Tuesday, December 22, 2009

happy holidays

I am amused that blogger posts things in the opposite order that you load them. Silly blogger.

We're big on Christmas. As many of you know because you get cards from us every year. I love stockings. I love having lights hung on something. (For xmas purposes, we just declare that the red abstract sculpture is an abstract rendering of a tree so I that I can just go on and call it a tree.) I love that we have ornaments from N's childhood. I love wrapping presents. I love cookies. (Made a full batch of rugelach for the first time (usually I freeze half the dough) and it went FAST.) We get a ham. We make fancy macaroni and cheese to go with it. There will be at least one present to play with Christmas day. Every year I watch Miracle on 34th Street. I reread Hogfather. (gonna have to get on that! but it takes about 4 hours to read when it's for the umpteenth time) We usually watch Die Hard, but I can probably live if we skip it this year. We're expecting more snow starting tonight, so it will probably even be a white Christmas.

Other than baking cookies, I don't feel like I've been up to much lately. Or at least that's interesting to share. (Interested in the state of Vlad's bowels? Much improved. Even that is TMI.) I declare that the pictures make up for my lack of words. Happy Holidays to all of you! I hope you all have traditions you enjoy as much as we do ours.

Monday, December 7, 2009


should be working on my proceedings paper. Guess I will be soon.

Vlad is hanging in there - nothing new wrong with him, and he is active and happy. Starting to adjust his meds to get him on fewer of them.

Gustav had a growth removed - it's benign. Stitches come out of his butt Friday.

I had a mole removed - it's benign. No stitches for me at least. :)

I argued with the school about some things. We now agree that I have had enough immunizations to register for classes in the spring. (In that special way, where I had to sign a waiver for my mumps shot... ) and that I really only need 10 more thesis hours and to defend my dissertation. Not 3 more classes and 9 more hours.. (I have no idea how they got that from my records.. )

Last judo tournament of the year was Saturday - I got to fight a nice brown belt. Lost the two fights, but had good ones. I think the next really local one is in April, and is the giant one that my club hosts.

I have more baking plans than time. Need to write this paper to free up some time!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How I make pie crust

(This is how it should look when you're done mixing - this is 2 crusts worth.)
Proportions from "The Basic Pie Crust" in Bernard Clayton, Jr.'s The Complete Book of Pastry, Sweet and Savory

6 Tblsp of fat, frozen. Lard is perfect. Butter is too soft, but half
butter, half crisco works pretty well. I freeze discs wrapped in wax
paper because it's easy to break the discs up.

Put 1 c flour in the food processor. Add a spoonful of sugar if you
want. Break up the fat onto it. Pulse until no fat particles bigger
than a pea are left. Add a little bit of ice water (Tblsp at a time if
you want to measure) give it a couple of pulses, check to see if it's
starting to clump together. Repeat the add water/pulse step until it
does. You are trying to create flour covered fat lumps that have just
enough water to gather together.

Dump the dough out onto some cling wrap, shove it into a lump. Wrap it
up and stick it in the fridge for at least 4 hours, not much more than
a day.

When you roll it out, be crazy generous with the flour. Cover the
surface, cover the rolling pin, cover both sides of your dough lump.
Once I have it rolled out, I usually fold it into 4ths to transfer to
the pie pan.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We love this dog

Vlad has been very sick. Two Thursdays ago, he was diagnosed with Auto Immune Hemolytic Anemia which on its own is often fatal. His white blood cells are trying to kill his red blood cells, and they had gotten dangerously low. His tongue was completely white by the time we got him into the vet. Not knowing to look for paleness, all we knew was that he was lethargic and had stopped eating. (Most dogs don't stop eating. I'm glad he did - Vlad lethargic is about as active as Gustav, so it didn't seem like we needed to worry that much other than the lack of eating.) Within a few days after his diagnosis, he also had pancreatis (pancreatitis? something bad.) and his blood proteins were way off. It turns out that when you have low protein in your blood, fluids seeps out of the blood vessels and collects in the belly. Vlad gained 5 lbs in fluid. (Normal weight: 30 lbs) There was so much fluid it was pushing on his lungs. After two transfusions (one of plasma, one of a plasma substitute) we are now treating his kidneys with a special diet and yet another pill.

