Friday, March 30, 2012

Basement Stairs

We mostly use our side entrance to get in and out of our house. The front door is a little finicky, and there are two doors to come through, so it's a bit cumbersome. The back door is up a half-flight of concrete stairs that goes right into the kitchen. So, both those options aren't ideal. There is also more room to put shoes, coats, etc., at the side entrance.

That being said, the side entrance looked pretty much like butt when we moved in (in theme with the rest of the house). About a year ago, DH painted it, installed a new light (it was a bare bulb before), and put up some more hooks for our jackets and such.

Now that Evan is moving around more, we're getting more and more aware of the dangers in our home. Enter the staircase to the basement (which is off the side entrance):

Fig. 1: Basement stairs before. No risers, no balusters...basically the drop of death to the cement floor below.

So, DH took on the job of making them a bit more safe and much better looking. He added risers and balusters, painted the whole thing and added new treads. I now feel like I can take the laundry down to the basement without having to worry about going ass-over-tea-kettle with a bag of dirty socks and undies.

Fig. 2: The final product.

Next up: DH plans to tile the landing at the side entrance, and we have also started on a landscaping project in the front yard.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: Before I Go to Sleep

Our most recent book club pick was Before I Go to Sleep by S. Watson. A woman wakes up every day not knowing where she is, how old she is, or anything except fleeting memories from her childhood. With the help of a doctor, unbeknownst to her husband, she begins to keep a journal of her memories and uncovers her past.

I liked this book. It was fun to read, it kept on moving like a thriller should, and I didn't see the big twist at the end coming. All the characters were there for a reason, and all the side plots were too. There were some language and random short descriptions or scenes that seemed to be added for pure "shock" value, but it wasn't overly distracting.

I don't think it was one of the best books I've ever read, but it was entertaining in the way it was supposed to be. I do wish they ended a story the day after they did, but then I probably would have complained about the author wrapping everything up too nicely :P I give the book a 3.5/5.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Some Ah-Hah Moments

I had several epiphanies at the conference last week:

1. The people were really nice, welcoming, and including. I wonder if I would still be doing science if I did my PhD in a different field (some of my issues during my PhD were people -related).

2. That being said, discovering the education & outreach community felt like going home. They are definitely my people.

3. I learned more from, and was more interested in, talks not having to do with my PhD research (perhaps another clue I did the wrong thing?).

4. I find it really hard just to go up and talk to someone I don't know. But, if someone comes up to me, I can talk it up with the best of them.

5. Hosting a booth was great to talk to people, have as a meeting place, a quiet place during the day to check email, and to use as storage. Plus, it actually saved us money because the cost (which included two registrations) was cheaper than two regular-member registrations.

6. I forgot how long conference days are! Usually, I was at the conference from 8:30am to 9pm.

7. I'm definitely no longer 22. Not only did I look forward to going back to the hotel each night, I also didn't feel guilty about it whatsoever.

8. Coming home is the best part of any trip.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bumping Meetings

Do you have a general rule of thumb when it comes to holding or bumping meetings? What type of meetings do you feel okay bumping? What kinds of things do you bump meetings for?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Western Worlds Update

Our new radio show has had three episodes, and tonight will be the fourth.

It's been really fun, and we're doing pretty well! We debuted as the second most popular show on the station, and had about 20,000 listeners in the first 24 hours of our first show. Our numbers have been steadily increasing since then.

Tune in tonight at 10pm Eastern on astronomy.fm - after the news and 365 Days of Astronomy. One of our co-hosts, Tyler August, interviews Dr. Paul Wiegert, who was part of the team who discovered the first Trojan asteroid of Earth (published in Nature). The show is also replayed at various times tomorrow.

If you listen to the show, let me know what you think!

Friday, March 16, 2012

33 & Leavin'

Today I turn 33...not sure how it happened, but it did and I'm happier and more secure in myself than I ever have been. The 30s are the best!

And do you know how I'm celebrating? I'm taking the afternoon off to...

