Sunday, December 30, 2007

the joys of free laundry and no alarm clocks

I feel like a lot of my wasted time during the semester can be attributed to internet surfing, but now that I have a week of totally free time, there is nothing good to browse because all the bloggers are taking a week off too! Ah well. I should be doing more productive things anyway. For example, yesterday I made a wrist-rest for when I'm typing at my laptop, so my wrists can hopefully stop aching all the time. It looks like a fat snake, and I filled it with green lentils. It took me literally 5 minutes, and I don't know why I didn't make one a long time ago!

I made green chile chicken enchiladas for my family for dinner the other night. I made the chile sauce from scratch, from six Anaheim chiles which I roasted and peeled and chopped and cooked and blended, which certainly took a long time but it was so delicious! If I do say so myself. It was accompanied by a persimmon salsa made with persimmons and mint from my parents' backyard orchard, along with a bit of jalapenos and cilantro, and it was so tasty and sweet. Mmm. Fresh and homemade food is so excellent.

Mom got the cat Sushi a Christmas present, which was a round cat bed to hopefully encourage her to sleep in the same place every day, instead of leaving cat hair all over the room. She appears to love it and sleeps as a little kitty-cinnamon-roll atop the bed. :) [photo coming soon]

Thursday, December 27, 2007

take it to the limit

The holiday quality family time culminated today in a shouting match over dinner, and now each family member has retreated to a different room in the house. Good thing Kimmy had already gone up to LA for the rest of her vacation, or it would have been a much louder affair. I assume that all families have their moments like these, where not having to be guarded means you eventually let everyone know when you're annoyed with them and you make no attempt to shield anyone from your grumpy moods. In my family, it means shouting about feeling unappreciated or feeling like someone is not listening to you. I think that amongst non-related friends, people make more of an effort to appreciate and listen in order to show they value the friendship, but within families, sometimes you forgo the formality because it won't change the fact that you're related. I'm not saying this is a good thing. I don't even know if this is true in anyone else's family because people usually don't talk about this sort of private emotional discourse. But my gut feeling is that every family, no matter how perfect or happy they look on the outside or at most times, has its quirks and disagreements and tense moments, because there are no perfect people and no perfect relationships. My point is that we should never feel like we're the only one with an imperfect family life, and these moments of irritation and anger don't preclude a supportive and caring family relationship. Perhaps it helps that I have a short memory and I won't be mad anymore by tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Woot. I mean w00t. I am done with my last final. And done with classes for the semester! They were so unenjoyable I just want to erase them from my head. Faced with my first free evening in recent memory, I browsed iTunes for a while and then settled down with an online episode of Desperate Housewives and a pile of craft supplies. I know I should make and mail my xmas cards asap, but I'm currently feeling really uninspired by the pile of embossing powder and cardstock and chopped-up gingerbread-people buttons littering my carpet. I don't even feel like cleaning it up. There was a holiday craft fair in lobby 10 today, and I drooled over almost every booth of delectable handmade goods - hand-dyed scarves, beaded jewelry, knitted mittens, and my favorite: letterpress cards. Oh they were gorgeous! So simple yet so perfect! How can I make those myself?! I think about making this type of thing all the livelong day, but in the lab, I feel like this useless waste of space with her hands in her pockets because there's nowhere else to put them. Surrounded by a slew of very able people, I hesitate to do anything on my own for fear that they will secretly ridicule my poor apparatus design and construction. And wonder what I'm even doing there. Oh, it's that good old MIT syndrome again, but this time I think it's really true. Frowny face.

