Saturday, January 30, 2010

OBAMA ACTS ...

By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times

Obama acts to ease way to construct new reactors.

The Obama administration moved vigorously on two fronts Friday to promote nuclear power, proposing a tripling of federal loan guarantees for new projects and appointing a high-level commission to study what to do with nuclear waste.

Administration officials confirmed that their 2011 federal budget request next week would raise potential loan guarantees for the projects to more than $54 billion, from $18.5 billion.

A new Energy Department panel with examine a vastly expanded list of options for nuclear waste, including a new kind of nuclear reactor that would use some of it.

The current loan guarantees were provided in the 2005 energy act bt have not been disbursed because of bureaucratic delays. The Energy Department has sai it would start issuing those soon. Because the loan guarantees are supposed to cover 80 percent of contruction costs, the current amount of $18.5 billion would cover only about three projects.

Opponents have complaine that loan guarantees for projects that cannot attract commercial investment amount to "nuclear socialism."

Oh, I think Obama should have done that long time ago. Nuclear energy is pretty "GREEN" and has the potential of employing a lot of people acrossing the board - politicians, bureaucrats, professional, craftmen, clerks and laborers. Of course, it is NOT 100% percent safe. But, remember, our lives are not 100% safe either. There are always risks that need to be dealt with. But, risks are everywhere all the time. As an employee of power industry, I would rather visit a Nuclear Power Station than a Fossil one. No one knows exact what are in a fossil power plant. But, almost everyone knows exactly what are in a nuclear station. It has been recorded and watched all the time from various regulatory agencies.

Well, based on the math included, USA now should be able to fund 9 new reactors with government loan guarantees under Obama. It is far off compared to 45 reactors proposed by John McCain. But, anyway, it is a good start. And I think, of course, it is good for me. It is good for improving the employment too. Above all, it is good for America.

Snow.

Well, it snowed more than I was expecting it to. So we've been in the house all day - kind of trapped!

We tried to go do some errands today:

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but we turned around and headed back home after driving for a few minutes.

Jeremy baked bread, here's the starter:

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I repaired a massive dragon head for Chinese New Year.

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We swept.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Icy trails.

Suppose to snow tomorrow - we'll see! We'll see! Some more slippery pictures of a mini-hike a weekend ago.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chocolate fondue!

Last week, our previous au pair, Yvonne, came by to visit us. She was in the states for two and a half weeks to visit her pals who are still here. We had a wonderful meat-centric meal since Yvonne is pretty famous for not eating vegetables. She had mailed us a fondue set for Christmas which we were going to use when she was here for dinner, but somehow we didn't manage to break it out.

So this week, we had chocolate fondue.

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Vince checking out the flame:

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Edda doesn't really like chocolate and anyways, she was pretty much asleep when dessert time rolled around.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blah.

It's a blah kind of day. When I'm moody, I look through old photos. Look how young Jeremy looks - no wrinkles or white hairs.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Exciting day tomorrow!

Well, we are all waiting here with baited breath here for tomorrow to come! Apple's big announcement AND the State of the Union address all together in one big day; as someone in the house said, I guess tomorrow we'll save the world AND also have the State of the Union address. ha ha. To top it all off and make it a super duper blockbuster day, I think we all decided that tomorrow's dinner will include tater tots. Woo hoo - triple play.

Last Saturday night, me and a few friends from work gathered in my pal Darcy's apartment for a girls board game night. Darcy has a lot of hobbies which include baking, so there were awesome desserts.

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She is also a belly dancer who dances with her pet snake:

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The highlight of the evening was watching her snake eat four mice - I guess she feeds the snake every month or so and I got an amazing photo of the snake devouring the mouse (which was dead and frozen in the freezer and thawed out so that the snake wouldn't freeze her insides). But I know there are some mouse lovers (KGM - that would be you) that might not appreciate seeing a snake eat a mouse, so don't click here unless you want to see a snake eating a pre-dead mouse.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Being one of the gang.

I've been trying pretty hard to bring Edda out into the community more. This seems to be my major "Edda" priority this year - to get families in the neighborhood to know Edda and for Edda to get to know them. This has been made a lot easier with Vince, who is a naturally outgoing kid and is not shy about having his sister along for the ride.

