One of my favorite holidays is Halloween. There is no other holiday where you can dress up to be any crazy (or sane) creature. This year we didn't dress up, but I remember two years ago when we met Mel and some of her friends at a State Street restaurant. I went as a black cat and Mark as Harry Potter- Course we were just starting to date then. We left state street before 9pm and saw all of the odd costumes we wanted too- course that was the year before the big riots. Last year on State Street there was a large amount of vandalism by partyers around one AM. This year the police cleared the streets with pepper spray around midnight.

Anyway, we didn’t get dressed up this year, but instead dressed up our food. We had turkey-herb hot dogs with red sauerkraut, and blue mashed potatoes while we watched our candles burn in our pumpkins. That morning Mark and I exchanged small presents of sweets- a very nice way to celebrate such a fun holiday!

Posted by Laura @ 10:06 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Expanding Your Horizons

This Saturday was the annual Expanding Your Horizons for young women interested in Sciences. When I was in junior high and high school, I really enjoyed going to UT for EYH. There was always such interesting work in the sciences that fascinated me. I remember seeing a beautiful rose break like glass after being dipped into liquid nitrogen and being astonished by the beauty and complexity of the inner workings of computers.

Today was my chance to inspire other girls with my passion for computing. Using Logo, the girls moved a turtle (with a little help) through a maze created by Mulhern and Rebecca. We were fortunate to get so many women from CS to help- it was a ratio of two girls-to-one CS woman and it worked well. Lastly the girls got a nice overview about what is happening inside a computer from Rebecca- they got to touch and ask all the questions they wanted. It was great! I am glad that I made the time in my schedule to help!

Posted by Laura @ 10:05 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

SACM Pumpkin Carving

This Friday we headed to the County Clerks Office to vote and were happily rewarded with only a five minute wait in line- a morning well spent if the predictions for record voter turnout on election day come true. To end the work week we headed to the annual SACM pumpkin carving party. There we carved pumpkins with Michael (host from SACM), Ellen (Michael's girlfriend), Adam (from Mark's department) and others. I made a Cat (continuing my kitty theme) and Mark made a Pirate Skull. Michael and Ellen worked on a very complicated Calvin and Hobbes pattern while Adam worked on making faces. The new carving kits on the market are wonderful- the process of making a professional looking pumpkin is now very easy. After picking out your chosen pattern for the year, tape the pattern onto the pumpkin. Now use the pointer included in the kit to poke holes following your chosen pattern. Lastly use the serrated knife (which makes the cutting very smooth) to cut out the pattern- rather like connect the dots- oh, it is best to cut out the smaller bits first and end with the larger bits.

Posted by Laura @ 10:04 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Citadels and Samurai

Regulars Matt and Kathleen trundled over to play some games for the usual Tuesday night gathering. First up was one we hadn't seen for a while, Samurai. This time, we played with the captured tokens hidden, which increased the tension at the end of the game, as well as made us less prone to analyze things to death. Kathleen picked it up very quickly, and we tied in the first level of scoring, but I pulled it off with more other resources in the second. It was cool to play with four players and see the whole japanese archipelago on the table.

Laura and I had seen some success with Citadels as a two-player game, and were curious how things would go with four (seven was way too long...) Turns out it works well, we each had a good shot at winning, and the mind game was still there of who's doing what and what to pick when. I acutally like it more since a flubbed assasination is more likely to hit a card not in play than another inadvertent player, lessening the "dead time"... ;). No games next week, we'll be at Matt's enjoying the election returns on his newly purchased cable tv..

Posted by Mark @ 10:03 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Games, Gardens, and Elections

This Saturday we watched The Candidate on TV staring Robert Redford. I had never seen it before, and it was rather a sad show about the ability of politics to warp an originally good person. It was also interesting to see a piece of the party engine behind the show- especially with our own election coming up so soon.

Sunday Mark played games at Pegasus with some fellow obsessed gamers- this time he got to play Fresh Fish where player try to buy fish from the fishermen and sell to Markets. Meanwhile I dug up gladiolus bulbs and dahlia tubers from our garden (since they will freeze with the topsoil and turn to mush next year). I also planted my late arriving lilies from Breck’s Bulbs from Holland- this year and last year I get a coupon to buy $50 worth of bulbs for $25 and have a good time expanding my collection of lilies and daylilies. This year the bulbs did not make the spring planting season, but I got three times as much as I ordered in fall- so I am a very happy camper.

Posted by Laura @ 1:48 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Visiting Artists & Chickens

This Saturday Mark and I went on the local artist’s tour and started out our visit with seeing four pottery shops. It was very interesting to see each potters’ uniquely home made kiln for “cooking” their pots. Each potter definitely had their own unique style and Mark and I enjoyed the earthy creations. At the first potter’s place I was entranced with the hen house- in between the kiln and the potter’s shop there was a beautiful hen house. Here in Madison, there is quite the desire to grow chickens in the city, so much so that our local TV station did a report on the unusual trend. There is also a support page for local chicken growers at

When visiting the artists on our last stop we saw our friend Wendy Hill and her husbands beautiful block prints. Her husband Marvin passed away from cancer this last year. It is always a joy to see her and her husbands beautiful work. In the same shop we also saw some lovely furniture, which we admired from afar. It's not time to go furniture shopping yet, we don't have enough room for all the stuff we already own!

