Women of Science

On February 11th, it was the International Day of Women in Science.

Deborah preparing a sample for analysis (KRW Consulting, Dec 2018)

The notion of women not choosing to enter in a science, math or engineering discipline is the failure to encourage teen girls is pure balderdash. My sis, Ginny, had interests in physics and math ranging back to the 7th grade, in the late 1960s. She was the “go-to” girl if you needed help with math. Yes, she is that good. The male students, who were perceived to be more knowledgeable than Ginny, well, they weren’t. Ginny can explain a complex math concept in easy to understand terms. Having difficulty with a math problem? She shows you how to solve it. As an undergraduate, Ginny was highly sought as a tutor, making a fair bit of money along the way. She has continued as a private tutor to present.

When her daughter was failing to pass the required math proficiency test for placement at university, Ginny sat down worked out every problem in the study guide. She quickly found the problem – the study guide was replete with errors. The math department was selling an error-filled guide. In turn, she showed the department chairman all of her work and the mistakes in the guide.  The problem, as she saw it, was leaving the guide to be constructed by engineering graduate students who overestimated their own math skills and proficiency. But, moreover, they did not care. The department contracted Ginny to rewrite the study guide. And, that led her to pursue her MS degree, specializing in numerical and statistical analysis. When her mentor retired from the University of Colorado, Dr. Blade introduced Ginny as his “best student ever”.

Over the 10+ years of teaching at the university level, she has noticed incoming undergraduates were ill-prepared for university-level mathematics. The students, believing their high school AP coursework made them ready, they were not. They had problems understanding algebra, the basic foundation for calculus.

In my own family, science is part of our life. Andrea, my first wife, her nursing degrees are “science heavy” with chemistry and biology coursework. They are comparable to chemistry and biology degrees layered with nursing. Laurie, my wife, she’s a trauma surgeon. Her undergraduate degree is in biochemistry. Our three daughters, Elizabeth has a chemistry degree while Deborah and Tara both have biology degrees. With the girls in med school, there was no push for them to pursue a medical career or enter the sciences. They studied what interested them. Most surprisingly, though, was how closely aligned their interests are.

Tara pipetting a sample aliquot into a reaction flask (Biochem Lab – University of Colorado, Feb 2017)

Bringing women into science, math and engineering is to stimulate their imagination, “Hey, that’s what I want to do.” It worked for Andrea. It worked for Laurie. Andrea did not want to follow her dad into the restaurant business, which was fine with him. He did not want his personal dream to become the dream of his children. “America is the home of dreams – you can become whatever you want to become.” If not for nursing, Andrea has said it would be a life of having to settle. Laurie had poor grades. It was a field trip to a hospital on career day in high school that seeded the notion she could become a trauma surgeon. If not for that field trip, she might be coaching high school football. Laurie was already running the scout team in high school, and was a better passer than her brother Tom, who was the JV and varsity quarterback in high school. And, it worked for our daughters.

Ginny said programs to encourage girls into science do little for them. Calling the science fields, math and engineering, STEM, does little. The acronym trivializes the individual disciplines. Teaching a young girl how to code a webpage is okay, but it does not take them to the next step – why science matters. Diseases deemed to be incurable have become curable, treatable or immunized against. It has introduced raw computing power into handheld devices (smartphones and tablets) for the purposes of entertainment and convenience. And, much more computing power can be found on the desk. Science can offer solutions to the more daunting problems.

Elizabeth finishes preparing a rack of samples for analysis (KRW Consulting, Aug 2016)

It is about discovery. It is about learning. It makes no distinction about who you are, or where you’re from. It is about human endeavor.

The greatest thing about science, it is stepping into the unknown.

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Hail and Farewell

In less than three hours, this year will come to an end. A new year will be ushered in. Both, barely recognizable in the smooth procession of time.

The first day, of a new year, holds considerable promise. It is the beginning of a new land waiting for discovery. We are the explorers. The adventures will be many. The disappointments and setbacks will test our character. Our focus, to make today a good day, and tomorrow a better day.

to light our path ahead

After our family celebration and sharing of kisses, we will settle into the quiet on this cold, wintry night. Our comfort, our love for one another. The closeness of our family, our strength. We were made better by the experiences of the past year. The new experiences of the coming year awaits. We believe we are ready.

May the new year be a good one, and one for making good memories.

Many blessings to all.

Christmas Night

A slower, relaxed day. Not really.

It began early as any other day. Laurie had rounds, with three of her patients spending their holidays in the hospital. While she could have tasked it to one of her residents, Laurie said it was the least she could do. One had come into her care in a bad way; the other two, they couldn’t wait until after Christmas, let alone after New Year’s, for their procedures. When she was a young resident, Laurie often drew the short straw for rounds. Her supervising doc said taking on the rounds during the holidays would make her better. If he could see her today, he would be proud of Laurie leading her four residents on rounds – teaching them the finer points of dedication.

Once home, Laurie donned her chocolatier hat. The girls, back from the barn, warmed themselves by the fire. Once warmed, they poked around the kitchen for a quick breakfast. Andrea was giving her older sis, Madelyn, a walking tour of the house. The pups, Will and Jasmine, they were ready for their walks. A fast cup of coffee, and we would be away on the walk. Just another day at home.

Our dinner table was much more manageable this Christmas. My dad and Madelyn were our guests. Tara asked if we, the ‘rents, were wearing the Christmas socks she had gotten us. I said we were. Elizabeth said, “Don’t trust them, Tara.” It didn’t take long for us ne’er-do-wells to be off to the races when Tara checked to see. Madelyn said the three of us were bad.

