Sunday, February 28, 2010

the hat!

Thanks so much for the beautiful hat, friend!

[taken at Symphony Hall]

February Baking Challenge

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

I did it! From cheesecloth, to a beautiful new strainer, to adventures in milk heating (is it at 170º yet? come on hurry up!)... I did it.

...but there are no pictures. Fail. I have such high hopes of being this great scientist yet underground food blogger, but it's not gonna happen. This apartment is lovely, but there is no light. Literally. yes. The mascarpone cheese worked, the ladyfingers looked like bloated planaria, the coffee brandy was the perfect alcoholic addition, and the creamy mascarpone layer just came together wonderfully.

I'm in the throes of hunting down paper for a photo box, and this may yet help my sojourn into cooking and sharing my successes. But feel free to ask my labmates what they thought of the finished project in the meantime!

Also, believe it or not, the Daring Kitchen Challenge this month was also tiramisu! This is the site that I modeled my own challenges on; trying to do new things in new ways. They're on a bit of a different level than I am, though...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Studentersamfundets Symfoniorkester

I performed with the student orchestra from Trondheim, Norway last night---and I've got to tell you, it was a fantastic experience.

They're a wonderful orchestra, and it never ceases to amaze me that MITSO, Illinois Wesleyan's orchestra, and an orchestra from Trondheim are in the same league and trump each other out of the park (but in very different ways).

We played Finlandia, excerpts from Shostakovich's score to the movie "The Gadfly" plus some wonderful Norwegian pieces: Eivind Groven's Hjalarljod; Harald Saeverud's Kjempeviseslatten; Tchaikovsky's Pezzo Capriccioso; and Johan Halvorsen's Entry March of the Boyars. The conductor was British but spoke all in Norwegian while rehearsing...I could grab numbers and such, as they're similar to Swedish, but everything else went on feeling alone. It's a real test in your ability to listen.

Elise and I switched off playing fourth horn, and Terje was an incredibly easy musician to follow in terms of note length, tempo, all that---very much leading without being obnoxious. It was just so much fun---I've never really had that much fun doing a "sight-reading then play a gig" sort of experience before. Most of the time you're just trying to keep your head above water, but the music didn't have any crazy-difficult sections, so I got to enjoy just being in the orchestra and being in that zone of sound. I don't know if I've ever described what it feels like to be "inside" an orchestra. You're sitting there, and being enveloped by music, by sound, by vibrations. I find it to be one of the most stress-releasing experiences that exists in this world, and probably why the last month of summer finds me stir crazy with some sort of anxiety that isn't resolved until the first day of orchestra.

The students were mostly from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology--in Norwegian is the "Norwegian University of Technological Sciences"---which, if you notice, spells "NUTS" in English, hence the change of their acronym to something like the Norwegian Technology and Natural Sciences University, or NTNU. They presented the members of MITSO which played with them a hat, some Norwegian chocolate, and this amazing polyester cylindrical scarf-thing which apparently everyone and their mother has in Norway (or several). It has the logo for the 100th anniversary of NTNU: "100 skapende år"



[scarf stretched out]

I look so Norwegian, eh?

After the rehearsal, I brought five of the performers back to my apartment for an impromptu dinner of pasta and sauce - nothing fancy, but it was cheaper/better than Anna's Taqueria and fun to hang out with people at my place and inviting them into my home. I brought some back for Terje, who forgot his suit at the hostel and had to run back across the river to get in instead of eating dinner. Which means...there are pictures of my pasta on facebook somewhere. I couldn't stop laughing and teasing him and the rest of the Norwegian guys for their fascination with a bowl of pasta.

The concert went quite well, but it wasn't as well-attended as anyone would have liked. We had a reception afterwards for members of MITSO and the Trondheim Orchestra, which is where this picture was taken:

[[Terje, me, Ida]]

Terje and Ida were two of the other horn players; unfortunately the programs they brought didn't actually include the names of all the performers, so these are the only two names that I can write down and feel reasonably certain I spelled correctly. But it was wonderful to meet and talk with them --- the older guy who had graduated from Trondheim and now worked in seismology in Norway but came back to help out, the flautist who had the most wonderful style and mannerisms and slammed her home town's post-war ugliness and her adventures trying to find a flute store in New York City, the smiling one who joked a lot about chocolate and talked to me about the myriad of ways one wears a circle scarf (see above).

