Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas on Enchanted Rock.

Little Bro & I made our way to San Antonio on Christmas eve to climb Enchanted Rock. I couldn't find any information on it closing on Christmas day and felt like driving along long stretches of road, so I convinced my reluctant brother to come with me to Fredericksburg, population 10,530. After spending Christmas Eve watching random shows on the Discovery Channel in San Antonio, we woke up early to head over to Enchanted Rock.

As we pulled in closer to the park, we could see the pink granite dome in the distance!
It really is pink.

Welcome, visitors
On the website, I'd read that the park can reach full capacity around 10AM (it opens at 8AM), and visitors are often turned away to return after 5PM. On this Christmas day, there were few other visitors and we were able to get in around lazy ten o'clock. 

We made our way past the gravel trails and the huge boulders.
Someone's too cool for the camera
Crossing the streams and the huge jagged boulders, we reached the pink dome. It is a steep climb but relatively easy, there were even families with little kids walking up. The tricky part was that it had rained yesterday and with the overcast sky that morning, the rocks were wet and icy.
Look at the incline

Trekking up
I finally reached the highest plateau and walked around! It was freezing (the weather forecast told me low 30's plus the altitude? My phone froze, literally).
Five layers and still red eyes/nose
Here's a close-up of the 1-billion-years-old pink granite, with huge crystals... although you can't tell without a reference scale.
granite close-up

Trees, cacti and algae growing on top, elevation 1825 feet
Okay, so after Little Brother made his way down, I spent quite a bit of time up here because... I forgot which way I'd come up. After you climb up the boulders, there is no set trail to follow on, you walk up the dome any way you like, and I hadn't taken notice of my path up. Also because the dome is so steep, it is hard to look down for the path you came up. I made a few rounds until I saw another family come up, and I made my way down. No repeat of 127 Hours there.
scenic route back down
The best thing about taking a road trip in 30-40F weather is that your car becomes an instant fridge. We threw our food in the trunk and the food kept cold during the entire trip. Now we're back in Houston, spent and tired, but we stopped by Buc-Ee's on our way back! I thought we'd passed by the Luling location until I turned the corner and saw the familiar Beaver sign.
Typical Buc-Ee's.

Friday, December 23, 2011

research and expectations

A conversation with my co-worker F about research life made me think about expectations. We were preparing our next batch of samples, and we chatted about his decision to attend graduate school (after a short career of rock and roll) and mine not to.
Structure of Hemoglobin Picture

Since I'd heard that first year of graduate school is often the hardest, I asked F how his year was going. "Great", he said, noting that something that keeps him going is high morale. "Do you know who Max Perutz is?" Max Perutz was an organic chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1962 for his work on hemoglobin. If you've taken Biochemistry, you know how tricky (and amazing) this globular protein is. It has four subunits with Fe in the center heme group, and changes its structure when oxygen binds to facilitates the binding of the next oxygen.

Max Perutz spent years trying to determine the structure of this elusive protein. Because hemoglobin has a different structure when oxygen is bound to it, he would crystallize the protein in an anaerobic chamber (for X-ray crystallography) and oxygen would get in, alter its structure. "But", continued F, "instead of thinking he'd fail again, every day he came in thinking today would be the day he'd crystallize hemoglobin' ". And that he did.

This reminded me of another story from my Seattle friend when he was trying to crystallize a protein. Didn't work, kept going at it with tweaked conditions: pH, different substrates, everything and anything for months. I prodded on, "and?", waiting a grand finale of his finally crystallizing that bad boy. "And they canceled the project, and I stopped working in the lab". Hmm.

Pick your attitude. Do you: "Hope for the best" OR "Prepare for the worst."? 
(because can you really do both full-heartedly?)
Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. -Alexander Pope, 1688–1744

This 2009 study by Golub, Gilbert and Wilson suggests that having low expectations may make you more unhappy than having high expectations, mostly because you make yourself unhappy during the waiting period before you know the actual outcome. If you harbor positive expectations, you can "savor" your daydreams and achievements before you find out the real result, compared to feeling "dread" if you expected the opposite.

To summarize, people have low expectations because:
1) If the outcome is bad, they don't want to be disappointed.
2) If the outcome is good, they want to be pleasantly surprised.

