Tuesday, December 22, 2009

holiday goodies

Home! Just as I remembered it. The house is covered with lovely xmas decorations, my dad is blasting cheesy Christmas music from his computer, my mom is stressing about baking cookies and making hors d'oeuvres, I've had an argument (or two) with my sister, and I seem unable to resist picking a mini-candy out of the bowl in the dining room every time I walk by. I'd better hit the gym tomorrow. My task for tonight is to bake some candy-cane cookies, which are a classic from our childhood. My parents used to have these huge Christmas parties every year, inviting all their friends and their kids, with tons of appetizers and holiday cookies, and group carols sung around the piano (complete with lyric books printed out just for the occasion). I remember one year, our little Jack Russell terrier, D.J., jumped up and ate some candy-cane cookies! But otherwise I just know they were fun to make, twisting together the red and white dough logs to make a swirl. When in doubt, fall back on the old classics. What I'm most excited about is making some holiday cocktails! On my agenda are Winter Sangria and Hot Buttered Rum. I've never made the latter but it sounds like it would be delicious, no? Gotta drink something with a little kick in it to get through all the awkward forced small talk with the parents' neighbors. :-O

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ooh, life is juicy

It's the last week of work before the holidays! I didn't take any classes this semester, so this week is no different than any other since August, but there's something in the air that feels like finals week, and I know I'll be home in San Diego a week from today. I'm trying to ignore that fact and still get some real research done this week, because I know it will take me a few days to get back in the swing of things when I get back from Cali. It's hard to focus when I know there is laundry that needs washing, presents that need choosing, cookies that need packaging and mailing, an apartment that needs cleaning, xmas cards that need designing and constructing, xmas menus that need planning... Oh the holidays! I bought my very first wreath for the front door, and got some sparkly turquoise wired ribbon to wrap around it. It's harder than you think to wrap that evenly, and my beautiful bow kinds of gets squashed by the screen door. But it still makes me happy to smell that evergreen smell while I fiddle with the keys in the doorknob.

I have to say that xmas shopping is about the most difficult thing ever! I'm browsing hand-picked gift guides galore, and really only coming up with cool things that I want for myself, and nothing that any of my family members would remotely like. Also a lot of things that are way outside my price range. I think it's about time to hit a real-life store instead of just web shops.

What I'm more excited about is the holiday food! I'm sure my mom will be baking all kinds of amazing things, and I'm hoping to make some spiked apple cider for their xmas open house on the 23rd. My parents live in a neighborhood that turns into Christmas Card Lane in December, meaning that every house in a half-mile radius puts a giant lighted cutout or mural in their front yard, each with a different cartoony theme. The 'burby street attracts cars moving along at a crawl to see each display, and the neighbors tend to make hot chocolate and light their driveway "campfires" to sit around and enjoy the holiday spirit. Only in San Diego would it even be warm enough to want to sit around for hours on December evenings.

I want to sing some Christmas carols too (not in public of course). It's no secret that I'm a HUGE FAN of the show Glee, I've seen every episode at least twice, and I've been singing Barbra Streisand around the house for the past week, thanks to Glee's performance of Don't Rain On My Parade on the last episode. The show is hilarious and inventive, but it also makes me wish that we could just burst into song in real life when we felt the need to express some emotion. Wouldn't that be fabulous? When my experiment goes well, I could sing down the hallways, with labmates and other bystanders falling in behind me with some backup dance moves. Jazz hands too, of course. I wish I lived in a musical...

Friday, December 4, 2009

finally, an upswing

Nothing like a little tiny success in the lab to make the whole week seem like a good one. I successfully etched off a 160-nm layer of nitride after firing at 1350C in the furnace by undercutting the oxide layer beneath it! Fabuloso! Walking into the lab and seeing that shiny silicon surface at the bottom of the beaker just made my entire day. It also helped that I got to see Padma Lakshmi (of Top Chef!) give a talk this afternoon about her struggles with endometriosis, which I'd never heard of before, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see her in person! She is a great speaker - eloquent and lively, and I only hope I look that good when 7-8 months pregnant. I mean, who can pull off patterned lace tights under a sweater dress while pregnant? Kudos to her. ;)

Anyway, I also made some headway in the modeling part of my thesis work, with a little help from coding-superstar Tony. What would I do without him? I'm getting a little better at manipulating this Python code, which at first glance each time I open up the file still looks like a gibberishy robot language. Bit by bit I'm able to pick out pieces of the code that I need to modify to fit my problem, slowly starting to understand more of how it works and what I can do. I certainly don't feel like an expert, which I should get closer to if I want a PhD for this, but the small successes at least give me the confidence to think I can continue to increase my comprehension. I also got a super tiny boost from my advisor this week (I'll take what I can get) when he suggested that I could write three papers, one for each area of my research, and make those basically the three middle chapters of my thesis. Just the knowledge that he wants me to do this gives me so much motivation to do some publication-worthy work and do it SOON! Oh, brains, work with me now. Let's make this happen.

