Percolating Thoughts

Some various thoughts that flow from one to the next:

  1. A PhD candidate in ecology once told me that he didn’t understand how people gained weight from calories. “Isn’t it just energy?” It was a rather startling reminder of just how stratified different fields of science are. I explained that extra energy is stored as fat in the body.
  2. I was listening to a Star Talk Radio episode during my run yesterday and they talked about how you have to have an energy source to make a starship start flying (that is, to overcome the pull of gravity). So I started trying to work out the science of exercise in my head.
  3. I’ve been slowly trying to understand eating for fitness. It’s pretty sad that I’m most comfortable with eating for weight loss, not for supporting physical fitness (though there are definite huge overlaps, since I don’t believe in unsustainable diets).
  4. I had one of those, “Oh wow, evolution is beautiful” moments this morning. Here’s what hit me: Our body is designed to quickly and easily provide that energy we need to overcome inertia/gravity/etc whenever we decide to move. We barely have to think about doing it. This is incredibly basic science, but it was never explained that way in high school. No one ever took our Biology class and our Physics class and said, “Here is a real-life, everyday example that matters for you: do you realize HOW CRAZY IT IS that you can just start walking right now if you want to?” (I could rant for hours about how little of our high school curriculum was made applicable to everyday life, and therefore accessible/relevant enough to really engage us in the subject matter.)
  5. I did a quick Google search and found this website that basically breaks down the whole calories become energy and fat thing and very briefly touches on the Physics of it (the potential energy/kinetic energy that our body uses).
  6. I wonder what the reaction would be if, like in the website above, schools actually taught students how to calculate their calorie needs based on their activity levels. I think it would be tremendously useful and could be done in a healthy way. There is so much misinformation out there, and high school is the perfect age to address it (here’s a really fabulous article about it). We have the information, but it’s getting buried under layers and layers of misinformation and media agendas. And if this isn’t “Biology” and “Physics” and “Chemistry,” then something is wrong with our curriculum.

Short: Ways to Recognize You’re a History Geek

I actually started this when I worked at a history museum. I’m much more involved with science now, but they still hold true for me!

  1. When you start thinking things like “$15,000?! 200 years ago I could have bought 90 acres of farmland in New York for that!”
  2. When you have preferences for what denomination dollar bills you get in your change based on what person is pictured on the bill. I smile every time I get Andrew Hamilton, and frown every time I get Andrew Jackson.
  3. When you immediately connect pretty much every current political situation back to the Constitutional Convention – because we’re pretty much still stuck on the exact same struggles.
  4. When you look for your “favorites” every time you’re around lists or artwork of important historical figures – and they are almost never included because most people don’t know about them.

I’m sure there are many others I just haven’t noticed about myself. Any suggestions?

PS – I decided, as an experiment, to start including some posts that are more personal rather than research-y, like adventures I have (glassblowing class, paragliding, etc) and projects (photo, cooking, fitness). Like or dislike the idea? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Donor Dash 10k

Sunday was my race!

Sadly, it did not take place on this street because that would have just been perfect:


But it did take place nearby, on a tree-lined road by the water.

But backing up – it was a full weekend! Friday night – Saturday night I was at a bar mitzvah. I met a lot of interesting people, so I enjoyed myself. I didn’t get to my hotel in Delaware until 12:30am, but I wanted to be prepared so I laid out my race stuff before I headed to bed:


I’d also brought food for the morning, so basically I put everything in the best place for a quick and smooth morning.

I got up early because there wasn’t designated race parking. The parking lot at the Art Museum had JUST filled up, so I kept circling – turns out I didn’t think about the way Philly people park – as in, in the middle of the street. So yes, I came back later to find a line of cars parked down the center of the parking lot! But it’s all good because I found parking very close by and the on-street parking rates in Philly are pretty good.

Before the race my main goal was to find the place where you could take photos saying who you’re running for. I also talked to various other runners – met some nice people. A lot of the families were transplant families, so the race was really meaningful that way – to have so many people running because transplant has impacted their loved one’s (or their!) lives. One guy was running in honor of his brother-in-law who had a heart transplant – and is doing so well now that he does triathlons!



I got so excited over this guy. He had bundled his sweatshirt on his back when he got warm, but because of how he folded it with the word “cure” showing, it totally looks like he’s “carrying the cure” on his back!


The race itself was decent. I wasn’t at my strongest and my nose was running faster than I was, but I still ran a good pace (and the people I was running for can’t breathe easily either, so I decided it was appropriate!). The first half took me 37:00 minutes (overall pace 11:55 min/mile) and the second half took me 37:34 (12:00 min/mile overall pace). Total time: 1:14:34 – which is actually in line with my best times in training, so I’m pleased. There weren’t any spectators while we were running or at the finish line, but the volunteers were great about cheering us on when we passed them.

There wasn’t really anything going on when the race ended, so after grabbing a banana and pretzels, I wandered back to my car to eat and text my family that I’d survived the race. My parents really made my day by calling me right away and cheering me through the phone. I have to admit, it’s really lonely to run a race without anyone there to either run with you or cheer you on. But my parents’ call totally made up for it!

Once I’d eaten my snack, I paid for another few hours of parking and started heading towards a sign I’d seen for an exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences. I ended up at the Rodin Museum first. I’d had no idea it existed, but it’s gorgeous – both the grounds and Rodin’s work, of course.



Completely random factoid: Rodin became completely obsessed with getting de Balzac’s head right and spent EIGHT YEARS on it. And then the world didn’t like it! The critics said it made him look undignified.