But this study found that the subjects felt the same joy or disappointment regardless of their expectations, implying their expectations only affected their happiness during the waiting period.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Yesterday I had a small Christmas gathering with friends in the shoebox. My apartment was impeccably cleaned for this occasion, and I even had the ingenious idea of opening the gate for guests through my open window instead of running down the stairs every time. (Okay, it's not really "ingenious", but I was so proud of myself for thinking of this!).
Falling leaves, bare trees, 70's weather-  Christmas in Houston
I had been saving this occasion to try something new with everyone: ice cream with olive oil. Yes, you read that right. Drizzle your favorite vanilla ice cream with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt. There are recipes out there to make ice cream with olive oil, but in our case, using olive oil as a novel ice cream topping was enough. The verdict? "It tastes gourmet", we declared, "It's... interesting, not bad". I think if you like to dip your French fries in milkshake, you might like this combo.

The most adorable Christmas cookies with perfect frosting
With non-matching cups and plates out to accommodate everyone with the most random foods laid out on the coffee tables (popcorn, homemade ratatouille and white chocolate cookies by the adorable E, blueberry bread and ice cream among others) we talked about (correspondingly) random things, jumping from topic to topic. But facebook was probably the star of the night- the new Timeline format, dangers of facebook-ing acquaintances, applying(more often adapting) cultural norms to online technology...

By the end of the night, I had to laugh at my makeshift table, probably too small for the occasion. Every inch was covered with cups, ramekins, spoons with the remaining space scattered with dropped popcorn and napkins. A beautiful evening to end a hectic week.
some of the nom nom's of the night- before the party
Merry Christmas, everyone. If you don't celebrate Christmas... Merry Christmas anyway.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

of love and musicals.

I was introduced to Glee by my smarty-pants friend K one evening at the gym: "Glee is on right now!" This was the night of the Madonna episode, and (despite this fact) I grew hooked. Glee satisfies my weekly musical craving, which brings me to my next thought: why do I (or people) like musicals?

Musicals are usually upbeat, with an easy optimistic attitude on events and a comic twist on even the most unfortunate events. Also, musical performers not only sing, but also act, dance, play instruments, all on the live stage day after day, it is hard not to be blown away by their performance. As unrealistic as it is for someone to break into a song (and for the crowd to jump in, just in time for the chorus), you gotta stop thinking "this cannot be real life!", and just come along for the ride.

I love the moment when someone bursts into a song, because they just have to sing what they are feeling, words won't do anymore! My acting professor told us not to pick monologues from musicals because the ones with strongest emotions are written into a song. Also, when you think it is going to be a solo, but another person joins in perfect harmony, the slow soar into the musical climax and the final note, the great ending button and thundering applause... beautiful.

Also, I need to watch more Bollywood movies. Take all the things I love about musicals and multiply by three. I watched Dostana couple of weeks ago (thank you BB!) and I burst into laughter at some parts because they were just so darn ridiculous.
Not to mention that everyone's also so darn good-looking...

And, how is this for an early Christmas present?
The Lion King has published lyrics:
Ndabe zitha / Nkosi yethu Mholi / wezwe lethu
Lefatshe la bonata rona / Lea halalela
My friend commented "they have languages in Africa, you know", sure, but I didn't think they would be written out in alphabets like this for someone like me to memorize and sing along.

I am still listening to the Company soundtrack. If you happen to watch the 2006 version directed by John Doyle, pay close attention to when Robert plays the kazoo during "Side by Side". Did anyone see that coming? So beautifully done and I love the complete change in pace and mood afterwards.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Company: Being Alive.

Reasons why I am still up at 1AM: Raul Esparza as the 35-year-old perpetual bachelor Bobby in Sondheim's Company. I thought Bobby was somewhat of an awkward role to play because while he is the main character, the storyline runs around him in fringes. But Esparza plays this role beautifully

Here he realizes, following a conversation with an older married friend who propositions an affair, that he wants, needs someone he can take care of. Relationships, while they aren't perfect, are part of "Being Alive", a sentiment echoed by his married friends but one Bobby only realizes at the end of the musical with this song.

Raul Esparza as Bobby has the most endearing and earnest expression throughout the musical. He watches his married friends' troubles with a semi-entertained look on his face, because these problems don't apply to him and hey, he doesn't want to be married that much, and yet... 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

another kind of oatmeal.