And as I wrote to a friend, "I have a crush on about eight different Norwegian boys."

There's a reason for this, though...I have never met a group of people my age that were all so friendly, kind, poised---Americans don't "do" poised. Okay, that's a generalization...maybe if you're on the Sartorialist or have parents that teach you that inherent ability to be confident and self-assured without coming off like an arrogant cocky individual...I mean, I love my parents, but I didn't exactly receive that sort of education. But all of these guys---they were just spot-on...impeccable manners without being stuffy, smiles without looking like creepers, dressed well yet not in flagrantly extravagant clothing. They laughed easily, never tired of the poor Americans who just can't say their names no matter how hard they try, and just made it one of the most fun evenings I've had since I came to MIT.

But yes. Eight of them. With their slim-cut suits, well-kept shoes, and Buddy Holly glasses. You've got an admirer here in the states. Come to visit anytime. And bring your friends.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Boston, I have a bone to pick with you. What's with the February tsunami? And why did my galoshes have to split open in the back and flood my feet with oh-so-cold muddy water yesterday morning? Seriously. I disapprove. (see that red bar above? it's for a flood warning. No joke. February.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

waffle house

--My mom texted me this morning to let me know she was at Waffle House. Not fair, Mom. Not fair.

--Today was a full of lab, aligning DNA sequences, thinking more about my project, quick-changing some mutated sequences, prepping

--I also found this. Apparently taking biological concepts into song didn't end with Tom Lehrer.

--I stupidly took my vitamin about an hour after I ate. Three minutes later came a flurry of sneezes, dizziness, and a wave of nausea. It's an odd conglomeration of symptoms that seems to originate from a lack of movement in my stomach. The vitamin just plops down somewhere, begins to dissolve, and an extremely high local concentration of zinc ends up causing this visceral "get it out by any means necessary!" response. The best way to deal with it is eat I did. Three minutes later, I'm fine. Body, you make no sense.

--It feels like Minnesota in April right now in Boston; that idea that spring is almost here---but not really. I miss Minnesota during that time...I miss the lilacs in our yard most of all. That, and finally not having to wear two layers of sweatpants to sleep.

--On Saturday, some friends from lab met up at Blue Asia, a new restaurant in Allston. Clean, bright, and with happy-colored walls stenciled with bubbly Asian animated characters. I had the first ramen noodle soup I've had since high school (pretty sure I OD'd on the stuff inbetween speech and theater and homework...ugh). It was incredible. There was cheese, corn, broccoli, and a wonderful umami-without-tasting-fake deliciousness to it. And it was very fairly priced ($5.25 for a bowl that I couldn't finish). The other dishes were well-received by my friends, and we had a gigantic shaved ice concoction for dessert called "PS I love you" which probably had at least four cups of sugar in it. They also had a big screen turned on to Olympic coverage, which somewhat satiated my need for a tv. We saw lots of skiers wipe out, which is one of those "ohmygod I can't look but I can't take my eyes off it!" sort of situations.

--Giada just designed a line for Target, and there is a dutch oven! Le Creuset, she's giving you a run for my money, given that it is $90 vs your $300.
--I'm making the syrup for blood orange sorbet when I get home tomorrow night...mmm...

--Semlor were a success! I have a different recipe to try, then I figure I'll take the best of both and come up with the perfect semlor. And I'll be sure to make that one during the day so you all can have pictures of the process.

--I'm buying an INCREDIBLY large order of Guggisberg cheese tonight. Lucerne, Amish Butter, and Swiss...all coming to Boston for meeeeeeee (and lots of other people, too...never fear!)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I have a crush on these guys too!

One is an instructor of human biology at Stanford (the one in plaid and sunglasses). Such a smart idea....anything that makes biology so plain's awesome.

Friday, February 19, 2010

nerd crush.

They Might Be Giants just might be my new crush. I love it.


Happy Friday, all...enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

dresser love.

