Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book review: The Girl who Played with Fire

This is the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I read back in July.  I almost bought the third book at a Borders closeout when I was visiting my parents in Orlando (they didn't have any copies of this one), but I'm glad I stuck to reading the series in order because this book gives a lot of the back story and ends with something of a cliffhanger that draws you into the third.  Books 1 and 2 were different in many ways, so rather than go into the details of the plot, which is somewhat complex, I'm going to write about what I liked best from each.

I ended up enjoying the back story and the character development in Fire more than I thought I would.  I was not sure if I would like the Lisbeth Salander character better if she remained mysterious, but I thought Larsson kept her "more personal" character true to the character in the first book.

I thought the mystery part of the first book was more intriguing and more "mysterious".  In fact, I'd call the first book an actual mystery novel and the second an action novel.

Although Fire starts with a disturbing scene, overall there was less really nasty violence in the second book.  I remember finishing the first, thinking I would never want to see the movie, but I think I would see the second. 

I liked the ending of Fire better.  The only part of either of the books I really didn't like so far was the long, drawn out end to Dragon Tattoo.  All the action was over, but there was one plot point that had to be wrapped up.  Unfortunately it took like 75 pages to do it, and I spend the whole time just wanting the book to be over already.  The end of Fire takes you right into the next book in the series. 

If you are the second to last person on earth to read this series- and you like mystery/action/adventure novels and can handle some disturbing/violent scenes- I'd recommend reading them.  I don't think they are THE BEST THING EVER, but they are good and entertaining books and I look forward to reading the last one sometime soon. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh, death

Blogging has been limited because our computer is, in fact, dead.  The graphics card gave up the ghost, and because it's part of the motherboard on our laptop, it would have been 2/3 as expensive as a new computer to replace it.  We were able to get all out files extracted to an external hard drive (lesson learned) but are currently limited to using our old back up computer (and thankful that we have it).  We think we've settled on a new computer- it's 180 degrees different than we thought we were going to buy when we started looking- and hopefully we can order it today and get it in next week.  We're going through the campus IT store to get an educational discount, but it means we have to wait for it to be delivered because they don't keep this model in stock.

We spent a beautiful Saturday (sorry, people on the East Coast) at the Orton Park music festival on the East Side.  One of the performers, a folk musician named Tim Eriksen who did a lot of work on the music for the movie Cold Mountain, led a shape note singing in the morning that we attended, and we stayed for his set and two other bands in the afternoon.

Tim Eriksen:  Plays the banjo.  Looks like a pirate.  Big in Serbia.
In the evening we went to an enchilada dinner to support Team in Training.  Unfortunately for them it wasn't well attended (although they did raise $1400), but fortunately for us that meant we went home with two door prizes- a $10 gift card to Starbucks and a $15 gift card to the Essen Haus- so we actually recouped the cost of dinner.

Sunday was chill.  I read a huge chunk of The Girl Who Played with Fire and think I saw a bat on the side of the grocery store???

This is a hugely busy week at work because we have a grant that has to be ready to go out on Friday.  But then we get to relax with a 3-day weekend.  Yay!  We have no plans thus far.

Locals, what should we do on the last official weekend of summer?  Is everything going to be totally packed?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Link Love

On the third anniversary at my job (yesterday), thoughts from Study Hacks on developing a career you enjoy:

The Career Craftsman Manifesto

Don't Quit Your Day Job, Transform It: Why Following Your Passion is the Wrong Way to Find Occupational Happiness

These two articles address the question of how to find satisfaction in the career you already have, but don't answer the question, "How do I pick a career to begin with?"   Here 10 things I'd suggest a prospective college student trying to pick a major or career consider:

1. Inside or outside? - Are you a delicate flower that will wilt inside with no sunshine or a delicate flower that will wilt in in the heat or cold? 

2. Physical or sedentary? - Are you okay with sitting in front of a computer all day?  Or running around like a crazy person all day?.

3. Service or solitary? - Do you want to interact with people (either serving others or on a team) all day or do you prefer to work independently for the most part?

