Monday, April 30, 2012

Houston Museum of Natural Sciences outing

I dropped by Houston Museum of Natural Sciences this weekend. But perhaps more importantly, Saturday morning I went out of the loop! I live inside the loop and rarely venture out. I was out for the first time since... spring break when I drove people to the airport. That's about two months living inside the loop. Whoa.

Since I'm on my No Spend Month, I parked on campus and walked over to the museum. I didn't mind too much because the scenery en route was beautiful.

Sam Houston statue
The Reflecting Pool
I wandered around the museum. I liked the Wildlife Exhibits because there is no other way we would actually observe these scenes in real life. The animals would run away three miles before we got there. Many of the animals were donated from zoo's... which made me picture zoo's as stuffed animal factories. Look at this Circle of Life in action.

I made my way to the Gems and Minerals, where I actually recognized and appreciated the minerals and gemstones displayed (thanks Petrology!). I went inside the Gem Vault (probably the most popular exhibit here- so many ladies ooh, aah-ing). The jewelry pieces were beautiful, but I thought it was fascinating that these gemstones- rocks, really- have no intrinsic value. Humans have arbitrarily assigned them to have value, mean something, cost $$$$.

My favorite exhibit was the Energy Hall especially the Geovator. We went down 7,000 underground into an oil well with a guide! I learned what fracking is (Hello, I was down there when they used it- boom!) and learned a bunch of interesting information I never thought about (How do we find oil? What does it look like when we drill into it? How do we get oil out?).

I feel I have come in a full circle. About a year ago, Lo and I went on a field trip here. I had decided to take a gap year but had no definite plans. By the time I came back from the field trip, I had a job.

Look at this shirt- I want. This reminded me of the "dinosaurs find life's meaning" cartoon I wrote about a while back.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Higgs Boson demystified

If you do ONE THING today, make it this (from my dental blog: write this down on your checklist):

watch this video on the Higgs Boson particle from PhD comics.

I am amazed at the drawings (the movie moves like Prezi).
How exciting is the possibility that we might find this "God particle" in our lifetime? There's motivation to eat healthy and keep exercising for you.

Today's the first day of my No Spend Month and I'm going out to a Mediterranean buffet in 20 minutes...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chemical senses for the hedonist

NPR has an article about the cuban sandwich contest between Miami and Tampa. What! Tampa, of course. I miss those Cuban sandwiches! Last year when my mom flew up for graduation, she brought me Cuban bread loaves (baked with palmetto leaf) from La Segunda! Besides the beautifully lit Ybor City at night, grabbing Cuban sandwiches at the Columbia Cafe at the Tampa Bay History Center by the beach? I'm nostalgic (and hungry) this afternoon.

Also from NPR "Are Your Friends Bombarding You with Food Porn?" N-cakes once asked me, "isn't your blog a food blog?" because I talk about food ALL THE TIME here. Naturally because I think about it so much.
I want to try this. But I'm afraid I'll drop dead after first bite.

But what is it about taste and smell that makes people so happy? People don't abandon their new year's resolutions to "SEE" or "HEAR" something beautiful. These two senses in particular can make people irresponsible and lose all willpower. Is it because taste is so intimately linked to our survival? Other senses are not directly important in sustaining us (they take in a stream of information but for taste-and indirectly smell- every sensation is important).

Case in point: yesterday I had half-and-half in my coffee for possibly the first time and it was unbelievably smooth and delicious! Where have you been all my life? (Milk probably ups the pH too- happy teeth.) I was so happy sipping this cup of coffee on my mini-break. I could "sense" the endorphins and seratonins shaking hands with their receptors.

I'm adding dairy creamer to my groceries list! I'm doing a No Spend Month challenge for May so this is a mega-luxury but I view it as buying "happiness".

People reward themselves with ice cream or chocolate. But why not other senses? We can start small with smell. If I finish grading exams today, I'll grant myself one sniff of the acacia by the playgrounds. Somehow I'm not as excited.

(What is all this raspberry ketone business?)

I've had four cupcakes today and it's not even end of the day yet.... Holy shimozzlies.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"25 before 25"

I'm totally re-inventing myself in dental school. For one, I won't care about school. I mean, I won't only care about school. I will also love and enjoy school. I mean....

This weekend was just lovely. Take a look at this scene outside of our department:

After thundering and pouring all afternoon on Friday, this weekend's unexpected beautiful weather coaxed me to work outside.

I sat outside and thought about 25 things I hope to accomplish before I turn 25. It's at D is for Dentist: "Yesle's 25 before 25."

And I want to have an identity outside of school: "Don't let school define you."

(Can you tell this two-blogging is getting complicated for me?)

