Thursday, August 12, 2010

boston, it's been real

Things have been busy. This is the year when everything transitions, and I have been waiting for this for a while now. I finally finished school. I got engaged. I interviewed for some jobs. I decided to pick up and move to California. This is the start of the life that I've been waiting for, and the anticipation is intoxicating.

I'll miss a lot of things about Boston. Tomorrow will be my last day rowing on the Charles, which has been fantastic and invigorating and gorgeous. I'll miss the blue herons and the crowned night herons and the ducklings in spring. I won't miss the piles of goose poo on the dock. At all.

I'll definitely miss the hockey community here, and I think I'll always be a Bruins fan since Boston was the city where I learned about and grew to love hockey. I only hope I can find a cool league or team to play with out in California...

I find it sort of comforting now to hear people's Boston accents, to see people make 3-point turns in the middle of a busy street, to overhear uber-nerd conversations in the hallways of MIT. I used to think I could really live here for a long time, but now I am sort of itching for a change. James (my fiance...!) and I are planning to finally do that cross-country road trip that we've always wanted to do. We will leave in about one month (after I learn to drive stick??) with our camping gear in the trunk and our stuff shipped in boxes to Cali or sold to craigslist buyers. It's incredible the quantity of "stuff" we have in our apartment, and it's kind of refreshing to make those tough decisions about what to keep and what to toss or give away. Remind me again why I've been carrying around all this junk for years? Of course I will keep my sewing machine, my good yarns, my fabric stash (it's small), and my textbooks. Some things are too special to get rid of. ;) What really matters is that I will have my Jimmy James and we are going to California, where we get married and find awesome jobs and plant a huge garden and adopt a kitty. I can't wait!

Friday, May 28, 2010

bliss, almost

Wow, I'm done! I defended about two weeks ago, turned in my thesis last Friday, and am now just counting the days till I get my diploma and am officially a doctor! Okay, I have definitely already become a doctor in my head, and in everyone else's head too. (Doctor of Philosophy, of course.) However, I can't break myself of the habit of coming in to lab every day and puttering around on my computer for at least a few hours. I am staying on my advisor's payroll for the month of June as a post-doc, so I can write a few papers from the results of my PhD. I don't anticipate that to be too much work though, since I just wrote this 120-page document called "My Thesis" which I can repackage as a few papers. The more pressing thing on my mind is finding a job! I got my resume critiqued earlier this week, and now I need to start doing some networking and writing some cover letters. This part is a huge pain, but really I would like to have some interviews and such in the next few weeks. Then I can take a trip to Europe and not be stressing about my unemployment!

The first trip on the agenda is to Lompoc, CA, where James and I are excited to meet his new niece Madison who is due to arrive in about 2 weeks. Woo hoo! I picked up some new yarn at the store this week and am excited to start making a little sweater. Any baby I know shall never be cold, if I have anything to say about it! Haha... the biggest challenge was just picking a pattern to start knitting, and then picking out an appropriate yarn to use! Quite a dilemma, yes.

In other news, James finally bought a road bike (a really awesome one at that), and we are hoping to do a little bike trip this weekend, in the gorgeous (hopefully) weather! I'm so excited. Outdoor activities, yay!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

the amazing plant world

Plants are really kind of amazing when you think about it. They are like living light-sensors, and then they have some kind of actuator in their leaves to point themselves towards the light. Isn't that incredible? Furthermore, if you chop off one of their branches, they can grow another one - regeneration! I'm also amazed by plants that can climb walls - I saw this awesome video on the Discovery Channel website from the show Life, which had a fast-forward motion video of a rainforest vine climbing up a tree trunk to reach the sunlight. It was like it had little fingers on the edge of its vine, which tapped against the tree as it grew upwards. One of the awesomest things ever! (p.s. while just now looking at their website to find that video, I came upon this other must-see of mud-wrestling mudskippers. watch that and tell me you don't believe in evolution!) I could easily spend the rest of my day watching every video on that site, but I will try to restrain myself in the interest of graduating in two weeks.

I usually bike home due to my impatience in commuting, but occasionally when the weather is nice (which is very occasionally), I walk home. I try to see how many plants I can recognize in people's gardens, even those without flowers as clues. James went to NYC last weekend and brought back this awesome book called Grow Great Grub, which has both awesome photos and helpful tips for even city-dwelling gardeners. I'm so excited to grow some tomatoes, spinach, and shallots! Woo hoo summer!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

that legendary light at the end of the tunnel

This past week my lab hosted a manufacturing summit, which consisted of a lot of free coffee, muffins, and lunches, and 1.5 days of talks about a variety of topics related to manufacturing but not necessarily to each other. My favorite talk was by Don Sadoway, who's an amazing lecturer, and I had my first pang of a feeling that there will be a few things I'll miss about being a student! My general feeling now is that I'm beyond ready to get out of here and move on with my life, but I will kind of miss hearing super-smart people give engaging talks about cool science topics... Alas, you can't have it all.