The low protein and the pancreas problems are not usual complications of the auto immune induced anemia. He's just special.

So now we're giving him steroids and a human immune supression drug. We did a round of antibiotics. And he's got drugs for his kidneys. And antacids to try to keep the steroids from giving him ulcers. He's down to 31 lbs.

He still may succumb to the anemia pretty quickly, but for now, it looks like it's under control.

If your dog becomes lethargic and you think his tongue/gums are pale - get to the vet!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Suggestion for your First Loaf of Bread

Slight adaptation of King Arthur Flour's Our Favorite Sandwich Bread
2 tsp yeast
1 c water
1/3 c dry milk
2 Tblsp sugar
1 c whole wheat flour
2 Tblsp butter, soft
1 1/4 tsp salt
All purpose flour for remainder

The ingredients are listed in the order that I suggest adding them. It shouldn't matter much, but it's kind of nice to to dissolve the yeast in liquid first.
I use Rapid Rise yeast. Rose uses it for everything, so it must be fine. BUT it's fine to use any kind - you just may have longer rise times.
I use dry milk because a) I always have it on hand and b) the more finicky recipes I see say you must scald milk before you use it, but that dry milk is ok to just dump in.
It doesn't have to be white sugar. Brown sugar might add some warmth to the flavor. Honey is nice but kind of a pain to measure in small quantities. Molasses will give it a noticeable kick.
The whole wheat flour is optional - you can just use all purpose for the whole thing and get a nice white loaf.
I'd probably just do two rises at sea level - this was tested at high altitude.

Stir main ingredients together.
Add 1 c all purpose flour and stir.
Add about 1/2 c flour at a time, stirring, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to come together as a single mass.

Cover your hands in flour (adding more as needed) and knead 6-8 minutes. (Punch it, fold it, throw it on the counter, search for youtube instructional videos - however you want to knead it.) As far as I can tell, you pretty much CAN'T overknead by hand, so go at least the 6 minutes and all the way up to 10 if that makes you happy.
For a single loaf recipe like this, I often mix in a large bowl, knead in the bowl so I don't get flour everywhere, and rise it in the same place.

Oil a bowl lightly, form the dough into a ball by tucking the ends under, place it in the bowl and cover. Kitchen towel or cling wrap will do if your bowl doesn't have a lid.

Allow to rise until doubled in size - about an hour, but varies GREATLY by warmth of room, altitude, etc. The first rise is usually the longest.

Punch it down, give it a few folds to distribute the bubbles. Reform, recover the bowl, and allow to rise to double its size again.

Oil (or better - that spray oil with flour incorporated) a loaf pan. Flatten your dough into a rectangle, and roll it into about the length of the pan. Tuck the ends over if you need to. Place in the pan with the seam down.
Spray oil top of dough, cover with cling wrap. Allow to rise til crest is about an inch over the top of the pan.

You may slash the top of the loaf before putting it in the oven. I did a single slash down the center.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Potato Bread

Heavily adapted from "Sister Jennie's Potato Bread" in Bernard Clayton, Jr.'s The Complete Book of Breads

For the sponge:
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c potato flakes
  • 1 c whole wheat
  • 2 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
Should make a thick batter, allow to rise until doubled in bulk: about an hour.

Stir in
  • 1 softened stick of butter
  • enough all-purpose flour to make kneadable
Knead 8 minutes, allow to rise until doubled in bulk: about an hour.

Shape into two loaves, allow to rise until about an inch above the edge of the loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then cover with foil. Bake for 25-30 more minutes.

It is very prone to burning, so don't forget the foil.

Monday, October 26, 2009

collection of updates

The leak was the overflow drain from the tub. So incredibly glad we found it before we patched the ceiling. We (really, my lovely husband) replaced the gasket and applied some caulk and soon we'll test it. THEN we'll buy a green board and fix the ceiling.

I DO really love judo tournaments. It's the exhilarating combination of "I never would have guessed I can do this" with "I am getting better and better at this." Sadly, N is bored to tears by them. (I can't blame him - we were stuck in a high school gym for 4.5 hours for me to get 3 fights. None of them lasted the whole time, so that's less than 9 minutes on the mat? less than 15? (Not sure how long our rounds were.)) I like having him there, but not enough to ruin his whole day again.

