Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Newsletter: West Nile Virus, Gen Probe testing, and new building name

Click here to read the October 2012 issue of The Laboratorian.

"Laboratory Testing Key in West Nile Virus Surveillance" was one of the most difficult articles that I have written for The Laboratorian — mostly because of the dearth of interview subjects. I don't really blame them. Being involved in outbreak response makes for long, intense days. Even though I felt like I was extracting material one tiny grain at a time,  information did gradually trickle in. A couple of people even agreed to be quoted. They were duly interviewed on the phone, via email and in person. Their contributions made a significant improvement by allowing me to include more than "just facts," for which I am extremely grateful. Writing about West Nile turned out to be a great learning experience, and the result is one of my favorite newsletter articles to date.

In comparison, the article titled "Laboratory Building Named for Former Legislator" came together quickly. My sources were willing and very helpful in providing information and verification via email.

The article on "Gen Probe Testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia" is the result of hard work by a member of my newsletter committee. Jan persevered in tackling a subject that often makes people squeamish. According to an old adage, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” As much as those of us who don’t like going to the doctor would like to argue, this is certainly not true in Public Health where diseases left undetected and untreated often lead to severe health problems.

Another member of my newsletter committee stepped out of his comfort zone to write the editorial on water testing. Andrew also willingly served as the photographer for many of the photos in this issue. I am extremely grateful for his help, which allowed me time to coordinate the numerous other details that go into a completed publication. Each issue brings its own behind-the-scenes challenges, and I couldn't do it without my dedicated group of volunteer committee members.

The layout of the publication is still lacking — due to limitations imposed by the work-in-progress that is our Web Content Management System — but the information is what really matters. I doubt that there are many out there scrutinizing it with my critical artistic eye.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Addendum: How do you spell ebook / eBook / e-book?

Being a writer and editor is a contiuous learning process. Over a year ago, I posted a blog on "How do you spell ebook / eBook / e-book?" My prediction at the time was that the natural language trend would lead us to simplify the spelling to ebook.

I recently invested in a copy of the 2012 AP Stylebook, also known as "The Journalist's 'Bible,'" to use in editing my work newsletter. (Now that I have the book I realize how sorely I needed the reference.) In working my way through the pages, I found the below instruction on the topic of electronic books:
"e-book The electronic, nonpaper version of a book or publication, sold digitally and commonly consumed on an e-book reader or e-reader, such as Amazon's Kindle."
As much as I would like to consider myself ahead of the curve, I plan on listening to the grammar authorities and using e-book.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have another "See entry in..." to track down. The 2012 AP Stylebook is strangely mesmerizing. If only it didn't come with the risk of paper cuts. I wish an e-book version was available for my new Kindle Paperwhite.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Amazon announces new Kindles: Paperwhite, Fire HDs

Today Amazon put to rest tantelizing whispers regarding new Kindles in the works. In a press conference, Jeff Bezos announced a new type of Kindle ereader and several new Fire tablet models. Here's the run-down:

Also included in the announcement were price drops: from $79 to $69 for the Kindle, 6" E Ink Display, Wi-Fi (also known as the Kindle Basic) and from $199 to $159 for the Kindle Fire 7", LCD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB (the original Kindle Fire).

Even though I'm drooling over some of the new Kindle Fire HD features, having the best reading environment is my priority. It's finally time to upgrade my Kindle Keyboard. Even though I will miss the easy keyboard access and the audio capabilities, I'm excited by the rest of the improvements in the Paperwhite.

Do you know anyone who wants a Like New white Kindle Keyboard 3G? Mine is for sale via Amazon, and I'll even throw in a cover and a free copy of Pink Snowbunnies in Hell: A Flash-Fiction Anthology. If you contact me after purchase, I will also keep your information and email you a free copy of Dormant after publication.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Publications: Photo book and work newsletter on why newborn screening matters

Since my last post, I have been happily buried in publication projects both at home and work. My son's two year photo book is now finished! I carefully selected and edited each of the 65 pages of photos and printed via Picaboo. When my books arrived, I discovered that I had to re-edit and re-print due to a glitch in the newest Picaboo software (some images were improperly zoomed, resulting in faces being cut in half). It was a hassle to have to return to the project that I thought finished, but Picaboo was good to work with and I am very happy with the final result. Sometimes extra time with a publication is all for the good.

