Thursday, November 26, 2009

I am thankful for...

1. My education. From preschool to now in graduate school (18 years and counting!) I've been beyond lucky for the support of my parents and other adults, the quality of my teachers, the astonishing generosity and incredible intelligence of my peers, and most of all that I've made it through. Not many people are so blessed to have all the opportunities that I've had growing up, and I hope that I can pass these opportunities on to others.

2. The roof over my head, the food I have to eat, the water I have to drink. So many all over the world and just down the street don't have these pretty important things that I tend to take for granted.

3. The free artificial Christmas tree I picked up yesterday from MIT's warehouse. I emailed the reuse listserve last week about acquiring a tree, as many of my grandmother's Christmas ornaments came back with me to Boston after she moved to a nursing home this summer. I really wanted them to have a place of honor, and now they will, thanks to the generosity of someone I don't know and haven't met.

4. Holidays mean that there is no construction next door at Ashdown. This means that there will be no one jack-hammering at 7 am anymore! Well, at least til Monday. In the same token, no taiko drumming on Saturday! This also makes my life a little more peaceful.

5. Music. I miss about half of the orchestra rehearsals since there's a conflict with lab meeting (and job ALWAYS > fun extracurriculars). This meant that I wasn't going to be in the last concert of the year, a semi-staged production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The orchestra is playing the music from Mendelssohn's ballet, a women's choir is singing the fairy chorus, and there are actors acting out the show. Last week, I got an email asking me to think about assisting, which I readily agreed to...the parts aren't "hard" (although each piece is in a different key - there is E, Eb, D, C, G, and A. Which, yes, means that we're sight-transposing. Which makes us much more badass than trumpets). But---the key is there are a couple parts (Wedding March!)

that are loud and constant, which is sometimes more challenging than difficult technical passages. Anyway, I got to assist yesterday, and while still slightly rough, I was extremely impressed with both the actors and vocalists. It's gonna be a great show, and if you're Boston, let me know and I'll get you free tickets.

6. Family and friends. You know who you are. Thank you. (also---a special shout-out to the person who sent me the immersion blender that arrived in the mail today. It was completely unexpected, and truly thoughtful....the best kind of gift, I think)

7. Marscapone cheese. Good lord. How did I survive without ever tasting this wonderful food before this week, I don't know. Seriously! It is that good.

8. Houseplants that don't die in my new apartment. You can do it! Keep photosynthesizing! I know you can! Please!

9. Scarves. Thank you Nimli for keeping my neck warm (yes---that is right. $10 for a pashmina scarf. They're great...the only thing is you can't choose the color).

10. Love. It's a wonderful thing, folks. And if there's one thing that I've realized even more in the past few months is that life isn't worth diddly squat without it. Plain and simple. So don't keep it to yourself. Tell people that you mean something to then. Send them a package, write them an email, bake them cookies and surprise them, sing them a really silly song really loudly while dancing in lab, just to make them laugh...look them into their eyes and tell them you really care. It's worth it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hiking, Cuban food, kitties, and quince paste, oh my!

I got an email bright and early this morning after planning my day of a work out, lab, and grading asking if I wanted to go hiking. Uh---yes! It was supposed to be gorgeous out, and while the clouds never really went away, it did get to about 55ºF, which is beautiful for this time of year.

We drove to Blue Hills Reservation, which is only a short drive after the requisite 20 minutes it takes to get anywhere from the Big Dig. We chose to take the red circle path, promising "intermediate terrain" which is code for boulders. And rocks. It wasn't too bad going up, but going down would have been pretty rough, I think.

We reached the top, and oh what a view...

That's Boston in the distance - I have a feeling these hikes would have been stunning with the fall colors, but as most of the trees are oak and pine, it looks lovely now as well. We took the Puddle Path back down, which was a bit longer, but much less steep. Alas, the slippery wet leaves from the rain on Friday made for slippery terrain, and I'm nursing quite the goose egg on my shin and a really bruised hand (apparently it's my thenar muscle?). But it was so worth it:

Then, we went forth to Jamaica Plain (ha--you're jamaican me crazy!) and had lunch at a Cuban place - Cuban sandwich, fried green plantains, mango shake, and flan. =Amazing. Plus, there was a Spanish grocery store across the street, and such awesome things as quince paste, dulce de leche, mango jam, guava paste, and Castipan, this weird confection that calls itself "cereal paste" but is apparently rosewater-flavored jellied candy rolled in sugar. I tried one tonight, and I was surprised by how not sickly sweet it was. Instead, it was really rather tame and encouraging of contentment instead of overindulgence (actually, that's how the entire meal was...we all left full but not crazy-gonna-die-or-never-eat-that-much-again full).

The final stop of the amazing day was the MSPCA (the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). I gotta say...ending the day by having kitties sit on my lap was pretty much perfect. They also had bunnies! I wish there was somewhere closer where I could go to volunteer to get my animal fix...having a pet here in the dorms just isn't all that practical.

And now I'm icing my shin/hand and catching up on The Daily Show. Tomorrow I'm holding a french toast study break with all the fixins, so my hand needs to be in tip-top shape for all that flipping!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Apartment update

Now that I've been living in my apartment for three months, I thought I'd post an update now that I have...actual furniture!

Outside of my room - go Gophers! (Thanks for the poster, Mom!). And the letters above the bulletin board are...wait for it...needlepoint. I made them when I was eight.

