Saturday, September 30, 2006

High Sierra

I finally got around to posting pictures from our 3-day hike of Mono Pass several weeks ago. Click the links below for each day's pics and narrative.

Day 1 -- Day 2 -- Day 3

Notice how I've cleverly back-dated the posts? Now we can pretend I was really blogging from the wilderness with a satellite phone (or something...)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Stupid Tax

We spent over three hours today at the Virginia DMV today. And that's not even the worst part. Get this: our car got towed while we were there!

It turns out that the DMV has this high-tech waiting room with a complicated electronic queueing system designed to handle hundreds of people... and then they have a teeny tiny parking lot outside. Because why would anyone need to drive to the DMV? Guh. So anyway, we had to park in a lot with somewhat ambiguous signs and we got towed. Of course, I was waiting in a long enough line that Laura Jean had enough time to call a ride to the impoundment lot and return with the car (100 bucks poorer) before my number was even called.

I haaate paying stupid tax.

The funny part is this: all day we were thinking we were kind of lame for getting our car towed from the DMV (I mean, lame, right?), but apparently this happens all the time. We had dinner with two friends tonight and the same thing happened to them. They mentioned that the business which owned the parking lot and the towing company had even been in trouble for predatory towing practices. And a quick google found a bunch more complaints about the same parking lot.

Not that I'm saying we were totally blameless, but it is a little weird. Welcome to Virginia, I guess.

Monday, September 18, 2006

New Blog

The fine folks I had briefly been interning with, Student Pugwash, put me up to writing a blog about transitioning out of academia and into the real world. As a result, I bring you...

The plan is to write about some of the culture clashes you see in moving from academia into the non-profit world, to give some advice about interesting things you can do with a Ph.D., and to learn a little about some of the hot-button science policy topics of the day. Since I just got a job, the blog will be a bit less about job hunting and more about job having, but I'm hoping to make it a good resource for anyone interested in doing something similar. You can read more about it here.

And of course, I would never abandon this blog (stay tuned for the usual movie reviews, pictures, rants and funny links), but if you're interested in science and society, or if you're thinking of not applying for that post-doc, come on over and check it out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Hey, I got a job! Just found out yesterday afternoon that I will be a Researcher/Analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists working for their Scientific Integrity Program. So it's not just any job, but one I'm really psyched about.

For those who don't know them, UCS is a great organization that works to promote sensible, science-based solutions to environmental issues like global warming, clean energy, fuel-efficient vehicles, sustainable agriculture and nuclear non-proliferation. Their scientific integrity gig is a fairly new program designed to counter the recent wave of political interference in scientific results arising from certain quarters of the government (ahem). Since it is potentially such a wide-ranging topic, everything from climate change to endangered species to "abstinence-only" education to HIV/AIDS policy, I'm sure I'll have my hands full learning a ton of new stuff. Which is pretty awesome if you think about it. This week they're sending me to a 3 day crash-course seminar on how the government works.

Mainly, I feel really lucky to have found a job advocating for positive change in our world that also lets me use my scientific training. OK, I'm also relieved not to have to continue with the hideous process of actually looking for a job. Ugh. But for right now, this definitely looks like one version of my ideal job, so we'll see how it goes...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

N. Va.

So we've moved to the burbs, apparently. We live right on the border between Arlington and the town of Falls Church, blessedly close to a metro stop. The neighborhood is called Madison Manor, a name that perfectly describes the cute little collection of modest and rather un-manor-ly little brick houses that comprise it (of course, if you live in an actual manor there's really no need to call it such; at that point you can just name it after a great aunt or a made-up French word). Most houses are small, two-story brick affairs that would look nifty and iconic with an American flag flying in front of them -- a conclusion that a great many residents seem to have come to on their own. On the Suburban Soul-Sucking Scale, you could do a lot, lot worse. For example, the houses don't all look the same, there's a park, tons of tall trees, a great biking path and small patches of forest that contain (according to an informational sign) the ruins of something called Brandymore Castle (!) that dates to pre-Revolutionary times.

Still, coming from Chicago and Hyde Park it is something of an enormous culture shock. At night, it gets fairly dark and really quiet. I can walk to the metro, but have to drive almost anywhere else. I catch myself wondering where are all the currency exchanges, bus stops and bookstores? And why can't I hear any sirens or honking cars? There's parking everywhere -- very strange.

The roads in Virginia are total chaos. A map of Arlington County looks like someone took a perfectly rational city and put it in a blender. 11th Road might cross 11th Street at a funny angle before meandering into 26th Avenue for a block and then changing its name to John Marshall before dead-ending. Oh yeah, and there are no signs to explain any of this. There's a place nearby called Seven Corners, which is exactly what it sounds like. Other names like Bailey's Crossing and Leesburg Pike make you realize that these modern highways mark the same path as muddy, wagon-rutted trails 400 years ago and it's just been that way ever since.

Actually, I haven't explored very much yet. Someone recently told me that Falls Church is "still funky and weird," which sounds encouraging. I don't know much of the history, but I feel like Arlington has historically had a very conservative, anti-DC feel to it, but that it is changing and becoming more liberal (and way more diverse) in recent years. At any rate, many adventures to be had -- it's very exciting to learn the ins and outs and the hidden cool stuff of a new place. And there's always DC if I desperately need my urban fix.

[ PS- Laura Jean points out to me that Brandymore Castle is not really a ruin of a castle, but is actually just a limestone rock outcropping on top of a hill that looks a bit like a castle and so got that name. It was however, a prominent landmark used by surveyors dating to 1724. Link here and scroll down a bit to read the description. It's still a nice little walk up the hill, though... ]

Friday, September 08, 2006

Summer of Travels, Part 1

At long last, we're back in our new home in Arlington, VA and are mostly settled in. I've accumulated lots to blog about, but for now I'll just post some pics of some of our travels this summer.

Early in the summer, we went to Virginia to scope out our new house and have our first meal together with Jesse, Grace and Amy.

Then we took a trip to Omaha, Nebraska to visit with our friends, Becky and Joe. Becky was roomies with Laura Jean at Christ House, and we had to miss their wedding last summer since we were double booked with another friend's wedding that same day.

By random coincidence, my Mom and my Aunt Kathleen were also in Nebraska visiting family with my grandmother, and they drove to Omaha to take us to lunch...

... and some delicious locally made ice cream.

We also went car-camping with Bromleigh and Josh up in Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin.

If you're into geology, Kettle Moraine is really cool since it marks part of the furthest advance of the glaciers during the last ice age and has lots of really unusual land formations. They are building a 1,000-mile trail called the Ice Age Trail that takes you through Wisconsin all along the edge of the glacial advance; we walked about 20 feet on the trail just for fun.

Mostly, we just enjoyed the woods and the water and the feeling that we weren't in the middle of an enormous city.

Then we were off to Ann Arbor, Michigan for Eduardo and Jen's wedding.

There were lots of Chicago folks making the trek over, along with dancing...

... and cake.