Tuesday, December 16, 2008

visions of sugarplums

Winter break is about to start! My classes are over and I feel like it's time for me to transition into being a real adult. Time to crank out my research and prepare for entering the working world! Okay this will be a long transition, more than a year. That's okay. I need to look at the end goal in order to even start running down the field. But first... the holidays!

The weather in Massachusetts is wacky, to say the least, and in two days I'll be back in San Diego where the weather is nothing but predictable. I have no major plans for San Diego, but it will be the first time James spends Christmas with my family. Hmmm...! I feel like this is a big deal but I'm not sure what else to think about it. Christmas tradition for me involves meeting a lot of my parents' neighbors and making awkward, polite conversation about what I do in Boston, eating lots of home-baked cookies, going to church on Christmas eve and hearing the same verses read that I hear every year (although the church we go to these days has a really nice brass quintet), eating tasty appetizers with the extended family on xmas day, walking around the neighborhood to see the ridiculous light displays (my parents' 'hood goes overboard), and inevitably fighting over the car with my siblings. Some highs and lows, obviously. My favorite parts are: cooking for my parents, singing in church (the only time I sing at the top of my lungs in a public place filled with strangers), hanging out with the kitty cat Sushi, picking fruit from the backyard, and sleeping in till 10 without guilt. Nothing is more comfortable than my bed at home - it's like some kind of magical time-warp cashmere cloud that sucks away any conceivable jet lag and knocks me out for 10 hours nightly. Or that's what it seems like, anyway.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

it is not trivial

Classes are finally over! It took literally two days for that realization to sink in. Now I'm in a weird transition period, where I know I'm going home for the holidays in a week, and I still feel like I need to get some research done. It's one of the few times a year where I get a chance to step back and look at where I am. The rest of the year we just repeat the same answers, over and over, like a robot, to those same questions that you don't really know how to answer anyway. How's research? When are you going to graduate? How are classes? Uh... pretty good, about a year, pretty interesting. But what am I really doing, where am I going, what is my plan? What am I doing with my life? Do I repeat the same answers again and again because I still want the same things, or because I tell myself I want those things even when my mind starts to change? If I repeat them enough, does it stay true? The easiest thing to do is just stay entrenched in the work, the class projects and the experiments, such that there's no spare second to think too deeply about the purpose of one's life. Way too complicated and uncertain.

The other thing that frustrates me is how differently we act with different people. I think it's because once you get a read on someone's sense of humor, you start to say things that you know they'll get, and this is different for every person you know. But at the same time, why can't we be equally confident in talking to everyone? Maybe my new year's goal will be to stop being intimidated by people. And also to stop reading random news sites at 1am when I should be sleeping. My achilles' heel!

It's pouring outside and my pink rainboots have holes in them. The economy is not doing well, yet I am hopelessly in love with some $300 leather boots. Maybe I should carpool to Washington and ask for some money. But who's going to bail me out?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

things i do not appreciate

1. neighbors who hog the washer/dryer when I need them
2. rainboots that leak
3. poorly organized events that cause 200 people to continuously wait in a line
4. that ill wind that blows when you leave the hairdresser
5. spiders
6. experimental sources of error
7. unwieldy group projects
8. plucking my eyebrows
9. grammar and punctuation errors online
10. techno

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


My conditioner is supposedly scented like vanilla plum, but every time I pop open the bottle in the shower, the smell takes me back to some childhood toy that I can't quite put my finger on, like a Strawberry Shortcake or My Little Pony, or some other scented pink rubber-ish toy. Do they still make toys that smell like that?

I've spent a dramatic portion of the last three days working on a takehome midterm. I'm wholly convinced that the exam-writers did not actually go through the problems themselves, because they're quite ambiguous. I'm starting to feel like I've been beating my head against a brick wall, just endlessly searching for mundane data on the internet that just cannot be found. I also feel like my butt is taking on the shape of the chair. [Frowny face].

It didn't help that every time I got stuck on the exam, I would obsessively turn to this article on the Newsweek website about the behind-the-scenes story of the 2008 election. They actually had embedded reporters who agreed not to write these things until after the election, so now that they're published, we get to read the really interesting details. It's truly fascinating how these campaigns are orchestrated. In a way it makes me feel bad for McCain, as if he was a much better person than his party allowed him to be, than his campaign managers showed everyone. At the same time it made me admire Obama much more, for his principled and even-tempered approach to every issue that came up. Really amazing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

autumn crops

My little garden plot has transitioned into a fall garden (mainly by means of my ripping out all the old, dying plants and putting in new seeds for a fall crop), and I have noticed that things grow much slower in the cold weather! It seems to be taking forever for my miniature lettuce farm to grow me a salad.

James sneakily buried an avocado seed in the dirt one time in July when I wasn't looking. For a while the spot was hidden under the leafy jungle of the cucumber plant, but once that yellowed and withered, I discovered a mini avocado tree! I'm going to have to transplant this guy into a big pot before winter. The nighttime temps have not hit freezing yet, but they're getting close! I am more than stoked to have a bigger garden next year (I hope I get one), and I'll have whole farm for myself. It will be AMAZING!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

power ten to cross the halfway mark

What a gorgeous weekend for the Head of the Charles regatta. James and I moseyed over to the Weeks Footbridge on Saturday to try and see some exciting crashes as various eights fought it out for the lead along the winding river with its inconveniently-placed bridges. We definitely saw a few oar-clashes and some coxwains yelling at each other. Thrilling! I crouched down to look through the gaps in the bridge's stone wall to see the rowers faces as they raced away from us. It's amazing how many boats compete in this race! It couldn't have been a more perfect day - crisp, sunny, and autumnal.

