Archive for the ‘Volunteerism’ Category

Random Stuff About My Life

The Post Which Never Was

Back in March I began to write a very long and detailed post about volunteering to be in an NIH study.  It was good, and I was going to finish it and post the whole thing today, but I realized that my memory of the study (which took place in January) is now pretty vague.  So instead of giving you a detailed description, I’m going to have to summarize.

NIH is a cool place to visit
As in oddly scary security screening (although everyone was friendly and polite) giant fishtanks, gorgeous displays, and everyone willing and interested in explaining the science.
They like me there
They appreciate interested and engaged volunteers. I absolutely felt like the favorite volunteer ever!
They like knitting there
There was a lot of waiting around. I figured out how to knit with a tube stuck in me, and a number of people watched. One of the doctors was a knitter, so she kept me thinking about ‘name the famous male knit designers’ instead of the invasive sample she was taking.
There was not fun stuff too
Invasive samples are not fun. Being intubated and having blood taken every few hours is not fun. Fasting and being pumped full of sucrose is not fun. No matter how polite everyone is, and how interested you are in the process, there are going to be not fun parts in human experimentation.

The particular study I was in had to do with the effects of antiinflammatories on metabolic syndrome.  In particular, how antiinflammatory medicine affects the calcium ion channels reaction to insulin in fatty tissue in patients with metabolic syndrome.  I ended up as a healthy control, so they just took one fat biopsy.  Thanks to this study I now know that I don’t have metabolic syndrome, and a little bit more about how my body works.

I may well volunteer for another study, because it was cool.

Looking for Work

Over the past three weeks I’ve put in ten job applications and had four interviews at three different places.  Two phone interviews, one in person interview and one video interview over a phone app.  I’ve got a spreadsheet to track (because I’m that kind of geek).  I have one good interview suit (which I’ve used) and a number of less good but still acceptable options to wear for second interviews.

The three positions I’ve interviewed for are (in chronological order):

  1. Administrative/front office (interview with placement agency)
  2. Regulatory Affairs Assistant
  3. Help Desk

I never thought I’d be interested in any sort of regulatory work, but, honestly, this job would be really exciting.  I wouldn’t be enthused about that commute, though.  Of course, if Steve gets a job near there (and it’s possible) that makes it all come together nicely.

The help desk position is the one which had the video interview.  I’d be providing applications support, and I know that I can handle the job.    It was an odd experience, but it makes sense for this particular company (they produce video content) and it’s only round one.  I hope I make it to round two, because I’d prefer a more interactive interview.

So that’s it, almost.  Except that I do have a literal fridge cleaning recipe.  I made this on Friday, when I realized that there was a cup of home made chicken broth which I had better use up or throw out.  Here’s what I threw together:

Fridge Cleaning Soup Recipe

1 cup homemade broth

1 cob corn

2 baby carrots

2 T quinoa (this is what I used, it was way too much.  2t probably better).

Heat broth over medium heat.  While it’s warming, put the carrot cob in the microwave (husk and all) for one minute. Remove from microwave.  Cut off stem end and squeeze cob out (corn is cooked and cob is shucked all at once).  Cut kernels from cob and discard cob.  Chop up baby carrots.  Add corn, quinoa and carrots to broth and simmer for five minutes.  Remove from stove and eat.

Clean Fridge soup


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Things Getting “Hairy”

Last week, my daughter and I donated our hair.


Nope, didn’t measure.  We clearly had more than the 8-10 inches required, so that’s good.  Didn’t ask for receipts or acknowledgements either.


This was her first time.  I’ve done it before.  We sent our donations to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, though I have donated to Locks of Love in the past. I do this every few years, and I do the research every few years.

About non profits and pseudo controversy

Every time, I hear the same ‘buzz’ about Locks of Love.  The “warehouses of hair” nonsense.  Allegations that they make some outrageous profit.  Complaints that the hair doesn’t go to kids with cancer.  Complaints that they charge thousands of dollars to make wigs for adults.  The implication that there is something untoward and misleading about the organization.

Um… no.  Locks of Love explains exactly what they do on their website.  If it’s not what “everybody knows” they say they do…  um…  then everybody is wrong.  The organization actually has very good Charity Navigator and Guidestar ratings. They spend very little on fundraising and awareness campaigns, so if the ‘buzz’ out there it wrong, the odds are good that buzz is from well meaning contributors, not deceitful practices.  Years ago, when I did my research, I tracked the ‘warehouse full of hair’ stories down to one newspaper account of a boutique with a box in the back of pony tails they hadn’t bothered to send in for some ridiculous numbers of years.

This time, I actually did find some documentation of possible concerns.  Nonprofit Investigator actually does have concerns about the amount of hair donations vs. the number of wigs produced.  It took some digging to find what Locks of Love says in response, which comes down to ‘we only got 317 requests that year, and we make scalp prosthesis, not wigs…’.    She also said that the nonprofit at this point in time would rather have cash donations than hair.  So, yeah, not where I’m donating this time around, because I’m looking for a place to donate hair, not cash.  She then went on to make snide comments about NPI’s “agenda”, which loses some sympathy from me. I believe LoL is doing a good job, for the right reasons.  I believe the same of NPI.  Take criticism, it’s important.  I would also be a little bit more comfortable if they did track donations.  Even though they are not that large a cash value compared to what the organization does, they are significant to those of us who donate hair.

I will be donating blood to the Red Cross next week.  I used to donate platelets, but apparently, due to new technology and childbearing, that’s no longer appropriate for me.

The thing is, I’ve seen similar criticism about the Red Cross.  I mean, they gasp take money for the blood I gave for free.  How DARE they!  The greed!

I’m against greed, and people profiting from my honest generosity, but let’s be real here.

Here’s what happens when I give blood:

  • I go to a permanent location (I assume they pay for rent and electricity)
  • I check in, either with a volunteer (no cost) or on a laptop (one time investment plus wi-fi)
  • I read the required literature on safety and what to expect (copying cost, probably but not necessarily written by professional)
  • I wait in the waiting room (there are magazines available, though I usually have a book or my knitting.  Magazine subscriptions cost money).
  • I am screened (computer equipment, trained professional, medical equipment and supplies)
  • I am seated (specialized medical chair, sterile needle and collection bag, extensive labeling)
  • A medical professional takes my blood (I really hope they pay competitive wages, because it sucks to donate blood and have a massive bruise for a week)
  • I am given cookies and juice (as far as I know they are bought, not donated)

Then the blood is tested (extensively), filtered, refrigerated and transported.

Yes, I donate the blood.  That doesn’t mean it should be free.  They used to buy blood rather than asking for donations, but the people who sold their blood were often motivated by desperation, not altruism, and had a higher than normal for the population at large to be ill or addicted (two things which might lead someone to sell their body parts…)

Non-profit doesn’t mean free.  It means that the organization makes enough money to cover it’s day to day costs.

Sorry for the rant, it’s just a pet peeve of mine.

Next Likely Time Donation

For a while I volunteered at the local Job Corps center, tutoring young adults in basic literacy and math.  It was an interesting and rewarding experience (though sometimes frustrating).  That particular program closed down, and I’ve been looking for other local opportunities which fit in with my availability and abilities.  I’ve stumbled upon Project Knitwell, which involves volunteers teaching patients, their families and their medical providers how to knit.  I sent an email last Friday inquiring about volunteer opportunities, and today I learned that the next training session is tomorrow.  If I’d had a week lead time I could have gone down and done it, as it is, I’m on their contact list for the next session.    It sounds interesting and promising, and maybe I’ll end up volunteering there.


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