Friday, March 27, 2009


A video that I just can't get out of my head...

Restaurant Week: Winter 2009

A certain someone surprised me with dinner at Lumiere for my birthday this past Sunday...and boy what a treat!

Easily the youngest in the restaurant by ten years (barring the gorgeous pregnant woman chowing down on her steak and pommes frites while her husband daintily ate the fish of the night), we found ourselves compensated for our politeness as the three couples ahead of us complained about the wait...and after they were seated the manager gave us both a glass of champagne. Part of the evening is the before-dinner conversation, after all. I felt like I was channeling my grandfather, sweet-talking the hostess just by being myself.

The menu offered three price-fixed options for each course, and I chose:

1st course: Arugula salad with shaved fennel, pine nuts, pickled shallots and pecorino, with fennel-black pepper vinaigrette

2nd course: Giannone Farm chicken breast with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, green olives, preserved lemons, and parsley chicken jus

3rd course: Dark chocolate-caramel mousse parfait with whipped marscapone and candied walnuts

It was fantastic. Utterly lovely. I can't say enough good things about Lumiere - especially about their committment to serve locally sourced organic food - not just produce, but all of their dairy products and meat.

Yesterday was our second restaurant - L'Espalier in Back Bay (on Bolyston near the Prudential Center).

It's pretty neat because you walk into the doors and a hostess greets you and puts you in an elevator. We checked our coats and were seated, feeling only slightly guilty that we didn't order all of the extras (champagne, wine, cheese, coffee) - but alas. We came for the food.

As I certainly don't have enough clout to carry a camera into a restaurant, check out the pictures here of some of the courses --it's funny, but the last course was dressed completely differently for us.

1st course: salad of spring greens with rhubarb vinegarette and Three Sisters' Serena cheddar

2nd course: horseradish and mushroom crusted salmon with pink grapefruit and black quinoa

3rd course: bittersweet chocolate gateau with white chocolate mango mousse (brownie. that's what it is. it doesn't make it bad...but it's a brownie).

The food was full of layers/textures/all those other adjectives you use to describe really good food. The salmon was right up there with the salmon and sea salt that Maria and Joseph made when we visited them in tender and lovely. And while I roll my eyes at the use of the fancy "gateau" it was an amazing brownie. And I love mango, so you can't go wrong there.

L'Espalier is also starting a price-fixed power lunch for $25 (three courses) that's probably intended for business lunches (they make it about an hour long to get you in and out). It's definitely something to consider if I have friends visit or I just want a mid-week island of deliciousness to look forward to. Granted, it is expensive, but it's just so tasty! I am so glad that I make almost all of my meals so I can save money and enjoy these kinds of meals...I'm already saving up for August 2009!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

90 minutes of power yoga, or how I learned that I can actual sweat quite prolifically

My friend C. was going to her yoga class tonight (she's training for Ironman 2010---um, if that is crazy/cool, I don't know what is), and she asked if I'd like to come. I've never been (ever), mostly because I was too scared to do something wrong on my own and learn terrible habits.

It felt slightly odd going into a yoga studio: it just felt very mixed up in its in, it can't decide if it's more about the spiritual side of yoga or the workout side of yoga. And I found that difference a bit disconcerting. I signed the waiver (if I ever get hurt at yoga class, you'll be getting a call, mom), paid for the 90 minute class, took off everything but my biking shorts and a tshirt (obviously my most attractive outfit), and walked into the "Earth" room with my mat. We found a place to set things down, and did some light stretching. We began by doing some "easy" things. Now, it's quite deceptive, for all of these poses are hard. And as the teacher said "All students new to yoga think they can do anything and try too hard..." which frankly got a bit obnoxious. Yes, lady, I know I'm new at this. It should be obvious. Instead of making me feel, well, you know, stupid and uncoordinated, gently moving my body would be more helpful. And even for the three times she helped's really hard to understand how you are supposed to hold your muscles or your body, especially when it isn't used to the motions. I also could not believe that downward dog was so hard! It is supposed to be a rest pose, but my lord. My wrists could not stand it. C. swears it'll get better. But I have no idea how. Also, it's pretty funny, but downward dog is actually the stationary version of the Jacob butt crawl (my little brother didn't really crawl using the meat of his lower legs...he just put his palms on the ground and motored---with his butt high in the air. It was adorable). Also, the annoyance of yoga for me is that all of the poses done "easier" involve putting your knee flat on the flat hard floor. Holy cow. Bad idea. It is a wood floor cushioned by barely anything. My knee can move, certainly, but the sort of blunt hard contact is just unbearable. So I did a lot of child pose. Whatever...I still think I did okay for my first time.

