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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Livermore visit

Several months ago I was invited to participate in a high school career fair for girls interested in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, and math).  I'm not sure how effective these types of events are in encouraging students to pursue a college degree or career in these field, but I suppose it's at least a good way for them to learn how to talk to adults and whatnot.

Eddie and I took two days off last week to go to Livermore for this event.  Granted, it was only a one night thing, but it was a nice getaway for us to visit with some friends and my family.  It was especially nice since I left the dogs at home.

It was a pretty busy 24 hour adventure.  First, we had a leisurely morning of laundry folding, cleaning the house, watching some shows, and making sure the dogs and chickens were ready for us to leave.  Eddie slept the entire drive, which was awesome because it meant I got to listen to NPR instead of his movies (a person can only listen to Chuggington or Finding Nemo so many times).

Our first stop was to Alden Lane Nursery, where I used to work in high school and college.  I'd seen their post on Facebook that morning about half off on fruit trees since the weather was bad (to encourage people to come in a shop).  So I bought two cherry trees, one for us and one for my dad, plus some herb seeds.  My dad offered to start some herbs in soil blocks for me--I chose chives, tarragon, and oregano (plus dill and  fennel that we'll direct seed).   It was nice to catch up with my old boss, Brian, too. 
Waddo in a wagon.

It was overcast the whole time we were in town, which was a nice change from Davis where it'd been raining buckets for a couple of days.  I love the rain (we need it so much!) but it's just easier to play outside with Eddie when it isn't actively pouring.
Eddie played with the neighbor's grandson, Jack, for a while.  Jack kept asking me, "Why that kid in the dirt?" I posted this on Facebook and said that it was composted manure.  Turns out it was actually just soil. 
...however, this pile IS manure.  Composted manure, but still manure.  and boy did Eddie love it.  See his cute sweater?  He'd just received it as a give from Kateri. 
Somehow, I managed to convince my parents to put Eddie to bed that night.  Originally I was going to have to attend the career fair, come back to bed the babe, and then meet my friends for a late night snack downtown.  But Donovan and Kateri really wanted to meet up, too, since Donovan was only in town that night.  My folks have never offered to bed Eddie before, which is fine.  He's super easy to put down as long as you follow our set routine (dinner, play, bath, teeth, PJs, books, bed).  Not having done it in 25 years, I think they were just a little wary of their own energy.  Haha.

Anyway, so I got to change plans to meet up with the Joneses at Shari's for "pie shakes" at 9pm, followed by meeting my high school buddies for more treats at 10:15pm (same place). 

First, I went to the career fair.  It was at Granada, in the student union.  Each of us "professionals" was assigned a table with another woman. I was paired with a bioterrorism lab manager from Sandia.  She was nice, but BOY did she stink at talking to young folks about her job.  They'd glaze over and she's just go into more and more detail about it.  At one point she had no one to talk to, and she stood there listening to me talk to some shy teens.

Me: Hi, I'm Julie.  What are your names?
Them: "So-and-so" and "Such-and-Such"
Me: Nice to meet you.  What year are you?
Them: Sophomores.
Me: Great.  So that means you're in...chemistry?  And you'll take physics next year?
Them: Yes!  And maybe AP chem the year after.
Me: That's great!  Do you know what you want to study in college?
Them: Uh. Science?
Me: Ok...what kind of science?
Them: What?
Me: Ok. When I was your age, I thought there were only a few types of science: chemistry, physics, biology.  But it turns out (as you'll discover when you're in college), there are actually many MORE types of science.  There's biology of viruses, biology of humans, chemistry of food, chemistry of synthesis (like to make cosmetics and medicine and plastics and stuff)...and once you're in graduate school you'll be AMAZED at how many MORE choices there are.
Them: Really?  Wow.
Me: Yep. And what's really cool about science, is that it gets SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING as you go from high school to college to graduate school.  Mostly, because you get to choose what specific classes you take and there are so many to choose from.  So if you ever find your science classes boring or hard, trust me: stick with it.  I promise it will get more interesting (and easier since it'll be more interesting) the higher and higher you go with it.
Them: Yeah, it's sort of boring right now.