All right interwebs...what about this beauty? What would you pay for it? I think it'd look great in my bedroom, but the cost is a little steep. Thoughts?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I've known about the blog Missed Connections for some time now--an artist in New York City takes inspiration for her works of art from the missed connections page on Craigslist. Some of the messages people write...they're just incredible.

Now I come to find out that this sort of thing has been on for much longer than I thought. An article in the New York Times brings some of these advertisements to the general reading public:

"If the young lady wearing the pink dress, spotted fur cape and muff, had light hair, light complexion and blue eyes, who was in company with a lady dressed in black, that I passed about 5 o’clock on Friday evening in South Seventh Street, between First and Second, Williamsburg, L.I., will address a line to Waldo, Williamsburg Post Office, she will make the acquaintance of a fine young man.

Jan. 19, 1862"

"A young lady of 18, wealthy, pretty and agreeable, wants a husband. Not finding any one of her acquaintance who suits her, she has concluded to take this method of discovering one. The happy gentleman must be wealthy, stylish, handsome and fascinating. None other need apply. Address within three days, giving name and full particulars, and enclosing carte de visite, Carrie Howard, Station D, New York.

June 5, 1863"

"Liederkranz Ball — Beautiful young girl with rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes under black mask and laughs like a siren: wore wine-colored satin domino, pearl headdress and jewelry; white camellias; waltzed like a fairy with tall Spanish gentleman; gentleman of high social reputation asks the liberty of an honorable introduction. Address Strictly Honorable, Herald uptown office.

Feb. 16, 1879"

I have never heard such classy classifieds.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

a very smart lady.

"The unexpected can really throw you for a loop, but the way you handle it builds character and integrity, even if you don't want it too."

Gosh, if things keep going like they've been going in lab, I will integrity and character bubbling out of my ears. Cool?

...and I'm so happy to have friends that exist to tell me such sensible things. It doesn't make dealing with these changes easier. But at the same time, it's marvelous to know that such ladies are around to look out for me (now if only they all lived in Boston...)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

...because you should always foolishly seek true love.

Foolishly Seeking True Love from Jarrett Lee Conaway on Vimeo.

And if life getting you down today, the baby animals on Zooborns always make me smile:

Saturday, February 13, 2010


from here

This February marks the second Winter Olympics I have spent away from home for college and now graduate school (all six years spent without a television). I didn't realize until today how much I missed all those winter nights huddled under blankets on the couch, watching hockey, luge, figure skating...I miss them all.

Last night was spent cursing stupid, for they wouldn't let me watch the opening ceremonies (or any other live-streaming event. LOSERS). I needed to tell them my cable provider. I know MIT's cable provider, as well as user name and password to verify my cable-provided-for status. Baloney.

Tonight, though...I threw up my hands in disgust to the man, torrented the opening ceremony, pressed "play" and started crying when the announcer started to announce that the Olympics had now begun. I mean, we're talking crying into a jar of peanut butter and chocolate chips (technically a "hedgehog" --spoon of peanut butter with chocolate chips to mimic the spiky topology of said critter). Class act, that's what I am. But I miss the revelry, the music, the fact that the Olympics, even with all of their competition, represent this glorious and idealistic peaceful world I just want to exist.

And I miss my mom. I miss watching Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Elvis Stojko, Oksana Baiul, Michelle Kwan, Kurt Browning...these names that have just stuck with me. As has listening to Brian Boitano and Scott Hamilton with my mom swooning in the background. I miss that. I want nothing more to be home right now on the couch, now with a dog to keep my lap warm, and watch the Olympics on a big screen TV. Please?

"We are what we repeatedly do."

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."


(taken from a great article on building good habits, if you're looking for something to get you started on whatever your version of resolutions are this year, or if you need a little boost now halfway through February)

And as someone striving towards a lot of things that can only be considered brave (perhaps foolhardy?) I have found that sometimes willpower involves some lists. And smiley faces. And realizing that no matter what works out and what doesn't work out, I will have tried my darndest.

Which brings me to Alton Brown. I love this man. He's just so science-y and awesome. Anyway, he hosts a cooking show on the Food Network called "Good Eats" as well as the running commentary on "The Iron Chef." His show is equal parts Monty Python, Julia Child, and Mr. Wizard (his words, not mine). One of his recent shows was him talking about losing weight as someone who cooks and how he did it with some simple food rules involving what he ate every day, three times a week, once a week, or never. ...and he did the whole show with a 50 pound block of lard in front of him. Man's got guts. (or doesn't really anymore?)