Alo, it's really funny how all of these women rattle off these long names without blinking an eye---I would just look over at C. helplessly and watch as I went. Although this got harder as time went on and I got so sweaty my glasses started to fall down my face. Seriously, I have never sweat that much in my life. It was surreal. I couldn't do some of the poses because I was either slipping off the mat or slipping on myself...and unfortunately it's not very yoga-like to slip and do the whole sweaty-skin on bare floor thwacking sound.

Our teacher was interesting...she kind of mixed back and forth between the meditation-y part of yoga and this really awkwardly negative prescence (there was a bit about two brothers - one who was brilliant and started his own company and sold it for 85 million, and one who was a screwoff high school teacher with tattoos and really awful stereotypes about was nutty. And please. You all have tattoos. So don't even try. And insulting teachers versus capitalists hardly seems in sync with yoga). Also, she ended the class with this really annoying announcement (after 10 minutes of silent meditation) about the next classes. After such silence, it felt shrill and completely out of place.

So, I certainly drank a bit of the koolaid---I forgot how nice it is to workout with someone else (even when you feel so awful in comparison). But - my muscles feel a good sore instead of truly painful, unless you count my knees of course. So --- as soon as C. finds a great teacher, I think I will return...and thank goodness, for it will give me a bit of time to learn how to do a decent downward dog (and practice enough so my wrists don't hurt anymore).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate child born to Lord Byron, was born in 1815. Why do I care?

Because she was the first woman programmer. But I hate programming. So again....why do I care?

Mostly because she was baller. Even her Wikipedia entry screams her coolness. She was a woman with a keen interest in numbers, artificial intelligence, and thinking like a computer. And that's pretty awesome. In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, I joined a petition to write about a woman in science and technology...and while there are oh-so-many I could choose, I wanted to connect her to MIT's history of programming and contributions to science.

Thus - may I present Professor Mildred Dresselhaus, an MIT scholar and the most recent winner of the Vannevar Bush Award, an honor "which annually recognizes an individual who, through public service activities in science and technology, has made an outstanding "contribution toward the welfare of mankind and the nation."

As per her interview with MIT's news service:

"A native of the Bronx, Dresselhaus received her PhD from the University of Chicago, and began her MIT career at the Lincoln Laboratory studying superconductivity; she later switched to magneto-optics, carrying out a series of experiments that led to a fundamental understanding of the electronic structure of semi-metals, especially graphite.

Dresselhaus was the first tenured woman professor at MIT's School of Engineering and was named an Institute Professor in 1985. She has received numerous awards, including the U.S. National Medal of Science and 25 honorary doctorates worldwide."

You can find more out about this amazing woman here and here...I was able to meet her at a graduate women's luncheon, and I didn't realize how important her contributions were to women in science. Mildred, I salute you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

a lovely day.

...which I think I really needed.

9:02 am - wake up

9:30 am - have cereal with milk

9:45 am - shower

10:00 am - read design blogs while listening to Beirut

10:20 am - walk to Trader Joe's and shop---new food of the day = canned aloe. We'll see how it tastes, but needless to say, I'm excited.

11:25 am - take the shuttle back from Trader Joe's (a genius plan. It's a nice 20-25 minute walk, but it's killer on the way back home if you buy too much stuff...which I wanted to avoid)

11:30 am - get my gorgeous daffodils in water and put away groceries while chatting with Marie and her boyfriend from Berlin: he seems like such a nice guy!

11:55 am - eat some peanut butter on a spoon. Because it is delicious.

12:30 am - pick up tickets for the Boston Symphony on Thursday - Mahler 4 and Beethoven's violin concerto. I am thrilled.

12:45 am - find a book called "Herman the Brave Pig" at the Salvation army. I bought it for the grand total of 58 cents.

1:00 pm - find some lovely vases, a pretty teacup, and two ramekins at Goodwill...and two vintage blue suitcases from Space-Pack by Neevel ---two for $9! These will be cleaned up a bit and used in my room as a side table/storage.

1:15 pm - hmmm, I'm hungry. For frozen yogurt. Side trip to Shaws! ...and let's just say I looked ridiculous walking with those suitcases down the aisles.

1:30 pm - lunch --- how about corn...and then my berry risotto and frozen yogurt for dessert! capital!

2:30 pm - meet Johanna for her lunch at Four Burgers (she hadn't eaten yet)

3:30 pm - go to the craft fair with Johanna - it's in the Mason Lodge in Central Square...and it must have been quite the dance hall in it's it's just kind of sad. She ended up buying a onesie for a friend that's having a baby that says "When two people love each other very much.." I bought a sky blue vintage dress (with a belt with a lucite buckle!) and a clay pendant by local artist Amy McClure...although I wanted to buy pretty much everything she had on display.

