Sunday, January 25, 2015

Happy birthday!

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It was Nat's birthday on Saturday and we tried to plan a big party for her, but because of her weekend schedule and our weekday schedules, we couldn't really hold the big shindig that we wanted to.  So we celebrated at 6:45 am on Friday morning before work/school.  We got her a crown, a big puff pastry and tableclothed the table and we all ate eggs and bacon and delicious fruit salad.


Vince broke his phone by having it in his pocket and then running into a doorknob.   Jeremy presented me with three options, two of which involved spending money and one which did not.  I chose the one which did not involve spending money.  So last week, we spent some time switching phones around.  Vince got the Android phone I was using.  I started up Donald's old iPhone 5.   This was the option that didn't involve spending money which meant that I had to travel back in smartphone time to 2012. Vince didn't want to go to the iPhone 5 for a couple of reasons: 1. all his games were on the Android platform and he would lose all the progress he's made in those games & 2.  the iPhone screen was smaller than his phone.  I thought I didn't care about the screen size, but now after using the iPhone 5 for three days, I feel like my fingers are too fat to type on such a little screen.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


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It snowed on Wed.  And it happened to be the same day that we got more insulation blown into the house.  So I guess that is a good thing.

Our house is awesome in many, many ways, but it does have its own issues.  One of which is inconsistent insulation in various spaces.  Like the space behind the fireplace which was empty.  See the nice insulation guy put his whole body in that space?  That space that is (well, was) the same temperature as the outside.  Yeah, no good for keeping the house warm.

It took Jeremy and me five years to agree to get this work done.  Jeremy and I have a long and convoluted way of making these decisions.  We got the quote five years ago and have spent the intervening time debating whether we were going to do it or not.   Thank goodness not all of our decisions take this long.  Otherwise, we'd still be stuck on a corner in Pasadena where we first met.


I did this crazy thing where I signed up to TA a class this term.  I'm going to teach a recitation session of the med/surg (adult health) class I took.  I loved this class, it was the first class that I felt tied everything together - how the body works, how disease processes work, what interventions are necessary, what drugs are appropriate and what to teach the patient.  And we went from head to toe, all the major systems in the body.  And I saw a lot of it in actual patients in clinical.  I've never done any teaching before, it should be fun.  Maybe.  Or a lot of work.  Or maybe no one will show up and it'll be a bust.  We'll see!  Today was a gathering of all the TAs and tutors and we spent some time getting to know each other.  In general, I hate teambuilding exercises, but these were not too terrible.  Puzzle anyone?

Flu, Tamiflu, Love Bugs & Shovel Snow

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Last Thursday, I flew back to Washington DC from Knoxville.  Inside this small, cramped regional jet, a passenger was coughing all the time.

After trimmed the trees all day on Friday, On Saturday morning, I didn't feel like to put up the round fence for Mom's new plants.  I felt a bit tired and muscle aches all over.  I thought I worked hard and my age caught me.  Then I flew back to Knoxville on Sunday.

Monday morning, I was really sick, down and out.  I went to a small clinic inside Kroger grocery store. Their test identified that I had flu type B and ordered Tamiflu for treatment.  Before checking out my Tamiflu with 10 tablets, it costs $118.00 with my insurance paying $50.00.  I thought it was too expensive and with other organs in perfect conditions,  I turned it down.  Boy, two days later, I am doing better.

And, I am happy to learn that there is shortage of Tamiflu. May be someone have better use of Tamiflu than in my case - but still expensive.

Mom played Mahjon on Monday,  Tuesday, she didn't feel good also.  Evidently, she caught my love bugs along the way.  Sorry, she missed the Thursday game.

Rena & I are quite independent, I think.  But, in case of shoveling the snow, I think Mom, all by herself, really can use some help for our own good.  I am afraid she will trip or fall again.  So, I really, really appreciate Doris' offer to help everything time.  It is a great help and many thanks. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

24 hour sleepover.