I have now given a talk at a real conference, like with grownups, not just students. It was terrifying, but I think it went well, and if it didn't I'll never know because the attendees at the Army Conference on Applied Statistics are the nicest bunch of people I could hope to meet in such a short time frame. Lots of interesting talks, lots of interesting conversations. (Example - have now chatted with someone who actually worked at Rand. EEEEE.)

My potato bread recipe has emerged out the side of my tinkering and tastes great. I'll have to type it up soon. (It's chicken scratch on the back of my flu shot info sheet right now. )

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Also worth noting...

In both the spirit of documenting home improvement, and "we love you, but.. now's not a good time to visit."

We're down a bathroom. The ceiling of the spare bathroom had water damage. So we got to take it apart (not all of it thank god) and look for the leak. The scary (but sorta good) part is we see no leak. I'm hopeful that this is somehow from replacing the upstairs toilet last summer, and we just never noticed. (It wasn't too obvious, just that droopiness in the paint. Not even any discoloration.)

But at the moment, there's a 2' x (length of the room) strip of ceiling missing, and the rest of the room is dropclothed and covered with ceiling bits. We need to buy a green board, and go through the whole patching, taping, mudding and painting rigamaroll. Once we've convinced ourselves thoroughly that this is not an ongoing leak so we won't have to do it all over again in a few months.

As usual, we're in no huge hurry to get it fixed. My hard deadline is next fall in time to try to talk some of you into coming up for Beerfest. :)

Ah, the things you learn as a homeowner.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Plague House

I just slept almost 12 hours. N is still sleeping. I don't think it's a flu since a) we got flu shots Sunday and b) I seem to be on the mend already and never had much of a fever, and most of my misery was snot related. It was a real triumph to sleep through the night without medical support.

I do seem to get sick right after judo tournaments though. (Yeah, there was one last Saturday. I met new people... and got beat up by them. I got one lucky round, earning me 3rd place.)

Anecdote: Vlad is the finickiest dog ever.
Gustav has special "limited ingredient diet" food. Vlad ate it for months, and then suddenly refused to, choosing instead to steal what human food he could, dig in the compost, and eat used tissues. So we moved Vlad back to the food they were both on before, which Gustav is definitely allergic to. All was well for months, despite having to protect Vlad's bowl at all times from his voracious brother.
We got a new flavor of special diet food, duck and potato, and tried it on both dogs. Gustav is fine with it. Vlad... started crying and backing away from his food bowl as if it were the scariest thing ever. In retaliation for trying to feed him duck, he now hates his old food as well. Just totally ignores it. After two days of not seeing him eat anything, we gave him one of the emergency cans of wet food. That's apparently ok.
Any thoughts on how to find kibble Vlad will eat? Or what to do with 30+ lbs of expensive dog food that he's now bored with?

(UPDATE: We won. He's decided kibble isn't THAT bad and has grudgingly gone back to eating. )

I'm spending most of next week at a conference. I'll be presenting, which of course scares the beejeebus out of me. But I'm late in the week, first in my session. Combination of time to prepare and getting it over with. It's a small conference, but there are two tracks, so I am weirdly comforted that if I am too boring everyone can go listen to someone else.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's officially fall

first pumpkin burps of the season.

For N's work retreat, we spent last weekend at a dude ranch. In the mountains. Yeah. Driving in them scares me less when there isn't snow on the ground (though it was a close call, luckily it stopped snowing and warmed up for the weekend.) But I am not a fan of "Beware of Falling Rocks" signs. Especially the one that looked like it got hit by one. Unsurprisingly, I'm not really a dude ranch kind of person. But the people were nice and it was hard to be stressed about all my lowlander stuff. N rode a horse for the first time and enjoyed it, and unsurprisingly also enjoys shooting skeet.

This weekend some friends had a joint birthday party and I made cake: Sour Cream Chocolate Layer Cake from Baking Illustrated (store chocolate frosting that doesn't go bad when warm), and Pumpkin Gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for the chocolate haters. Good party, met some new people and got to see some people I don't see often enough.

I finally feel like I'm starting to get a handle on research, which is good, because I need to present some results in the next couple of weeks. EEP. I'm pretty sure it's going to be ok.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A list

This week's winning recipe: Baked Ziti

Honorable mention: Blondies from Baking Illustrated - Altitude adjustment 1. They're not quite right yet, but it was a step in the right direction - the edge pieces aren't insanely gooey.