4:30 pm - attempt to find Alter BUT we ended up on Commonwealth Avenue and were able to get bubble tea and a tea egg at Infusions Tea,.

While Joanna and I were only able to catch the last ten minutes of Urban Renewal (they close at 6...drat) - we found these great olive green glass goblets and each took a few home. On the way back to the green line, she starts telling me about the poor neurotic/depressed/sad Siamese cat named Gideon she adopted a few weeks ago from the shelter a few weeks ago...poor thing!

6:00 pm - ride the Green line to Hynes, all the while listening to obnoxious first year BU kids brag about their drinking skills ("...and then we just lay down in the grass because it seemed like the right thing to do...but then she puked so I had to get her up. But she fell down again.")

6:30 pm - start walking on Massachusetts Avenue, and decide impulsively to go into Urban Outfitters. I'll be honest--sometimes their indie-poser-expensive-etc. nonsense REALLY gets on my nerves. But at the same time, they usually have some cute stuff in clearance that isn't ridiculously priced. ...and I lucked out. A beautiful gold satin number came home with me...for $30. It is the PERFECT spring orchestra-attending dress.

7:00 pm - take forever to walk across the bridge because I'm shooting pictures of the sunset over the river.

7:30 pm - check on colonies in lab and select several to bring up in liquid media. Mm...

8:15 pm - get home, start washing dishes and new purchases

9:00 pm - start making rice for dinner

9:30 pm - meanwhile, start cleaning outside of suitcases, and fill will newspaper and a bit of baking soda to clean out the smell; riiiice you are taking soooo long

9:45 pm - lament slightly about my shin-splinty legs...but all that walking was worth it!

10:00 pm - rice is done! make "fried rice" with veggies and eggs...mmm...

10:30 pm - make pita chips (secret ingredient = celery seed --- don't use too much, but you won't regret it!)

11:00 pm - chill out with Marie and her boyfriend when they arrive home from the Boston Symphony Orchestra's concert: they loved the pita chips (as well as my tales of almond milk bubble tea), and I loved the bowl they set out for me (almond honey chocolate? um yes please!)

1:00 am - bed! this just feels so much earlier than 2 am. oh wait. because it is.

Plans for tomorrow: working out in the morning (oh my...haven't done that in a while. we'll see how it goes), a batch of M's potato soup for the week, spend lots of time in lab (mini preps, digests, gels, oh my!), pack for the BE retreat, and enjoy the daffodils!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Death, or why I'm sure to be having more embarrasing exercising stories in the future.

So I'm working out tonight about 10:15 pm, bemoaning my current athletic abilities (translation: don't like ice cream. Otherwise you'll end up being so excited about buying fresh homemade ice cream that you'll fall flat on your patella on concrete and ruin your knee for life). I was watching NCIS, a military-mystery-CSI-forensics thing that is just perfect for me, since it gets me to stay for an entire hour...I always have to see the end!

Anywho, this particular episode was about an 82 year old marine from Iwo Jima who confessed to murdering his best friend during the battle and the ensuing investigation to figure out the truth (which happened to involve a sushi chef impersonating a Japanese veteran. Really). In one of the scenes, they're exhuming the body of his deceased friend, an action which I believe requires not only an excavator-machine, but also an honor guard. I hear them marching to the tune of "Left-Left-Left-Right-Left", their feet crunching on gravel as they walk through the cemetary to his grave, and I start bawling.

I realize I have quite the array of awkward exercising stories (I definitely fell asleep while studying chemistry on the elipticals at Shirk at 6 am. And promptly fell off. It was classy. I also decided at age 5 that I was old enough to use the stationary bike in the basement and ended up with a huuuge gash and blood all over the lineoleum a scared-of-bikes complex that stayed for years to come). At least this time, there was no one to witness the scene I was making.

What initiated this particular outburst? Frankly---there has been a whole lot of death in my life the past week. The father of a friend from college passed away suddenly last week. Meaning, of course, that I have woken up several times in the past couple of days to nightmares of my own father dying (although, let's be serious. As a smoker, non-vegetable eater, and inhaler of copious amounts of asbestos during his youth, he's probably going to outlive us all just to spite us). And then this morning, I read this story about a woman who died of a brain aneurysm while 8 months pregnant. So death has been swimming around in my brain.

