Sunday, April 23, 2017


The last few weeks have been busy! I'm feeling like I've reached the slide into finals week. Or maybe I'm still in push towards finals week. Either way April has been blossoming with activity. I'll be participating in a summer eLearning institute to address achievement gaps in CHEM 100, so I've been gearing up for that. On a related note, this upcoming week, I'm having training on TopHat.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Going Greyhound

Going Greyhound to the ACS meeting was a risk, I was warned.  Everything people suggested was true.  The bus depot in downtown LA was surrounded by crack dealers.  The electrical outlets and the toilet on the bus (on the way up) were out of order.  When the electrical outlets and toilet were working (on the way back) we were delayed 2 hours (in the middle of the night) so that we arrived to LA right when morning rush hour was in full effect.

Arriving in downtown San Francisco at 5:30am was kind of strange, but a brisk walk along the Embarcadero was just what I needed after the bus ride up.  I had a fantastic breakfast at Mel's Drive-In on Mission St.

Listening to talks all morning in Marriott Marquis level B2 (the lower basement) with no wifi was awesome, but when I came up to level B1 to send a few tweets, I ran into these Matadors!

The Sunday evening poster session was great!  I got to meet some new people and exchange ideas.  It was a lot of traveling for that one moment, but I'm really happy I got the opportunity to go.  Formalizing your ideas in writing (by a poster or slide presentation) is so good.

I enjoyed wearing the Alpaca scarf my husband gave me at the last minute.  I didn't enjoy wearing the Cole Haan saddle shoes that seemed sensible but always give me a blister.  I walked 16,000 steps that day.  The Greyhound cost around $81 but since it was late, I had to take a $40 Uber to get to campus on time to teach my Monday classes.  Still cheaper than Amtrak!

Friday, March 31, 2017

New Feels

I'm enjoying the new house.  Although moving is stressful, we did it!  Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Cooking in the new kitchen has been fantastic.  I am even enjoying washing dishes.  The lack of clutter is inspiring.

One thing we Nebraskans always say about the month of March is: "In like a lamb, out like a lion" or vice versa "In like a lion, out like a lamb."  The weather has been mondo windy (lion-like).  But I feel a sense of contentment (lamb-like).

I'm getting ready to attend the ACS meeting in San Francisco.  Taking a "red-eye" Greyhound bus from LA to SF.  My poster is printed and so are my tickets and name badge!

I've been biking to school all week and LOVING IT!!!!  For St. Patrick's Day I wrote a post for Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) about our motivation for moving to Northridge.

I'm feeling so much.  Making new friends.  Finding new places.  Biking new routes.  Getting lost.  Going to the dog park.  Getting mail.  Rollerskating.  It's scary and exhilarating, exhausting and comforting, risk with rewards.  Trying to pace myself.  I do not need to make everything perfect immediately.

And happy anniversary to my husband of 9 years.  I'm grateful to have found such a super teammate to run this rat race with.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Goodbye tiny house

Home gym and shoe rack
There were many things we learned by living in less than 400 square feet for almost 6 years. The (lack of) space will help you realize what is really important in your life (and what you can live without).

I wanted to make a video touring our tiny house, but it was so messy that I was too ashamed to let anyone see how we actually lived.

There were at least two huge piles of clothes on the floor. Usually the oversized dining room table was covered with junk (and stuffed with junk below it in bins). There was no way to clean up because we had nowhere to put things away. 

Every year we gave more and more items away, and didn't buy anything new (except bicycles) but we still couldn't fit all our stuff in that house. We had a storage unit 1/2 mile away for $177 per month, which complicated planning for trips.

If you are considering tiny house living, here are a few photos that show items that made our lives in the tiny house more bearable.

A key rack, mounted to a bookshelf

The spice rack

The coffee cup rack

The vanity bench added extra storage

The hat and coat rack

The lipstick rack + tiny wall-mounted shelf

The sunglass rack

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Car-Free Conferences

I wanted to share a few experiences I've had with attending conferences on my bicycle, using the network of trains and buses that weaves a web throughout Southern California.

On Friday, November 4, 2016 I attended the ALEKS Chemistry Symposium in Irvine, CA.  

