Friday, December 31, 2010

Year's End

New hat bought at Pike's Market

Pictured above was our surprise of 2010. Maya will be 6 months tomorrow; it has been fun watching her grow. I was quite upset when I learned that Naomi was pregnant as it is very hard to be a student or work with a little one at home.Teenage pregnancy seems like a ticket to perpetual poverty. Naomi has been a good mom. She plans to nurse Maya until she is a year old so she'll have the best start that she can.

Our family all seems to be in good health and cancer free though one member had a trying year with a recurrence. He seems to be winning. My step-grandmother Jeannette died in February not too long before her 91st birthday.

Last night I slept for 12 hours straight, a miracle. I do remember a funny dream. I was with Shanna and her 3 sons. Three boys, where did the third come from? I couldn't remember and I knew Shanna would be pissed if I asked her because she'd accuse me of not caring enough to keep track of their births. the mystery boy's name was Sandy, which I also thought was silly. He seemed to be right in between Oliver and Daniel in age though all the boys seemed to be about 3 in the dream. In the dream I kept planning to ask questions that wouldn't show that I was a total idiot for forgetting about Sandy.

It is Seattle-like here today. Almost 50 though there still seems to be some ice. I had refrained from running for the past 2 days due to my cold and fatigue but I set out today thinking I could always stop if it got too hard. I did fine. It is a mild cold though my voice is now very husky.

But to all of you in blog sphere, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kubota Gardens

Entrance to Gardens
It was 37 deg out!

Two of the nephews at the Thai restaurant

The 3 kids and their mom

We drove through flurries to the Kubota Gardens in South Seattle yesterday but fortunately the sun peaked out again by the time we got there. Who goes to gardens in the dead of winter? There were no flowers but there was plenty of color in these Japanese gardens with the varying colors of trees. There are waterfalls, rock gardens, ponds, steep hillsides, lots of moss and lichens, a belly dancer.... There was a Douglas fir there that was unbelievably tall. There was a sign in the parking lot that this was a high theft area but aside from the belly dancer and her photographers, we were the only ones on their lush trails. I can see many rhododendrons and azaleas so this place must be especially pretty in the spring. The place was far greener than any place in Michigan this time of year. I was looking for their Stellar Jays, which are supposed to frequent the area, much prettier than the Eastern blue jays but they were hiding.

We left as it began to rain/snow again to have Thai. I had my favorite coconut milk  ginger curry soup full of tofu and vegetables. So soothing to my somewhat raw throat. We visited Grandma Terry one more time. She is adjusting well to Seattle.

It was my nephew's 15th birthday which the nine of us celebrated over pasta puttanesca and a tiramisu cake.

Even though it was sunny in the afternoon, there was snow on the ground around the airport. The ramp leading up to the rental car place was icy. Our plane didn't leave until after midnight but we waited in the lounge sipping wine, at least I did, so it wasn't too bad. I think I did sleep most of the way back. I hadn't gotten much sleep during my stay. As predicted, the roads were glare ice when we landed. Julia waited a while before picking us up. There were numerous cars off the road. Our driveway was a sheet of ice which thankfully has since melted.

Now to return to normal..
I have added pictures to my last 3 or so entries. I might add more when I am more rested.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pike's Market

The two stadia
Seattle waterfront

The space needle
Pike's Market

lots of mushrooms. The truffles come from around there

X-mas Pike Pigs

My BIL and a decorated bike

These scallops were huge

rotating ampersand

symbol of Seattle

Steve and eraser sculpture

This is the map of where my father-in-law's infantry unit fought during WW2. It is falling into dust.

Close-up of their unit's D-Day landing..not one of the first units. However their unit saw much more action  a few months later in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. Their unit was the first American unit to see action in Europe/Africa in the Battle of Algiers.
Today is our last day in Seattle. We take the red-eye tonight. I am debating myself whether I want to go for one more run in the relative warmth (relative to Michigan) or nurse my cold spending time with the family. It's my nephew's 15th birthday today.

