Will and Beyond

The Unspoken Danger of Buttered Coffee

2014-07-04 09.00.50Buttered coffee is a weird new trend where you use butter instead of cream/milk. I normally drink it black, but I was still intrigued. There are apparently some benefits in terms of it having calories, and leaving you full, so you can use it as a meal replacement. I already normally skip breakfast and just have coffee, but I suppose some (non-caffeine induced) morning energy wouldn’t be a bad thing.

In doing my internet research before trying it (mostly figuring out how much to add), I came across the Bulletproof Executive. I’ve never heard of this before, but based on this one article, it seems pretty douchey:

2014-07-04 09.01.57I learned about the power of butter at 18,000 feet of elevation near Mt. Kailash in Tibet. “

Wow. Anyway, add a tablespoon of butter to coffee, and there you go. 2014-07-04 09.02.29You let it dissolve in, and it’s actually pretty good. Mostly just tastes like coffee with cream, but greasier. In a good way I guess?

Amy did the Whole Life Challenge once, and apparently everyone at her gym raves about this. Seems good for people who like cream, but can’t have it either due to lactose intolerance, or silly abidance due weird paleo rules. Cause you can’t have milk, but you can have butter? It’s part of the paleo thing, which still doesn’t make sense, but I digress.

The Danger

Now we come to the danger. 2014-07-04 09.04.27What if you let it get cold? Coffee with cream? Nothing. Coffee with butter? Floaties. Disgusting butter floaties. Which can come as a surprise to you if you are drinking out of a capped thermos. (I just did this again in a regular mug and didn’t want floaties just for the photo.)

Never do this unless you’re going to drink it all at once. Disgusting.

¡El Niño!

el ninoSuper good news; from Nature, it looks like we’ll be in an El Niño this winter!

Why is this good? Per Wikipedia, “During an El Niño, snowfall is greater than average across the southern Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountain range, and is well-below normal across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes states.”

All twos!


Beast hit all twos! Crazy that I went from never driving to about 25,000 miles a year…


Chemjobber and Alex Goldberg submitted an excellent article on chemical-free products to Nature Chemistry. chem-free-paper Yes, it’s just blank after the abstract.


medalWow, it’s been more than two months since he was supposed to run that marathon? Do you think he lived?

I’m alive, but I didn’t run that marathon. But I did do another one! The Shiprock Marathon.

The Thursday before the marathon, I messed up my achilles. Then I spent about 4 hours talking myself out of just running it anyway. So I signed up for one about 6 weeks later. Gave myself 2-3 weeks for it to recover, then did a little bit more training. I was definitely much more ready for the first one, but oh well. I finished! Time wasn’t awesome, mostly walked the last 6 miles, but I did it.


shiprockOverall it was downhill, and while it was still at about a mile elevation, it’s lower than I’m used to. My Achilles acted up very rarely. When I felt it at all I just knocked down my pace for a few minutes and I was fine.

Shiprock was a cool area, there’s the Shiprock itself (see selfie on right), which has a fun background. When white people came through, we thought it looked like a ship, and named it as such. However, the Navajo people had already named it the “rock with wings”. Hopefully I’m not messing these stories up too much, they explained it while I was eating my carb-loading pasta dinner.

pedometerThere’s two reasons: 1) during a great battle, wounded Navajo went to this rock and it flew away carried them away to safety. (That’s the one on Wikipedia.) 2) Father Sky and Mother Earth got into a fight, and Father Earth sent down a giant eagle, and the Shiprock is the tailfeathers sticking out of the ground. There are some other feather bits sticking out too.

Four Corners is pretty close too, so I went and did that. Driving back that day was a little rough, lots of snacks and energy drinks were required. You can also see that I got a lot of steps on my pedometer.

I’m still not in love with this running thing, but I think I’ll keep it up.


Marathon Training


How I imagine I’ll look.

Running a marathon is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, just so I can have done it. I don’t like running, it sucks, but maybe because that’s because I suck at it. I’ve tried to get into running a few times, but never seriously.

It is time.