In other news, club ice hockey has started, and we had our first two practices this weekend. I forgot how completely exhausting it is to even stand up on skates! I was ready to die after the first practice. Luckily, James and I cooked up a delicious brunch this morning and I had the needed fuel to survive the second practice. I really think hockey will get me back in the exercise routine that I need to stay healthy - I'd stopped rowing this fall due to classes and research commitments, and I think my paring-back of athletics left me vulnerable to this terrible cold I caught this week. I'm still sneezing it out. Boo.

Looks like it's also time to start weatherizing our apartment - temperatures are dropping to the 30s at night these days, and I'm starting to regret my lack of curtains. The problem is that I have this super-cool crafty idea of how I want to make my curtains, which means I'm putting off making them until I have time to really do them right. Alas, the curse of the DIY mentality.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Some days, my motivation is nowhere to be found. I'd be curious to know what percentage of those days are Mondays. On this particular Monday, I managed to oversleep by two hours and then go to the gym anyway, putting me in my office around 11:45am. I ate a rather blah lunch, which seemed to be the result of Campus Dining throwing the leftovers of several different soups into one pot and calling it "gumbo", and then struggled to do calculations which made no sense regardless of how I tried to reason it out. These days, the atmosphere of my lab is not very motivating - it seems like a ghost town, and I think I'm stuck in a rut. To contrast with it, we are next door (literally and figuratively) to a new, vibrant, social lab that has lab retreats involving beer. The best I could hope for now is some snacks at our 8:30am lab meeting. Which I would probably have to bring myself. Anyway, maybe I am a supernerd for even thinking about this stuff, but I would certainly rather that there was more urgency or excitement in our lab. It's hard to conjure up that sort of feeling on your own.

In other news, the weather is definitely getting colder, and I'm gonna have to start wearing socks and shoes when I go outside. :( At least my light-grey lace scarf is almost halfway knitted... ahh, at this rate it will be done by the time next summer arrives! At least it's a portable project that I can take on the train with me to New Hampshire. I am really starting to get tired of the long-distance part of our relationship. Somehow we survived for a year, and it shouldn't be that hard to just push through another nine months or so. But lately I am longing more and more for one of us to just graduate already! Why am I so discontented about the state of my life right now?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I'm crashing a pilates PE class this term. I took the same one last spring, and it's such a good change from my normal workout. Plus I think I have a girl-crush on the instructor. She is beautiful and also has great taste in music! Today the song "Rain" by Bishop Allen came through the playlist, and it was suddenly the best stretch I'd ever stretched. It's amazing how a good song can change my mood so drastically - even though I'd spent most of the day searching Web of Science for blah information I never found, the day was suddenly redeemed by the happiness of this song! I've been listening to pandora.com recently, a website where you create your own radio station by indicating one song you like, and the site will play a bunch of other songs with similar qualities. I started with a little Belle and Sebastian, and now I've discovered some really great artists, like Sufjan Stevens. Yay!

I've been on a fabric-buying binge lately, all in preparation for sewing the most awesome duvet cover ever made. My color palette has some olive green, light blue, and a touch of turquoise/teal. I can't wait to start designing the patchwork front side. I have ~5 different Amy Butler fabrics that need arranging into some kind of pattern. The fabrics, mostly scavenged from various etsy sellers, arrived in the mail piece-wise, and are absolutely delicious. To die for.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

super brains

I've started reading this book called "The Chip" which talks about the history and development of integrated circuits being made on monolithic pieces of semiconductor, the huge history-altering invention that allows me to have this computer sitting on my lap right now. My advisor recommended this book (in fact he bought 8 copies for the lab) and I finally got around to starting it. It's amazing! It goes back and talks about all the people who discovered groundbreaking scientific properties (like the existence of the electron), and the people who used them to make hugely important inventions (like the transistor). I love that it talks about the lives and research philosophies of the various scientists and engineers. Like how J.J. Thompson (who discovered the electron) liked to sit around at his desk and just work out math equations all day long. Or how Niels Bohr (of the Bohr Model of the atom) spoke 4 languages and was an all-star soccer player and generally nice guy. Or how William Shockley (co-inventor of the transistor) thought in the late 1960s that black people were genetically inferior to white people, and therefore should be offered tax breaks for being voluntarily sterilized (what!), and he tried to run for president in 1982. Anyway, other than those things, it's also incredible to read about the various scientific philosophies of these historic inventors, and to see how they came upon these great ideas that have changed our lives and our way of life. It makes me wonder what MY research philosophy is, and what is my method for solving problems... To be determined...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

an unprecedented interest

I wonder when the last election was where the people of this country were so interested in the various candidates running for president. We have a charismatic leader running for the Democratic side, and a controversial pick for the VP of the Republican side, and huge contrasts to be made between the different candidates. It's tremendously exciting, especially because past elections have just given us a boring choice between two boring old white guys who sound the same as each other and as everyone else in the government. I feel like I have a stake in what I want our country to look like in the future, and the way I want our relationship to be with the rest of the world. I have definite views about how I want our country to end its dependence on foreign (or not foreign) oil, and most of all, I care about the character and the credibility of the people we elect to the highest office in the most powerful country in the world. The current administration has lost my trust completely, and I will be supremely disappointed in this country if we elect another two-faced, condescending, overly-aggressive politician to lead us. Please don't embarrass me.

