Category Archives: News

Chestnuts are Assholes, but I Love Them Anyway

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? More like, exploding in my oven! Come for the holiday cheer, stay for the junior high humor.

Ahh, chestnuts…the thought of them probably conjures up something like this, am I right?

Relaxing by the hearth as the rich aroma of roasted nuts fills your nostrils, wrapped in a fleece blanket, sipping decadent hot cocoa, basking in the warm glow of Christmas tree lights…

To most of us, especially here in the US, chestnuts are a holiday abstraction. This classic Christmas song brings comfort and joy during a period as the nights get longer and colder, when all you desire is to stuff your face and hibernate.

The true story of chestnuts is anything but warm and fuzzy. The reality is sharp and painful. In fact, chestnuts are assholes. They grow inside prickly nut-sacks that hurt like hell if you accidentally step on one. They also bloom ugly, stringy “flowers” during the hottest days of summer which smell like death. Not to mention, chestnut trees spew metric tons of leaves in the yard and into the gutters.

Chestnuts grow inside spiky green balls. They usually drop their nuts in September, hee hee ūüôā

However, life has not been easy for the American chestnut tree. In the early 20th century, there were over 4 billion chestnut trees growing in the states, according to the American Chestnut Foundation. Aside from everyone and their squirrel trying to get a piece of DEEZ NUTS, some douchebag brought a fungal disease called the “Chestnut Blight” from Asia in the early 20th century. This invasive pathogen wiped out nearly all the trees by the mid-century. The American Chestnut tree is now considered “functionally extinct.” Most species of chestnuts that grow here are of the Asian or European variety.

The famed “Christmas Song” was written in 1946, inspired by experiences my grandparents had of harvesting and roasting chestnuts. Yet for us Millennials, our only exposure to chestnuts is a Chestnut Praline latte from Starbucks (better than the Pumpkin Spice, in my opinion). So when I moved into my new house around Christmas of 2016, I unwittingly picked up a spiny bastard hidden in a pile of leaves with my bare hands while cleaning my yard, and it freaking HURT, man! I wanted to know what the hell kind of tree was dropping these God-forsaken things on my property.

After pounding “tree that grows weaponized tennis balls” into Google, I realized I had encountered a chestnut tree. It actually grows in my neighbor’s yard, but half the tree canopy extends onto our property and turns my backyard into a minefield. I had second thoughts about taking a chainsaw to my neighbor’s tree. If I could, in fact, eat them, perhaps having to fill three large garbage cans of spiny bastards every fall would be worth it…

However, not all chestnuts are edible. I needed to ensure that the chestnuts that grew in my yard were not poisonous. There are several species of chestnut-like plants which, if eaten raw, could cause ” vomiting, diarrhea, inflammation of mucous membranes, fever, stupor, muscle weakness and twitching, hemolysis, and respiratory paralysis” according this report in the FDA’s Poisonous Plants database.

Don’t eat these fake-azz nuts unless you want to spend copious amounts of time on the toilet
Actual chestnuts harvested from my yard.

The following September (2017), I decided I would harvest the chestnuts as a consolation prize for the pain and suffering caused by their spiny casings. I knew nothing about cooking or harvesting chestnuts. I figured I would just pick a few that fell on the ground and store them in a glass jar in the kitchen until the holiday season because who wants to roast chestnuts on an open fire when it’s 85 degrees outside?

Well, I learned the hard way that chestnuts actually rot if they are not stored in the fridge. They also like a bit of moisture while storing, so they do well in a Zip-Loc bag. Read more on how to store chestnuts.

Aside from the nuts shriveling up like an old man’s balls, I encountered a scene straight out of a cheesy creature horror film. At the bottom of the glass jar were piles of these maggot-like things writhing about. I was terrified I had flies in my kitchen and they were breeding inside the chestnuts.

After fumigating the kitchen and Googling the nightmare I just witnessed, I realized one of the nuts I picked up was infested by a creature known as a “chestnut weevil.” There are apparently other kinds of “nut weevils” out there, but their modus operandi is the similar: Lay eggs inside the spiny maturing nuts, which hatch grubs that bore out of the nut and they grow into adult pests over the winter and spring, only to repeat the cycle.

