Posts filed under ‘Ryan Somma’

Frazzled First Time Moms and Self Correcting Science

Boxer Shorts Cake One thing I am more aware of thanks to Ryan is the error-correction mechanism that is in place in science. “Science is a self-correcting algorithm,” Ryan likes to say. He points out examples where new findings trump old ones, conclusions are refined and how sometimes planets we know and love suddenly become dwarf planets (a correction Ryan happens to disagree with).

He also shares tales such as Larry Taylor. Forty years after vowing to “eat his shorts” if water was ever found on the moon, he had to do just that (albeit in tasty cake form).

One morning recently, I woke up and shuffled into the bathroom. I was greeted by my reflection. Even though I was wearing a scrunchie, most of my hair had escaped it. The free strands were the exact opposite of a school of fish. Each had its own unique idea of what direction to go in. My roots were grey. My eyes were puffy and pink.

“I look like a frazzled first-time Mom,” I announced.

“No, you’re beautiful.” Ryan tiredly recited an old conclusion.

THEN he looked up.

“Oh.” He said.

The new data before him was indisputable.

“You do look like a frazzled first-time Mom!”

Just like that, he corrected his error. I absolutely love how one of Ryan’s favorite facets of science is something he practices himself!

P.S. Just as one cold day does not offset a centuries’ worth of climbing temperatures, this one morning doesn’t necessarily nullify the overall trend Ryan has observed. At least, I hope not! šŸ™‚

*The Tasty Boxer Short Cake is by Ziggiau

February 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm 1 comment

An Evening with Ira Glass: Coverage on ideonexus

Gosh dang it, that Ryan Somma is a more efficient blogger than I am. It only took him two days to get his Ira Glass post published.

Sunday October 23rd, Ryan and I went our on second date since Sagan was born! Our first was to see Jane Goodall (which Ryan promptly blogged about as well). This date took us to the Chrysler Hall in Norfolk Virginia to listen to Ira Glass of This American Life speak. We very much enjoyed the event. You can read Ryan’s recap on

Ideonexus  on Ira Glass
Ryan’s Post

November 1, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Dr. Jane Goodall “A Conversation on Peace” Coverage #janegoodall #askjane

Ryan and I are currently a one car family.Ā BUT we are a two camera and a two blog family.Ā  For the most part our blogs cover different topics, but when we are posting on the same topic I find the redundancy handy… and interesting.

On Sunday, Ryan and I went on what could be called a date! My mother babysat Sagan, while we went up to American University to attend Dr. Jane Goodall’s “A Conversation on Peace”. It was absolutely RIVETING and incredibly inspiring. I have tons of notes, particularly on her many great stories involving trees. Seeing as how Sagan is already 10 weeks old and I still haven’t published my giant Birth Story post (it’s coming!), I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get my many positive thoughts on the event published.

But Ryan already has hisĀ Ā Celebrating the UNā€™s ā€œInternational Day of Peaceā€ with Dr. Jane GoodallĀ post up! Reading it over, it is amazing the different details Ryan picked up on from the same speech! His camera with the zoom lens took better photos too.Ā  : ) Check out his post when you get a chance and if you ever see Dr. Jane Goodall appearing in your neck of the woods (Lecture and Event Schedule), I highly, highly recommend attending! It is time very well spent.

Jane Goodall on Ideonexus
Dr. Jane Goodall on

September 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm 2 comments


Waking up is sometimes a ten to fifteen minute process for Sagan. In the middle of the night, one is tempted to feed him when he first starts to stir, but he refuses. You may think, “Dude, I know you are going to be starving in about three minutes“, but you still have to wait out those three minutes and watch as he stretches and groans and stretches some more.

Ryan actually does a great impersonation of the process. Even when I’m sleep deprived, watching grown-up Ryan act out littleĀ Sagan’s waking up ritual makes me smile.

The other weekend we discovered Ryan wasn’t the only one of his siblings with the talent of Sagan-mimicry. Aunt Rachelle is quite adept at copying one of Sagan’s faces.

Rachelle and Sagan
Aunt Rachelle and Sagan

And don’t feel bad for Sagan. He has some impressions of his own up his onesie sleeve. His more passionate cries sound a bit like a goat. He can also do a pretty solid Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking And Sagan
Stephen Hawking and Sagan (Hawking Source Image by Rob Bodman)

He still needs to fine tune his Obama though.

