Sunday, January 31, 2010

what's next for the apartment?

One of my labmates came over for dinner this week (leek and potato soup with a rather wonderful arugula salad with prosciutto and homemade bread) and he ooh-ed and ahh-ed over my mixer...then asked, "So what's next? I mean, you've been talking about the mixer for quite awhile...what are you going to do with your apartment next?"

The short answer is nothing immediately...but this summer, when I can be outside and paint some things, putz around and fix other things, there will be a bit more activity. I am still in need of a bike, and the worm bin will be coming from Minnesota sometime soon (!!! so excited!). Other kitchen purchases in the future include tart pans, a few more pie tins, some more glass frigoverre jars for my collection, a strainer, and cheesecloth.

But the main focus is really to bring in some art and color. Plants aren't doing so well in my space, and it looks like the radiator in the living room is the only that can sustain life (succulents at that). And my bookcase is both crowded and too needs both purging and thoughtful rearrangement. There is a place on the bottom right that is still waiting for my typewriter from home--it was my grandmother's Royal typewriter that I finally got fixed in a grand adventure with this one in Richfield.

But yes--I've been debating and debating and debating what in the world to do with art in my place. I've pretty much decided that the space above my couch area will have all thrift store frames spray painted black and a combination of old photos, art from Etsy, and other finds (yes indeed handkerchief from my great-grandfather brought back from France after World War I...I will frame and display you!)

And I'm thinking that I finally know what I'm going to do with the wall opposite my bed. Even with my two closets and the hard-to-reach storage areas above the built-in closet, I needed a bit more clothes storage (what can I say... my grandmother is to blame for that particular bit of my genetics). So - what I'd like is to have a darker-ish wood dresser opposite the current part of the dresser that is a built-in...not matching, but not the light birch that's in my kitchen.

Let's just say the things in my apartment don't really match...the cream on the walls doesn't match the cream on the switchplates, I have cream tiles that don't match the wall in the bathroom that are right next to a white bathtub and sink and a cream's ridiculous. Not to be nuts, but it's silly. It makes me want to take apart my entire apartment sometimes.

Anywho---the point is that it makes it hard to say "Oh this color will go perfectly with the bedspread!" ...because then it will look terrible with the floor and wall. So---in the bedroom I have a cream wall, a creamy duvet, a dark brown wood, and purple speckly industrial carpet.

Think of the colors that go with No. Yellow hell no. Green...maybe. It'd have to be darker...but I don't want that since there is so little light in my apartment anyhow. Blue....meh...kind of? Purple? It'd have to be downright on the money, which isn't really what I want either. So, my solution ended up being not trying to have things match and just going with it (see: my copious and colorful shoe collection on display). It works, I think, because I'm not trying too hard. I have a feeling designers would have something to say on the matter, but they don't have to live in my 400 square feet. So...I kind of like the idea of going multicolored and light, which led me to this pretty specimen for over my bed:

The colors aren't quite right, I don't think, so I let this one go on ebay. But I've got my eye out for something like this (thanks ebay alerts!).

And my mom found these gorgeous prints of poppies (I love poppies) ---but I'm just afraid they're too clash-y with the carpet.

Speaking of shoes, I think I'm going to pay one of my labmates in cookies to help me build a shoe rack, as mine is overflowing and I want something that is not made of plastic. Something a la this, but shorter and running about the width of the bed:

And classier. This particular labmate makes all sorts of cool things, so I'm sure I can end up with something I'm really happy with...something Danish-inspired and pretty so it flows well with the dresser next to it. But what to put above that, you ask? Well, I'm thinking a tension rod for my scarves would look good above the shoe rack, and then perhaps a mirror on top of the dresser to open up the room even more.

I also have some doilies from my grandmother that I'd like to frame, though these may end up in the space between my bookcase/desk and the cooking rack.

With one of these clocks:

Or this one: (I can't decide!)

I'd also like to splurge for this beautiful diptych of Boston:

There are lots of other possibilities, but I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt that comes with thrift store shopping and never knowing what you'll find. But sooner or later, I'd like for my apartment not to be all....blank. So yes---any thoughts? Brilliant ideas? Let me know!

