Friday, April 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Every a**hole who ever chanted "Drill baby drill" should have to report to the Gulf coast today for cleanup duty."

-Bill Maher

All right, Sarah....get to it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

lab today

...oh man. There's a term that combines something that rhymes with chit and another word used to describe a play...that's about right. Everyone was trying to get cloning done, Chris cut her hand, people didn't clean up the cytometer, we had to go to the stock room three, count em, three! times today because people didn't order things when they had used the last of it, there are only two gel boxes and all eight of us ran gels today, the weigh bench always seems to be gross, and I didn't finish half of what I was supposed to. Science fail.

I want a do-over.

But I did just make chocolate mint ice cream. And now life is better, yeah? Yeah.

Okay---gonna do the dishes and go to bed. One of these days, I may be caught up.

Signing off and fightin' it fair---

Friday, April 23, 2010


I read this article today in the New York Times about how the ash cloud from Elk-asneezea-volcano had finally prompted European citizens as a whole (not just the beaurocrats) to think about rapid railway systems connecting the continent. And the idea is brilliant. I would love to see railways further integrated into the transportation systems in Europe, and frankly here in the US. There has been a lot of talk about it recently, but it seems like even the obvious projects (rapid rail connecting Portland, Maine to Boston to Providence to New Haven to NYC to DC to Philadelphia to Baltimore...and maybe even all the way down the coast! Seems like a no-brainer. Alas, it hasn't panned out, at least it hasn't yet. One day, maybe.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


[from this excellent article and slideshow here]

I'm in love. Plain and simple. That man has more passion for music in his pinky finger than anyone else I know.

[Hey it's me!]

It was great to be both under his baton and in his presence...what a conductor. His descriptions about repeated passages in Mozart involved him miming his love of having ketchup cover every bite of his hamburger --for what is a hamburger without lots of ketchup? And thus what is a sequence of notes in Mozart without phrasing and feeling?

He is one of those people who anyone---especially kids---would do anything to please. He's just so charismatic and so ---so---amazing. That's it, that's all. He can come back anytime.

(also---I don't want this to sound like a slam on our current conductor...because it isn't. He is also incredible, and happens to understand the MIT ethos like nobody's business. The fact that he is able to prepare MIT students for four concerts a year with our crazy schedules...four concerts where we actually sounds quite good...that is a tremendous feat. We were really prepared for the master class, and it showed)

[The horns and Gustavo. The best part about this picture is
that he is holding a bottle of ketchup in his right hand. Epic]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

bed? bed?

1. Oh. my. god. I want to take my eyeballs out of my eye socket, clean it with a golf ball cleaner, and pop it back in. Seriously, urban planners...stop being lazy and plant female trees! This pollen thing is killing me!

2. I'm waiting up for Sara's plane to come...and I can hardly keep my eyes open. I think this means I need to sleep more.

3. MIT students must be afraid that they're losing the geeky/nerdy title to some other school, so they decided to do this:

Goodness me. Well, you're not losing the title now. Jeez.

4. Can I go to the beach now? No? Shoot.

5. How about now?

6. Boston, why is it cold and rainy again? I still don't have new boots. Come on now. Be nice. I have a guest!

7. The typewriter is settled in and pretty. One of my students was convinced that it had been here all year, it fit in so well! Pictures forthcoming.

8. Mr. Sandman:

Pomplamoose. Heck yes. Night all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

a food revolution

Between Alton Brown, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Marion Nestle, Jamie Oliver...with titles like "In Defense of Food," "Animal Vegetable Miracle," "Food Matters," What To Eat" ---you get a feel for what is going on in this country. Something is wrong with how we eat, and how we think about food. No doubt about it. There are infrastructure problems, issues with how we subsidize specific crops, pesticides, agribusiness damaging our health through diseases like MRSA and let's face it...we just eat too much. Too much fat, too much sugar, too much meat, too much alcohol. I mean, not a one of these foods is bad on it's own, but together in the quantities and qualities that we eat them...they have made us sick. And not just the after-a-Christmas-party-food/alcohol-binge sick. We're talking lowering our life expectancy. Scary.