My work newsletter will be familiar to regular readers. This issue marks three years of publication for The Laboratorian, and it’s funny how important public health projects come back around. One year ago, my editorial focused on the Laboratory Newborn Screening (NBS) program, highlighting how we continue to work on “Improving Health Outcomes for Children”. Our NBS Laboratory—already the largest testing volume NBS program in the world—is adding another test to the current panel of 28 disorders. In 2011, we received 741,650 specimens, which is about 62,000 per month or 2,456 per work day. With the addition of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) to the screening panel in Fall 2012, each newborn in Texas will be screened twice for 29 disorders. For more details, read the article on “SCID Coming Soon to Texas Newborn Screening Panel”. As our laboratory works toward this goal, we remember baby Cameron. For Cameron, newborn screening for SCID didn't come quite soon enought. (See below for "Why Newborn Screening Matters...")

I regularly lead Laboratory tours for new employees. Without question, the most visually interesting stop is the Parasitology Laboratory where various organisms are displayed in conjunction with fascinating stories by Team Lead Cathy Snider. Read the article on “Chagas Disease and Laboratory Diagnosis” to join in our show and tell.

Each year the Laboratory’s Emergency Preparedness Branch opens its doors to host Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) Training for members of the Laboratory Response Network. Read the article on "BSL-3 Students Learn to Work Safely" to understand the stringent training—from personal protective equipment to emergency procedures—needed to work in a BSL-3 laboratory. Despite my fascination with virology and this kind of high-security laboratory, I’m content to forego this as a tour stop. Here in the Laboratory, we take safety seriously.

Why Newborn Screening Matters...

Sometimes the value of public health laboratory testing is most apparent when vital tests are unavailable. Such was the sad case for baby Cameron, who was born in Texas on June 30, 2010 and died tragically on March 30, 2011, at just nine months of age.
Cameron and his older brother

Cameron was discharged from the hospital as a normal, healthy newborn. Indeed, as the months went by, he was in the 90th percentile for height and weight, with no problems other than the ear infections that bother so many babies. But after getting tubes in his ears at seven months— just like his older brother, Gavin— Cameron developed cold symptoms that wouldn’t go away.

In February, 2011, he was hospitalized for pneumonia. But with his condition worsening, he was transferred one week later to a specialty hospital for advanced care. Within hours of his arrival, doctors induced coma to stop what appeared to be seizures. His mother, Jennifer, said, “We would not get to hold Cameron in our arms again for over four weeks, until the last moments of his life.”

During those heart-wrenching weeks, Cameron endured CAT scans, MRIs, EEGs, spinal taps, blood transfusions, massive doses of antibiotics, antiviral agents, antifungal agents and other medications. He was treated by critical care providers, pediatricians, neurologists, epileptologists, toxicologists, immunologists, infectious disease physicians and respiratory therapists.

After ten interminable days, Cameron was diagnosed with severe combined immune deficiency (SCID), also known as “bubble boy disease.” In effect, he had no working immune system. Like many infants with SCID, Cameron’s family had no history of the disease. Moreover, Cameron exhibited none of the most common symptoms, such as failure to thrive.

“Point blank,” said Jennifer, “Cameron did not fit the profile of a SCID baby.”

And here’s where the tragedy is compounded: SCID is readily detectable at birth, with a newborn screening test that costs about $6. But while Cameron was tested for more than two dozen newborn screening disorders, at the time of his birth the SCID test was available only through two pilot programs, one in Wisconsin and the other in Massachusetts. Based on the results of those efforts, on May 21, 2010— when Cameron was not quite two months old— the US Department of Health and Human Services added SCID to its core panel of genetic disorders recommended for state-based newborn screening.