The lesson I learned was to, again, not let the nuts sit for too long. Usually baking them in the oven will kill the bastards before they have a chance to hatch. This meant that the nuts I had gathered that year were no bueno, so I had to wait until the following year to attempt a chestnut harvest.

My living nightmare

Adult chestnut weevils busting a nut before busting a nut

September 2018 comes. I store my chestnuts in the fridge and plan to cook them soon after harvest, whether it still feels like summer or not. I throw away any soft nuts or nuts with holes in them. Now, the only thing to do is learn how to roast them.

I had no aspirations to be an accidental arsonist, so I turned to Google once again to discover you can indeed roast them in the oven. I followed these instructions. It is very important to cut a deep “x” in the nut so the pressure does not cause it to explode while it roasts. Kind of like a baked potato, except chestnuts have a hard-ass outer shell that requires a sharp knife to score. I may or may not have sliced my finger open preparing these things…

I put the chestnuts in oven, keeping a diligent eye on them. The kitchen starts to smell AMAZING. I understand why there are songs written about this. Despite the hot temperatures outside, I am fully engrossed in my Christmas fantasy until…


I peer into the oven. One by one, nuts are exploding. Shotgun sounds permeate my kitchen. Nut-meat is blasted all over the place and crusting the inside of my oven. The sweet, homey aroma turns into the acrid smell of burnt popcorn. I turn off the oven and abort mission. I was only able to salvage a few, but damn were they tasty!! Cleaning the oven afterwards, was NOT fun.

The few. The proud. The tasty.

This fall rolls around, and I learn my lesson once again. I cut deeper scores into the chestnuts (and into my fingers). I watch them like a hawk and pull any nuts out that looks like they will explode. I was able to enjoy many more chestnuts this year, and hope to be even better and more efficient at cooking and shelling them next year.

I’ve injured myself a lot for the sake of this treat. I’m not going to lie, Mother Nature makes me WORK for this! As painful as it’s been, there is something incredible about discovering a food source in the backyard that is not readily available in the mainstream grocery store. As more chestnut trees continue to re-populate here in the US, I wonder how many people have something growing in their yard and miss out because they weren’t just a little bit curious about…DEEZ NUTS!!!

The Elements of Jung’s Cognitive Functions (With Pretty Pictures)

If you have ever been to my place, you may have noticed this picture. People often ask me what it means, so rather than bore them with a lecture on Jungian psychology, I figured I would just write a post about it. In short, the drawing is an illustration of archetypal balance, with mapping Jung’s cognitive functions to the elements…which I explain below.

So what’s with the sun and the moon and the green people?

I’ve developed a passion for learning about Jungian psychology and archetypes for over a decade now. Jung posited that there exists a collective unconscious, in which universal ideals, thoughts, and patterns (the archetypes) live. These archetypes have existed since time immemorial; one could say they were created by (insert theological deity of your choice). They are symbols that seem to exist across cultures, whether or not the cultures had contact and could influence each other.

Archetypes can manifest in both the conscious realm (i.e. reality), and also within each person’s subconscious. The core archetypes are:

  1. The Persona – What we exhibit to the outside world; the self the world wants us to be
  2. The Shadow – The thoughts and areas we don’t want to acknowledge; the things that make us uncomfortable – the Dark Side.
  3. The Animus – The archetype of inherently masculine characteristics (associated with the Yang, in Eastern philosophy)
  4. The Anima – The archetype of inherentiy feminine characteristics (often associated with the Yin)

Over the years, scholars and authors have come up with very distinct manifestations of the archetypes, such as the Mother, the Hero, The Wise Man, etc.

Like pretty much everything in psychology, how these archetypes actualize or become dominant depends on nature and nurture. When they are very out of balance, it causes angst and depression. So its not surprising that many people today are popping pills or lining the pockets of psychotherapists because their ideal self is nothing like who they actually are. Especially in today’s world of social media, when the gulf between the real self and the ideal self have become even wider.

When our persona and our shadow, and the anima and animus, are are truly accepted as a whole, a person’s true authentic self emerges. It often involves a syzygy – a reconciliation of opposites (and also a great Scrabble word). This may involve accepting the things about ourselves we do not like, or being comfortable with certain aspects of our own or opposite gender.The important thing is that the person has recognized and accepted th e right combination of archetypal influence, not always shifting to the opposite extreme.

OK, that’s great, but what do those letters mean? Are they chemical symbols or what?

