Monday, September 29, 2014

What a week....

This past week was a struggle.  Not one of the favorite weeks.  Nope, not at all. 

Monday, my eyes hurt...and urgent care said, okay, you have to go get checked out, we don't mess around with eyes.  I was then diagnosed with iritis, a painful inflammation of the iris of your eye that's accompanied by the oh-so-pleasant symptoms of severe sinus pain, light sensitivity, and a swollen eyeball.  No joke. 

So, Monday evening, I spent the night loaded up on steroid eye drops and tylenol, trying to work on my committee meeting update.  At 10 pm at night, I sat on my bed with my laptop, shades closed, sunglasses on, computer on the lowest brightness.  I looked (and felt) like a wreck.

Tuesday, after my evening rehearsal for the MIT Symphony, I find out that one of our members had passed away.  

She was 19.  A sophomore.  Heart-breaking.

Wednesday, a family health thing came up. 

Thursday, my eyes were finally feeling better, but then the nervousness was really starting to set in.  

But...things were starting to look up.  My friend Emily dropped by with some flowers given to her that she couldn't keep because of her kitties back at her apartment, the autumn ones pictured first in the post.  I got six emails from friends cheering me on.  I could do this.

Friday was my committee meeting.  I've been on pins and needles lately, trying to figure out graduation timing and research progress.  It's been a long summer, one where I made the conscious decision not to take a vacation in order to get closer to finishing, and this was the day that would tell me if that sacrifice was worth it.  I was so glad for that meeting to be over.

I came home to flowers from my family back home, crazy bright and happy!  That evening, I hosted a study break for my girls with 10 pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and the movie Grease.  It was just what I needed, oh yes. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

MIT Pumpkin Patch!

Every autumn, the MIT Glass Lab holds a two day event called the Pumpkin Patch.  On Friday night, all the pumpkins are laid out on tables under a tent in the Kresge Oval, and on Saturday morning, all the pumpkins are scattered across the ground awaiting the hoards of people in line to purchase their pumpkins. 

The system is unique - instead of bidding, or putting in numbers, marking down your favorite, you can get a number starting at 7 am for the opening at 10 am, and then they let you in.  You can buy as many pumpkins as you want, but finding your pumpkin of choice is an absolute challenge.  They aren't sorted by size, cost, color, anything.  You just wander around, seeing what strikes your fancy.  With prices ranging from $15 to $950, and every color of the rainbow, the pumpkin patch is full of every possible iteration you could imagine. 

I bought my mom one for Christmas my first year here, and now in my (hopefully) last year, I decided to buy pumpkins for my brothers and I!  Totally worth it. 

So.  many.  pumpkins.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kresge in Autumn

Blue sky, grasses, lollipop lamps, perfect day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

...just when you thought they couldn't possibly be doing more construction on campus!

Not only is the building all sorts of chaos...

...but now the chapel across the street is being renovated! 

From my inbox: 

"On Saturday 10-11-14 we will be removing the Bell Tower on the Chapel roof, installing new roof anchorage for the tower and then reinstalling the tower later that day.

The purpose of this notification is to make you aware that a crane will be arriving on site at approximately 4:30 am and some noise may travel when crane is set up at first light (approximately 6:30 am). The actual rigging will start prior to our agreed 9 am starting time due to the anticipated duration needed to complete this work (estimating a 12 hour duration)."
The 9 am start time is there because of me: after two days of the most horrendous racket from jackhammer-led demolition starting at 6:30 am on a weekday, I emailed in and said, "The area between Maseeh and McCormick is essentially an echo chamber.  Can we push back the starting time at all?  Students are trying to sleep."

Here's hoping it looks pretty!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Autumn at the Farmer's Market

With the autumn comes apples, the last of the golden raspberries, and squash! 

It's funny...this farmer's market is technically in a residential neighborhood, but it's right next to the busy BU bridge, so while it looks like nothing is going on around, if it was rush hour on a weekday you'd be right in the thick of everything!