Friday, January 29, 2010


Okay---so I hate to be depressing, but I have to just say how soul-crushing the whole idea that "the only way to fix the abortion problem is to kill people who provide abortions."

Scott Roeder was convicted today of first degree murder for the killing of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country who performs late term abortions. (see here for the New York Times article).

And now we've reached a moral issue of how one man can be put to death for killing a fellow human being, and how another continues to practice medicine for effectively eliminating fetuses. Part of me reaaaaalllllly doesn't want to touch this issue at all. I know that the comments I have on this particular issue are religious, political, moral, and this post would A, last forever, and B, is more than most of you would ever care to know.

But maybe that's the is that people pick one subset of a HUGE issue and pick that to be the only reason they have chosen that particular's like being the captain in kickball and choosing one kid in over thirty students, only because he's wearing blue shoes, and like blue shoes. Which---sure, you made a choice. That's fine. But I'd rather you looked at the entire spectrum and choose as a well-informed kickball captain. And if you choose the kid with the blue shoes, more power to you. But you chose because you had done your research. And much of today's decision-making, for all of our blue book research on cars, Consumer Reports research on the latest gadgets...we don't do so well at really looking at the facts, then looking at other people's opinions, and then finally making a well-informed decision.

So one of these days, when I'm good and happy and it's sunny out and there is ice cream in the freezer and cookie dough in the fridge, I'm going to hammer out said post. One day. The idealist in me wants to make sure that all sides of the issue are heard, with copious bibliographic notes. After that, your decisions are your own. But ignorance, man. It hurts me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


A friend posted this beautiful picture today:

And my immediate reaction was "RONIA!"

Gosh I love this film. It's crazy. Ronja Rovardötter is a film based on a story by Astrid Lindgren, and tells the story of a very feisty robber's daughter way back in a medieval Sweden. But it was made in the 80s, so it's got that touch to it as well.

Every year, the film is shown in Minneapolis (it used to show at the Bell Museum, but now it is shown at the theater near the Arby's place on University Avenue on the East Bank) - and it's missing about a ten minute, un-recoverable section of film. There are apparently only two or three copies with the English subtitles, and I grew up on the spring yell, the grey dwarves, Ronia acting all independent and queen of the world, the nekkid Swedish men bathing in the snow (oh goodness such a horrified eight year old I was). If you ever get a chance, go for it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

so proud

You know how you feel when you read something that reminds you just how great someone is and just how much work they've put into their day job?

Read this. The work they are doing at Farnsworth is incredible, and it's an argument for how public school education should work: provide a skeleton that is fascinating for kids, build a school with great teachers, invest time and money in infrastructure and the community, and encourage industry and governmental partnerships to fund the "cool" things as well as provide mentors and effectively sponsor the school.

Now all I have to do is find myself a superb administrative czar who can do all sorts of grant writing while I am Ms. Frizzle and Bill Nye with students all day. That---that would be wonderful.

[In other news...I had lunch with a prospective student today at Legal Seafood...and I gotta tell you, I think I'd be a much happier person if I could have a crabcake and key lime pie every day for lunch. so. good.]

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday in the City

A new mixer (can you hear me squeal from Boston? Sure about that? It's me. Promise), a trip on the T to see some friends, and definitely not getting enough "real" work done. Sounds like the perfect weekend to me...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

a clarification.

When I spoke here yesterday about the election result, I think I have been slightly misunderstood. It is an interesting situation here in Massachusetts; there's a Democratic president, a democratic super-majority, and it's a very blue and education East Coast state. Yet--a republican won. The reasons why can be debated (and probably are being so on cable TV ad nauseum, as well as various articles in newspapers)...but the people of Massachusetts have spoken. And to be perfectly frank, I wasn't thrilled with Coakley. And I'm not thrilled with Scott Brown (what was with the whole comment that his daughters were available?'re so embarrassing!)