Monday, September 1, 2008

dreams of the year to come

Traditionally, every year I have a dream/nightmare about the first day of school. Often it involves not knowing where my classroom is, or being lost on campus, or whatever else could go wrong. Even in grad school, where classes are only a minor part of my education, and I am no longer nervous about the "first day of school", I still have these dreams before every semester's start. Perhaps I am a weirdo, but anyway I am expecting one of these dreams in the next few days. Yes, folks, the fall semester starts on Wednesday! Tomorrow is Reg Day, which at MIT means you run around with your paperwork to get different signatures before handing the pink copy and the yellow copy in to different people... sort of like we were still in the Paper Age, since on this one day per semester MIT forgets that we're well into the Digital Age. Whatevers. At least my department gives us free fruit, pastries, and coffee, and a pizza/beer party later in the day. The semester just goes downhill from there! Haha, actually I'm not that pessimistic about it; I think this will be a pretty good semester, as they go. James and I will start our 3rd semester on opposite sides of the state borderline, and we should be total pros at this longish-distance relationship by now. We're more than halfway done with it, if you think about it. I am about ready form a thesis committee and make some progress towards graduating; I have only two required classes left; I am psychologically ready to move to the next (non-student) stage of my life. I'm excited about the upcoming hockey season, all the things I will learn to knit this winter, the patchwork duvet cover that I plan to design and sew, the curtains I will make (and maybe paint or print on), the pilates class I hope to take, and the books I hope to have time to read! Okay, that last one might really be just a dream. We'll see!

Friday, August 22, 2008

there's more where that came from

While in Golden Gate Park, we stopped by the Conservatory of Flowers, because there's nothing I love more than some super bright exotic flowers. Delicious!
The next day we went to our beloved Berkeley campus and reminisced about our glory days there - luckily the weather was PERFECT and there was nothing to ruin our beautiful dream... except the fact that the Cheeseboard is closed on Mondays! No pizza for me! We took a bus up to the rose garden and smelled all the flowers there - we really are plant people. And it's such a quintessentially Berkeley place for me - I used to run up to and past the Rose Garden every week for almost all four years. I love the Berkeley hills!
Next we took a train down to Lompoc where we hung out with James's family. And what is a trip to Lompoc without a little visit to Jalama beach...

Then we headed south for a short stay in San Diego before flying back to reality. We patrolled for pirate ships in a little sailboat in Mission Bay. Arrr. All we saw were divebombing pelicans having lunch.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

stocked up on vitamin D for the rest of the year

And we're back! It was a whirlwind two-week vacation of Utah and California, starting with a 3.5 day visit with Brad in Provo, and while there was no wedding to attend, we did have a good time cruising around the resort town of Midway on a little scooter, and hiking up a mountain to some awesome mineral formations in the Timpanogos Caves.
Next we flew over to San Francisco, where we crashed with the lovely Angela, and in return she made us wake up early to play soccer on a Saturday morning. But we still gave our all to team Emilio, to help get one goal for the spirited team. We also watched the Giants with Sungyon and Kevin and took a long walk through gorgeous Golden Gate Park.
To be continued...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

just a thought

I may be opinionated; I probably inherited this trait genetically from my dad, who has an opinion about basically everything. I try to be open-minded and listen to other people's opinions to make sure I really know all sides of the issues. But when it comes time to defend my opinions, I'm sometimes at a loss for how to state them without actually arguing with the other person, because I don't really want to have any bad feelings with people that I like. So I make an effort to always let the person say what they have to say without throwing my opinion down their throat. I think I do a pretty good job of this but sometimes I end up feeling like I didn't effectively convey my side of the issue. Anyway, today somehow we started talking about women and engineering, and I definitely have an opinion about that. After a while I just couldn't believe I had to explain why I taught for WTP, why I think we need to help encourage more women to consider careers in engineering. And it just makes me upset that some of my peers in engineering are basically perpetuating the unwelcomeness that women often feel in engineering. And they don't look beyond their own personal life for reasons why women might be underrepresented in mechanical engineering. And therefore they don't think it's a problem, don't think we need to do anything about it. It makes me madder than I can really say. Why I didn't think this at the time... well the circumstances were different. Everyone was laughing because nobody really wants to actually fight with each other. But deep down I'm a little hurt by the subject of our conversation, and it's illustrative that I was one woman arguing my side while five guys were on the other side. Well, not all of them were disagreeing with me, but I felt singularly responsible for trying to explain why women don't go into engineering at the rate that men do. Oh boo.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

veggies of my labor - week 6

Woohoo! Updated garden pictures! Suffice to say that my cucumber plant is steadily taking over the world. It's extending tendrils into neighboring plots, grabbing ahold of the tomato plants, grasping the zucchini leaves, and sprouting miniature bumpy cukes right and left. My little square is overflowing with leaves!

In even more exciting sub-news, the zinnias are blooming! They are a cheerful mix of pink, yellow, orange, and white, and they make me so happy!

Each blossom is an intricate sculpture of color burst. I feel like I'm making the world a prettier place. :)

Here is the biggest cucumber (photo taken on Saturday) - I actually picked this one today at about 8 inches long, and ate half of it on my salad for dinner! So excellent.

And here is the very first zucchini! James and I picked it on Saturday and James baked it into 12 zucchini muffins (which were DELISH). Oh man, I am loving this whole veggie garden thing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

square one

What does it take to find a new roommate? It was never this hard before. Emily and I have interviewed with 6 different people, and offered the room to 3 of them, only to be declined by 4 of them! How is this even possible? Our apartment is spacious, well-maintained, nicely decorated, and on the first floor. We are both normal, easy to get along with, active, and responsible. We had no idea it would be so hard to fill the 3rd bedroom! Maybe it's because we waited until a month before our lease is up, or because our location is not convenient for people, or whatevers. I'm so tired of advertising ourselves and reserving all my weeknights for interviews. Bah.