I've started really thinking about Christmas presents to give to my family. I want to get this stuff done early so I don't have to hit the mall craziness on Dec 23 in San Diego. All my favorite blogs are coming up with amazing gift guides for the holidays, but the end result is just me finding a bunch of lovely things that I want for myself and can't afford, things that I'm pretty sure my weight-lifting protein-powder-drinking doesn't-even-own-a-laundry-hamper little brother would not like to receive on Christmas day. Oh well, I still enjoy looking at these lists! I especially love this one by Creature Comforts or this funny one at DesignSponge. *sigh* Can one earn a PhD in Blog-Reading? Perhaps in Multitasking?

Anyway, we had a fabulous Thanksgiving celebration at Auntie Kumu's house in Connecticut, with many of the cousins and also the next generation, which currently consists of only boys. Someone had the brilliant idea to buy them Nerf guns, and an all-out war of capture the flag ensued one evening, engulfing both the little boys and the big "boys". Yes, pretty much anyone male could be found running around the house, hiding behind the kitchen table, panting and grabbing yellow foam bullets from the cracks of the sofa cushions. We dainty ladies tried to avoid being hit in the cross-fire while we put together a lovely countryside puzzle. Oh, it was quite a sight. After that exhausting weekend, it seems strange that xmas is only a few weeks away! Where did this semester go? Wasn't I going to have a lot more work done by this point in the year? Well, those questions can be answered later. It's Friday and I'm ready to cook a delicious meal with my good-looking crazy-family-tolerating boyfriend. Hooray!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

how to get out of a funk

I'm feeling a major lack of motivation lately. Mostly research related. I'm incredibly motivated to knit wrist-warmers, to cook huge batches of winter squash soup or meringue cookies, or even to fold clean laundry. But research? I always feel like doing it tomorrow. Or maybe after the weekend. I think that one major reason for this is that my advisor puts zero pressure on me to get any results. He comes in maybe once a week and talks to me for about 10 minutes before he bolts from the room. I mean, he's incredibly busy. But if I'm doing research for him, and he seems not to care about it, how can I care about it anyway? I feel like a horrible scientist, like shouldn't I have research motivation woven into my DNA, like an innate drive to do experiments and answer the lingering questions of the universe? Shouldn't I be driven enough to lead my own research, regardless of what my advisor is preoccupied with? Sometimes I do get a good result, or a weird result, and it brightens my entire day - I sing out loud in the lab and bounce up the stairs. But the rest of the time I'm totally dragging.

A good chunk of my research goal is to create a computer model of the process I'm working on experimentally. Now, I really don't know that much about modeling or writing code, and my advisor knows even less (and isn't a big fan of it anyway), so when I get stuck, I'm just stuck. When I think back to why I volunteered to do this modeling project, I want to kick myself. I actually thought that I might be getting married at some point, and maybe I'd want to have some purely-computer work that I could potentially do remotely, if, say, I wanted to pop out a kid or something. Yeah right!!!! Looks like that is as far from happening as ever! I feel like all my plans have stagnated and I'm just stuck in this phd program that doesn't even excite me anymore. I'm too far in to quit but too far from the end to just duck my head and sprint it out. I want to just step off the track and cry on the sidelines for a while. And hopefully have a revelation of some sort while I'm over there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

things i ate last night that i've never eaten before

pork belly ravioli
sea urchin
squid ink
suckling pig confit
rutabaga puree

As a side note, I got an invite to see Obama's talk at MIT tomorrow! I'm so beyond excited!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

before my memory started

My dad has been on a crazy photo-archiving kick for the past few months. He's gone through a couple thousand old photos of our family and scanned them in to a Picasa album. Well, several albums at this point. Now he's gotten to some old 35mm slides from the early 80s, when he and my mom were living in Singapore and my sister and I were born. Some of these photos I've never seen before! There's a pic of my mom walking our old white poodle, Maggie, pregnant with me under a billowy blue dress. Then there are pics of 1-year-old toddler me doing various things like playing piano, holding a squash raquet, walking Maggie with a red leash, carrying around this blanket that I refused to give up for I-don't-want-to-admit-how-many years. I've seen baby pictures of myself before, obviously, but the ones that really strike me are those of my mom holding me, or taking me places that I no longer remember. Like a shot of Mom and me and baby Kim, sitting on a picnic blanket in a grassy field in Singapore surrounded by peacocks...! Or a family pic of my parents and Maggie and me, before I had any siblings. My mom looks so beautiful, with eyeliner and crazy-patterned dresses. I wonder if she felt scared, having her first baby in a foreign country with no family around, and I'm sure my dad was working long hours as he always did. Now I really want to call her. She really is the best mom in the world, and I've told people this - often they try to challenge me, but nobody's proven me wrong yet. I guess I've gotten used to living on the opposite side of the country from her, but I should really make an effort to call her more often. I'm the worst at calling people. But my top priority should be Mom!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

