kindof like this cat below. Her name is Margaret Thatcher, Maggie for short. She can only kill birds and small rodents.
Sometimes I am blown away by the awesomeness of pictures of me pretending to be scared. If you know of a modeling career in this (e.g. victim in some horrible animal-related accident where the photoshoot requires fear and no contact with the animal) please let me know.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I'm headed to Kentucky for a week and am crazy doing laundry and packing, etc. Last time I was in Kentucky, I headed up to Lexington for an afternoon with friends. Lexington has horse around the city like other cities have bears or pigs or other statues. Each is decorated uniquely. So I walked around a corner and saw this horse.
Zoom in?
Yes! That is a binary horse. I did not translate what it said, but I was super psyched to seek the uber-geekiness in the bluegrass.