And you can argue about the charisma or pushy-ness of whichever chef/writer/critic as you will, but realize that they all have very similar goals and they have something to say, and are so passionate about what they say that they'd do almost anything to shout it from the rooftops and have somebody listen:

1. Everyone should learn to cook for themselves. You don't have to cook coq au vin or beef bourguignon, but you should be able to feed yourself starting from raw ingredients. Plain and simple.

2. Eat minimally-processed food...the closer to the "real thing" it is, the better it will be for you. No preservatives, no FC#5, no nothing. (I made homemade caramel sauce to go with apples for the girls this fall; the number one response was "oh my gosh this is SO GOOD! I'm surprised people don't make it more often!" Me too, man. Me too. And all it is is cream, sugar, and a bit of water. That's it. No flavoring. No nothing).

3. Actually enjoy food. Although some people always have and always will love food, they seem to the the happy medium between anorexia, obesity, and being scared of becoming either one (===me).

But I don't want that to be me forever.

I saw a nutritionist last year to see how I could improve how I ate. I talked about what I normally ate, what I drank...and her response was to stop eating sweets, switch to diet soda, start using alternative sugars like sucralose or stevia. I kind of looked at her, dumbfounded.

"Well, I know what one should do...that's not the issue. If I would have been able to just stop eating sweets before now, I certainly would have. That's why I came here. And honestly, I don't want to stop eating sweets. Just eat less of them. And I don't drink soda...and I'm certainly not going to start eating artificial sugars. So what I need is a solution that fits into who I am...not someone who drinks soda, someone who loves her veggies and loves to cook, but also loves her chocolate...and needs help fitting that habit and love into my life a bit better."

She gave me this look, that I was suggesting something so fundamentally against her training---as a nutritionist--- that I just wasn't "following the rules" or something. When a nutritionist says something, I guess you're supposed to listen. But it's listening to her that was the problem, it's the implementing.

"Well, you just have to eat less. That's all."

Nutritionist fail.

So, I'm left in this limbo of drooling over food blogs, going home and eating SO MUCH delicious Tea House and homemade meatballs, coming back here and subsisting on homemade yogurt and frozen peas (seriously my favorite) ---and let's be serious, a heckuva lot of chocolate. But I'm left wanting to be able to bridge that gap; to enjoy all of the above, but do it better. But to have to stop worrying about portion sizes, I need to fix mine. To stop stressing about how much chocolate I need to consume and enjoy what I do eat, I need to eat less. But then there's the crucial "how" --that's where I'm stuck right now. I need to figure things out for myself, since there is no one else out there to do it for me.

[[speaking of---one of the things health care reform needs is to train better nutritionists; people who are able to LISTEN and HELP people in a preventative care fashion. people like me. and everyone else. I'm not going to go gangbusters on the idea that "everyone must eat salads all day!" ---but I will go gangbusters on the idea that everyone should eat well for themselves and well to reduce health care spending. it's possible, yo.. So yes, attention.]]

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

wistful thrifting.

This wonderful lady (an incredible entrepreneur/letter-presser/vintage shop owner) is coming to Boston, and is planning to go thrift store shopping for her shop, west+plum. And all this makes me think of is how long it has been since I've gone "real" thrifting! (as in, stores that are more than a mile away and not on the way to the grocery store). Travesty, I say.

However, I was able to find some beautiful pyrex teacups last weekend (the addiction continues), as well as a 1960s copy of Black Beauty. Now I just have to find time to head out to Allston or JP...maybe Sara likes bubble tea and will indulge me? We'll just have to see!

I also convinced a labmate that visiting the Brimfield Antiques Market would be great---and he is thrilled with the plan. The Niles crazy-antiques-huntin', blueberry-pickin', shotgun shootin', documentary watchin' fools. Love it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

spring break 2010!

[sorry for the delay...but life happens]

Eric's first words to me: "Bridget, I heard TWO different people use the word wicked in a sentence on the subway. As in, "wicked awesome" and "wicked sweet." I love it."

Eric arrived in Boston just in time for a quick dinner before the orchestra concert and my subsequent birthday party. I tetris-ed about 25 people into my tiny apartment, which ended up being quite a feat in itself. My fridge full of beer was made less full of beer, and the corn fritters were a hit! (so was the ice cream dessert, though no surprises there! it's like midwestern crack. Anything with chex mix is).