comfort food

Leeks are amazing. They make my entire kitchen smell incredible! Why did I never know this before? I'm making a mushroom, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese bread pudding, which turns out to be a rather elaborate recipe with lots of chopping involved, but the aroma of my apartment right now makes it all worth it. Rainy weather like this really makes me want to cook, especially warm, veggie-filled dishes like casseroles or stews. Mmmm. I'm even more excited about this dish because I started off my Saturday by waking up at 5:30am and biking to the boathouse, where I proceeded to get into a boat in the pouring rain and row it to another boathouse, then de-rig it in and load it onto a trailer, all in the pouring rain. All the while knowing that everyone I knew was probably still asleep in their warm, dry beds. But now I have a delicious-looking casserole baking in the oven. Yay!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the ships are coming in

I have such a short attention span recently. Maybe that's why I can barely sit down to write out a complete thought here on this blog. I used to blog daily, and I'm not really sure why I don't anymore. I sort of feel like I have nothing satisfying to say. Maybe it's been a weird summer. I've gone through vague periods of happiness, discontent, and determination, without a real concrete grasp on why I felt any of those feelings. Sometimes you feel really happy, like everything is going your way, and you don't really stop to question exactly what caused the bliss, but you just want to prance down the hallway and sing songs when nobody's listening. And that's enough. When you feel vaguely unhappy, for a single day you can write it off to waking up on the wrong side of the bed, and subsequently eat a cookie and wait for the end of the day, i.e. your chance to wipe the slate clean with a good night's sleep. But when the unhappy feeling sort of lingers, on and off, for weeks, you start trying to identify it, which is actually really difficult sometimes. Maybe there are a lot of things in your life that are not as you want them - you want to finish school but feel like it's not imminent, your boyfriend lives in another state, you make much less money than your shopping habit would prefer, you want to make art/craft but lack enough time... obviously these things can be changed. On good days, you can overlook them and know that they will change. On bad days you start questioning your life plan, wonder if you are doing the right thing with your career, fight the thought of abandoning things that you've invested a lot of time in but are making you unhappy at the moment. I know that a lot of people really have no idea what they want to do with their lives at this point, and are graduating or changing jobs and feel apprehensive about not knowing what to do next. But I feel it's almost as hard to have a really exciting grand plan for years and then suddenly start to wonder if you want to change it. It's easier to stick with the original plan, but what will make you happiest?

Anyway, who really knows anything anyway. I harvested two giant pinkish heirloom tomatoes last week, the only two good ones I got off that plant whose seedling I bought at the farmer's market. The weather was far too erratic this summer for my tomatoes. When I sliced one open, it smelled like V8. I don't particularly like V8, but this tomato was delicious. I've gotta think of a better use for a freshly picked tomato than just eating it slice by slice...

I'm racing in a 4+ in the Head of the Charles Regatta in 2.5 weeks. I'm pretty stoked. Our lineup has not really found our swing in the boat yet, which makes for some frustrating practices, but hopefully we'll figure it out soon. I used to hate rowing in 4s because the set was always crap, and I'm hoping my mind will be changed soon. Seeing the sunrise over the Boston skyline in the morning is one of the most fantastically gorgeous things I see all day. Really makes up for waking up at 5:30am.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Everyone knows that the people at MIT are not a random representation of the general population. I'm not talking about brainpower, but rather the cultural nerdiness that characterizes the entire campus. You can see it with your eyes just by walking through campus for 10 minutes, in the frequency of gangly gaits and high-waisted khaki shorts, the dishevelled hairdo with the pillow imprintation still apparent or the slightly-antisocial lack of eye contact with strangers. Sometimes I get tired of this culture, where the norm is to stay up all hours of the night writing some amazing code or building a crazy robot or running experiments in the lab. Sometimes I wish people would take care of their appearance, not look down their nose at new social interactions, and not make me feel inadequate by their sheer brilliance. I find myself feeling jealous of that world where people wear makeup or a tie to work, go home at 5pm, and go to happy hour at fancy bars on Thursday nights. But at the same time, sometimes I see the truly unique opportunity I have here to really meet some characters here. People who are not afraid to care about unusual things and don't feel ashamed to declare their nerd passions in public. They don't see a reason to hide their love of engineering and look like everyone else, go with the flow. They bang their hand on the table to emphasize their correctness on some science point, and it's so awesome. Maybe the person being proved wrong does not feel so happy about it, but sometimes it's really refreshing to see conventional uniformity go out the window. And it's certainly entertaining.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I am pretty proud of myself. I woke up at 7:15am today and went straight to the gym for an erging session of 2 x 30 minutes. Yes, this may sound like a torturous endeavor, and in some ways it was, but I feel triumphant for using my willpower to do something painful that I don't enjoy for the greater good of my health. Really the point is to make me a better rower, by becoming stronger, with the end goal of having better rows in the 8 on Tue/Thu/Fri mornings with the rowing club. I think the weeks of rowing regularly has made me strong enough that erging this morning was not as painful as it usually has been. My killer playlist also helped. :)

I'm planning to play basketball later today with officemates, and row tomorrow morning on the water. This might be going overboard on the frequency of workouts I really need, but I really do enjoy the physical exertion, which feels especially good when you have built up at least some stamina. I remember last spring I used to do like 8 workouts per week, just because it was fun. Plus it really helps me forget about the monotony of sitting in a desk chair for hours every day. Darn you, computer modeling.