And then I went on to tell them about how I wasn't the best science student in high school, but not because I didn't try.  It was because science and math were just harder for me to grasp than it was for other students.  But I didn't let it stop me.  I just worked harder to get my Bs and B+s.  And that once I got into college and got to take more interesting classes, I fell head over heels in love with the subject that I chose (environmental chemistry) and I grew to love the challenge.  I explained that because it was challenging for me, I feel like it made me a better scientist compared to many of my classmates.  (Whether or not this is always true, I don't know.  But I like to think it is true most days.)  My final advice was that they should choose a career or college major based on what's interesting and a little challenging to them--my experience is if you choose something that is easy, you'll quickly lose interest in it.

When the two students moved on to the next table, the Sandia lady turned to me and said, "Wow, that was really good advice."  I'm not sure what she thought she should have been telling these students--the specifics of her research?  I doubt any of them cared or even understood what she was talking about.  Not that I didn't talk about my research--I brought a baggie of compost and one of nasty, hard soil (and I miiiiiiiiiiiight have offered to let them smell how delicious the compost was...most of them smelled it only after I did and after their moms did).

Once the event ended, I went to Shari's and got a pie shake with Edward, Donovan, Kateri, my mom, and Gayla.  Edward had been in the east bay that day for work so he made a point of sticking around to see us, too.  (My dad was left with sleeping Wadamus.)  Okay, what's a ?pie shake"? It's a piece of your favorite pie blenderized with ice cream.  It is amazing. 
It also happened to be "pi day" (March 14 = 3.14).  The waitress said, "Isn't that weird?  It's National Pie Day!  Who knew there was such a thing?"  She obviously didn't get it...but we entertained ourselves by bragging about how many digits of pi we each knew (Donovan knows 10, I knew 26, and Edward knows like 43!  What a show off!).  It was super fun to catch up with everyone.  I hadn't seen the Joneses since New Year's.

Robby, Tina, and John showed up just as everyone else was leaving.  We stayed there and had some actual food.  My salad had rotten lettuce in it (which I first tasted and didn't see, unfortunately) so the waiter removed it from the bill.  Robby and Tina are expecting their first baby boy in August so we spent a lot of time talking about labor, etc.  At least John got in on the conversation when we'd exchange stories from our own child/babyhood.  I was not surprised to learn that John was born tall and skinny.  Haha!

The next morning I made breakfast for us Levie Bowers.  It was still just overcast so we got to play in the backyard some more.
My dad and Eddie made a ramp for rolling an old bowling ball into some traffic cones. Redneck bowling!
Eddie "wuves" his "Gwan Pa" so much it's ridiculous.
My dad showed me the progress he had made on a beautiful redwood worm bin (it was my Christmas present).  I can't wait to get it up to our house!  I checked my worms yesterday and some of them were trying to escape because they are too crowded in the Rubbermaid tote in which they currently reside.  This new bin is plenty big for all of our family's veggie waste so I won't even need to have a compost pile (which will be nice since Taters like to dig into the pile for snacks...ew.)
Yes, it looks a bit like a coffin...

Lucky for me, my mom took Eddie to feed the horses and goats across the road while I packed up the car to depart.  Packing the car with Eddie's "help" is totally possible, it just takes much longer.
Who needs pants when you're feeding the animals?  Not Eddie Pie!
It was a quick trip, but a nice change from our regular weekly routine. 

4 comments:

Leah Roy said...

Oh how I LOVE Alden Lane! I could (and do) just walk around there for hours. So peaceful, so beautiful, even in the winter. You guys fit a lot into your 24 hour trip, success!

steph.kelley said...

Of COURSE you're an amazing teacher. Those girls are lucky to have met you — you just might have changed their life trajectories! (Crazy, no?) Got to go look up pie shakes now..... xoxoxo

Mariah said...

My parents never offer to watchy my kids and I think they are fairly easy to be honest but I'm used to them. What a great opportunity for those girls. I was so sad I missed pi day! I really was. No, not in the mathematic way like Kalon scoffed at me I wanted to eat Pie!!

Kaitlin said...

i really want to try your pie shake and if i were one of those teenagers i'd think you're crazy....i NEVER understood why science was fun (still don't!). i'm definitely glad there are women like you in this world!!