With the glow of the crackling fire, our home was quieting. “Another great Christmas,” Andrea said softly. Laurie and I nodded in agreement. We continued to watch the dancing flames a little longer. “Hey, you are wearing your Christmas socks,” Andrea said smilingly.

“Aren’t you?” I replied.  Andrea showed us the red socks she was wearing. No Christmas designs, no winter designs.

We hope everyone had a blest Christmas.

 

Expedition Christmas

Two days from Christmas, little remained on the shopping list. The cold, brisk air certainly added to the charm.

Much of our shopping, this season, was done online. And, mostly for the home. When those items came, we began using them straight away. For the girls, we shopped for them while they were away. Those items that were delivered on a Friday or Saturday, we acted fast to keep them out of their sight. Equestrian related? Maybe.

It’s harder to shop for them during our shopping expedition. They are right there watching, applying their equestrian collaboration to observe. Distractions help, but we raised our girls to be smart and not to be distracted. The same can be said when they shop for the ‘rents. Generally, it’s three on three, but it can become five on one in a blink of an eye. “Shoo” becomes a popular word in our vocabulary.

Our favorite place to shop our expeditions are Old Colorado City (the west side of Colorado Springs) and Manitou Springs with their eclectic variety of shops. After getting parked, we started with a little window shopping. We made our standard stops at the kitchen gadget shop and a hardware store. To the casual shopper, both places seem to be highly disorganized. But if you’re looking for that certain something, they will likely have it.

We thought about taking an early lunch but decided on shopping first. The mandatory stops, two old book stores. Tara is our book hound and avid reader. She’ll read close to any genre, but prefers classic reads from Thomas Wolfe (You Can’t Go Home Again, Look Homeward), Tom Wolfe (Bonfire of The Vanities, The Right Stuff), Isaac Asimov (The Foundation Series), Ray Bradbury (Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451), among others. The others include JD Salinger, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Upton Sinclair.

a London-style used bookstore

front window: kitty on a book bed

Our window shopping included visiting a trio of art galleries. Most of the galleries, in Old Colorado City, specialize in Southwest Art. The gallery that drew our interest was one featuring a more contemporary palette. If one was to step inside our home, it is a comfortable retreat. Our prints, Hawaii. Our furniture, contemporary (wing chairs, sofa and loveseat). Our dining room table, vintage 1960s Danish walnut (handmade). Our area rugs, traditional Oriental medallion. Lamps, Tiffany-style. The gallery visit was mostly to glean ideas.

One of the more intriguing shops we visited was an antique store. While they’ve always been here, they did a facelift to their store. It is something you may find in a larger city, like Boston or NYC.

antiques, curiosity and charms

We didn’t find any curiosities, but we did spy a handsome roll-top desk (complete with hiding nooks) and a Duffner-Kimberly stained, leaded glass lamp. They sold a Handel lamp several months ago. They do have some nice pieces. We did not see any unusual pieces that comes with the warning, “Oh no … it’s not for sale. May I tease your eyes and heart with this instead.”

On this Christmas Eve, it is some quick wrapping of a few glitter items for the girls. My two favorite women, Laurie and Andrea, they said thank you and opted to wear their gifts right away. They wanted to know when I found the time to buy the champagne topaz. (It’s a direct buy from the mine.)

Later tonight, all the careful gift-wrapping will be undone.

And, much later, the ‘rents will watch the glow from the fireplace. Happy that our girls are happy.

North Ranch: The First Year

A maze of boxes, small and large, filled every corner of the house. The furniture wrapped with heavy plastic. The first night, studio chairs and sleeping bags. A fast food dinner. With Christmas a few days away, Amanda had cut and decorated a 7-foot spruce as her housewarming gift.

before the boxes: empty view of the kitchen, living room and dining area

The next morning, the dining room table and its chairs were unwrapped. Our food, transferred from their dry ice chilled coolers and boxes into the refrigerator. Cookware, tableware and china unpacked. Bed frames and mattresses moved near to their respective rooms. More moving of boxes to roll out the Oriental area rugs.

boxes and furniture: the living room and front room maze

On Christmas day, much of the furniture remained wrapped. Each of our lives, and the rest of our household, in carefully labeled boxes. The girls and I quickly unwrapped some of the furniture and hastily arranged it near the fireplace. The kits were ever appreciative, able to take a proper nap after playing among the boxes.

Over the months, we have rearranged the furniture a few times to find that certain symmetry and intimacy that says “we are settled.” Similarly, we’ve also rearranged our bedrooms to find that more private, more intimate setting.

Whether it is moving a 50-pound bale of premium hay in the cold, or mucking a horse stall with biting flies on a hot day. Each day, every day, begins long before sunrise, ends long after sunset. We have loved every minute of the ranching life.

The horse riding, our daughters have loved the extra time. Their horses are their lives. They have become better riders for the experience.

As the song goes …

“These are the moments
I know all I need is this
I’ve found all I’ve waited for,
And I could not ask for more”

Notes

“I Could Not Ask For More” – music and lyrics by Diane Warren.

Christmas Ready

A cold evening. A crackling fire in the hearth.

With music cranked to semi-loud, time to decorate for Christmas. The pups, Will and Jasmine, it is their first Christmas. The kits, they are familiar with the season. Bringing a tree indoors is extra special for them all. The lights, the ornaments, both are tempting. “Wait until the presents come out,” Tara says. “The risk of mayhem,” Deborah replies.

Jasmine helping with the lights

Strung with 800 mini-lights, around 100 ornaments, the tree was finished three and a half hours later. There will be a couple more days of fussing with the ornaments, and picking up those that have mysteriously fallen on the floor.

Good news – the tree is still standing.

A little decorating of the barn followed, mostly with more lights and a few ornaments here and there.