And to set the stage, Eric also came during monsoon season here in Boston (over eight inches of rain in four days). And my boots leaked. And the second pair of rainy day boots I use...uh...also started to leak. Excellent. Basically, we spent a lot of my time with really, really wet feet. And Eric asked every so often, "Hey Bridget, guess what?" "What?" "It's raining." (he also asked what time it which I respond, "Time for a beer." And then the fridge was even less full of beer).

Saturday was burgers at Bartley's in Harvard Square, and trying to peek into the Hogwarts Dining Room (and getting soaking wet). The general feel is that yes, the yard is pretty, and yes, MIT doesn't really care about looking "pretty." We went home and both took a nap and had some was the perfect day for it. We sojourned back into the rain for my birthday gift to Eric--a BSO concert with Hilary Hahn. Now, this is why I love my brother...they guy djs, goes to about a zillion concerts, and just loves music. You'd think a guy like that wouldn't really be into classical, but he said, "You know, if people only really listened to classical, they'd find some really cool things; I mean, at one time Mozart was considered radical and crazy, and no one thinks of him that way now. And seriously...there is good classical music, and there is bad classical music, just like there is good rap and bad rap. End of story."

[sorry for the blur; couldn't get a good shot]

See why I like him? =Awesome.

Sunday was a sleep-in day followed by a restaurant week lunch at Melting Pot. Terrible service, but the tempura steak was great. I made bbq meatballs for my brother, and hey---he ate them and liked them! Proof I can cook meat. So there, non-believers.

Monday was spent in lab with a lunch break at Locke-Ober, a Boston old boy's club with wood paneling and quite the snooty ambiance. Let's just put it this way...our waiter didn't ask us which kind of bottled water we wanted...he just gave us water from the tap (which he did to the other tables around us, of course. We did not fit in).

[outside of Locke Ober]

Ha. Isn't that jacket classy? Yeah, Eric makes a great Bostonian.

I worked the rest of the afternoon, and Eric interviewed the GAMBIT Lab for a blog he writes for, Games are Evil. (and no, I can't really understand any of the gaming bits; but I am really proud of him nonetheless--his article was editor's choice...which is awesome).

On Tuesday, the sun finally showed up! Obviously, the Freedom Trail had to happen.

[Eric at the start of the Freedom Trail in Boston Common]

[Eric's friend at the Old South Meeting House]

[Paddy O's ... delicious with Guinness]

[heading to the North End]

"What is he DOING?"
"I don't know, Eric...feeding the birds?"
"You mean feeding the Italians! BAM!"

[Copp Burying Grounds]

We then bought dee-licious panini from a place on Hanover street (prosciutto and mozzarella ftw!) and brought them back to lab for lab meeting. We also bought three kinds of cannoli and lobster tail pastry from Mike's and Modern to do a little comparison at lab meeting...Modern actually won for taste (although Eric liked the ambiance of Mike's better).

Wednesday was St. Patrick's day, and there was lab work as well as as lunch at Legal Seafood. I treated my brother to his lobster while enjoying my crab cake (you see, I don't really enjoy having to take apart my food...too much work). I had a few meetings that afternoon, so we actually didn't get out until about 10:30...thought that wasn't a bad thing! It was a beautiful night, so we walked across the river to Boston, wandering around Boylston Street people-watching.

And, of course, the only cop we see that night is carrying a pizza box with a grocery store clamshell filled with cupcakes on top. "Happy St. Patri------s" he faded off drunkily as he rounded the corner. The attire, anything from classy shirts and green ties (my favorite) to uggs with green striped socks, a mini skirt short enough to see a bit of arse cheek, muffin spilling over the top, and boobs bursting out of a reaaaalllly tight white shirt. With green mardi gras beads for "flair."

We ended up at a bar just across the river after wandering on Boylston Street; we each had a pint of Guiness and shared a green gash (Allagash) to celebrate. "A toast to siblings who get along."