Perfect roasted beets (thanks Kenji at Serious Eats) - make two rectangles of foil that are about 18 inches long and place them on top of each other; crimp both long sides and one short side, opening to make a pouch.  Wash beets under water and then use your hands to coat with olive oil.  Add into the pouch and roast at 400ºF for about an hour, until you can press on the beets through the foil and they feel tender.  Open the foil pouches, and allow to rest for 15-25 minutes.  The skins will wash off under warm water with no trouble at all.  Then, if you're me, you cut them up and make a simple salad, adding just onions, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a criminal amount of dill. 

Why yes, happy faced squashes, I am glad to see you!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Well, that's what you get for naming your bar "Middlesex"

I think that one could measure their time in Cambridge by the number of times the "sex" part of the Middlesex sign has been stolen...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

McCormick BBQ

The weather was a bit chilly, but the ladies of McCormick came out in droves for the annual McCormick BBQ! 

I manned the cotton candy machine that you can just see behind the three girls in the left of the frame, and the veggie burgers.

I never get tired of the sky on the perfect fall days.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Boston Eats: Shojo

Tapas-style Asian fusion in Chinatown?  Yes please.

Fried chicken with Hong Kong bubble waffles.  And miso butter.  Divine.  Also favorites?  The squid ink not-quite-ramen dish, taro tots, and french fries.

My heart is always won over by tiki drinks (and the requisite glasses that make the experience so much more fun).  This was "Chairman's Painkiller" - rum, pineapple gomme syrup, coconut cream, and orange.  It need a bit more acid to balance things out, but it was a great compliment to the food of the evening.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Last flower of summer

The last of the campus summer flowers are disappearing with the cold, and mums are taking their place.  I'm not ready, summer!  Don't go yet!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Back to MITSO!

 Semester number 13: Sibelius Symphony 2, and Elgar Symphony 1.  It's going to be a great semester.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ten Books

I was tagged on facebook this week to list the ten books that have stuck with me through my life.  It made me thoughtful and nostalgic, leading me back to times in my life when books were better friends than people.  (they don't talk back, you know?)

This list is not a list of my favorite books, or the list of the books I read over and over again.  It's the books that have made me who I am.  One of my best days as a kid was getting a library card and checking out more books than I could carry with my mom.  I perhaps gave up too quickly on real life people as a stubborn know-it-all of a child, but books.  Books knew more, could take me places I had never been, places I never thought I could go.  And understanding people and their motives?  I learned that from books.  (and my mom, of course, the Grand Master of her trade)
In middle-school and high school, I found mentors and friends among the stacks of books.  Adults were easier.  Always easier.  I knew how to impress them, with good manners and politeness.  People my age?  Forget it.  They were a different species.

For example, I moved my lunch hour into the library full time after the entirely pleasant incident where some guy decided that stuffing his cheesy nacho wrapper down the back of my shirt was easier than throwing it away.  Because, high school.  I fumed as the orange cheese slid down my back, but I knew that I would find a place where No Such Thing like that would happen.  And that place was the library.

Since then, I've had periods that have been full of new literature, others that were more focused on textbooks.  But I've come to know that ife is too short to spend it without books.
I don't know when I first read this book, but I'm guessing when I was about five.  I loved this book, loved the beauty of his garden and paintings.  My grandparents bought me a print of Monet's garden, and it became a treasured part of my room. 

Then, of course, there was the time that I went on our school trip to the Museum of Art, and upon seeing the only Monet, one of his haystacks, I just sat down on the floor in front of it.  I couldn't believe I was really there, in front of one of his real live paintings, that wasn't in a book. 

So, for my graduation trip to Europe (that I took four years after graduating from college) - the only must-see for me was Monet's Garden.  And being there made me burst into tears, twice.  (I'm sure Sara thought I was crazy...but it had been a place I knew I wanted to see since I was five).  And what a place it ended up being!

2. The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
I was a Camp Fire Girl growing up, and every December the council held an event called "The Giving Tree."  You did a craft for local nursing homes or hospitals, you brought something to donate for the less fortunate, you ate a snack, and you made a patch or beaded thing to put on your vest saying you went to the Giving Tree that year.  You also listened to someone read the namesake book of the event by Shel Silverstein.