Monday, December 17, 2007

the unwinding

I should have had my nose to the books all weekend long, but I had to breathe a few sighs of relief for a successful GAME Winter Party on Friday. After such a productive semester, my weekend consisted of very low-key activities such as snow-shoveling and pajama-lounging in the warmth of my apartment, making bear-shaped egg sandwiches with James, my favorite partner in crime. Oh yeah, I still have a final on Wednesday, but my brain has already gone on vacation...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

scraping ice off windshield: 500 calories

Well I hope I burned off that chocolatey dessert I ate today, because it was certainly more work than expected to get my car de-iced enough to drive down the street to a different parking spot. Yes, the streets are covered with ice and salt, but I didn't want to risk getting my car towed for street cleaning again. So at 10:45pm, I hacked away at the layer of rough ice on my windshield in my green jacket, black mittens, and pink rainboots. The snow blew off nearby rooftops and swirled around under the streetlights. I don't know if it was so calm and quiet because the snow dampens outdoor sounds or because everyone sane was inside avoiding the arctic weather. Except me, tending to my stupid car.

Anyway, there was nothing better to follow that than a hot shower to get the circulation back into my toes, and to rinse away all the stress of this Monday. I think I have definitely taken on too much this semester, and a lot of it has been really rewarding, but in my mind I want to be spending more time on research. It could be all in my head, but I feel like my advisor is probably wondering why he hired me, and why I haven't produced anything yet. Or maybe I'm wondering that.

The highlight of my weekend was probably hockey, which never fails to distract me from everything but hockey. There are an infinite number of things to learn in hockey, new twists on skating drills, puck handling, fakes, turns, shooting, playing the body, passing, and it never gets old. It's an incredible rush for me, and a good practice is one where I'm exhausted at the end. Ice hockey is such an enjoyable way to stay in shape! Yay for healthy hearts!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

thank you for this food

Tonight I cooked myself a big dinner of farfalle pasta with chicken sausage, canneloni beans, red kale, and sundried tomatoes. It was delicious, and not that hard to make. I made a big pot of it that produced about 4.5 meals worth of food. This is so excellent and satisfying because if I divide up what I spent on the ingredients, each meal cost less than 3 dollars! And I know exactly what went into it, so I know it's good for me, and it's made with fresh food. Oh, so excellent. ...Also, this was my first time cooking red kale, or kale of any color at all, and despite its scary multicolored leafy look, it's actually pretty mild and tasty when cooked. Yay for trying new things!

Anyway, last week's Thanksgiving extravaganza at the Fernando's house was lots of fun, as it is every year. This year even Andrew flew out to join us for the big gathering of cousins, which also included our second cousins Anjali and Lauren and Amrit, as well as our first cousins, Sanji, Michelle, and Anil, with their various kids. Except Anil, who brought his girlfriend instead, woah. There was turkey, stuffing, lamb curry, biscuit pudding, pumpkin muffins, mulled wine, naptime, movies, trivial pursuit, taboo, football, bowling, beirut, chinese checkers, and shopping. Couldn't forget the shopping with sister Kimmo around. She is kind of too bossy for me, but we managed not to poke each other's eyes out this year. Yay for us.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

chilly autumn air of new hampshire

I spent this weekend in New Hampshire, fighting off a cold and avoiding the wintry temperatures that materialized in frozen ice puddles on the plastic chairs on James's back porch. I was hardly sure when I had kicked the cold, since the sneezing and runny nose persisted in response to the cat hair of Easy. Despite my allergy to cats, I cannot resist hanging out with cats such as James's roommate's cat Easy - a fat, mostly-white, whiny, indoor cat who has found a new purpose to life in the purple mouse toy I crocheted her that now hangs on the high chair in the kitchen. It is beyond hilarious to watch Easy roll onto her back and attack this mouse with her back feet, teeth bared, crazy look in her eye. Oh, lazy cat.

We went to the UNH library this morning to get some homework done, since our Saturday at home was piddled away by cozy fleece pants and movies and snuggles. Not that I didn't enjoy that completely. But anyway, the UNH library has a big study room that reminds me of the Doe at Berkeley, with high ceilings and a row of long tables with lamps. We certainly knew we were not at MIT anymore upon realizing that the room was filled with 85% female students. They wore their typical UNH weekend girl uniform of UNH sweatpants, Ugg boots, grey sweatshirt and a ponytail with a headband. I was seriously the only girl in there in a cable-knit cardigan.

