Sunday, August 12, 2007

Summer in Boston - Week Nine

Hello all! This is my last week in Boston, and you can bet I'll be moving every moment trying to tie up all loose ends. It is hard to believe I'll be home in Minnesota this time next week. I don't want to leave.

As far as lab goes, I finished my final presentation on Friday to positive reviews. High school speech has really helped me to be comfortable in front of a crowd, as well as have a conversational tone and how to practice giving a speech yet make it sound unrehearsed. To anyone who knows details of my infamous speeches, scientific presentations are not exactly like my days analyzing corsets or defending the first amendment, but since that same passion is behind it, things work out all right. It's kind of funny, because I had a dream last week about being a host on a talk show about new scientific never know where you'll end up, I suppose! All that is left for me to do is write a paper, finish a poster, watch the other BE-REU students present, and complete a couple of experiments that start on Wednesday. Alexandria actually had to leave on Saturday for home, so I'll be flying solo this week...something scary yet at the same time liberating. The ability to set my own schedule is very attractive, and I think that is one of the things I will love about graduate school. I also attended the final banquet of an engineering conference here in Boston: as the youngest person there by about five years, I stuck out like a sore thumb, but it was great to meet with professors from other universities and just talk about their research.

This week in Boston was Restaurant Week, and luckily I was able to take advantage of the prix fixe dinner at a very swanky restaurant in Cambridge. It's inside the hotel where all of the dignitaries stay when they visit Harvard. If you are interested, here is a link about the restaurant: (The Rialto)

My date and I got dressed up: he wore a suit, and I wore a little black dress I bought in New York City. We took the subway to Harvard Square, encountering several awkward stares on the way. Let's just say we looked slightly out of place. The meal started at 9, but we had to wait about ten minutes in the lounge before we were seated. However, the dining experience started here when we were served tuna tartare on a slice of cucumber. The menu was full of very interesting choices that all looked delicious: I wish i had the innate ability to know that, for example, golden beets would be perfect with walnuts. I just can't even comprehend how they choose their food pairings. For bread, we were each served with rolls that are crunchy on the outside and light on the inside. I really have no idea what that is called, but it was great either way. And the olive oil with sea salt made it even better. For the appetizer, I had lemon and corn risotto with basil pesto, while my date had a salad with a spicy dressing and a type of cheese. For the main dish, I had ravioli that was a marvelous shade of pink with potato and cacciatora cheese on a bed of greens with sugary and salty walnuts and golden beets. My date enjoyed seared bluefish, as well as a dessert of chocolate espresso torte. I had a lovely corncake with cream and garnished with berries and almonds. It was just the perfect amount of time with the perfect amount of food. You left the restaurant completely satisfied but not stuffed a la Thanksgiving dinner. Just pleasantly full. The walk back through Harvard Square was that lovely city mixture of eerily quiet as well as swimmingly loud: the bars were packed, but the side streets were peacefully silent. It was quite a wonderful night...

The other adventure this week was spent helping a friend move his things into storage for two weeks while he goes home (his school, the Olin College of Engineering, doesn't start until the last week in August). Now, one would think this would be as simple as packing stuff in boxes, putting them in a car, driving to a storage unit and driving back. Ha. Riiiiight. Now, my friend doesn't have a car here (he is from Michigan), but he does have access to a zipcar (you rent the car for a specific amount of time, and the amount you pay covers gas and's actually a really good deal if you don't need the car too often). However, his zipcar is in Needham, where his school is located. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get to Olin, so he woke up early, took the subway into Boston, took the commuter rail to Wellesly (where the college of the same name is located), walked a mile to Olin, and drove the car back to Cambridge. Loading the car with boxes was the easy part, but getting to Deedham (storage facility) was an absolute nightmare! I am used to my Minnesota distances, where seven miles means 8 to 10 minutes. Here, seven miles meant an hour and a half of fumbling through the cow-paths of Boston. Now, I am fine with confusing roads that don't lead north or south. I'm from St. Paul, after all. However, we at least had the foresight to clearly mark all roads and turns. Here in Boston, roads split without any warning, and you never know until it is far too late that you took the wrong fork. In addition, the rotaries don't label which street is which turnoff, something that certainly didn't help matters. We actually ended up calling a friend, who led us negative Columbus St. hat in the correct direction to get us to the storage facility (oh engineers and your vector analysis...). When we finally reached the storage facility, it took us about twenty minutes to realize that his storage unit was on the second floor portion of the building only reachable by a metal moving staircase. Thank you, storage facility, for the absence of maps and just leaving us to fumble through a scary dark building all alone. Seriously...there could be dead bodies in these storage units, and no one would know for weeks. We moved all of his stuff into the unit, and then began the trek back to Olin. This time, my brother provided us with valuable street by street updates, basically mirroring our progress on google must have been quite a hilarious phone call on his end. We dropped off the zipcar, walking around the beautiful and deserted campus. About 300 students attend Olin, and it's all engineering, all the time. Everything is new and fresh-looking, probably because the school was just started five years ago. Also, their library has a table with a gigantic bin full of legos, which makes it a winner in my book. We walked back on Wellesly Avenue past Babson College, enjoying the old homes and the moss-covered walls that bordered the forested portion of Babson's lands. We stopped at an ice cream store since we were early for the train, and the black raspberry truffle and peanut butter cup ice cream was just what we needed. The commuter rail arrived around seven, and it took about an hour to get back into the city. We took the subway back to Cambridge, stopping for dinner at a Bengali place near the frat house. I need to learn how to cook naan. Holy's just so delicious! All in all, it was a crazy-long day, but it was nice not to think about work for awhile.

I have also updated my photo album, so if you'd like to see a picture of my supervisor as well as Dr. Griffith, go ahead and take a look!

I hope you all have a great week, and I'll talk to you soon!

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