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5 Add-Ins for Hearty Holiday Pancakes November 25, 2015

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things.
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Mix up your pancake batter as usual. Then, add one or all of the following ingredients to make them super-delicious and hearty for the holidays.


Greek Yogurt (1-3 heaping tablespoon scoops)


Quick Oats (½-1 cup)


Pumpkin (½ a can; freeze the rest for next time)


Cinnamon & Nutmeg (1 tsp cinnamon; ½ tsp nutmeg)


Pine Nuts (small handful; idea from La Fonda, Santa Fe)


Note: Recommended amounts are based on starting with 2-3 cups of dry ingredients for your usual pancake batter. If you have leftover batter, griddle up extra pancakes and freeze; later, pop them in the toaster and eat spread with butter or peanut butter.

5 Things Left Out of The Atlantic November 18, 2015

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Science, Writing.
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Last Friday, Anna’s article “The Implant That Helps Fight Cancer” appeared at The Atlantic. The copyeditor did a fantastic job. Here are the five parts that were cut from the article manuscript before it was published.


A small thing, really, an object the diameter of a quarter inserted inside her body to make chemo treatments and blood draws closer to run-of-the-mill. Something seemingly abnormal to make her life as a cancer patient more normal.


Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Rhonda Pickett remembers the pre-port days of cancer care: “Trying to find venous access on cancer patients who have had their veins violated by the best of stickers is not fun. And being on the receiving end is not fun either.” No matter how experienced the nurse, compromised small veins meant a dreaded, often painful, experience for everyone involved. She also pointed out that some chemotherapy drugs cause burning, scarring, or discoloration over time, permanent markers of the illness and its treatment, even if the patient fully recovers from the cancer.


Rhonda Pickett calls the port “a godsend for both the patient and the nurse.” My mother’s nurses, too, heralded the device as a relief for themselves as well as for their patients. These days, everyone I know who undergoes chemo gets a port.


The details of a medical port may vary from one manufacturer to the next. The choice of which brand or type to use often comes down to the physician’s or hospital’s preference.


Once, when I was with my mother for her chemo treatment, the nurse swabbed the skin over the port with alcohol, then prepared the needle. My mother scrunched up her face tightly and drew in her breath as the needle approached. The nurse paused and asked, “Did I hurt you?” My mother looked up, her face relaxing. I said, “She likes to dramatize in case there’s pain. It helps her feel better to tense up.” My mother smiled and agreed that the wince was really setup for the greater relief. My mother said that the needle stick was never too bad—because of her port. She could imagine and had experienced worse, and she knew that this one small object made her life a little better than it would have been otherwise.

What We’re Saying about Cancer November 16, 2015

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Science, Writing.
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Last Friday, Anna’s article about medical ports appeared in The Atlantic:

In 2012, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a type that’s most often caught late and has a poor prognosis even when caught early. My mother was diagnosed at Stage III, when her tumor had already grown into the wall of an artery, making surgical removal impossible. She decided to undergo chemotherapy anyway, not because it would save her life—not even because it would extend her life, though it undoubtedly did, by weeks or even months—but because it might lessen the pain she was likely to experience as the growing tumor began to press on her organs, blood vessels, and nerves.


Anna has also signed a contract for a book called Conversing With Cancer, which she’s writing with health communications scholar Lisa Sparks. The book will be part of the Language as Social Action series.


Gemini XII: On the 49th Anniversary November 11, 2015

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Space Exploration.
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Today marks the 49th anniversary of the launch of Gemini XII, the last Gemini space mission. Here are five fun facts to ponder as you celebrate.


The crew was Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin. Lovell would go on to fly Apollo 8 and Apollo 13, and Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the Moon during Apollo 11. We’ve seen both astronauts in person.

The backup crew was Gordon Cooper and Gene Cernan. Cooper would not go to space again, but Cernan became the last man to have his boots on the Moon’s surface. In a bit of serendipity, we met Cernan at BWI airport.

Anna & Gene Cernan!

Anna & Gene Cernan!

The Gemini capsule docked with the Agena target vehicle, which had launched before Gemini XII. The rendezvous radar was working properly, so the astronauts had to do some extra work to dock. Then, the Agena had a problem with its booster so climbing to a higher orbit was canceled. Still, the rendezvous was considered a success, and the prior Gemini mission had docked with an Agena as well.