The letters refer to Jung’s 8 cognitive processes.

Carl Jung

The core concept of Jung’s Psychological Types is the idea of Introversion and Extraversion. These are not the actual personality types which which you’re familiar, but the ideas behind them. Introversion involves directing energy towards one’s inner thoughts and feelings, while Extraversion involves focusing on the external world and other people.

Jung also distinguished dimensions by which people process information (Sensing and Intuition), and how they make decisions (Thinking and Feeling).¬†This remind you of a personality test you had to take for work or school or church. Maybe it was my Mass Effect MBTI Chart – which ironically, draws most of the traffic to this site :p. While many people have heard of the Myers-Briggs tests and personality types, what is interesting is that this test is based off of Jung’s cognitive functions.

The Sensing process involves a preference for processing tangible facts – what is right in front of you. People who use iNtuition are more comfortable processing concepts and ideas. Sensing considers “what is or what was” and iNtuition looks as “what could be”. These are both what are known as the “perceiving functions.”¬†Thinking and Feeling are the “Judging” functions. Some people more readily prefer to use logic to make decisions, while others prefer to take personal relationships into account.

These processes can be Introverted (drawn inward), or extraverted (drawn outward). Since each process can be either introverted or extraverted, therein lies 8 cognitive functions. These form the backbone of the Myers-Briggs test:


People differ in which of these functions come naturally or cause struggle, but we use all 8. This is explains why people see things differently, and why HR departments everywhere want people to take this test so it can help people understand other personality types, which hopefully will minimize conflict, and make less work for them :-).*

When you take a Myers-Briggs test , it is trying to measure the specific order in which you prefer using each function – from being just as natural as breathing to requiring intense effort.The ease at which these cognitive functions come to you are ranked as primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. A person’s most preferred 4 processes are associated with the persona or the conscious self. It is what we know we have mastered. The lesser-preferred functions are those that often manifest subconsciously (like I said, we use all 8), and may be associated with an unresolved part of ourselves, or a part that makes us feel vulnerable.

How the different Myers Briggs types prefer to use each function.

OK, I kinda sorta know what where those letters come from, but what’s with the volcanoes and stuff?

A few years back, I read about this theory from a psychiatrist who was able to map the functions to an archetype, and each function played a particular archetypal role depending on the order of preference (i.e. your Myers-Briggs “preference”.)

I’ve also spent a copious amount of time playing role-playing games, and one thing that interested me was how there were certain kinds of “magic” worked against certain types of enemies. Often, fire would be strong against ice, but weak against water. Perhaps I have taken a few too many of those fluffy Facebook quizzes about “what element am I”¬† that I started to wonder if it would be possible to not only match up the elements in such a way they manifested in these cognitive processes, but how they interacted with each other. When we extrovert one function, the introverted part of that same function.

So, now the meat and potatoes of this blog post.

Extraverted Functions

Above the sun, you have the Extraverted functions. These tend be associated with the Yang.


Extraverted Thinking (Te)

The outward focus of applying logic to ones environment. It is process that often drives scientific experimentation, systems building, logistics, and process improvements. I chose Ice to represent this function not just because this manifests itself as a bit like “cold, hard logic”, but because ice is crystallized water, meaning that it has a distinct and orderly structure. Snowflakes are special and unique, but are all based on a hexagonal pattern.



Extroverted Sensing (Se)

This is pure, unadulterated living in the moment. It is complete awareness of what is happening around us. It drives us to be focused on what’s right in front of us, rather than trying to project to the past or future. I chose Air to represent Se because this process manifests itself as the freedom to just “be” and enjoy life. Like a clear, sunny day, it brings out color and focus into our environment.



Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

Envision a group of advertising professionals in a brainstorming session. Changes are, they are using Ne – taking existing concepts and finding new ways to apply them.¬† I imagine the “brain on Ne” as a constant “storm” of ideas, with frontal cortex neurons firing on all cylinders. I chose Lightning to represent this process because just as quickly as a an electrical moves from one cloud to another, so does Ne when it comes to integrating concepts because…the possibilities are endless!.



Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Extraverted feeling, in its mature form, manifests itself like a warm hug. It can also be used to manipulate others because this process is what helps us to understand people. Generally, people who have a high preference for Fe present a serene, positive aura and disposition. I chose plants and flora for Fe because, to be real, there is nothing more zen and calming than walking in a garden. But while some flowers are pretty, others have thorns.


