Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Since the whole point of the project is to try new things, I went back on Sunday to walk around and check out some of the local shops and restaurants. Ern and I had a delicious Indian lunch at Diva- the buffet was around $12, a great deal. I tried goat meat for the first time and it was much more tender and flavorful than I had expected.
We then met up with friend and Somerville resident Chris and wandered around checking out a couple book and music stores.
Lastly, we stopped for tea and cider at Diesel Cafe. The place is more of a west-coast style coffee shop (East Coast = they put the sugar and cream in your coffee for you, West Coast = You do it yourself), packed with college students and hipsters on their computers. The high point of the day was discovering the old-time photo booth at Diesel, which led to this example of photographic excellence:
The Sunday afternoon trip was exactly what I had in mind- I had fun exploring a different neighborhood and going to some new (to me) places. I would definitely go back to Davis Square, and I'm looking forward to my next stop on my tour of Boston.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Saturday- Woke up A. wishing I had a time machine to take me to a point in the future in which I wouldn't feel hungover and B. wondering if I was ever going to grow up and behave like a responsible adult. A bacon and egg sandwich cured both the hangover and the self-loathing. I Went to the New Balance outlet to buy some new running shoes. Played soccer. Went to a birthday party in Worcester for my friend Karen, who is a post-doc at the UMass Medical Center. Since the party was full of scientists, conversation focused around themes like publications, conferences, and favorite pathogens.
Sunday- Spent the day in Davis Square, which will get its own post. Then, I drove Jossy to the airport and went over Jamie and Maria’s for dinner. Our friend Lauren was on a show on the Food Network (her boss is a chef and she appeared on an episode with him), and Maria taped it so we could enjoy Lauren’s television debut together.
Also, congratulations go out to Roger Federer for winning the Australian Open. I watched the women’s final, and man, Serena absolutely destroyed Maria Sharapova.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
1. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. There are two types of books that I generally avoid: 1. Non-Fiction, and 2. Eastern European literature. I tried to read Crime and Punishment a few years ago but abandoned it after reading some 200+ pages that never piqued my interest. I even felt a bit intellectually inferior due to my strong distaste of these renowned classics, until a very intelligent former coworker confessed to me that she also harbored a hatred for the Russian masters (like, OMG, I totally hate those books too!). I decided to give it another go and selected Anna Karenina, and guess what? I liked it. The novel follows two central characters... Anna Karenina (well, duh) and Konstantin Levin. The story flips back and forth between the two protagonists… Anna is a beloved member of high society, married to a prominent politician, whose world unravels when she falls in love with a handsome military officer, Count Vronsky. Levin is a wealthy landowner who eschews politics and city life, preferring to devote his time and energies to managing his farmland. He is considered shy and awkward by aristocratic society, but is liked and respected by those who know him well. Although Anna is the title character, both protagonists are given equal page-time by the author, and I found Levin a much more captivating and sympathetic character. Anna, whose affair with Vronsky, essentially consumes and ruins her, is to be pitied, whereas Levin is to be admired. One striking note of Tolstoy’s novel is how, to a modern reader, it is so obviously apparent that Russia was ripe for revolution. The wealthy live in such extreme excess, in such marked contrast to the pitiful lives of the (much more numerous) peasants, one can’t help but think “Didn’t they see it coming?”
2. The Magician’s Assistant, by Ann Pachette. I LOVED Pachette’s novel Bel Canto, so I was looking forward to this one, and although I liked it, I didn’t love it. Twenty years ago, Sabine was working as a waitress when the handsome magician Parsifal called her up to the stage. She becomes his assistant, and falls in love with him. He’s gay, but eventually marries her so she will inherit his fortune. After his death, she finds out that his family, whom she had believed had died in a car accident in Connecticut during his youth, is alive and well, living in Nebraska. She visits them, and learns about the events that drove Parsifal away from his past, and forms a strong bond with his estranged family.