Today we went on an outing to the recycling center with the scouts. I know I talk about the scouts a lot, but it has been a good group of parents to get to know. Edda walked around the center aimlessly and with very little eye contact as she is wont to do - a dad patted Edda on her head as she walked by, moms encouraged their kids to say "hi" to Edda, a scout made sure that Edda had her foam earplugs for the "factory" tour. It was all really nice.

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And the recycling center is amazing! Magnets to separate the metals, people to separate a lot of the other stuff. It is not an easy job to sort co-mingled recycling. (A lot less smelly than you'd think it'd be).

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Doggie park.

On my slow, short jogs around the neighborhoods, I have discovered a doggie gathering that happens between 8:30 and 9 am everyday. I've been marveling in my discovery because it's a little on the hush-hush side and so it's not advertised and I lived here a whole 1.5 years without finding out about it.

Vince hurt his knee on the way to the park, so he hitched a ride with Edda.

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Here's the doggie gathering. Ruby is one of 4 or 5 ginger colored labs, one of them even has the same color collar, so it can be hard to find her in the crowd (look in the lower left of the picture).

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Edda making friends:

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Hard to keep a head band on.

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There are a few interesting tidbits going on in the Rett Syndrome world, mainly some media stuff and awareness raising...

My friend Ingrid, who runs Girl Power 2 Cure, was recently interviewed by Parents TV for a story about her daughter Sarah who has Rett Syndrome. She did an amazing job and I loved seeing all those baby pictures of Sarah and the video of Sarah walking! We saw Sarah in 2008 and she was relying on a stander/walker and not taking independent steps and since then, she's learned how to walk, pretty fantastic!

There is also a new movie out, which opens tonight, called Extraordinary Measures - which is about a father of two critically ill kiddos with Pompe disease and how he takes a drug from its infancy and gets enough funding to create a biotech business and actually get it through clinical trials and finally being able to find a treatment for his kids. Because critically ill kids often don't make such great movie material, I was pleasantly surprised when the NY Times gave it a thumbs up.

It's based on a book called The Cure, which I did spend a few days last week reading through because I was interested in kind of learning how one develops a treatment for a genetic disease. I was a little disheartened to learn via the book that when the kiddos in the movie were diagnosed, there was already in the scientific pipeline at least a few approaches to treating Pompe in animals that were promising. Even with a lot of the science in place, it still took the father (who is a savvy businessman and decidedly not a scientist) of the kids over 5 years to get his kids treated with the medicine. There were issues with funding, scaling up, passing FDA approval, etc, etc. You know, I'm a scientist at heart, so when I think of finding a cure for Rett Syndrome, I think - well OK as long as it's done in a lab and it works, it'll be a year before no one will have Rett Syndrome, but perhaps that is not true.

Anyhow, Extrodinary Measures is running a contest: here. The video that gets the most votes gets $10,000. If you could vote for the Rett Syndrome video, that would be great! You can vote everyday until the 29th. The video is a little hard to find, just go to the bottom of the quilt and search for Rett and it'll pop up.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Noel and Rena - on the move again.

My parents are leaving tomorrow for another nuclear power gig in California for the next 3-4 months. It was nice to have a chance to hang out together for the past few months - having dinner, watching the kids and seeing movies. (My parents and I watched Avatar together since I knew Jeremy wouldn't go with me to see it. I should have sided with Jeremy - it was a silly, silly movie.)

(Here's my dad - I'm sure he's talking about how the government is too big (except when it comes to funding nuclear power plants :) ).)

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(Here's mom and dad feeding a sleeping Edda at the pinewood derby. Yes, Edda eats and sleeps at the same time).

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I got a haircut yesterday

Trying out the jogging stroller.

The morning of MLK day, we ate breakfast:

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And took the jogging stroller off-roading:

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Here's Edda displaying the reclining capabilities of the stroller (and Vince showing off a big bag of trash):

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy birthday Ruby!

