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Friday, June 10, 2011


I've been working in IT at Stanford University for over 10 years now. Every year, as Commencement approaches, there's a 2-4 week freeze on everything we do. We can't change anything for fear of breaking something and slowing down the Commencement machine in it's critical hour. Every year, Commencement comes and goes without a hitch.

Today, around noon, one of our email servers got a bad case of data corruption. Early attempts to get it back up and running failed. This was going to take a full restore. That's bad.

The good news is that that server that went down is largely populated by IT Services staff. The bad news is that it's not all IT Services. Turns out, it's also Student Financial Services, the Registrar's Office, and the assistant to the Dean of the Medical School. On the day before Commencement weekend, this is Really Bad.

So, about 3 p.m., I gave my phone more of a workout than it's ever had. I called stakeholders in every area on campus (since email is broken, yo) and talked about who was impacted and we moved critical personnel to an alternate server so that they could read their queued messages and continue working. At 5 p.m., the Dean's assistant's messages still weren't coming through, so fearing a possible PEBCAK issue as she used the unfamiliar Webmail instead of Outlook, I sprinted down to her office to check it out. In the fine tradition of having the IT guy standing over your shoulder, it immediately got with the program and started working.

Now everything is back to normal and I'm be off to dinner and Friday Night Waltz. But for the first time ever, I got to be part of the Commencement madness in a participatory way. As I sprinted out, they were setting up a photo of medical grads. As I came back, they were having one young lady stand on a turned over plastic bin for the photo, but her heels were threatening to collapse the bin. A couple of parents were escorting their obviously beaming son down Via Ortega. There's a giant tent blocking part of the walk way between Clark Center and LKC. It's all very exciting here. And at the end of the weekend, the grads and their families hopefully won't have noticed anything wrong. And once again, I adore our UNIX admin who was technically on vacation today, but has spent the last six hours pulling a rabbit out of her hat. I work with awesome people. We get stuff done.

The Strange Keys to a Nerdy Girl's Brain

For my birthday, Erik found something that I really wanted: all of the Radiolab programs ever broadcast. He burned them to CD for me. This is a miracle of sorts in that he both listened to me say "I wish I had..." and then took action to make it so and managed to get me a thing that I really really wanted for my birthday in a time in my life when I've said repeatedly that the last thing I want is another thing. That's how awesome my husband is.

This is actually the background you need to understand that I have a totally platonic crush on Robert Krulwich. I love his storytelling style, whether it's on radio or in pixels. His "This is so cool! Everyone should hear about this!" style of science news just brings me endless joy. Today's story is on gut bacteria and it's utterly fascinating. No, really. Go read it. There may be as few as 3 standard microbiomes in the human race and it could affect a huge range of stuff.

Meanwhile, I'm am of a generation of girls who found Colin Firth terribly attractive since we first saw him as Mr. Darcy. He's a great actor, and seems to be a genuinely decent guy. There are few celebrities I'd want to really sit down for a good chat with, but he's up there. His status increased again this week when he was listed as a co-author on an academic neuroscience paper on political leanings and the thickness of certain portions of the brain.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


The other exciting garden produce this week is not from my garden, but from my grandparents. I came home Friday to find the contents of a box of cherries.

To back up, my grandparents have a "garden" that's really more of a small farm. It spans two properties and includes several well established fruit trees: kumquats, tangerines, oranges, peaches, and right now, the big star is the Bing cherry tree. With the wet spring, the cherries came in plump and will inevitably rot quickly, but right now they're glorious.

My grandma called last week to ask if we'd be in Sacramento this weekend. That wasn't in the cards, so she said, "That's okay. Your grandpa has discovered Priority Mail boxes. You can stuff them with lead and they ship for the same price as feathers." So I envisioned getting a small priority mail box of cherries delivered to my doorstep.

But this is my grandpa, and his idea of a few oranges is an one entire paper grocery sack full rather than two. In Priority Mail box terms, I think we got the Medium box. This led to two green bags full of cherries. Now some were soft and a little rotty, and some had been attacked by little worms, but there's still a vast amount of cherries, and they're ripe and delicious. We spent the entire weekend with a frequently refilled bowl full on the table. Luckily, I eat a lot of fiber in my daily life, so there were no unintended effects.

But seriously, there are few more magical things than having your grandparent's home grown cherries show up on your doorstep when it's pouring down rain in the beginning of June.

How Does My Garden Grow?

Have you ever heard those stories about a family adopting a puppy that's a Lab mix and then the dog grows up and looks like a pit bull? We had kind of the same experience with our garden. We picked up four little broccoli plants at Lowe's and brought them home. We figured that we eat so much broccoli that having it fresh and easily available in the yard would be awesome. And with the cool, wet spring, they've grown vigorously. Only, it turns out, they're cabbage.

Now one of the heads is a total overachiever. It's huge. It's bigger than a basketball. And I tend to make cabbage about once a year for a March corned beef and cabbage. Any suggestions for yummy cabbage-based meals are welcome. Or, if you want a beautiful, home-grown head of cabbage, let me know. Because we've got four heads of cabbage. Yeah.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Tab Closing Bonanza!

I was waiting for one or two more cool things to hit my desk before publishing a potpourri post, but it turns out the LJ feed for BoingBoing is broken, which basically clears my feed of half the interesting stuff. I have to go read BoingBoing on That's just wrong! (The death of LJ is overrated, but it's rapidly making its way out of my daily check in list. Does anyone recommend a good RSS reader that isn't Google Reader? I'm afraid Google Reader doesn't make me warm and fuzzy.) So, that leaves me with a scattering of weird stuff.

Starting with the potential AIDS vaccine, and no, not the one that works for one guy who got a total bone marrow replacement. That's a different issue, and an awfully radical step for what is a relatively manageable disease nowadays. (Okay, step back for just one moment and think about how far we've come in 20 years to transform AIDS from death sentence to manageable chronic disease. Just amazing.) Anyway, using CMV, an extremely common virus in the herpes family, it leaves the body on constant lookout for HIV, killing it before it gets a foothold. So, we may opt to catch have a specialized vaccine that has us catch a modified CMV making us immune to HIV. Pretty cool. As someone who has never contracted CMV, I only hope that synthetic blood technology improves in parallel to testing this because the blood center is always thrilled to have my blood since I'm one of the rare few who can donate to premature babies since I haven't had CMV. This would make finding those donors much, much more difficult.

Then there's the Indian chap who has made developing a male contraceptive his life's work. Against the odds, he's found a way to do it, and I hope he further beats the odds and gets it out there. The pharma companies aren't interested since it's a one-time procedure that lasts up to 10 years, so that's a lot of missed birth control pill sales. I'd love to see someone like the Kaiser Foundation get involved. It really would be revolutionary.

And for me and my dancer friends, here's a list of exercises for life-long dancing feet. I know I personally need to do these more. Number 2 - Kneading carpet - is one I've been told before. When my feet get achey, I remember to do it. Then I get busy and forget for months, then my feet get achey again, and I remember again. Silly girl. Some day I'll learn.

That's all for today. Cheers all!