On Thursday, November 3rd I took the Ventura County Line Metrolink train #150 from Northridge to LA Union Station and transferred to the Orange County Line train #606 to the Irvine Station for $10.75.  Then I biked less than 3 miles to the La Quinta Inn and Suites.

It’s not that often that you can say you’ve stayed at a hotel listed under the National Registry of Historical Sites. Rooms are former lima bean silos and have a hexagonal shape.  I stayed two nights for $217.78.  Due to the concrete walls, the rooms are super-quiet even though the hotel is right next to the train tracks.

The conference went great, ALEKS employees that ride bicycles had a storage "under-the-stairs" area where there were already a few bikes and a few tools. It was hospitable and secure. It's always nerve-wracking taking your bicycle to a new place, not knowing if there will be bike racks outside or a safe place to lock-up. When you can bring your bike inside, it's always a great thing!

This last photo shows all the modes of transportation I used on that trip.  (1) sweet bike lanes (2) nice sidewalks (3) convenient bus service.  Traveling without a car is even easier when you can use Google Maps and other transit apps to buy tickets and access schedules to predict exactly when your next train or bus will arrive.  There were about 20 people at the conference.

After the conference ended, I took an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train from Irvine all the way straight to Glendale for $19.  They have roll-on service for bicycles, but you must make a reservation to let the conductor know you are bringing your bike on board.

On Friday, March 3, 2017 I attended the 1st Annual Collaborative Chemistry Conference in Oxnard, CA. 

After work on Thursday, I jumped on Metrolink Ventura County Line train #119 from Northridge out to Oxnard for $11.50.  There was a group of commuters playing some kind of card game on their phones.  One lady was celebrating her 20 year work anniversary.  It's always a party on the bike car!

I stayed at the Flamingo Motel.  It was not too fancy, not too expensive ($65).  It was a short (0.5 mile) bike ride from the Oxnard Transit Center.  The great thing is that there was a taco truck parked next door with fresh, hot food.  The cable and wireless internet were fantastic, and the shower had great water pressure.  It was quiet and I got about 10 hours of sleep!

To get from the Oxnard downtown area to the conference location, it was about a 6 mile bike ride.  I left my hotel at ten minutes to 8am.  Checking out of the Flamingo was easy.  Google Maps gave me turn-by-turn directions for a scenic ride through Oxnard along mostly bike lanes.  There was only one small climb, and the view was so fantastic I had to stop and take a photo.

I arrived at the conference location, Channel Islands Boating Center at 3880 Bluefin Cir, right on time for the continental breakfast.  We got a swag bag from Cengage, which was awesome.  The lunch was sponsored by Pearson.  In total, about 30 people attended the conference.  Again, I was able to bring my bike inside the conference room, it was a great conversation starter.

After the conference ended, I biked the 6 miles back to the Oxnard Transit Center again along mostly bike lanes.  Although a few people shouted out their window, what I choose to believe are encouraging remarks, it was a safe and scenic bike ride.  The Oxnard Transit Center (like the Irvine station) has a great waiting room.  There are restrooms, benches, tables, and a cafe.  

I recommend taking public transportation to conferences.  It is a liberating experience.

I'm preparing to attend the 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting in San Francisco.  I'm presenting a poster entitled "Comparison of adaptive and traditional online homework systems in a preparatory chemistry course" CHED 157. The poster session will be from 7:00-9:00pm on Sunday, April 2nd in Hall A - Moscone Center.

Instead of taking my bike on a train, I'm taking an overnight Greyhound bus. It's a bit crazy, since I'm going up there on Saturday night (schedule 6862), presenting on Sunday, then coming back Sunday night (schedule 6849). The transportation cost is $85.  The Greyhound operates these express buses that only make 4 stops: LA --> Avenal --> Oakland --> SF.  The Avenal stop is 40 minutes, allowing passengers to get food.

It will be nice not to have to worry about locking my bike somewhere, no getting the bike on and off a bus or train. I'm looking forward to using my new Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Daypack. I'm going to make some progress on the billion step challenge by doing more walking.  I'm definitely bringing a neck pillow and possibly some noise-canceling headphones to make sure I can sleep on the bus.