I've been super frustrated with research for the past week - sometimes I feel like I have no resources to go to with questions, since our lab group is so tiny and my advisor is usually MIA or at least too busy to give my research much serious thought. Or that's how it feels to me. I know this means I have to look out for myself, and I think I do a pretty good job of it, but sometimes it's beyond discouraging to have to sit down with fat textbook when there's probably a real person out there who could just tell you the DL in half the time and a quarter of the frustration. Makes me want to throw the book out the window and go erg it out. Which, if you've ever erged before, should tell you something.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

if you keep your eyes open

I see a lot of weird things biking to the boathouse at 5:45am for rowing. There aren't many cars on the roads, so I can sort of space out about my cycling and observe my surroundings.

Today I passed a woman who appeared to have left the house without her pants - she was just wearing black underwear, a jacket, and hiking boots. Weird.

Then a baby squirrel tried to play chicken with me. I managed to dodge him without a scrape.

I biked past the candy factory, which usually smells like Junior Mints or Tootsie Rolls. Today it smelled distinctly like french toast! Oh, how torturous for someone who had not yet eaten breakfast, and would not be eating for another three hours.

In a dumpster near the MIT Museum, a giant seagull was foraging for food, and found a whole slice of pizza which he prepared to fly off with. Gross... seagulls are like giant flying monsters.

The river was foggy this morning, and our row was full of snafus (one missing rower, a coach boat that ran out of gas), but I did see a red-wing blackbird hopping around on shore, looking for food. And a mama mallard duck and 5 baby ducklings swimming around after her! The biggest bummer of this prolonged cold weather is the noticeable lack of baby ducks. Other typical sightings on the Charles include cormorants, which are black birds that seem to swim under the water with only their head sticking up, and frequently dive underwater like stealth mode. Canadian geese abound - they would be kind of beautiful if they didn't poop everywhere. My favorite early-morning sighting is the black-crowned night heron. It took me forever to figure out what this guy was called! They always stand alone, without moving, on some log at the edge of the river, showing us their long white torsos and short spindly legs. They wear a black cap and cape, and I saw a long white plume feather one time. Coolio.

Monday, June 15, 2009

where am i now

I just came back from a full week out of town - PV conference in Philly, stopover in NYC on the way back, party in Connecticut for Ammamma's 90th birthday, and a little shopping in Natick before arriving at home. Man, that is a nice mall - I wish I had the money to shop in some of the fancy stores! I walked around 5th Avenue in NY on Friday before meeting a friend for lunch, drooling over the gorgeous dresses and luxe purses in the window displays, sparkling jewelry and stacked heels. I could tell by the suit-bedecked salesmen waiting with smiles in the doorway that I could not afford any of their wares. But I definitely enjoyed looking! Even the people walking around Manhattan are beautiful and stylish, in polished businesswear or perfectly-draped dresses, big sunglasses, and gorgeous skin. I would be so inspired daily from just people-watching if I lived there. I made a mental note to visit more often. Wouldn't be hard to accomplish that since my current frequency is like once in two years.

The conference in Philly was pretty fun, and I'm glad I went. I learned a lot about why people make different kinds of solar cells, and how. It definitely helped me to understand the state of the industry, as far as achievable efficiencies and standard manufacturing processes. I also learned how secretive everyone is with the specific details of their processes, and how much I dislike that. I mean, I attend the conference in order to increase my understanding of solar cells and how they are made, but if nobody wants to share their gritty details and struggles to improve performance, then how are any of us supposed to learn? Maybe if we all just shared all our secrets, we could truly overtake the world energy scene with solar power. Just an idea.

Anyway, Philly seemed like a great city with lots of good food and interesting bars to check out. There's a cool area of South Street where many building sides and alleyways are covered with amazing mosaics of tile and mirror, including the "Magic Garden" with bike parts and colored bottles too. Unique and interesting. I did see the Liberty Bell, briefly, from outside its glass enclosure. Not that exciting I guess... it's a giant bell.

