Friday, November 28, 2008


This year, I was able to spend Thanksgiving at my friend Nancy's home - it was delicious and welcoming - there was tons of food, and lots of fun to be had from a long walk around Porter and Davis Squares as well as naps, Apples to Apples, and meeting new people.

Nancy, the premiere chef of the night!

We had artichoke dip and chips, broccoli ramen salad, black olives, sweet potatoes, stuffing, wild rice, turkey, rolls, mashed potaotes and gravy, cranberry sauce, mulled wine, much food! And that doesn't even count dessert - pumpkin, cherry/cranberry, pecan pies, pumpkin bread, fresh whipped cream, chocolate truffles, chocolate chip cookies. It was lovely!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Finishing the apartment

I was finally able to make it out to Ikea...and I have gone from a living room is full of $400.00 worth of stuff:

to a quasi-FINISHED apartment:

And - I have dishes! Full place settings for eight, in fact --- dinner parties, here I come!

I also hacked a pantry out of two filing cabinets that the Bioengineering department was getting rid of: while heavy, they are certainly useful in keeping food and files contained.

I'm still waiting for the "desk" top - it's super heavy and I haven't been able to find anyone to carry it back to Ashdown with me.

AND my room is finally a bit more complete (minus the shoe rack which is still at home).

Life is good!

As I journey back and forth from Minnesota, I imagine that my apartment will become more finished, and my space and home will become more packed away (and yes, mom -- much more organized and out of your way...believe me, it bothers me more than it bothers you!)

I have also applied to become a Graduate Residence Tutor this upcoming January. A GRT is kind of like an RA, but older, wiser, and that cool connection between peer and mentor. We have to keep our doors open for residents to come and chat for ten hours a week, and hold a study break every two weeks. However, we never have to be "on call" per se, yet if we see something going down, obviously we need to step in and take the proper steps (eg, call the police, notify the housemaster, etc...). For this, I have free housing in an apartment within the residence, which means I'd be able to save a substantial amount of money in the next few years.

Even without the money, I really do miss mentoring younger students, and as someone who did a complete 180 in music to biology, I feel I have a lot to offer in terms of advice and encouragement about life decisions. Precisely because I have no idea what I'm going to do after I graduate, letting students in college know (especially one as stressful as MIT) that it's okay not to any clue about future life plans is really important to me. Also, I miss the sense of community from IWU: although dorm life had its downs (ugh. BIG downs) it is so different to come into Ashdown and know absolutely no one except my roommate and people from BE (plus one or two others that have done the unthinkable and GASP -- made eye contact and said hello). I'd like to know people where I live. I miss that.

Boston Philharmonic: November 22, 2008

Last night, I went to see the Boston Philharmonic at Jordan Hall on the campus of the New England Conservatory. Two of the other MIT Symphony horn players met in the freezing cold outside of Lobby 7 and took the one bus down Mass Ave to reach our destination. We were able to buy $8 student rush the second row. And let me tell you - seeing a concert with soloists and being in the second row is a real treat. You can watch their facial expressions, their fingers, and hear their musicality. It is really great.

The Boston Philharmonic is a semi-professional orchestra made up of professionals, students, and "highly-skilled amateurs." What I wouldn't give to play up on that'd be so much fun! They must have some pieces that could use a low horn player, right?

The program included:

Bach's Concerto in C Minor for Oboe and Violin
-beautifully done. I love the sound of harpsichord with orchestra.

Berg's Violin Concerto
-I know it may be odd, but I would much prefer playing the Berg than listening to it. Music that is different like this deserves many listenings.

Beethoven's Eroica (Symphony 3)
-wow. We're playing this on December 5th, and it's quite the workout for horns. They did quite well, although the conductor restarted the orchestra for the third movement...kind of a bummer.

The violin soloist who played Berg's violin concerto was quite the interesting fellow. He was Algerian and raised in France, yet the only languages I heard him speak onstage were English and Italian. He did a quick encore, which went from Bach to gypsy fiddle to Mozart to country to bluegrass to rock that would almost feel at home on an electric violin.

Jared, Elise, and I in front of the stage: what a great concert!

We also ate at Uno's Pizzeria, just steps from Jordan Hall, making Jared a very happy fellow. I had a really good Mediterrean thin crust pizza, but it definitely failed on the kalamata olives. If restaurants want to use kalamata olives, great. They are delicious. But don't put them in a big glob in the center of my pizza. They are meant to be used sparingly. Cut them up into pencil-eraser-sized chunks, and spread them all over. Please.

Monday, November 17, 2008

For archival purposes...

I have added my notes about my REU program to this blog - they predate the original start by quite some time, but as this is intended to in many ways be a source for students looking into the research sciences, I thought it would be good to have them here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Homeland

Although to many, Ikea is a place for a great value on home-decorating pieces, for me it is also a slice of a second home. My father is a full-blood Swede, and his uncle stayed behind in Sweden while his father and two remaining uncles came to America. During the summer between seventh and eighth grade, my mother, Eric, and I visited Sweden, spending half of the time in Stockholm with a friend of my mother's teaching there for a year, and the other half was spent in Gotland, where my father's family is from.