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Finals ended last Friday for Vince.  Yesterday was MLK day and today was a teacher's professional day so the fine people who educate our children could do grading and pull together the report cards.  So it was a 4 day weekend for the children.

Vince and three of his pals suddenly realized - pretty much at the beginning of the four day weekend - that they had a project due on Friday the 23rd.  This project required 4 hours of community service and also a colorful presentation.  Frantically, the other parents and I scrambled to find somewhere where the kids could go (3 hours Monday, 1 hour today) to be somewhat helpful.  They ended up picking up a lot of trash in parks which sounded really dull and boring to me, but ended up being very entertaining because they ended up crossing creeks and climbing up and down large rocky mountains and getting muddy.  Sometimes this coordination effort that goes on behind the scenes, hidden in the dark corner of my email inbox, exhausts me.  I have no good reason for this, it's only email and a few exchanges.  I'm tired and then Vince lobbied hard for a sleepover with the boys between the two trash picking up episodes.  His lament?  It's been a while since the last sleepover.  A while?  It's been like since FRIDAY.  It's been two nights since a sleepover.

Anyways because I'm a pushover (and beacuse Jeremy gently reminded that the kids were on break and that they really had this time off) and Vince rapidly curtailed his eye rolling tactic into a sweet talk tactic (i.e. You are the best mother I've ever had!), I had three boys over at the house for over 24 hours.  It's too long really, you can see their eyes glaze over at the 20 hour mark even though it's only 3 pm.

Part of the sleepover deal was that they finish the presentation before everyone went home.  Vince complained when I stipulated this, because it's due FRIDAY and it's only TUESDAY.  But I was not going through another round of coordinating emails to get this sucker done.  Just an hour of concentration is all that I asked for.  And this is what happened:

This is such not a girls' group project.  When I look at this, I just want to straighten everything and make everything evenly balanced.  Oh well.  Good enough.

Monday, January 19, 2015


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Vickey came over and we went to the park.  A little chilly, but we went on the swings and up and down jungle gyms.  Edda got a new jacket with fake fur trim.  It looks arctic.


Vince spent the day picking up trash in Rock Creek Park, part of the MLK day of service...

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Dad was in town.  We went out for Greek food.  They set cheese on fire.

Vince's finals are over.  He celebrated by making poached eggs.

Jeremy spent a lot of time this weekend trying to stop the infernal beeping of our verizon fios box.  When it gets cold, the closet gets cold, then the battery gets cold, then the battery stops working and then the verizon box beeps every 30 minutes.  He pried the speaker off the circuit board.  He warned me before doing it that he might destroy the circuit board and that verizon would charge us a lot of money to replace it and we'd be without Internet for a few days.

Vince at violin lesson.  I haven't seen Kelly in many, many months.  Vince has been biking to lessons for a while now.

The awesome Linda giving the reluctant Vincent a haircut.

Jeremy and Edda at Sunday night dinner.  There was a dogfight (between the pugs) during the spaghetti course.

Donald.  Dessert: Cinnabons

Jane is 18!  Really.  She's 18.

And this is why one should remember to print some photos every once in a while.  We went through a lot of 18 year old photos...  Lots of fun.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015


We had Edda's IEP meeting this morning.  An IEP is an Individualized Educational Program - all kiddos who have special needs have this in place in order to qualify for special needs services.   Now that I'm almost a decade out from getting Edda's diagnosis and now that I've attended a decade of these meetings, I was determined to be cheerful and optimistic at this meeting.  The goal was not to cry. Things are going great for Edda.  She's in a good mood, she loves school and we all love the people who work with her.  There were the following eight people at Edda's meeting:  her teacher, the assistant principal, school psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, gym teacher, speech therapist, and augmentative communication specialist.

Even this report that I got earlier in the week did not deter me from my plan of cheerfulness and optimism.