On Saturday I made it to Connecticut for Ammamma's birthday party, which was almost a full-day affair including three cakes, catered Thai food eaten under an outdoor tent, giant pink peonies in vases, cold margaritas, a bounce house for the little kids, and some groan-worthy karaoke to end the day. I loved hearing stories of the old days, about how Ammamma met Grandpapa, and how he followed her rickshaw on his bike before they were married. My cousin made a great slide show of old pictures with a dramatic soundtrack that brought tears to many people's eyes. Mine included. Aiyo!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

stickshifts and safety belts

What a gorgeous Memorial Day weekend! On Saturday, James and I took the #1 bus down to the South End, a neighborhood of Boston we had never wandered through. The architecture is traditionally Boston, and there's a crop of tasty-looking restaurants that we noted for later visits. We passed a couple of really large community gardens - the first one, Berkeley Community Garden, had to be like ten times the size of my little Squirrel Brand garden, and all the plots had wooden separators and sparse roof coverings, and very lush crops of green leaves! It looked so much more developed than our garden, with clearly experienced growers who probably have had their plots for several years now. I guess there's something to be said for continuity. We also came upon a small shop called South End Formaggio, which turned out to be a delightfully tiny place with an incredible selection of wine, cheese, sausage meat, and bakery sweets. About three-quarters of the wines and cheeses were accompanied by little handwritten signs describing their flavor - so personal! I loved it! Plus the people who worked there were super friendly. We bought a hard cider made in the Nothern Berkshires from MacIntosh apples - very delicious. Makes me want to live in the South End just to visit more often!

On Sunday we decided to enjoy the weather by bringing a picnic lunch down to the Arnold Arboretum. We packed up some tasty food, water, and a straw mat, and drove through the city towards Jamaica Plain. When we got to about Fenway, lightning started accenting the sky, and thunder rumbled ominously. Slowly it started to sprinkle, but we forged ahead. Soon enough, we were driving through torrential downpour, and chickpea-sized hail fell out of the sky. We had to laugh at what ridiculous timing we had for having a picnic. But at least we were still dry! We still drove to the park and had our little picnic in the car, with the radio tuned to some really old-school rock-and-roll ballads, giggling at how atrocious the weather was, but how romantic our little picnic turned out. The sun actually came out, in perfect timing with the end of our meal, and we walked around the damp Arboretum for a couple hours, by a rushing brook and deliciously colorful flowers. It was beautiful after all!

James drove back to NH yesterday evening, and I can't tell you how tired I am of saying goodbye to him every single week. I think it's affecting my overall happiness level. I've started stressing about finding an apartment for us to live in next year, just because it will be one step closer to us living together, seeing each other every day. It can't happen soon enough.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

you are the best thing

The weather was gorgeous this weekend. James and I made an impromptu trip to Home Depot and got some little seedlings to flesh out my fairly empty garden. He convinced me to get some little aslyssum and ageratum to add a little color to the plot, and we also got one plant each of mint, parsley, basil, red bell pepper, and cherry tomato. We planted them all happily in the soil, and I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see these little green friends sitting in my square of dirt.

The weather, although gorgeously warm and sunny, was too windy today for us to row in our Beaver Sprints Regatta, the MIT Club-hosted rowing races on the Charles. I didn't check my email in time, and biked all the way to the boathouse only to be told that the regatta was cancelled. I had almost guessed that from looking at the whitecaps, which are pretty rare on the water. Kind of a bummer, but I was also glad to have the whole day to hang out with James. We hadn't seen each other more than twice in the last month, and I can hardly bear to think about how much I want him to move down to Boston so I can see his silly face every day. The emergence of the sunshine from the winter gloom makes me look forward to things like vacations, beaches, hiking, picnics, bike rides, swimming, and sharing them with James. Kind of cornball, I suppose. But who cares.

Today we walked around Harvard Square, looking for birthday presents for our siblings, three of which have birthdays in the next two weeks. Instead, we ended up buying a lot of things for ourselves...! Less than productive, but so satisfying. Ha! But I'm still left with the dilemma of what to get my sister and brother for their birthdays. My bro is especially hard to shop for. He lives in a room the size of a shoebox, and he doesn't do much other than lift weights, read books, and watch football. What do I know about that? Kim is slightly easier to shop for, but we have very different styles.

I cut my hair short again last week. Sometimes it is so satisfying to see big chunks of hair fall to the floor, even though for most of my life, haircuts were the most terrifying events of the year. I used to be so afraid I would come out with a mullet, or some ridiculous bangs or something, and I would sit in the chair barely able to talk to the stylist when she tried to make conversation. Maybe because now I've found a pretty good salon with a stylist I like, I'm much more comfortable letting her take my suggestions and then cut away. Plus I'm really getting used to having short hair - it dries faster, doesn't blow into my face as much, and requires a lot less effort to style. Perfect for summer!

Monday, April 27, 2009


This week I am determined to be motivated about research. I feel like I need a vacation, but I won't feel like I've earned it until I get some good results. Something worth writing about at least. Something worth telling my advisor about in our rare meetings, without following it by "...so I'm not sure". I know what I need to do, in general, I just need to crank it out! Away with distractions!