Introverted Functions

Below the moon, you have the Introverted Functions. Introverted functions correlate more to the Yin. They operate a lot like their extraverted cousins, but they illustrate how the process is drawn inward.


Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Moving clockwise, we come to Introverted Thinking. This function is associated with inductive reasoning, or theory building. It is what enables us to come up with theories and models to most succinctly explain how the world works. I chose Cosmos for this because what fundamentally drives our biggest questions more than space-time? People who use this function may spend a lot of time in their heads, trying to reconcile tough questions, like who created us or whether we are along in the universe.


Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Introverted iNtuition is similar to its cousin Ne, but instead of mashing up concepts and trying to find new ideas, Ni looks to find symbols and meaning through unseen events or ideas that exist only in the person’s head.** I chose water to represent Ne because, at least internally, it can be broad and deep. The world is 70% ocean, but we know so little about what is underneath it – an inner world waiting to be explored.


Introverted Sensing (Si)

I chose Earth for Introverted Sensing because this process keeps us grounded. People who use Si spend a lot of time experiencing the word, but in their heads through past moments they have already experienced. It is pragmatic. Like mountains and rocks are built upon layers of lava and sediment, Si is built upon past experiences. Brainstormers and innovators are well and good, but we need people who can execute their visions, snap them into the real world and keep new traditions going.


Introverted Feeling (Fi)

When Feeling is directed inward, the focus becomes ones emotional relationship to ones self. It explores what we can feel passionate about, and ensures that we are living a life consistent with your internal “moral compass.”¬† Fi reminds me of lava under the surface, so I chose Fire to represent it. The emotions it opens us up to will burn in a way that fuels us, but often can provide great pain. This “inner flame ensures that we do not become cold to what we’re passionate about.


*You may be wondering why the Myers-Briggs test has 16 results instead of 8. That’s because Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs (yes,it was invented by women – you go girls! :p) added another layer – Judging and Perceiving as dimensions. You can read more about this here,¬†


Often people will take the Myers-Briggs and get a result that is NOT them. Unfortunately, the test asks a lot about behavioral and thought tendencies to get a sense of your thought preferences, but because we are often putting on our “persona” in the would, we may skew our responses accordingly.. The test is truly limited because it cannot directly measure what’s going on in your head, but it can indicate to some degree, your personality “tendencies.” I hesitate to use the word “type” because people are nuanced…and we’re all special snowflakes, am I right? .¬†¬†

To get the most accurate results, I advise a) taking a test that has more than 10 questions (like those fluffy ones on Facebook), and b) taking the test in the comfort of your homes…or in a busy Starbucks if you’re an extrovert ;-). The longer the test, the better it can really assess your preferences. Usually these cost $$, but If you are looking for a free test that does not want your account information, I would check out They have a 100+ question test…¬†

**To be honest, Ni is he most abstract of the functions, and I say this because it happens to by my dominant process. Often, things make perfect sense in my head, but when I try to put them in some tangible form (e.g writing, art, or verbalizing), I feel like I flub it up somehow. 

Happy Holidays!

2017 has been a wild ride, to say the least. There were some good moments, and not so good moments. Just letting the inter-webs know I am still here.

The highlights:

  • Visiting Provence and Paris
  • Getting used to being a homeowner
  • Becoming an auntie!

The bummers:

  • My cat was sick.
  • Work issues for hubs and I.
  • All the horrible things that are happening around the world, and not being able to do anything about them.

I do have a couple of blog updates. Check out the links to the left to view a new comic series I am starting (Adulting Amy), and to see my pictures from France.

I also reorganized my Photos page and added a lot more pictures, so go have a look :).

Peace and blessings this holiday season, with more to come in 2018.

Merry Christmas from Pusheen and Stormy

Cruising the Caribbean Like a Boss

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary earlier this month. April¬†is also a milestone birthday for him, so I decided that we should do something more substantial than the classic dinner out and eating cake encrusted in a¬†year’s worth of frosting, we decided to take a cruise.