In other news, my garden is flourishing! I picked my first cucumber earlier this week, and ate it immediately! (I had to make sure it was real!) The zinnias are all blooming, and the zucchini plant produced its first zuke - pictures to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

a little spotlight for me

My little garden got a spotlight on apartmenttherapy.com! Yay!

Monday, July 14, 2008

exceeding expectations

James organized a deep-sea fishing trip for us on Sunday, launching off the coast of New Hampshire and spending the whole day fishing for cod and haddock. Let me tell you what I imagined the experience would be like. I was thinking a fun day in the sunshine, enjoying the cool ocean breezes and the fresh sea air, reeling in big and small fish, catching my first real fish, eating turkey sandwiches for lunch, and then bringing home an ice chest or two filled with fresh fish to grill for dinner. Now let me tell you what actually happened. It all began well, with James's friend Tim setting us up with spots on one side of the boat, and we went to get a quick greasy and cheap breakfast at the diner around the corner. At 7am, the counter was lined with large round men eating their bacon and egg breakfasts, and I imagined that they were probably in those exact seats any morning of the week. We were thrilled at the cheapness of the breakfast, and we boarded the boat at 8am, excited about the action-packed day we were about to have. For the first hour of travel towards our fishing site, we chatted with each other and the people sitting next to us, who were more seasoned fishermen with stories of interesting and delicious fish that could be caught in the Atlantic. We were stoked.

9am - the 20-foot swells start to make our stomachs a little woozy, and one by one we start donating our breakfasts to all the fish in the sea. The horrible feeling never really goes away, and an active concentration of my eyes on the horizon is necessary to avoid constant puking. I wait for the boat to reach its destination, some shoals out in the middle of the ocean where the fish hang out, and I assume that when the boat stops, the crazy rocking will stop and I'll recover enough to do some fishing. Unfortunately, the waves are still coming, tossing our boat side to side, and the best I can do is hold a rod that James baits for me, and half-heartedly reel it in if I feel a tug. Sometimes just the act of looking at the rod makes me sick. To top it off, there aren't many fish biting, and the boat captain takes us to four different sites to look for more fish. What with the tides and the violent waves, none of our group catches any edible fish, just some dogfish sharks that have to be thrown back. The more seasoned fishermen catch a few haddock, but they also do their fair share of ralphing. As far as James, Tony, Connie, and I were concerned, we were in a marathon test of endurance to avoid death for 8 hours before we returned to the docks at 5pm. It was the longest day of my life. Every time I looked at my watch, it was like 12 minutes after my last glance. I was ready to swim back rather than stay on that boat.

I'll spare you the gory details, but I walked off that boat at 5pm with a body ravaged by that boat. My stomach hurt, my legs were sore from holding my body in place as I clung to the rail for the two-hour trip back, pretending I was a crazy sea captain in the crow's nest or whatever, my butt hurt from the 6 hours of sitting on that hard plastic seat, my back hurt from the slouching I did to avoid feeling sicker, and later I found out that my entire face was sunburnt, excluding what was covered by my sunglasses. So now my nose hurts when I crinkle it.

To top it off, none of our crew caught any edible fish. James's friend actually gave us some fish (pity fish, if you will) and we thankfully but ashamedly took it home to grill. Unfortunately, while cooking it, I saw a couple small brown worms wriggling in the fish meat, which Amit said was totally normal (really?). I figured if they disappeared after cooking, I could still eat the fish... but then while eating, I discovered two big worms right in my bowl! I was WAY too grossed out to eat any more, and I think I'm swearing off fish for like a month. Blaghghgh.

James and I are sticking to rivers and lakes from now on.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

secret life of plants - week 4

The crazy humid thunderstorm weather has continued for the past week, and my garden has been loving it. The cucumber plants are going crazy, basically shading over half the garden, and shooting out skinny arms to reach for some support, so James put together this jungle-gym trellis to give them something to grow up. The zucchini is also going strong, and I'm hoping it will sprout a flower sometime soon! The tomato plants are also super leafy, so I tried to put two support cages on them, truly learning the lesson that you have to put those things on when the plants are small. I tragically broke off a few branches while doing it today. :( The plants have a couple small white flowers, but no tomatoes yet.

For some reason, the bell pepper plants never really flourished here. They grew at like a quarter of the rate of the cuke plants, and seem to have some unhappy browned holes on their leaves. Now they will certainly get less sun since the cukes are such monsters. Who knew they would need so much space!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

uncharted territories

I've decided to change my outlook on research. Previously, I felt kind if intimidated by all the components of my new lab that I knew nothing about. Working three years in my old lab put me in a comfortable position of feeling like I knew something about certain areas of materials characterization, measurement, etc. When I switched into the new lab, there were a host of things I felt lost around - circuit design, high-temperature materials, machining, design in general... and this made me uneasy because I felt that, as a fourth-year grad student, I shouldn't be so helpless. I mean, I was pretty clueless and useless when I joined my first lab, but as a first-year, who really expected me to know what I was doing? Now I feel like there's some expectation of competence from me. But I recently realized that nobody is supposed to know everything. The only way you would is if you have been doing the same thing for years, and who wants to live that life? Even after graduating, people seek new and unfamiliar projects to provide a new learning curve that adds even more wrinkles to their brain. So I've decided to adopt that goal as well. So I need to build a circuit to translate an AC voltage and current into a power measurement? Research, buy and machine some high-temperature insulation bricks? Design a high-temperature experiment? Excellent.

