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April 18, 2011

Flock of Cycles

For the past year, I've been working with a group of amazing people. We met because of bicycles, and through this common interest we created a nonprofit organization that aims to make bike riding in Pittsburgh both safe and fun. We recently secured a seed grant to support our flagship project, a monthly party ride. We meet after work on the second to the last Friday of every month, fire up some bicycle-mounted stereos, and slowly roll around town in the most law-abiding (important!) manner for two or three hours. It is incredibly fun, social, and generates cheers from the sidewalk audience and automobile drivers. Flock of Cycles also has the honor to be one of this year's "worthy causes" for the annual East End Brewing Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride. If you have a bike in Pittsburgh, you should be there!

February 15, 2011

Escape to the Lake!

This June I will be biking some 175 miles over two days up to Lake Erie to raise money to help those with multiple sclerosis. This fundraiser is organized by the National MS Society. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. There is no scientific consensus on the cause of the disease, no cure, and current medications to manage the disease and symptoms are usually poorly tolerated by patients. My fundraising goal is $1000. Please consider donating* if you can. Thank you!

* If your employer matches donations use this info:
National MS Society, Western Pennsylvania Chapter
1501 Reedsdale Street, Suite 105
Pittsburgh, PA 15233

Please include "Bike MS" and my name on the form. The tax ID for National MS Society, Western Pennsylvania Chapter is 251066473.

July 18, 2008

Making a Business Card

At some point during my search for gainful employment I decided it would be a good idea to have business cards to hand out to people I meet at conferences and meetings. I wanted something more than just my name and number on a 3.5" x 2" piece of card stock.

I opted to stick my name and number on the back side of a 3.5" x 2" piece of card stock with a nice glossy photo on the front. My goal was to take a photo that was unusual, eye catching, and represented "computational chemistry". I figured even if I didn't impress the recipient, at least they could stick the picture up on a cork board.

Unfortunately, the bleed for the printer I use is 1/8". This is not a big deal for a 8" x 10" sized print, but on a 2" wide card moving the image 1/4" either way makes it look pretty lopsided. I sent my centered image off and hoped for the best, but to my disappointment it came back trimmed exactly 1/4" from one edge. I either need to find a different company with more exact specifications or redo my design so it won't look so lopsided after trimming.

If you are curious about how I took the photo, below are two shots of my setup. I have no real photo equipment aside from a camera and lenses, so as you can see, I need to...improvise. My light stands are inverted stools from my kitchen with $5 utility lamps from the hardware store. The light diffusing tent is a cut up cardboard box covered in tracing paper, and that big pole holding the wires in place is a Swiffer Sweeper.

April 26, 2007

I'm Pop Clueless

Every once in a while one of Jorge Cham's PhD comic strips will describe me better than you will ever know.


Image © Piled Higher and Deeper by Jorge Cham (www.phdcomics.com)

April 24, 2007

Orange You Glad I'm Not a Vitamin?

I read many scientific publications on a daily basis, and I'm often amazed with stuff people are working on, but rarely do I stumble across a bit of research that backs up some previously baseless theory I've dreamed up and employ in my daily life.

I scoff at the idea of taking vitamins in pill form. The ingredients in those little pills, largely unregulated, go through who knows how many chemical extractions, purifications, and modifications; this means there is trace solvent, traces of heavy metals from machinery, vitamins that have been chemically altered by oxidative damage - all these things are in those little pills, and they are Bad Things™.

On the other hand, if you can find a good source of fruits and vegetables that haven't been ravaged by chemical pesticides and herbicides, they should be relatively free of Bad Things™, and as Guarnieria, Risoa and Porrini report here (British Journal of Nutrition, 2007, 97, 639-64), they are instead full of trace amounts of mysterious Good Things™. Nobody really knows what most of these Good Things™ are, just like we don't know what some of the Bad Things™ are, but when it comes to knowing what is good for me I'm going to trust nature over some guys who own a pill factory aiming to make a few bucks.