But as I said...I want health care to pass. A good health care bill with harsh things happening to insurance companies; no more denial of coverage because of prior conditions, no more losing insurance coverage when unemployed, and a heavy emphasis of cost-cutting based on preventative care. The ways to do this are many, and they should surely be argued about. I want the best bill to come out of this. But, even with the democratic super-majority, almost every part of the bill has been compromised. And why, exactly? As Jon Stewart has pointed out, Bush was able to accomplish all sorts of the things the minority (democrats) deemed uncool, but they never had the elusive super-majority. So---I stand at this place and just feel very disappointed/jaded about the entire political system; that was really what my feelings were about.

And at the end of the day, there are so many things in this world that are hard, but there are also some things that should not be.

Convincing people that being healthy is important should not be onerous and turn into a ridiculous battle that contains arguments about "pulling plugs on grandma."

Talking to people about conservation and the environment and how choices they make directly impact those around them and the lives of their should not be an insurmountable task. But it is. And that frustrates me.

The over-arching theme of my career revolves around convincing people that science is fundamentally worth it (as well as just plain awesome!). And if the situation in the political arena--the idea that even with copious dialogue, lots of talking--nothing gets done, nothing changes--well, it's going to be a hard, hard, fight to do something I love.

I love talking to people about kinases, the life cycle of the malaria parasite, and explaining what exactly Crohn's disease is, and why yogurt helps only some patients during treatment. I love talking about science: the possibilities are truly endless, and the things that can be accomplished by science are simply astonishing. Sea cucumbers have color-coded insides. And we may be able to use vats of bacteria in carbon dioxide waste tanks to produce zero-energy-fuel. And people in my own department are working on virus batteries, knee replacements supplemented by stem-cell-created cartilage, and targeted drug delivery to cancerous tumors. This stuff is cool. And it's no joke. It is technology that is present in the here and now. I know people are disappointed that it's 2010 and there are no flying cars, but they only need to look into the labs at MIT to find things beyond their wildest dreams. This is a cause worth fighting for; exploration to the far reaches of biology, the cosmos, nano-technology---it's incredible.

But there are days like Tuesday that really push those thoughts to the forefront; it is paralyzing to see your life's intended audience look something in the face and not even listen--not even try to care. It is dream-killing apathy.

It's a reminder that no matter where I end up in science, my fight will be a difficult. And yes. This keeps me up at night. And somehow, ranting about elections became a proxy for the overwhelming feeling that no matter how hard I try for the next 50 years, no matter how much I work---there is a chance that nothing will really change. it's not really about being jaded. It is the fear that my life will be a failure.

But then I wake up the next morning to remember "oh shoot! need to get into lab to run my PAGE gel---ooh baby results coming tomorrow!" -- and I remember that there is much to be done before I even think of giving up.

Thus---lesson learned. Don't post thoughts in a public forum unless you explain them. Seems obvious, right? Hindsight is always 20/20.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Yesterday - meeting a great friend from IWU for breakfast at my place (she was here in Boston for a librarian conference), going on a single stream recycling plant tour (absolutely incredible; more on this later), a very stressful presentation, and then going home to find that Massachusetts had voted Cosmo's nude centerfold winner of 1982 into the US Senate--which turned into sadness-provoked insomnia, my friends. I had to get up and read some of "Charlotte's Web" to chill out my poor jaded and bitter brain. I just want health care, my friends. Or, I want all my friends to have health care! (seriously---I am very lucky to be in a place where I have health care. Many of my friends don't. This is awful).

Today - Not too much in-lab work today, but lots of reading, papers, and discussing of important things. It's science!

Tomorrow - looking forward to doing more lab stuff, plus a fun dinner on Friday at a shawarma place with a labmate and his girlfriend. And a weekend with thrifting and guessed it! More reading.

Monday, January 18, 2010

a poem for Monday


by Julie Cadwallader Staub

Who could need more proof than honey—

How the bees with such skill and purpose
enter flower after flower
sing their way home
to create and cap the new honey
just to get through the flowerless winter.

And how the bear with intention and cunning
raids the hive
shovels pawful after pawful into his happy mouth
bats away indignant bees
stumbles off in a stupor of satiation and stickiness.

And how we humans can't resist its viscosity
its taste of clover and wind
its metaphorical power:
don't we yearn for a land of milk and honey?
don't we call our loved ones "honey?"

all because bees just do, over and over again, what they were made to do.