But yes---it rang a little true, especially because I'm supposed to be making healthier choices for myself, for some personal health reasons (if you ask me I will most likely tell you, but I'm not really okay with the interwebs knowing all of my biznass). My diet isn't that unhealthy to begin with; it's mostly a portion sizes + desserts thing. So - I've turned his rules for eating into a checklist. And I'm getting somewhere. Very slowly, but that's the way to go when building habits. No cold turkey for me (the thought of giving up chocolate forever nearly sends me into a coma). So yes...going slowly in the direction of some sort of excellence, where my body will be in the tippest toppest shape I can possibly muster (also, this corresponds to numbers 31 and 42 of my fifty things in five years list, which include being in a two-piece bathing suit. shoot me now? ...I asked for this)

Friday, February 12, 2010

every day is a new day!


--The company Naked Binder. I love them. They're pretty and great at what they do...which is why when I needed binders and recieved an email from them yesterday about their Valentine's Day sale (cause nothing says I love you like three ring binders) when I saw that...uh...a picture of my apartment was on their website. I had no idea. No permission, no nothing. Too many of my friends have had this sort of scare, so I emailed them immediately with my privacy and copyright concerns, and within half an hour received a well-written apology email. Great product, wonderful response time, and go you guys for admitting you were wrong and fixing the problem asap. A+. (and yes, I am buying more binders. My recipe collection is expanding exponentially...)

--Aveda's Comfort Tea. This stuff is amazing, but it's also super expensive ($15 for 20 bags). So - I did some online searching, and found this recipe: 1-1/4 cups licorice root, 1 cup peppermint leaves, 1/8 cup fennel, 1/8 cup basil leaves. I will definitely check at the coop to see prices of these's just wonderful.

--I had a great time hosting S and S for their vet school interviews at Tufts:

They were able to have a quick tour of Boston, see MIT's campus, and completely rock at their interviews (as well as being good sports about taking the commuter rail all the way to Grafton...oof what a trek).

--girl's night on Monday to celebrate this lady's slow path to healing (poor spleen!)


--lack of snow!! Come on Boston....we are getting slaughtered by DALLAS of all places. You can do it!

--I love the this is really the only time that I miss not having a TV. Anyone want to buy me a big screen HDTV?

--I just realized that Shrove Tuesday is next week and I really wanted to make semla (Swedish almond buns)...can I do it?? I checked the recipe, and it looks a little...insane. But I'm going to be brave and try it anyway!
from here

Just plain odd

--a package from a friend included "Bubu Lubu" strawberry jam/marshmallow/chocolate candy, piña colada-flavored shisha, a disney princess pen, and canned calamari. I have very odd friends. But they're nice, and definitely thoughtful!

--torus is the technical mathematical terminology to describe a donut. I'm totally serious.

--the one dollar coin from New Zealand has a kiwi on it (the bird, not the fruit). I'm a big kiwi fan, as is proved by one of my favorite tshirts: (thanks Woot!)

Seasoning a cast iron skillet

I just bought a Lodge 12-inch skillet. Cast iron,'s pretty intense. One of my labmates is pretty much a cast iron skillet genius, so he came over to help me season it and make it all kinds of wonderful. We poured in half a gallon of peanut oil, attached the thermometer, and grabbed a lid (safety first! There's also a fire extinguisher right next to the sink, so we were about as prepared as we could be!).

We made the most bestest batter in the world (aka corn fritters from Dixie Crossroads), dropped it in to the hot oil, and watched it sizzle. We turned the beauties, let them rest on paper towels, and drenched in powdered sugar.

Life is good. (these will be made for my birthday celebration in March. =Excellent)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

some random thoughts

1. I gave blood again today, and I'm feeling a bit tired. So I had some chocolate, and now I not only feel tired, I feel sick to my stomach. I shoulda gone for the orange instead.

2. It is light out at 4:44 pm. Win.

3. SNOW. It's coming to Boston. This makes me thrillingly happy.

4. I have to do my taxes this weekend. That's Valentine's Day date = IRS (well, and making the girls on my floor waffles. And muffins. And probably making something heart shaped. Just because it seems like the right thing to do).

