Thursday, August 21, 2014

What is learning?

Reflecting on great moments in my life, I realize that painful lessons are the most indelible.  Therefore when my students cry out "this is too hard," I think of the phrase "no pain, no gain."  I'm not a weightlifting coach, I'm a chemistry teacher.

I have my own experience as a learner and at least 9 solid years of experience teaching dance and chemistry.  Tell me you've taken a dance class that was pain-free.  You're training your body to move in new ways that are unfamiliar.  You may get your foot stepped on (in a ballroom dance class) or reach for your toes (in a ballet class).  These painful experiences create muscle memory and your body will attempt to avoid this pain by either correcting your steps or limbering up your hamstrings.

In science, these pains are invisible but no less real.  As the mind stretches to comprehend new paradigms of atomic theory and reactivity patterns of elements, it will balk at the complexity and abstraction associated with this mode of thought.  This is like your tight hamstrings that have trouble loosening up to accommodate your port-de-bras.  When the mouth articulates a name like "Avogadro" or a phrase such as "Kinetic Molecular Theory," the tongue and lips may fumble at the new words.  These experiences are no different than forgetting to break-on-two.

I wanted to do some reading about "learning" to see what other people thought about it.  After all, I am of the "educational variety" and want to know the professional buzzwords that are currently being tossed around.  But when I hear the word "pedagogy" it's like my brain turns to jell-o.

Plant a a teacher!

I can understand the definition of "pedagogy" is the art and science of teaching.  This is how my students must feel when they first enounter the word "stoichiometry."  It's a strange-sounding word with a lot of consonants and vowels that represents a pretty complex idea.  My approach to pedagogy is to challenge students, kind of like punching a bop bag, and then let them recover before challenging them again.  I don't know if this is supported by neuroscience, I've just found that students can take only so much pain before they give up.

Besides the "how" of teaching, there are students' learning styles to consider.  After all, it's not so important to talk at students (lecture) but more important to focus on how students acquire new skills and ideas.  This depends on individual's learning styles.  Since each individual is a hybrid of all these styles, it's important to be a dynamic teacher that can cater to all of these styles.  Cognative psychologist Daniel Willingham argues that this theory pigeonholes students unnecessarily and that the content you are trying to cover should determine the mode of delivery. Either way, I try to be mindful of employing all of these styles in the course of a semester.  I have also read that when students are more aware of their learning preferences, they can employ metacognition to enhance their success in any course.

Why study STEM?  Quantitative science is essential to understanding the world around you!


Competencies / Learning Objectives
Learning Styles
Lesson Planning
Buzzwords in Pedagogy

Monday, August 18, 2014

248th ACS National Meeting Digest

Whew! What a conference experience~!

Sunday, August 10, 2014 *Improv Day
9:00am "From transient to persistent propargyl radicals: Exploiting a steric factor" Gadik Melikyan
10:20am "Total synthesis of polycarcin V and exploration of its DNA-binding properties" Tom Minehan
Lunch = ACS Board of Directors "The wonders of the periodic table" Sam Kean
1:30pm "Improvisation Training for Chemists" Lydia Franco-Hodges
6:00pm "Asymmetric bis(terpyridine) ruthenium dimers as ketone transfer hydrogenation catalysts" Eric Kelson

Monday, August 11, 2014 *SciMix Day
7:00am ACS Member Insurance/Younger Chemists Committee 5k FUN RUN!!!!!!!!!!! Loved running by Keith Haring, "Untitled" (Three Dancing Figures), Version A, Edition 2/3, 1989, painted aluminum.
10am-2pm Naptime... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz! I was wiped out from traveling and doing the fun run...
8:00pm SciMix poster session
"Metabolic profiling of the rat gut microbiome" Cynthia Larive
"Preparation of asymmetric bis(terpyridine) ruthenium dimers: Ligand substituent effects on ketone transfer hydrogenation energy" Eric Kelson
"Assessment of three dairy waste management practices in the removal of common vetenary antibiotics" and "Chemical and biological assessment of the change in endocrine disrupting chemicals through a pasturization-digestion treatment of dairy manure" Diana Aga