And while we’re at it, let’s start out with a grueling marathon that doesn’t even try and hide it: the Bataan Death March. Really.

lots of people
Thinking about training

8/3: 1 mile (9 mi/min)
9/14: 1 mile (9.2 mi/min)
9/17: 1 mile (8.7 mi/min)
9/20: 1.5 miles (9 mi/min)
9/22: 1 mile (9.7 mi/min)
10/1: 2 miles (9.4 mi/min)
10/5: 1.5 miles (8.9 mi/min)
10/11: 2.5 miles (9.4 mi/min)
10/14: 2.5 miles (10 mi/min)
11/2: 3.5 miles (9.9 mi/min)
11/8: 3.5 miles (10.6 mi/min)
Well, I guess I can kind of run. Short distances. Slowly.


12/26:  Registered for Marathon
I actually registered. In fact, I declined the insurance, where if you back out, you can get some of your money back, that would only tempt me. Stephanie, Joe, and Diana also signed up, so I guess we’re in this together…


How I imagine I’ll feel.


12/26: 5 miles (9.7 mi/min) (at sea level)
Wow, after adapting to living at elevation (Santa Fe is at 1.5 miles), coming back and exercising I feel like a god!

12/30: 1 mile (10.1 mi/min) (hungover)
12/31: 4 miles (12.1 mi/min)
Okay, even elevation doesn’t compensate for running with a hangover, never doing that again. But did get one last run in at sea level, even if it was shorter and slower than my first one. The big difference is that my legs are becoming the limiting factor, not just becoming short of breath.


What I won’t be winning.

Back to Santa Fe

1/13: 6 miles (11.8 mi/min) (back to 1.5 mi elevation)
1/16: 3 miles (9.8 mi/min)
1/19: 2 miles (10.1 mi/min)
That was probably a longer break than I should have taken, but it was icy out, and didn’t seem worth twisting my ankle over. I discovered that running at work is fun, because I can explore some of the areas I never go to. Also, they’re a lot better at shoveling snow and de-icing.

1/30: 4 miles (10.6 mi/min)
2/10: 4 miles (10.2 mi/min)
2/11: 1 mile (9.2 mi/min) (Salida, CO, morning before snowboarding)
Another 11 day gap there. I broke my phone, (dropped it from 2 feet…) and I couldn’t get myself to run without being able to simultaneously track it with RunKeeper, and listen to music.

2/13: 4.5 miles (9.9 mi/min)
2/15: 1 mile (11.8 mi/min) (beer mile)
2/18: 12 miles (11.5 mi/min)
2/25: 3 miles (10.9 mi/min)
2/28: 5 miles (9.5 mi/min)
3/2: 17 miles (12.3 mi/min)
3/5: 1 mile (7.7 mi/min)
Things are getting serious. Did a 12 mile and a 17 mile run. Also tried to see how fast I can run a single mile. That slow 3 mile run was due to trying real running shorts (vs. basketball shorts) and freeballing. I didn’t like either of those.

This morning I’m going to do my last long run before the marathon, a 20 mile run, and then I’m just going to do a lot of short runs before the marathon. Here we go…

Government Shutdown

shutdown2In case you’ve managed to miss it, we don’t really have a government right now.

Because my last post was an update about my working experience here in New Mexico, I feel like I should follow that up with some thoughts on the couple weeks following.

Until recently, I haven’t been directly affected, we had some carryover funds to continue operations, and were just cutting back on spending and travel. However, as of next Friday, I will be out of work, on unpaid furlough, in the absence of a budget. Unfortunately, I will also be unlikely to receive retroactive pay as a federal employee, because of the structure of the national labs.

The DOE contracts out the management of the 17 national labs to private companies, so all DOE scientists at these labs are therefore contractors, and not federal employees. Generally we are treated as such, however not in the case of situations like retroactive pay.

shutdownThis shutdown is heavily affecting R&D in this country, and therefore worldwide, as has been covered by many sources, such as C&ENScientific American, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, CNNScience, and Nature. (Let me know if you want the full text of the Science or Nature articles.)

Upon hearing about the sneaky move of House Resolution 367, passed on 9/30/13, the day before the shutdown, which only allows the House Majority Leader to put forth a vote, I decided to read the text myself. I decided to read the text of Resoultion 59, which gives continuing appropriations to keep the government running in absence of a budget for FY14.