Daytime high temperature: 85

Daytime low temperature: 40

Number of layers worn today: 3

Most annoying thing about working from home on a cold day: If I hold one dog in my lap, the other gets jealous and demands playtime.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Last weekend we had some friends come into town, and we had fun showing off some Colorado-isms, as well as our house and cooking abilities. (N proved that yes, yes, he can grill steak pretty darn well. mmm. And at his brilliant request, I made a well received buttermilk pie.)

The dogs and I got our fall haircuts. They look like labrador puppies and I'm looking a lot more corporate and grown-up than I asked for... which is probably for the best.

I'm getting jazzed about my new work project - I love getting to do some research for work. I'm still pretending to be a java coder, but it's taking less of my time.

I need to mail in my form for the next judo tournament. Got Sensei's signature approving my entry in my division. Speaking of judo, I totally broke my left baby toe last week, so both little toes are miserable. Flip-flops for awhile, just when it's starting to get cold. :|

It's looking like a pretty quiet month, but October has two judo tournaments and a conference, so I'm trying to savor the quiet.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This week I ..

  • fought in my first judo tournament - lots of things went wrong, but I had a great time
  • talked to my 2nd line for the first time ever, to let him know that one day, I will need a real job - went pretty well?
  • gave my thesis proposal - went really well, no one said I needed to do more stuff, and now; now, I have an approved plan for getting from here to thesis-done.
I'm going to have a holiday weekend now. Perfect timing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

how did these get moved to mondays?

My thesis proposal is scheduled for the Thursday of next week. I'm a little scared, which means I'll be spending lots more time talking myself hoarse rehearsing it between now and then.

I've got bunches of cherry tomatoes! Every day or two I get to pick 2-6 tomatoes, wash them off, put them in a little bowl and snack on one everytime I walk through the kitchen. They all taste great, but the skins on the littlest ones are kind of tough. There's a ton of peas sitting on their vines too - N has to decide to pick them since they are his.

Gustav had his followup dermatologist visit. We all agree he is much improved, but suspect that not only does he have a food allergy, but there's probably also a pollen or dustmite allergy still bothering him. It's still a lot better, so for now we'll stick with treating the symptoms instead of putting him on lifetime meds.

I even had to go to the doctor - I had an infected cyst. Now I have an itchy, healing hole in my back which is a big improvement. They kept asking me "you've never had one of these before?" in that way that means that the odds favor that I'll get another one day. Joy.

We survived both the judo picnic and the math dept bbq. I am endlessly amused that we were not the only ones who went to both - the wife of one of the professors is very into judo. Black belt, stands up front with the instructors when she visits my club, whole deal. N made friends with the entire math dept by running the grill.

I'm not ready for summer to really be over, but it's not waiting for me. :( I even wrapped up my summer work project - I really did write a instant messaging bot. Of course, I have a bunch of next release todo's on my list...

Monday, August 17, 2009

while my code is running

Classes start today. You know, for those other people. But it's also a sign that it's time for me to get really serious about research. I've been asking people (mostly people with PhDs.. ) for advice on how to make this happen. The one tidbit that really rang for me so far was "do something everyday." (I will try to give myself one guilt free weekend day.) I also had the kind of "duh" realization that since I work from home on autonomous projects... I should already have the right kind of scheduling and prioritizing skills that say, get a java bot written when I don't know java.

So I'm trying to quit work early every day and do at least 2 hours of thesis work every evening. I've already gotten carried away with this annoying bug in my code which is making it easy to keep working. I bought myself the same kind of notebook I use for my work todos, and I'm making the same kind of todo list. I'm not sure if I want to write my hours worked, or nothing at all by each day. (For work, this is my proto-timecard piece of the notebook.) I'm experimenting with one line of what I got done that day.

If this doesn't work out, my next best guess is to work two long days and two short days and do thesis work on the short days. Every day sounds like a good habit if I can manage it. I'm always happier to have a plan.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

done with classes

So... I'm starting to really believe this. I'm done with classes now. I'll still sit in on things, but no more homework.