This momentous development came too late for Jennifer’s “dear, sweet Cameron.” If a baby with SCID receives a bone marrow transplant within the first 3.5 months of life, the survival rate is as high as 94%. But at nine months old, Cameron was already too ill for a transplant. In a last desperate measure to save his life, physicians performed a brain biopsy to try to identify the infection that was attacking him so fiercely.
Jennifer said her son went into a coma, “not to wake again.”

“I cannot begin to describe to you,” she said, “the heartache and helplessness a parent feels after losing your child, your baby, and you do not even know exactly what stole him from you.”

For want of a $6 newborn screening test, Cameron endured over $830,000 worth of medical care. The cost of his funeral was over $3,800.

Fortunately, thanks to the work of state public health laboratories and partners in Wisconsin and Massachusetts, SCID screening has been shown to be practicable and cost-effective. Today, many states— including Texas— have pilot SCID screening programs, with the intent of adding the disorder to their routine newborn screening test panels so babies like Cameron can be saved. In fact, Jennifer now volunteers with the Texas health department, educating other parents about the importance of newborn screening.

Altogether, state public health laboratories perform or oversee the screening of 97% of babies born in the US each year, testing for more than two dozen conditions, which, like SCID, can result in death or disability if not treated soon after birth.

Of the 4.5 million US babies screened annually, over 4,000 screen positive for a genetic or metabolic disorder. With early diagnosis and treatment, these babies have a better chance of leading long and healthy lives.
Originally published in APHL Stories from the Field.

Friday, June 1, 2012

So many free Kindle books, so little time

I just discovered a new free Kindle book site ( and have been happily purchasing books. It's hard to resist the $0.00 price point. When I'm not dipping into my wallet, it's worth downloading even the long shots. Hopefully a few of my bargain-priced finds will lead to the discovery of a new author.

Yes, I know that there are a lot of free Kindle book resources out there, including the Kindle Forum on Amazon where I have unearthed a few treasures. What I'm enjoying about this new researce is that I can narrow by genre and then see a list that includes the book cover, description, and rating. There is also a "Free on" date, which is helpful because books often aren't free for long. is the US version of a successful UK-based free books site. In a follow-up to the May 24, 2012 launch announcement, one of the site's senior members said that they strive to ensure that the site "reads as well as possible on the Kindle browser as a computer."* I pulled out my Kindle Keyboard 3G to check. The page does display well, and I was able to quickly navigate to the Writing category, but I was disappointed to find that clicking on a book link results in the error "Web Browser could not open this link because opening multiple windows is not supported." Oh well, at least it works on my computer or iPhone. I also noticed that one book pulled into the Writing category was actually not a writing book, but I'm sure the cross-over was because the author listed the Genre as "The Writing Network."

I'm familiar with working out kinks in a website, even after publication, so these quirks don't bother me at this stage in their launch. I look forward to seeing how they grow and improve.

For now, I have signed up for their daily email with "a summary list of new and current free eBooks from and Smashwords plus Kindle Daily Deal". I also selected two favorite genres for inclusion. My only fear is that this will increase my already long reading list. Maybe I'll catch up someday when my son is no longer a toddler. A girl can dream.

At the risk of adding to that list..... What is your favorite free ebooks resource?

Below is a short list of the free Kindle book sites I have visited. Please comment and I will update my list with new links.

* Correction - My source on the Amazon Kindle Forum clarified this point: "When I mentioned optimised for Kindle in a previous post, I was really referring to the our forum (KUF) itself rather than where there are definite improvements needing to be made as far as Kindle goes."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Of motivation and hats

The light of my life and
the reason for most important hat I wear.
I seem to have misplaced my blogging motivation. Perhaps pursuing my interest in photography and reviving my love of kickboxing finally toppled my already precarious stack of hats. (As mentioned in my blog citing reasons for why I am never bored.) Or maybe it's because I feel like I need to post something of substance every time I come here to write a blog. I think it's a little of both.