Now, going into the room, you can see part of the kitchen. And the poor linoleum, which never really gets truly clean.

And there's the rest of it - the new desk, the couch/daybed, and my table and chairs!

Looking towards the bedroom from the front door.

A better shot of the desk and table.

The daybed/couch. It needs more pillows badly. But this is what I've got right now.

Another picture of the desk - love that chair!

Standing next to the desk looking into the kitchen.

Standing next to the desk looking towards the kitchen and the bedroom.

Looking into the bedroom.

The new bed!

I love my pintucked duvet. I really need some art, though. Badly.

My beautiful view of Ashdown (an old Boston hotel next door that is currently being renovated to be a new undergraduate dorm). I can see the Prudential Building from the window, as well!

So yeah...most awkward space ever. Still working on this, obviously. I like the idea of an old map from a school room, but I haven't come across one yet.

Looking back at the kitchen from the bedroom door.

Looking straight ahead while standing in the door to the bedroom.

There we have it! Definitely not done yet...I need art, something to cover the top of the filing cabinets in the living room, a headboard, and to figure out what in the world to do with the space in my bedroom. But---it is definitely an improvement! It feels a lot more like home.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

...and I will never carry five liters of vodka home ever again.

And you thought that I couldn't start a post with something so ridiculous. Oh yes. But indeed-- booze is much heavier than cereal. The things you learn having to walk a mile to get groceries.

Anyways, this is hereby known as the first post commemorating that I did something on my fifty things in five years list! Hoo-rah!

Last weekend, I made 45 bottles of vanilla extract. With 90 vanilla beans (thanks ebay!), beautiful amber bottles (from Specialty Bottle Company), and 5 liters of good old Svedka. And a funnel.

When I saw a post about making your own vanilla, I thought it'd be fun. Yes, I know you can buy it in the store...but sometimes it's all about the experience. And the fact that it's, oh, about $10 per bottle.

My totals:

vodka: $66.00
organic vanilla beans: $45.00
bottles: $19.00
total: $129.00 (per 4 ounce bottle total: $2.89)

The basic steps are cutting the vanilla beans in half horizontally and then vertically, putting about 8 pieces in each jar, filling each jar with vodka, and then tightly sealing with the provided cap.

The process went well, with the added side effect of my hands smelling vanilla for two days. Mmm... now, to wait the six months before they are at full vanilla goodness....

Edit: comment from my mom: "I think you are a bit psycho for making your own vanilla, but I will be curious how it turns out."

Friday, November 6, 2009

the grant is in!

With all of this grant application stuff going on, I've been looking at my resume. I had a funny realization (one I haven't thought about for awhile) and it's that I have actually accomplished things.

It sounds perhaps a bit silly and self-gratuitous, but being at MIT doesn't necessarily help one feel like a total rockstar sometimes. And while this keeps you from becoming an arrogant jerkface know-it-all, it also can make you feel really really stupid. And I do appreciate such a trade-off, truly. I love being at a place where everyone is so brilliant and so talented and creative that I have nothing to do but feel inferior and therefore learn from their successes and be pushed along to my own accomplishments (which, as anyone in grad school will tell you, takes lots of time. See PhD Comics for more on this subject).

But to have little reminders now and again that I'm not a failure...well, that'd be cool. So, thank you CV, for serving that purpose.

And now that I've signed sealed and delivered the grant, I think it's time for a movie (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers projected on the wall of the "Green Living Room" of McCormick...yeah, that's right. We also have a "Brown Living Room" and "Date Room A" and a "Country Kitchen" -- don't you wish you lived here?)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It's Sesame Street's 40th Birthday!


I find myself again applying for the National Science Foundation Graduate Student grant, and not exactly reveling in the process. Part of me loves being able to take disparate elements, organize them into a cohesive and understandable form --- turning the literature into a story. But the other part of me is just a little wavering about about some of the bureaucracy of science and being restricted to just two pages, size 12 font, and relying on what side of the bed a reviewer woke up on to decide whether I'm a worthy scientist or not (to the tune of $210,000).

But-- it is a beautiful day outside, the tree outside my window is a lovely autumn-y golden color, I'm making apple pie tonight for the movie night on Friday.

Monday, November 2, 2009


We carved pumpkins this past week in McCormick, and I decided to use a drill. The question "Are you a MechE?" came up. For the first and probably last time, I suppose. But the pumpkin did turn out rather well:

(excuse the poor lighting...they want to keep us safe, which is understandable, but it makes it hard for pumpkin-based lighting to stand out).

I also went to a gathering at a friend's place on Saturday - some particular favorites were Pinky and the Brain, the cheerleader mouse animatronic robot from ChuckE Cheese, and the winner for most creepy went to the guy wearing the Burger King mask. Shudder.

Me? I was Jackie O but accused of being Nancy Reagen. And Queen Elizabeth. Ugh.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Souls

Today would have been my grandfather's 86th birthday.

And in his honor, I ate Whoppers. (candy, not burger). I snatched some from the Halloween party I attended last night, and I enjoyed them just as much as I used to enjoy stealing a few from the giant paper cartons. And then I made split pea soup.

My family visited his grave this weekend, and one left a horehound candy, and the other brought a picture of Hillary to show Pa...fitting tributes, I think.