4. How important is it for you to feel like you are "making a difference"?

5. How important is it for you to see a concrete end product at the end of a project? 

6. Cooperation or competition? - Do you thrive on competing or dread it?

7. Managed or self-directed? -  Do you feel prepared to step out on your own or would you feel more comfortable taking direction from people who are more experienced and knowledgeable.

8. How important are your work hours? - Are you a morning person?  A night person?  Are you okay with working long hours to develop your career or would you really rather be done at 5pm?

9. Are you okay with going into debt to get your training/education?  How much?

10. How important is it to make a lot of money?  How much?

For many people, I think there could be multiple jobs that fit the answers to these questions, but it narrows things down.  After that, you can direct your career choice based on your interests.

What else would you add to the list?  What career advice do you wish you'd been given at 17?

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Our computer may have died last night????  It was working fine yesterday morning, but we came home after picking up our CSA box to find it unresponsive.  When Daniel tried to turn it on NOTHING happened.

We want to see if the hard drive is salvageable because it has um... all of our pictures on it.  And it's only like 3.5 years old.  Planned obsolescence much?  Anyone in Madison have a recommendation for a computer repair shop?  

I know Daniel wouldn't be totally sad to have to buy a shiny new laptop like the one he's been using at Google this summer...  I'm not exactly sure how I feel about a Mac.  I know everyone loves them, but I haven't used one since middle school, and I'm not a rocket surgeon when it comes to computers.  I'm kind of intimidated by making the switch.  I guess we'll also be investing in an external hard drive for backing up files (whether we get a new computer or not).

So futuristic.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dinner is served

Oh yes, I did.

Once ice cream sundae with all the candy toppings + hot fudge, caramel, and peanut butter + a cherry on top.  I don't always choose to gorge myself on my birthday, but when I do, I prefer Babcock Ice Cream.

Thanks to everyone for the Birthday cards, phone calls, comments and Facebook wall posts.  It really made my day!    


Tuesday, August 23, 2011


In Pushing Daisies terms, I'm 29 years and 3 minutes old right now, and all of you - near and far - are invited to my birthday party.

We'll begin with cherry chocolate chip zucchini bread, inspired - appropriately enough- by Brownies and Zucchini.  I actually mashed up the dry goods/ flavoring portion of this recipe for chocolate chip muffins with the liquid portion of this recipe for lemon zucchini muffins from my King Arthur Flour baking book.  And threw in some dried cherries for fun.  My guinea pigs women's Bible study group tried it out last night and seemed to like it.  The texture was very soft, and the cherries were a nice addition to the otherwise CHOCOLATE taste.  I saved a piece for Daniel to try, but the rest is going into work, where I'm guessing it will be devoured by 10am.

Other than performing a little quality assurance on the chocolate bread last night, I'm saving my birthday junk food binge for this afternoon.  Second up on our birthday itinerary is a late afternoon trip to the Babcock Ice Cream Store where I plan to put their $2 sundae with unlimited toppings birthday deal to the test.

I don't have much planned otherwise.  I'm headed to the gym this morning and then to a busy day at work.  Daniel gave me his birthday gift last night- a fun notepad for grocery/Target lists.

And that's it until next year when I get to turn 29 again! - Happy Anniversary of Your 29th Birthday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Five things

I have learned during my (nearly - on Thursday) 3 years as a research statistician.

1. The hardest thing about any job is learning what questions you need to ask.  It's frustrating to not know what you don't know, and I think it's the #1 reason that starting a new job is so stressful.  I'm not sure how to learn what questions to ask other than by asking a lot of questions- many of which will ultimately not be the right ones and you will mess things up anyway- and to keep trying and keep taking new projects until you start to see patterns in your work.  You'll start to learn what you don't know and how to find the answer.   

2. The most important question to ask is "Why?" - Once you can answer this about everything you do, from "Why am I writing this paper?" to "Why am I using this method?" with something other than, "Because my adviser/boss told me to"  you are your way to becoming a good researcher.  I will call you in 20 years when I've got that down.