Does a blog post have to be long or detailed to have substance? I have a tendency to over-do projects, making them needlessly complicated. It's time to explore removing one of my mental barriers by postulating that quantity does not equal quality. Perhaps it's time to explore ways to share some of my many ideas in a briefer format.

Trying to find even an extra 10 minutes to kickbox without cutting back on something else.... Well, that I haven't figured out yet. Give me time.

While I'm working on re-organizing my hat closet, please help me out a bit. What topics that I have touched on have struck a chord? Is there a subject that you would like to learn about in more detail? Please post a comment. Knowing that someone out there is listening is a great motivator.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Kindle Accesories: Amazon lighted cover and JAVOedge flip case

It's about time that I returned to one of my favorite topics—my Kindle. In this post, I'm going to focus on Kindle keyboard cases. I currently own two.

My most-used case, but the second purchased for this Kindle iteration, is the JAVOedge MiMo Flip Case in Teal. Aesthetically, this case is beautiful in my favorite shade of teal. The synthetic, leather-like material is smooth and somewhat padded. Despite almost daily use since April 2011, the case shows only minor signs of wear at the top two corners. I even dropped my Kindle in this case (a heart-stopping moment) while listening to an Audible book on a walk. It protected my Kindle and survived unblemished.

Prior to this purchase, I insisted on book-style cases, but I have grown to love the flip format for the built-in stand. During lunch, it takes only the occasional tap to turn the page, which allows me to read comfortably while I eat. When not in use, the cover is held closed using hidden magnets.

JAVOedge MiMo Flip Case (Teal)
My Kindle slides securely into the pocket of my flip case and the combination of case plus Kindle isn't much heavier than the Kindle by itself. That said,  is easy to remove my Kindle for case-free reading when I'm somewhere safe, like home in bed. I can easily switch my Kindle to a waterproof case for reading in the bath. (More on that later.) I keep a few business cards in the cover pocket, both for identification, should I lose my Kindle, and to hand out.

I was able to dig up the above photo from February. I've learned to take better photos since (watch for an update on my Photosanity experience in a future blog post), but I didn't want to delay posting to take new photos. This at least shows the color fairly accurately. Click through the first link for additional photos.

This particular case is no longer available, but you can purchase many other colors and patterns of JAVOedge flip cases for Kindle and other e-readers.

I also own the Kindle Lighted Leather Cover in Steel Blue. I ordered the lighted cover to arrive with my Kindle keyboard in August 2010. I then used this cover exclusively until my purchase of the flip case eight months later.

The design of the lighted cover, which draws its power from the Kindle battery, delighted this gadget-loving geek. When not in use, the light is virtually invisible as it retracts into the top, right corner of the cover. This case is substantial and, though slightly heavier than the flip case, it doesn't seem overly weighty.

Hooking the Kindle into the hinges.
Aesthetically, the lighted cover is pleasing, though not as attractive and tactile as the flip case. The textured leather makes for a good grip but also has a rougher hand feel. My color choice—steel blue—is a muted grey-blue shade that isn't quite navy but tends that direction, giving it a very business-like appearance. I would have preferred a shade with more pop. The strap securing mechanism has a tab, adorned with the AmazonKindle logo, that makes it easy to grasp for fastening and unfastening. So far, it also seems very durable. The surface of mine has only one very minor scratch in the lower-left corner. The interior is lined with a felt-like matieral in dark grey. A lighter color would coordinate better with my white Kindle, but the material is soft and nice to touch when reading with the cover folded back on itself. My mom has the graphite kindle and the black version of this lighted case, and that combination blends nicely.

With light extended
Attaching my Kindle to the case is done via a hook and swing maneuver. It's very straight-forward once you get the hang of it, though it could be confusing at first. I love the hinged mounting system for its invisibility; it doesn't obscure or restrict the front of the Kindle in any way. Pulling power for the light from the Kindle itself is sheer genius. That means no extra device to charge or batteries to replace. Power drain from the Kindle does not impact performance, though you'll have to charge your Kindle more often than the usual (every few weeks) with frequent use of the light.