...go grocery shopping, do laundry, and get to bed as early as I can because I have to wake up at 4:30am to head out to a conference in Houston :P

I'll fully admit that I'm not excited at all to be going to a conference. Mostly because I don't want to be away from DH and Evan for six days.

But, to try and look on the positive side, I've never been to Houston so hopefully I can see some of the sites. I've also never been to this conference, so hopefully it will be interesting. There is a full-day outreach workshop on Sunday, which is why I'm heading down a bit early, and that should be good.

I have a few short posts scheduled for next week, but I probably won't be around much, so have a good one!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Check Those Receipts

A few weeks ago, DH and I caught a mistake on our grocery bill. We were to get two containers of Parmesan cheese for a certain amount, but were charged the regular price for both.

Since then we've been checking our bills before we leave the store, and we've caught two other major mistakes: one for a $25 cheesecake (we didn't even buy a cheesecake), and instead of being charged for one package of yogurt we were charged for three (at $7.50 each, that's a big difference).

So, over a month, that's three weeks with major mistakes on our bill with a total of about $45. We've caught things in the past, but are kicking ourselves for not going every grocery bill with a fine-tooth comb. We wonder how much have we been overcharged over the years?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Daycare Update

You may remember me writing about our daycare, and the associated centre for teen mothers, closing. After the announcement, there was enough of an outcry from the community that the Salvation Army slightly re-thought their stance.

Just last Friday, the Salvation Army announced that the centre and daycare will close on August 31st unless $1.5 million can be raised by May 31st. It seems like an impossible feat, but the centre is going to do its best. They are in talks with Justin Bieber's mother, who actually stayed at the centre while she was pregnant with Justin. But, I don't think we can depend on her for the full $1.5M.

We will be making a donation, but we're unsure how much right now. The fact that The Salvation Army will still be involved puts us off a bit, but it seems like that's the only way the centre will stay open in the near future. Of course, we are also have a vested interest in keeping the daycare open, but we also are strong supporters of the centre for the teenage mothers as there is nothing else like it within a 200 km radius.

You can read more about the centre here. They also have a Facebook group. If this is something that you would like to support, the donation page can be found here. Donations are made in-trust, so refunds will be made if the goal is not reached. If anyone has any ideas on who to contact for help or donations, or if you have any fundraising tips, please let me know.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Book Review: Sarah's Key


I recently finished reading Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, and it was an incredible, intense, heart-wrenching story.

The book intertwines two stories: one of a young girl (Sarah) who lived in Paris during World War II. Her Jewish family was taken in July of 1942, along with thousands of others, and put into a camp outside of Paris. The second is set in present day, and tells the story of a woman who is assigned to research the Paris round-ups of 1942 and finds a connection to Sarah and her family through a devastating secret her husband's family has kept for over sixty years.

I have never cried so much while reading a book - at least 3 times I can remember, and was on the verge of tears a number of other times. It was gut-wrenching, and there were times that I thought I couldn't read another word. It was horrendous what those families went through, and I can't even fathom how people survived and kept on living afterward.

There were a few things in the book I felt distracted from the main story. Maybe it's just me, but I'm getting really tired of authors trying to throw in every conceivable issue someone could have to make the story more dramatic - divorce, infidelity, infertility, estrangement, etc.. Can't we just have "normal" main characters and focus on the main story?

Even though that bothered me (mostly because I've seen it over and over recently, so it's kind of the straw that broke the camel's back on the subject for me), it didn't take away the raw emotion and devastation of the main story line.

I give this book a 4.75 out of 5.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Men Behaving Badly

DH plays in a recreational soccer league for men over 25 (though the average age is probably closer to 35 or 40). You would think by that age that people would be calm and laid-back enough to have a fun and friendly game.

You'd be wrong.

A few days ago, during the game before DH's, a bench-clearing brawl broke out. Can you even?

Apparently, a player kicked the ball and it came pretty close to another player's head. The second player thought the guy did it on purpose, so he shoved the guy. The guy shoved him back. Now, usually that's where it ends. The guys would get sent off and play would continue. But, I guess a third guy was up for a fight, because he came running from half-way across the court and shoved one of the players too.