A few months ago, they gave me a form in which I had to answer about 200 questions about what Edda could do.  I think the simplest questions were like "Can she sit independently?" and moved on to "Can she put on a sweater?" to "Can she follow two instruction commands?" to "Can she keep her room tidy?" and finally "Can she manage her frenemies? or "As a hotel concierge, can she make restaurant reservations while soothing an irate customer?"

I think Edda could only do one thing out of the 200 things.  There is no disputing that Edda is performing at an extremely low range compared to that of her peers.  But when you take a careful look at the numbers in the above report, none of the DATA made any sense.  Look:  the standard score is 100.  But then somehow the full scale score is 40, which somehow <0.1%.  But shouldn't 40/100 be 40%?  And the full scale score if 40 from three component scores of 49, 55 and 40 <- that doesn't make any sense either.

I was like, whatever, who cares what the data says, let's move on.  Jeremy on the other hand, the lover of statistics, the guy who got a PhD in statistical analysis of polymers, who taught me statistical mechanics, got really interested in the data and got the psychologist to actually pull out the bell curve for the questionnaire and once we saw the bell curve, we understood.  100 is the mean score (not like 100% on an exam), with statistical deviation of 15.  So with a score of 40 on the test, we are really more than 3 standard deviations from the mean.   Three!  More than three, it's really 4, right?  100-15-15-15-15 = 40.  Edda's one in a million.  Or 99.994%.  Is that one in a million?  I can't math tonight. At that point in the meeting, I was actually kind of laughing to myself at Jeremy - he can't resist digging into the statistical analysis of the the data even though it doesn't matter in the end.

Anyways.  I cried.  And I made at least 2 other women in the room cry.  It was a tough day.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Driving in pajamas.

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I drove Vince to school this morning in my pajamas.  I did throw a robe on over the PJs.  It's been that kind of week.  I almost got away with it until I got home and my next-door neighbor spied me en route between car and front door and laughed at me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Long day.

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It has been a long day.   I'm still trying to learn how to be a mother.  Forgive me my faults, my dear children.  I'm trying my best.

What even made the day longer was that I needed to drive to Alexandria, back to my mother ship, the patent office. I don't think I've been back to the office in over a year, but I needed to go today because an attorney requested an in-person interview and I also needed to restock my office supplies.   I lugged a cart full of paper and toner from the office supply room to the car (and through snow/salt/sand covering very bumpy bricked sidewalks) which was parked about a quarter-mile away.  Someday I do aspire to do my work mostly paperless, but it's just so very satisfying to make notations on a real sheet of paper with a real pen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Edda's thanksgiving play.

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I know this is old - but we just got it loaded onto youtube.  It's Edda's Thanksgiving play.  When I watch it, I'm both happy and sad.  I like it when I tilt more towards happy (which is mostly how I feel about these things), but it's also always a little sad.  For a long time I wanted that last lingering bit of sad to go away (because I just wanted to get over it and get on with it, whatever "it" was), but now I think that it's OK that it's in there all the time - like a little stone I carry around in my pocket.  Sometimes, like a stone in your pocket, you can forget that it's there because you are so used to carrying it around.  But it weighs something and whenever you reach for a tissue or lip balm or some cash, you remember, oh yeah, that.  Yeah, it's still there.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Plumbing and Chinese

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Of all the household repairs, I like plumbing the best.  I think it's genetically programmed into me. My parents both are adept as designing piping systems in nuclear power plants so I think it is natural that I like to fit pipes together and move fluid from one place to another.  If I had a lot of time, I would do all the plumbing work in the house.  I've replaced wax rings on toilets in this house and I've repaired a number of faucets.  Plumbing involves so many interesting materials: there is the PVC piping and the chemical welding, there is copper piping and the solder with the blowtorch and then there is (if one is brave enough) the gas piping. This weekend, I replaced an incorrectly installed drain from our laundry tub.  We didn't notice that it was installed backwards until Saturday morning when it started leaking.