Monday night we had a wonderful Italian dinner after having some trouble finding a place that would seat all 9 of us in one table. Suffice it to say, I am getting plenty of practice parallel parking in small spots amid honking traffic. Unlike the first day that I ran, yesterday was calm, dry and warm. Looking at the forecast before flying here, rain was predicted every single day. Today there was supposed to be torrential rains but I actually see the sun. Green Lake is a perfect place to run. My sister-in-law used to live closer (she is now a mile away with 2 impossible hills in the way) and some mornings I'd run 3 times around though that was in my marathoning days.There is a huge flock of these bizarre water birds that are called coots on the lake along with some wood ducks. When I get home, I'll load pictures.

I love Pike's Market, where we went to yesterday. Lots of exotic food and craft stalls.Again check for pictures in a few days. I didn't find any geoduck (pronounced gooey duck) which are huge disgusting pacific clams. Flesh oozes out of too small shells.
Geoduck from the web. In the past, there would be piles of these things are Pike's Market which I probably have photos of somewhere. These are small ones. Generally they weigh about 2 lbs but can weigh as much as 15 lbs. They are believed to have aphrodisiac properties

 One clam makes clam chowder for 50. The Chinese slice them up into noodle-like pieces and spice them. On our first trip here 24 years ago (which we came here in a train..note to self, cross country train trips and 4 year old antsy boys do not the end of the trip, all the passengers wished Josh's death), my then BIL bought some and I naively thought them to be particularly tough fishy noodles. Also on this same trip, I met up with my college boyfriend and walked around Green Lake together. When we were together, he was always criticizing everything I ate. You don't need that brownie! Oh But I do! And dear Reader, I was thin when we were together but he was skeleton-like. However in the 15 years that had passed and again I was in my marathon mode, I was devoid of fat and he had this little pot-belly on his otherwise thin body. I spent our walk thinking what could I have thinking..not because he had developed pudge but he really was not a nice person.
I lunched on Humbows..enormous baked Chinese buns and we hiked through now cold and windy weather to the sculpture gardens a mile away. When Steve leaned against one of them for a picture, a disemboweled voice appeared STAY ON THE PATH! STAY ON THE PATH!
Back at the house, my SIL took out a badly crumbling map of Europe detailing all the campaigns their father was in during WW2 during his 3 years of service. Much time was spent in Algeria and Tunisia before ousting Germans in Silicy. They were then transported to England for some time before D-day but his battalion didn't land on Utah Beach until 4 days after the first wave. However his battalion seemed to have the most losses during the Battle of the Bulge.We are trying to figure out how to preserve this map.
We had an adults only Happy Hour (kids are not allowed anywhere near a bar in Washington)in a downtown Argentine steakhouse. Yummy. I liked. my grapefruit martini.
My cold is making my sleep even more difficult. I do hate the middle of the night. My thoughts turn so negative and it's hard to block them out.
We are hoping things are not falling apart in Michigan in our absence. At least Michigan didn't have much snow but the predicted freezing rain might make our trip home difficult. The New Yorkers are still stuck in snow 3 days later.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A hike through the green

The Salmon slide

I dislike the drabness of winter so it was wonderful to actually see green today. We hiked through the woods around Carkeed Park which are a series of bluffs overlooking Puget Sound. There are no leaves on the trees but it is so damp here, everything is covered with moss. Most of the greenery is due to the enormous ferns which apparently stay green all winter. There were signs warning us not to disturb the marine mammels but sadly, I saw no seals or sea lions. I looked through the tide pools hoping to see life but maybe everything disappears in the winter. At Green Lake Park, there are plenty of exotic ducks that I want to identify.

It is officially my sister-in-law's birthday today.Her step-sons are staying here this week along with her son so we definitely have a full house. Their mom was here last night too.

We had an An Original Pancake House breakfast this good.

The three siblings all have young adult children who each have unique challenges. How do we encourage independence? How much is enabling? Is gratitude too much to ask for? We want so much for our kids but it is so challenging sometimes. We've had numerous discussions concerning these issues.