My cousins Birgit and Åke (beer-ghit, oaky) live in Stenkyrka (sten-shurka), Gotland, not too far from the town of Vall. When my grandfather and great-uncles came to America, the immigration officials told them that there were too many of "them" - meaning the Johansson was too common of a name. Thus, they were forced to take the name of the city where they were from in Gotland: Vall. But the immigration official spelled it wrong, giving us the surname "Wall."

Visiting them was nothing short of lovely, and Ikea's selection of Swedish foods reminds me of the time I spent with my relatives on the island.

Lingonberries: slightly less tart than their close relative (cranberries), these berries are extremely prevalent in Scandanavian cuisine due to the climate and ease of preparation (as well as their high vitamin C content). I was able to buy both lingonsylt (jam) and saft (see's the GIGANTIC gallon of concentrate. I am so excited!). Lingonberry also makes a really good mixer for drinks, going very well with vodka and champagne)

Anna's Pepperkokkar (Anna's Gingerbread): Swedes enjoy a coffee and chatting break around 10 each morning, and gingerbread cookies are often the sweet of choice (and for those of you that just really need something sweet as a snack, they are small and fairly low in calories).

Elderberry saft: saft is a fruit concentrate that you dilute with water before drinking (kind of like a classy European koolaid with much better flavors and no fake sugar).

Bilar: chewy candy cars: deliciously odd tasting candies.

Unfortunately, they don't have such delicacies as almond buns, real fresh sill (fish), or beet salad that dyes your tongue bright red...I'll just have to go back some day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I had my first Zipcar experience this past week to go pick up groceries, the chore that is, in a practical sense, quite a pain. Trying to bring over two bags of anything up to my apartment takes soooo long. (I know, poor me, right?). I have to sign out the moving dolly, bring it outside trying not to break any of the glass in the doors, load all of my groceries onto the dolly, fumble my way back into the lobby through double locked doors, beg the woman at the front desk to watch over my things as I return the car, then walk back to my apartment, wheel the dolly upstairs, bring all my groceries inside, put away the perishables, and finally return the dolly. Whew. It was a much easier process at home when I could just carry in two at a time and leave the car unlocked...oh well.

In other news, I found out today that as a graduate student, the money I make puts me in the top 2% of the world in terms of monetary wealth. That brings me to two concepts: I need to be more thankful for where I am and what I do and the opportunities I have. Two, even if I am at the top 2% monetarily, how does this correspond to happiness? Or well-being? Global markets put an economic slant to everything, but sometimes that isn't the most robust rubric to judge a person, group, or country. How do we rectify this? Is there a way? Should we even try?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ponderings of the Future

“Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so our children can fly.”

- text message sent to Ed Welch, Manufacturing Training Alliance instructor (non-profit which teaches technical skills for manufacturing jobs) regarding voting

I look into the future, and I get teary hoping this will happen. Maybe it's just my idealistic soul, but I do see hope. And I do see possibilities. I dream of that world, and the fact that my children might grow up in a time when public service is valued...where education is deemed one of the most essential human rights...where conscious consumption drives the market...where everyone has enough food to eat...where everyone has health care...where the world is at peace.

Obama: you have a hard road ahead. But I'm there with you. Let me know what I can do to help.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Voted!

This year, I officially put down roots and declared myself a resident of Massachusetts. I voted for president and for a myriad of public officials, all democrats running with no opposition.

I must say, it's kind of funny with all of the two past years of election hoopla that the piece of paper that makes it all happen is plain, unadorned, and you have to actually look where you're filling in the's not like there's a big red elephant next to McCain/Palin, or a blue ray of hope next to Obama/Biden. It's just black and white text. Pretty powerful, when you think about it.

In addition, I voted on three propositions:

-eliminate personal taxes (aka a whopping tax cut) - no. Education, energy reform, and America's infrastructure need this money.

-transition marijuana possession under 1 ounce to a fine-based offense (about $200) - yes. This reform also includes much harsher penalties without jail time for juvenile offenders: they have to both pay the fine and do community service (with their parent's knowledge - parents are informed of all offenses). At the end of the day, I believe that police should be focusing on larger crimes, not marijuana. The jury is out for me on whether marijuana should be legal or not (yes, it is bad for you), but regardless...police officers, your help is needed elsewhere.

-make greyhound racing illegal - yes. This is a practice that just needs to stop. It is inhumane. Plain and simple.

So yes - my final thought of the day is GO VOTE! You have the right. Use it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

In Memoriam

Pa -

I thought that five years would give me better words to describe what you meant to me. But the truth is, it is all summed up by how much I miss you and love you.