I've been doing not much else besides work on my thesis lately (and play sports, of course), and it's excruciating to do so on those days when it's finally sunny! Also, what is up with cafes banning laptops and studying during the middle of the day? Would you rather I didn't buy anything from you at all, than to open up my laptop while I drink my coffee? I miss the old Berkeley days where every (tiny) table was filled with some studious student, sipping a mocha and doing homework. (We didn't call them p-sets at Cal, man.)

I've scheduled my PhD defense for about one month from now. I can't believe this is finally happening, but I really cannot wait for it! Yay! What a long journey! Ahhh! Next chapter is still TBD.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

outside the cars are beeping

I find that stirring milk into my coffee has serious similarities to stirring the curing agent into resin to form epoxy that will embed my samples for polishing. Ten-ounce cup, wooden stir-stick, chemistry ensues.

The trees on campus have millions of dark pink buds, but when they bloom they are light pink flowers. Beautiful and amazing! This is the best time of the year and the best kind of weather. These 2-3 weeks are what we wait for ALL WINTER.

Today I made up a word: "thermometrically". Google didn't recognize it as a word, but I feel that it should be - the adverb form of thermometric. Duh. It's going into my thesis to be immortalized.

There are certain songs on my playlist that come through my headphones and I have a heard time not singing along. One of these days I'm going to blurt out a few notes in the office inadvertently. It's hard to control.

Monday, April 12, 2010

i know it's spring but i must ignore it and work

I am writing my thesis. I have no words to spare for you, blog.

Except some angry words towards the squirrel in my neighborhood who keeps trying to dig up my bulbs! I sprinkled cayenne pepper on the dirt around my dahlia bulb (which has not yet sprouted) and Evil McSquirrelsons still dug in the dirt! I patted it back into place and sprinkled hot chili pepper for Round 2. I will have my dahlia!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

it must be spring

I'm sitting in Mariposa (the bakery cafe) and they are playing The Talking Heads, and that makes me happy.

On my way here, I passed many other things that made me happy. The explosion of yellow in front of my house, thanks to the forsythia bushes. A couple of black-capped chickadees tweeting loudly from the windowsills of an old house. A small front yard completely covered with tiny purple star-shaped flowers. A girl wearing turquoise flats. A quick phone call to my mom, who's totally loving hanging out with my cousin's three little sons, playing legos and picking oranges. I know she's not as vocal about it as James's mom is, but my mom would LOVE to have some grandkids. LOVE. And I'm excited for that. Someday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

so what does it all mean anyway?

My. Brain. Hurts. I really really need to get some sensible results from the modeling part of my project, preferably by Tuesday, and even more preferably by Sunday night, so I can start writing it up all nice and neat by the end of the week. I spent half of this week trying to figure out what the best approach was (after several months of approaches that just didn't match up right) and finally found one that was giving me the best curve-fits I've ever found. I was thrilled and amazed at how good the curves looked, and continued to fit them for different parameters to get a nice relationship between two variables. After a whole day of this, by which time I've become a complete expert/professional/robot at clicking through to extract and plot this data, I compile the final results (thus far) and plot them on a single graph. Only to find that they are so crazily sloped that they certainly do not match with intuition! My advisor will definitely frown to see this, and I'd better come up with a GOOD explanation BEFORE I meet him next week. Nothing hand-wavy will do. I am still convinced that my curve-fits are correct, beautiful really. But now I have to explain them. Wahh! I've stared at this for so long that my head is full of jell-o and the laws of physics seem backwards. I'm not even sure which way backwards is. But I need to get this figured out! Will a cookie solve my problems? *shifty eyes*

