Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Reads

..this list makes it look like I read only fluff and not much of it this month.  Not so!  I'm currently plowing through a 700 pager about Marie Antoinette's daughter.  It's quite the commitment.  I plan to finish it over Thanksgiving weekend if nothing else.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling
She's my new best friend.  Done.

Mastiff - Beka Cooper, book three - Tamora Pierce

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

The wind of Hurricane Sandy whipped and whistled through Boston all day yesterday, bringing with her flying leaves, giant branches, and tons of rain.  We were instructed to shelter in place, meaning no non-emergency travel outside the dorm.  I went into work briefly to take care of parasites and make sure that things were set for the storm (ah, the joys of being the environmental health and safety chair for my lab).  But I worked at home the rest of the day, cozy with tea as the hatches were battened.

1 pm, Monday October 29th
White caps on the Charles, and I could barely keep both feet on the ground!

6:45 am, Tuesday October 30th
wind map - it was so fascinating to watch the hurricane pass over the East Coast...

 1 pm, Tuesday October 30th

8:00 pm, Tuesday October 30th
Even now this evening, the wind in Boston is still associated with the hurricane system!  It's pouring, with a thunderstorm warning until later tonight.

8:30 am, Tuesday October 30th
Wet leaves on campus

I talked with a couple friends living in NYC, and one said he watched transformers blowing up in Brooklyn, and that he doubts the Subway will be up until Thursday at the earliest.  It's hard having to sit tight with all that going on around you, but here's hoping that folks are able to stay safe while things get cleaned up.  That mother nature...she always wins.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Halloween!

me in a former place of work:

Jack the Ripper's victim

My RA and I after a night of work; I scared her half to death coming through the hallway. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cranberry picking

I went on a wonderful adventure cranberry picking in Carver, MA this past weekend -- 100 year old cranberry bogs, farms nestled in between the gorgeous foliage, I don't know a better way to spend a day!

The most surprising thing is that cranberry bogs are not actually wet year round, they're just wet for harvesting and for frost protection in the winter.  The Ocean Spray commercials have certainly misled me.  That, and I had always thought that a cranberry plant was more like a bush - but they're actually very short, and grow on a layer of peat and sand.

In the spring, the plants are green, flowers are put out and fertilized, and then the berries develop.  At just the right time, the bog is flooded.  Cranberries have four air pockets, so they float on the surface of the water, still attached to their parent plant.  They're jostled by a machine, and a vacuum is used to harvest the berries into a long truck.  After the cranberries are picked, the plants turn red.  Not all the cranberries are extracted, especially those on the sides of the field, so these were the ones we picked, and they're the ones that help the bogs turnover and continue growing.  Once the temperature reaches a chilly freezing point, sprinklers are employed to make a protective coating of ice over the bog.  Sand is trucked onto each field and spread over the ice so it can slowly be distributed as the ice melts. 

The water in this bog is still draining (it's about three feet deep in the culvert right now). 

(As an aside, doesn't this look suspiciously like one of those 1000 piece puzzles?  Tiny farm in the background, never-ending sky, field in the forefront?)

An already-harvested cranberry bog.

Since these plants still have their berries, they're green.

The plants themselves are just so small!  6-12 inches high, maximum. 

Me crouching at eye level with the cranberry vines. 

It's hard to tell in this picture, but she's crouching in the ditch that marks the edge of the bog, where we were able to pick the cranberries.

The fields at Flax Pond.  Flax Pond is actually a dry harvest farm, meaning all of their berries are the kind sold in the bags you buy in the grocery store.  All of the wet harvest berries are frozen for sale or turned into things like juices, sauces, and jams. 

A dry harvester; these contraptions are pushed like lawn mowers through the field, and the cranberries are caught in what would normally be the bag for the grass clippings. 

But to spare the field the additional damage incurred from loading trucks, all the bags are put into these helicopter-ready crates and helo'd off the field.  Amazing.

Ocean Spray is actually a farmer's cooperative, meaning each farmer that gives over their cranberries to the company owns a portion of the profits.

The cranberry sorter at Flax Pond Farm. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

a defense at WHOI!

...obviously must include the scariest child's toy I've ever seen...

Pondering the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

Turning the picture upside down to signify a successful defense!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


One side has MIT students hurrying through the infinite corridor, to their next class, to grab a bite to eat, to finish a pset.

The other has a ROTC cadet walking slowly to honor the loss and sacrifice of prisoners of war and those soldiers missing in action.  (more information here)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

rescue missions!

...also known as the annual pilgrimages to the local Goodwill during the Halloween season.  Seriously, they save anything that looks remotely vintage to be put out during this one month.  It's obscene how many wonderful things I've found this year.  And no, I didn't bring them all home--I only bought things that were in perfect condition, no rips, no stains, zippers that work.  While I loved being a costumer in high school (and the tutelage of the most excellent Barb) --- I am so over trying to fix old metal zippers, falling-apart-hems, and pit stains.  But I'm definitely not over vintage, even though my current occupational hazards prohibit me from wearing many of the the dresses I love.