The Los Angeles Greyhound Bus Station is a 2 mile walk from Los Angeles Union Station (even though you would think they would be in the same location).  Then from the San Francisco Greyhound Bus Station it's less than 1 mile walk to the Moscone Center.  After presenting my poster, I'll have an hour to walk back to catch my bus to LA, arriving at 5:30am. Then at 6:51am I'll catch our normal train, Metrolink Ventura County Line Train #101 in order to arrive at CSUN to teach my class at 9:30am. I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh yeah, and also, #626GoldenStreets is tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!

Plan to take advantage of the opportunity to ride Metro Gold Line between South Pasadena and Azusa.  I'll be in my Bikecar101 T-shirt leading the feeder ride from Glendale.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Another Chemistry Lesson

Many times, I've done a "Smell-a-Vision" lesson with my students based on GC-MS data on terpenes from citrus fruits, herbs, and flowers collected from around campus.  This year, I plan to use Mr. Sketch markers as a source of the aromas.  Students will be given either percent composition or combustion analysis data, together with the molecular weight, and asked to determine empirical and molecular formulas.

The implementation could have been smoother, it was really difficult to hand out 36 markers of different aroma and the corresponding papers.  If I had to do this activity again, I would have spent more time preparing the markers and papers (already matched up) and had a corresponding seating chart (plan to distribute).  With a class of ~80 students, there were pairs and groups of 3.  I ended up taking about 15 minutes to distribute the activity which only left 5 minutes for students to work on the problems.  I made it a take-home extra-credit assignment, so there's no telling how students will get the problem solved.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sour Stomach?

The 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was shared between James Black, Gertrude Elion, and George Hitchings "for their discoveries of important principles for drug treatment.”  In 1964, histamine was known to stimulate the secretion of stomach acid, but traditional antihistamines had no effect on acid production. Tagamet was one of the first drugs discovered using a rational drug design approach. 

Hundreds of modified compounds were synthesized in an effort to find a specific antihistamine to decrease production of stomach acid. Tagamet was approved by the FDA for prescriptions in 1976. By 1979, Tagamet was being sold in more than 100 countries and became the top-selling prescription product in the U.S. 

Tagamet became the first drug ever to reach more than $1 billion a year in sales, thus making it the first blockbuster drug.  Before the introduction of the drug, treatment of peptic ulcers relied on extensive bed rest, imposition of a bland diet, treatment with antacids, and often involved surgery if the ulcer recurred.  Tagamet's mode of action is to block the Histamine H2 receptor.

There are 3 types of heartburn medication: 
  • antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, and Tums
  • Histamine H2 receptor antagonists such as Pepcid and Tagamet
  • proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec and Prevacid
In seeking a course of treatment for heartburn, it is best to progress from antacids to Histamine H2 receptor antagonists to proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), each more aggressive than the next.  There is a risk of osteoporosis and vitamin B12 deficiency if PPIs are taken over a long period of time, although PPIs are usually more effective than the older Histamine H2 blockers.

Prilosec was the first proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) on the market, in 1988. It was sold as a racemic mixture of R and S isomers. Prevacid was the second of the PPI drugs to reach the market, being launched in Europe in 1991 and the US in 1995. In 2001 Nexium was launched in USA, containing the S-isomer only of the same molecule as Prilosec, providing higher bioavailability and improved efficacy.

Aside from medication, there are dietary changes that can address acid reflux. Limit fried foods and fatty foods, such as butter, mayonnaise, cream sauces, gravies. Try lower fat or skim milk, as this may also help reduce heartburn. Limit foods that cause gas, like rich spicy foods. Sit upright for at least one hour after a meal. 

The Top Pharmaceuticals That Changed The World, Chemical & Engineering News Vol. 83, Issue 25 (6/20/05) 

Lars Olbe, Enar Carlsson & Per Lindberg. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 2, 132-139 (February 2003)

Are Heartburn Medications Safe for Long-Term Use? - Everyday Health (2/19/16)

5 Steps to an Effective Acid Reflux Diet - RefluxMD (6/15/16)

Nausea and Vomiting Heartburn: - WIC Works (2005)