I wore my Chick-Fil-A shirt to the gym today and wondered if this was totally inappropriate! Oh wells. Happy Earth Day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

why being the first 100 at chick-fil-a will wreck you

I spent 27 hours with 109 strangers camping outside in a concrete parking lot yesterday. All for the promise of free Chick-Fil-A for a year. (52 meals for one meal a week anyway).

I learned how to pitch a tent for this occasion (It's surprisingly easy). I felt a little rugged and outdoorsy until I remembered why I needed to be outdoors.

It is sort of like being on a cruise. Since there were more than a 100 people, there was a raffle to determine the lucky 100 with 10 more alternates. I made friends with a former longhorn who works at a downtown hospital.

The crowd was predominantly middle-aged and female. There were a few other college students. Some of the raffle winners were wheel-chair bound so they had "guests" who stayed to move them around. You have to be at least 18 but there were a handful of kids that stuck around with their parents who had won the raffle. A lot of them, I found out later, are home-schooled. Some moms had brought their infant babies! Fortunately the weather stayed cool so no medical emergencies there.

The same people host the Chick-Fil-A openings nationwide. Many of the people were repeat customers who knew the CFA staff like old friends. A surprising bunch had driven hours and hours for this. One elderly woman told me she drove eight hours from Louisiana and was planning on coming in again next week to Katy.

Let's think about this. At 52 meals valued at $250, I was just at the tipping point of making economic sense, missing an entire day of work and babysitting. But to do this repeatedly? I wanted to ask others how they were spending an entire day sitting out here. I was in the parking lot from 5:30AM Wednesday to 6:15AM Thursday.

After lunch, there was a mini-jam session behind the building in the shade! I took my papers, poured myself a cup of iced sweet tea and studied listening to live music.

I met people I would normally never talk to. Being in the same boat naturally confers a feeling of solidarity. Huddled by the one outlet charging phones, talking about homeschooling, discussing "old" antibiotics (She gushed, "I remember when methicillin came out!"). I danced two-step with new friends, found another Kurt Vonnegut aficionado, checked off an item on my bucket list, and oh, got 52 free CFA meals.

#12 and #13 after an entire day in this CFA parking lot
But about the title (besides having your last exam two hours after you pull out from the CFA parking lot...), from the Chick-fil-A meal calculator I added up what I ate:

I had made some actively healthy choices, such as not constantly pouring myself sweet tea, ordering a chargrilled chicken sandwich for dinner, not winning a milkshake for a contest. But this day was out of control food-wise. My fitness calculator told me I'd gain an extra five pounds in five weeks if I kept this up. YIKES. Many people brought in chips and cookies in addition to the CFA food we were fed, so...

Some final thoughts:
I wondered why homeless/jobless people weren't here. For them this would be a great opportunity right? One speculated they probably didn't know because she heard about it on the Internet- how did I figure this out? (Facebook through a friend). People who could benefit the most from these openings simply don't know about them...

Did you see me on the news?? Houston Press and Click2Houston

Monday, April 16, 2012

the crawfish party.

There once was a boy who was turning seven. His parents asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He answered that he wanted to have a crawfish boil. His parents found this curious since the boy never liked crawfish (he found it too spicy) but promised him one anyway. The day before the dad went out to pick up the ten pounds of crawfish for the boy and his six friends, he asked the boy: "Why did you want to have crawfish instead of pizza or ice cream?" The boy answered: "I want to play with the crawfish." He was referring to the cleaning process where crawfish would sit in a salty tub for a few minutes. His parents laughed and headed over to the grocery store. They asked if they could buy one crawfish. One lucky (or unlucky) crawfish was brought home for the birthday boy. He put the crawfish in a glass bowl filled with water. He felt its smooth shell and looked at his claws. The birthday crowd ate pizzas at the party.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Homemade tortillas!!!

I woke up early on a Saturday morning and I decided to make flour tortillas from scratch.

This recipe is so simple: Easy homemade flour tortillas from with four ingredients everyone has in their kitchen.

Knead, form into 1 or 2-inch doughs, flatten and cook on hot griddle (or a frying pan!). I didn't have a roller so I flattened the dough by hand. You could probably get two dozen tortillas from this recipe if you made them really flat.
Off to work on today's errands! One week of school left.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Drinking out of a fire hydrant: Global Warming & Civic Scientists

I attended our weekly departmental lecture Thursday by Dr. John Anderson on global warming. He has been in the news lately about his censored article on Galveston. Heading down, I asked my friend, "Is this going to be really technical?" Because I get lecture abstracts from the listserve emails and don't know half the words in them. It turned out not to be. The lecture is part of Rice's UnConvention weekend and many in the audience were community members.