Monday, June 30, 2008

the crazy jungle - week 3

All this rain has done my garden well! I felt like I barely had a chance to check on my garden last week, but it rained almost every day. I went out one night to pull out some weeds, but it was already dark so I could barely see what I was doing. I was gone to NH for the weekend, but I knew that the tomato plants were bending over from the lack of support and the violent thunderstorm bursts. So today I devoted a little quality time to my garden plot - I installed some stakes and zip-tied the tomatoes to them (loosely), weeded all over the plot, and planted a bunch of new lettuce seeds. Here's the final status:

My single zucchini plant is really growing! Look at how giant its leaves are now!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

life after grad school

I just came back from a PhD women's networking event at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY. I wasn't really sure what to expect, probably because I didn't really have a clue what-all GE does. I mean, they make refridgerators and washing machines, no? Well, apparently GRC does a ton of different research, and they actually have a really nice (huge) facility over in NY. It's surrounded by gorgeously lush green trees and rivers, and cute little suburbia neighborhoods. I realized that's completely the type of place I want to move to after I graduate. Sometimes I feel old for thinking that, but whatevers, sometimes you know you're ready for that transition in your life and you don't really care if other people think it's uncool. Or something. Anyway the most impressive thing about GRC is the diversity of research they do there, everything from image recognition software, electric energy control, wind power, organic LEDs, light-emitting phosphors, amazing medical devices, magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles, to a newly-growing solar technology program. I got to chat with the solar program leader, who was really awesome, and also pregnant, and I'd love to do what she does someday. The one message that all the GE technologists seemed to emphasize that the key to career happiness is to always be learning new things, so that work never gets stale. I think that will be my new strategy. I want to be learning new things throughout the rest of my life. That's right, the next 100 years. (All that sunscreen, vitamins, and rowing had better pay off...) Anyway, I could really see myself working at a place like GE Global Research. If only I could uproot it (and the surrounding natural habitat) and relocate it to California, so that my lovely boyfriend would agree to living near it! Gahhh. That old two-body problem, as they say.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

garden progress - week 2

My garden is slowly progressing! I took this picture last Friday, before I went to NH for the weekend. Notice that the cucumber plants (second row from left) are growing bigger, and a row of little zinnia sprouts has appeared on the far right. There is one zucchini plant next to that, the only one of three seeds to sprout. I was glad it rained a lot in the past week, so I didn't have to worry about them drying out. I'm bummed, however, that none of my lettuce seeds sprouted, and I have an empty row! I'm going to try and plant something else there, like hot-weather lettuce maybe?

And check out my only zucchini sprout! Woo hoo! Actually, when I came back from New Hampshire on Monday, this little guy had grown a huge jagged leaf, about 4 inches across! So excellent.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

instant happiness

Sometimes I get so absorbed in a single song that I HAVE TO listen to it on repeat. It makes me so happy to hear it that I think of blue skies and pink flowers and dancing, happy when I have no good reason to be happy. I start bouncing around in my chair, tapping my feet under the desk, and checking myself that I don't burst out into sing-along song. It will certainly be sung in the shower and the car. Last week this song was Kate Nash's 'Foundations', and right now it's Coldplay's 'Viva La Vida'. Other past favorites include Feist's 'Mushaboom' and Belle and Sebastian's 'I'm A Cuckoo' and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's 'Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth'. These songs never fail to make me happier. These are also the songs that James stores away in his head, knowing that when he plays them in front of me I will start dancing around the room like a fool. Joy!

I bought a french press over the weekend. I love the fact that it's purely mechanical, and I can really hand-make my coffee in the morning. I realized that my coffee addiction is a drain on my wallet, especially because I can't say no to those fancy coolatta frappuccino drinks, which are not good for my finances or my waistline. So now I'll go the handmade way, which is my favorite way to go.

Monday, June 16, 2008

mary mary quite contrary

This is my garden plot! It's about 4'x4.5', bordered by the wooden walls on 3 sides and a string on the fourth side. On the left of the picture you can see my row of bell pepper plants and then a row of cucumber plants, both bought at Home Depot. Then there are two taller tomato plants in a row of zucchini seeds, and on the far right is a row of zinnias that are just starting to sprout. So exciting! I'm going to try to track the progress every week as things start to grow!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

a change in slope

My little sunflower sproutlet dried up and died today in the scorching Boston sun. I came home around 8pm today to find it shriveled up and broken off of its roots. No chance for recovery on that one!! Oh boo, my first casualty. Yesterday evening, along with the sunflower, I also planted some zucchini seeds and some zinnia seeds. My plot is mostly full of vegetable plants, which are obviously utilitarian, but I couldn't resist having just one row of lovely flowers! Pops of color! My mom is officially my long-distance gardening consultant, and she is full of tips and infinite knowledge. Best mom ever.

In other news today, my experiment sort of partially worked! I revamped the little furnace I was using, carefully crafting a sample stage from misshapen blocks of crumbly white insulation and a small plate of silicon carbide, which is the opposite of the insulation blocks when it comes to machinability. To cut the silicon carbide, you have to slowly abrade the material with a spinning diamond blade, which is slow and noisy, while the mullite insulation will slice with a utility knife like a stick of butter. Anyway, after almost giving up hope on ever succeeding with this experiment, I finally measured something - something that is different from nothing. So this is a step in the right direction, although probably only one step down a path that will require about fifty more. Anyway, small success of the week. High five!