Oh, who could need more proof than honey
to know that our world
was meant to be


was meant to be

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday in the City

A sunny and warmer-than-usual day in January led to a day of thrifting and a beautiful antique leather picnic case to come home to me. Oh....and there was hazelnut milk tea. Life is good.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Google and China

(from the BBC here)

Mourning the loss of the information provided by Google. Incredible. America (especially you doom-sayers, you!) ---you'll never have to deal with this sort of censorship. Remember that.

“It’s not Google that’s withdrawing from China, it’s China that’s withdrawing from the world.”
--from a Twitter account in China

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Five thoughts for the day:

1. The name Plasmodium yoelii. (youl rhymes with soul)-eee-iii Yoelii. Awesome. Oh of my kids is gonna get saddled with this one, I just know it. Or maybe the dog. Yooooo--leeeee---iiiii-----it's time for dinnnn--nnnnerrrr! Totally has a nice ring to it.

2. It's snowing big fluffy flakes outside. Winter for the win.

3. I'm listening to the Glee soundtrack...and it is improving my mood by leaps and bounds.

4. I am so sick of copying things into mFold. Ugh. It's a program that uses an algorithm to tell you how a sequence of DNA would fold...which is really cool! It's just really....tedious.

5. I built something in lab today. With my hands. Seems rudimentary, you say? It is. But...I still figured out how to fix a problem with the tools I had available. Miles of progress in comparison to usual response, which is a short sigh followed by "hey guys...could me with this?"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Intellectual Property

In thinking about this new project of mine, the topic of IP concerns has come up (which is why I'm not really discussing here, much to my chagrin. Never fear---I will come up with more fun science for you all!)

And I ended up thinking back to last was the first time I was in a "closed" meeting. The meeting was at the Broad Institute (so you know - it's said Brode, not Broad - I looked like an idiot the first time I said it, so...yes). Anyway, it was a meeting of a consortion for infectious diseases, and it talked about novel drug discovery for malaria. I don't know - it just strikes me as kind of interesting how much science can be hampered by IP...yes, it does protect people and their inventions, but other times it's just a great big pain in the behind. I want science to progress. I want science to discover important things. And how does that happen if people don't talk to each other? How do we fix this system? I have no idea.

...and now back to your regularly scheduled Tuesday.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Becoming better in the kitchen.

This is the very latest in ideas pushing me to be a more constant take all my free time and spend it hunting down recipes, planning brunches, not killing myself with my fabulous new's going to be great. This particular site gives you a menu for dinner every single night, as well as a play-by-play to cook all of the dishes at once, in synchrony. I'm not good at that. One day, I will be better, though.

As such, this year, I'm going to take on some challenges in the cooking arena. One for each month, in fact. I've had fairly successful attempts so far in my cooking career, although that may be from aiming a bit low to make sure there is food at the end of the night! (like last night, when, even though I went to Trader Joes that morning, I couldn't make any of my planned meals because I didn't have any fresh produce...Trader Joes is good for many things, including packaging zucchini in individual (?!) plastic sleeves. Plastic is a necessary consumable in my life...I get it. But that is just RIDICULOUS. And so today I went to the co-op to buy my vegetables plastic-less in old mesh bags from sweet potatoes and limes and such. And it was good).

Regardless, it makes me want to get out my meal planner, plan my grocery list, and spend the entire week cooking.

Without further ado:

January: Homemade bread (the kind you keep it in your fridge for up to three weeks and just bake a little bit every day)

February: Making my own mascarpone cheese and then using it to make homemade tiramisu.

March: The Pi day challenge (10 different pies, both savory and sweet, baked for March 14th)

April: Cheesecake (the really precise kind that Alton Brown makes). My girls have said that they looooove cheesecake, so here's my attempt to make it, and make it well.

May: Tarts. I don't have a tart pan, but I've found some amazing recipes I'd like to I'm going to buy a few (circular, rectangular, and mini).