[Boston on St. Patrick's Day...we missed the Prudential's
green lights, but ah well. The trip was worth it]

The next morning was sleeping in (because of course we had to watch one more episode of Dr. Quinn...Eric insisted! ...not). I made a big breakfast with bacon and eggs, and we brought it up to the penthouse to eat. I swear, it's the prettiest place to eat breakfast ever.

[last morning here--in the Penthouse. Love that view, oh goodness]

And then he left, and I was sad. But he'll be back!

More pictures are available through my flickr account (I only let friends view my pictures, so just email me or request me through flickr and I'll approve you).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

start playing Alanis...

Monday night, I spent about an hour talking to two of my girls about the work I do in my lab (this after traveling and getting back to my room at about 9:30 pm and trying to eat dinner, get things cleaned up and hoping to get to bed by 10. ha. hahaha. I'm such a joker).

I start drawing on the white board on my door, drawing lots of pictures, and talking about the intra-erythrocytic development cycle, or the IDC (sounds really complicated, but it's not that bad...the parasite the causes malaria (Plasmodium) has to live inside red blood cells (intra means inside, erythrocyctic means red blood cell)---so the IDC references how the parasite matures inside red blood cells:

The black things are Plasmodium; the clear-ish purple things are your red blood cells. (funny enough, I was looking for a picture of the IDC and found this one on wikipedia and thought it was perfect; simple and clean. then I checked the licensing to make sure I could publish, and realized that it was made by my labmate. Excellent).

All in all, even though the timing wasn't optimal, it was great to have a girl majoring in architecture and a girl majoring in math at my door talking about a science they know very little about beyond the basic biology class they are required to take here at MIT. It's very satisfying...I love having an intended audience in front of me and tailoring the science to what they know and filling in the gaps with what they don't know. I mean, that's what science is all about. I'm certainly ignorant about many things, but all I need is the right person to explain it to me. And for the rest of my life, I want to be that teacher, that explainer, for all things biology, to anyone from age five to eighty-five.

Then yesterday morning I go into lab as usual and the guys let me know that tomorrow is documentary night (yeah, we're cool like that. potluck documentary night >>> going out to bars). I sighed and said, "Sorry guys, but I'm holding a questions-about-graduate school panel for the girls in McCormick tomorrow night---but have fun!"

No sooner do I say this then I get the email that I did not receive the NSF graduate fellowship. For the reasons of (and I's where you cue the Alanis):

"You state that you are interested in science policy and that you will take classes in this area. You also state that you have been involved in some aspects of science outreach previously. However, the application would be improved if you were more involved now in such activities."


So there are a couple of issues with this:

--Apparently I don't understand the words "science outreach." Or I'm just terrible at showing that hey, I actually care, and hey, I get things done. And that is my fault as a writer and as an applicant. Kind of hard, especially since four of my peers reviewed it, saying it sounded like "me." That's what I want. In some way, the selfish "screw the man" part of me wants to be myself no matter what for these applications. If you don't like what you see but will totally buy someone's shameless self-promoting, I don't want your money anyway. [and, to be clear, this is NOT an attack on my friends who have received this award (who I am super proud of!), nor on my is just an observation of my own work, my own writing, and how my writing is perceived]

--What do the reviewers thing these activities are that I should be doing? Just because I haven't taken a policy class yet I am not actively "doing" anything? I mean, I have seven semesters at least, plus summers to take a policy class. Cut me some slack. Additionally, GRT-ing is something that is a non-academic position and therefore not included on my application at all, nor given any mention in my application since I had just started the job less than a month before the application was due...and smaller events that I hold in McCormick are the grass-roots version of encouraging female scientists to go on in their education to graduate school in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) ---well, I'm sorry if that doesn't fit your bill of broader impacts and science outreach. I've also already given notice to my PI that I'll be working with Women's Initiative next January to talk about engineering and math to high schoolers for a week. So, what part of broader impact does my life lack?

And really, at the end of the day, I don't care about the money or the prestige. But I do care that something I strongly believe in and I work towards every day of my life being judged as simply a "fair" effort or of "fair" quality. It's really...disheartening.

I still have the dream that ten years from now I'll be presenting at TED as a biologist and engineer-by-training talking about how to bring science into daily life, how to be curious, how to ask to make mistakes, get messy, and learn a heckuva lot about the world around you.