Anyway I think I've got my health back, and just in time for a hockey game against Harvard JV tomorrow night. I can't wait! I have only exercised like twice in the past 2 weeks, and that basically makes me enjoy all my food less, since I feel it going straight into my love handles. I prefer to work out really hard, ~3 times per week, and then feel happy about eating whatever mostly-healthy food I want. With a chocolate-chip cookie here and there. And with Thanksgiving coming up, I might have to throw in an extra run somewhere this coming weekend...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

a feast for a crowd

On our second day in Dhahran, our hosts at KFUPM (King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals) took us out to a traditional Saudi meal at a restaurant in Dammam. A bunch of faculty and graduate students also met us at the restaurant. When we first arrived, our host jumped out of the van and came back in to tell the driver to go around the back. I noticed a big sign that said "Ladies' entrance" near the door that we entered. We walked on a carpeted pathway to the door and entered a big receiving room, lined on all sides with couches. Between each couch was a small table with a little dish of dates. The room was the size of a basketball court, but we all took seats around the edges on the couches, and a guy came around with a stack of tiny coffee cups and the Saudi-style coffee pot of coffee spiced with cinnamon and cardamom, or something like that. Coffee and dates, everywhere we went.

It seemed the table wasn't ready for us (we had a group of like 35), so they led us out the back door, around the side of the building on some more carpet pathways, and into another door where there was a big oven where a dude baked circular puff breads before our very eyes. We even got to try some (yum!). Upstairs, we wandered through some kind of museum with old artifacts of SA, and pictures of its history, including one of the King visiting KFUPM on its opening day in the 1960s. On the stairs we passed a couple with a child - the woman was wearing a black abaya with a black scarf and veil covering her eyes. She even wore black gloves. You would think that such strict Muslims would have migrated to Iceland at some point, where such heavy attire makes more practical sense.

The dinner was held at a loooong T-shaped table about a foot from the ground, and we sat cross-legged on carpets to eat. Giant platters of rice with lamb in the center and small plates of hummus, salads, triangular cheese pastries, and drinks beckoned to us, and we ate what we could (after being offered so much food all day long). Dinner was followed by dessert of Om Ali, a regional dessert that debatably originated from Egypt with a story of two wives, one of whom died and the other made the dessert. Details of that story were uncertain, but the dessert was very tasty. Then we were offered small glass mugs of tea as we chatted with the graduate students, who were eager to know what I thought of KFUPM and how it differed from MIT and what advice I had for getting into a place like MIT. They were very courteous and nice, and it was really interesting to hear what their student life is like. Most of them seemed to be from India or Egypt, and one guy from Sudan. They were very enthusiastic about this potential collaboration. I would be interested to know how all the other students at KFUPM would view it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I'm back in town, and totally exhausted. The trip to Saudi Arabia was eye-opening and fascinating. The culture of SA is so different from American culture, and it's incredibly enlightening to actually meet and chat with people who live there, to understand how they think, where they come from, how they live. The unknown is scary and intimidating, but by meeting many people who wear traditional Saudi clothing, with the white headdress and white long shirt and black facial hair, they become people rather than figures on tv.

On our last day we drove out of town to see some sand dunes and camels - they were chillin' by the roadside, eating some shrubbery, with one guy sitting on a tan camel, perhaps a camelherd. They started wandering away from us when we came up with our cameras, but they were pretty amazing to watch.

Monday, October 29, 2007

a long to-do list

With this trip to Saudi Arabia rapidly approaching, my to-do list lengthens and my available time shrinks. I desperately need to do laundry (let's not go into detail on that one) and run a few errands at Target. The midterm in my lame-o class is coming up on Thursday, and we've just been assigned a problem set due the following day. The professor in that class is so bad that I can't even rant about him any further. In short, he talks too fast, has a foreign accent, and slurs all the important words together. Plus we leave for Saudi Arabia the very next day, which makes me feel all rushed. To fill in some details, I'm traveling with a group of professors from my department to a university in Dhahran that we might collaborate with, to get a feel for what it's like there, given the dramatically different culture of SA. I'm not sure what to expect, but I will take as many pictures as possible (I hope), and paper-blog about the experience. I bought some long-sleeved button-down shirts and my mom mailed me a scarf that I can wear around my neck (to show respect for the culture of female modesty there). Honestly, I can't believe it's like four days away.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

stomach gurgles

I took my mechanics of materials midterm today in an absence of flying colors, but now that's it's over with, I'm not that concerned about it anymore. Good for me.

