Dog Days of Summer

Ice cream at Tulmeadow Farms in West Simsbury, CT

It’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over. I no longer debate whether the house stays cooler with the windows open or closed. There is almost a chill in the air when I wake up in the morning. Yes, at the height of the day the sun still shines warm and bright but there’s no mistaking it setting earlier in the evening. Hear that, tomatoes and melons? Your days are numbered! Get ripening!

The garden got a late start this year (June) so we only started harvesting a few weeks ago, mostly cucumbers and squash. Some of our tomatoes are starting to set but the big ones not so much. Corn, too. A few rattlesnake beans from the two vines that made it (still holding out hope for the one yard long bean vine that’s flowering now). The everlasting chard from last summer is still going strong, but more as chicken food as I pinch off leaves every few days stricken by leafminers. The one crop that exceeded expectations was the one we didn’t have to do anything for — nectarines, lots of delicious, bright red nectarines. I think I ate at least two a day for two weeks straight.

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Tycho: The First Eight Weeks

Photo by Jonathan Lambert

Well, we finally did it. We got a dog!! (Ok, we got engaged and married, too, but back to the exciting stuff…)

I’ve been pining for a dog for at least a couple years now, with a precipitous moment last summer when I chanced upon an adoption fair in a downtown street market coming out of the optometrist’s. His name was Monty (short for Monterey), and he was perfect: a black Lab mixed with enough other things to give him the tuxedo chest, the barest of white points, and that je ne sais quois. It helped that despite being 14 weeks old he was friendly without being excitable — a good personality for a dog.

We didn’t adopt Monty because the circumstances weren’t right, but it got the gears turning with fresh vigor. For the next few weeks I stalked the rescue organization’s website for dog listings and tried to coerce my dog-loving co-workers to adopt Monty in my stead (so I could visit him, or maybe steal him from them later).

Then nearly a year later we had another chance dog meeting. Read more of this post

Love-hate relationship with PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a ubiquitous, tedious, and oft-maligned piece of software that everybody loves to hate. Some say PowerPoint is bad because it’s a crutch that has given us a generation of people who don’t know how to give a presentation. I’ve given it my fair share of hating, but sometimes I have to admit that PowerPoint doesn’t really deserve all the flak it gets.

But this post isn’t about how I secretly love PowerPoint (I don’t think I can quite go that far) or how to give a good presentation, or why PowerPoint slides with blue backgrounds should die — DIE — a slow and painful death. This post is about my new favorite use for PowerPoint:

(full res: pharmacy-sign)

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Get it while it’s hot! 23andMe for $99

You may have already heard the rumors floating around and they’re all true: 23andMe is having another sale — the whole thing for $99!

Edit: No discount codes are needed. There’s an instant discount of $400 off due to the Black Friday+ sale, which will go until Christmas Monday 11/29 or while supplies last. Head on over to the store, or read on for a bit more info.

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New season, new theme

Inspired by Stephanie Huang of projectsteph, I’ve decided to try on a new blog theme. It hasn’t been that long since the last change, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot since then about what I like in a blog, visually: sans serif, a clean palette, nothing too big or dramatic, lots of space for actual posts and minimal styling so that images get full emphasis. But there are always new themes coming out, so who knows if this theme will last a month, a year, more, or less.

Reflections on ASHG 2010

As conferences go, the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) annual meeting is a pretty big deal. Anyone who’s anyone in human genetics is there, and if you want to be someone you better be there, too. And it’s big — this year’s meeting saw more than 6,000 attendees spread throughout a gigantic convention center that spanned four square blocks in the heart of Washington, D.C. Academics, publishers, clinicians, policy wonks, and industry reps staked out their territory among an endless sea of posters, eye-popping demo booths, and cavernous session halls. The international meeting for bioinformatics that I’ve gone to the past seemed quaint by comparison.

At bioinformatics conferences, the common theme is computational methods, applied to a wide variety of topics. At a conference like ASHG, the common theme is human genetics, probed and interpreted with a variety of methods. But even the topic is breathtakingly broad. Sessions covered complex disease, non-coding RNAs, methylation, ethical/social/legal/education issues surrounding genomic research and genetic testing, mouse models, high-throughput sequencing, population and evolutionary genetics, pharmacogenetics, cilia, computational methods, and Mendelian disorders, to name just a few.

I made my first visit to ASHG this year as part of a small contingent from 23andMe*, a direct-to-consumer genomics company. Although I missed a good portion of the conference due to my schedule, some of my colleagues took notes on sessions that I missed, and ample coverage of many of the sessions could be had by following the Twitter hashtag #ashg2010. The following summaries and reflections represent a composite of tweets, other people’s notes, and my personal notes and impressions.
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Marshmallow + microwave = ?

Chris loves marshmallows and it’s partly because he discovered a magical property of theirs back when he was a youngster. Apparently, when you microwave marshmallows, they not only balloon in size, but they become the easiest way to make taffy ever.
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Braised short ribs two ways

French-style Asian-style

I have a special place in my heart for beef stew (from fond childhood memories of Chinese beef noodle soup) but braised short ribs are threatening to knock beef stew from its pedestal. Read more of this post

Blog as recipe archive

I use my blog pretty randomly, posting essays on the culture of science, photo galleries from hiking trips, and the occasional here’s-what-I-did-in-the-last-three-months-since-I-last-blogged. To those who wish I only posted essays, sorry — I know myself and it ain’t going to happen. In fact, I’ve been meaning to document more of my culinary experiences but even this has been a challenge for me; three hours of cooking and eating dinner at 10 PM does not put me in the mood for blogging. (Especially when a purring cat curls up on your lap.) But my “system” of index cards, scribbles torn out of notebooks, and sauce-stained printouts simply isn’t tenable. So over the next month or so I’m going to attempt to catch up a bit on some of the recipes we’ve tried and do a better job of archiving them online.

Let that be a warning to those who could care less about cooking. :)

A quintessential California weekend

After some weeks of cooler weather and intermittent rain, Chris and I wholeheartedly embraced a weekend of warm sunshine to spend outdoors with friends. Ben and Lisa had flown down from Seattle for Heather and Vinny’s wedding and we hosted a barbecue at our house Friday evening so they could see folks. The portable fire pit came in handy as the temperature dropped and we roasted marshmallows well into the night.
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