Extending the light is done by grasping the corner and pulling. This motion was initially slightly almost problematically stiff, but it loosened up after a couple of weeks of use. The light turns on automatically when extended and off when retracted or if your Kindle goes to sleep. Light projection is even and bright enough for easy reading in a darkened room. It is too bright for Hubby if he tries to go to sleep while I read. I work around this by strategically shielding the bulk of the light with my body, but it does limit my positional comfort.

Though the stand feature and improved appearance of the flip case lured me away from the lighted cover, the latter is still my go-to if I think that I will be in a situation where I will need a light for reading. If you like to read in the dark, I recommend the newer versions of my lighted case, available on Amazon for various Kindle devices. The lighted cover certainly can not be beat for its gadgety goodness.

All in all, I am happy with both covers for different reasons. If they could combine the features of both, I would have the perfect cover. Until then, I will continue to switch between covers as needed.

What is your favorite Kindle cover and why? Please post your recommendations in the comments section below.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Newsletter: Newborn Screening opt-in form, laboratory improvements, and more

Working on the April 2012 issue of The Laboratorian has been both challenging and rewarding. We tackled complex topics related to Newborn Screening, reveled in the blog article written by a lab tour participant, and completed a whole slew of articles related to improvements ranging from communicating test results, to internal document management, to improving efficiency.
  • New “Opt-in” Decision Form an Important Step for Newborn Screening
  • Communicating Newborn Screening Data Efficiently
  • The Secret (and Amazing) World of Public Health Laboratories
  • Improving Laboratory Efficiency: Lean in the DSHS Laboratory
  • Laboratory Analytical Testing Auditors: Understanding Who, Why, and How
  • Introducing iPassport for Document Control

For internal circulation, we recognized employees for various achievements, including peer awards and service awards. I asked each member of my Newsletter Committee to answer five questions for the enjoyment of our co-workers. I'm very proud of the hard work of everyone involved! This issue was very nearly a laboratory-wide effort that also necessitated correlating web updates.

Here, for your amusement, are my answers to the same questions that I asked of my committee. Hopefully this will keep you entertained for the day or two it will take until I can post a link to our newest issue.

Click to enlarge

Edit: The Laboratorian, April 2012, is now posted here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New face mask inactivates flu viruses

Not much blogging has been happening amidst the rush of preparations for my son's birthday (how can he be turning two already?!), but I have been keeping an eye on flu-related news.

Yesterday a company called Medline put out a press release advertising their new face mask; it inactivates 99.99 percent of flu viruses. After a brief smile at the name, BioMask (which brings to mind the original working title of my novel: Biomass), I focused on the really interesting part. Instead of just filtering particles, the BioMask actually kills flu viruses. The following is a quote from the press release about how this works.

The Curad® BioMask™ works by using a combination of citric acid, zinc and copper — all powerful but safe ingredients. A hydrophilic coating on the outside quickly wicks droplets into and away from the outer surface. Viruses are inactivated on this outer layer by exposure to citric acid, which creates a low pH environment. The droplet then lands on the mask’s inner blue layer where influenza viruses are inactivated by copper and zinc, which are toxic to pathogens.
Testing included at least nine strains of flu, which were all inactivated within five minutes of contact. The makers also tout the minimization of cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is a big consideration in viral spread. If you touch a door knob after coughing or sneezing into your hand, others who follow can pick up whatever nasty surprises you left behind. And we all touch our face—most notably for transmission our eyes, nose, or mouth—an estimated 3,000 times a day. (As scarily illustrated in the movie Contagion.) Consider this another plug to wash your hands.

I can't really see the public adapting to constant mask-wearing, particularly without an imminent threat, but the BioMask should make a lot of medical personnel happy. 