Now, when I think about it, it reminds me that giving up parts of yourself for others is worth it.  That tree is part of my moral compass, and part of how I look at the world. 

But. Beware of reading the comments on goodreads for this book: "it enshrines self-destructive and self-pitying martyrdom as the paragon of love for others" and "co-dependent tree needs to get some f%^$ing boundaries."  Yikes.  And here I thought it was a book to teach you to think beyond yourself. 

3.  Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I loved these books as a girl, and took great pride in that my grandmother's family was from a small town called Walnut Grove, near that banks of Plum Creek.  And, my grandfather's relatives came to Minnesota when it was a territory, between 1848 and 1858.  This makes us descendents of Territorial Pioneers (I have a certificate and everything).  This book helped me feel connected to my past.  And of course, I made sure that Laura Ingalls Wilder figured prominently into our family vacations around the Midwest...I don't actually remember what the car ride through the middle of nowhere in South Dakota was like, but I'm betting dad got lost and mom figured out where we were and we finally found the spot where Pa planted the cottonwood trees for his girls, and I was in a dither trying to figure out how to get a stick from each tree.  (I still have them, up in the attic back home).  Watching the girls from the prairie survive through such challenges, it was inspiring.

4.  Unknown set of Fairy books from the 398 section of the Ramsey County Library
I was a child of many phases: dinosaur, methods of torture for Catholic saints, scientists, flowers, and of course, fairies.  There was a set of books at the library that I checked out over and over again...they had canvasy, velvety covers, and a picture pasted on the front, with lots of pictures inside.  I've looked before and haven't been able to find copies of them, but each book had a theme.  I remember a sage green one and a purple one in particular, but no idea what their names are.  Lost to history, they are.
First read in middle school, this connected me to a whole new set of friends.  Bored out of our skulls in middle school, we played a role play game set in this world, with strong heroines and plot twists, a choose-your-own-adventure where the drama and tension ran high.  Unfortunately, most of the ladies were in orchestra, and stayed on the red team for 8th grade, and I was in band so I was on the blue team, and then one of them got really mad at me (still don't know why, ha!) - and so our merry band was a bit more fractious as time went on.  But these days, I'm still real-life friends with one of them, which makes the whole funny episode of my life absolutely worth it. 

To me, Harry Potter will always be memories of reading the entire series out loud to my younger brother before he went to bed.  Busy high school nights, nights that I can't even remember how late I stayed up to do homework...but I always read to him.  These books may not be "high art" - but you can bet they have stuck with me something fierce. 

It pains me to put two books that I loathe on this list.  But As the voracious reader I was, until these books, I never really experienced disliking a book that was assigned to me.  I hated the characters, the conflict, the language, the anger, everything.  And it was enlightening to realize that honestly, I didn't have to like everything I read.  Most of my book reviews before then were that I liked it, or I loved it.  Here, I finally found the full range of how I felt about books.  And of course, they were assigned by the inimitable KO Paulsen.  Poor me, I was so conflicted.  I wanted to impress all my teachers, and doing that while hating the books he assigned, that was a new challenge. 

There was also the time I made a bet with him: I would read Faulkner's Light in August, he would read Reviving Ophelia (a manifesto-ish book about preserving the intellect and happiness that girls possess when they're in elementary school through the rest of their lives).  I read it, and didn't love it.  I still can't fathom the fact that, effectively, a child's love of toothpaste ruined his life.   I'm not entirely sure if he read the copy of Reviving Ophelia that I loaned him, but one can hope.
One of the most meaningful high school classes I took was AP Humanities.  It was the year my grandfather died, the year the nicest guy I had known to that point took me to prom (as friends), the year I realized that I would never really be good at speech, but hey whatever, the year that I lost my voice and ended up in the hospital, the year started to see high school as something I just kind of wanted to leave. 