This past weekend winter finally decided to depart, and every person in the greater Boston area poured outside on Saturday in their summer fashions, strolling or sunning in the park. Lots of people in bikinis in the middle of the city, which seems strange to me, since there is no body of water to swim in there. James and I dug around in the garden plot, sifting out rocks and planting little pumpkin plants. My lettuce seeds have mostly sprouted and are still less than 2 cm in leaf-span. I have faith that they'll get bigger. Only two snow pea seeds have sprouted, and they seem to have been born with like 20 leaves already. So weird! It fascinates me that all plants have their own quirks, likes and dislikes, even though they all start in the dirt, drink water, and absorb sunlight. They all have different leaf shapes, growth rates, sizes, weaknesses, personalities. Sometimes I just go out there to look at the little seedlings. Also I think my presence shoos away the birds, who think the garden is their playground, digging for worms and taking dirt baths in my plot!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

anti-instant gratification

There are some glorious orange tulips blooming outside my lab building, with yellow centers. Sometimes I walk to the student center just so I can walk past and look at them. They close up when the sun starts to go down. I recently received the fruits of my latest online shopping quest, which are some summery clothes. Now the fact that it's still 35 degrees every night and our hair-tearingly mind-numbingly slow ascent towards summer is only slightly more painful.

I check on my seed starter trays every night. They're sitting in my sunniest, albeit not very sunny, window, and I spray water in each cube to make sure they stay moist. The sugar pie pumpkin and the banana squash seedlings are clearly the strongest. The lettuce seeds sprouted first but now some have already died. They didn't much look like lettuce anyway. My itty-bitty petunia seeds have made some itty-bitty sprouts with leaves the size of a 12-point-font apostrophe, and three of my weird-looking ranunculus seeds FINALLY sprouted after more than 4 weeks of my begging them to grow me some drop-dead gorgeous flowers. All the artsy blogs these days have photos of ranunculus, and it just makes me long for them that much more!

My recent demotivation in research has translated into an abundance of sports-playing. I would frankly always rather be running around after a soccer ball, squash ball, basketball, or unihoc ball instead of browsing the internet news. I am trying to regularly attend this pilates PE class again, because the stretching feels amazing and the core workouts could really help me with rowing and probably everything else in life. I ran a 10k in Cohasset a week ago, and I also want to keep up with running. (I swear I will when the weather gets in the 60s!) I am beyond certain that these athletic activities are what keep me sane in grad school.

I got an invite yesterday to the wedding of an elementary school friend. Our families were really close up until we moved away from New York, and even after that, in fact. I haven't seen her in a few years, but I'm really excited to see her and her family, and maybe visit some of the old places I remember from our old hometown! I lived there for 13 years - longest time I've lived in any one place. I could only hope that it hasn't changed a bit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

could this day be any lamer

Well, for starters, I feel lame for posting on this blog zero times in the past month. What is the point of a blog if you don't post anything? But today was a terrible day, and what better to post on a blog than a nice frantic rant?

For starters, I spent a couple hours yesterday making an awesome bike seat cover out of this amazing black-and-white oilcloth I bought in San Francisco last year, starting by tracing a pattern out on paper, fitting the paper to the seat, cutting out the cloth, taping the cloth in place, sewing bright orange zigzag seams, tapering the front, fitting and sewing on an elastic, and admiring my handiwork. I knew it needed some sort of back attachment to keep it from sliding forward, but I thought I'd give it a test ride on the bike this morning to see if it was comfortable. I guess it was too comfortable because it fell off somewhere in the first quarter-mile of my ride to campus, and I didn't even notice! I backtracked all the way to my house and didn't catch a glimpse of it. I even took the same route home at the end of the day, visually scrutinizing every piece of trash in every dirty puddle, cursing my forgetfulness and naivete. I wanted to tear my hair out. And then cry about it. It didn't help that it also rained on my way home, and that my bike brakes do not work in the rain, and I had no rain jacket.

I sometimes have issues with clumsiness. Like I must knock over at least 20 things in a given day, onto the floor, and then in the act of picking it up I knock something else over. Sometimes this is accentuated when I have my kickstand-less bike, and I'm trying to wrestle that U-lock onto the wheel and frame and rack, while balancing a tote bag on my shoulder, with a helmet tucked under my armpit, coffee cup between my knees, jacket over my elbow. In case you can't tell, this inevitably spells disaster. Daily disaster! And today I just really wasn't having it. Ich habe die Nase voll!

To top it all off (why not?), this weather sucks and I got a last-minute email that says I'm in the rowing lineup tomorrow, which means I have to wake up at 5:30am, brutal in its difference from my normal 8am wake-up time. And it had better not be raining and cold! And the coxswain had better have his sh*t together! And the launch had better be working!

Also, it seems that my squash shoes (which I also wear for unihoc and basketball) are suddenly too small and have contributed to the bruising of my right big toe. Now half of the toenail is purlish-black. Just in time for summer sandal season... please don't fall off!

Looks like the only cure for this situation is some mint chocolate chip ice cream...