My presentation went really well. One of the simple examples was simple enough to have the class play, and I gave them brownies "as the game payoff" (but, yes, really I just gave everyone brownies. I have never seen such a welcome as when I walked in with food. I think this has a lot to do with class being from 10:30 to 1:00.) The paper went ok, and it's handed in, ....

which means I should have an economics degree now? Today I realized that no one had sent me any information about graduation or tried to rent me a gown, so maybe the paperwork didn't actually go through. At worst, it's all done but the paperwork, but either way, I (will) have an M.A. in Economics. Stubbornness pays off once again.

I got everything on my to-do list done at work. It's a weird feeling. I do have some other things that need to be converted from "try this vague thing" to an actual task, but it's still a strange and wonderful sense of accomplishment. And perfect timing because I'm only working a two-day week, because

Wednesday I'm flying out to stay with my friend in Florida. I'm really excited to see her house, meet her cats, go to the beach, and generally be on something resembling vacation.

But I'm still a good PhD student, because I've already packed a book I need to dig through for my thesis proposal.

Bonus: I have a ripe-ish tomato. Tomorrow, I'll pick it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

last week of the last class

EVER! I can't quite believe it. It is starting to sink in that I really need to do a presentation Tuesday, and that I have a paper to write for Friday. eep. Hopefully it will go fast in that magic way where at least I have done all the reading for it, and my brain has been mulling it all over for a few weeks. (My topic is information cascades. My problem is that I don't really have a conclusion, just "This is what they are. Here are some things we could try to model with them." No conclusive feel on whether these are helpful models or anything..)

So I'm spending the weekend trying to get funky unix programs to draw game trees installed, and baking blondies so that I can bribe the class to pay attention to my presentation. :)

I have lots and lots of things to do for my research (and in the immediate term, say early Sept., my thesis proposal) but I really can't do them until I'm done with this class and my brain unwinds a little bit.

One of my tomato plants is going totally nuts: 20+ fruit already, and more flowers going. The other has _1_ lonely fruit, but a few more flowers, so we'll see. Does days to maturity mean from the time they become fruit? 65 days is forever! It looks like some squirrels dug up all but one of the onions. Left them lying around complete with little teethmarks. The strawberry plants are getting bigger, but no sign that they are interested in bearing fruit.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

SIAM Annual Meeting

I spent most of the last 5 days wandering around the convention center and watching math talks that were way over my head. (Somehow I also managed to go to judo once, work one afternoon, make it to my class and do most of my homework. I am BEAT.)

There was a career fair Monday night, which combined with meeting lots and lots of about-to-graduate PhDs, gave me way too much food for thought about what I want to be when I grow up. I didn't meet anyone else who was working (not counting the one guy from our school - I didn't meet anyone NEW to me who was working.) Things I had never thought about before: there are non-academic jobs that still have to do grant proposals. There's a whole network of national labs that work on anything they can get the funding for - but that involves a LOT of chasing the funding. I am even more amazed at how many government and government contracting jobs there are out there. (and how they are ALL in the D.C. area.) I met _4_ people from real industry, and 2 of them work for IBM.

I can feel my brain slowly sorting out the talks and making connections to things people I know are working on. So my brain still hurts, but I don't feel as dumb as I was for most of the week. :)

Things that are going to be really really big over the next 5 years:
  • parallel computing
  • multiscale dynamical systems (example: modeling both how the bacteria act within a person and the social networks that have them moving between people)
  • techniques for insanely big datasets
  • measuring uncertainty (there's a fancier word for it that I'm not remembering right now)
It was very much not a statistics conference. I met one person who actually identified as a statistician. It was funny to me how much talk there was about how they wanted greater interconnection within the math community, but how stats does not seem to be part of that community. (Computer Science is though.)

Now my poor brain has to do game theory homework (the last talk I saw seemed to be about proving that the next homework I have due will be harder than the last one. Seriously. ) and try to start on a game theory paper.

sourdough sleep

The starter went into the fridge last Sunday, right after a feeding, and I pulled it back out Friday evening. I let it come to room temperature, then planned to feed it as normal. But the top layer was kind of a funky color (grey-blue tinge) and the smell was a little off, so I scraped off the top layer, moved half to a clean jar and fed it. This morning it looked/smelled fine, and I started a batch of sourdough. I'm sure I'll report back on true rise time.