August 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

On Daddy’s Stares

My first encounter with labor was a brief one– about 7 1/2 hours from start to finish.Ā  ForĀ the lastĀ 4 1/2 of those hours, my eyes were almost exclusively shut.Ā Ā Once Sagan was born, however, I opened my eyes and made up for lost time.Ā 

It was then I was able to take in a view that trumps the best overlooks of the Appalachians– Ryan staring at his newborn son.Ā  There was a telling intensity to Ryan’s brown eyes.Ā  Of all the women on this good earth (billions of them!),Ā it is I who isĀ lucky enough to have seen that look before and to know what it means.

“You are so in love with him,” I said.

Sagan - Day Eight - Ryan and Sagan
Day Eight – Still Smitten

After a while, Sagan and Ryan went up to the newborn nursery for some tests and observations.Ā  As soon as they left the room, our Labor and Delivery Nurse, Heidi, started to commend Ryan for being such a great childbirth coach. Heidi shared some horror stories of indifferent fathers or fathers who couldn’t deal with their partner’s pain and contrasted them with Ryan’s involvement. To drill her point home, Heidi shared a piece of information I wasn’t privy to with my closed eyes.

“The way he was looking at that baby,” she said, “That is how he was looking at you… the entire time!”Ā 

Of all the women on this good earth…

July 25, 2011 at 11:36 am 3 comments

Henry’s Valley Forge

A few years ago, my boss Larry and I were on a business trip in Pennsylvania with some extra time. We decided to stop by Valley Forge on our way to the airport. As we made our way to the National Park, Larry and I rambled on as we tend to do and we both talked about all the things we remembered about Valley Forge. When we arrived, we were dumbfounded at how consistently inaccurate our recollections were. For example, the men did not in fact leave Valley Forge to sail across the Delaware River to win the war.

But, one thing I DID remember correctly was the bloody footprints. During the winter to 1777-1778, the men were ill-clothed and if they had shoes, they weren’t up to the winter weather. Ice and snow were not kind to the soldier’s exposed feet. They cracked and bled and left souvenirs in the snow. In a letter to Congress, George Washington wrote, “marches might be tracked by the blood from their feet.”

The most treacherousĀ part for the humans on our snowy Kelly’s Knob hike was our drive back down icy VA-601. For Henry, it was the snow itself. All seemed well at first. Henry was having a good ole time and was as happy as I was to be reunited with the Appalachian Trail.

Kelly's Knob - Henry the Trailblazer
Happy Henry

Then suddenly, history in action. We started to notice blood in the snow. The footprints got bloodier and bloodier. We didn’t have a Martha Washington on hand to knit some socks for Henry. But we did have a Ryan Somma. Henry soldiered on for as long as he could. Finally, he acquiesced and let Ryan carry him the rest of the way.

Kelly's Knob - Henry's Paws (Cropped)
Bloody footed Henry is carried down by Ryan

In a few days, Henry’s paws were as good as new.

At least, that’s how I recall it now.

January 11, 2011 at 1:00 am 3 comments

Kelly’s Knob in the Snow

Greetings everyone! I hope you had a happy and healthy holiday season. The weekend before Christmas, Ryan Somma and I headed to my old stomping grounds in Blacksburg, Virginia for a five day visit. There I got one of the best early Christmas presents a girl could hope for– a reunion with the mountains! : )

On Sunday, December 19th, we got to hit the Appalachian Trail with the dogs and our friends Tony and Meredith. We went from the Rocky Gap/VA-601 trailhead up to Kelly’s Knob. It’s about a 3.8 mile round trip. It starts off steep with a roughly 500-600 foot ascent in the first half mile (Source: Elevation Map from weaselworks). Don’t let the beginning fool you though, once you make it up to the intersection of the John’s Creek Mountain Trail, it is all ridgeline and smooth sailing.

I’ve done Kelly’s Knob a number of times (see my other Kelly’s Knob posts), but this time was by far the snowiest. When we started our hike, there was a lone set of footprints already in the snow. Apparently that hiker was fooled by the steep beginning because surprisingly soon the footprints disappeared. That left us with fresh snow to hike in.