Posted by Laura @ 1:46 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Game Night

We were very happy to have game night this week because Mark was recovering from a bout of food poisoning from Saturday. Fortunately the on call doctor gave us wonderful advice and Mark recovered in just two days. The regiment went something like:

- one tablespoon of water per hour (or half hour) for the first three hours

- one glass of water and crackers for the next three hours

- crackers, toast and broth for the next three hours

Our mistake was to let Mark drink all of the water that he wanted to; and knowing Mark he can drink a large amount of water. The doctor said that the system needs to stabilize and then recover in small doses. Just after those nine hours Mark was doing much better!

So for games on Tuesday we had Kathleen and Matt over to play Trivial Pursuit for 1990’s and a round of Mark’s African violets game. In the first game we all learned that a historian will really enjoy Trivial Pursuit- our resident historian is Matt and he won rather quickly. The latter game is one that Mark has been tweaking for almost a year now- it is very playable and enjoyable in its current state and we all enjoyed the challenge.

Posted by Laura @ 1:45 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

CIBM Presentations

We both attended the CIBM presentations all day on Friday and gave one-hour poster presentations ourselves. Mark presented on his current research on Information Extraction and Inductive Logic Programming and I presented on my current research of Radation Treatment Planning using Integer Programming with two other colleagues Athula and Kelly. The poster presentations went well with some interesting ideas exchanged. It is always rewarding to be able to explain your research to others and know that they find it interesting ;)

The speaker presentation were given on the topics of DNA Computing on Surface by Lloyd Smith, Algorithms for Haplotype Block Partition by Michael Waterman and lastly Design Principles of Genetic Regulatory Networks by Michael E. Wall. All are big-wigs in the area of Computation and Informatics in Biology and Medicine (CIBM). I only understood the first and last talk, but Mark explained some of the Genetics in the second talk to give me an overview ;) Overall it was a wonderful day spent with friends, great food, and learning about the exciting and ever changing Bioinformatics field.

Posted by Laura @ 1:43 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Typhoid Mary & Games

Unfortunately game night coincides with Nova at 7pm so I have taken to recording one of my favorite PBS shows. After game night we watched Typhoid Mary. I had heard the name in casual conversation (no I don't have weird conversations), but never new the root case. What appears to be the case is that in New York City, when immigrants to the new country were flooding into the city, sanitation could not keep up. One of the main diseases to hit the city was typhoid, which took the lives of many children and adults. If one lived through the disease, then they became a carrier, which is thought to have happened to Mary (or at least she had a very mild case since she claims to have never been sick).

She was found after several affluent families had members of their family get typhoid and one man working for the health department tracked Mary Mallon down and ended up having her quarantined to North Brother Island. During this time there were many other individuals that were found to carry typhoid, but none of them were quarantined (since that would require housing hundreds of people). Finally, she was released after writing many letters to her unfair treatment. Once released the health officials told her that she could no longer cook (and a great cook she was) and set her up with a horrible ironing job (which entailed long hours and little pay). If she had a better job placement I don’t think that she would have gone back to cooking, but back to her trade she did go. Finding another employer’s child ill, Mary was permanently quarantined to the Island until her death.

Such a sad story about such a strong woman who had to overcome great hardships to become a great chef. A department in dire straights decided to make an example out of one lone woman. A very sad story indeed, but it is good to know the truth behind the “typhoid Mary” phrase.

Posted by Laura @ 1:43 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

The Fabric of Games

I returned to Pegasus for some sunday games this afternoon with Mike, Chad and one of the employees who's name I can't remember. First up was San Juan, a card game version of it's big brother Puerto Rico. I really like this game, the use of cards for everything, buildings, money, production goods, made it seem so much smoother and easier to play. I think Laura would really enjoy this one, as the constantly beats me at resource management games like Starship Catan and Citadels. The final game was Betrayal and House on the Hill, a haunted house exploration game with one person going crazy each game. Turned out this game, it was me, and I had to try and kill all the other players to win the game. Too much rolling and stats management for me, I don't think I'll be picking this one up.

While I was playing some games, Laura took a trip nearby and bought fabric for 90% off from Joann's, it seems they were moving to a new location and didn't want to move much. This made for many great deals on candle supplies as well as some cloth for making new fuzzy pajamas for lounging around the house.

Posted by Mark @ 7:23 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Arboretum Tour

Fall is in the air up here, so we took a small break from work today and headed to the UW Arboretum for some tree-watching. They've managed to collect a huge variety of trees there, with most of them labeled for your learning pleasure. My favorites were the deep red maples and the weeping willow, while Laura enjoyed the many different kind of oaks. There always seems to be a new nook to explore when visiting here.Visiting the leaves. Today is also the day of our friend Karen's wedding in Ithaca, which we're unable to attend. We wish her and Joe a hearty congratulations from afar.