We chillaxed in a bakery and bookstore after the drizzle cut our hike short. Onto a fancy birthday dinner tonight. Josh and Julia safely navigated their way back to Michigan today. The kids in NYC and Boston are facing walls of snow.
Father and son share a pensive moment

All the Mxxxxx boys

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sleepless in Seattle

The fun bar where we spent X-mas night
So where am I now, dear readers? Surrounded by mountains and the sea, temps a good 30 degrees warmer than at home, even occasional appearances of the sun..Merry X-mas to us! I still had a few free passes left over for the fancy airline perk lounge so that's where we had breakfast waiting for our plane. The staff all had Santa hats on and were unusually cheerful.
The purpose of our trip was not to escape Michigan so much but to surprise my sister-in-law for her 50th birthday. The other brother and his new wife flew in from NYC almost 11 hours after us. We wanted to show up at the doorstep together so much of yesterday was spent trying to kill time when very few things were open. First stop, the International District for dim sum, which I guessed correctedly was open on X-mas. Our first choice had a line out the door but there are plenty of dim sum places. Excellent shrimp-cilantro dumplings!
Me in my
giant pumpkin coat. I didn't think I'd need a winter coat with highs in the upper 40s but towards the end of our stay, the temps went down

What else would be open? We went to see Black Swan, directed by a former student of my new sister-in-law. Beautiful music, interesting staging, scary effects..I liked it but I suppose most would find it too weird.  Still we had plenty of time left to kill plus we were very tired as neither of us had much sleep the night before. The NY plane would not get there until 10 pm PST, which meant 1 am by our clock. Plus there was the long drive back from the airport. We visited Steve's mom, which was a risk because we were afraid that she'd spoil the surprise but she promised not to. We certainly surprised her. But still we had 4 hours to kill. I drove our rental push button car around aimlessly in the rain hoping to find something open. Finally I saw neon and parked cars! A divey neighborhood/bar/ coffee shop. Perfect! Full of people with no where else to go along with Cujo the lab and a chihuahua who walked freely through the place. A Vespa and a bicycle was parked in the middle of the dining room. There was a sign warning if you bitched how long it took to make the food, you'd be refered to the McDonald's down the streeet. I will post a picture once I return. Had some yummy tomato curry shitake soup. A nice reminded me of our old college coop with nothing matching. The owner asked what movies we wanted to watch...the vote was for The Transformers (?).When we finally left to the airport, they all wished us Merry X-mas!

I planned on sleeping for a bit in the cellphone lot as I was tired but as soon as I closed my eyes, the plane arrived early.The four of us pounded on the door close to midnight (3 am EST). Yep she was surprised!!!We stayed up a few more hours..lots of laughter.
The birthday girl surprised. Only hint of us coming was her husband's sudden interest in sheet cleaning and keeping her up past her bedtime. Looks very good for 50, dontcha think?

The sun shined in our window a few hours later. The weather changes back and forth from sunny and calm to gale force wind and rain every hour or so. I ran around Green Lake twice..a good and very popular place to run. So nice not to worry about ice. Too cloudy to see the mountains today though.
Coots on Green Lake

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Very old X-mas picture of my then toddlers
To my friends and family: A cancer-free  and joyful coming year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bye-Bye Brown Bats

Bats have been dying off since 2006 from white nose fungus. Since they roost in tight-knit groups, the fungus easily spreads. Who likes bats? Do you like mosquitoes better?

Finally I was able to breathe in outside air on my run. True in some places my path narrowed to a tire's width but I was able to go for about 7 miles without sliding around so much.

Margarita night last night,woo-hoo!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Quotidian Life