3. Never underestimate your ability to mess things up - It is an inevitability.  You will transpose two numbers and not catch it any of the 25 times you check that section of your program.  You will have to redo your analysis because you didn't control for some mystery variable you've never heard of.  You will have to e-mail out a new spreadsheet- and CC all coauthors- when you realize there was one solitary "4" that you didn't change to a "5".  Check, double check, triple check.  Learn from your mistakes.  Be paranoid that you will screw up because you will.

4. This means other people will mess up, too - It is an inevitability.  Don't be angry and certainly don't act like you've never done the same thing, because you have.  Learn what you can from a situation and move on. Sometimes that means you have to adapt your plans.  That's fine.  Keep working.  Papers and grants don't write themselves while you sit and stew over a mistake someone else made.      

5. One year of work experience is worth 5 (at least) in the classroom - Every problem in school comes gift wrapped to you with a label that tells you exactly what it is.  This is a categorical data analysis problem.  This is an exercise where you use a built-in function to read in a dataset from Excel.  Problems in the real world are unclear, messy, and full of hazards.  More like What do I do when I just presented my results from an analysis only to find out that one of my numbers doesn't match something on a Powerpoint slide created in 1997 because I didn't control for a variable that I didn't knew existed?  or Why won't my program work right now when I needed to give an answer 5 minutes ago?  Sure you need an educational background in your subject to learn on the job, but school never teaches you how to handle the most difficult situations you will be faced with in real life.

These are the five things that immediately come to my mind, but I'm sure there are others.  What would you add to this list?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Madison Mini Marathon Race Report

Do I get to write a race report for a race I didn't run?  Sure, why not?

My plan was to get up early, run, scarf some breakfast, and bike out to mile 11.5 of the Madison Mini Marathon to cheer on a few friends as they passed by.  I did get in a run and breakfast, but a nasty electrical storm spoiled part 3 of my plan as well as delayed the start of the race by an hour and a half.  This set into motion a dangerous chain of events beginning with me going grocery shopping at Trader Joe's unsupervised and ended with a kitchen full of impulse buys like this

and this.

In my defense, we at that butternut squash "triangolini" last night, and it was pretty tasty.

Back to the race.

I'll have to read race reports to know for sure what happened, but as far as I can tell, the race started in a total downpour.  However, the rain stopped and the sun came out around 9am.  I got to mile 11.5 a little bit after 10, which was too late to see one friend, but I caught everyone else I came to see.

Jamie, aka Running Diva Mom, was first, and I wouldn't have seen her if she hadn't yelled at me.  This was a recurring theme of the morning.  Spectating is harder than you'd think.

Next was Linda, who was trucking along, looking strong.  I didn't get her picture because I must have some kind of psychological disorder where I am unable to recognize anyone I'm actively looking for.

Just a little bit later came Kerri and Dan.  Kerri had a pretty big PR in this race - way to go, Special K.

Spectating was actually pretty fun.  At first I just stood there and stared at the runners coming by like I was simple minded, but once I got going, I was yelling at the runners like I was simple minded.  I did get a few smiles from, "1.5 miles 'till dry socks!" but maybe they were just humoring me.  I did not try to tell anyone they were "almost there".  I know that at the end of a 1/2 marathon 1.5 miles feels like 1.5 lightyears, not almost there.  I also didn't use the "Hurry up, an 8-year-old is beating you." side of my sign.  A lot of those people looked like they'd been through the washing machine, and I didn't want to lower anyone's morale.  There was a tiny piece of me that wishes I'd run this race, but the sane 99.9% that hates being wet was happy I was in the snack aisle of Trader Joe's while these bad*sses were toughing it out.

Congrats on a great run, all.  Can't wait to read those race reports.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mad Spectatin'

I'm out cheering on the runners of the Madison Mini Marathon this morning.  Good luck to Kerri, Jamie and Linda!  Hopefully the rain will hold off.  Racing in the rain is not a lot of fun.  Plus I'd hate for it to ruin my fabulous sign.  I made sure to cover both motivational bases.  