She turned 9 yesterday! My first baby is 9! And the day before she turned 9, she finally retrieved a tennis ball for the first time in her life! She has never wanted to play fetch even though she's a Labrador RETRIEVER! So many exclamation points! You can teach an old dog new tricks!

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Date night.

After I did my little presentation in front of the school board, Jeremy commented to me that he very rarely gets to see me in a "professional" light. I had dressed up a little to go to the school board - a sweater set and dry-clean only pants and I delivered a pretty "professional" type presentation. I laughed and said that not only did I take talking to the school board seriously, but also the night before the school board presentation, I did kind of a fashion faux pas on "date night" and I was trying to make up for it.

The past few "date nights" have been kind of a fiasco for us, it's hard to find restaurants at the right price point and sometimes we end up spending more money than we want to on food that isn't very good. Also, we'd rather see the sights than eat, but that is kind of hard to arrange on a Tuesday night. So I've been on the lookout for cheaper and funner "date nights".

What I found was alumni night at a science museum. Our graduate school was hosting an awards ceremony at a small science museum downtown with the assurance that attendees to the event would sit through a SHORT ceremony would get free access to the science museum. I had never heard of the science museum, but I figured I wouldn't know anyone there and we could sit in the back and that there would be free food and drinks and we could enjoy the science museum.

So I show up right on time and I see the free food and the open bar. However, it turned out that everyone was dressed in suits and ties and there were no seats - no sitting in the back, only milling around and talking to people. I was dressed in a bright yellow T-shirt which advertised an LA rock station and black corduroys and white running shoes. Whoops. And it turns out that I actually knew some people there, so I was a little bit embarrassed. Oh well, at least it was cheap fun.

Free food:

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Open bar:

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Our one big thing.

Maryland doesn't have a lot of funding for disabled kids - the money is really so short that when I'm on the phone with the state, they ask me - "Well, is Edda going to be homeless within 48 hours?" and I say no and then they tell me, well they only have enough money to help the folks who are imminently going to be homeless. So then I end up feeling that I need to be giving money to the state programs rather than asking for some help with a van modification or something.

Anyways, there was always this kind of extra bit of money that they put aside called "Rolling Access" where every year you could file a one time request and they would try and fund the request and distribute it among all the applicants. I don't think the total was very much money in terms of the whole operating budget, I think the average pay out was something like $1000. Some people asked for help with therapy bills or camp bills. We asked for a jogging stroller about a year ago and we were finally lucky enough to get it, because a month after we got our check, the Rolling Access funding was cut. (That really wasn't a huge surprise.)

I am very excited to go hiking again with the whole family. Hopefully, we can do it soon once all the snow melts away.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Board of Education - making cuts.

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Last night, Jeremy and I sat in on the school district's budget meeting. Our school district has 150,000 kids in it, it's pretty big. The budget for this year is very difficult - as one can imagine, cuts need to be made and lots of people made impassioned pleas about keeping such vital services like buses, magnet programs and media specialists. Lots of people representing different clusters in the county got up and said basically we are asking for nothing, no building improvements, no special programs, we are just asking for no staffing reductions. Everyone is trying very hard to keep staffing in place.

We were there last night to try and save Edda's preschool program, MPAC, which is run by the ARC of Montgomery County. Edda graduated from MPAC last June and we were sad to see her leave the program. MPAC has been a partner with the school system for over 30 years and was a wonderful place for Edda. Now the school system wants to no longer outsource the preschool program to MPAC, rather they want to create an internal program run by the school system itself. About 20 parents spoke out in support of keeping MPAC open. It was very emotional to listen to 20 parents of special needs kids talk about something important in the lives of their kids. Someone took video of my testimony! More information on Special Needs Truth '08 blog.

Doris Lee: Testimony on Special-Needs Preschool from Mark Miller on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Collection day.

Last night, the Cub Scouts showed off their collections. Here's Vince looking at someone's awesome car collection.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Where Is Al Gore ???

Where is Al Gore? The weather forecast in the Northern Hemisphere everywhere is for more snow. And it has been in deep freeze for many days already.