Me in my grandmother's wedding suit, taken for my senior pictures.  (my grandmother and grandfather were married in 1944, during the war, the same day my grandfather got his wings; between rationing and timing and all that, there was no wedding gown, just a new suit.  It's a gorgeous sage color, perfectly fitted, lovely buttons).

Frankly, it's just hard for me to see vintage dresses on the rack, my size or not, and walk past them.  Sure, at a certain point, I realize I can't buy everything, and I certainly have a limited budget...but it's not quite so limited that I have to say no to some stunning vintage finds.  And when it's $10 a dress, I have an even harder time saying no.

And seriously, I'm saving them from a horrible future life on a college coed covered in vomit at a Halloween party!  Right?  Or at least that's what I tell myself. 

(Mothers of the world, if you have a child who uses every color crayon equally so none of them get sad, just know she'll grow up to have these wonderful eccentric tendencies, just like me)

So, without further ado, here's a dress that have joined my future costume closet:

(okay, yes, I had every intention of taking pictures of all of them, but this test picture taken after an extensive search of the entire dorm for an acceptably-white backgrounded place with natural light, it was a pain, and even this photo didn't turn out all that well.  I give up.  All I know is that my future castle in Montana is going to have an amazing costume room complete with a full photoshoot-ready white wall).

And since I'm talking about dresses today, I am totally fawning over this gorgeous dress from eShakti --- it's the short version of my prom dress, with sleeves!

I am so tempted.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apple picking!

At the always-bustling Honeypot Hill Orchards.  Warning:  many children.  Many, many children.   But also many delicious apples. 

 Apple cider donuts are a crucial part of the apple-picking experience.

So many!

Prettiest parasitic ivy I've ever seen.

 I could take pictures of apples all day.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Your daily dose of nonsense

A letter written by a graduate school astronomy department to motivate students includes such gems as this:
"First, while some students are clearly putting their hearts and souls into their research, and spending the hours at the office or lab that are required, others are not.  We have received some questions about how many hours a graduate student is expected to work.  There is no easy answer, as what matters is your productivity, particularly in the form of good scientific papers.  However, if you informally canvass the faculty (those people for whose jobs you came here to train), most will tell you that they worked 80-100 hours/week in graduate school.  No one told us to work those hours, but we enjoyed what we were doing enough to want to do so.  We were almost always at the office, including at night and on weekends.  Nowadays, with the internet, it is fine to work from home sometimes, but you still miss out on learning from and forming collaborations with other graduate students when everyone does not work in the same place at the same time.  

We realize that students with families will not have 80-100 hours/week to spend at work.  Again, what matters most is productivity.  Any faculty member or mentoring/thesis committee will be more than happy to work with any student to develop strategies to maximize productivity, even in those cases where the student is unable to devote more than 60 hours to their work per week."

Find the whole letter here, and a response here (where I first came across it). 

I will not lie, in today's economy, I feel blessed to have a paid full time job doing something I like, most of the time.  But at the same time, there are so many things wrong with the way tenured faculty are approaching their job of mentoring young scientists...and they wonder why they cannot attract brilliant minds into STEM fields.  Simply put, no one wants to be in a job where their contributions aren't valued, and their commitment to the vague idea of "science" is constantly questioned. 

What it comes down to is that your advisor will never tell you to work less; so if you're the person that's an unkempt slob eating crappy takeout, in lab at all hours, you are sending a message that you are "all about the science."  And sadly, whether it's unconscious or not, advisors love that.  There are not many professors in the world excited for their students to go on vacation, or to take a class unrelated to their thesis work, even if that's important for their future career goals.

So, besides reforming the way that publishing science works (which is another essay completely) - graduate schools need to come up with a better way to force career development as part of curriculum. That way, students won't be put in the middle of a conflict between their future career development and their current indentured servitude.

For example, you could make it compulsory for every graduate student to complete a certification process for one of several career paths; these could require classes, internships, extra teaching opportunities, shadowing, and outside mentors.  These certifications could be in academia, industry, public policy, education, or entrepreneurship.  I realize designing pilot programs from scratch isn't the easiest, but luckily, there are programs around the country with somewhat informal or unorganized versions of this, but nothing coherent across departments. 

For example, MIT does have a Science, Technology and Policy Certification program, but it's something that requires a ton of work that would be completely unsanctioned by advisors for the most part.   And that's the rub. 

So, universities..make it comprehensive, make it compulsive, and take scattered infrastructure and make it unified.  A nation of future grad school hopefuls would really appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First Aid Kit

A lovely lady and I saw the Stockholm duo First Aid Kit last Friday.  They're a folky Appalacia-inspired sister set (they're 19 and 22.  I feel so unaccomplished).  They are a great live show, very talented musicians, that's for certain.

The Royale, a former opera house built in 1918, has a fabulous balcony making the concert wait a bit more tolerable for us old people** that don't like standing for hours. 

The nightclub owners left in some of the bling from the opera days:

Makes for a strange juxtaposition, that's for sure.

**Aimee, totally speaking for myself here, ha