But the whole stress-related seizures I experience practically at the mention of the phrase "tax season" --- my gosh. They need to go away. I need to be finished with them. And then eat lots of cake and frosting.

But the point is---actually paying taxes---the giving-the-government-money thing---I have no problem with it whatsoever. But at the same time, it's been making me oddly annoyed that this whole "financial crisis" thing doesn't really address the micro-side of in, what can I do to help? What should I be doing to preserve my financial state for the future?

I'm not an economist. Nor are most Americans. But when we hear the words "we have to sacrifice for the good of the country" what does that exactly mean? I don't know directly how such-and-such tax bracket change and such-and-such administrative things impact me directly. And all the op-ed articles focus heavily on "what the US should do" but more from the position of government, as in "What should the government do?" I'm no fiscal libertarian, but if I was, I would ask, "If there were no government restrictions and no taxes and everyone was "responsible" what exactly would I be doing? What would be good for me and therefore good for the US as a whole?"

And there are definitely advice columns on what to do if you've lost your job...but there are definitely none on what to do if you are in a stable but low-paying job the next three-ish years and will come out of it with an advanced degree. No one has has advice on what to do or how to do it or why. Where is Mr. Bekemyer when you need him?

5. A couple people in my life are recovering from falls and/or crashes, and currently pretty miserable. Please keep them in your thoughts...

6. Tungsten is the heaviest element necessary for life in some bacteria. (This was found while trying to understand what exactly iodine has to do with biological life...forthcoming post on how cool this really is!)

7. Sometimes, my science works!

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Better Know a T Stop"

Setting: halfway through the semester fall 2009; me and a few girls chilling in my room with smoothies (study break!)

"So what are your favorite places to go for food here?"

I went into my general spiel, talking about different places for Italian, my favorite cheap eats, and then asked if they had been to Bartley's (a burger place in Harvard Square where all the burgers are named after political figures...they also have fantastic Lime Rickeys and sweet potato fries).

A junior chimed in, "Oh, I've never been to Harvard Square."

My jaw nearly dropped to the floor.

"But it's just up the street! About a mile! And you could take the 1 bus, or the T...or even walk!"

"Yeah...I just haven't had time."

Now, the culture here at MIT might be a bit extreme, and I know that the mindset some of the students have here during classes is very different from the American concept that many things to learn in college happen outside the classroom. (read: eating burgers instead of studying).

But at the same time, to know so little of where you live is just preposterous to me. It's crazy.

But there is the other side of the issue in how much people our age want to travel: backpack in Europe, see the Andes, go on a cruise, see the Taj Mahal, etc...but at the same time have no idea what is just down the road.

So, a take on Stephen Colbert's "Better Know a District" is "Better Know a T Stop" --my journey through Boston to show off the sights, especially those that are a little less familiar to the average Bostonian. I'll travel to these stops, take a lot of pictures, browse the local establishments, hopefully find something delicious to eat...and talk about some of the local history.

(an important note: I am not making money off of this endeavor - this is purely for knowledge and learning)

So, the first stop was MIT's library in order to find some nonfiction historical reading about Boston. I picked up a couple of books, and the first one has been a bit of a dud (it was written by a woman in the 1960s, and she went on a tangent about the lack of sexualization of Puritan girls, which is not exactly what I want in terms of Massachusetts history). There's also a great resource in the MIT Libraries flickr pool:





I'm excited to for the spring and summer so it finally gets warm enough to wander around Boston all Saturday afternoons, looking at buildings, enjoying the sights---I want to really get to know my city better.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

January Cooking Challenge

January: Homemade bread

For this challenge, I decided to try a no-knead bread from the New York Times:


3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed


1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.

Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal.

Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

And it was delicious. Crusty with a lovely inside...perfect for with oil or butter. Or peanut butter. And very easy, as well. I'm going to try making a half batch sometime soon in a smaller container - and use a little bit less flour.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

HeLa Cells

There's a new book out that tells the incredible story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman who became the source of a new age in science. She had advanced cervical cancer and died at the age of 31 in 1951, but not before scientists at the hospital took a swab of her cancerous cells and grew them in culture. And they didn't die. Effectively, HeLa cells (as they became known) were the first cells scientists could grow in culture indefinitely...and indeed, there are currently trillions of HeLa cells out there in the world, helping us better understand cancer one step at a time.