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 *Communication Day
Slept in... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Lunch = hot dog
1:00pm "Communicating Science to the Public" Introduction byTom Barton (ACS President)
1:10pm "Engaging different audiences" Panel: Susan Morrisey (Assistant Managing Editor, C&EN), Christopher Avery (AAAS Policy Fellow, DOE), Darcy Gentleman (ACS Office of Public Affairs), Terri Taylor (K-12 Education at ACS), Amanda Yarrnell (Assistant Managing Editor, C&EN) and breakout sessions
Video reporting of discussion breakouts
3:00pm "Laugh, share, and demo: Chemunicator advice" Rudy Baum (C&EN), Peter Ludovice (Georgia Tech), Matthew Hartings (American U, @sciencegeist), Diane M. Bunce (The Catholic University of America)
4:10pm "Effective videomaking" Adam Dylewski (@ACSReactions)
SWAM IN THE BAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 *Conference Hookey Day
BICYCLE ADVENTURE!!!!!!!! Rode from Pacifica State Beach along Half Moon Bay.
We biked a 16.77 mi route through Devil's Slide and along Hwy 1 (scary) to a bike trail along Half Moon Bay. The route had a total ascent of 828.63 ft.  This route burned 966 Cal even though we decided to take Bus Route 17 back to our car.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 *Global Stewardship Day
Slept in... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
10:15am Monitoring and Evaluating Environmental Exposures: Case Studies Incorporating Statistical Approaches to Evaluate and Predict from Large and Fuzzy Datasets
Lunch = hotdog
12:40pm "IUPAC: Emerging Issues and Challenges Global Food Production and Food Security"
"Global Food Challenges and trade policy considerations" Tim Josling (Food Research Institute at Stanford University)
1:00pm "Sustainable improvement of agricultural yields through the application of modern biotechnology" Bruce Chassy (Food Safety and Nutritional Sciences, U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
Poster session "Synthetic elicitor, CMP442, increases innate plant resistance to pathogens" Thomas Eulgem
2:00pm "Enhancing global food security through sustainable pest and disease management"
Terrance M. Hurley (Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota)
Panel Discussion = very interesting!
Made risotto for dinner = YUM!
ZYDECO DANCING at Yoshi's Oakland, Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 15, 2014 *Dharma Day in Marin County
Friday Morning Meditation and Yoga Class with Dana DePalma and Ashley Sharp (yoga) at Spirit Rock
Pt. Reyes BIKE RIDE!!!!!!!!!!! We biked 17.88 mi. The route has a total ascent of 1626.54 ft. We saw a herd of Tule Elk.  This ride burned 965 Cal.

Saturday, August 16, 2014 *Thank a Farmer Day
We rode our bikes to the Alemany Farmer's Market. It was HUGE. Immense. Sprawling. Diverse. Our route was 4.91 mi. The route has a total ascent of 316.8 ft and has a maximum elevation of 242.16 ft. After we got home, we headed over to Walnut Creek for "An Afternoon of Rumi" which was spiritually fullfilling. We had an All-American summer family farewell dinner with hamburgers, corn on the cob, and watermelon.

The greener meeting challenge was a no-brainer since I biked to and from the conference center, staying with a family member negated the need for changing sheets and a maid service.  I biked a total of 40 miles that week via Route 47 and 50 in San Francisco.  I walked to and from Union Square and Moscone many times on Sunday, August 10th.  I enjoyed the Fun Run with City Running Tours as a way to see the city in a running group.  I had the water bottle from my bicycle, which I refilled at the bottle station in Moscone North.  The conference theme was inspiring!  Thanks ACS.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Today I am writing in a post-vacation conference whirlwind!  It's hard to believe it's already mid-August.  July flew by, for me at least.  I left sunny Southern California on July 21st and headed to the Pawnee County Fair in rural Nebraska.  It was a great time to connect with growing food, raising livestock, and crafting.  The 4-H'ers that I met were creative and caring, fun, serious and knowledgeable about their animals.  I got to hear the Governor of Nebraska speak about the importance of being a Livestock-Friendly county.  Nebraska is the number 1 feeder of cattle and is the number 5 state in production of popcorn!

I loved riding my bike down gravel roads, alongside tractors and horses, through small-town America.  I loved drinking $0.60 coffee at the Little Brown Jug and transporting salads from Subway to my sister's house by a bag thrown over my handlebars.  I loved the driving tour to see the buffalo and all the lakes for fishing in Pawnee county.  I loved spending time with family, including the 4-membered she-wolf pack of dog-cousins.  It was so relaxing to be there, and so fun to watch tractor pulls, rodeos, and mud volleyball.

My time in Omaha was also exciting.  We went to a botanical garden and the zoo.  We went for a nighttime ninja bike ride through the city.  We made "Cycling To Sanity" t-shirts with iron-on felt lettering.  We gathered supplies for a cotton/wool/silk dye-day.  We did a pre-sunrise bike ride along the Keystone Trail.  We dyed silk, tencel, and cotton skeins for my mom to weave her scarves.  We dyed bamboo socks.  We indigo dyed silk scarves.  All in all, it was an amazing time in Omaha.  I especially loved the day my whole (nuclear) family was there and we went out to dinner.

The days in Lincoln were no less awesome... I spent time with my grandparents at their domiciles.  My aunt and uncle joined us for dinners and lunches.  We went on a couple Hot Dog Runs (not literally running) eating outside, inside, and at a pub.  We ate on "O" street and downtown in the Haymarket.  We visited the sunken garden and places where we used to visit as kids.  I went on a solo bike ride along Billy Wolff trail that took me to the outskirts of the city and then back.  We went to Pioneers Park.  I loved honoring the heritage of our family, from the farm to the big city.  I loved hearing old stories about living without electricity and surviving the dust bowl.