In other news, wtf is up with the snow this morning? Are the powers that be trying to kill me? With despair? Please let spring arrive so all the crocuses can bloom happily! Crocuses have always been my favorite - I remember we used to have them at our old house in NY, blooming by the tiny evergreen tree in the front yard. Delicate purple stripes. I have a few tulip bulbs stuck in my freezer, because I had nowhere to plant them outside during winter, and I'm just waiting for the right moment to extract them and poke them into a trough of dirt in the mud room. Yes, in the mud room, and not outside where my arch nemesis, Mr. Squirrel, will immediately dig them up and chomp on them. Last time he left the half-chewed bulb on my front step, just to taunt me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

let me go, she said

I'm seriously trying to make this happen. I feel like I'm a little bit insane for believing it can be done, but I'd never finish at all if I didn't create my own deadlines and make a push for the end. I scheduled my last committee meeting, and I'm making thesis-writing my top priority right now. Hopefully it will not majorly curtail my ability to work out, but at least I won't have a 6-hour hockey commitment every weekend. I'll miss hockey, to be sure, but I really need that extra time right now. Not only time from not playing every week, but also from not having to find a goalie, process ref payments, figure out logistics. I need this thesis to be done! Thankfully, my advisor is a fan of concise writing, and I am shooting for no more than 150 pages of thesis. With lots of figures, because pictures speak more concisely than words. True? True.

When I'm sitting in front of my computer all day, toggling between windows, adjusting axes and typing sentences, it makes me incredibly antsy and I feel like snacking constantly. It takes serious willpower to say no to the slice of frosted lemon bread when I'm getting a coffee, and to eat only my healthy snacks brought from home. Otherwise in 2 months I will have 150 pages and maybe 15 more lbs. Nobody wants that. This is also exactly why I can't sacrifice going to the gym for this thesis. I think when I studied for quals, I spent all my time either studying, sleeping, or working out. No sacrificing health for career!

The weather is getting just warm enough to make everyone excited for the approach of spring. The sun is out, but it's still barely 50 degrees outside. The tulips and daffodils are poking through the dirt, which makes me beyond anxious for winter to really end. But you never know in Boston - it could snow a couple inches tomorrow. It's happened before.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

bigger than my body

As soon as John Mayer took the stage, my internal body temperature rose by about 15 degrees and didn't go back down. I think I'm still a little warm right now. We were sitting in the top balcony, to the right of the stage, just a little too far to see his legendary lips with our own eyes, but luckily the jumbo screen periodically magnified him for our viewing pleasure. I had to duck and weave my head to see around one of the huge hanging speakers between his giant face and my seat, as well as the two teenage girls in front of me who felt compelled to stand up and dance whenever he played a song I knew. Even these challenges did not diminish the complete amazingness of the show. Whatever person he might be off-stage, he really is an amazing performer and musician! His fingers are so quick on the guitar, and he can sing any note he wants, usually requiring some strange contortions of his face. But I think every female (average age: 17?) in this sold-out arena was completely in love for two hours. I've been in love with him probably since I was 20, when Room for Squares came to my attention. Last night he would suddenly start playing snippets of other people's songs, in the middle of his song, before you even noticed a transition. Some Bill Withers, The Police, mmm, fantastic.

I was amused that when he played "Who Says" in his encore, I immediately smelled weed. I almost wondered if it was orchestrated. But I think it was just some well-prepared fans. After the show the entire garden seemed to empty out into North Station and tried to cram into the Green Line. Standing-room only, and I had to duck past a couple of dudes making out while holding the ceiling railing in order to get off at BU. I was the only person that got off there, and I walked through the fog across the quiet construction-laden bridge. I could see the water in the Charles below was unfrozen, and I immediately imagined a rowing shell with four oars snapping in and out of the water, in unison, in the dark. Wait a couple more months for that.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

on going for the gold

I'm super obsessed with the Olympics. I think I always have been. When I was a kid, my dream job was to be an Olympic soccer player. At some point I realized that wasn't going to happen. I always wanted to go watch them, and I remember when they were hosted in Atlanta, I was so disappointed that my parents wouldn't take me to go see them. As it turned out, we moved to Taiwan during the summer of 1996, so I ended up watching those games from the suite of our room in the Grand Hotel, an huge rectangular hotel in Taipei with Chinese architecture and decor, where we stayed while our furniture made the trip from New York to Taipei. We had to walk through the main hotel lobby and down a long corridor to get to our suite. It wasn't very Western-styled but it became our home for the first couple weeks of school. I remember watching all the men's gymnastics events and falling in schoolgirl-crush-love with some Russian gymnast who was not only good-looking, but also won a bunch of medals. I think his name was Alexei. Anyway, to this day there's something about the Olympics that really makes my heart pump. Every time I see some athlete's parents cheering wildly in the the crowd, or a gold-medal athlete singing his national anthem on the podium, I always tear up! I can't help it! There's something inspiring about their determination and drive to be the best. Awesome.

