Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recent Travels: GSA in Baltimore and ACS in San Francisco

Just quick post to say that I had successful visits to both Baltimore, MD, and San Francisco, CA, for two different conferences:  the Geological Society of America Northeastern/Southeastern Joint Sectional Meeting (GSA) and the American Chemical Society (ACS), respectively.

At the GSA meeting in Baltimore, MD, I presented a poster on a 6-day coal unit and a presentation on an activity for the rock cycle that were both developed for my NSF funded TESSE Fellowship (with the help of other TESSE Fellows) for use in K-12th grade classrooms.  The poster session I attended was fantastic!  I have never blabbed like that to so many people during a 2-hour poster session...actually, I don't think many people ever stop to look at my poster, so this was a great surprise.  I spoke with the young crowd (aka the undergrad students) and several grad students and professors.  With each group of people, I found myself not feeling so stressed when talking to them (I can usually only manage "yes" or "no" around people...but I have to say that I'm actually getting more comfortable in face-to-face talking).  They all really seemed to enjoy the Coal poster (who wouldn't love it?  it's about coal!).  They were all so easy to talk to, and they were even willing to share their own lessons and experiences in teaching, which are always fun to hear about.  I'm pretty sure that I also encouraged everyone that I talked with to publish their lessons in a geology or education journal.  A lot of them seemed so surprised that their lessons would be publication worthy, but their lessons were so impressive that everyone should know about them (and I told them that).  They seemed inspired (maybe I'm being silly)...I hope they do publish, though!  My presentation on a "Choose Your Own Adventure" activity for the Rock Cycle was also a success.  In fact, the entire session on Innovations in Teaching Earth System Science for the K-12 Classroom was a success.  Several of the teachers involved with TESSE also came to speak, and they did a fantastic job!  They were all so nervous to speak (I was surprised by this...they're teachers after all!), but they had great presentations and they got some great feedback.  If you like, you can see some of their papers (and my recent co-authored papers!) in the Winter Issue of The Earth Scientist.  You can also check out these and other activities from our TESSE dissemination blog.

My visit to San Francisco, CA, was wonderful, too!  I was traveling there to serve as one of two graduate students on the Executive Board Council of the Fuel Chemistry Division.  We were selected to come to the Spring and Fall 2010 National Meetings with the specific task of brainstorming (and implementing) different activities or ways to include more students (particularly women and underrepresented).  We got to sit in on several meetings and eat at some fabulous restaurants (it's usually about the food, right?).  Every morning I grabbed coffee (perfectly strong) and breakfast (you could choose from a variety of croissants, wraps, and other delicious baked goods made fresh daily by the students at San Francisco's own Baking Institute) from the Organic Coffee Company.  I also had the pleasure of witnessing a sensation in frozen yogurt that is called IceBee.  Just imagine filling a nicely sized tub of any variety of frozen yogurt your heart desires including all the toppings you want (all for $0.43/oz)...AMAZING!  However, I've been told by a very reliable source with ties to Oklahoma that Passion Berri beats IceBee any day...I will certainly book a flight to Oklahoma just to find out.  I enjoyed a tasty steak from Lark Creek Steak along with some seriously killer desserts:  mini red velvet whoopie pies (I affectionally dub them Orbs here in PA) and butterscotch pudding (see photos).

We also had some FANTASTIC French Vietnamese food from Le Colional.  Everything was served family style so you could try several different foods.  I would make a trip back to San Francisco just to go there again...amazing!

Of course, we also got to attend some great talks AND see the city (see photos).

We also attended the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market (organized by CUESA - Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) near the bay, which I managed NOT to take any pictures of!  I did get some delicious carrot soup, strawberries and chocolate almond bark there, though...DELICIOUS!  The market is every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  You should definitely try to attend it if you are in San Francisco during those days of the week!  I really only got one morning to do some sight-seeing, so I definitely would like to plan another visit there with Brandon.

I think I'm done traveling for a little's fun, but soooo tiring.  I love conferences, too, because they get me fired up again about my research.  I definitely need to spend some time in the lab, so these conferences were just what I needed to get a fire lit under my butt, again!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Driving 101 (with a Manual Transmission)...Again

A few years ago (circa fall 2001) my boyfriend (now my hubby), Brandon, sincerely and patiently taught me how to drive his car that had a manual transmission.  We mostly practiced "stop and go" in his apartment complex's parking lot with a huge focus on the "go".  I'm sure we had a few practice sessions (maybe two?) before I was "comfortable" driving on an actual road with (gasp!) traffic.  My last memory of driving his car was after one of our blue & white cross country meets (side note:  These meets are similar to the blue & white inter squad PSU football game that happens in the spring, except this was the PSU women's cross country team obviously.  I was on the white team that year, not that it matters).  I remember screeching out of the parking lot (my trademark getaway) and nearly hitting someone from my team - good times, right?  eeek!  

I was actually getting OK at driving his car (at least I remember it that tires squealing or pedestrian lives in danger), and then for some reason I just stopped driving his car.  Now that I think more about it, though, that same year was when the September 11 attacks occurred leading to the activation of multiple National Guard Units across the nation - including Brandon's local Air National Guard unit.  Within a couple weeks of the attacks, he had swiftly withdrawn from PSU and was then stationed in Rome, NY, at NEADS (now EADS) for what turned out to be two years.  I stayed at PSU during that time (and pretty much up until now)...lived a lot, learned a little...and eventually here we are in 2010.  And, sadly, I never drove his car again....until today!

For years, literally, Brandon and I joked about me driving his car and how I always had a lame excuse.  Some examples of our brief conversations:  
Bran:  "you wanna drive?" 
Me:  "oh, I can't.  I'm wearing heels" or "I can't. I just showered" or "Nope. I broke my ankle."
I think you get it...lame!

So, yes, I had my first practice session since 2001 today.  I was inspired to learn again, after reading Miss Melly's gals guide blog (see here:  Gals Guide).  I honestly did want to drive his car all these years, but I was truly uncomfortable with the thought of not really being in control of the car since I was so out of practice.  Reading Melly's blog, though, got me thinking that it's silly that I don't know how to drive a manual transmission.  I know how to change wiper blades (seriously cake!) and perform other deceivingly easy tasks, I should know how to drive a car with a manual transmission!  Therefore,  I will be spending some quality time with Brandon to re-learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission.  

We only had an hour or so to practice today, but I feel some of it coming back to me.  I must say, I remember from before and I am realizing again today - Brandon's pretty damn patient (lucky me!).  Even with all the jerky, screeching and stalling moments, he still smiles at me and encourages me to keep trying.  :)