But the other side of the story is that no one told Henrietta or her family what happened. The profits and science that became available because of one woman were never seen by her family, who is struggling to survive even now. The New York Times article mentions a quote from Henrietta's son:

"She’s the most important person in the world, and her family living in poverty. If our mother so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?”

An interview with the author is located here, and she'll be coming to MIT to speak next Tuesday, which I'll have to miss because of lab meeting.

But as a science writer and historian, her work really interests me...especially because I received an email today from one of Harold Fairchild's relatives (my jaw dropped to the floor...and the guys in lab were a bit confused at my sudden burst of energy). Investigating the past---well, investigation in general...I find it fascinating.

second blogversary? blogiversary? bloggerversary?

Whatever. (and seriously, that sort of word is enough to make anyone just shake their head and move on).

Thanks for reading this, all! I'm glad to be able to document my life--from accomplishments to annoyances to exciting science-y things that obviously make my skirt fly up (yeah, I know. Pass the dinosaur pumps and the red wig; I get closer and closer every day to Ms. Frizzle). Better yet, this journal lets me stay connected to friends and family all over the globe. Thank you, internets. This has been fun.

(also---a friend has inspired me to think about doing science videos to explain things that I do to the world. Good idea? Boring? I may do it anyone, for a teacher friend of mine. But we'll see).

Boston Visitors

This semester is shaping up to be full of people crashing at my place. I love it. Last year, E came to audition for grad schools, P came and we had delicious Toscannini's, L came twice (!) for Green Corps, and this year will bring many visitors as well.

In early January, R came for a librarian conference. We had an early breakfast at my place and wandered around MIT for awhile, which is, I gotta say, ripe for people-watching. Or tourist-watching.

Next is S and S, two senior biology students from IWU who are making the trek to Boston to interview at the veterinary school at Tufts. They'll be crashing on my floor, and we'll get to do a bit of sight-seeing.

March brings my brother (ee!! so excited!). He's going to be here for my orchestra concert, after which will be my birthday party (24 years old. Phew. I just got used to saying I was 23!). The menu? Deep fried corn fritters and beer. Yes. And maybe some sort of palate-cleansing salad thing...maybe. Then we're going to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Hilary Hahn on Saturday, Sunday is the St. Patrick's Day Parade in the South End PLUS Pi day (practically a holiday at MIT), Monday involves a lab trip to Brookline Family Restaurant for shawarma and then some sight-seeing, Tuesday is a labmate's birthday celebrated after lab meeting at the Cambridge Brewing Company, and Wednesday is a pub crawl for th' Irish.

April brings these cool ladies here:

1305 Roosevelt represent! Gustavo Dudamel is conducting a masterclass with the MIT Symphony, and he's enough of a rockstar to bring all my friends here to Boston. There will be coco-moting, Punjabi Dhaba (sorry Puran---you're just too far away!) and seeing the grave of Mother Goose (at which point Margo will try and remember a mother goose poem and end up talking about cheese). It'll be a weekend full of memories.

May brings another IWU friend, J, this one a cellist whom I love for her rendition of Julio:

(this isn't her...but I love this song. I used to beg her to play it for me!)

Other potential visits include my mom (hi mom!), a friend from waaaay back who is now a professor up in Maine, A, and maybe even S after her boards for med school! (K is going to Ireland with her family - lucky girl!)

...also, if you are reading this and not on this list, think about it! I love guests and visitors, and my place is really close to the action. I also have an extra key, so if you want to extend your break to the week, you can go exploring while I work during the day and I can meet up with you in the evening.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The I-don't-wear-pants-in-January idea.

I succeeded at the no pants challenge! With little photo proof, I might apartment, along with having 8 different shades of cream, also does not possess a blank wall which is a suitable camera distance in order to take photos of my accomplishment. But I haven't given up trying! Fear not.

(taking the picture sitting down worked okay...)