And the memories of being in a graveyard hearing soldiers walk on gravel paths...well, let's just say it was enough to move me to tears. The scene immediately put me back to about six years ago, at my grandfather's funeral at Fort Snelling. My grandfather died when I was 17, and he never found out where I went to college, he didn't see me graduate from high school, he didn't see me play French horn at IWU, he didn't see me take my first shot of Old Crow....and I wish more than anything that I could share this with him. He meant/means/will always mean a lot to me.

You know those questions you would be asked in ice-breakers about the dead person you'd like to have dinner with? He would be my choice. I could tell him all about the people that I've met here, how I can finally drink a beer now and then, how I still call my grandma every weekend, how I love to dance with my dancing partner, how I still haven't been in an car accident because of his good and patient teaching, that the smell of anise makes me think of him, that I see him in Scott's eyes every time his glasses fall down his nose, how I can finally play hard, show him a picture of me in grandma's wedding suit, that I'm trying so hard to find pussy willows here in Boston, how I bought ribbon candy last week, that I make apple pies just like I used to with him and grandma, that I love him. I wish I could tell him everything.

So, with that, I will be watching a video of my grandfather I made in high school just a few months before he died sometime this week. I converted it to DVD in undergrad, but I still haven't watched it. I've been scared....mostly that I'll hear his voice and miss him so much that I won't know what to do with myself. Actually, this past summer, I had to use the bathroom during the night, and I heard him talking. And I freaked out. But then I noticed that my brother's door was open, and he was listening to the DVD...something he told me he had been doing for every night because "it made him feel better." And oh boy, will there be tears. (my poor roommate. I'll have to warn her beforehand, or else she's probably going to think someone actually died). But the thing is---he had a wonderful life. And watching him walk through his memories will make my life so much brighter. And I will be able to see that through the tears.

Things to look forward to...

Because I have spent all morning (yes --- ALL MORNING) working on my taxes, I thought I'd take a break and talk about things I am actually excited about. And can I just say (and everyone in my office agrees) ---if taxes give PhD candidates at MIT so much trouble, there is a systematic problem that needs to be dealt with. I don't mind giving the government my money....but holy cow. Why is it so complicated?

So---the list:

-shopping on Saturday! it's been a looooong week. I think I'm going to hit up Harvard Square (I need to buy lotion at Origins), and perhaps Downtown Crossings for H&M, TJ Maxx, and DSW).

-spring break next week---first two days are a bioengineering retreat, and then it's lots of working in lab stuff. But it'll be nice to catch up on classes

-restaurant week adventure part two -- lunch at L'Espalier

-being a GRT? I did four interviews in the past few weeks, and I'll find out shortly if I have a position at one of the undergrad dorms. I really hope this works out...

-buying an ice cream machine! Because I'm an addict. And that's okay.

-NSF grant? I'll find out if I got the grant in April

-going HOME in April for a weekend. Tea House, seeing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Chanhassen Dinner Theater with my mom and brother (thanks for the birthday gift!!), seeing M for lunch, and seeing the lilacs bloom for the first time since high school...

-quals in June. wait...should I be looking forward to an eight hour exam? I guess?

-hopefully going home in June for my dad's retirement party (EDIT---apparently he's not having one) and spending some time going through stuff at home in an attempt to finally get everything out to Boston

-blueberry picking! it's going to be a lab fieldtrip in July or August

Sigh...I can't wait to be done with taxes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Scientist + fantasy books of childhood

During winter break, I reread a series of books from my childhood, and they made me so unbelievably happy that they (of all the things I had to take back to Boston) made it into my suitcase.

Which makes me I like these stories because they remind me of a more calm time in my life? Or because they are just good books? Or am I craving some sort of escape?

In another vein, I am not embarrassed to admit that these are fantasy books, but it is odd to me that the favorite (and most comforting books) of my life are those which are not grounded in fact. I am a scientist. I cannot for the life of me figure out why these are the ones I love so much. Even my favorite poetry is fantasy (Marquez and CK Williams). Is it that these non-rational tales give me some separation between me and the world? Or do I crave the non-reality of it all? Or am I pretty much a princess with more powers than she thought in disguise?

(see those bells? she puts the dead to rest with her bells. they have names like saraneth, and she walks in death to serve justice. with pretty much awesome weapons. she's practical, clever, and creative. although her problems are, well, rather different from mine [fixing a country broken by dead things and betrayal vs. troubleshooting PCR] -- we both live consciously and fight the good fight. whatever that means.)

Or, it could be the idea that the pure abstraction is good for my brain, and it lets me wander through the possible and impossible...when you are so familiar with both, failure, complications, and frustrations don't sting as much.

When caught in the day-to-day monotony of lab work or school and problems that simply CANNOT be fixed no matter how hard you try, there is much comfort to be had when your soul is flying through literature, doing more than than just grasping at straws during current challenges. And now I know they are always on my bookshelf, ready to be read if I need them.