Quotidian is one of those words that sound way better than what it means. I awake after a usually fitfull sleep around 7. This morning I awoke to the rare sound of a snow plow. We had an inch fall overnight and this was the  first time a snowplow came any where near here. The 5 inches we had 10 days ago have solidified to ice on our streets. Mornings are most hopeful: a new day! Steve makes coffee; I sip it as I pore through the Internet. I do not eat as I want nothing to interfere with my drugs I take upon arising, particularly the Synthroid. I had made myself hypothyroid in the past by gobbling calcium pills. I do a killer sudoku, which get progressively harder as the week progresses, easy, moderate, difficult, extreme, outrageous, mind-bending. Although I can do most of the outrageous ones, I've yet to complete a mind-bending one. I used to do the London Times ones too although their most difficult translate into a moderate on the site I use. I would do these things all day if given a chance but I try to limit myself to one. If I am particularly stressed, I might do two. It blocks my negative thoughts concentrating on logic puzzles. What I most would like to do is go out the door and run. The weather lately has not been good. I really don't care about the cold but ice....I go to the Y if the weather is bad. I take the microcar, easier to park and I listen to my Sirius radio turned up full blast with no one to whine about it. I ran a 10K on the track today but I needed to stop twice for water. I drench my t-shirt thoroughly as a crude air conditioning unit but it is so dry in there, the shirt dries out before I have run a mile. I lifted some weights too today, a double workout to make up for my sloth of yesterday in which my trip to the dentist was the highlight. No cavities! I read the paper and I write in my blog. I have various magazine subscriptions. I really don't watch much TV. Naomi and Maya are over several times a week. Maya becomes more interesting as she grows. She is using her hands much more though she usually misses grabbing onto things on the first attempt. In the evenings, I talk to friends or family or visit someone. It is the nights I dislike. I fall asleep promptly but many times around 2, I awake and think obsessive thoughts: what am I going to do about this and that. I try to read or do puzzles, anything to get my mind off of certain topics. What do I read? Anything. Aside from Olive Kitteridge, I reread The Poisonwood Bible lately. So, so good. I was reading Love in the Time of Cholera but it has disappeared. Josh gave me his favorite fantasy books for X-mas and already is bugging me if I have read them yet so I better get cracking. He and Julia took off this morning to go to Maryland and already are there. I end up getting very little sleep but usually I am not tired during the day. The other night, I finally crashed at about 7 pm. A whole weekend on about 6 hours total sleep apparently isn't enough.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Circle of Neglect

Ms. Maya enjoying her very own Circle of Neglect her own way by tasting anything she can get her mouth on.

Olive Kitteridge

The above is a Pulitzer Prize winning collection of short stories by Elizabeth Strout that I have been reading in the middle of the night. Some of these stories center around Olive directly; in others she is a peripheral character. She is an abrasive, judgemental, crabby school teacher living in a small coastal Maine town with her too- good for- her husband. He seems to accept all her considerable flaws although we learn in one of the short stories, he has his own secrets and escape from her over-bearingness.The main love in her life, besides doughnuts, is her son who distances himself perplexing her. She believes herself to be a loving mother who who do anything for her son but is she suffering some sort of self-delusion? Yes, as we learn gradually in snippets. One story tells of her son's first wedding to a NYC doctor. Olive hates this woman on the spot for being better educated and having big city airs. When she overhears her new daughter-in-law making fun of her mother-of-the-groom outfit, one that Olive was quite proud of, she is livid. She sneaks into her DIL's closet and sabotages her wardrobe hiding one of the perceived favorite shoes, magic marking some of the shirts, making little tears... Yet she is genuinely puzzled and heart-broken when the couple moves away shortly thereafter. Many years later, her up-to-that point distant son has a new wife and invites Olive to come and help in their household. Olive is ecstatic! Her son needs her! The new daughter-in-law is very welcoming but Olive, being Olive, finds fault with every little thing. She tells herself that she is happy that her son now considers her part of their family, she finally belongs but  this can not overcome her ingrained pettiness. The family goes out for ice cream; Olive loves her sweets. Upon returning home, Olive notices she had spilled carmel sauce all over herself yet both her son and DIL must have noticed and didn't have the consideration to tell her and they must consider her a dotty old lady..on and on. She lashes out at them and threatens to leave. She is hoping that they beg her to stay but no, the son lists all the reasons that he had  for excluding her in his life but he had given her one more chance as urged by his new wife but now he sees that was a big mistake. Furthermore the new wife agrees with him  and pointed out many of Olive's flaws as a mother. This further enrages Olive imagining the conversations behind her back. She wants to leave that second and fly home. No one will drive her. She takes car service to the airport and stands in a long security line. She is asked to remove her shoes but she doesn't want to expose her ratty nylons that she had no time to replace. I will not take off my shoes. I don't give a damn if the plane blows up, do you understand? I don't give one good goddamn if any of you are blown skyhigh.
This does not sit well with security.
The stories of these small lives made me cry in the middle of the night. How different are the perceptions one has of oneself differ from those of others? How hard is it to connect? How alone so many are? Does anyone truly ever understand us?