A view of Cuba at sunrise
A view of Cuba at sunrise

This was my fourth cruise, but a first for my husband. Since we were not sure how he would like it, we found a 5 day Western Caribbean voyage, leaving from Fort Lauderdale and stopping in Belize City and Cozumel. It was perfect…just long enough to really feel like we got away, but not too long in case hubby hated it. With some Dramamine and tips from this “veteran” cruiser, he did just fine and enjoyed himself. Plus, we were on a very large ship (approx. 4,000 pasengers and 1,500 crew).

When it’s your first cruise, there are always things you have to get used to. Despite having gone on several cruises, there are always things you forget about or learn.

First, you wait in line…a lot.¬†It takes about 1 hour from the time you arrive at port until you set foot on the ship to get processed. Then, it takes about the same time to get off the ship. Frequent cruisers or those who book suites can bypass some of the lines.

Once you board, you will realize that there are bars everywhere. Seriously, it’s like Starbucks in D.C. While your food is included, the drinks are not, and the drinks are expensive (unless you get the drink packages, which are only economical if you plan to drink more than 5 drinks a day). We learned that¬†for a 7 day cruise, they sell about 10,000 beers. Which means, on average, each passenger has about 1.5 brewskies a day. Plus Lord¬†knows how many tropical drinks and wine…

Cacao plant at the Mayan Cacao Company, where we learned how chocolate was made by the ancient Mayans (they use a lot less sugar :-) )
Cacao plant at the Mayan Cacao Company, where we learned how chocolate was made by the ancient Mayans (they use a lot less sugar ūüôā )

Speaking of food, there is a lot of it. If you love to eat, this is the way to travel. There is so much food aboard the ship that you wonder where they put it all. A lot of the food is locally sourced, since cruise ships are often in the tropics and in the seas where fresh produce and seafood abound. There was a pizza parlor on the ship that was open from lunch time until 3 AM. Ironically, college kids and pot smokers are not the typical cruise clientele.

To prevent the spread of viruses, there are about 2 hand-sanitizing stations for every¬†bar. So, this is important. There are crew¬†who stand outside each dining room to make sure you “washy washy.” Just a little bit of Purell is better than spending your cruise with noro-virus.

There are lots of duty-free and souvenir shops on cruise ships, so people often stock up on cigarettes, perfume, alcohol, and rum cake. Since ours was one of the larger vessels, it had a “promenade” with stores and restaurants in the center of the ship. Generally, you don’t really save a ton on duty-free, but the best time to get deals on souvenirs¬†is on the last 2 days, where they are trying to get rid of everything.

Mayan Ruins in Cozumel
Mayan Ruins in Cozumel

The cruise line also will have several excursions you can book. There will also be¬†excursions you can book at the port of call that are cheaper. However, some of these can be dodgy. Also, if you book through the cruise line and your tour is late, then the ship will not leave without you. On our recent cruise, we took a riverboat tour on the Belize river to view wildlife. Well, the boat was supposed to leave at 4:00 PM and we missed our last ferry back to the cruise ship. Thankfully, they didn’t forget about us and they were able to send a ferry for us.

The cruise line may stop at a “private island.” These are anything but private. In fact, if 3 ships arrive and dump 3,000 passengers a piece on four square miles of land (of which a fraction is habitable), well…you get the drift.

I definitely recommend taking advantage of the port of calls when you arrive, even if it is just walking around the port city and exploring. I don’t recommend the city tours since they cost around $60 a person, plus I prefer being self-guided and not prodded to shop at the cruise line’s “recommended” stores.

A Margay taking an afternoon nap at the Belize Zoo
A Margay taking an afternoon nap at the Belize Zoo

On¬†the days where we were not at a port of call, we did several of the ship’s on-board activities. We went to most of the evening shows. The comedy shows and the play production were our favorites. On our last day, we also did Big Bang Theory trivia and took a quick dance lesson, where we learned how to cha-cha. Ironically, we learned that we are not the most die-hard Big Bang Theory fans out there, and we can do a ballroom dance without tripping over each other. Also, they will have dance parties and activities well after midnight. Though we were so wiped out from the excursions that we ended up going to bed on the early side. Meanwhile, all the Boomer cruisers were partying hard at the midnight 70’s dance party.

It was a fun time. Cruises are an easy way to travel. While the initial cost is relatively cheap, the extras can add up quite a bit. On average, usually budget for 50% of your cruise fare for these add-ons. I know a lot of people are interested in cruising, but have hesitations, usually with regards to seasickness. You’ll hardly feel the boat moving, but you do feel it more on the upper decks. You may also feel a bit of “phantom” rocking¬†a couple days after the cruise, but it goes away.