All good things come to an end, just like my time in Nebraska.  I drove out here to San Francisco for the American Chemical Society national meeting.  It's been great hearing professors from Northridge give their oral presentations.  The Improvisation Training session was completely wonderful.  Running with the Younger Chemists Committee was a blast.  The SciMix poster session was very busy and I met some people I didn't expect to see, which made it more valuable than I could have planned.

This afternoon I am participating in the session "Communicating Science to the Public" which should be fun.  Tomorrow there are some session about chemistry education that I would like to attend.  Thursday there are two oral sessions that I may drop by called "Contaminants of Concern" and "Resistance Management" which are fitting considering that the theme of this meeting is "Chemistry & Global Stewardship."  Speaking of which, I had better get going.  I am LOVING riding my bike to and from the conference center.  It's 4 miles from where I'm staying so I'm getting my fill of riding in this bike-friendly city with its green lanes and totally rad bike culture.  It's like CicLAvia every day here, seriously.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I think it's important to set goals.  Awhile back, I set a few big ones:

*Finish PhD
*Take cross-country bike trip
*Write a book
*Make fitness (exercise) video(s)
*Open a wellness center

Some of these have happened, some are yet to come, but I'm not going to lose sight of these goals.  I started this blog around the time I set the above goals.  There were many thoughts in my head and multiple directions I thought my life could go, but I know I want to help people in a broad sense.  I know I was born to teach and be a leader.  Even if I try to deny these paths, I am redirected back to them.

I want to promote a blog that I read, because it's full of good (thoughtful) content.  It's called Voices in Echo and the writing is on topics related to wellness, education and science.  The author Mike writes nearly weekly posts about the news.  He is widely-read and open-minded.  If you enjoy reading my blog, you might also enjoy reading his.  Did I mention Mike is my husband?

One fitness video I want to make is a spin workout.  Surely I could make something more engaging than this:

For me, when I get centered on "burning fat" with my workouts, they aren't fun anymore.  When you see fitness gurus that look like all they do is workout, it's hard to relate to them.  Also, riding a stationary bike is a challenge because you lose sight of where you could have gone if you were on a real bike and traveling forward, up, and down some hills.  I know you can feel the endorphins from getting your heart rate up, but where's the sense of accomplishment looking back at the monster hill you just climbed?  Or looking forward to the COWABUNGA downhill you're now able to cruise down!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Notorius RBG

"We do not have a proud track record of flattering female ambition or strength. Short a handful of super-heroines—Wonder Woman, and some characters usually most effectively embodied by Angelina Jolie—we have rarely been able to put a positive spin on the kinds of women who present an intellectual, economic, professional, or political threat to entrenched male power. Throughout history, we have acknowledged male strength, especially in its seniority, as serious and authoritative. Older women, on the other hand, have existed mostly as nanas, bubbes! Those sturdy, ambitious souls who also staked claims to public eminence were cast as problematic; tough ladies who no longer slide easily into Lycra are ball-busters, nut-crackers, and bitches." ~ Rebecca Traister

And I love this students and female MCs.  A rare and refreshing combination!  If you don't know, now you know.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lycra doesn't last forever

Today I aimed to solve a very important problem: the full moon view through my cycling shorts!  My husband in his infinite wisdom handed me a couple hundred dollars and told me to buy some lycra for my birthday in 2009.  I bought a couple jerseys and 3 pairs of cycling shorts.  Two of them were Performance Ultra shorts and the third is only meant to be worn under another pair of shorts (in other words, it was see-through the day I bought it).

I've been wearing skirts and dresses over my cycling shorts for about a year now, embarassed at knowing that my goods are on display if I don't.  Like these suspecting (or unsuspecting women).

At least these women have underwear on.  I've tried wearing panties under cycling shorts but it kind of defeats the purpose of having a comfy chamois when you get your knickers in a bunch between your tush and the cycling shorts.  It's been suggested that you have your shorts inspected by a cycling friend once at the beginning of every season.  Hilarious (but a good idea)!

I bought a UC Riverside kit in 2012.  To my dismay, the thread is unraveling in the leg area.  I will attempt to mend it and continue to rock those bibs.  They are my most comfortable chamois.  I don't wear them often, partly because they have a white panel and I would hate to see them covered in grease.  I reserve these bibs for special (long/technical) rides.

Independence Day Ride 2013
I've already got two new pairs of yoga pants so I can get my Zumba and running on.  Bought them at Target. Both have 'secret pockets' for your ID and a house key.  They are both from a Champion line of athletic wear called C9.

Now I have bought two new pairs of cycling shorts.  Bought them online through Nashbar.