I attended the Annual Mothers of Josh's Neighborhood Friends tea yesterday although Josh does not remain friends with every single one of their sons. Josh shares with me many aspects of these sons' lives that the moms are probably blissfully unaware of.Some are quite troubling. I am under strict orders not to share these with the Mothers. There is a disconnect between what I hear from the mothers from what I hear from Josh. Josh had attended the wedding this summer of the son of our hostess. She gave me a picture of him and Julia from the reception. Some of the moms hadn't seen Josh in a while looked at it and said they would never had recognized him. The mom who was diagnosed with TNBC the same week as me was there happy and so far recurrence free. She has a grandchild now. These mothers knew of Naomi as an infant then toddler who came to the baseball games in tow. Now she is a mother, how things change! The mom of Josh's best friend hadn't attended for the past 5 years or so came to my delight. She came with me on one of the cross state bike rides but found it too difficult. Most of the moms are amazed by Josh as he figures prominently in their sons' lives (though sometimes they are not sure to what extent). Part of the insecure me assumes they are surprised because he had me as a mother. But I am no sanctimommy (I love that term; I was going to use it as this blog's title). They are what they are.

Monday, December 20, 2010

An Early X-mas

Since this past weekend was when we could have the maximum amount of family members around, we celebrated yesterday. A lot of the gifts were for Ms. Maya: a new car seat as she quickly has outgrown the infant one with her off the charts height. This one should be good until 60 lbs, a weight that Shanna was when she got out of the hospital when she was 10 although she probably would have exceeded the height requirement long before that. We got her a Circle of Neglect i.e. baby exer-saucer where she can sit and bounce and be amused with various activity stations before her giving Naomi a break. Shanna would plop her boys into one briefly and named it thus. Their Circle of Neglect was out-grown and given to charity. She also received clothes and toys.

And as for Naomi and Dontae, it is quite easy to buy things for people when they have close to nearly nothing. It was a nice evening with the ones I love. We of course missed our loved ones in Boston but they were here for Thanksgiving.  Ms. Maya was at her most charming smiling broadly at whomever she was passed to.Julia had made a very good dinner and decorated the house nicely. Josh had asked me to contribute a homemade cherry pie apparently without clearing this with his wife who had made her own dessert. Naomi came over earlier to help make the pie.Making pastry is something one has to practice. I hadn't been too diligent teaching the kids to cook as they grew up. The only one interested was Josh who stood beside me asking for opportunities to 'help'.He was in charge of 'beating': making whipped cream and meringues. Although he is charge of BBQing, I think Julia does most of the cooking with him helping upon repeated request. Shanna expressed little interest in cooking saying she would put herself in a situation in which she would not have to stoop to cooking. Naomi is trying to learn now at this late date though has a long way to go.

Earlier in the day, I was back at the Y. This time I spared myself the tedium of running in circles and concentrated on lifting weights. As I was doing my stretches, I was overhearing a conversation between two teachers. Oh, I know one of them! He was Shanna's middle school science teacher and also was the science enrichment person for the Y camp. In the past, I had arranged for demonstrations for his classes. In my past life, I would go into the schools (or in some cases the schools would come to my lab) and I would teach the kids the wonders of science. He is an excellent teacher who is especially gifted with connecting with the kids. He was promoted beyond the classroom. He remembered Shanna although that was almost 19 years ago. Anyway, he wants me to help him with his current project, environmental education, as he knows that at least for small windows of time, I can connect with kids too. I pointed out that my specialty is physical science, not life science but he asked me if I were smarter than a fourth grader So I may help him. I did hold him responsible for ending Shanna's swimming in bodies of water that are not pools. At the Y camp, he had a turtle pit containing some impressive turtles. One, judging from its enormous shell, was a hundred year old snapper. Shanna had asked him where it came from. Oh, the lake pointing to where the kids swam. Shanna decided then and there she would not share swimming space with snapping turtles or any other creature. In one of my triathlons, I had swam a mile across this same lake unmolested by snapping turtles. On our cruise, I could not get Shanna interested in snorkelling either. Swimming with jelly fish, barracuda, sharks and stinging coral just did not excite her though Naomi went with me.