I find myself to be incredibly tired lately, seemingly lacking a spare minute to take a breath and gather my sanity together. With one midterm down and one to go, I also have this upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia in the back of my mind. Okay, more like the front of my mind, like a giant hovering lion waiting to pounce on me. Needless to say I'm a little nervous. I'll be traveling with a group of profs from my department, and all travel and lodging arrangements are being taken care of, so I shouldn't have much to worry about. We leave around 11pm next Friday night, and arrive in Dhahran on Sunday morning. Hmm, talk about red eyes. I got the required waiver today so that I'm covered by MIT travel insurance, which is important because Saudi Arabia is considered a "highest risk" country. It should be an amazing experience, and I am pretty proud to represent the students of my department on an international visit.

Hockey season has started, and I'm super stoked to improve my skillz even more this year! This season, my goal is to become more aggressive. That's right, I'm going to take the puck away from YOU! I think I'm kind of timid on the ice, for fear of getting knocked over maybe. Well, I shall hesitate no more, from now on!

Anyway, tomorrow morning is my second-to-last day of rowing for the fall, and I'd better get to bed now so I don't feel like my head will explode tomorrow.

Monday, October 15, 2007

post from a train

I’m riding on the Amtrak towards Boston, after an autumn weekend in Dover, NH. The weather really got chilly today, and I wished I’d dug out my winter coat before coming up. James and I did a little of this and that over the weekend, starting with a tasty pizza dinner on Friday evening after I arrived on the train. I happily scored a free ride up to Dover by accidentally sitting in a seat that had already been marked for a destination, causing the conductor to not check my ticket. Since I have the 6-ride pass, this meant I didn’t use one of the rides! Yay! Thus I involuntarily stick it to the man once again.

We tore ourselves out of bed on Saturday at 10:45am to bike to brunch with James’s roommate Dana, who is part of some kind of biker gang. You’re probably imagining some kind of leather-jacket-clad Harley group, but in fact the type of bike in question here is more like a 1970s cruiser bike, with curved handlebars, and a long multicolored seat. I borrowed his other roommate Christine’s blue flowered bike and we all ate a tasty breakfast at Harvey’s. Interesting times, eh.

I had a few things to buy for my upcoming trip, so James and I hit the mall in the afternoon. Who knew a little shopping could stress me out to the point that my anxiety leaked out of my head through my eyes, in liquid form. Perhaps that was due to the purpose of the shopping trip, namely to purchase business-casual shirts that would be appropriate to wear in a very conservative Muslim country. This is stressful, and monetarily taxing. And every store in the mall selling button-down shirts had few options that would button all the way to my neck, leaving me little choice to agonize over. Anyway, I was glad to get out of there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

non-stop action-packed life

I've been so incredibly tired all day today. I think a bit of dehydration is also contributing to my all-day pounding headache, which was satiated by neither grape gatorade nor a hot vanilla steamer (my new favorite drink). I felt like I was going to faint during the GAME exec meeting (which I was sort of running), and I could hardly focus my eyes on the face of whoever was talking. Somehow I still managed to get some stuff done in lab, which is slowly ramping up to a feeling akin to actual research. I guess it's a slow ascent to productivity in a new lab.

The weather is getting colder, which means it's doubly more difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Not only am I sleepy, but it's also way chillier outside of the coccoon of my down comforter. And sometimes it's also 5:30am. Brr. Speaking of early mornings, we were supposed to race an 8+ in the NH Regatta this weekend, but then the MITRC captain sent out an email today saying we weren't entering any boats. Hmm that kind of sucks. I suppose I am heading up to NH anyway, to visit James for another weekend, since I have to be in Cambridge the weekend after that. This whole weekend travelling thing is getting tiring to think about. I ordered some train tickets for the Downeaster Amtrak, which goes from Boston to Portland, stopping in Dover and Durham - I'm pretty stoked because the train will give me back the 1.5 hours that driving usurps from my life, allowing me to do hw or reading or crocheting while traveling! Oh, lovely.