Monday, June 9, 2008

getting dirty in the dark

Okay, get your mind out of the gutter, that's not what I meant. ;) I am referring to the little mini-plants I just transplanted into my portion of the garden plot at 9:30pm! There aren't really any lamps near the community garden, so I put on my headlamp to dig around in the plot and tuck in the little plant babies in their new home. I made a row of cucumber plants and a row of bell peppers. The next free evening I get, I will plant some zucchini, lettuce, and zinnia seeds. Yay I am so excited! I'd better remember to water them so they don't all die!! The other gardeners' plots in the garden are amazingly vibrant, full of leafy greens thriving in miniature farms. I'm just crossing my fingers for one edible bell pepper, and I will be a happy girl!

The weather is ridiculously hot and humid, an abrupt reminder that we live in New England. We've had the mildest spring ever, and we were duped into longing for warmer weather, only to be smothered with this humidity. Air-conditioners appeared in windowsills left and right. I'm still holding out for mine - as long as I can sleep at night with my fan running, I will do so.

Monday, June 2, 2008

going greener

Yay! I finally have some dirt in the Squirrel Brand Community Garden! I live right across the street from it, and when I realized that spring was indeed coming, I applied for a plot, only to be told I was at the end of a huge waitlist. But I was added to the garden's google group, and I've learned that it's full of active and enthusiastic gardeners from the neighborhood. I've now moved up to #6 on the waitlist, but today a plot opened up that will be shared amongst everyone on the waitlist! Only 4 of us responded to the email, so it looks like we get to decide what to do with the 10' x 10' plot of dirt. Right now it is full of turned but hard soil, and another girl sharing the plot and I decided to work on removing some of that soil to replace with compost or peat moss, and build some raised beds for our vegetables. I am so excited! I have been growing little seedlings in empty yogurt and sour cream cups around my apartment in the windowsills, which get very limited light, but I am so thrilled that some of them have sprouted! I should have labeled each cup, because now I sort of forget which is which. It will be a surprise! I walked around the garden to check out other people's plots, and some of them are amazing and exciting. Tons of lettuce and spinach and other deliciously leafy things. It seems like the garden community is full of really friendly and helpful people. I'm so excited!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I just watched American Idol, and then sort of left the tv on a relatively okay show while I decided what to do with the rest of my evening. Not really paying attention, I heard a song from the tv that brought me back to the living room of our old house in Armonk, with its rose-colored carpet and wooden coffee table that Andrew drew on the underside of, which we used to run mini-laps around while listening to some Brazilian music that my dad had on CD. One of those songs (an instrumental one) just played during the tv show, and now I wish I could remember the artist! I searched "Brazil" on iTunes and came up with a bunch of familiar songs, like Umabarauma and Sonho Meu and So Quero Um Xodo, and I have no idea what any of those mean but we used to listen to them on repeat when we were kids. Mmm, I love the samba and bossa nova. I got into Stan Getz big time in high school, and to this day he's still my favorito on the saxophone.

Anyway, today was a mildly frustrating day, and it's hard to explain why. I guess I started with a frustrating trip to the Student Activities Office, to follow up on the processing of a hockey reimbursement check that is taking like 4 weeks to process. Every time I come in there, the lady just looks through all her folders and just gets like one step further in the sequence of steps required to just void and reissue this check! Stop making excuses and just do it already! I'm tired of coming over there to ask about this one stupid check!

Later on, I ran into my advisor in the lab, which is usually a good thing because he gives me a lot of helpful info. But sometimes it's frustrating because it's such a large quantity of info, and sometimes he brushes over the basics, such as WHY we want to use this analog meter, or WHY we're building this circuit, or WHAT is his point, so I must have this confused look on my face which causes him to start explaining how op-amps work, which I luckily know by now. Anyway, it's some kind of communication barrier that just makes me feel stupid sometimes, like I'm lagging behind him, both physically and intellectually, with a furrowed brow of inadequacy. In some cases, I prefer to just figure out how these things work on my own, so that I really understand what's going on, instead of trying to record everything he says on the tape-recorder of my short-term memory (which is faulty at best) and then struggling to understand his take on the situation. Bah.

So the task that followed from figuring out what circuit I had to build was to solder a bunch of surface mount components on a printed circuit board. I used to think soldering was fun, but in today's battle of Anjuli Vs. Soldering Iron, I was definitely the loser. I don't even want to go into details, but suffice to say that it's like precisely placing individual glitter particles on miniscule glue droplets with my gorilla fingers. >:( Yarr.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

homemade crepes and other fruits

It's totally raining outside. Of course it starts raining right on Friday morning and will continue through the weekend. Because we just can't be granted good weather on our days off. If this is some kind of challenge to strengthen our characters towards tolerance of gloomy weather, I sure hope it's working.

James and I made crepes this morning - so delicious! They're so easy to make, too. The recipe was supposed to make 9 crepes but somehow we only got four out of it. Our fillings were combinations of sugar, fresh strawberries, nutella, and jam. So delicious. Somehow, food that you cook yourself is like 100 times more tasty than food you buy. Maybe it's because you saw where it came from and watched it develop into a scrumptious bite. You get to taste the fruits of your labor both literally and figuratively. I also enjoy making non-edible things by hand, and it's endlessly satisfying. I wish I had more time to spend on crafting!