All of this germ talk is yet another reason I'm happy to be escaping the child birthday party for one more year. We are going to to the zoo with family (no one can live in a bubble), and then we’ll head home for dinosaur cake (I'm baking/decorating) and quality time playing on son's new swing set. Of course, this proud mom plans to snap even more pictures of her growing boy.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The secret (and amazing) world of public health laboratories

My job position is so much of a mouthful that I am often met with blank stares when I answer a question about my work. Even the shorter version, my title of Information Specialist, doesn't have quite the same level of recognition as teacher or nurse.
In my case, Information Specialist means that I translate highly technical information in order to create and revise web pages and publications related to the work of our laboratory. For a look at the work I support, read the blog post from which I borrowed my blog title. This is one of those pieces of writing that immediately tweaks a sense of "why didn't I write that?" In this case I think that I'm a bit too close to the work, but I'm totally tickled that Kim Krisberg toured our laboratory and took the time to write an excellent blog post.

Walking around a public health laboratory is seriously cool.

Giant humming machines, rows of test tubes and small, round dishes containing specimens with hard-to-pronounce names, biohazard warnings and emergency shower stations, an egg incubator and liquid nitrogen generator, people in protective gear with bulky white hoods and face shields. Oh, and boxes with severed animal heads inside.

Click here to read more.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Photography workshop: A personal interest benefits home and work

As mentioned in a previous post, I am taking an online photography workshop. I'm surprising myself by actually making noticeable progress. The most recent revelations came via a Photosanity Q&A webinar—where I psyched myself up to actually ask my most pressing plebe photographer questions—and a lesson on "Making the Most of the Light You Have." Our instructor featured my photo below in her post today on "Week 4 assignment highlights."

I have been wanting to take a photography class since shortly after my son was born. I just never had the time or funds. I also worried that my non-DSLR camera would be a handicap to learning. Would a photography instructor take me seriously and be able to give pointers for my super-zoom camera?

Photosanity works for me on several levels. It is online. I now set aside Tuesday evenings, after my son is in bed, to view lessons (pre-recorded slideshows with audio) and work on the photo editing and upload portions of my assignments. Feedback from our instructor, Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick, and our local mentor, Alison Eden, is constructive and addresses my (likely overly-picky) concerns about the particular photo.

Turning the tables on Mommy.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100
Photosanity is geared toward busy, often scattered, parents. It's okay, even encouraged, that you whip out your camera phone and take an imperfect picture (see example at right). The important part is to capture the moment. I'm really enjoying my photo-a-day project featuring my son. The workshop has given me permission to take that grainy photo now and use it as a learning experience that I can treasure as I progress toward taking better photos.

I must sound like a walking advertisement. I actually approached the workshop with a bit of skepticism, but the price was right. Now the class has won me over. Despite sometimes sketchy access to certain features of the class Facebook group, due to my own time limitations, I am satisfied with the online support I receive. It really helps that the instructor and mentor are also busy moms. They understand that my son comes first. Rather than distracting from time with him, Photosanity has fostered my awareness of the little moments. Capturing one of those moments in a photo is priceless!

How does this fit into my usual blog topics and writing interests? I look forward to applying my new skill to my next public health web or newsletter photography project. It is always exciting when I get to bring a personal interest to bear at my work. I need to slow down more often and remember that taking a little time to follow one of my dreams helps feed my effectiveness in other roles. Writing deserves more notice than being relegated to the lowest slot in my busy schedule.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Photography workshop: My current distraction

Why does my life have to be so packed and interesting? (Rhetorical question!) If it weren't, I might actually get more writing done. I still can't imagine ever being bored.

My current distraction is an online photography workshop called Photosanity. I learned about Photosanity via a discount site, and I was hooked when I learned that it is geared toward helping parents take better photos of their children and organize and share these pictures. I am currently on the third week (new lessons are posted each Tuesday), and I have already learned some great tips and gathered new photography resources.
  • Lesson 1 - Start a photo-a-day project
  • Lesson 2 - What to look for to get the best photos
  • Lesson 3 - Getting your children to cooperate

I have taken a lot of photos of my son since his birth nearly two years ago, but I am taking even more with this class as inspiration. I am getting better at selecting photos, though I still hate to permanantly delete any of them. These are a couple of my favorites:

Toddler parking: Proud of his new truck.