We worked our way through history: the Greeks, the Romans, Persia, the dark ages, the enlightenment, the Romantic period, all the way through today.  We studied philosophy, religion, art, culture, in about as many ways as one can.  Ms. Dahlin was quite adamant that we experience pieces how they were meant to be experienced, which meant that we spent plenty of class time reading things aloud, from Beowulf to the Illiad.

But one day in particular stood out: the day that we read Lysistrata.  (cliff's notes: women of warring city-states in Greece are sick of war, and withhold sex until their men agree to stop fighting; it's hysterical).  For some reason, I was chosen to read the part of Lysistrata.  And I had never been in the position of power in high school to that point, even in an imaginary way playing a character.  It was so much fun.  It opened my eyes to the idea that comedy came in many forms, and that sometimes, playing the prude is just no fun.  I also had the very new feeling of being openly reviled by a very jealous real-life girlfriend because of my fake imaginary role of Lysistrata.  (hey!  high school!  nice to remember that...ah...not)
Girl that feels alone in the world fights evil and wins.  It's a typical hero's journey, wrapped in the trappings of a fully-realized world, which makes it unforgettable.  I know that I'm not alone, and I am reminded of that often, but there's something about Sabriel's ability to triumph in the darkest of times that I find soothing.  I will not deny that there are times in my life where I say to myself before a difficult presentation, "Sabriel fought Kerrigor.  I'm entirely sure that I can handle my thesis committee." 

I first tried reading Jane Austen in second grade.  It didn't work.  I tried again in seventh grade.  Nope. Finally, I tried again as a sophomore in college, and promptly read all of her books in the space of two weeks.  It was the time for me to see these strong women struggle within the bounds of their confined world, suffering the consequences of their choices, but also finding happiness.  I adore Eliza Bennett and the decision she made to remain herself, not making herself over in the image of a dunce-of-a-cousin's wife, or as anyone else she couldn't possibly be.  It's exactly what a college-aged adolescent in the aftermath of a breakup needed to read.  And her strength of character has stayed with me in a much realer way than most characters do. 


After making my list, I saw this article in the sidebar where facebook collated the data from all that members had posted, and it was fascinating!

I will say, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those that also sticks with me, but I think it does more so because of Gregory Peck and the book than the book on it's own.  I'd also give a special shout-out to one of the high school librarians for recommending The Handmaid's Tale, and others like Slaughterhouse 5 and Brave New World, which still leave me feeling uncomfortable...but uncomfortable in the way that helped me grow. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Farmer's market surprises

Aren't they pretty?  I still have no idea what they are.  They tasted incredibly bitter, even when I salted and sauteed them.  They look sort of like persimmons, but their interior was more like a tomato.  I have no idea.  It's a mystery.

These are adorable mini-eggplants, about an inch long each...but they were also incredibly bitter.  Ah well.  They were cute, at least.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to School!

Welcome to the newest crew of ladies on my floors!  They are ready for a year of muffins, movie nights, and hopefully lots of dim sum. 

They hail from all over the world: China, Bangaladesh, Indonesia, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and four are from the great state of California.  Purple is overwhelming the favorite color, and chocolate chip cookies are their jam. 

Even better, the movies they could watch over and over again range from Spirited Away to Mean Girls to Ocean's 11 to Pride and Prejudice. 

I think we're going to get along just fine.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Building 12 Construction

The first day of school, I walked my normal route to work and construction workers were blocking the stairs between building 8 and building 56...for the next FIVE YEARS.  The madness started the day after graduation, when the corridor that ran parallel to the Infinite Corridor was shut down...but this?  This was getting personal. 

This is how the hallway used to look!  It's difficult to capture, but there's a full bank of windows at the end of the hallway.

See?  Glorious.

This is our view now.  They have literally blocked off the light at the end of the tunnel.

They removed two windows and added panels to eventually allow for some giant pipes from the Infinite to go out of the window and to the construction site.

The two story building on the far left is the one they're demolishing to make room for a new Nanomaterials Building.

There's official doors and everything.  Madness.