Today I go to a neighborhood X-mas tea for moms whose boys were on a particular baseball team nearly 20 years ago. Josh is still friends with many of these boys and shares with me their lives. A couple of weeks ago, Naomi insisted on watching old movies. In one of them, Steve had filmed the baseball team during  the year of her birth. . How young and skinny the boys were! One of these former boys is now close to weighing 300 lbs. I had taken him, along with others, on our cross state bicycle rides. To make my life easier, I had screened the boys to make sure they were capable of riding 300 miles. Not all of his friends were. This one was on a swim team swimming for more than an hour at a time so I figured he had the endurance. So he did! But probably not now. I haven't seen many of these moms except at a distance in a year but still I look forward to it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Celebrating with the Moms

Last night we had our annual Holiday get together with the Moms at our friend's newly painted house (at least the inside). We have been meeting regularly for almost 31 years spreading our blankets on the ground and placing the babies on their bellies with their wobbly heads in the center. Well the babies have scattered to the winds, some with their own babies but we remain very much interested in their lives. Between the 5 of us, we have 10 children and 6 grandchildren.

The setting: a beautifully decorated house
The cast: my best friends
The menu:
Shrimp cocktail
Brie en croute (easy recipe: wrap crescent roll sheets around brie and bake. For extra fun, add fig jam before covering with the rolls)
Wine: Red for 3 of us
White for two
Crab cakes with remoulade sauce
Sesame-broccoli mix
Cranberry, apple, orange jello concoction
Homemade cookies
The Buche
Wonderful company and conversation

Lots of interesting gifts including a stained glass mosaic, various pretty and good smelling lotions, wine, Turkish delight, gift card, picture frames, wine glass trinkets, calendars, non-pareils, Coach purselets, candles, ornaments

The roads are still too icy to run on so back to the Y running around in circles.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Buche de Noel

The buche with marzipan leaves and berries

Naomi's tree

Gift bags for the Moms with my anniversary flowers

Ms. Maya sucking her lips. She's licking the peaches off of them.

Tonight is our Mom's Holiday party. As I am the dessert lady, unless it is at my house, I made a special Buche de Noel aka Yule log. I am getting better at it: this time the sponge cake didn't crack as I was trying to roll it. I made some Russian tea cakes to look like snowballs surronding the log.

Since I didn't have a lot of time today, I tried to run outside rather than go to the Y which takes about a half hour of commuting time. I found one clear stretch of pavement, what a luxury. This stuff won't melt any time soon.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Daniel waving Hi

Big Oliver smile

The boys together

Shanna with her niece

Oliver was evaluated yesterday to see if he qualifies for interventions. No he doesn't. In past evaluations, he was way past most milestones except expressive language. He was taught American Sign language as his fingers were more agile than his tongue. He does speak now and puts words together but he misses final consonant sounds and it is very difficult to figure out what he is saying unless you know his terminology. He calls his brother "Ga-ga'. Yesterday however when asked what was his brother's name, he said "Daniel". He can not say his own name though. When choosing a name for a child and if there is any chance of speech difficulties, try not to give a name that has an R and an L in it if you want the child to say it any time soon. Josh had similar pronunciation issues that I had to take him to a speech therapist for. While pregnant with Naomi, I decided that there was a chance she'd inherit this difficulty in repeating difficult sounds and decided not to go with Steve's choice with a name containing both an R and an L. Of course before Naomi was 2, she was able to clearly repeat this name. She has many challenges but speech does not seem to be one of them. It is true that in general boys are more likely than girls to have these speech issues but my mother (with the most severe case) and I had (have) too. Presumably I was mute until 3 or 4. I was sent by my grandmother to nursery school at 3 to hopefully learn to speak. I apparently did as I was not sent back the next year. But I do embarrassingly have trouble repeating certain sounds. I try to learn foreign languages but that just gives me more sounds to butcher. I practice quite a bit to overcome this.

Ugh! It is even colder today. Back to the Y if I want exercise.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


When I first learned I had breast cancer, I immediately blamed the Prem-Pro and threw my remaining pills away (instead of slowly weaning myself from them). I didn't want to feed the tumor any further with those estrogens. But then, when it turned out my tumor was triple negative and therefore not sensitive to estrogen levels, I no longer was blaming the pills. Information coming out of the current San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium however, indicates that HRT (hormone replacement therapy) increases the risk of  TNBC by 78%. It increases the risk of ER+ BC 27%. This is in spite of the fact that TNBC is mainly a disease of premenopausal women (who presumably are NOT on HRT). How could this be since TNBC is insensitive to estrogen?  It is theorized that the progestagens stimulate the breast  stem cells where some believe TNBC originates. Others think that HRT increases angiogenisis, blood supply increases to the tumor. Another paper discussed the doubling in the past 10 years of women over 50 in Brazil with TNBC. Wonder if they are taking Prem-Pro. Inquiring minds would like to know.