Pretty, Mommy! Showing off a blade of grass.
Struggling with: Depth of field
Currently reading: My camera's user manual.
Special events: My 37th birthday, on February 19, will be spent with my family at Bright Star Ranch.

Please share your favorite photo-taking tips and resources. I have a long way to go with my photography and so many special moments to capture with my son.

Friday, February 3, 2012

An overview of accessories for my Kindle Fire and Kindle Keyboard

I have touched on the topic of Kindle Fire accessories and my search for a functional combination. I'm quite pleased with my current set-up. It allows me to have both of my Kindles handy while making the most out of the features of each. This blog is just to give you an overview. I'll be back with more details at a later date.
At right is my collection. Listed from back to front:

All of these travel nicely in the STM Bag, which I often wear cross-body in lieu of a purse. I can also squeeze my driver's license, cards/cash, and iPhone into the bag. I'm not making any fashion statements, but it isn't hideous and it lets me keep my devices at my fingertips. The bag would be perfect if it also fit my camera, but that's too much too hope for. Take a look a the top-view photo, with devices stowed, and you'll see why my super zoom (almost as big as a SLR) isn't going to fit.  

Why skins when I have perfectly good cases? I like to slide my Kindles from their covers and use them bare. The skins protect my Kindles and add a touch of attractive personalization.

My Kindle Keyboard case has a built-in stand, so the portable stand is for my Kindle Fire; it allows me to display the Fire vertically or horizontally, depending on the kind of content I'm viewing.

I also have a Belkin Kitchen Stand and Wand for Tablets for use while cooking/baking. Combine the stand and leasure jacket, and my Kindle Fire is nicely protected from smudges and splatters.

That's the high-level overview. Hopefully it gives you something to consider. I will be back to share my thoughts on each item in more depth.

What, you're still here? Go enjoy the weekend! I certainly intend to. It is going to be a good weekend of fun activities with my guys, and maybe even a bit of time to enjoy my Kindles. I also started a photography class last Tuesday, so photos will be the order of every day. I have a photo-a-day project to build.

What are your fun plans for the weekend? No, I don't need to hear about the housework. It's a necessary evil that, I assure you, lurks for all.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Randomness: A list about blogging, vacation, my books, and bunnies

  • I missed blogging last week. My good intentions to schedule a post went out the window in my rush to wrap things up at work and home in preparation for a week away.
  • Is it really vacation when you're chasing around two children under two? Our week visiting with my sister and her family was a toddler-inspired adventure. I can't say that it was restful, but we did have a lot of fun, and we even managed to catch up on some sister time by staying up late talking after our kids (and later our hubbies) were in bed.
  • My fun project this month is to finish the updated edition of my family cookbook. I love the art of layout and editing the eclectic collection into a whole. (Just smile and nod.) I try to give a copy to family members every other Christmas, which makes this edition only a bit over a year overdue. So far it's 48 pages, but I have a stack of recipes yet to add and quite a bit of tweaking to do. Okay, so I confess that I always have more tweaking to do, but there is a difference between "quite a bit" and putting on the final polish.
  • Speaking of cooking.... I am really enjoying the use of my Kindle Fire as a cookbook, in conjunction with the Belkin Kitchen Stand and Wand for Tablets that my brother so wisely gifted me for Christmas. Add the M-Edge Leisure Kindle Jacket and my Fire is well protected from cooking splatters and toddler explorations.
  • I haven't quite finished re-writes on another chapter of Dormant. See the first and second bullet points. In that vein, if I can stay up late talking to my sister, I can certainly stay up late writing.
  • I confess that I still haven't caught up on the housework since the holidays. Our house isn't a total wreck, but it could certainly use a bit of TLC to rescue it from the toys and dust. On second thought, maybe I should leave the toys out to hide the dust bunnies. They've reached a nice status quo.
  • Speaking of bunnies.... Did I mention that my last post was my 100th blog? In honor of the occasion, I'm giving away a copy of Pink Snowbunnies in Hell: A Flash-Fiction Anthology to one lucky reader. Just post your own random thought in the comments section below.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My newsletter: Cantaloupe, laboratory improvements, and son as model