Hopefully these will last another 5 years. They are called Women's Vineyard Shorts and have a gelpad chamois.  And while we're on the delightful topic of chamois... I tried chamois butter for the first time.  It seemed like a good idea for our Independence Day Ride to be free from chafing.  I used it both days and it relieved the feeling of needing to adjust my toosh to the saddle.  You know that moment where you're squirming around trying to find just the right position?  Well I didn't have to do that.  Everthing just slid right into place.  I even used it as aftersun lotion.  If it's soothing to my bum, why shouldn't it be soothing on my arms, right?

I will close with this list of things I look for in excercise clothing:
*Bright Colors

Based on my previous posts about bras and lycra, I wanted to mention the buzz about Nike's new line of sports bras.  Will they live up to the hype?  Will they have reflectors and bright colors?  In my size?

Album of my 'best ride' photos

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Independence Day Ride Report

Mile 1

Mile 25

Mile 55

Mile 64

Mile 82

Mile 92

Things we learned from this trip:

*** REAPPLY SUNSCREEN ***  And/or buy lightweight armwarmers with high SPF and don't imagine it's better to have a sleeveless jersey.  It's not worth the extra sun exposure.  When the words "We should probably put on sunscreen," are uttered from your mouth, THEN DO IT!!!  Talking about sun protection does not translate into applying sun protection.  Bring a lightweight sun hat.  With a wide brim for poolside recovery time.  I took in more sun on Day 1 hanging out on the balcony.  Could have been prevented.

The first 55 miles we went ~10 mph.  The last 25 miles we went ~ 5 mph.  We thought we might make it to Oceanside, but we decided to end the southward-bound leg at San Clemente.  There were more hills through the last part of our ride and I had one moment of blinding pain in the legs up a hill.  But more than our legs, my arms were absolutely sunburned and I would not have wanted to go further.  I mean, someday I will want to go further, but just not on this trip.  We waited a good 2.5 hours for our train, but I took a 25 minute nap in the shade while listening to the waves.  Totally chill.

Resist the tempation to eat at McDonalds.  It sounds like a good idea but it is not.  We started from a McDonalds.  I ate eggs with salt and pepper and a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast on Day 1.  Beware of 7-11 Sugar-Free Slurpee.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Sometime after the McDonalds and the Slurpee, I started to have GI distress on Day 1.  Maybe it was too much heat and humidity.  Maybe the electrolyte/water/carb balance wasn't right.  We stopped at McDonalds on Day 2 also, in Dana Point.  I felt my stomach/small intestine tie up into knots and had trouble breathing both days after eating at McDonalds.  Just sayin'.

Booking your hotel at the last minute is either brilliant or really stupid.  We had a sickening suite atop Hotel Irvine on the 14th (top) floor.  The suite had 2 bigscreen TVs, 3 sliding glass doors, a dinnertable for 6 people, 2 balconies, 2 entrances... need I go on?  We arrived just as all the fireworks displays were all around us.  Amazing.  Traveling with 3 adults made it hard to choose a hotel and we wanted one room with two beds.  Seems like all the normal rooms were taken so we got a sweet suite for the price of a regular room.  But we had to ride 8 miles away from our coast route to get to it.  And 8 miles back to the coast in the morning.

Staying on the PCH is fine as long as you aren't in a hurry.  Through Laguna and Dana Point there was hella traffic.  This is why we got our orange safety flags.  But still, we might have considered taking a parallel route.  Stopping at all lights is a must but be prepared for how much this traffic and the hills will slow you down in terms of reaching a certain distance in a particular amount of time.

Consider buying a disposable camera.  I didn't take nearly as many photos as I thought.  Almost all of them are posted here.  We saw so much gorgeousness but it's all in my head now.  The camera I have is on its last leg.  The battery compartment keeps popping open, causing me to have to reset the date and time before taking a picture.  Not cool when you're wanting to snap a photo quickly.

Something happened when charging my Garmin overnight at the hotel so it didn't work in the morning.  Of course, it's working fine now, but I felt naked without it on Day 2.  I guess the message here is don't count on your technology and bring a backup camera (or a disposable one) and a backup watch.  I would have been a bit more relaxed knowing what time it was at all points along the route on Day 2.  And it didn't help that all of us kept asking "What time is it?"  It just kept reminding me that my Garmin mysteriously would not turn on.  And that bummed me out.

I LOVE my new cupholder.  I hardly even used my regular water bottle.  It was much easier not to have to lean down to grab and replace a traditional bicycle water bottle.  Much easier to fill a to-go cup with ice and water and then drink it through a straw.  I had some fizzy electrolyte tablets that I didn't want to put in a water bottle and the cupholder/disposable cup system was good for that.  Although it tasted kind of yucky in warm water.  The panniers worked out great, too.  Made us look like more serious long-distance cyclists.