UPDATE: on a warm summer day - takes 7 hours to rise

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sourdough Status

(sorry, I gotta put this somewhere or I'll just forget it all.)

Weirdness: I think my starter doesn't like all purpose flour. Within two feedings of switching to all-p it starts smelling bad and separating and looking gross. Stick to whole wheat and it smells like tangy bread. Tried twice, once with new flour that I was sure was unbleached. Science says stick with whole wheat.

I think that was what I was smelling with the first round of sandwich bread from it. This week I made another batch - all whole wheat starter, added 1/2 c dry milk. I can taste a slight tang to tell me it came from sourdough and not tame yeast, but it's slight enough that pb&j's don't taste weird on it.

I'm going to make one more batch Sunday, and then try to put the starter to sleep in the fridge.

Happy Independence Day!

For a change, we actually have plans for the Fourth: some friends are coming over and braving the city's festivities at a park we can walk to (chili cookoff!) and then there's some other friends are throwing a party this evening. (It's kind of strange being old enough to have people you know from work that have moved on YEARS ago.)

My birthday was Tuesday. It was good - but because I am really good at spreading it out. Tuesdays I have 2.5 hours of Game Theory, an hour roundtrip spent on the bus, 4 hours of work, and judo. So:

Saturday I tried to modify Ruth Reichl's fantastic cheesecake recipe (from Garlic and Sapphires if the book weren't so funny, I'd be telling people to go get it at the library just for the recipes) into an espresso cheesecake reminiscent of Cafe Brazil. Plain layer, coffee flavored layer, mocha flavored layer. Good, but then the recipe calls for a sweet sour cream layer - too tart to play nice with the coffee flavors even though it was perfect with the lemon zest original. Next time: chocolate ganache layer! Also I'm totally going to start making cheesecake crust out of shortbread cookies.

Sunday we made Scallops St Jacques (yes, because the description sounded good in the first Spenser novel. yes, I'm a dork) and baked potatoes. Amazingly, baking the potatoes was the more finicky part. They take forever! and it's a pain to guess when they're done. The sauce was totally awesome and a great baked potato topper. Cooked scallops are still too fishy for me - they were ok, but not great. I picked them out and fed them to my obliging husband. The mushrooms really make the dish.

Tuesday I got promoted to a judo orange belt. Let's not talk about how incredibly insanely bad the test was - that seems to be the one part my club does really badly. At least I don't have to deal with it often.

Next week is an all-week math conference - conveniently located downtown. I also need to get cracking on my Game Theory paper (I think I have an idea for it.. ) and do something for my research. I should do another homework problem before people come over...

Friday, June 26, 2009

"I only want the food bowl if you're eating out of it."

My dog is a butthead.

We have pea plants!
and leeks. and about 2 carrots. the raspberry is probably dead.

The sourdough was really good! I think it overrose (and in only 8 hours, not the 12-15 listed in the recipe) but it still made awesome sandwiches.

Since we went through that so fast, I then modified his whole wheat recipe to make more normal sandwich bread using the starter to rise. (Mods: used veg oil instead of olive, only 1.5 cups whole wheat, the rest all purpose. ) It rose fine and has great texture, but something about the taste seems off to me. I switched the starter back to whole wheat flour (it was on all purpose for the 5 days between making sourdough and making regular bread) and I think I'll add some dry milk to the next batch. (and maybe up the whole wheat to 2 cups total.)

Good research meeting with my advisor. The only problem is that we have such good meetings and I have so much to do afterwards that I feel like I won't be ready to meet again for months!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

baking, hiking, being bad at algebra

Just out of the oven! Sourdough from my very own, week-old starter. It definitely rose, so the starter can't be too bad... we'll know more when we actually taste it. The starter smells a LOT better than it did earlier in the week.

After 4 years in Colorado, we finally saw one of the not-too-far tourist attractions: Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.Of course, this was only accomplished because friends from much much further away were going and let us tag along. It was fantastic to see you guys - and I find all hikes a lot more interesting with good company.

and the algebra.. well. I just have to force myself to take it slow. and use a calculator when adding and subtracting two digit numbers. It's pitiful, but if I just hurry through my game theory homework, it takes me many many tries to solve very simple algebra problems correctly.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I bet you're sick of hearing about school

So for now, let's just note that Game Theory started and it hurts my head.