Some thoughts from the lecture:
- Can scientists be too "alarmist"? Dr. Anderson noted that now they are "vulgar" and throwing out phrases like "sea level rise", when decades ago they trotted carefully around the issue. Not to offend anyone.
- Free floating icebergs melting do not contribute to sea level rise!
- Most of sea level rise comes from thermal expansion of water!!!
- Glaciers don't grow back. Glaciers melting is inevitable. (I mean, obviously so but I never stopped to think about it.)
- How do we implement long-term changes that outlive politicians' election cycles???

After an hour of work catch-up, I made it to the Civic Scientist Lecture Series at the Baker Institute. I went to one by the discoverers of Buckyball a few years a back and loved it, so I RSVP'd for this one and invited a friend. The speakers were Dr. David Baltimore, 1975 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, and Dr. Alice Huang, a Senior Faculty Associate in biology at Caltech.

It's hard to summarize their accomplishments into one line. But their achievements could go for hours.

Interesting points from this Civic Scientist talk:
- Average age of NIH grant recipients is 42. Much of great science accomplishments happen much younger.
- Why do we train foreigners? (I had never thought about this question...) Because in doing so, we are creating competition. But sometimes they stay in the U.S. and further American progress. (????)
- Wealthy individuals privately funding research is an American phenomenon. Howard Hughes of HHMI dropped out of Rice!!!!
- New Asia might be a good incubator for new scientists because traditionally people hold respect for intellectual pursuits. (Traditional Korean aristocrats called yang-ban's spent their days writing and reading!)
- "Is winning the Nobel Prize awesome?" Dr. Baltimore answered yes, because it is recognized by everyone. "But", he noted, "individuals being singled out for achievements is difficult."
- Scientists should become actively involved in policy making.

I had so many ideas during these lectures (thus the post title). Still organizing my notes from the talks. I love lectures that become a two-way conversation of sorts, where the ideas presented spark new ideas of my own. Much more excited about my career: scientists are not just scientists. We have a responsibility to spread our knowledge and influence policies.

Baker Institute had a fantabulous reception afterwards too. Munched on mini cheesecakes and chocolate-dipped strawberries while chatting with others who'd attended the conference. It's really interesting to hear what different people take away from the same lecture.

Lifting weights while watching kiddie cartoons

(Don't google "bodybuilders". Yikes.)
Which of the following does not belong in this group?

On the weights floor at the gym today, they had Arthur on television. A bunch of muscular men were lifting weights and watching this children's cartoon starring an aardvark!!! Tell me this is not insanely funny.

Here is another instant laughter-inducer. I laughed out loud at the Baker Institute talk yesterday remembering this:
But this is actually photoshopped... They probably made sure to tell the oldest two boys to be very very very careful.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Microbio facts and laughs.

Couple of fun facts I learned in class today:

In the E.coli outbreak last year in Germany, more women were severely affected than men. 70% of hemolytic-uremic syndrome patients were women. Presumably because women eat more salads.

- Oseltamivir, or Tamiflu as it is marketed (take when you catch the flu to keep symptoms from being full-blown), requires as its precursor shikimic acid isolated from Chinese star anise. Chinese star anise is produced only in four providences in China and grows March to May. These limitations of Chinese star anise is what ultimately causes worldwide shortage of Tamiflu!

- One of the most effective treatments of Clostridium difficile infection is fecal bacteriotherapy. This procedure is more commonly called a "stool transplant". This transplant can restore the patients' guts with healthy bacteria flora.

1. Don't eat too much salad. Eat some grilled steak, well done.
(I finally made it out to Jerry Built Homegrown Burgers with B who was in town a few weeks ago. The burgers were del-icious. The bun was soft, chewy and just perfect. And the fries- sweet and savory. It was really crowded when we went on a Thursday night, but Saturdays seem somehow less busy.)

2. Stop personal stockpiling Tamiflu.
3. Don't resist treatments because they sound gross. They can save you.

Yesterday while running I stopped by an acacia tree and took a deep breath: so overwhelmingly sweet I almost choked. There is a tree right outside my door too and it makes me so happy to begin each day smelling these beautiful white flowers.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Finally: Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel

I finally made it out to Rothko Chapel. A friend from work who is new to Houston enthusiastically agreed to check this out with me, so off we went. The weather was gorgeous outside and there were people sprawled out on the green lots around the museum buildings.

First: Rothko Chapel.
The building sort of looks like a bomb shelter from the outside. It is tiny for a museum. And of course, there is The Broken Obelisk in a rectangular reflecting pool outside the building. Heading into dark the chapel, I pushed the glass doors, turned around, and saw this:
The black cushions are seats for people to sit closer to the art and think. There were books for spiritual reading on the benches outside the exhibit space.

