Friday, July 31, 2009


Tomorrow, in fact! Hoping that it doesn't rain. Fingers crossed. Sorry about the lack of presence here--the vacation plus packing have cramped my style. I'll be back soon!

vacation picture teaser:

can you spot me?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm leaaaaavin onnn a jet plaaaannneeee.....

....tomorrow morning, early o'clock sharp!

I cannot wait. It's officially my first vacation of the year, and it will be so good to see friends in both Chicago and Minnesota. I will also NOT have my computer, something which I am inordinately happy about. Besidese being heavy and a pain in the neck to work on since it doesn't have a battery anymore, it's just too associated with work right now. My brain needs a break.

Speaking of needing a break from things I was making zucchini bread last night and taking them out of the oven when the hot loaf pan slipped out of my hands and onto my forearm (I must have gotten Pam on the handles). Anyone ever heard/felt their own skin sear? I ended up with a second degree burn about 2 inches by 1 inch, and MIT medical took a look at it, had me wash it with a nifty antiseptic sponge, and used four different bandages to cover it up. I will spare you the details, but it hurt enough that I had to take some tylenol before I went to bed. It should heal in about two weeks, and if I take care of it, there won't be permanent scarring. Although, I have to say -- the doctor used about an entire lip gloss tube-sized amount of bacitracin on my burn, and it felt quite liberating. Bacitracin always says "only use a pea-sized amount" and I felt morbidly excited about using almost half a tube.

Thank goodness bacitracin tubes are under 3 ounces.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

and then one day, the sun came out, and all was good with the world!

There are some times in everyone's lives that are harder than others. Maybe the difficulty is in school work, or a job, or moving (hi lady!), or being in the middle of a show (hi diva!). Other times, it could be things going on at home with your family: unanticipated changes, tough breaks, or exciting happenings that you miss out on (hi Hillary! I can't wait to meet you!)

And some days, the sum of all these parts can add up to a whole that is wholly overwhelming, leaving you babbling and eating chocolate cookie dough that you made precisely because there is no. chocolate. in the house. Although, I'm pretty sure the glucose tolerance test earlier that day could have done that too. I mean, give a person 100 grams of glucose in less than 2 minutes (chug! chug! chug!) well---that screws you up. I turned into a hyperactive chipmunk giggling uncontrollably to someone who felt incredibly ill and off-kilter in a matter of minutes. And then there's the poking. Jeez louise, I'm fine with needles, but when you go twice in the same vein it really hurts. Really hurts.

But NOW my friends, it is beautiful outside. Abso-friggin-gorgeous, if you will. I did some lab work, bought some wonderful fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market, and made zucchini bread. And then a goat cheese/roasted beet/walnut/cranberry salad with arugula and oakleaf lettuce for dinner (with some pasta and sweet Italian sausage from my favorite butcher here). It was a lovely day.

In other news, I found this dress online yesterday. And I don't know what to do with myself except stop buying food so I can purchase it. In all the available colors. I will wear it everyday (well, every second that I'm not in lab, I guess).

It is one-size-fits-all, and you can wrap it literally a zillion different ways:

Yes, it is $246.00. But think of the versatility! I am beyond sold for this dress.

Also, in quota for the randomness of the day, I would like to air my disdain for the word "hubby." Now, I have nothing against people who like/use the word. But to me, it sounds like "tubby" which means, in effect, if you call someone that particular word, it is akin to calling them lard-face, or fatty. It just doesn't jive with me. I cringe every time I hear it or read it. Pet nicknames are fine, odd formal denotations of who you are are fine (my brother calls me "Sister" with a capital S almost exclusively)...but hubby just drives me crazy! "Me and the hubs" NOOOoooo stop calling him this name that makes me feel like you're telling me he looks like a big fat 'ol plastic thing of fatty fat fat Jabba-the-Hut-like nastiness. It makes my skin crawl!

I don't know. Maybe I'm crazy, but is one my list of nails-on-a-chalkboard words. Although, if you want good words, I'm all about gregarious, malevolent, pneumococcus, ubiquitination, saccharomyces...those are some good words.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fourth of July! --fireworks edition

Goodness I love living here.

We gathered on the Memorial Drive/MIT side of the Charles River at about 3 pm in the afternoon to stake a good spot (which turned out to not matter at all to the not-Minnesota-nice people that decided to run us over).

And yes, that is a tub of frosting on the blanket. It was delicious with pretzels.