Monday, March 2, 2009

smiling on the hills

James and I went cross-country skiing on Saturday with Diana and Greg. They are staying in Maine for the month, and we met halfway at a little farm called Smiling Hill just south of Portland. It had rained the night before so I wasn't expecting great conditions, and indeed some parts were kind of puddley, like there was a layer of yellow water below a top crust of ice. But besides that, it was super fun! It was a good workout, but with just enough sliding to get a skating feeling on the flat parts. We were totally sore by the end of it, and just a little banged up from falling at the bottom of all the downhill parts. (It's practically impossible to stop on x-country skis.) But we had a great time - it was sunny and bright, and all the open space of the farm was so refreshing. The added bonus was that it's also a dairy farm, and while we didn't see any cows, we were in heaven browsing through their little market store, with fresh milk in flavors like blueberry and chocolate, artisan cheeses like camembert and cheddar, and delicious varieties of fudge. I almost want to go back just for some more blueberry milk! What a great state Maine is.

Monday, February 23, 2009

dream garden

Woo hoo! I will officially have my own garden plot in the Squirrel Brand Community Garden this year! I am already dreaming of the gorgeous flowers and scrumptious vegetables and fragrant herbs I will grow! I fear that I will choose too many things to fit in the plot, but I guess 10'x10' is actually pretty big. I started browsing through the Burpee.com website for some inspiration, and possibly to make a list for ordering seeds. Marigolds would be easy to grow, but they don't look great in vases, and seem rather common. I grew a bunch of zinnias last year, which bloomed like crazy, so I'm still zinnia-ed out. How about asters? Or cosmos? Maybe geraniums? I really have no idea here, to be honest. I'm so inspired by the flower arrangements I see on the Saipua blog, but I don't know what anything's called or if it will grow in the Boston summer. At least I will hopefully be able to grow some zucchini this year!

Well, I have a Vokabeltest in German class tomorrow morning, so I should probably study. !

Monday, February 16, 2009

a girl can never have too many earrings

I painted my fingernails dark gray, a shiny pewter, over the weekend. I usually never paint my nails because it takes no time to chip and look horrible. And it's been more than a decade since I painted my nails anything but a pink-related hue. But for some reason I am loving this steel gray! I went shopping today, and I always touch all the clothes, partially to feel the texture and weight, and partially to see how it looks next to my skin tone. And today I was like, oooh, this looks good with my nails! Haha... but this nail color will only last a week, probably, and the clothes have to match me for much longer. Anyway, I am beyond excited because I found this j.crew dress that looked similar to one I was drooling over at their website. I thought I would try it on, just to see how it looked. But it's so awesome I had to buy it! It's stretchy with a full, swingy skirt, and a more fitted stretchy strapless top. And it's a dark turquoise - I cannot resist that color. Now I really can't wait for spring!

Oh, and I also bought two pairs of earrings. Dangly, of course.

I had a couple hockey games over the weekend with the club team, which were fun even though we lost. Northeastern really has a good team. I got my skates sharpened just before the second game, and man it made such a difference in being able to skate faster! It was exhilarating.

I managed to scrub off that gross hockey smell in time for a cozy v-day dinner with James, which we cooked at home. We started with a Raspberry and Almond Salad, followed by Broiled Tilapia with Thai Coconut-Curry Sauce, and finishing with two most delicious Molten Mocha Cakes. Man, we are good.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

excited and terrified

Spring semester starts tomorrow! I can't believe IAP is already over. I'm hoping that my research momentum from IAP will carry me straight into a productive spring full of brilliant results. (Right...) I'm officially done with technical classes, so I'm stoked to really get some things done on the research front. I had my first phd committee meeting last week, and it went pretty smoothly, so I feel great about actually finishing someday. I put together a slide for the meeting with a general timeline for the rest of my phd, and it actually scared me a bit to see it laid out like that, with a projected ending. Spring 2010, baby!

The last two weekends in a row, my club hockey team has had games cancelled due to our opponents not being able to field enough skaters for a game. Totally lame! I get really excited for games, and it is so not cool to cancel on us last minute! I hope we can round up a good showing for our away game at Bates College next weekend, because I don't think I can handle another cancellation now! I need my hockey fix!

Sometimes I feel like my life is a series of half-finished projects. For example, today James got some birdseed so we could make a bird feeder for the back porch, and we picked out a good milk jug to be the vessel, but I still have not cut a hole in it or attached strings. I have been working on this gray scarf for months now, and it is still 10 inches too short. I have finally cut out all the squares that will comprise my queen-size duvet cover, but I have yet to actually sew them together. It's been months since I bought the fabric. I wonder if the only project I'm capable of starting and finishing in a reasonable period of time is Making And Eating A Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Man, I am really good at that one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