3. Sweet and Low, by Rich Cohen. Yikes! Non-fiction! This book tells the story of the sugar substitute Sweet and Low, invented by the Eisenstadt family from Brooklyn. One catch- the author is the estranged grandson of the inventor. Overall, the book contains some interesting history about the sugar trade and the development of artificial sweeteners. However, I had two major problems with it. The author holds a major grudge against the rest of the family because his mother did not inherit any of the family fortune in the will. In my opinion, that’s not a valid gripe. She married young, moved away, and never worked for the company. Besides, she grew up wealthy, they paid for college,…didn’t they do enough for her? An inheritance is a voluntary gift, not a requirement. She isn’t owed an inheritance and shouldn’t be resentful because she didn’t receive a gift that she was in no way obligated to receive. It’s hard to feel sorry for the author who whines about his comfortable upper-middle class lifestyle. Also, my major complaint about non-fiction is that some authors, including Cohen, use an overly didactic tone. They present their opinions as if they were proven facts. And footnotes? Ugh. Please use sparingly. Cohen also frequently alluded to certain events and people with a “to be explained later” tag, making the entire book feel like an introduction. A heavy-handed editor could have improved the book immensely.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
"But that's too little, too late for the Kuleszas. The father said they would never fly AirTran again. The other 112 passengers stated that they would never fly with the Kuleszas again."
Monday, January 22, 2007
A. Scooby Doo. Illustrator Iwao Takamoto died earlier this month.
And now for something completely different...
While I was in Colombia, a kidnapped government minister escaped after being held captive for six years. Six years! That's more like a jail sentence. It was a huge news story that also received some coverage in the U.S....here's an article about Fernando Araujo's experience.
Saturday- Worked, played soccer, and went to the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge to celebrate Lisa’s birthday. I hadn’t been there before and I liked it- good crowd, great music, including lots of early 90’s middle school favorites. Trendy, but with normal drink prices, and beer on tap. There’s nothing I hate more than fancy bars that charge $7 for a beer and only carry Amstel Light. (Okay, I hate racism and injustice more. And Carol of the Bells.) The only complaint is that every time someone walked in through the giant glass door, a strong gust of bitter cold air followed. Until it got crowded, half of the patrons were still wearing their winter jackets inside. They need to put up one of those velvet curtains or something. Nevertheless, I had a fun time catching up with friends and celebrating with the birthday girl. I also got a bit drunkies and gave my number to a young little architect from Jerusalem. I wanted to ask him if he was Israeli or Palestinian, but decided that it might not go over well.
Sunday- Attended a Red Egg and Ginger Party for baby Maya, daughter of my friends Kim and Mike. In Chinese culture, red eggs and ginger symbolize luck and fertility. It is also customary to shave the baby’s head at the Red Egg and Ginger party, but they skipped that one. Basically, I chowed down on Chinese food for a couple of hours. I tried some interesting fruits called lychee and rambutans. Later on, I watched a certain football game that will shall never be mentioned again.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Coffee, coffee, coffee, soda, soda, coffee, beer, beer
Or occasionally, this:
Coffee, coffee, coffee, soda, soda, coffee, wine, wine, wine
(Water used sparingly.)
This week, I decided to try to make it look more like this:
Water, coffee, water, water, water, water, wine/beer, water
Tuesday: Forgot my cell phone, mild headache all day.
Wednesday: Forgot my lunch and my new CDs I wanted to listen to. Forgot to add a key ingredient to one of my experiments. Threw a hissy fit at a coworker (a supervisor, nonetheless) because he moved a shelf in front of a piece of equipment I use. Apologized later, but still felt bad about it all day.
Thursday: Realized that lack of caffeine turns me into a brainless twat. I’m still going to cut back, but I started off the day with a giant cup of hot tea, and not of the decaffeinated kind.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Coming Soon -- Drive-Through DNA: "RheoSwitch -- precise, variable control of mammalian gene expression." Haven't you always dreamed of precise control of mammalian gene expression? Buy it here. Hmmm, wonder if they will send me a free sample of this pMYB5 control plasmid so I can try manipulating a little E. coli at home. Welcome to the world of the gene-device ads in Science magazine, which has been taken over by advertising for genetic materials and gene-manipulation laboratory devices. All of the full-page ads in the front of the magazine in a recent issue were for such products. (Advertising in the front of a magazine costs more than in the middle.) "Ambion's MagMAX delivers high-quality RNA to maximize the success of your gene expression studies," one ad says. "Achieve excellent transfection efficiency in some cell lines," a Roche ad promises. "One reagent convenience for DNA and RNAi transfection," an ad for Invitrogen proclaimed. "SpeedStar DNA Polymerase is a convenient, efficient DNA polymerase specifically
designed for fast PCR," Takara Bio promised. I liked my polymerase convenient! "Enter the world of reliable gene silencing," Qiagen's ad headlined. "Our next generation of high-fidelity Pfu-based fusion enzymes sets a new standard for PCR performance," Stratagene's inside-cover ad proclaims. OK, medical laboratories need to shop for products just like everybody else does. What's spooky is that these are slick ad-agency ads with graphics and sell lines. "MessageAmp II -- Biotin Enhanced!" cries an ad for Ambion, whose Web site promises, "Scale up easily to acquire more RNA." The magazine ad for Ambion has flowers and looks for all the world like a prescription-drug sales pitch. "DNA Sequencing for $2.50 per reaction," with "plasmid and PCR purification available" and "no charge for standard sequencing primers" proclaimed a recent ad in Science, while "Simplify Gene Silencing Experiments with Pre-Designed RNA -- Fast! Easy! Guaranteed!" declared another.