There are all kinds of species of iguana in the Caribbean. Our tour guide spotted this dragon-like beauty up in the trees while traveling on the Belize river.

Please feel free to add in the comments any additional tips that might help future and first-time cruisers. And I hope you enjoyed the photos, taken with my new Canon Rebel. Additional photos will be added on the Photos page.

A Brief History of the Perception of Time

Lately there seems to be a lot of buzz about librarians getting into data science-type roles, and mastery of creating infographics is becoming a hot skill. While standard office programs like Excel and PowerPoint have basic chart tools, they are very institutional in presentation. With so much data out there, being able to capture it in an engaging visual is important. Infographics are taking over statistical reporting everywhere from cost of living around the world to how to keep food fresh in your fridge.

Last year at a Research Staff meeting, a coworker brought up the use of a free*¬†infographics tool called Canva, which she heard about at a law library conference. As a bit of a graphic design nerd, I hopped on to create an account and play around. They have a lot of free layouts and sizes for various print and social media posting, and a decent sized art library. I personally did not find it difficult to navigate, but I have experience using programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. However, I would say anyone with any basic image editing experience¬†will not experience¬†a steep learning curve. But for those of us who are used to all the bells and whistles of Photoshop and Illustrator…don’t get excited. You will find what you can do with this application more limited.

I thought Canva¬†would be perfect to illustrate a comic idea that I’ve had in my head for a while. You know how some things just seem to drag while other things seem to go by in a blink of an eye, irrespective of the actual amount of time? Waiting at¬†the bus stop for five minutes feels like torture, while you wonder where two days of weekend went (all you have to do is turn around on Friday and then you see Monday again). So…I plotted it all out on this graph.

Click to read
Click for full size image

Maybe you can relate to some of these, maybe you can’t. Like it says…time is relative.

Granted, it still took me a while to do, but having the pre-set library of graphics made it a lot easier than trying to create this thing in Illustrator from scratch. I am sure serious designers would think I am cheating, but…who has time for that ;-)?

*Layouts or graphics that do not state they are Free on them have an extra charge.

New Year, New Name, New Look!

I admit, I have been quite negligent in keeping this blog updated. Shamefully, there are no posts for 2015! However, the past year has been a busy and life-changing year for me.

To start, I married a wonderful man. The wedding was amazing, the photos are beautiful, and everyone behaved themselves (for the most part). Though the planning periods leading up to it have been stressful (hint: hire a wedding coordinator). After an unforgettable honeymoon in Puerto Rico, we started settling into our¬†new place. Consolidating two former households worth of stuff, two families – along with trying to get adjusted to each others’ habits – has been an adventure. When asked what has been the most challenging part of married life, my answer is…the name change! Seriously, I am not kidding. It is a long and painful process. I am still having to find out where my maiden name is cropping up where it shouldn’t.

I realized that one of the places my old name was referenced was here on Novataire. But rather than tweaking and being done with it, I decided it is time to re-brand! Novataire has had the same look for around 4 years now, and honestly…it was bit¬†dark. While I will always treasure¬†the cosmos and far away planets and luna moths, I wanted to go with a brighter theme that reflects my love of birds, owls, and nature.

Please bear with me regarding any stylistic changes in the coming days to this site. Also, I have more artwork and photos to post (just got an amazing new SLR camera!).

The Novataire Bi-Annual (Winter/Spring 2014)

Wow, has it been 6 months already?? Guess it’s time for the bi-annual update. This year has gone by remarkably fast, and a lot has happened. Some new art and photos have been posted.

The biggest major news is that I got engaged!! The love of my life proposed Feb 22, 2014 after a lovely and unseasonably warm day at the Smithsonian National Zoo, which was where we went on our first date just a year and change ago. After a week of being on Cloud Nine and the surreal-ness of it all, I have been getting down to brass tacks navigating the murky waters of¬†wedding planning. I’ve come to the conclusion that wedding planning is a lesson in learned helplessness. Like Seligman’s poor dogs, no matter which side of the fence I¬†jump on, I¬†get shocked. For my perfectionist self, I have to take some time to breathe and just accept that things will go wrong…and I will hurt someone’s feelings (hopefully not irreparably ^^;;).