Things are slowly coming along with research. I sort of have three separate tracks in my project, which is nice because when one thing is not working out, I can work on the other two. But sometimes it gets overwhelming, like after group meeting when I have a list of suggestions and things to do, and I furrow my brow to organize it into an ordered list of tasks. Since I don't want to be a grad student forever, it is better to have a long to-do list than a blank one.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

city garden

A loner tulip right in front of my house.

Monday, April 21, 2008

in praise of color

This weekend was gorgeous. Finally, spring is here! The weather was sunny, breezy, and not-yet-humid, and flowers were blooming everywhere! I love the yellow daffodils who open their faces to point at the sun, and the pink-and-white magnolias in the trees on Comm Ave, and the surprising dusty pink hyacinth loners, and the handful of bright orange-red tulips in the community garden across the street from my apartment. We wandered through this garden, although most plots were not tended in any way except for the tulip patch, which I was drawn to like a bumblebee. I am now infatuated with the idea of planting in one of those patches, either some colorful flowers and/or some vegetables that I can eat. I'm getting into the idea of eating local foods to avoid the carbon expenditure required to transport produce here from other places, but unfortunately all the local farmers' markets don't open until early June, and I don't have any land on which to grow my own food. So it would be more than awesome to get some space in this community garden and grow some produce! Besides the environmental benefits, I find it immensely satisfying to nurture a little plant and watch it grow. If anyone is doubting the green impact factor, I was wholly convinced and inspired by this piece by Michael Pollan in the NYT today. Now I want to read one of his books, because I like the way he thinks...

Work on my blue knit scarf is slowly coming along. I added maybe 1.5 inches to its length today. Sometimes I become so absorbed in knitting along each row that I can barely move my eyes away from the project. My mouth hangs open. I can hardly speak until I reach the end of a row. My love for hand-intensive activities (also including crochet, squash, hockey, rowing, and typing) are almost becoming threatened by an increasing ache in my right wrist. I know it originated in usage of the touchpad on my laptops, but for some reason I still use that stupid thing. The pressure builds up in my wrist and I have to crack it every 20 minutes or so. The other day it was so bad that I could hardly write with a pen. Sometimes it's not a problem, but I'm worried it's going to get worse! Do I really need to go to a doctor? :/

Monday, April 14, 2008

work out

Today was my day off. Not from work, but rather from workouts. I averaged 1.7 workouts per day over the past seven days, including rowing practices that occured at 6am. Apparently I have a problem with saying no to athletic activities, a problem I definitely had during my first year of grad school that has reappeared. I was pretty exhausted by the end of the week, but it was tons of fun. I played a couple days of basketball, bringing me back to my JV days in high school - so fun! And my new pilates class is a welcome change from all the adrenaline sports I usually partake in - it mostly consists of lying on the floor and doing various kinds of situps and leg-lifts in slow motion. I had a couple of decent rows as well, without major inclement weather. A couple hours of squash on Tuesday night definitely wore me out, but skills were matched well enough that I had a few really good games. Then this past weekend was our final ice hockey tournament in Falmouth! This is a really cute town at the base of Cape Cod where the Woods Hole program is situated, and I crashed with a teammate who's in the MIT-WHOI program for the 3-day tournament. Which we won! It was a lot of fun, and the town was sprinkled with spring's first blooms - yellow daffodils, purple crocuses, yellow forsythia, purple grape hyacinths. I love it! The main street was very touristy and cute, and I could tell it would be overrun with tourists in the summer. Maybe fortunately, it was a drizzly weekend, and the streets were uncrowded and quiet. I walked past one small Italian restaurant that smelled exactly like my grade-school friend Lauren's grandmother Nonnie's kitchen used to smell when she would cook dinner for us back in the day. Mmm.

Anyway, I'm rowing again tomorrow morning. Better get some sleep!

Monday, April 7, 2008

don't think too hard

I love watching tv shows on their websites, where commercials are only 30 seconds long, and you can pause whenever you want. But it drives me CRAZY CRAZE to hear the same exact 30-second commercial for each break! By the end of the show I can practically repeat it word for word! "Oh, my sinus pressure is really building up... blah blah blah!!" Who says that in real life?

This weekend was my second in a row up in NH with James. Sometimes the scheduling gets weird and we don't quite alternate weekends. This coming weekend I have a hockey tournament in Falmouth and the following weekend Rich will be in town. Anyway we just bummed around most of the weekend, cooking noodle soup and baking scones, shopping (without tax!) and eating fried seafood. So bad, but so good. We also spent a good amount of time feeling angry at the badly-behaved cat Easy, aka "Jabba the Cat", who would chomp off your finger to get at a treat. She even jumped up on the table and drank milk out of my mug when I turned my back! Bad kitty!

Anyway, this week I've decided to not think too much about the big picture of my research and just get my experiments and analysis done. I'm less likely to become depressed that way, if I don't start asking myself "where is this all going? what does it all mean? does my advisor hate me??" I started reading some PHD comics online and really felt like it described parts of my life. Like this one, or this one.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