Both the carrot:

 And the stick:

I'm off on my own wimpy, definitely not 13.1 mile run.  

Have you ever been a spectator at a race?  If you're a runner, did it change your perspective on racing?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Link Love

This is the first (and for sure not last because I've already started working on next Friday) Friday Link Love.  We'll start with two links that have absolutely nothing to do with each other:
  • Yes you can make yogurt in the crock pot!  We did this several times years ago but drug back out the recipe to make yogurt for our fro-yo projects.  It may seem a bit sketch to leave warm milk hanging around for 12 hours, but we've never gotten ill from it.  Here's a our crockpot, snuggly warm.

The yogurt you get at the end is runny but this can be improved by mixing in gelatin when you mix in the starter yogurt and by straining off the whey with a really fine mesh strainer.  Even after straining, we were left with several cups of yogurt from one 1/2 gallon of milk.

It's also super tangy, but that can be remedied with frozen berries and sugar.

And toppings:

Mmmmmm... I love a high ratio of toppings to ice cream/fro-yo.

  • Patient Voices- Macular Degeneration - A piece from the New York Times about life with vision-threatening eye disease, both age-related and in the young (hat tip, Kerri).  I think most of you know that I work on research related to age-related AMD (the "wet type" and "dry type" you hear the patients talking about).  I don't really expect that most of you will listen to this, but if you have a friend or a loved one who is losing their sight, you might find it interesting.

Got a link to something interesting you'd like to share with me?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Three Wishes

If I had three wishes, one of them would be to have a plate of food from Mediterranean Cafe appear in front of me every time I was hungry.  Kerri and I took advantage of the last largely undergrad-free summer week to grab lunch there yesterday.

It's quite the State St. institution, and they know they have a captive audience.  You have to be dedicated to eat at Mediterranean Cafe.  It's only open for lunch Monday through Saturday.  You have to pay with cash.  You only get one tiny styrofoam cup of soda or tea if you order a drink.  Most people have to take their food to go because the dining room is tiny.  But the food is so good that people are lined up- even on a dead day like yesterday- to get in there at lunch time.  When the students are back?  Practically impossible.

My favorite thing to order is the falafil plate.

Spicy falafil patties, zesty salad dressing, creamy hummus....mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...  but sadly not appearing in front of me right now.  I don't care if it's breakfast time!  Yesterday I ordered the shawarma sandwich, which is pretty much like a gyro but with more veggies and less gloppy sauce.  It was quite tasty, but don't worry, spicy chickpea balls, I'll be back.  Kerri had Akin's plate which is similar to the photo above except made with gyro meat and all mixed together.  It's for the more adventurous diner who doesn't mind his/her foods touching.

And with that, I bid a fond farewell to Mediterranean Cafe.  Next week it will be overrun with undergrads, and by the time they empty out again, it will be cold, making the trip over to State St. much less enjoyable.  See you again next summer!  If you live in Madison, GO!  It is so worth the hassle.

Have a favorite restaurant you can only eat at infrequently?  What are your three wishes today?

BTW, I'm thinking my other two would be 1. For our apartment complex to allow us to have a pet (but no one else, that would be isanity) and 2. To have a house elf.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Welcome to my new blog!  I decided it was time for a change from EarlyRunner, where I haven't written anything about running since... I dunno... March?

The title Theology and Geometry is a hat tip to one of my favorite books, A Confederacy of Dunces.  In it, the main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, categorizes the world into things that have "theology and geometry" or "taste and decency" and those (which were most things) that do not.  It seemed like an appropriate title for the place I plan to share musings on things I enjoy and those that offend my delicate sensibilities.  First, a short tutorial.

Things that have taste and decency:

Ice cream sundaes

Baby sloths

And that new Buddy Holly cover by Ceelo

And things that do not:

Madison's Hippie Christmas


And the Nyan Cat

I plan to keep EarlyRunner around because I want to be able to look back and link back to things written there, but this is where I plan to post from now on.

I'd love it if you left a comment to let me know you followed me over here!