I went out last night for a holiday dinner with my ex- colleagues. It was fun to discuss old times and figure out what happened in our chemist's diaspora. I've been going out a lot lately, not good for keeping my fine figure in check, but enjoyable otherwise. Tonight I will stay home. It is still impossible to run outside. They were too slow to remove the snow and it has hardened to ice. I almost fell down crossing an intersection near the Y. As I looked out the window, while running, I saw a woman fall flat on her back on the same street. If it is too cold for salt, we need sand!!!!

I spent the afternoon playing with Ms. Maya. Very cute.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The position that I took in Detroit nearly 35 years ago opened up because a man wanted to transfer to Ann Arbor. This man became the only terrorist victim I ever knew personally. He was a passenger in the plane that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland 22 years ago, killing 240 + passengers, most of them Americans and another 40 on the ground. Images of this sweet man falling in pieces in the dark sky haunted me for years. He had a wife and 2 sons.
Eventually I was able to arrange my own transfer to Ann Arbor. Steve interviewed for my vacated position in Detroit when his New Jersey  based company bought out our company and was sending its NJ employees to Michigan. He passed on that job and ended up in Ann Arbor too. I had seen his CV before I had met him in the flesh. About 18 months later, after my transfer and meeting of Steve, I was allowed to go to my first professional meeting. Steve was with me along with the future Lockerbie victim and his wife. We went out to eat with them at night and learned their history. Both were peace corps workers out of college stationed in Afghanistan. They told tales of abject poverty. The wife was a nurse running a clinic. An Afghan woman brought her daughter-in-law in upset that the girl wasn't producing sons. Turns out the girl hadn't even reached puberty yet. Their stay was cut short by a coup that threatened their lives. This would have been in the early 70s. For several seasons, this sweet man was on Steve's softball team. He was a power hitter whereas Steve was a very consistent singles hitter. (Naomi and Josh inherited all of their athletic talent from him. All I can do is endure for long periods of time although I was a good racketball and ping-pong player).At some point, it was decided by the powers that be that this man had skills more useful outside the lab and he was promoted out of research. Right before the Lockerbie incident, he was attending a high power meeting in Germany on company business. As he had died while on company time, a memorial was put up for him.

I don't know the relationship between terrorists in Afghanistan and Libya if any. Do they know they killed someone who was trying to help their people? If he wasn't so well-spoken and seemingly destined for greatness, he would be still alive. If he had taken a different flight he still would be alive. If..if...if. His flight was probably chosen for the abundance of Americans on it.
Pan-am was warned a few weeks ahead that there would be an attempt to blow up one of their flights from Germany. Pan-am responded by affixing a $5 surcharge on its passengers for the additional screening costs. But the bag containing the explosives got through anyway.

On 9-11, my labmate was especially concerned. His sister transferred trains underneath the WTC daily to get to work. In an attempt to console him, I pointed out that she should be at work already. But how do I know if she wasn't running late that day and why isn't she picking up her phone? Of course I didn't know. He was not amused when a boss thought if we would just get back to work, then we'd feel better. He went home still trying to get a hold of the sister who eventually was found unscathed though she had a very difficult time going back home. Her future commutes were impacted too.

Many members of Steve's family were in NYC at the time but out of harm's way south in Brooklyn. They could see all the smoke. In the 80s, Steve's sister worked in the WTC. We went to see her office perched high above the Hudson. But 20 years separated her from being in harm's way. A very small if.

Life is full of ironies and absurdities. I am to make a decision soon that I can't discuss here but the back-story is so full of irony, it makes my head spin.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Today is Steve and my 33th anniversary. It some ways it seems like yesterday and other ways, so long ago. I received beautiful pink roses and we went out to eat. Next year, I hope we celebrate big time but this year, we are not in the mood.