In case you’re wondering about a date, we’re getting married early April of next year. Hopefully it won’t be TOO cold up here…

On the professional front, I’m taking on more initiatives in the Special Libraries Association. I’m now chairing the Employment & Career Resources Committee for the DC Chapter. During this time, I have asked more than my fair share of stupid questions…as it’s my first time chairing a committee. We just wrapped up our first event of the year…Speed Networking. It’s like speed dating, but only slightly less awkward since you are meeting people on a purely professional level ;-). Shout out to my colleague Angela for her awesome write-up on the SLA Blog!

Time is approaching fast for the SLA Annual Conference in Vancouver. After meeting a dear Canadian friend, I head to the conference festivities and exhibit hall, where many free pens and vendor swag await. I will be co-presenting on my topic – learning management systems – on June 9. About a month ago, we found out we had 90 min instead of 60 (wow, they must really love us, haha)! Well, to not bore our audience with straight talking, my co-presenter and I decided last month to do a more informal panel discussion, so I have had to do some last-minute work on what I thought were my perfected slides…which I completed back in, like, January. When you are getting your first speaking opportunity¬†at a national conference, you tend to get a little over-eager…not to mention¬†SUPER¬†excited to display my speaker badge!!!

My next post will cover my experience in Vancouver, as well as at the conference. This will be my second BIG conference…the first being the ALA conference that I attended a few years ago. Hopefully I will take to heart my lessons learned.

Photography Now Available + More Updates

I suppose it’s about time for my biannual update of the blog. Hope those of you on the Northern Hemisphere are ¬†staying cool this summer. It has been pretty rainy and muggy here…not great for picnics, but great for my allergies.

You many have noticed a new link for Photos. For the past few months, I have been trying my hand at photography, which has emerged from my newfound birding hobby.

Last spring, I started to get very interested in birds when I noticed that a sweet mourning dove used to come to my window and coo at me each morning. I live on the second floor of an apartment building, surrounded by lots of trees. I also noticed that I had occasional visits from a robin. Since I don’t have a window (just a window ledge), I decided to just put some peanuts and a suet block out to see if I could attract a blue jay. I love blue jays, and I read that they like peanuts. Well, I still have not had a blue jay come visit, but I noticed I had a large variety of other birds….chickadees, cardinals, sparrows, and titmice are the main visitors. Have also gotten some grackles, starlings, robins, and doves of course.

Soon, I started getting really into this, trying to see how many birds I could identify. I love going to Cornell’s bird database to try and find as many birds as possible. Of course, I wanted to document my findings, so I started taking pictures. I realized to get some good shots of birds, I needed a better camera than my point & shoot, so I got a new camera with much better zoom and control over the camera settings, and have gotten some crisp shots that I wanted to share with you (and also make available for sale). CLICK HERE to view the photo gallery.

In other news, I just attended the Video Games Live concert at Wolf Trap last night.¬†Having a life and all has been really cutting into my gaming schedule, so I downloaded a couple of games on my PS3…Mass Effect and Journey. I beat the main storylines of Skyrim not too long ago, but have gotten a bit burnt out on doing so many quests.

I was so happy to see the first Mass Effect available for download, since I never got around to playing that game…now my decisions I make can be cumulative. I have some hard work ahead of me to get caught up and finish all the games.¬†I hope to get some relaxation out of Journey. I have played Flower (another game by the same company), which I find I lose hours playing (well, that goes for any addictive video game).

On the professional front, I am still working and getting new projects at work. One project has the potential to turn into a speaking engagement at next year’s SLA Annual Conference. Last year, we adopted learning management software last year to organize and promote database training at my firm. I’ve also been working on creating e-learning courses from our recorded webinars. I have taken over a lot of this project, and in talking with some colleagues, was encouraged to share this at SLA.

How to Train a Cat To Use the Toilet

For my Java class, our first assignment is to write out a list of instructions for simple everyday tasks, keeping in mind all of the contingency planning in case things go wrong. The idea is that a computer takes things very literally and will often not successfully complete a task since it cannot make an assumption.

Being my snarky self, I decided to write fictitious program instructions on how to train a cat to use the toilet. One day, I would like to make this into a flowchart so it can join the ranks of all of the other everyday tasks, such as The Grad Student’s Flowchart for Doing Laundry.

