Birds of Paradise with a hummingbird

I was at the Getty Center Museum in LA last November around sunset and I found this big patch of birds of paradise near the edge overlooking the ocean. It was so beautiful and the light was so perfect with all of the colors. And then a hummingbird showed up and it made my day. The hummingbird definitely upped the level of difficulty, but it was a nice challenge. I got a couple good action shots of the hummingbird. Some of my favorite shots from the outing are below:

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Chile: Part 2

If you skipped part one, you really shouldn’t have. Catch up here: Part 1.

After our two nights in the Elqui Valley, we headed back to La Serena and flew down to Punta Arenas to begin the next phase of our adventure.

Punta Arenas

We got in fairly late that day and got to our hostel (Hostal Fitz Roy) in Punta Arenas. The hostel was alright; we had our own little 5-person cabin at the back of the property. It was cozy but it took us a while to figure out how the heat worked. And, oh yeah, since we were in Punta Arenas now and basically as close to Antarctica as you can get without actually being in Antarctica, it was very cold even though it was spring (November). Breakfast at the hostel was typical chile: toast with jam, meat & cheese, tea or Nescafe “coffee”1, and some weird almost-orange juice.
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What’s Making Me Happy This Week

One of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour (run by the good people at NPR), asks its panelists at the end of each weekly episode to talk about what is making them happy this week. It is a good time to recount some of the things that maybe don’t deserve weekly headlines but are contributing to the overall happiness of the panelist that week. Sometimes it is a book they are reading or a nice thing some stranger did for them.

So here is the list of things that are making me happy this week (in no particular order):
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Playing with the boys

Alternative title: How I became a feminist before I knew that was a thing.

I grew up like a lot of other little girls that were raised in the 80s. I had an American Girl doll (Samantha), I played with LEGO sets, I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books, and watched the Jetsons on Saturday mornings. I took ballet and tap dance classes and piano lessons.

In third grade I started playing soccer. I had to choose between soccer and continuing dance classes and the decision was really easy for me. I loved soccer. It was something I had to work at and practice, unlike school which was very easy for me. Kicking the ball down the field to just the right place for a teammate made me feel very powerful (it still does, actually). I liked being on a team and having a collective goal to work towards. I wanted to play as much as possible.
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Muir Woods

In August, Katie and JM came to visit from Chile and I took them around San Francisco. One of the places we went to was the Muir Woods National Monument. It is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. Here are some of my pictures from the trip:

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Excel tips and tricks

A couple weeks ago at work I gave a presentation as part of one of our lunch-time brown bag meetings. Sometimes we have a researcher come from another institution to talk about their project, but sometimes we have an internal person give a mini-workshop or ask for feedback on a research issue. For this particular meeting, I and another researcher talked about general Excel tips and tricks that we had picked up over the years. We had both realized from talking to others that some people weren’t taking advantage of some of the many advantages of using a spreadsheet program; they were just using Excel like a place for their data instead of a place where they could organize, manage, and analyze their data. (No joke, I have actually seen people count numbers on their screen.) The basic idea was to share ways that Excel can help us do our work – sometimes just knowing that something is possible to do lets you know that you can search out ways to improve data organization/analysis.

So, here are some of the things that I shared in that meeting. Most of them are things that I figured out through either hard work, a friendly colleague, or a quick Google search. They mostly assume a more than basic understanding of Excel. There are a ton of Excel forums online so I would suggest if you’re ever doing something in Excel that seems like it could be done more easily, you should search and see if a solution comes up. You will usually be able to save lots of time and headaches.
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fire hydrants

I really like fire hydrants. I think they’re really interesting. If you pay attention to fire hydrants you can learn a lot about a town’s character (or lack of it). And once I started paying attention to fire hydrants I noticed just how different they were. There is a lot of variation in design, including structure and color.

A pretty standard fire hydrant (from Puerto Rico):

If you Google fire hydrants, you get a whole bunch of your standard red (and sometimes yellow) fire hydrants. According to Wikipedia, the coloring of the caps are supposed to tell firefighters how much water pressure is available. The non-standard ones are the ones that I mostly notice now, but sometimes standard ones in unusual locations stand out also. Here are some of my favorite fire hydrants I’ve found and photographed.
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In August 2004 I went to Rotterdam, the Netherlands for a conference. I was presenting my work on a recent meta-analysis of STEM simulations for learning. (You can read more about it here and can download the report here.) The conference was a meeting for two special interest groups of EARLI (the European version of AERA) – Instructional Design and Learning & Instruction with Computers. It was a small conference with no concurrent sessions (i.e., we were all in the same room for the entire conference) which was really nice because a) I didn’t have to make any decisions and wonder if I chose the wrong concurrent session and b) I was exposed to a bunch of interesting research that was a bit outside my normal area.

some cool architecture in Rotterdam
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I’ll do it: NaBloPoMo

So I have neglected this blog quite a bit this year. Well, no more! I’ve decided to take the plunge and do NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Each day this month I will publish one post on this blog. Some posts might be long, some might be short, and some might be just a picture or two. But I will do it every day, in the hopes that it helps me stop overanalyzing every thing I might want to put on the blog and just get more writing done.

An incomplete list of possible posts that will likely occur this month: a three (or maybe four) part retelling of my adventure vacation in Chile last year (finally!), pictures from a recent trip to Muir Woods, talking about board games and video games I have been playing lately, why I love David Foster Wallace, what it’s like being a first-time PI on a NSF grant, using R and Shiny to create interactive web apps for data visualization, a recounting of a recent conference I went to in Rotterdam, why playing soccer with the boys in 4th grade was so important to me, and an ode to pizza.

To bide you over until tomorrow’s post, here’s a picture of a 19th century French calculator that will help you determine what time of year it is if you have woken up from a long coma. I saw it while having brunch at Buck’s Restaurant in Woodside after going on a nice hike.
19th century French calculator to help you determine what time of year it is when waking up from a long coma