Obviously I’m not entirely fluent in legalese, but my reading doesn’t interpret it in that we can even be furloughed. I decided to email my congressmen:

“Dear Congressmen,

I am an employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who will be furloughed as of close of business on 10/18/13, unless a budget is passed to continue funding. While there are many terrible things about this shutdown, I am particularly concerned about the lack of retroactive pay in the case of a furlough for government contractors, such as me and all of the personnel in the DOE National Lab system. For this, I’m very grateful for your support in the 10/5/13 letter to secretary Moniz.

Upon reading the text of House Resolution 59, section 112, I question the validity of these furloughs at all:

“Sec. 112.  Amounts made available under section 101 for civilian personnel compensation and benefits in each department and agency may be apportioned up to the rate for operations necessary to avoid furloughs within such department or agency, consistent with the applicable appropriations Act for fiscal year 2013, except that such authority provided under this section shall not be used until after the department or agency has taken all necessary actions to reduce or defer non-personnel-related administrative expenses.”

Am I misinterpreting this, or does this not imply that the DOE may appropriate funds to contractors running the National Labs, such as LANS, which would enable them to continue working, only with less funding for administrative expenses?

Thank you for your assistance and representation during this awful situation.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t think that through, and when I submitted it to Senator Udall, I was greeted with the following response:

“Thank you for contacting me.

Due to unfortunate brinksmanship in Congress, the federal government has shut down, and federal law requires that my offices close as well. During this time, we will be unable to check and respond to any messages through my website or by e-mail or phone. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but I will respond as soon as I can once the government reopens. In the meantime, please know that I will continue to work with my colleagues to find a solution to this senseless shutdown.”


Six Months in New Mexico: The Lab


It’s actually been about seven now, but that doesn’t sound as good. I’ve posted a few times since I moved here and grad school and my post-grad school vacation ended, but nothing substantial, or really about being here. So where to start, there’s the lab, Santa Fe, and the commute between.

In short, the lab is really excellent, but very different. It’s one of the biggest labs in the world, with some history that you’ve probably heard of. I ended up in a materials science group, which has some chemists, but many other engineers, etc, and definitely a different feel than a normal chemistry group. It’s been a fun and interesting adjustment, getting to work a lot of different things, but also has moments of “What do you mean there’s no pH paper around, this is no chemistry lab! Oh… right.”

Definitely a great change, being exposed to all sorts of new areas of science, and seemingly no end to new projects. Being a postdoc gives you tons of freedom to more or less research whatever you want.

lanlThe size of the lab is different in terms of both number of groups, scientists, and facilities, but also size. There’s almost every possible imaginable resource, if you can figure out who has what. In terms of size, given the origin of the lab, there are a lot of things spread out, so you do a lot of driving just within the lab. There are government vehicles available for use most of the time, so you don’t end up racking up tons of miles of your own gas, which is nice. (Unlike the commute…) My horrendous sense of direction has been getting a good workout; finally starting to not get lost every other day.

Comparing academia to government is interesting. I don’t have any current aspirations of professorship, so the national lab system seems pretty perfect for me right now, giving you lots of research freedom, without the teaching aspects. I could see going to academia someday down the road, but not in the near future. That isn’t to say the research experience is the same as in academia, there’s definitely a significant amount of things which go a lot slower.

safetySafety culture is huge. If you are not trained and authorized to do it, you’re not doing it. There’s no “oh, I can figure it out”, “oh, he can just show me how then I’ll be fine”, no. This has its ups and downs, in theory being safety/proficiency and slower progress/unnecessary(?) bureaucracy, but overall I can’t argue with it. I’m not without my fair share of grad school accidents, so when I have to sit through hours of training, there’s definitely some moments of, “yeah, I did that, ouch”.

You probably spend your first three weeks doing nothing but various forms of training, and lots of reading. If you weren’t warned about this, you’d probably be really frustrated. I was, so I just pushed through it. It’s really mostly in the beginning, so you just sit through it all once. There’s lots of refreshers along the way, keeping different types of training active, but it seems to be spaced out enough that it’s not bad.

Once you get going, everything picks up with whatever speed you want it to. There will be things which get in the way and take a while to get approval, etc, but remember, you have lots of projects at once, so if you’re without things to do, it’s probably your own fault.

Like I said in the beginning, super fun so far.

That ended up being a lot more than I thought, so I’m breaking this up into a couple parts, next up, New Mexico itself.

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