I didn't take any fireworks pictures; cameras interfere with my actual enjoyment of what I spent, oh, 8 hours waiting for...the color, the smell, the vibrations. You can never really replicate fireworks in a photo. And to the couple in their 40s that decided they had to absolutely needed to be up front to get perfect video coverage leaving small children without sightlines in their wake (and, you know, stepping on feet, the picnic snacks we bought, and generally being all-around rude)...well, to you I say bah!

To the four-ish year old boy that was sitting on his dad's shoulders to the right of me somewhere in the crowd that peppered the show with his commentary, to you I say thanks. ("Mama dat one was gawgess!" "Oh mama that one was soooo big!")

And unfortunately the rain decided to come back after two beautiful days. Please sun come back!

Fourth of July! ---lab edition

Now, I'm going to be tricky and start this day off with lab work. I had to put freeze down my cell samples and run a gel (the second part was unphotographable; it's really hard to try and balance a point and shoot camera at the same time as doing stuff and making sure you don't get nasty things on your camera. Next time I will enlist a photographer).

The day begins at 8 am: here are my cells in flasks in a shaking incubator. I use E. coli cells (not the kind that makes you sick) and they grow better if they are oxygenated and shaking about.

Next stop is the autoclave room aka land of death heat pressure scariness.

These are the autoclaves. They effectively sterilize things. But they also make a TON of noise, are really hot, spew steam, smell funny, and make me want an Oompa Loompa just to autoclave things for me. They're like pressure cookers. But big enough for about three people to fit inside.

Phew! I only need ice today.

Mission accomplished.

Now, I head back to my bench:

And put my cells on ice. Since I'm looking to get protein out of these cells, and heat denatures proteins, you want to keep the cells on ice to stop proteases and degradation.

Ta-da! Now I have to mark some eppendorfs (the little tube thingies) with their appropriate names:

(they're in the green rack) --- and then put them on ice to chill (again, so we can keep the cells cool).

Now, we have to cool down the centrifuge (see a pattern here?)

It's currently at 18ºC, so it needs awhile longer to get down to 4ºC (= close to freezing)

From here on I have to spin down my cells (=spin them around so fast that they end up in the bottom of the tube as a pellet of sorts) and freeze them down at –80ºC (=COLD). Then, I have to run a gel and lyse cells and all sorts of other fun things. Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

how could I forget this???

Happy Fourth of July!

Some celebratory videos for you all:

(music is the overture to "The Thieving Magpie" by Rossini)

(music is the 1812 Overture - this is actually played WITH CANNONS here in Boston - I can't wait! ...and I know, I know---blowing up Parliament isn't exactly appropriate for our independence day, but I couldn't resist)

Also, to any of my science friends out there (or anyway who writes research papers and such), check out

NCBI is a research portal short for "National Center for Biotechnology Information" and contains abstracts of many many papers -- it's a standard place to look for research papers in the literature. And this is a blog that takes the best of the best and posts them ("The spermicidal potency of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola" and "Bust size and hitchhiking: a field study" being some of my favorites). Check it out!

All right everyone--I'm off to finish some lab work and then celebrate! Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 3rd on a Friday

...means that absolutely NO ONE is here. Well, the grad students are for the most part, but there was zero traffic this morning and most of the lights are off in the buildings. It's still rainy and cold, and Boston is under a flood advisory (really). This whole day is just making me want to go up to the lake--any lake. Preferably in Minnesota. I would give anything to be in the hammock in Longville, reading the stack of library books I had brought with to distract me from the fact that my cousins (like most older cousins) had very little to do with me. And then eat scads of watermelon. And Heidi bars. And brats. And orange soda. And play with the turtles. And feed the chipmunks. And watch my cousins almost blow themselves up with fireworks on the raft in the lake. Even though I dreaded feeling so left out, I still really miss that place.

And with that---back to lab! Today is starting a protein expression culture, which--let me tell you--is the ultimate party.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Bright Side Project: 3 Lambs Graphics

3 Lambs Graphics is a graphics and print shop that goes between sweet, snarky, and pretty - and their stuff is just so much fun!

Cool, no?

Here is the print I just received in the mail last night:

It's a quote from Seneca, and I can't wait to put it up in my new place! Thanks again to 3 Lambs Graphics!

New York!