I've gone grocery shopping three times in less than seven days, at three different grocery stores. Where I live, there are more than a dozen grocery stores within a five mile radius, and I feel productive when food-shopping because I need to eat anyway.

Oatmeal. My go-to food for every meal. I finally finished off my huge cylinder of oats and wandered through the aisles of Fiesta searching for oatmeal this afternoon. There were three different kinds: old-fashioned, "ready in 5 minutes" and "ready in 1 minute!". I don't even know what kind I am used to, let alone how different these are. Turns out the answer is simple, the same two words you put down on every AP Biology exam if you didn't know the answer: surface area. The quick-"cooking" ones are rolled flatter and chopped up smaller in order to cook faster.

In addition, the usual oats we eat are rolled oats. Another kind is steel cut oats(also called Irish oats), which look different from the rolled oats which are literally rolled flat:
rolled oats and steel cut oats Picture

Met up with friends to check out the Farmer's Market on Eastside this morning. I had an Egg in the Basket. (did you know the popularity of this dish rose by 27.5% after V for Vendetta?)
walk and chew Saturday breakfast
Fact: adding oatmeal makes pancakes, cookies and muffins exponentially delicious.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

my Phoenix break.

Flew in from Phoenix yesterday evening! Maybe because Lo and I went to bed late last night (midnight after watching Like Crazy) I dozed the entire day Wednesday- waiting to board the plane, throughout the 2-hour flight, shuttling to my car...
"So... what city are we in?" Picture

We tore up the valley, driving through Glendale, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa during the almost-three days I was in Arizona. Laurs played chauffeur to me, despite the fact that she is a busy-bee law student who should have been studying (thank you!!!).
In addition to walking around Old Town Scottsdale, yesterday morning we visited the Desert Botanical Garden. I learned about the different cacti species (barrel, saguaro, prickly pears) in this 140-acre botanical garden. For example, woodpeckers will dig holes in saguaros which "scabs" in on the inside, forming a home for the bird to nest in.
Spending time with Lo was surreal and heartwarming. I finally got to see her daily life I'd only heard about, and in addition to squeezing in an interview here, it was a great mini-vacation for me to visit & hang out with her, eating delicious food and exploring new places. And as per tradition, we got "finals" manicures, with bright colors to cheer us up during finals week.

It is finally December, which means- according to my whimsical friend- we only need to keep up with our 2011 resolutions for one more month. I'm looking forward to finishing up my ESCI class with a bang & my dear brother spending his precious winter break with me here in Houston. I am honored he's visiting me down here in Texas. Whoop.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

back from L.A. with new/old friends.

I had the best time in Los Angeles this week! I flew into LAX at 8PM on a Wednesday and it took almost two hours to get out of the airport, to USC about 15 miles away. This is L.A.
Hello, LA!
My high school friend who I hadn't spoken to in years agreed to let me stay at his place which was unbelievably one block away from campus. We took a mini-tour around campus as he finished up errands before he himself had to fly out for an interview the next morning. Beautiful 50's weather, we woke up at 7:30AM and went onto to our prospective grown-up events for the day.

After day's events, I walked around USC and its beautiful campus. There are a ton of bikes and skateboards, and I even heard USC's band with platinum records practicing out on the fields. The Trojan statue was wrapped in duct tape to keep it from its rival UCLA's attacks for the upcoming USC-UCLA football game. In the past, UCLA has had a helicopter drop manure on the statue. I spotted the coolest-looking people in boots, cardigans and funky messenger bags.
Prepared for the USC vs. UCLA game
While packing, I even caught some Korean television before heading across town to UCLA.
Korean television? Oh, I missed you.
Someone I met at the interview agreed to drive me to UCLA since he was heading back to San Francisco that night. The ten miles from USC to UCLA took almost 40 minutes- oh, traffic! After an utterly irresponsible waffle dinner with a friend from Rice, I retired early after an eventful day. Next morning I explored the giant UCLA campus which felt like a city with a streets running across campus, multiple parking lots, and hills/stairs all over (it is 419 acres, as big as Disneyland!)
Regency Village Theatre
Walking on Weyburn
I grabbed a latte at one of the many Coffee Bean's around tow and walked down the beautiful Weyburn St. where a small film crew was shooting a car trunk scene by the side of the road.
 Then beautiful UCLA campus with its Italian brick buildings:

The symbolic Royce Hall
ROTC at flagpole
And back to Houston Friday night. A short but fun-filled trip to the coolest city in California with new and old friends, and I learned that 50's weather is enough to have me coughing and sniffling the entire day. Loved L.A., loved the schools, hope to make my way out to California sometime real soon!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

row row row

I finally made it to rowing today after weeks of being unable to make group rows. Since I was finishing up the class much later, I was the only novice this morning. There were sixteen people, so we naturally divided up into four quads- prelude to my traumatizing moment.

We row-row-rowed downstream with me in the 2 seat. Jose sat behind me & yelled out instructions and suggestions: reach with your back, push with your legs, control your slide. So many things to remember, all while you are repeating the same motion over and over again. I wrote about how difficult it is to keep the repeating motion going, and today was equally difficult, but I learned to feel the water and enjoy it a little bit more.

He's caught the elusive ejector crab. Picture
We got to the end of the creek and the other two boats were lined up, waiting.... uh oh. One of the rowers had suggested that we race, and everyone began jokingly dirty-talking the other boats. All the boats lined up and with someone shouting "start!", our stroke began rowing at a ferocious rate, 0 to 60 in two seconds. Holy crab. I panicked, fumbled, my oar hit seat 3's then my ribs, and Jose yelled out "weigh nuff!" (=stop).

Oh-oooooh. That's how a race starts.

All the while my hands were killing me. I refused to look at them until I got in the car, and oh my oars, those dishes will not be washed today or tomorrow. After a painful shower, I called up Sporty Bro who was walking on Times Square & flooding the family chat room with his NYC photos. I uploaded a photo of my own which elicited a stronger response from Appa: "OMG".

A productive weekend minus the fact that I can no longer straighten my fingers. This reminds me of the most heartbreaking interview I heard today with Darrell Hammond of SNL (that he portrays John McCain... is the connection). Spending the evening prepping for my L.A. trip this week.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

importance of pain.

Today at work I dropped my mug and oatmeal in the hallway for no reason. They were in separate hands and I simply dropped them both while walking. The mug shattered on the hard floor and without thinking, I went to pick it up. It was not pretty- my thumb splattered blood on my oatmeal bowl and I bled through bandages all day.

I wondered if it was possible to simply get rid of pain- why do we need it anyway? It only causes "pain" and suffering, right? But wait. Congenital insensitivity to pain, or CIP, is a recessive disorder where the patient cannot feel pain, heat or cold and is caused by a defective gene coding for a Na+ channel. Often times, infants with CIP will go undiagnosed until they hurt themselves and fail to respond. In a case like Ashlyn's, she has to be checked from head to toe every day to make sure she hasn't unknowingly hurt herself. So pain has a purpose, acting to alert us when our bodies have life-threatening injuries that require attention.

A better alternative may be that we replace the sensation of pain with another, something specific yet not as "painful" like tingly ears or an itchy chin. You would be aware of the damage to your body without having to suffer the consequences.

I found it interesting that many articles mention CIP patients can feel emotional pain- I'd think emotional pain and physical pain are two separate things, but perhaps it's questionable.
no thumb wrestling for a while
As for my day, it began to look up in late afternoon with a text from M: "Picking up Chick-fil-A, want anything?" In addition, I walked into the department kitchen to find cookies and hot cocoa. Fingers crossed for no clumsiness tomorrow, the biggest Pepero day in the history of this Korean pseudo-Valentine's Day's (11.11.11) & Veteran's day!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

living with(out) regrets.

My day started off on an interesting note. Since I woke up early, I spent a leisurely morning on Google looking up "life's biggest regret's". Recently I have been nursing mixed feelings about a BIG decision I made couple of years ago, and on this particular morning I was in a state of regret. Did I make the right decision? Where would I be if I'd taken the other road? Had I been blinded by pride?

Needless to say, that lemon tart pie has left the bakery. But I also began to think about the emotion regret. There is a sense of defeat associated with feeling regret, and often people will deny feeling this forbidden emotion. But let's be honest for a minute: What do you regret in your life? What do you wish you could have done differently in your past?