I bought Vince a five pound bag of gummi bears.  When I started working with Vince to improve his Chinese grade, I started to introduce to him all the habits I have from years of being a good (a.k.a. anal) student.  I taught him about calendars and how to write down when everything is due and how to not leave everything until the last minute.  I taught him about flash cards and how to use them effectively.  There are study habits which involve using a timer and a set reward and there are certain rituals that I invoke to delineate "study time" from non-study time.  Jeremy watched me teach all this to Vince and asked if anyone taught all these quirky habits to me.  No one taught these habits to me, I've always thought that everyone knew how to study.  It never occurred to me that anyone needed to be taught how to study.

Anyways, Vince is working a little everyday on his Chinese.  Most days, the studying goes fine.  Some days (maybe once or twice a week) he's really mad about studying and rolls his eyes at me. His final is tomorrow.  He told me this afternoon he feels really well prepared.  The gummis are his daily reward for reviewing his lessons, he gets only one at the end of each daily study session.  I told him when he gets through the whole bag, he'll be fluent.  OK, maybe not quite.  Maybe 2 bags?  3?

Handmade Robe for Donald


A lot of times I called Mom, she was always busing doing something - the robe.  Finally, today she mailed it out to Donald.  It looks pretty nice.  I wish I could have one also :)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy birthday!

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Happy birthday Caroline!

May your birthday (and your everydays) be full of love and snuggles.


The Usual Suspects (and Lola the pug).

Small things

I - along with most of the country - have been obsessed with Serial. If you haven't heard, its a NPR podcast based on a homicide case in Baltimore from 1999. It draws you in fast and never really lets up. Check it out if you haven't already. There's even a Reddit site dedicated to the podcast. Some people have done some quite amazing maps/animations cross-referencing the cell tower data vs call logs vs timelines.

Also pimping my current podcasting app of choice here: Overcast. iOS only tho.

Also, been trying to lose weight. Been decently successful tho I have not taken to extreme measures such as Jeremy. My tactic is quite simple - don't eat meals unless you're out with people. Snack sure, but full on meals just skip 'em.

Bidding & Long Hot Shower

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This time, for my home trip,  both outbound (to Portland, OR) and inbound (to Knoxville, TN) flights were overbooked.  When doing checking-in online, an airline's questionnaire was posted to request your lowest $$$ bid for being bumped to the next available flights.

Since I planned to stay in west coast less than 14 hours, there was no outbound bidding.  But, for inbound flight, I put a bid of $350.00.  After boarding all passengers, I was one of those being bumped. The lady agent at the gate podium asking me about to be bumped from noon flight (Portland -> Atlanta -> Knoxville) to red-eye flight [Portland (late evening) -> Los Angeles -> Atlanta (red eye) -> Knoxville (next morning)]. I told her it is handy that I have extra cash simply I, just like everyone else, have a family to support.  She looked at me and said "okay I give you $400.00.  $50.00 extra".  So, I got $50.00 extra.

I used portion of this $400.00 to take our friends to dinner before my flight to Los Angeles.  The connection time was very tight.  Unfortunately, the plane had to burn more fuel on the runway before taking off because of the over weight issue.  It sat there 15 minutes just to burn.  Upon arrival, the plane waited another 30 minutes because our gate was occupied.  When I got off the plane, it had only 3 more minutes left.  Luckily this time, the flight to Atlanta was just next door.

At Atlanta airport, I bumped into three Chinese exchange researchers.  They completely lost with limited English skills.  Since their terminal and mine were the same, I took them to the gate.  Before that, I took them to breakfast also.  I can tell they didn't like cheese and cold drinks.  We spent about 30 minutes together.

When arriving at my apartment, the first thing I did was taking a long, hot shower.  I lived without house hot water for almost two days.  Especially, after the yard work to remove more hazardous stuffs for Mom, it really, really felt funny.