But there are a lot of ways to get to that place, and just because one thing doesn't work out doesn't mean my life's dreams are a shambles. Far from it.

Now, on to finding other grants, planning a class to teach this summer, and doing the dishes. (probably in reverse order; but you get the idea).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 2010

March flew by, folks...from the late nights drinking beer watching The Daily Show with my brudder to presenting my first official poster at the Bioengineering retreat to a co-op adventure to finally filing my taxes, much was accomplished.


--A labmate spent three weeks in Asia this month, and brought back presents! I received a package of Morinaga's "Rare Cheese" ---which, translated from Engrish, apparently describes no-bake cheesecake. None of the instructions are in English. But the bird on the box is cute! I'm going to go ahead and send it on to a friend who speaks Japanese and see if he can give me the basics (as in, what should be 25 g, what should be 170cc, and why in the heck they both wrap something in tinfoil and talk about 500W, a description typically utilized for microwaving?)

--Beth Terry, a woman dedicated towards decreasing wasteful plastic consumption through her blog Fake Plastic Fish. A recent post talked about two artists making their art from plastic washed up on the beach, and Beth went to visit...their plastic flotsom findings remind me of the ocean, remind me of the crappy things we keep putting into it, and push me towards being better about my plastic consumption.

--The pantry in the home of the duo behind Emersonmade, a company which makes beautiful fabric flower corsages and headbands in New Hampshire. I want it. So badly. Granted, I have a bit already started, but it is nowhere this size or magnitude or prettiness. But containers are wonderful.

--Ole Miss is looking for a mascot to replace their current goateed Confederate "Colonel Reb" (short for the Rebels). Someone brilliant thought about extending the rebels to, uh, another galaxy far, far, away, and came up with Admiral Ackbar. Yes, the "it's a trap!" Admiral Ackbar. From Star Wars. I didn't believe The Huffington Post, so I emailed a friend who went to Ole Miss. And it's true. I just hope they can get around the whole copyright infringement thing. Because if so that'd be AWESOME.

--The seal snuggie. Courtesy of Vík Prjónsdóttir

Things to Look Forward To:

--Being at home for Easter for the first time since high school. There will be Peep explosions in the microwave. And Yesssss.... (sorry to friends who didn't know about is a family-only visit for a family health issue)

--Apparently there is a new antique mall close to my home that my mom wants me to visit for the pretty dresses. Can't wait!

--"Mom" is coming to visit...sister has an opera to play in (boo) and brother can't come either. There are such plans in place, and they include a trip to Boston's approximation of Puran as well as lots and lots of walking around Boston. And ice cream. There is always ice cream.

--Gustavo Dudamel is coming to MIT to receive an award from the MIT Media Lab and conduct the MIT Symphony Orchestra in a master class. Amazing.

--The Secret of Roan Inish was a movie I often watched as a child, and I came across a copy to watch on the way to Minnesota...the trailer isn't very representative of the movie, but I'm excited to see it as an adult:

--A friend that now works in Maine is coming down to visit! Champagne, chocolate, Wagamama, and lots about the science of sticklebacks. I can't wait!

Things I Will Do:

--Cheesecake for my personal baker's challenge, especially because I skipped out of my challenge for March...Pi day would have been too tough with Eric visiting...

--Guerrilla pothole gardening, sending MIT a message, and hopefully starting a hacking trend. It's just such a cute idea, and MIT certainly has the uneven asphalt to support such a concept.

--A lot a lot of lab work. A lot a lot. The girls keep asking where I went for spring break, and my best response was "to lab!" Science is happening, slowly but surely. I can only

--Find out if I won the NSF Graduate Fellowship, a scholarship for my remaining three years at MIT...I have high hopes, but we'll see.

--Chose my thesis committee. This makes me feel really, really, old.

--Continuing cooking co-ops. Number one was an absolute success...spinach mushroom quiche and lemon mousse. I think the main thing is to plan recipes that can be executed and finished and eaten within two hours (no waiting time). But the actual recipes turned out quite well...the whole toasting sesame seeds before putting them in the crust is genius.