During the course of the mission, Aldrin made three EVAs—spacewalks—totaling more than three hours. He trained for this work under water.

The three CapComs—capsule communicators—were Stuart Roosa, Pete Conrad, and Bill Anders. Roosa flew on Apollo 14, Conrad flew on Apollo 12, and Anders flew on Apollo 8 and is credited with the famous Moon Rise photograph.


5 Great Notebooks November 4, 2015

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Writing.
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Moleskine Chapters

Divided into 7 chapters, with a chapter list at the end and also a few pages for things to do. Stitched binding allows it to lie flat. 128 pages. We like the 4.5 x 8.25 size, but there’s a smaller version too.

Miquelrius Flexible Journal

Soft cover. Page size is 6 x 8. A whopping 300 pages! It’s great for people with big writing projects. Shorter versions are available too.

Field Notes

The basic version is a three-pack of 3.5 x 5.5, 48-page, soft-cover notebooks. You can choose graph, ruled, or plain paper—or get a mixed pack. If you accumulate a bunch of these, there’s a wooden box you can order to hold them. The Steno is bigger, has the spiral at the top, and sports a durable chipboard cover.

Journals Made from Hardcover Books

The hard cover protects pages. The book cover tricks people into thinking you’re reading instead of writing. Unlined pages. Every notebook is unique, so the size varies.

Old-Fashioned Three-Ring Binder

Relatively inexpensive, you can fill it with the paper of your choosing. Get dividers with tabs to organize sheets into sections. The best part about using a binder is that you can swap pages in and out and switch the order easily.

5 Free Things to Do in Las Vegas October 28, 2015

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Other Stuff.
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We were in Sin City this past weekend. There’s so much to do in Las Vegas that we’ll focus here only on those that are FREE and also in the proximity of the intersection of The Strip and Flamingo Road. That means you could do all 5 Free Things in one day!


Bellagio Fountains

Walk past the Bellagio Hotel on The Strip, and the fountains are hard to miss. In fact, from 8pm-midnight, there’s a show every 15 minutes, and it takes that long to walk the block.


Bellagio Conservatory

As long as you’re walking past the Bellagio to see the fountains, pop inside to see the botanical display, which changes according to the seasons. Autumn Harvest is up through November 27, and then Winter Holiday will run December 3 – January 2.


Mirage Volcano

The Mirage isn’t right that on the corner, but it’s only a short walk past Caesars from the Bellagio. You don’t even have to go inside to see, hear, and feel the erupting volcano. Time your walk so that you catch a show at 8pm or 9pm, with an additional 10pm show on Friday and Saturday.


Caesars Fall of Atlantis

Go to the Forum Shoppes for the shopping, of course, which is not free. While you’re there, swing by the atrium for the animatronics show that recounts the myth of Atlantis. If you enter the shopping area from Caesars casino, you’ll also walk by the replica of Trevi fountain (at Trevi restaurant) to get to the Atlantis show.


Paris Dueling Pianos

Napoleon’s Lounge is situated in the cobblestone streets of France, and it hosts a dueling piano show every evening at 9:30pm-1:30am. If you go in, you’ll likely want to order food or beverage, but you can hear the music just walking around the area of shops and restaurants or on your way from Paris to Bally’s or the parking garage.



Walk The Strip. It’s free and it burns calories. Plus, the people watching is excellent. Here’s a MAP.


5 Books on Writing & Productivity October 21, 2015

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Writing.


There exist lots of writing guidebooks. The ones we’ve listed here are not so much guides on how to write (though they include useful tidbits about that) as they are nudges on how to produce a lot of writing.


Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The most well-known chapter of Lamott’s book is probably “Shitty First Drafts.” In that chapter, she also talks about quieting the voices in her head in order to focus on writing. If you haven’t read this book, you’ve missed a classic.


How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silva

This book is written especially for academics, but the principles work for anyone who wants to produce a significant amount of writing: scheduling, accountability, prioritizing. If you have a book project that’s stalled or you’re on the tenure track, get this book right away. It’s a quick, convincing read.


Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Kleon’s book and its companion, Show Your Work, are fun, straightforward, motivational books. The best two chapters for productivity are probably “Be Boring” and “Creativity Is Subtraction.”