After realizing that --goodness me-- the last four posts talk about winning things, I thought I'd finally change up the pace (seriously, folks...I never win things. Ever. Not the estimate how many jelly beans in a jar contests, not any races or athletic contests, raffles at St. John's Fall Festival...nothing! So I'm a little floored that I keep, well, winning things. I'm very grateful, to be sure, but it's just so unexpected!)

So---to change things up, I wanted to talk a bit about my trip to New York City in early June (after the fact, I know, but it's been a busy summer so far!)

New York City, for me, can be described as overwhelming, busy, inspiring. It's not quiet. And it's not really serene. But it is quite the place to be.

My trip was a very short venture to donate Harold Fairchild's old textbooks to Pelham School District in New York, followed by a day in the city catching up with a few friends.

The train ride down was best described as beautiful and depressing. The scenery is lovely---that is, until you look harder and see all the trash and debris. I was just itching to get off the train and into waders and work clothes and clean until not a single lick of trash is left. Maybe one day?

I arrived into Pelham around 5, and Ken (my contact at the Pelham Legion) picked me up at the train station. He gave me a bit of a tour downtown, and talked to me about the town's history (dating back to the very late 1700s, which is pretty impressive!) Pelham is about a half hour drive or train ride into the city, so it is a popular place for those people that want a more suburban/small town community close to public transportation. The event was held at the local middle school library, and it was a program in honor of Pelham residents who have gone above and beyond either in their community or in the nation. This includes people that did great work in the school district lobbying for the best education for their town's young people, as well as one of the protagonists of the real-life story behind the movie "Mississippi Burning."

Harold was not included among this list (there is a nomination process and committee meetings for the Hall of Honor program) but I was able to say a few words about Harold:

and then donate the books to a member of the school board (he's in the middle; Ken is on the right)

They don't show up on the picture, but the woman in the red dress had the most amazing red and white pumps from the early 1970s. She was actually the only living honoree, and quite the spark plug to boot. She told me "Oh goodness, X would have loved you. Absolutely loved you. Wouldn't he have just loved her, Y?" It was very nice how accepting and excited they were to have me there, even though I still gave off the aura of being an outsider---I have no real idea of the town's history, what it's like to go to school here or live here...but they seemed glad to have me there.

I had dinner with Ken and his wife as well as the photographer of the event before heading down to Grand Central Station. I got to sit next to three young Danish hipsters on the way as they polished off an entire bottle of Lemon Rum (wow...slurred Danish/English slang sounds funny...)

On my way out of the subway up in Washington Heights, I acquired some excellent bruises. Some punk teenagers wouldn't let me through to the door, and by the time I made it through, the doors closed on me. I screamed, they opened, I tripped...and received some beautiful shoulder/shin colorings.

Pallav and Bobbi live in an oddly shaped but beautiful apartment with hardwood floors, and we caught up until late o'clock, talking about science, Sweden, food...all the important things. We went out for brunch the next morning (mmm food) at Le Monde, a French place near Columbia that is surprisingly reasonably priced. I had the spiniach and brie omelette, and Pallav had the stuffed French toast (with cream cheese; he let me try a bite, and it was sooooo delicious!)

We walked around campus for awhile, and stopped to take a picture (yeah, it was raining. New England is still the scorned lovechild of Seattle and London, even thought it's July 2nd).

We also went into The Cathedral of St. John The Divine on Amsterdam and West 112th Street --- I didn't take any pictures inside (without a flash, my camera acts pretty wonky), but we did spend some time chilling in the gardens outside:

Next, I met up with Dave and Linnea near NYU to eat falafel at Mamoun's and dessert at Veselka---followed by the world's quickest sprint to make sure I didn't miss my bus. And then it was half an hour late. Siiiigh. BUT I did get to sit on the top of the double decker bus, and as it takes almost an hour to actually get out of New York City proper, you can still do a lot of observing as you go:

(and if you're me, try to take a picture, realize it's awfully blurry, and revel in the beautiful results anyway. And promptly decide that they're ready for a gallery. Well, at least one in my apartment).

At the end of the day, I just really need to get out to NYC for a full honest-to-goodness weekend trip...see everything that I have missed, mull around in art museums, eat tons of food....the works. And maybe see some more of my New York friends!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Bright Side Project: Bibitty

Bibitty was started to bring stylish and unique products into children's rooms, but its main product, alphabet cards in different languages and styles, can be used in all sorts of spaces. They are really fantastic!

(and my answer talks about Harold Fairchild! All life is connected, I tell you!)

And here is the lovely prize:

Thanks so much, Bibitty!