...and I gotta say, beyond the physical/spatial problems, the whole taking-pictures-of-myself is a little hard. It feels a little---arrogant. For awhile, I took a picture of myself every day at IWU to give my younger brother a better sense of what I did and where I did it...and it just never went over that well, I guess? I don't know. I'd like to try it. A lot of fashion bloggers do a photo a day and manage to look classy, show off their purchases, style ideas, all that. I have a feeling I'd just look selfish in the worst way possible. But I'd still like to have a record of what I've worn --- I think that's kind of cool. I can't tell you how much I wish I would have taken pictures of myself every day of my junior year...I wore a different outfit every day, something made a million times easier by my 82 skirts. To look back on would be priceless. So I may keep trying, despite the fact that it makes me feel a bit strange.

(at home...with the piano!)

And let's be serious...there is a very real difficulty in wearing the clothes I want to wear...I live and breathe the science/research lab safety code, which requires closed toed shoes, no bare legs, covered arms, tights. Also, the guys would kill me if I wore heels. And that doesn't even take into account that spills happen, which are detrimental to clothes even if not a safety hazard. I don't want to ruin some of my favorite vintage dresses...yet clothes are meant to be worn. So...yes. What am I to do? Live in jeans and tshirts? I mean, I do have a lot of clothes, yes, but I like to feel good about looking in the mirror, something that I don't feel when I see me reflected in jeans and a tshirt. I just feel...scrubby. Not me. And I'm not trying to be the fashionista on campus; let's be clear in that even trying to do that at MIT makes you look ridiculous for a whole array of reasons which are as follows:

"She's trying so hard on her clothes she must not be capable of any coherent thought. She probably only got in because she looked good in her suit on interview weekend."

"Gosh, having time to look good means you have less time to study. Ergo, I only bathe once a week, and sleep only four hours a night. That means I win, right?"

"Poser" (I was on the steps of lobby 7 when I noticed the girl in front of me, nicely dressed, still had the very obviously colored tags from DSW on the bottom of her very spike-heeled boots. They were INCREDIBLY obvious. I let her know, and she laughed and said, "Oh, I always leave those on so I can return them when I'm done." Uh. Right. Sorry I tried to be nice)

"She's obviously rich enough to buy clothes like that, so she doesn't have to study. What a punter." (punt = to not do your homework/not care about school work in MIT-ese)

"She's gotta be a Sloanie." (Sloan = business school)

So, where do I fit in? I asked the guys in my lab what they thought about tights one day, and while the general thought was "no comment cause this girl is going to slap me if I say the wrong" sort of response, one of the guys just kind of went off on people being fashionable and wearing this versus that simply because it is fashionable. He described the girls that wait in front of Middle East, a local club, "with their vintage dresses and necklace-things and all that. It's nonsense."

"But I wear vintage dresses. So where does that leave me?"

He said, without missing a beat, "You don't wear things because they're fashionable. You wear things because you want to. And that isn't nonsense. It's just you."

So how do I give off that vibe? I don't think me starting my own style blog quite works (duh). But how do I let me speak for just ME instead of being mistaken for someone I'm not? Vintage dresses and all?

I don't have a clue.

I rest my case until I become Mrs. Frizzle and have dinosaurs on my shoes. The end.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Low cost agriculture = ruining mah science

BSA is bovine serum albumin.

Bovine = cow
Serum = the leftover stuff in your blood that isn't cell-based
Albumin = an important protein in your serum that allows for transport of all sorts of things

We use BSA in science to combat non-specific binding, a very evil thing indeed when you're trying to find out what the affinity of one thing is to another (also know as it's "kd" =name of blog relevance alert!)

So, we often add it in specific assays and such to help us reduce non-specific binding. But then one of the members of our lab doing work with a tetracycline-binding construct were having these really confusing readings...and then we found out that stocks of BSA are contaminated with tetracycline. Tetracycline is an antibiotic. BSA is from cows that are killed at slaughter that are pumped full of antibiotics in order to keep down infection in the very close living quarters of commercial agriculture. Thus---contaminated BSA meant that we had no way to control for how much tetracyline was in these assays. Hence---low cost agriculture completely ruined a few weeks of experiments. Thanks, guys. Come on...let the cows run free and sans antibiotics! Please?