A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld

We’re written about this book before HERE. It’s the most detailed in the list, and it includes ways to put the ideas into practice.


Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Goldberg’s book is an oldie but a goodie, with inspirational words to get and keep you writing and also exercises. This book’s approach is the most holistic: “To do writing practice means to deal ultimately with your whole life.”

5 Postseason Tidbits about the Cubs October 14, 2015

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CubsBoardOn this date in 1908, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, clinching the championship by beating the Detroit Tigers. The Cubs have not held the championship since, making it the longest dry spell in the history of major American professional sports.

The Chicago Cubs were in the World Series in 1945, their last appearance in the championship series. They lost to the Detroit Tigers. The origin of the Curse of the Billy Goat is this series, when the goat and his owner were ousted from the stadium, leaving a curse in their wake. The Billy Goat Tavern now has several locations.

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

On this date in 2003, a fan turned the winning tide for the Chicago Cubs by reaching for a foul ball and interfering with outfielder Moises Alou’s potential catch. That catch would have been the second out in the eighth inning. The Cubs were leading 0-3 in the game and would have clinched the National League championship with that win. The fan has maintained a low profile and refused monetary offers and an appearance in a documentary about the incident. The ball was later blown up, and its essence was supposedly boiled off and used in pasta sauce at Harey Carey’s restaurant.

The Lofty duo has seen one postseason Cubs game in person—or at least an inning. Shortly after moving to California, on October 5, 2008, we traipsed to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to see Game 4 of the Division Series. It proved to be a harrowing experience involving hours of traffic and dearth of parking. So overwhelmed by seeing palm trees at a baseball park and by the thought of being stuck for hours with celebrating Dodgers fans, we traipsed home to see the rest of the game on television. The Cubs lost the series that night.

Digital StillCamera

Ernie Banks and Anna’s Mom

Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs clinched the division and will head to the National League Championship Series. Will that be another against the Los Angeles Dodgers? Or will the Cubs face the New York Mets, their nemesis from the fateful 1969 season? In 1969, a pivotal late-season match-up became emblematic of the Mets’ rise to first place and the Cubs’ fall to second. That 1969 roster included Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams; Billy Williams is alive to see what happens this time. We’ll know tomorrow night which team the Cubs will face on Saturday in the postseason schedule.

Nobel Week 2015 October 8, 2015

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Science, Writing.
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Svetlana Alexievich is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2015. Alexievich is a Belarusian writer who is being recognized, according to the announcement, “”for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” Especially in light of our focus on “Countdown to The Cold War” over the past year, Lofty Ambitions applauds this selection.

Read an excerpt from Alexievich’s “Voices from Chernobyl” in The Paris Review HERE.

For the whole list of this year’s new Nobel laureates (Peace will be announced tomorrow), go to the Nobel Prize website HERE. We mentioned the Physics prize in yesterday’s post and are still celebrating the birthday listed in our Wednesday 5 list.

5 Physicists with Birthdays This Week October 7, 2015

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It’s Nobel Prize week, and Wednesday’s announcement of this year’s award in Physics says, “The Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 recognises Takaaki Kajita in Japan andArthur B. McDonald in Canada, for their key contributions to the experiments which demonstrated that neutrinos change identities. This metamorphosis requires that neutrinos have mass. The discovery has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe.” Lofty Ambitions celebrates five other physicists whose birthdays fall this week.

Neil deGrasses Tyson

Neil deGrasses Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson, born October 5, 1958

Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History

Ernest Walton, born October 6, 1903

Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1951 for work on particle accelerators to, as the saying goes, split the atom

Niels Bohr

Niels Bohr

Niels Bohr, born October 7, 1885

Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1922 for work on the atomic structure and quantum theory

From Anna Leahy’s poem “Notes on a Few Atomic Scientists”

IV. Enrico Fermi listens to Niels Bohr carefully. Who wouldn’t? He know that later he will not remember if he was surprised at the question. He straightens his jacket as if that is answer enough. To accept a Nobel Prize is rarely such a difficult choice. His wife will be pleased, he will have to write a speech, and the will live in Italy.

Mark Oliphant, born October 8, 1901

Early investigator of nuclear fusion and, later, politician and advocate for voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill (an issue in the news in California this week)

Max von Laue, born October 9, 1879

Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1914 for work with crystals and x-ray defraction


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