Warning: it is very complex. And I have never tested whether this works. But it is totally for humor.  Enjoy!


1) Do you have a toilet? (Y/N). If Yes, Proceed to Step 2.

If no:

  • 1a: Go to Sears and talk to sales-person about purchasing a new toilet.
  • 1b: Proceed to Step 2a: Call a plumber.
  • 1c: Consult with plumber about what kind of toilet works with your plumbing
  • 1d: Go back to Sears and buy toilet.
  • 1e: Spend hundreds of dollars and proceed to Step 2.
2) Does toilet work? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to step 3.

If no:

  • 2a: Call a Plumber
  • 2b: Have plumber look at toilet and fix it. If fixed, proceed to Step 3.
  • 2c: If plumber is unable to fix toilet, replace it. Repeat Steps 1a-e and 2.
3) Do you have a cat? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 4.

If no:

  • 3a) go to shelter and adopt a cat. If you are unable to adopt a cat, steal one from the crazy cat lady next door. Trust me, she won’t miss it.
  • 3b) Put cat in the bathroom
  • 3c) Put food dish near toilet so cat makes positive associations with it.
4) Is cat able to jump a vertical distance of at least 20″? (Y/N). If Yes, proceed to Step 5.

If no:

  • 4a: Is cat too old? (Y/N). If Yes, purchaes pet ramp.
  • 4b: is cat too fat? (Y/N). If Yes, put cat on diet.
5) Is cat currently using the litterbox? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 6.

If no:

  • 5a: Did the cat go potty inside the house? (Y/N). If yes, give cat a stern “NO!” and proceed to Step 8.
  • 5b: Did the cat go potty outside the house?(Y/N). If yes, you probably have an outdoor cat, and really do not need to train a cat to use the toilet since you rarely have to clean the litter box. Proceed to END TASK.
6) Open first toilet lid
7) Place litter box on top of toilet.
8 ) Place cat on toilet
9) Wait for cat to go potty.
10) Keep waiting…

11) Decide that the cat’s evil glare as you wait for him to do his business is not effective, as he has made it clear through his death stare that he will not, under any circumstances, bow to your wishes.

12) Go to Sears and buy camera for bathroom (referred to from now on as CatCam.

13) Install CatCam per product instructions (refer to separate program entitled “Vague Instructions in 145 Different Languages”) and connect it to your wireless device. If you do not own a wireless device, END TASK, as you are therefore not a functioning member of society and thus unable to perform a complex task such as training an unyielding animal to effectively utilize a toilet.

14) Does camera set-up work? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 15.
If no:
  • 14a) Find receipt (you never throw those away, right….right??!!). Since you totally threw it away…
  • ¬† ¬† 14a-1) Call geek friend and pray he can fix it. If so, proceed to Step 15.
  • ¬† ¬† 14a-2) If no, go to paint store and find colors that match your shower curtain. Skip Steps 15-17. Repeat Steps 9-10 and pray.
  • 14b) You have the receipt, which means that the planets have aligned, Jesus has returned, and you are existing in a transcendent universe where cats do, in fact, use the toilet. Therefore, proceed to END TASK.

15) Go to Starbucks.

16) Order an over-priced sugarbomb latte and turn on your CatCam. Repeat Steps 9 and 10 as your glucose levels spike to Pluto.

17) Rush home when cat finally does do his business.

18) Place a cat treat on flusher

19) Does cat operate the flushing mechanism by reaching for the treat? (Y/N). If yes, give cat another treat. If no, manually place cat’s hand on flusher and provide treat.

20) Hide litterbox and place catnip near toilet. If cat decides to go potty inside the house (which he will just to spite you) repeat Steps 5a, 6, and 8.

21) Continue repeating Steps 8-19 until cat finally gets it.

22) If you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and the cat is in there reading the Wall Street Journal, congrats! You have successfully trained the cat to use the toilet!

23) Smile in satisfaction as you hear the flush.


Getting There

I’ve really been dragging my feet trying to get this site up and running, but luckily the template issue resolved itself. It must have been a fluke or a bug with WordPress. I am very excited provide a more customized look to this site. Spent most of the day Saturday creating the header and background images, and will probably do some more tweaking with the color scheme.

Hope to be posting more soon!