The authors made healthy volunteers drink either real juice from blood oranges, water enriched with the same levels of vitamin C, or sugar water as a control, and then subjected samples of the volunteers' blood cells to oxidative damage by H2O2. They concluded in part "that whole foods can increase cell resistance to oxidative stress better than single compounds". They also found that even after levels of vitamin C in blood plasma had dropped off, the juice group still resisted oxidative damage far more than the enriched water group. Apparently, there is at least one trace compound in oranges that is working in concert with vitamin C to keep you healthy. Nobody knows what this compound is, but you can rest assured it doesn't come in a pill.

For my illiterate audience, I took a picture of an orange - go eat one:

March 30, 2007

Disappointment

I'm a bad blogger. Recently one or two or five of my friends have politely poked fun at my lack of updates, and also asked me about my running a marathon -- which is only fair since they've all been hit up for donations. My experience teaching tells me that if one or two people are left wondering, there are probably orders more who just don't bother to say anything.

As I posted previously, I managed to injure my ankle. A stress fracture, which was no doubt made worse after several misdiagnosis and continued abuse, still bothers me to this day. Walking, cycling, hiking cause me no distress, but the several occasions over the past year that I've attempted to run with any regularity (4-5 times a week) have resulted in bothersome pain in the same spot on my right ankle.

I am not sure if it healed wrong, never healed all the way, or is just in some perpetual woe. What I do know is that it only hurts after I run for more than two days in a row.

When I explain this to someone, inevitably the next thing out of their mouth, and probably what you are thinking right now is, "well why don't you go back to the doctor!" My reply to that is, what for? They will just suggest that I don't run if it hurts. Which is exactly what I am doing now, only it hasn't cost me $300 in doctor visits and tests. Also, supposing I actually get a student health center doctor who finds something amiss, what then? I have already had plenty of rest, and unless I am mistaken, there is no magic stress fracture healing pill, so I'd guess the next step is to do some sort of bone surgery. Sorry, I am not that committed to my cause.

Your donations went to a good place. I was really quite into the whole running thing, and was pretty disappointed and depressed over not being able to continue with it. I didn't quit because I'm lazy, or didn't enjoy running, or whatever other reasons you might throw out. I stopped running because it seems to be causing problems with my skeletal system! I would be glad to field any questions or suggestions you might offer.

June 10, 2006

Update

My ankle has still been bugging me once and a while. I only notice it when I squat down to pick something up, for example, but I suspect it might get worse if I start running again. Last Saturday I rode along with the Saturday morning workout. I biked back and forth with water and food for the people running. Nobody actually needed anything, but it was nice to see some familiar faces and get out on a bike ride.

My third year seminar went well. I resolved some problems I had been having with a few calculations, and am working with my professor and our collaborators writing a paper that will include some of my results.

Right now, I am building a few new computers to help with our chemistry calculations at work. The one I am most excited about is a dual, dual core Opteron system (4 cores!) with 32GB of RAM. This should help us with some of the more complex calculations that we can't run right now. In addition, we are adding significant amounts of storage space to store the results of all our calculations.

I took this photo with my new camera. It is the box of hard drives I ordered, wrapped up in ESD bags. Twenty 300GB drives, that is 6TB of space! For the non-geeky people out there, this is equivalent to about 8600 CDs.

April 04, 2006

Eight to ten weeks

I met with the sports medicine doctor this morning. Apparently I messed my ankle up pretty good. The fracture appears to go through most of the bone, but I'm told the tibia is the best place for this to happen. If it was a different bone I might have needed surgery to insert metal rods into my bones.

I am going to follow up with the doctor in six weeks, and was advised to wait eight to ten weeks before I begin training again. She told me ramp up my training a bit slower next time.

The doctors at the health center were kind enough to burn my X-ray images on a CD for me. Below (click for a larger picture) you can see brighter band next to the red arrow where the bone is trying to repair itself. That is my stress fracture.

April 01, 2006

Sea Kayaking in Mexico

I went sea kayaking in Mexico with my Dad over spring break. We spent six days paddling around Bahia de Los Angeles. It was nice to get out of cold, rainy Davis and spend some time in the sun. The pictures of our trip are in the gallery:

pan4

March 30, 2006

Ankle

I visited the doctor a two weeks ago regarding my ankle pain. I had X-rays taken to rule out a fracture, and my primary care physician found nothing out of the ordinary after looking at them, so he said it was tendonitis and referred me to a sports medicine doctor.