I am excited to announce that I just published the January issue of my newsletter. I always have so much fun working on it; the days just fly by as I compile articles, information, and photos and edit them in order to build the web page for online publication. Pardon me while I do a happy dance. Here's my my editorial to keep you busy meanwhile.

My son’s favorite fruit is cantaloupe. I have often grabbed bites for myself as I washed, seeded, skinned, and diced. Perhaps, like me, the sweet, earthy scent evokes summer, bringing back memories of swim-enhanced appetite slaked by devouring the orange flesh straight from the rind, juice dripping toward your elbows. The recent food outbreak linked to cantaloupe stole some of my heedless joy in cantaloupe consumption. What if my son had been exposed to the bacteria that caused such wide-spread illness and even death? Fortunately, his window of danger is long past, along with cantaloupe season, but I know that I’m not the only one who will scrub next summer’s cantaloupes with added vigor.  Read the article on “Investigating Listeriosis” to learn about the important work of public health laboratories as we work to solve food outbreaks.

As we begin the New Year, our Newborn Screening (NBS) and Blood Lead Screening programs continue their contributions to our on-going resolution: improve health and wellbeing in Texas. NBS is working to enhance the processes used in screening each baby born in Texas, and the Clinical Chemistry Group is working on internal and external improvements. You can read more about their progress in “Presenting NBS and Clinical Chemistry Process Improvements.”

Delve deeper into one of our improvement methodologies in the article on “Improving Laboratory Efficiency: Implementing Lean Six Sigma Principles.” This tool helps us overcome challenges in order to maintain high quality laboratory testing and improve customer and employee satisfaction.

A safety article on Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls was also included in the employee edition. We used a photo of my son as an illustration on how we learn to walk. I just have to be the proud mom for a moment (see photo below). He was exploring one of his favorite places, aka outside, and in this case our back yard.

Son, hubby, and I also explored a nearby playscape. I challenge you not to smile at this photo:

Monday, January 2, 2012

New year, old resolutions

Happy New Year!

Did you stay up until midnight to greet 2012? I had a rare look into the future at 9am on January 31, 2011, when I helped my parents greet the New Year in Korea via Skype.

My family and I celebrated the eve of the new year with a road trip to a favorite vacation spot—my parents' cabin at Bright Star Ranch. Our family activity for the night involved introducing my son to s'mores, made with impressive Texas-sized marshmallows. Son settled on eating the ingredients separately, despite my repeated offers of completed s'mores "sandwiches."

I must admit that I didn't quite make it to midnight here in the US. Sadly, my night owl status has been slipping since the birth of my son. Instead of staying up until 3 or 4am on weekends, I tend to collapse into bed around 11pm. Hubby and I called it a night at 11:30pm. This time I blame an exhausting day that involved a road trip and a broken lock at our destination. (It took us an hour to get into the cabin, negating any chance we might have at a future as cat burglars.) However, it may be more accurate to pinpoint the energy drain as a certain adorable toddler with boundless energy.

In honor of 2012, and in order to take advantage of the motivational opportunity, I am actually going to make New Year's resolutions. The resolution that is cogent to this blog: Finish and publish my book. Sadly, this has taken back burner for a while (I'm a notorious procrastinator with a wonderfully full life), but I'm jumping back in with a veangence. I plan to finish re-writes by the end of February (happy birthday to me). In order to achieve this, blogging is being relegated to a once-weekly activity or shorter notes and updates. Then it's off to my editor, who has been waiting ever-so-patiently for the manuscript.

Did you make New Year's resolutions? Why or why not? If so, what were they? Please share in the comments section below.