Anyway I wish that NBC would show some more variety of sports. Particularly women's ice hockey! At least show us some highlights of the games! They have all these adorable, heartwarming commercials of moms sending their daughters onto the ice, and then they can't even show us those girls all grown up and playing for the USA Olympic team! Come on... come on. I'd even take some men's hockey at this point. Figure skating is beautiful and all, but every competitor has to perform the same jumps and spins - it just gets boring after a while! The races though, they are awesome. Snowboard cross and speed skating - so exciting to watch! Yay! People are falling right and left, and it's all part of the race. Excellent.

Monday, January 25, 2010

give and go

This morning J shaved off his beard and went off to his first day of work. I never thought I liked beards very much, but it looked good on him. I was a little sad to see it go. I felt a little like I was sending a kid off to school, with a shiny apple and a turkey sandwich on wheat. I am really glad that the timing of his master's defense and this job worked out so well. Huge sigh of relief!

I've been playing a lot of hockey this year, and I'm really enjoying it because my skillz are improving - the biggest challenge for an inexperienced hockey player is to be able to go where you want to go. Even if you see where the puck is going behind you, if you can't move your feet and get over there, you just feel ineffective. I feel like this is becoming less and less of a problem for me, and it's awesome! However, the other side of playing with the club team for me is that I'm a captain. I've been a captain for 3 years now, and it's never been as much work as it is this year. Being responsible for making the team run smoothly is incentive to really make sure everything is taken care of and done right! But sometimes I really get tired of dealing with some things, like convincing people to come to practice, convincing people to play in goal, bugging people for dues, and dealing with people who come to practice with attitude. I mean, this isn't my job, but I do care about the team and I put a lot of thought and work into making sure everything is taken care of! So it would be nice for some people to realize that and maybe give back a little! I will be happy when it's time to elect new captains...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

little thrills

James got me a piano keyboard for Christmas, and it is just about the greatest thing ever. I wake up in the morning and put on a hoodie, and before even entering the kitchen for breakfast, I turn on the piano and start banging out a Regina Spektor intro and attempting to sing some words over it. Sounds a little groggy after I just woke up. It's been like 10 years since I've lived in a house with a piano, and I am reminded how awesome it is to be able to sit down any time and pick out a tune I recently heard! Okay, I don't have a piano bench yet, so right now I just stand, but it's just as good. I taught James how to play chopsticks, and it seems that he likes to play as if there's a fire chasing him, i.e. as fast as possible, allegro, presto!

I am growing a mini cactus farm in the office - I ordered some seeds for cacti and succulents, figuring that they are some of the few plant types that I haven't yet killed. I bought some cactus soil (a little sandy) and hitched a bright light above their tray. Now I have a bunch of tiny cacti growing in row! They are only like 4 mm tall, or less. So cute!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

three strikes of inspiration

It is incredibly daunting to start writing one's PhD thesis. I have a blank page in front of me, which means that even writing a single word would constitute progress, and still I can barely look at the document for more than five seconds. I've extracted myself from my office, where I sometimes get uncomfortably antsy and start glossing over art blogs without reading a single word, and have situated myself in the stata center with a caramel macchiato and three lab research notebooks. The place is only about 15% full, but I've managed to park myself next to a girl with an annoyingly loud laugh, or so it seems to one trying to concentrate on work. I know I just need to get into the groove and my brains will just start working like they need to.

As a side project this month (like I really need another one), I am redesigning my dad's blog. Currently the overall layout and color scheme just drives me crazy, especially when I get lucky and see one of those header pictures that are all stretched out. It's visually painful! And this is not my dad's area of expertise, so maybe I can give his blog a little boost, and then I won't be embarrassed to pass on the link to other people I know. His blog is done through Wordpress, which I have never used before, but I figure it's probably one of the easier interfaces to work with, right? Otherwise it wouldn't be so popular? The challenge is turning the visual layout in my head (which I sketched on paper) into an actual webpage, without having to learn html. Stay tuned.

I am excited about this year. Besides my renewed resolve to graduate (which is exciting in itself), I'm looking forward to continuing to cook amazing food with J, knit cute things for J's soon-to-be niece, and keep playing hockey (with my new shin pads!). Plus things couldn't have worked out better with J getting a job that's only 20 minutes away and starts at the end of the month! Yay and yay.

Okay, thesis time.

Friday, January 1, 2010

new resolve

Here are my resolutions for 2010. Maybe if I post them on the internets, I will actually get them done.

1. Graduate!
2. Eat less meat.
3. Lift at the gym once every week.
4. Improve my wrist shot on the ice.
5. Read one book per month.
6. Graduate!