A 2005 study by Roese and Summerville evaluated Americans' biggest life regrets by looking at nine articles studying regret and organizing the answers from 3,041 participants into six major categories. Biggest percentage of people expressed regrets on decisions they made on education.

Biggest life regret by far: education

  • Career: jobs, employment, earning a living (e.g., “If only I were a dentist”)
  • Community: volunteer work, political activism (e.g., “I should have volunteered more”)
  • Education: school, studying, getting good grades (e.g., “If only I had studied harder in college”)
  • Parenting: interactions with offspring (e.g., “If only I’d spent more time with my kids”)
  • Family: interactions with parents and siblings (e.g., “I wish I’d called my mom more often”)
  • Finance: decisions about money (e.g., “I wish I’d never invested in Enron”)
  • Friends: interactions with close others (e.g., “I shouldn’t have told Susan that she’d gained weight”)

I laughed out loud when I saw the examples- look at #1! The paper suggested that education may be the biggest life regret in this study for Americans because 1) education is widely available (university, professional schools, associate degrees, leisure learning classes) and 2) education opens the door to other possible desirable outcomes which may further be a source of regret ("I would've had a different job if I'd graduated").

Also fascinating was the Zeigarnik effect: "Regrettable failures to act tend to be more memorable and enduring than regrettable actions."(Gilovich and Medvec 1995) When asked "what they'd do differently", most people answer they should have done X, rather than that they should not have done Y. You can probably imagine thousand scenarios for what would have happened if you'd done something (picture a tree sprouting hundred branches) as opposed to reality where the possibility did not happen at all. knows regret

I haven't lived enough to feel regret to soak my dinner bread with tears, but should I be so worried about regretting a decision that I am terrified to make a move? Nah. But rather than declaring yourself immune to regret, I think it's important to recognize why you may be feeling regret: for me, I wonder if I'd spent enough time pondering the implications of my decision before I made it, if I gave my alternative a fair chance. So lesson learned, moving on and living in the now (especially since the past does not exist anyway).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Leaving florida!

Leaving my extended business/personal trip to Florida. It is so warm and sunny here in Fort Lauderdale,  hitting high 80's in afternoons and the warm sun shining on beautiful people.
lounging by the pool
People are so relaxed and welcoming around here. I guess it's hard to be angry and rude when you are surrounded by palm trees and sunshine all year around. I had the most delicious Peruvian dinner yesterday & lounged by the pool and walked around the canals. Oh, and just finished eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. Waiting to fly back to Houston where work+class are waiting for me. Fingers crossed that I'll have a chance to visit here again...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

gneiss laughing days.

You know one of those days when everything seems funny? In class last week, the professor repeated the phrase "genetically linked" talking about rocks that come from the same magma but have different textures. Rocks can't be genetically linked, and I understand it is a figurative phrase, but for some reason I couldn't stop giggling. At another point, he said "in this example, for example" at which I had to look down and laugh into my notes.
beautiful lake at Discovery Green

I spent my Halloween weekend at Discovery Green watching the costume contest & also checked out the graduate students' party. My friend T & I noted how funny it was that many of the costumes overlapped for both the family-friendly crowd & the academic students (Mario, Transformers, Snooki!).

Sunday morning, grabbed brunch legitimate breakfast with Apiepoo at Tiny Boxwood (it is a nursery and a restaurant in River Oaks) where we discovered that this is where all the beautiful people gather on Sunday mornings. He, of course, ran into a professor he knew. This place felt wonderfully Gatsby-esque, with wicker chairs, outdoor futons, and white sculptures on the central green lawn.
pick up a potted plant with your cappuccino?
potato/egg pizza & mushroom quiche- fabulous.
Going to spend the rest of this Sunday getting all the laughter out of my system so the people who sit next to me in class can focus. Also prepping for my trip to Miami at the end of the week. *Gneiss is pronounced just like that synonym of good.

Friday, October 28, 2011

out of control mosquitoes.

Micro-bots  got nothing on these 'quitos.
Let me tell you about the insane mosquito invasion of Houston last week. After a particularly warm few days, it suddenly became impossible to walk through grassy areas without suffering (mosquito) battle wounds. In class, it became a common sight to see students scratch themselves, even professors giving into the itch. Performing meticulous tasks became a teed bit harder as we fought the overwhelming need growing on the inside of our arm while sorting through wires, lifting heavy ramps, pipetting exact volumes of solvent.