We walked over to the Menil Collection couple of steps away. I didn't know this was an entire museum.  They had galleries of ancient artifacts: pieces with wood or human hair stayed preserved for hundreds of years!

This was my favorite piece: 6-30 by David Novros. While looking for pictures, I came upon this article: the piece that I saw is actually a replica of the decaying original.

The special exhibit of Richard Serra Drawings was interesting. Many of his drawings used paintstick, which I learned is thick and sticky almost like crayons. Some of his paintings that looked similar had wildly different titles.

A note about abstract art: it gives you nothing to think about. What I think when I am looking at these pieces: This is too much. Or maybe this isn't anything. Am I not feeling enough? Am I just not getting something? Wait, did so-and-so text me back? And my thoughts wander off to whatever has been lurking in my mind. Maybe this nothing isn't the absence of something, but the presence of this thing called nothing.

But I do love surrealism. ("Is that gin bottle part of the exhibit? What about that chair?") Like when we used to drive on I-275 over the ocean to the Dali Museum in St. Pete. The seven mile stretch over the ocean with turquoise water on both sides was part of the experience too.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter weekend: immortality in some form

This quote from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:
Francie came away from her first chemistry lecture in a glow. In one hour she found out that everything was made up of atoms which were in continual motion. She grasped the idea that nothing was ever lost or destroyed. Even if something was burned up or rot away, it did not disappear from the face of the earth; it changed into something else- gases, liquids, and powders. Everything, decided Francie after that first lecture, was vibrant with life and there was no death in chemistry. She was puzzled as to why learned people didn't adopt chemistry as a religion.
I recently got into watching the miniseries Dating Rules from My Future Self. The main character's future develops an app that sends texts to herself. At a team brainstorm meeting, Kelcy initially thought about developing an app that "creates" you (or who you wish to be) 10 years from now, who would answer your dilemma questions.

With Facebook, Twitter, and Google already gathering so much personal information on individuals, I think it would be very easy to create an immortal persona of anyone. People dying is sad partly because every knowledge they have becomes buried forever. But if a model was created of a person: ("When someone posts this status, you would respond with this sorta thing." "When this kind of picture is posted of your sister, you would comment this.") you could essentially interact with others and live forever.

This reminds me of P.S. I Love You or Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close, cases where someone who has already passed on continues to have a huge impact on someone's life.

Also, something about facebook: when someone passes away but hasn't deleted their facebook yet, their walls filling up with memorial posts? I think it's a little weird...

Heathen matters: this weekend has been delicious so far: our department threw a crawfish boil and I made a batch of delicious yellow cake fudge for N-cakes whose MCAT is next Friday.

Everyone is away for the long weekend - maybe if Rice was a Catholic institution?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Be like Charlie: observations.

I live in a nice neighborhood thanks to my second job and while running around the neighborhood yesterday I had to smile at three boxes of pizza piled outside an almost-immorally-big house. Because 1) they live in this beautiful house but ordered $5 boxes of chain-store pizza? 2) Three boxes. That means enough people live in this house to maybe justify its size.

I got an email from Joe Biden titled "Saturday night". As soon as I clicked and waited for Rice's slow webmail to load, I regretted it- it had to be spam! (It wasn't). I also got an email from Barack and Michelle Obama! Campaign season.

You know the farmers market spinach I was so excited about? I dug out a small orange frog out of my dinner last night. I poked at it because I thought it was a bean or something! It was smaller than the nail on my pinky. Sorry little frog.

I miss Village Inn. Of all the delicious meals and beautiful restaurants I've been to, this is what I was craving yesterday. Because they have the most wonderful pies in the world and the most attentive waitresses. I hope I can find somewhere as comfortable as this diner next year.

Also speaking of my second job, what is up with all these "elite nanny" craze? NY Times and NPR picked up feature stories about expensive nannies who are paid six digits a year. It sounds like a lot, but same logic for any other job: you are being paid for your time... so if you need to be constantly on call and not have any freedom of your own, then your hourly wage is probably low.

And this comment made me LOL, because I do the same thing and keep re-considering changing the station every time NPR talks about something crazy:

Ellen Whitton (EllenKW) wrote: My alarm clock is set to the station that plays Morning Edition. I guess I was sleeping pretty soundly this morning because I thought I'd had this really weird dream, and woke up shaken. Now I see that I actually heard this. Maybe I should set my clock to a music station.

I got an unwanted suntan from Beer Bike this weekend! Two hours in Houston sun means I need to make the switch in foundation to summer shades if I wore foundation. Also very dehydrated from junk food and free sauna, slept all day all weekend and tried very hard to focus at today afternoon's meeting.