Sunday in the City

Why thank you, I am quite darling.

Spring is in the air! And on the trees. I love seeing my trees bud walking to work everyday...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bank of America

...offers free general admission to museums around the country on the first weekend of every month if you present your Bank of America card when purchasing your ticket.

There are only a few in Boston:

Harvard Museum of Natural History

Museum of Fine Arts

Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park (in Lincoln)

But they have over 70 nationwide! Including many in New York City---I feel like a weekend trip is in order sometime soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Orchestra Concerts, or why I love playing French horn

Why? Because I get to play this stuff:

No wonder I get cranky when I have to miss orchestra.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday in the City

--Bench outside of E25 at MIT - that sea foam green color is just lovely!

--Wellesley Chapel

Saturday, March 7, 2009

MIT ephemera

...I cannot help it. The word ephemera is just perfect.

Anywho, yesterday as I was getting ready to leave for work, I remembered that Ashdown (the place I live here on campus) was giving away a lot of their old books. This may sound kind of non-exciting, but Ashdown used to be a place to live on Memorial's a super beautiful/slightly falling apart brownstone, and is currently called "Old Ashdown." Needless to say, there was only a bit of history brought with in the move to the new building (while the old one waits for asbestos removal and structural integrity fixing). Much of this history was brought in the form of books. OLD books.

Also-- a German printing of Einstein. From the 1920s. Truly. Sure, I can't read it. But it's cool.

Only one book had a name in it: Harold W. Fairchild 3/13/26. His listed address corresponds to a locksmith service in Cambridge. But it also had a marking on the opposite side notating that this book was a gift of John F. Fairchild in memory of Harold W. Fairchild.

This merited investigation. According to old copies of the Tech (the newspaper here), Harold was a fantastic gymnast. He also refused chairmanship of a spring dance.

After about an hour more of searching (I was enthralled. This was way more exciting than homework) - I found a posting of veterans from Pelham, New York:

Lieutenant Harold Fairchild, was born in Pelham, the son of J.F. Fairchild of Harrington NJ. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1929 and received his aviation training at Brook and Kelly Field in Texas. Soon after he joined the research division of the United Aircraft and Transportation Company.

By 1933, Fairchild was considered one of the country's most skillful altitude fliers. On April 10th of that year he conduct an altitude test for the Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Company of East Hartford taking off from Rentschler Field, where the University of Connecticut football Stadium is now. During the test, he attained an altitude of 35,000 feet and then he lost control of the plane. The plane attempted to level off at 500 feet and the engine was turned off indicating that pilot was still conscious although some thought his oxygen supply might have malfunctioned or run out. The plane crashed into the farm of John Rankl in Marlborough and Fairchild was killed. The New York Times April 11, 1933

Harold's father:

John F. Fairchild, served in World War I as a Major in France with the Fifty-sixth Pioneer Infantry. He was born in Washington and studied at New York University. An engineer by training, he helped construct the Bronx River Parkway. He also served as the engineer for the Village of Pelham and of the Town of Pelham.

His death at age 75 was reported on November 8, 1943. He had a daughter Mrs. John G. Gebhard of Harrington Park, NJ; a brother the former Congressman Benjamin L. Fairchild of Pelham and two sisters Mrs. Addison T. Smith and Mrs. Perry Michener of Washington. His son Harold Fairchild, a test pilot, died in an airplane accident in 1933. The New York Times November 9, 1943.

After much more searching, I was unable to find anything more about Harold. So, I wrote the webmaster of American Legion Post 50 about what I had found out, and that I'd like to know if Harold had any family that would like the book back. Granted, I think the book's really cool...but it has come a long way and deserves to be with someone who will look inside the cover and think, " great-great-uncle owned this book when he was at MIT." I also wrote in to MIT's archives to see if they had any more information available about Harold.

Edit: I received an email back from the Legion letting me know that he would look into things. I'll certainly post an update if I find out more.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sunday in the City a feature that Victoria from the blog sfgirlbybay hosts every Sunday. The photos are sometimes colorful, sometimes muted, and say something small and meaningful about Sunday life.

This week, she decided to do something different: ask her readers to send her pictures of their city and their Sunday. I decided to send her some pictures from the Sunday before when I was walking around Boston with Erin, a friend from undergrad auditioning for graduate school (in opera!) here in Boston.

Victoria ended up posting the photos I sent in: you can see the entire post here.

So---continue looking for my version of this idea every so often. Sometimes, being as busy as I am, I forget that I live in an absolutely astounding place. Thanks for reminding me, Victoria!