I did some mini-research to figure out the 5 W's + How. After the much-needed rainstorm on the 9th plus the 10-14 days eggs take to hatch, the mosquito invasion of Houston began on October 20th, 2011. Stores ran out of mosquito repellants, my neighborhood brought back the spraying trucks, people reported swarm sightings on facebook and twitter.

This morning I woke up to surprisingly cold weather. The water from my faucet felt cold and when I pushed the already-cold knob, the outside air was surprisingly crisp and cool: hello, 40's weather!
I was so occupied by the freezing weather (and a dog attacking me in the intramural fields) that I failed to notice the lack of new bites on my usual walk across the grass. It was only while parting with a friend after lunch we noticed that we had been outside for an hour and had no bites to show for it.

How did I fail to notice that the mosquitoes were gone precisely because of the cold I'd been whining about? It's like the "I Hope You Dance" song: "Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens"(sorta? work with me here). So au revoir, mosquitoes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jeffrey Eugenides in Houston!!!

Coupe of weeks ago, I squealed upon discovering two facts:
1. Jeffrey Eugenides is publishing another book titled "The Marriage Plot" available October 11th.
2. He is coming to Houston to speak about it on October 26th.

I absolutely adored his last two novels The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex(for which he won the Pulitzer Prize) and deeply regretted the fact that he's not a very prolific writer. In case of The Virgin Suicides, the narrator observes the enigmatic Lisbon girls in a first person plural point of view. There is not one observer, but rather the collective neighborhood boys who witness the deterioration of the sisters from curtained windows and hallway glances. The movie (directed by Sofia Coppola!) is fantastic (with soundtrack by the French band Air) but reading the book draws in another important sense: smell.

Press play. This is what the movie feels like:

I went with another Eugenides fan S introduced by a mutual friend. We met up at Wortham and took our seats among the mostly middle-aged female crowd. Reading is a pretty solitude act (unless you are reading for a class discussion) and I thought it was interesting to see what kind of people also enjoyed reading Eugenides (sorta like meeting a chat room buddy in real life?).

Jeffrey Eugenides is not as intimidating in person as he looks in pictures. He wore the similar floral patterned shirt as in the book slip, and read an excerpt from the novel (the beginning of Madeleine's relationship with Leonard) in an unexpectedly high and optimistic voice. It was here I realized that I might have taken a wrong approach to this novel- I read it so seriously (well, this guy previously wrote about suicides of five sisters and a confused hermaphrodite who runs away), but you are supposed to laugh at Madeleine's naivety, the typical boy-meets-girl happenings, their private thoughts!

The Marriage Plot has a much more approachable subject and plot- three recent college graduates in a love triangle navigating life- than his previous novels. The novel does not span generations like Middlesex, nor does it keep the main subjects' thoughts hidden as in The Virgin Suicides. Also, contrary to The Virgin Suicides which declares on the first page that all five Lisbon sisters will die, The Marriage Plot kept me guessing until the end: how is it going to end?
With Jeffrey Eugenides, starstruck.

After the Q&A session, we headed up to the second floor to meet Eugenides. The line moved surprisingly fast, and before I was ready, Eugenides was signing my book (spelling my name!). S and I posed for a picture then left, giddy and happy, jumping down the velvet steps and pushing the heavy glass doors to head out of downtown.

Having the author read from the book he wrote felt surprisingly intimate. Since Eugenides wrote from Maddy's point of view a.k.a. as as 22-year-old girl, maybe even more so. During the Q&A he said that he writes from a person's point of view, not a male or a female (especially in Middlesex) and that those very-feminine thoughts, he gathered from observing others. But... many of those thoughts Maddy has, I've never voiced out loud. Power of observation, people.

One embarrassing fact: I learned how to pronounce "Eugenides" correctly from Serena (of all people) on Gossip Girl. I might go back and tackle Middlesex after I re-read The Marriage Plot. Here's a thought I had upon finishing this book & thinking about my own life ahead (this might be a semi-spoiler): You may not "end up" with someone you date, but that person might be what you needed at that stage in life. He may give you the support and confidence you needed to fully realize your potential and grow into the person you are supposed to be.