how knitting a scarf is like doing a phd

I was thinking today about this blue-gray scarf I'm knitting, and also this PhD that I'm working on. They seem to have a lot in common sometimes. In both cases, you're pretty excited to get started. You begin by making a lot of mistakes, cleaning up the messes, frogging the errors, and trying again till you have a little more success. Eventually you get the hang of it, and it's just a matter of persistence before you make real progress. The more you work on it, the faster your stitches get, and the better you become at spotting patterns and stitch combinations. You start to think you might be able to design your own scarf someday. Inevitably though, you get tired of the whole journey, a marathon of yarn, with weary fingers and sore eyeballs, but the scarf is still not long enough to keep your neck warm! Winter is totally freezing your socks off, and you just want to finish the darn thing so you can move onto another project, like some mittens or something. So you sigh and pick up those bamboo needles again, reminding yourself that you really do enjoy the sheer act of knitting, most of the time anyway (when things are going smoothly), and that your scarf is going to be absolutely gorgeous when it's finished!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

over again in mexico

I have a new song obsession. This time it started randomly with my tame New Year's Eve when I watched the post-midnight performances on Dick Clark's show, which included Fall Out Boy performing "I Don't Care". They were the only band that night who actually performed legitimate music, rather than some flashy, dance-obscured, lip-synched tune as did those other schmoes. Anyway, a week later I heard the song again and spiraled into an obsessive cone of that single song - I've watched the music video on YouTube about 20 times since Friday. Okay, so I don't always watch the video, as it's rather annoying, and the lyrics are too self-centered and mean-spirited, but sometimes lyrics don't matter that much to me. My obsession overlooks lyrics when needed. I also, as is typical, have developed a music-crush on the lead singer, Patrick Stump, as I did with my previous song by Regina Spektor. This is analogous to a nerd-crush, in which one is attracted to someone's super-brain, but with music this time.

Anyways... snowstorm in New England this weekend. I went up to New Hampshire to visit my James and neglected to realize that it might snow in Boston with my little car parked on Broadway, a snow-emergency street. Walking home from the T, I noticed the dearth of cars on Broadway and wanted to slap myself for not parking elsewhere. Dang it! At least they just towed it a few blocks away this time, so I could walk to the towing lot to retrieve it. A couple of overweight trashy-looking people in ill-fitting sweatpants sat in the office, collecting wads of cash for the virtue of simply owning an empty lot to which cars could be towed. They didn't even have to leave the crappy office, complete with half-eaten PBJ sandwich and a pack of Marlboros, in order to collect my hard-earned dollars. I wouldn't be surprised if these towing companies orchestrated this snow storm for Saturday night, to trap people at their most unwilling or unable to move their cars. They have Mother Nature on speed dial.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

sunshine therapy

Well I guess I'm back in Cambridge. The weather in California was so perfect that this chilly slush weather is like a slap in the face. We took a walk at Surf Beach last Tuesday with James's dad and sister Connie and two dogs. It was so wonderfully warm that I took off my sweater to feel the sunshine on my bare arms. How could that be December? Unfortunately I also caught a cold while in California (go figure), and I'm now fighting off the remains of it here in Cambridge. I'm at the stage where I'm not really sick enough to not do anything useful, but my nostrils are getting all dry and flaky from all the tissue usage. Bwahh!

Anyway, James and I really did have a great break. We spent the first week in San Diego with my family, doing some last-minute holiday shopping and cooking lots of goodies for xmas. We caught up with some old Berkeley friends, who are always as awesome as I remember, and ate a bunch of Mexican food. We took my parents' dogs, Chuckie and Buffy, for a long walk in the crazy Christmas-Card Lane neighborhood, and enjoyed the sunshine coming through the corner windows in the house. My relatives came down from LA on Christmas day, and we had a tasty late lunch ending with a delicious chocolate tart made by Ayesha. (Yum.) Then Dad insisted that we all go over to the house of this Sri Lankan friend of theirs, who was having a big celebration at their similarly big house. Of course, we managed to arrive right as they were saying a prayer before their dinner, and we noticed this as we walked to the front door and saw about 60 people through the window, all holding hands and bowing heads... so we awkwardly stood outside the front door in silence for like 15 min, pretending we weren't there! Especially since most of us had never met any of those people! Our entrance was still the epitomy of awkward, but sometimes I expect nothing less from my parents. ;)

Anyway, James and I took an Amtrak train up to Lompoc the next morning - actually it took the entire day to get there. By that time I probably needed a break from my lovely family, and he was really itching to spend time with his. We crashed with his brother Jason and his wife Jeanne, and spent most days hanging around at various people's houses, cruising around town in the giant tank of a wood-paneled station wagon, eating tasty oatmeal prepared by James's dad, laughing at Wally dog. My cold started right when we arrived there, which was super lame, in addition to the fact that I seem to be allergic to most dogs and cats these days. Lame. But we had a great time, and it was really good to see everyone!

Our journey back to Cambridge was not too fun, starting with the drive to Santa Barbara airport, where I started to feel carsick, a feeling that seemed to linger with me for the rest of the day. We took a really small plane to our layover in Denver, and there was so much turbulence before landing that I was seriously not happy. And here I vow never to book a flight on such a small plane ever again! Hopefully I remember this vow next time I'm booking flights!

Well, back to work tomorrow. I really needed that break.