At that point I decided I had to eat and caffeinate. So I wandered some more and got a sandwich and a latte and randomly photographed these flowers in Whole Foods.


Because I had caffeine in hand, I went into the gift shop first when I got to the Academy of Natural Sciences. Most. Awesome. Gift. Shop.

I talked myself out of buying this shirt, but it was a close thing:


Instead I bought some cards for friends. Also bought some gifts at the Franklin Institute …. I am so spoiled from DC having free museum admission. What I did in each gift shop was ask the cashier what I had to see at the museum. Then I thought about whether that stuff sounded like something I felt I had to see.

At 1:30 (about 4 hours after the race), I was just exhausted, so I decided to drive home. I had more surprises in the form of several phone calls – from both my aunts and from my friend (the one whose son turned bar mitzvah) asking how the race went. So sweet of everyone to remember and call me!

Next up is The Color Run 5k on May 19 with a group of coworkers. I’m planning to keep doing 3 – 4 mile runs between now and then to keep in shape for it. Fitting in a 3 or 4 -miler is much simpler than a 6-miler! Training for the Donor Dash 10k really did what I needed from it – gave me a goal to work towards, something to build my days around when I needed more balance, something to focus on and bring meaning to the losses I see in the rare disease community I work with. I’m looking forward to continuing to run (and cross-train), but I’m also looking forward to being slightly less intense about training.

Last night (Sunday), I crashed to sleep at 9:00 pm. It’s 9:45 pm now on Monday and I’m falling asleep at the keyboard. Bedtime!

Running Therapy

I promised to post about why I suddenly decided to sign up for this 10k.

Because it was sort of sudden.

I’d been wanting some sort of fitness goal lately for all sorts of silly, selfish or just plain human reasons: to become super-fit; to have a goal to distract myself from other things going on in life; to be burning so many calories that I could eat a Chipotle burrito without caring that it’s 700 calories.

But those sorts of goals really don’t drive me. So I wasn’t really paying any attention to them, other than to make a mild effort to fit in a minimum number of workouts each week.



I work with a community that is filled with stories of everyday struggles, big and small. A child who can’t laugh without fainting because her body can’t get enough oxygen. A parent who has to explain to her young children how to cope with knowing their mom could die in the next few years from a combination of rare diseases. People fighting to live their lives, to be able to just walk, let alone run. And they’ve embraced me in their community simply because they inspire me every day to work my best to help them.

And for so many of them, it will all come down to this: Will they get the call for a transplant in time? Will the donor be a match? Will the transplant be a success?

We lost another patient this week. Someone I knew personally. We’ve lost a lot of people I knew personally in the last year. But I had just found out about this passing, and then I saw this 10k. And it’s for organ donation awareness. There are few causes that could be so meaningful to me right now.

So I’m going to run 10k, for all the people I know who can’t run at all, and to show my support for organ donors and organ recipients. The race is on April 21 in Philly, my birthday weekend. My job has taught me to be grateful for every birthday, every year, and I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate than by being part of something that helps so many others have another birthday to look forward to.

By becoming an organ donor, you can save up to eight lives. Are you registered?


I just got back from grocery shopping and I am SO psyched. It’s cold,wet, and the sale prices were amazing. There’s gonna be hot food galore, baby. There’s gonna be zucchini soup, pumpkin chili, stuffed peppers, sweet potato biscuits, herbed fennel and onion, baked squash, sauteed spinach, grilled eggplant sandwiches. And then maybe I’ll think about dinner :-p

Just kidding. What I’m actually going to do, given the bounty of produce, is make a lot of food, put much of it (specifically most of the chili and the soup) in my growing collection of jars, take it to work on Wednesday and freeze it there. There’s no room in sister’s freezer; it’ll save me the angst and shoulder pain from carrying it through bus and subway on my commute; and it’s generally an all-around awesome idea.

Another all-around awesome idea was the project that’s absorbed most of my evenings lately!

Sukkot is a week-long holiday when we build temporary “huts” outside. We eat our meals in the sukkah and some people even sleep in theirs. I pulled some traditional and some unique decorations 🙂

Pretty typical to have fake fruit hanging – I made my own with beads!

This one is sewn:

This one used glue:

There are three altogether in my sukkah.

More fruit, this time on the wall:

I wanted to put a chalk surface in my sukkah next to the fruit, but it turns out writing with chalk is prohibited during the holiday-days, so I went with the more traditional posters. Still, for years I’ve wanted to have a chalk-paint area in my home someday.

One of the major themes of Sukkot is prosperity, which is connected to our beginning to pray for a rainy winter (hence the fruit).

There will never be prosperity without peace. So I went ahead and got subtly political with my poster choices. Then, going with the theme of Israel and prosperity, I picked through the photos from my trip 2 years ago and pulled some of my favorite shuk (market) and flower photos from Israel – way to fill another dream for my someday home and print my own photos :-)!

On top of the sukkah is the schach – you have to be able to see the stars through it – hence, they can’t be spaced perfectly next to one another (mine also drooped – oops!):

I also made chains and a flower quilt:

(you don’t see it in the first photo because the chain hangs right over the entryway)

Sukkot is the end of the mad dash of holidays – it’ll be quiet til Chanukah now. I should probably start figuring out vegan latkes 🙂

I think I’ll take my sukkah into work on Wednesday to live there for a while.

ps. I made sweet potato biscuits last night and had leftover sweet potato puree. So I added sweet potato AND pumpkin to my pancakes this morning, and used homemade cashew butter in my “syrup” (nutbutter, maple syrup, and banana mashed together) – it was amazing! You should definitely try it.