I told Mom, for next home trip, I will book the exact same flights and bid again :)

Saturday, January 10, 2015


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It is still cold.


Vince had a pile of sand in his room called "kinetic sand".  It's a bunch of sand with some sort of gooey polymer blended in so that the concoction feels moldable and flowable.  He's had it for many months and it does feel very nice when you run it through your hands.  Because the polymer holds the sand grains together, there was no sand scattered throughout the room.

On Thursday, Vince discovered that his sand pile was 3/4 gone and found a guilty looking dog next to the bowl.  Apparently Ruby ate the sand pile.  As a result, Ruby's been shitting sand for a few days now.  It's funny watching it come out because it falls out and crumbles just like the kinetic sand did when it fell out of your hand.  Poor girl.  At least her insides are scrubbed out.


Vince got knock off Beats headphones this morning ($11 dollars, Target!).  He suddenly looks completely like the teenager that he is.

U Street Is Cold but in Good Shape

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I arrived at U Street around 10:30 PM last night.  Without examining everywhere, it looks it is in very good shape.

As a student of "heat transfer", I didn't turn on the heat because by the time it reaches the desired temperature, I am sure I will be about to leave.  It needs to heat the whole house inside out - a lot of mass and air in it. Therefore, I went to bed right away,  a couple of minutes later, it was really warm inside my blankets.

Water is another problem.  Without it, no shower.  Well, I always can drive to Safeway, fast food restaurants to get warm water there.

For outbound flight coming to Portland, is was overbooked but I didn't bid on the price to be bumped. However, for inbound flight to Knoxville, TN today, it was also overbooked and I did put a $350.00 bid and see what will happen.  I may do a lot of window shopping to observe all kinds of people coming and going in the airport.;

Friday, January 9, 2015

President Obama and I

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Finally, this morning around 8:30 AM, President Obama's schedule was published by the local radio station. Vice President (Air Force 2) and him (Air Force 1) are scheduled to land around noon.  And they will fly out separately around 4:10 PM. In between, they are going to visit the neighbor hood and highway that I am going to use to catch my flight around 4:00 PM.  Knoxville, TN has a very small dual purpose airport (civilian and military).  May be just too small for all these planes.

Therefore, I left my office around 10:00 AM and the airlines was kindly enough to change my flight to 11:30 AM without additional fee.  Guess what, the timing was pretty tight.  Therefore, without deplaned cleaning, everyone was rushed to his/her seat. The captain told us that we had the permission from the tower to take off.  Once on the runway, for some reasons, the tower changed her mind and denied us to take off.  We had to sit there for another 35 minutes just watching Air Force 2 landed and 20 minutes later, Air Force 1 finally arrived.  This is the second time I have seen Air Force 1.  The first time is in Houston while Clinton was the President.

It is good that both can come and visit a territory that overwhelmingly voted against them.  May be not just them but voted against those establishments inside the Beltway.  I kind of agree with them.  "Government is the Problem and Not the Solution" as President Reagon once said.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


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This is the week I'm starting to feel like myself again since I started sprinting the week of Thanksgiving.  After a very tightly scheduled fall term and an incredibly hectic and wonderful holiday season, I need this little bit of time to fall back into my beloved routines.  I have a couple of weeks before school starts up again, the kids are back in school (Vince has mid-year exams next week) and I'm closing out the first quarter at work this week.  I'm using this time to get myself up to speed on first-inventor-to-file prosecution rules vs first-inventor-to-invent rules as first-inventor-to-file went into effect last year and those cases are finally bubbling up to the top of my docket.

I'm also using this time to connect back up with friends in the neighborhood.  I essentially disappeared socially from my neighborly rounds and I expect that I will again when the term starts, so I'm meeting up with pals at the local ice cream parlor to catch up.  Yes, the local ice cream place is open all winter and people hang out there in the morning for a cup of coffee...