Today I theoretically started a sourdough starter. I'm following these instructions. Wish me luck and I'll keep you updated.

I'm also planning on trying Khachapuri, also known as cheese pie. We will use whatever random cheese we have on hand, because we're cheap and like things to be easy.

We finished planting the garden: garlic, leeks, carrots, leeks, different carrots, peas, soybeans. I'll post a picture when more of it has sprouted.

Last weekend, I went to a judo tournament and watched and took photos. I did feel kind of left out for not competing, but I'm glad I saw one before I tried to. I'm still taken aback by all the yelling and instructions from the sideline. And now I have a valid reason to get a new camera: I ran out of battery before I ran out of picture space, and it really didn't pick up good enough quality on the shots I did get. (Though it's hard to get a good shot of two people in white pjs rolling around.)

What new things did you try this week?

Friday, June 5, 2009


I have some kind of summer head cold. Since Monday I've been snotty with occasional sore throat extra. I thought I was almost better Wednesday, but the snot returned with a vengeance. Bah.

So I've been muddling through with a head that doesn't quite work for a week. Not bad enough to take a sick day, so I'm still doing my share of pretending to be a java developer (you know what sucks? convincing java to accept a self-signed ssl certificate) and critiquing slide decks.

Summer school starts next week. I owe my econ collaborators some work soon. I set up research meetings with my advisor. I wish I was raring to go, but I think I at least have most of my ducks in a row.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

and since I stopped waiting for them

A's in everything but Functional, A- in Functional.

I would have been happy with B's in Bayesian and Monetary Policy (because they are HARD)
and I didn't think to hope I would get higher than a B in Functional (it is EVEN HARDER and way out of my field of expertise)

Filled out my Intent to Graduate with my M.A. in Economics in August.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Coming out of the Fog

I've been kind of holding off until they post grades, so that the semester will really feel completely over. But they are taking their sweet time about it, and I'm going to try not to let it make me crazy.

I am very probably done with coursework for math, and am taking one course this summer to finish off Economics. (Game Theory - I'm really looking forward to it. It fits in perfectly with the economics courses I took last semester.)

I never know how crazy the school year has made me until it's over. My brain is finally starting to let go of the constant refrain of "You're behind, we should be working on X." that has been dogging me for the last few months. Actually looking at the list of courses I took last semester, I see that it was a completely nuts courseload. I took 3 classes that were extreme stretches of my ability and took a lot of work and a lot of brainpower. And well.. I had comps.

Work is awesome. I've got a big "learn new things, bulk up IT side of resume" project that I expe ct will take most of the summer. This week I did a reasonable impression of a Java coder, taking apart a tutorial with enough understanding to throw out the bulk of the extra crap they were trying to show off and actually have a Sametime bot that talked to a webpage at the end. (Note: actually following their instructions did not result in having something that worked in the end.) I'm very proud of this because I have no formal background in Java, and haven't even tried to use it in almost 2 years.

We have almost no plans for the long weekend. Should be a wonderfully lazy time. :)

Friday, May 8, 2009


Bayes is done. (Which is a whole long story in and of itself. For me at least, it was an incredibly hard topic to try to teach myself. I think I learned enough to ask good questions, but certainly not enough to be able to use a Bayesian technique for an analysis.)

I got some ideas and some guidance on where the econ paper should go.

We planted the berries last weekend. They're not dead yet. The garlic, onions, mint and oregano are alive. (The mint and oregano came back from last year. They seem to be well entrenched. )

Work is a little crazy right now, but I think it's mostly that my brain badly needs a break.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Quiet Week

It's pretty quiet here. I'm groping for something to talk about.

School - One Functional Analysis quiz handed in (including something resembling a proof to the representation theorem for the dual of l^p spaces), lots learned about central bank independence and how hard it is to measure. No more Monday/Wednesday night classes, which should help my overall sanity greatly.

Garden - We had one totally gorgeous day: Wednesday. Yesterday it was in the 40s in the afternoon, and it's looking to be a grey weekend. So we still have 3 berry bushes on our kitchen counter. The raspberry is blooming.