Al is investing in a foreign company which gets US government's $800+ millions loan (from us, US tax payers) to produce $80,000+ futuristic "green" cars. Cars for generally public, don't think so. Maybe, just for very few "green" people with a lot of "green" notes hanging around.

Without human, global weather changes (ice age vs. global warming) have happened many times before. During those changes, there wasn't any man-made carbon in the atmosphere.

Yes, everyone needs to conserve, not only conserving energy, but also conserving everything else. "To leave as many as we can before we leave" and "being not wasteful" are always part of me. But to me, "having decent jobs and being able to pay the bills" is the foremost "green" thing that it can happy to any family world-wide.

To become a "green" fanatic (or worst, "green" parasites to feed on others' job losses) isn't the way to go. In short, "being green" and "being able to feed oneself" should be side-by-side and, furthermore, they should be hand-in-hand.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Here's hoping for snow.

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It's suppose to snow a little tonight. The kids are wondering if school's going to be cancelled. :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Perfect pizza.

We've been making a lot of pizza this year. Mostly we buy the dough frozen from the grocery store, thaw it, roll it out and put toppings on it and pop it into the oven on a cookie sheet. The pizza was pretty good, but because we used a cookie sheet, the toppings would done, but the crust would be soggy. If you wanted the crust to be crusty - then the toppings would char.

So we got some pizza stones:

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Jeremy got a pizza spatula for Xmas:

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Happy pizza making - with dough from scratch...

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A X'mas Wish

Does X'mas just pass? But, that doesn't matter. This is what I like for my next X'mas gift.

All kind of ball pens as well as markers because, we are seldom at home and all ball pens and markers are dead because of their age. It frustrated me a lot when someone called and a quick note was needed because of my advanced memory. The ball pens were everywhere but they were seldom usable. You had to try thousands (exaggerating of course) of them, before picking one which was just barely working :)

Our stored food fares no better. It wasn't difficult to find some can food which was already expired several years in our house. Mom threw most of them away. But for cokes, sometimes I just wonder.

I occasionally joked to our house guests that they should be vigilant to what they had just consumed. Even I ain't sure :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas gifts in action.

I asked for a window mounted bird feeder for Christmas so I could have some feathered company while I worked. A few days ago, I got my first bird visitor! However, today I sat next to the bird feeder for a good 8 or 9 hours and I got no visitors. Strange.

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I also asked for an indoor/outdoor thermometer which has been really helpful the past few days. Yeah, it's cold here.

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(The magnet next to the thermometer was also a Christmas gift! I enjoyed that too!)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Namaste.

Yesterday, a co-worker of Jeremy's invited us over to an art gallery where he and his wife were hosting a New Year's celebration. They called it a Namaste party. It was a nice party - lots of kids for Vince to hang around with (there seemed to be a lot of tackling and wrestling and hide and seeking) and Edda appreciated the clear and wide spaces where she could wander and explore.

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Although she almost always headed towards a doorway.

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We stayed out until almost 10 pm! A new record for us (Edda did fall asleep around 8 pm). I almost fell asleep at 9:30 pm. Luckily, Jeremy did not fall asleep on the way home as he was our trusty driver.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The mall.

Went to the mall yesterday to exchange some Christmas gifts. Jeremy ogled the combine tractor at the Lego store. Vince was not interested in exchanging his gift for the combine. No surprise there.

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Found a whole store labeled "Petite". Actually, the name was "Banana Republic Petite". A whole store just for short people like me! So excited to get pants that fit. Apparently petite people are still 4 inches taller than me. OK, I don't get these pants. Am I suppose to wear 4 inch heels with them or am I suppose to roll them or am I just suppose to pull them over my feet so the scrunch a bit on the bottom part of my leg? I'm so behind the times.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy new year!

I rung in the new year with a cold and an insomniac night - so even though I fell asleep at 8:30, I was awake enough at midnight to hear the neighborhood fireworks.

Vince hosted a New Year's Eve party which involved a shopping bag pinata:

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Vince even put a dog bone in the pinata for Ruby - look closely at the Rubister's mouth.

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Then we celebrated with the traditional pepperoni pizza and Caesar salad combo.

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Happy New Year to all!