Posted by Mark @ 7:22 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Movie Marathon

So we went a little movie mad. There was no real inspiration other than we have not been watching many movies lately and we needed a break. Our first pick is one of Mark's favorite- The Straight Story- he had been wanting to watch it again with me for some time. It was a nice paced movie about a man going to visit his brother- the odd thing was that he did it on a riding lawn mower. Makes you see lawn mowers in a new light- and really respect the ingenuity of a person with a mission.

Our next movie was Tomb Raider 2- this was my pick, and you get what you expect which are nice special effects and a decent story line. My downfall when watching this type of movie is the logic- most of what Laura Croft does is down right impossible- majorly missing the science- but I would love one of those visual telephones!

Next was Jersey Girl- not much to say here, we (mainly me) had wanted to see it for quite some time, and it was just released- so why not. A nice family movie- putting family first. Lastly we saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spottless Mind- to be honest I was a bit nervous about this one- I am not really a fan of watching a movie I don't understand until the end- I like the constant flow which tends to get lost with flashbacks- but this one was great. If you haven't seen it yet- watch the girl's hair- the color changes are important- it was the best clue as to where in time the story was taking place. This story had a great flare for the dramatic and an interesting aspect about the side-effects of removing memories. By the way- cool special effects!

Posted by Laura @ 7:18 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

The Value of Amphora

Game night began with a call from Matt from overseas (I've decided I know too many people with the name Matt. I'm up to four at last count.) He's using the new Skype program that lets him call over the internet for only two cents a minute. We chatted about life, school and games for a while, when Matt L showed up, another friend from Kenyon, and we all got in on the conversation. Matt L played Laura in a game of Yinsh, and to his chagrin, it was more complicated than at first glance.

Then Kathleen arrived so we moved to the Penguin Ultimatum. This is a cute little tile laying game (actually with cards) where you try to entertain penguins on an iceberg. We don't get to play this treat as often as we should, for some reason the theme seems a bit jarring with the actual game-play. We wrapped up the game with a four-player visit to Attika. We all began laying down our tiles, making quick stabs at the temples, but Matt suprized us all on the fifth round when he used his two amphora to lay a new board piece and draw exactly the two buildings he would need to make the connection. It was the fastest game of Attika yet.

Posted by Mark @ 7:16 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Blogging Anniversary

It's been one year since the start of our blog. Blogging every day will probably never happen for us, (we'll be adding in the entries for September shortly...) we seem to be too busy doing stuff to write it all down. It is amazing to look back and see all our entries and remember what we've done, cooking, traveling, visiting, playing games and just being alive together. This has become our virtual scrapbook, and while we can't collect all the scraps of movie stubs, flyers and brochures, we hope we've captured something of what it was like to be us here and now. Here's to another year of life's adventures, and to you being with us.

Posted by Mark @ 9:21 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Origins of Garlic

The title is a bit misleading- first I will mention a show we watched called Origins by Nova on PBS. If you are at all interested about the life of our planet- this is the show for you. We found it really facinating! I liked the idea of splitting up the life of earth into a 24 hour clock- it really shows you how recent a visitor muticellular organisms are (like us) and how much of a devistating impact we have had on our lovely planet. We have been happily lending out our video to our friends- it really is a must see show!

On to the garden- I really want to implement a more seasonal gardening strategy. It would make the best use of our space and keep the ever increasing cost of groceries down. So we are planting a Fall crop of garlic. I went to our local Jungs and bought six varieties of garlic- all rather mild in flavor or spicy but none hot. This is suppose to be the best time to plant garlic since it will get an early start in spring- we will see what happens!

For cooking this week we tried some samples our of a free magazine we got in the mail- Cuisine at Home. Our first dish was Chicken Alfredo Lasagna- I don't usually like lasagna- but I could (and did) eat this dish several times a day! I also made a pork stir fry (didn't even use a recipe- just lots of ginger and oyster sauce)- to make the meat tender- make sure to heat up the seasame oil well and then cook the pork- I used quite a large portion of oil- but the dish was great. We also made some more marinara sauce- it is always nice to have a batch for those nights when you just want spaghetti (and now it is so cheap with using our frozen tomato sauce from the garden- it just makes you feel good)!

Posted by Laura @ 9:13 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Madison Board Gamers

We've been heading to Pegasus for gaming recently, and the people there invited us to join up with the Madison Board Gamers, who play every Wednesday and the first Saturday of each month. As we're booked Wednesdays for LOST, this was the first session I could make. There were many more gamers there than on sundays, so there were always two or more games in play at once. I had loads of fun with Zendo, Dawn Under, a tough memory game about vampires which seems more suited to children, and Wettstreit der Baumeister a city building / auction game. There were so many enticing games there on the table that people brought, that it was hard to have to call it a day and head home.

On the topic of games, I have been getting in some two player games with Laura. We have loads of fun equally helping each other and dashing the other's plans. Our current favorites are Yinsh and Startship Catan. Starship is in the spirit of the Settlers of Catan classic, but with spaceships and exploration weaving a very tight storyline. You never know if you'll be transporting Carbon or fighting Pirates on your next exploration, so you need to be prepared for everything. It keeps us busy for about two hours each time we play, which is about once a week now.

Posted by Mark @ 9:12 PM CDT [Permanent URL]