Dogs - Gustav had his second trip to the doggie dermatologist yesterday. We're pretty sure he has allergies. We're starting an 8 week food trial hoping that will do it. Doggie meds for allergies are either steroids (lots of bad side effects and not ok with his arthritis meds) or the miracle pill that costs $5/day - every other day forever. Best part: approved restricted/allergy diet dog treat? Potato chips. There's a bag of Ruffles in the dog treat corner now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Yay, ASA Spring Meeting! Boo, ASA Spring Meeting!

Every year, my local statistics group holds an all day meeting/mini-conf. Lots of local people give talks, especially students. This is my 3rd year going, and it's getting to that great point where I know a lot of the people.

Today, I gave a talk. (I hate public speaking. But I survived business school with flying colors, which means I am pretty good at it. Today... not so much.) I gave the talk Wednesday at school to help fill out the stats seminar schedule and to practice it and make sure it was the right length and everything. Lesson learned: talk given to 4 people who are not afraid to interrupt - 30 minutes. Talk given in smallish auditorium where no one says anything? 15 minutes. Elementary talk issue and I so know better, but I didn't want to think of more content so I tried to pretend it was ok. Oh well. I was right before lunch, and I don't think anyone begrudged being able to go to lunch early. I did get some good responses from other people in industry, no one suddenly found a huge flaw in my project, and an undergraduate told me he wants my job when he grows up.

Today, I was SUPPOSED to present a poster. They didn't tell me that no one else wanted to present a poster, so they canceled the poster session. I was really looking forward to having something in the "Posters Presented" section of my C.V., but oh well. The bad thing is that I spent ~ 4 frantic hours attempting to print the damn thing out yesterday (plus another 2 finishing it up). FYI - Adobe Reader refuses to tile a large pdf and print it on many sheets. You need Acrobat. The people at Kinko's have Acrobat (or something) and will do it for you, but they will not listen and print it on big sheets so they can charge you more. They would love to print it all at once, but that will cost at least $50, so....

I have a 8 sheets of 11" x 17" taped together that I'm going to take to school and post somewhere, because goshdarnit, I made a poster!

Three weeks left in the semester. Two function analysis homeworks (take home quizes, whatever you want to call them), one paper for monetary policy (How much of the Financial Crisis can be explained by the Credit Channel?), and one example to work up for Bayesian. Research may get to wait a bit, since it got a lot of the last two weeks in order to make the poster happen. STUPID POSTER.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The best part of doing everything at once

is when it all overlaps. It makes me so happy to read monetary policy papers - written by my teacher - using the same selection bias fix we're using at work. I love how math sits in the middle of all these fields.

Friday, April 17, 2009

School is right on top of me

which I think is pretty normal for this point in the semester: 4 weeks left including finals.

Since I'm only taking one "real" class, this is almost all self-inflicted, which will hopefully give me an edge next year when its all research. The worst of the deadlines are because of ASA Spring meeting next Friday - where I'm hopefully giving a talk and presenting a poster. Except the project the talk is based on is not done, and I haven't actually turned all my source material and simulations into a poster yet. (The poster is on the first tangible piece of my thesis research and I'm really happy that it's so together in my head. But it will be FANTASTIC to have it be a real thing even if it is taped together sheets of regular paper.)

Part of my Monetary Policy independent study is sitting in on the related classes of Macro - at 7:00-8:15 MW nights. Which with Judo kills every last one of my weeknights. I skipped Judo Tuesday, opting to fight with Bayesian (why does MCMC simulation converge to the correct posterior distribution?) and bang out the R code for my poster simulations. The class is good - I'm following everything despite having taken Macro 4.5 years ago - but I hope it doesn't last for the rest of the semester.

Functional Analysis homework due Thursday - and he hasn't covered even half of the sections the homework is out of. Wish me luck on an extension to that due date.

It's snowing. I'm not sure whether I want to find out if there is an econ talk today. If I don't know, I don't have to go. (Is it my fault they can't seem to send out announcements? and then they wonder why no students show up.)

This is about as exciting as it is likely to get for the next few weeks - the home stretch of mathematics coursework. (I'm taking one more class this summer towards my economics masters - then it's all thesis hours!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

New home on the web

Blogging is a great way to keep in touch with the friends I don't see often enough. So no apologies for the minutiae, or the many weeks when nothing seems to happen.