Of course, this escalated things, so punches were thrown and at one point there were 4-5 guys kicking a player who was lying on the floor.

Isn't that absolutely appalling? I mean, seriously...this is a middle-age men's recreational soccer league. A lot of the time there are families there watching. How in the world does this kind of thing even happen?

I'm slightly worried that DH will continue to play in this league in the summer. Yes, the league won't be letting those players back in, but this isn't the only altercation he's witnessed. There's constantly 1-2 total jerks on each team who seem like they're looking for a fight. A lot of players - be it from having a lack of ability or from just been aggressive in nature - are overly physical and go after the guy rather than the ball. One guy, who was a goalie, got his hand broken and wasn't able to work for weeks because some other guy took a run at him while he was grabbing the ball.

It doesn't help that the refs in the league don't seem to call many fouls, which means players start getting frustrated and will take more of an aggressive slant to their playing (because if the other guy/team can get away with it, then they should too). But, I still don't think that should excuse this type of disgusting behavior.

Yes, there are times where it's appropriate to be competitive, there's nothing wrong with that. But when it escalates to crap like this, especially when it's supposed to be "just for fun" and a way to get some exercise, it makes me embarrassed for the human race.

Monday, March 5, 2012

feMOMhist's Blog Carnival

feMOMhist came up with a brilliant idea to host a blog carnival for International Women's Day (March 8th). Based on a recent post by Cloud, the carnival is all about how us working moms are attempting to live a balanced life.

Honestly, I'm surprised by how balance my life seems to be right now. Before we had Evan, I really didn't know how it would work. One issue was that I didn't even have a permanent job - I didn't know what I was going to do once my maternity leave was over, let alone how I was going to do it.

However, a couple months before Evan arrived, I was told there was a good chance there would be a job waiting for me when I wanted to return. Though this took months to sort out, it made staying at home with Evan easier knowing I had something to go back too.

Before I starting working again, I was not very happy. I know now, after being home for 9 months with Evan, that I am just not cut out to be a stay-at-home-mom (disclaimer: this is by no means a jab at any woman who chooses to do so). While at home, I didn't feel my life was balanced, as my life was solely about Evan.

Once I went back to work, I was less stressed and definitely happier. DH and I both had our work and we took care of Evan and the house pretty much 50/50. I've blogged about how we split up our duties before, so I won't go over the details again.

I think there are two major things that DH and I do that allow us to have a fairly balanced life:

1. We both have made the conscience decision that family is first and career is second. This may mean we won't be rock stars in our fields, but neither of us value that too much anyway. We both work steady hours (DH 8:30-5, me 9-4:30), and very rarely work in the evenings or on weekends. Both our jobs are flexible so one of us can be home with Evan if he's sick or otherwise can't be at daycare. We absolutely "cash in" all our vacation time without a second thought.

2. We are equal partners. As Cloud mentioned in her post, I chose my partner wisely. We are definitely partners in parenting, chores, etc.. I could not be with a man who considers looking after their kid(s) as "babysitting", or thought cooking and cleaning were women's work, or who was otherwise an irresponsible, lazy schmuck. Not only that, I found someone who has the same values and wants out of life as I do, which makes things infinitely easier when it comes to making decisions big and small.

There are other things that allow us to live a balanced lifestyle as well. We live in a city with a reasonable cost of living so we can own a 4-bedroom house in a wonderful neighborhood. The only debt we hold is our mortgage and car payments (and our debt load is not a significant fraction of our take-home salaries). This allows us to save up money quickly to invest, do renovations, travel, or make large purchases. It also allows us to "buy" time by having cleaners come to our house twice a month.

All these things allow us to live a relatively balanced life. There are things we are working on - like getting more time for ourselves as a couple and individually - but those are coming with time and effort.

This is what has worked for us, and we're both fulfilled on the career and family side of things. It can be done!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Weather Vs. Climate

The Flowing Data blog has a great post up about the difference between weather and climate trends.

Keep it in mind the next time someone says global warming does not exist because it snowed one day in the middle of spring.