Kelly's Knob - Pristine Trail
Appalachian Trail En Route to Kelly’s Knob

The top was as gorgeous as usual. As I have written before, you can see the Virginia Tech campus from Kelly’s Knob. That particular day, we didn’t take advantage of it. None of us were courageous/foolish enough to climb out onto the snow-covered rocks. Luckily, what we could see from the security of the trail was quite striking.

Kelly's Knob - Blue Sky and Frosted Tree Tops
Frosted Tree Tops

Kelly's Knob - Snow Covered Rocks and View (Far)
Snow Covered Rocks at Kelly’s Knob

Kelly's Knob - Snow Covered Rocks and Ridges
Rocks and Ridges at Kelly’s Knob

Kelly's Knob - Tree Hole and Ridgeline
The Knotty Kelly’s Knob Tree and Ridges

I didn’t see any American chestnut trees as we hiked (there are a whole bunch of them south of Rocky Gap) but I did spy an American Chestnut leaf in the snow!

Kelly's Knob - Possible Chestnut Leaf in Snow
American Chestnut Leaf in the Snow

The most trecherous part of our journey (for the humans) was actually driving home. With intentions I’m certain were good, someone had attempted to plow the gravel VA-601. Unfortunately the efforts had produced a formidable sheet of ice. We had 1.5 miles back down to paved and cleared road. 1.5 miles of a steep icy road with particularly unnerving dropoffs in lieu of shoulders. Ryan, Meredith and I all agreed Tony would be the most qualified to get us off the mountain. He did not let us down! In 4WD low and in first gear, with occassional brake pumping and steering the vehicle onto exposed gravel or loose snow, he slowly but surely got us down.

My heater in my car was broken which proved to be advantageous to our trusted driver.

“It’s a good thing [the heat’s broken]” Tony pointed out. “Otherwise, I’d be sweating balls right now.” : )

Thanks to Tony’s patient driving, we all got to go home with untainted memories of another great adventure.

Kelly's Knob - Jimmie, Tony, Henry, Meredith, Vicky on Trail
Jimmie, Tony (The Hero!), Henry, Meredith and Vicky

Kelly's Knob - Henry, Jimmie and Ryan Descend
Ryan Descends with Henry and Jimmie

More pictures of our hike to Kelly’s Knob can be found on my Flickr site.

Rocky Gap to Kelly’s Knob
(Appalachian Trail from VA-601 to Kelly’s Knob and back)

Mileage: 3.8 miles round trip

Elevation Difference: Est. 800 feet

4WD Requirements: The last 1.5 miles of VA-601 is a gravel hill, but it is well maintained and I have seen non-4WD vehicles make it up in non-icy conditions.

Trailhead Parking: The VA-601 trailhead has a small parking area to the left. On busy days, cars park on the side of the gravel road.

Driving Directions:
(from Blacksburg, Virginia)
Take 460 West and turn right on VA-42.
Bear right to stay on VA-42
Shortly afterwards, turn left on VA-601
When VA-601 turns to gravel, you have about 1.5 miles to the top.
Once there, AT Southbound is to your left and AT Northbound is on your right.

Along the way, you’ll pass by Sinking Creek Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1916.

January 10, 2011 at 1:00 am 5 comments

Interview with Ryan at Extreme Biology!

Last year at Science Online 2010, Ryan and I were struck by a session called “Blogging the Future ā€“ The Use of Online Media in the Next Generation of Scientists”. In that session, high school teacher Stacy Baker brought a number of her students to showcase their projects on social media and online resources. As I wrote last year, the session was quite powerful and one couldn’t help but be impressed (and humbled!) by the students.

This January, Ryan and I will be attending Science Online 2011. Stacy Baker and more of her high school students will be attending as well. As part of their preparation for the conference, the students are interviewing conference organizers, presenters and attendees and posting them on their Extreme Biology! site.

Yesterday student Paul published an interview with Ryan Somma on computer science. Be sure to check it out!

Extreme Biology Interview - Ryan Somma

P.S. The image of Ryan was taken with WireGoogles, an Android app written by one of my bestest best friends, Brian Nenninger. It’s available on Android Market.