I think I spend more time dreaming about crafting than actually making any crafts. I have a host of websites that I regularly check for updates, and subsequently drool over new posts of gorgeous craft photos. I swoon from the beauty of some of these color combinations! Oh, my eyes!

Anyway, I downloaded an album of tunes by Chopin. They sound exactly like the memories in the back of my brain. I find that I know how each piece sounds just before it plays, although I don't listen to classical music regularly, but rather because my dad used to play these pieces on the stereo throughout my childhood. And now I realize how lovely they are! Yay for piano!

Monday, October 8, 2007


I've been wrestling with this blog for a couple days now, wanting to redesign the layout and colors but not knowing how to actually do it. On blogger you're limited by the pre-designed layouts they let you choose from - most are pretty nice, but none are quite what I'm looking for. Sometimes you can't actually change all the colors either. I've changed my title about 7 times, and I'm simultaneously playing around with iWeb to see if that will satisfy my thirst for newness. But really, I'm not a graphic designer. I may have ideas on how the blog should look, but I don't really know how to make it happen. In my kind of crafts, you can touch and feel all the colors, and play around with layouts with your fingers. Grr.

I'm searching for that song that plays during the newest Halo commercial, with all the action figures. It's some kind of classical piano, and I want it! I think the only kind of classical music that I can really listen to on my own is on the piano. It reminds me of Saturday mornings in my parents' house.

The little kitty was gone from James's house when we came back from studying on Sunday. Big cat Easy was just sitting around quietly, with nobody to hiss at or to sneak up and pounce on him. I had been crocheting a quick toy for the cats to bat around, but then I didn't finish it since Axel wasn't there to play with it. Maybe next weekend. He sure was a funny little guy.

I stopped at Jo-Ann Fabrics on Friday on my way to Dover; I picked up a big piece of red and white sheer fabric to make a curtain to cover up my ugly door-less closet. I hope it brightens up my room a little bit too. I'm hoping that I can use a little leftover and somehow sew it onto my window curtain to tie the room together. Hmm, yeah, as soon as I have some spare time on my hands...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Apple Harvest Day

New Hampshire is actually a beautiful state. It doesn't seem to have any big cities, and it's not well known for much except maybe hiking spots. But today we got to see lots of the wonderful things this state has to offer. Today was Dover's big Apple Festival, and we walked just 3 blocks from James's apartment to the start of a blocks-long craft fair (to my delight) and browsed little booths of gorgeous wood-carved boxes, hand-sewn purses, locally-made pumpkin butter and maple candy and jalapeno jelly, paintings, health remedies, political supporters, handmade jewelry, and an array of unhealthy carnival-type food. We only had a hotdog and a soft-serve ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. It was incredibly sunny (and hot for October) so we couldn't stay out too long. But man I love craft fairs!

We also drove to the Kittery Outlet Stores to hit up any Columbus Day sales, which took us through some beautiful scenery with all the fall foliage surrounding houses on acres of land, accented with orange and yellow mums everywhere. Pumpkins, too. Yay for fall!

In other news, James's apartment has a new kitty. I'm not sure how temporarily this kitty is here, but he's sure a cute one. His name is Axel, and he likes to explore everything. He's also quite tech-savvy, as it turns out.

Axel is not quite fully grown yet, and he doesn't quite get along with the previously reigning fat kitty, Easy, who thinks Axel is hogging all the attention. I kind of want to steal Axel and take him home with me.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A New Leaf

Well my old Tabulas blog decided to screw me over and delete a good ranting post right after I'd finished writing it, so I ditched it and started this blog! I guess 3 years is a good lifetime for a blog. Time for me to turn over the next page.