A week later he left me a voice mail saying that the radiologist noticed a distal tibial stress fracture that he missed at first glance. Apparently I've had it for some time now. For now my marching orders are to rest - that is, no running. I can bike and swim though, so I'll probably be doing a lot of cycling to keep fit.

Right now the Alaska Marathon is up in the air. I will have to talk it over with my coaches and doctors to see if I can up my mileage before this summer. Otherwise I guess I'll be running a different marathon.

I'm pretty bummed about the whole thing. I was really enjoying running with the team, and my fundraising has been going so well - I'm nearly done with that part of my challenge. I have an appointment with a sports medicine doctor next Tuesday, and I'll have a chance to speak with my coaches this Saturday. I'll have another update after all that.

March 09, 2006

Back in California

What a week! On Friday I drove to Mountain View to help my friends move. I wasn't much help for moving with my ankle, and what little I did probably did me more harm than good. In retrospect, moving, or just standing around watching other people move stuff is a dumb idea when you're injured. My ankle feels much better today, probably because I've hardly walked anywhere.

I didn't get much sleep at my friends' place, as their cats had issues acclimating to their new surroundings, and Sunday night I took a redeye to Minneapolis for my grandmother's funeral. I was kind of a wreck having gone two days without sleep. I didn't get much sleep last night either due to the combination of another redeye and the silly cats breaking stuff and jumping on me while I was sleeping.

I'm back in Davis now, and after many hours of trouble, I finally got the new computer I ordered for work up and running today. It feels good to get done what I say I am going to get done. If you are computer savvy, check your md5sums before you burn CD images; saves a lot of trouble!

February 27, 2006

Limp a marathon?

My ankle still hurts when I walk, but it sure feels better than on Saturday. I still have a bit of a limp, but I can almost walk a full, normal stride without wincing in pain. I hope by the end of the week I'll be walking like normal again. I don't know how long I should wait before I start running again though.

February 25, 2006

Ouch.

I went running this morning, at least 10 miles, and I'm walking around with a limp now. I think what I thought was some minor lower leg pain is actually a sprained ankle. My ankle is killing me right now. I'm going to take it easy for a couple of weeks, maybe walk at the team trainings and ride my bike the rest of the time. Not sure yet until I talk to my coach. I'm very much bummed out.

After my workout this morning I went into work to host some prospective graduate students. It is fun to meet new people, talk about geeky chemistry stuff. I got a free lunch out of the deal too.

February 23, 2006

Birthday Run

I went for a run on my birthday with the team. I ran 7, maybe 8 miles (I lost count). My ankle started to bother me towards the end of the run. It was some goofy lower leg muscles that never get used on a bike screaming out in pain. Tonight I went on a bike ride out to Winters again. It was much warmer than last time, about 46°F on the way back.

February 22, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my birthday. I turn 25. For some reason I feel like 25 sounds much older than all my previous ages. All birthday gifts may be donated to my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser. I don't need anything (unless you are a dental surgeon, then let's talk).

I ran 8.5 miles Saturday morning, and tried to go running on Monday night at the gym, which was closed for President's Day. Last night I gave a presentation on my research to my research group. I'll be going for another long run tonight in Sacramento.

The generosity of everyone's donations is very comforting. Thank you all, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I feel like I (and you!) am actually making a difference.

February 17, 2006

Bicicle (bicycle+icicle) ride

I spoke with my coach yesterday and told him I was having knee pains, and asked about replacing one of my workouts each week with a bike ride. Being a cyclist himself, he thought that it was a great idea! Tonight I replaced my running workout with a bike ride. I rode out to Winters with the Davis Bike Club. It is about 30 miles round trip and it was very, very cold. My thermometer says it is 41.4°F outside right now. Being the cheapskate I am, I don't own a pair of leg warmers, so I was doing it all with shorts. I've finally warmed up, and I'm feeling much better now. On the plus side, I didn't have to ice my knees when I got home. They were already iced!