December 15, 2010 at 8:29 am 4 comments

Conclusion from a Turd

This morning I woke up and, as usual, I let the dogs outside while the coffee maker worked its magic. The dogs had been out earlier that morning and I discovered poor, old Jimmie with his increasingly sporadic bowels had hadĀ an accident on the back deck. Then I noticed on the very bottom step, a squished turd with the unmistakable imprint of a shoe tread.

I laughed and felt bad for Ryan at the same time. That small, misshapen piece of poop gave me a clear vision of how his work day started out.

He came out of the house, admired the changing fall leaves, and inhaled the crisp and invigorating morning air.

“Today is going to be a GREAT day!!!” I imagine he thought.

Then *SPLAT*!

Reality sunk in. : )

November 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm 4 comments

Kayaking: Charles Creek to Albemarle Hospital

A few weeks ago, Ryan and I had some free time, so we went kayaking! If we had waited a couple of days we could have launched from our front porch. We still had it pretty good. We carried the kayaks to a little inlet near our house and we were off. I’ve got to say– it was very appealing to finish up the trip and not have to worry about mounting the kayaks to the top of the X-Terra.

We started off on Dawson near the Elizabeth City Fish Court. We paddled along the Charles Creek Park and past the Charles Creek Bridge construction. By the way, the bear bag technique is still employeed! After that, past the Harbor of Hospitality, the Downtown Market and then under the 158 Drawbridge. Soon we were passing by Camden Causeway Park. We took a large bend in the river, went under some railroad tracks and eventually we made our way to Albemarle Hospital. We explored the little inlet near the College of the Albemarle Nature Trail and headed back.

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Charles Creek 'Bridge'
Charles Creek Bridge Construction

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Charles Creek Crane
Bear Bag Action

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Harbor of Hospitality
Harbor of Hospitality Sign

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - River and Farmer's Market
Downtown Market (The Tents on the Right)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Ryan Paddles Near Elizabeth Road Bridge
Ryan Approaches 158 Bridge

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Backside of Camden Causeway Season Compare
Camden Causeway Park From the Water

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Ryan with Oasis of Vegetation
Ryan in Pasquotank River

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Old Winch
Old Winch in Water

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Albemarle Hospital Gazebo 2
Gazebo Behind Albemarle Hospital

We were fighting the wind back home, but we arrived safe and sound. The whole trip was between 8-10 miles.

Kayaking Trip

It was a rather beautiful day. Numerous wild flowers were blooming, meanwhile the baldcypress trees were just starting their fall colors. In urban areas, I am enamoured by nature taking over. It’s even more impressive when you are in the middle of a river and still get to see trees and plants finding a way to survive.

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Old Pier and Changing Leaves near Camden Causeway Park
Baldcypress Tree in Autumn

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Berries and Sky
Berries and Sky (Would these be Winged Sumac Maybe?)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - River Tree (Portait)
Tree in the River (Tupelo Maybe?)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Yellow Flower (By Ryan Somma)
Yellow Flowers (By Ryan Somma)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Changing Leaves in Light
Changing Leaves

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Oasis of Wildflowers
An Island of Wildflowers

Our trip would be fitting for the Circus of the Spineless. Spiders, grasshoppers, bumblebees, ants and a nostalgic childhood favorite of mine– bag worms!!!

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Spider From Side (Photo by Ryan Somma)
Spider (by Ryan Somma)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Grasshopper
This Grasshopper Found a Dry Home in the Middle of the River

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Bumblebee (By Ryan Somma)
Bumblebee (by Ryan Somma)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Bagworm (Blurry)

This outing we may have encountered the most unsavory kind of scat. Human scat. Ryan and I were paddling along when Ryan noticed a peculiar odor. At first he suspected himself as we all do from time to time and then in horror he remembered a newspaper article from earlier in the week.

“I have some bad news to tell you,” he said, “But I don’t know if I should.”

I paddled closer and wondered what could possibly be so bad. Noting we were far from shore, I knew what *my* worst case scenario would be.

“Are you sick to your stomach?” I asked.

“That [500,000 gallon] sewage spill I told you about,” Ryan said, “It was here.”

Whoopsie. We had both totally forgotten about that little incident when we left.

I was still digesting the news when a waterskiier whizzed by.

“Welp,” I thought, “At least I’m not him!” : )

More pictures of our Pasquotank Kayaking Trip can be found on my Flickr site.

October 11, 2010 at 10:20 pm Leave a comment

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