June: Midsommar meal (something that's going to require quite a bit of practicing recipes; and finding herring here in Boston may be a challenge)

July: Freezer jam (working my up to actual real-life jam hopefully next summer; I want to take things slow with this one. That and I'm afraid of jam-splosions)

August: Making 18 different kinds of salsa and having a salsa-tasting party in the Penthouse with Boston friends (plus learning how to make a killer margarita and a "real" mojito instead of the mixing-limeade-with-rum-and-some-mint-leaves-and-calling-it-a-day)

September: Making a ton of different pestos to freeze for the winter.

October: I'm going to tackle lamb. I've never cooked with it before, and while I won't be making lamb ribs (bone-in meat just isn't my favorite) - but I'd like to try lamb tangine and a Greek lamb pie. This will also be a great excuse to visit Russo's, a foodie's favorite haunt here in Boston.

November: Make a princess cake (this one kind of terrifies me. There is lots of fondant involved. And tons of almonds, mmm)

December: I'm putting it out there right now---party at my place, theme of the 12 Days of Christmas. Meaning? I'm going to learn how to cook a Cornish game hen ("Three French Hens"). I can hear my mom laughing herself silly back in Minnesota. But I am determined.

I'm also planning to continue with baking muffins on Sundays to take around to my girls on Mondays. And maybe also baking cookies, too? I just have so much that I want to try, and so little time, it seems!

The things google reader can tell you...

Maybe I'm just a little slow at this, but I found out today through a google reader function that I have 21 subscribers! Neat, huh? (hello out there, 21 subscribers!) It doesn't tell you who they are, but that they exist. Which is pretty cool!

But yes...I wrote in October asking if it would be kosher to send out a survey to my friends asking them about fun things they would like to receive in packages, if they're allergic to things, and if they like puppy chow (turns out a lot of you do, although no surprises there because it's delicious). Anyways, after being happily blown away in November with a gift myself, I decided to go ahead with it. I've gotten quite a few responses back, and I'm really excited to start on my package-sending spree. Chances are that most of the people reading this have gotten the link to the survey and have responded to me...but in honor of this truly mind-blowing google reader voodoo that helps me know people actually read this, if you are here lurking and are interested in receiving some sort of fun surprise, comment here and I'll send you the survey link.

...and now back to my regularly scheduled program of reading alllll about tRNA. I'm going to be an expert one of these days...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

a toast to life.

[inspired by this muse; picture from here]

…and she raised a toast with her champagne glass to life. she closed her eyes to be surrounded by shadows of those no longer present, family that will always be there, and those compatriots who look towards the future with her. for without friends, it doesn’t matter how many arrows hit the target. or how many miss and go terribly astray when you’re distracted or hungry or tired or all three. or how many fly straight into the ground because someone told the best joke you’ve heard all year and you can’t help but drop everything and revel in the moment, eyes bright with laughter. none of that matters without people to rejoice in you living your life, in whatever that means to you.

wild goose chase.

Science is a wild-goose chase where you're blindfolded and trying to find a goose that's black. In a gaggle of 73 gooses that may be black, but you don't if they are. Try that for once. It's really hard. And at the end of the day, once you catch a goose, you may be right, you may be wrong, but you never do get to see the color of the goose you caught. That, my friends, is what it's like to do a literature search to "find something out" - code for "dredge out a possible conclusion but not exactly since their culture system was different and the species of parasite was also it might work?" Come on. This is supposed to be science. Not guess and check.

But I have an idea...can someone just beam me into a sci-fi show where there is a nice and sweet holograph that knows everything and I could just ask her questions and she would know? What concentration of tetracycline is necessary to kill 99% of malaria-causing parasites in 10 mililiters of blood culture with a parasetemia of 8%? How many different antibiotics work effectively on yeast cells in culture at a low enough concentration? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

a minnesota break!

---note: I wrote this on the way back from Minnesota using the wonderful google wifi - and added pictures as soon as I got back to my place (let's just say I really wanted to avoid the arduous task of lint-rolling Hillary's blonde hair off of every single item of clothing)---

--dinner with the U Group (friends of my mom's from college). We meet up every year for August (pool party!) and December. This year was a taco bar, complete with alcohol (another time where booze just feels odd. Seriously, I getting old or what?) The two kids that are my age are getting hitched this summer, so there was a lot of wedding/dress/house talk. Not the first time I've felt awkward about this sort of thing, and it certainly won't be the last.