Not gonna lie, last episode of Nikita inspired me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good Eats, my kind of cooking show.

I watched a cooking show en route to California on the plane last week but didn't catch the title. I wandered the food show websites looking for an older male host and Dutch shots, with a heavy science emphasis.

Good Eats with Alton Brown.
Half scientist, half chef (picture)
This show fills the perfect niche for me. Alton Brown is the goofy host behind this cooking show which goes beyond the usual techniques and entertaining ideas. He explains the science between his recipes and methods, going into why a certain method is the best and why others would not be quite as effective (ex: don't wash pasta with cold water after draining it, so the hot noodle absorbs the sauce more readily). He also throws in helpful tips such as how to keep store cookie dough until ready to cook (carve out little balls with an ice cream scoop, put in the fridge for few minutes then throw into freezer for longer storage), all with every day ingredients and simple recipes anyone can follow.

So next time you want to spend some quality time osmosizing information but are not feeling the PBS or TED, watch Good Eats. You'll learn something while laughing at Alton's silliness (he's a goofy chef) & walk away with new dinner ideas.

Also, last but not least, Alton Brown's "Live and Let Diet":
Eat every day: fruits, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, carrots, green tea
Eat at at least 3/week: oily fish, yogurt, broccoli, sweet potato, avocado
Limit to 1/week: red meat, pasta, dessert, alcohol
(Try to) never: fast food, soda, processed meals, canned soups, anything "diet"
And remember a simple rule: EAT BREAKFAST!

Not sure if this is doable on my end (dessert to once a week?), but I like this method of thinking about nutrition balance in terms of weekly consumption.

Okay, running off for skype chat with my summer family.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

sally rides festival.

After a business meeting this morning & quick grocery shopping with Suite-y N, I ran back to campus for the Sally Ride Science Festival. Sally Ride Science, founded by the eponymous first American female astronaut, hosts festivals around the country for 5th-8th grade girls interested in science. The Earth Science department hosted many different Discovery Workshops today, and I signed up for paleontology. After a short powerpoint presentation, we had the girls dig up fossils then make plaster molds of whatever they wanted: twig, leaves, shells, or squirrel droppings anyone?

set up in the academic quad
these sandboxes may look innocent...
I was pleasantly surprised by how enthusiastic and knowledgeable these girls were. One raised her hand five times to share random facts about different dinosaurs that I couldn't even pronounce the names of. To be honest, I was a little nervous I wouldn't be able to answer some of the questions since paleontology isn't really my field of expertise, but I knew more than I thought I did! (What was the oldest fossil of? Bacteria. How do they know how old a fossil is? Carbon-dating, strata)
Everyone was so peppy and interested in the subject. When I asked them what their favorite subjects were, most of them yelled out: "science!" and proceeded to share the latest interesting fact they'd learned from class ("C is carbon! Cl is chlorine!"). One even told me she knew how to balance chemical equations- whoa, we had exams on that in college honors chem!

I am pretty sure I consumed more plaster powder than I'm supposed to. Plaster powder has the weirdest consistency- it feels liquidy even when it is dry, and it is hard to grab any handful. Also, the girls were fascinated by the fact that their paper cups began to warm up as the plaster hardened. They came up to me holding up the cups yelling: "My cup is really hot!" "Why is this getting warm?" Oh, the wonders of thermodynamics.

I hope their fossil molds turned out great & that the girls maintain and cultivate their love for science. Standing on the other side of the podium for once, I realize that really, no question is a stupid question. I'm sitting on my bed with notes and lab reports sprawled out around me- sleeping early on a Saturday night for rowing tomorrow morning.

Friday, October 21, 2011

nobel prize.

My physicist friend S(who actually worked on an optical imaging project this summer- like me!) sent me this snapshot of Saul Perlmutter, this year's Nobel Prize in Physics winner, at University of Bonn.
within life-affecting distance
Dr. Perlmutter received one half of the prize, the other half of which is shared between Brian Schmidt and Riess- the Nobel Prize cannot be shared by more than three people- for discovering that the universe is expanding at an increasing speed. There are six categories Nobel laureates can be awarded in: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, economics, and peace.

sad but true
Here's another picture dearest S sent me soon after. Oh, seriously. But really, how many specific people do you know from each category?