I resorted to running indoors today as it is brutally cold and windy out there plus the roads are very slippery...

Naomi did not want to take the baby out so we visited them for a while. She gets monthly visits alternating between a social worker and a nurse. The social worker evaluated Maya's tricks today. She is either at age level or above for some of the skills. Maya is very adorable and social. I know I whined big time when I found out Naomi was pregnant and it does make things difficult but I do enjoy watching her grow up.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


In chemistry, up to 4 different groups can be affixed to a carbon atom. If there are 4 different groups, we call that carbon (actually this is true with  other atoms ) a chiral center. Molecules can have multiple chiral centers, which makes them very difficult to synthesize. In the first sample above, I have drawn the two enantiomers of phenylalanine, a building block of life. These two enantiomers are identical in every respect just like a left glove and a right glove would be but try to put a left glove on a right hand. It doesn't work. In medicinal chemistry, we use the lock and key motif to describe how a drug may interact with a receptor (only both lock and key are moving and changing shape). One enantiomer  may fit into a receptor and the other one won't. If  our compound is an equal mixture of the two enantiomers, we call it racemic. Since it used to be close to impossible to make a compound enantiomerically pure, drugs were frequently racemic. Now that one can make a compound enantiomerically pure (with great difficulty I might add) we have to make each enantiomer to see which one is active.
Who figured this out? Louis Pasteur,who must be the most productive scientist who ever lived. Early in his career, he was employed by the wine industry to figure out what went wrong with some of the batches. It was thought that grape juice turned into wine all by itself. He proved there was a microorganism(yeast) responsible  by killing them off with heat. No fermentation until he reintroduced the yeast. Frequently crystals formed inside the wine bottles. These turned out to be the potassium salt of tartaric acid ( in German: weinsaure, wine acid). He knew the structure of it. The leap of logic that I don't understand is why he tested it to see if it would rotate the plane of polarized light, which it did. I could understand why he thought that theoretically there would be enantiomers but to see what properties each have is another story. He made some tartaric acid in the lab, not every difficult to do, but it did not rotate the light. Somehow he crystallized the acid and using a microscope and tweezers, separated the right handed molecules from the left. A solution of each rotated the light in opposite directions.
My record for dealing with enatiomers is a molecule with 3 chiral centers giving you 8 possible molecules: 4 pairs of enantiomers. The isomers that aren't mirror images are called diastereomers, a word I used to stumble to pronounce.
His process for selectively killing pathogens by heating is pasteurization.  Pasteurized milk is not sterile milk. Leave it out a few hours and it will go sour.
Aside from saving the wine industry and silk industry, he developed the rabies vaccine.

So now we have real snow on the ground. Yesterday we had a break in which the temps were in the 40s and sunny. This might have been  my last long run for a while as running on a hot track for longer than an hour just is so difficult.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

La mia compagna di stanza italiana

The white building is the church attached to the monastery in Gagliano

This was one of the larger streets in Gagliano. Although the town had only 300 people in it, it once had 3000 so there were plenty of buildings. Somehow I got lost a few times in these mazes.

More typical width of the paths. You can barely see them but over the path are some drying racks. No one has clothes dryers. With the low humidity and high heat, things dried very quickly. We kept a drying rack in our room for things we didn't want the world to see. (see below)
The cloister of the monastery. My Italian teacher stands in the doorway. JP, recognize anyone here?
Some where in the middle of these pictures is our humble room in the monastery where 4 of us slept. My bed is next to the window. I still am having trouble with the picture editor. .

Italians put definite articles in front of most possessive pronouns, a strange concept for this English speaker plus it seems unique to Italian. The my friend sounds so weird.

Yesterday, I visited one of my roommates that I had living in the monastery back in Gagliano  more than 2 years ago. Many sad things happened to both of us since our return though much more so for her. It was a mini Italian reunion. We went to a nice Italian restaurant where I had covatelli bolognese with chianti, amaretto at her home and we looked over her photos of the trip. Whereas I had concentrated more on the scenery, she concentrated on the people. It was fun remembering the people we encountered. In my files I hardly have any of these pictures.

My car thermometer said it was 43 when I was in her northern suburb. Certainly I could get a short run when I returned. But black ice! I couldn't even see it. I am waiting impatiently for it to melt as I type.


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