--lunch with family friends -- they're 5 and 4, and quite the handful. It's been fun to watch this next generation grow up, though. The younger girl was a bit mellower than normal (due to a 100ºF fever), but it was nice to just have her sit in my lap and read to her. I have a feeling that will be one of my favorite things to do as a parent when that time comes far in the future.
--coffee with this one...we were friends in high school that ended up on opposite ends of the spectrum academically (journalism vs. biology and music) -but she has some plans to get back into science, which is great!
--dinner at Good Earth with the other girl in my horn section from high school. We both ended up in science, and she's doing some rad work with a marrow donation registry right now.
--French horn ensemble - featuring 13 horns from all over the Twin Cities metro playing some fantastic music. Jealous? You should be. I'm pretty sure not many people get to spend their time at home playing a twelve-horn medley of Titanic or an eight-horn version of Mendelssohn's Wedding March. Heck. Yes. I also just found out I'm going to be in an octet this semester, so in general I am just ready to go with more music in my life.

--We moved the giangantimous big screen TV for the installation of the new carpet and wood floors
--lunch was two glasses of red wine and raw red/yellow peppers while watching Stargate (season 10, man! I'm so close). I'm pretty sure this makes me the most classy girl in the universe. Or something completely opposite of that.
--I wrote the Christmas letter in verse. Ha. That's what my mom gets for not giving me explicit directions.
--Dinner at a family friend's place with 3-on-3 hockey, Taboo, and the most gloriously large tree full of ornaments. And a fireplace. There is nothing better than laying in front of the fireplace with your feet up right next to the flames to thaw out your toes after a long hockey scrimmage (which included a shoulder to the face courtesy of my brother). Nope. Nothing better.

--lovely Thai lunch with a girlfriend of mine from waaaaay back. She made me the most beautiful hat that I will show off in a later's just so wonderful. And seeing Seward in all the snow and those pretty old houses, practically rappelling over the mountains of snow from the little plowing good ol' Minneapolis actually did in the after snowmageddon
--meeting up with one of the kindest souls I know--there was tea, wonderful conversation, catching up underneath the lights of the Christmas tree, and the promise of a wonderful adventure in Boston, Chicago, or Minnesota. And I can't wait.

--Tea House for the last night of coherence before my brother's surgery - so good.

--second day that I have drank two glasses of wine with lunch. Today, it was with leftover Tea House, however. I'm not sure whether that's better or worse.
--I made my brother's bed up for his recovery after a tonsilectomy. Poor guy. Spending the last week and a half have had lots of wonderful moments, though...from "PIZZA" to "What time is it? Time for a beer!" However---apparently it went pretty well. Which is good. He's recovering in his Rock Band jam-jams right now. (he was sad that there really aren't footie pajamas in his giant-man size of 6'3"). He's great fun to spend time with, and hopefully he'll end up in Boston for spring break so I can get him sloshed on two or three of the flights at Sunset Bar and Grill. It's the right thing for a good sister to do.

--Visited with my grandmother
--watched over the patient as my parents looked at furniture

--Seeing my old babysitter (a friend of my mom's as well) for lunch at Flame in Rosedale. The chicken wild rice soup had nutmeg. Odd. But delicious. And the mall was PACKED. With snobby teens wearing their size 000 abercrombie jeans, family lugging around children in strollers, and lots of everything strewn everywhere. Shudder. It makes me want to just go for a long, long, walk. Too bad it's -15ºF (-35ºF wind chill), and inhaling air makes your lungs burn. Nature's Everclear...except stronger and cheaper. It's one of those really clean moments as well--you feel like you're on the top of Mount Everest gulping in something fresh and from the mountain tops. And then you see the exhaust coming out the car in the driveway, and try to keep the vision in your head as long as you can.

--Back to Boston! It took about two hours longer than expected, leaving me absolutely exhausted by the time I walked into my apartment at about 10 pm. Suffice it to say, it's been quite the trip...and it's over. I find myself almost-crazed at the thought of an elliptical machine, as well as really excited to jump in to some pretty time-intensive experiments the first week I get back.

Yet--I wish I didn't have to leave so many people behind. Welcome to growing up, I guess.