I had a consultation with the oral surgeon earlier today to discuss the removal of my wisdom teeth.

Continue reading "Bicicle (bicycle+icicle) ride" »

February 15, 2006

McKinley Park

I went running with the team tonight at McKinley Park in Sacramento. It doesn't look as pretty as the picture. It was dark, the 'roses' were just bare branches sticking out of the mud this time of year and the bums would yell mean things at the joggers, yet it was still nice to run with other people!!


I've also been sending out more fundraising letters. My fundraising has started off well. I have collected $310 so far! Thank you Ulf, John, Dean, Ursula, Michael, Young, Lily and Sherry for your donations and kind words of support. I have a long way to go, but I have many more letters to send, and I have a couple other fundraising ideas I'm working on.

February 12, 2006

Sunday Jog

I missed the team workout on Saturday morning due to some unfortunate circumstances. I made up for it tonight though, and went running for about 70 minutes. I estimate I went 7-8 miles, but I have to admit, I got completely lost (in Davis...) so I can't figure out exactly how far I went. Running in the dark by myself is not the most exciting thing in the world. Even listening to an iPod it gets really lonely out there.

February 10, 2006

Progress

I ran five miles on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Wednesday was our team practice in Sacramento, and it was nice to have people to run with, despite the crazy traffic going into the city. My running schedule said I should take Tuesday and Friday off. Tomorrow morning should be seven miles! I timed myself on my last mile yesterday, about an 8.5 minute mile. Hopefully that will improve as I continue with my training.

February 04, 2006

While you were sleeping, I ran.

I woke up this morning at 6:00 AM to get ready to drive to Sacramento for a TNT practice. I don't usually wake up at 6:00 AM. I tend to wake up oh, around 10:00 AM or so. Despite waking up 4 hours early, I ran 6 miles no problem! I stayed near the front, but couldn't quite keep up with the two girls ahead of me past the 3rd mile.

Yesterday I asked the chemistry stockroom manager, Henry, if he had any envelopes he might donate to my letter writing campaign. He handed me a giant pile of envelopes, and with a little strategic labeling I can convert them into perfectly usable postal capsules. Look for your letters soon!

February 01, 2006

Team in Training kick off

On Saturday I went to the Team in Training kick off. It was a lot more organized than the informational meeting I spoke of earlier. I signed up to train for Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon and raise $4500 to fund The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's mission to cure blood cancers and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. I haven't decided yet which goal is more intimidating, running a marathon or the fundraising. You can help me by donating online with your credit card here.

I went to my first team practice tonight. It was cold and raining, but it was very nice to run outside with other people. I only ran about four miles. I've been suffering from all kinds of goofy aches and pains in my legs and knees since I started to run. Amazing that I can get on a bike and go, go, go, but I run a few miles and I feel like an old man.

For those interested in learning more about blood cancers here are two links:

January 26, 2006

run, dan, run!

I've been running every other evening for the past couple of weeks. It was rough starting out, but last night I ran four miles with no problems at all. I would have kept going, except the gym here instituted some silly 30 minute rule on all cardio equipment. Roughly 30% of the treadmills are "scheduled for repairs" everyday! The surprising thing is, it isn't the same 30% each day. So that means, someone is fixing them, but then the other ones break. It seems rather odd that they have that high of a failure rate. It stinks waiting in line to run. It will be nice when it starts to warm up outside.

Nobody has talked me out of signing up for this marathon. Only words of encouragement.

January 25, 2006

a marathon in my future?

So I just finished what could only be described as a marathon of studying prior to my qualifying exam. I am probably as booksmart now as I ever will be. Now I'm thinking of tackling another marathon, running a grueling 26.2 miles. Last fall I biked my first century, see me smiling? Don't be fooled, I was only on mile 40...

Me at Foxy's Fall century with my bike helmet and my Google jersey

I went to an informational meeting tonight put on by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program. The meeting itself was poorly organized and cheezy, but I'm seriously contemplating signing up. I think having a bunch of other people to train with would be a fantastic motivating factor. I've also never fundraised for anything, so this would be a good opportunity for me to contribute to a "good cause".