magical magic

Sometimes I don't know how I managed to find this guy. It must have been the one time in my life I ran into some luck, since I don't routinely (or ever) win raffles or sweepstakes or fabric giveaways. But we ended up in the same project group, and four years later he's still making me laugh with his silly faces and non-serious responses to everything. Even when I'm feeling indulgently upset, with tears streaming down my cheeks, he manages to make me laugh over gmail chat, and a giggle squeezes out between sobs. What kind of crazy skill is that? How is it possible to cut my legitimate sad mood with an instant message? How can I be this lucky to know this guy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I had a kind of blah weekend. Maybe it was because James stayed up in NH to study for a midterm, and I kind of putzed around and played hockey. Maybe this is my new pace of life, post-presidency... but I'm not used to it. I need to refill my schedule; can this be done at the pharmacy? What kind of prescription do I need now? I've been crafting a lot more lately, and playing squash and hockey, and doing much more research than last semester. The pace of research has been much more satisfying than before, although the communication with the advisor still needs to be worked out. This new advisor is the complete opposite of the old one in every way - length of meetings, number of words spoken, relationship to industry vs. basic science, relationship to lab group dynamic, presence in the lab itself, spending habits, working hours, relationship between facial expression and actual feeling... I could go on. But I will not. Would it truly be graduate school if I had a perfect relationship with my advisor?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

a secret chord

I don't usually watch American Idol because the judges' comments always annoy me (especially Paula), but somehow this season I've always been looking for something to watch while eating dinner on Tuesday evenings, and AI is there to fill the void. A lot of the guys in the competition this year are very good-looking, which always makes it more enjoyable to watch. However the guy who's becoming my favorite is actually the one whose style I'd be least likely to like - the dreds guy with his tight 80s jeans... but he's got these light blue eyes and this innocent, modest smile. And tonight he sang Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah, one of my favorite songs ever, and now he's definitely at the top of my list! That song arrests me, as it did from the first time I listened to it. Dred-guy sang it with some obvious Jeff Buckley style, and I like him more for it. Yay!

Now the show after AI is starting, something about an immortal cop. But they've got a Decemberists song in the background. Another yay! But anyway, I'm not going to watch it. I like to feel like I had a fully productive day, and watching too much tv makes me feel like I'm wasting my life or something. Same goes for browsing the internets aimlessly, but that's a harder habit to crack. It's almost psychological with me - if I'm feeling dissatisfied about my day or my research or my life, I tend to feverishly browse news sites instead of going to bed at a decent hour. This sounds kind of weird, and makes me wonder what people did back in the 70s when they didn't have laptops that never left their 1-foot personal bubble.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

pink frosting

I'm on a little sugar high from eating these pre-cut circular red-heart cookies I "made" tonight for v-day. They are so addictive and bad for me, and James never lets me buy them, but since I was feeling extra tired tonight and in need of some dessert for tomorrow's girl party, I bought three packages of these things. They take absolutely no effort to make (except I almost burnt one batch...) but they still somehow make you feel like you home-baked something. My laziness today can be blamed on a combination of my sandpaper esophagus and my tiny frustrating battle with solder. These two factors could make any person desert her idea of making heart-shaped cutout cookies with icing.

Speaking of the upcoming holiday, I like to keep my v-days low-key. All the hype with roses and teddy bears and jeweled bling is somehow fabricated and hollow, and nobody really has as good of a time as they think they're supposed to. Is that too cynical? I don't mean to be, but maybe v-day would be a better holiday if we shared our heart-shaped cookies with everyone. Although I'll certainly save my kisses for James. :P

Monday, February 4, 2008

some kind of day

Sound carries amazingly well through my ceiling, but rather poorly through the side walls. This means I never hear my roommate's movies, but I hear whenever the upstairs neighbor is playing music or video games (beep beep boop) or laughing or stomping around. This is especially apparent at night when I'm trying to do quiet things. Like ponder the hardships of my life. On the worldly scale of life hardships, I'm probably near the easy end, but what the heck. I feel what I feel, right?

Anyway, today was SuperBowl Sunday and also my 26th birthday. I didn't really mind missing the superbowl, but trying to find a place to go eat in Newburyport with James was sort of a weird challenge. Firstly, several places closed early due to the game, and other places had lots of old people in Pats jerseys crowded around the bars and tvs. So we were the only people sitting in a tv-less room full of empty tables, hearing the people in the next room randomly cheer as we ate our fried calamari. Additionally, after dinner we had a hard time finding somewhere to go and hang out, it being Sunday evening also. We concluded that we'd have to do a lunch date next time, after I lamented all the cute/crafty stores in Newburyport that I would have loved to browse through.

My latest excitement is that I'm learning to knit! My parents gave me knitting needles for my b-day, and Sungyon taught me some of the basics, so now my goal is to get the hang of not accidentally dropping all my stitches off the needle, because I have no idea how to put it back in. The challenge of figuring out a new craft is so absorbing! I can't wait till I can make something useful!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

independent activities period

I have a baseball-sized bruise on my left ankle from snowboarding this weekend. It seemed like only an uncomfortable wrinkle in my sock at the time, but I guess my pain tolerance is relatively high and it was a slow build-up. The weekend was otherwise tons of fun, with good conditions on the slopes and in the condos, plenty of chili, cookies, drinks, and lounging to go around. The transportation mishandling was the only real downer of the weekend, requiring us to spend at least 10 total hours sitting on the bus.
We did some cool lab work today - after 5 months of anticipation on my part, we finally melted some silicon in the homemade furnace! All the credit goes to Eerik for building the furnace (and Jim too) but I've been calibrating the pyrometers and thinking about oxides in the meantime. I've also made it a goal for this semester to get up-to-date on the photovoltaic industry, namely what companies are out there, what technology do they use, where are they located, and what efficiencies and costs do they produce? This also requires a lot of side reading on the meaning of things like nitride passivation, back contacts, tandem cells, and other things that I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know.
The presidential races are jogging through the primaries, with interesting twists and turns throughout. I have to say, I've never found the presidental race to be this intriguing as it is this year. Not predictable at all! Yay for drama and passion!