Looks like the author was totally freaked out by the biotechnology ads. It’s weird to think that something so commonplace and boring (polymerases? biotin? I use that shit every day.) is so strange and fascinating to someone outside the field. I don’t mean to be all “silly laypeople,” but Science is a trade magazine. If you were reading Auto Mechanics Weekly, you would expect to find ads like “Most Efficient Carburetor!” and “Smooth-gliding fan belt!” The products he listed are all standard tools of the trade, not used for creating fantasy hybrid organisms. And $2.50 isn’t even a good price for DNA sequencing.
When I was a kid, I thought people made New Year’s Revolutions. You know, lose weight, overthrow the government. I generally do not make New Year’s resolutions but create less stringent categories of “things I’d like to do better this year.” This year’s list is fairly typical: drink more water, save more money, pay down credit cards, get in shape, floss, stand up straight, and try new things. Try new things? A little vague. I am a creature of habit. In my leisure time, I hang out with friends, I play soccer, and I go out to bars- almost always to the same old places. In order to inject a little more spice into my life, I came up with the Boston Neighborhood Project. Once a month, I will spend a day in one of the many neighborhoods in Boston that I rarely frequent. For example, although I live in Southie, I hardly ever go over to the Fort Point Channel area. I could check out the new harborwalk, go to the ICA, and then get something to eat and drink at a nearby café or restaurant. Here’s the list of neighborhoods I came up with (I excluded places that I’m very familiar with, like downtown Boston, Brookline, and Harvard and Central squares in Cambridge.):
1. Fort Point- South Boston
2. East Boston
4. Jamaica Plain
5. Inman Square, Cambridge
8. Brighton Center
10. Revere Beach
I’m still missing two months, so I could try two different neighborhoods of one the bigger places on the list (like Dot). Also, if anyone knows of interesting things to see or places to eat or drink in the areas I listed, or can recommend a neighborhood I left off the list, please let me know in the comments. Apologies to all of you non-Massholes for this Boston-centric post.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
On my flight from Miami to Medellín, I somehow ended up with a first class seat. I definitely didn't choose it when I booked my flight, and I don't think I paid anything extra, and I didn't even know about it until I picked up my boarding passes. I always scope out the people sitting in first class when I board a plane. Rich people intrigue me. However, I'm beginning to suspect that most of the people who are sitting in the big, cushy seats are not among the fabulously wealthy, but are in fact lowly economy class travelers like myself who lucked into an upgrade. I sat down next to a corpulent, middle-aged American man. Shortly into the flight, he tells me that he's going to Colombia and hoping to meet someone. I am confused. He explains. A wife, he is looking for a wife. Apparently there is some sort of tour in which a group of around twenty American men go to Medellin, stay in a hotel together, and attend events where they meet hundreds of potential Colombian brides. (I check on the internet, and yes, it's true.) The man explains the whole system to me, oblivious to the incredulous and somewhat aghast look on my face. One would think he would be a bit more discreet about his plans. Doesn't he realize that many people find this sort of thing, um, in poor taste? I asked him "Well, aren't you worried about marrying someone you don't know? And are you concerned at all as to how she would adjust to living in a country in which she doesn't speak the language or have any family or friends? " His response: "Well, my first wife is from the Phillipines, and I got her out of a catalogue." No joke, people.
Fast-forward to the flight home. Carolina and I were one the same flight, and in one of the many long lines leaving Colombia (My luggage got searched TWICE. No internal body cavity searches, though. Phew.) we met a American guy. I asked him what he had been doing in Medellín (not your typical tourist destination, or so I've heard) and he told me that he was supposed to get married the week before but the wedding had been called off. In the next breath, he added "No, I'm NOT one of those sleazy guys who comes down here to marry an eighteen year old! My ex-fiance and I met in business school in the states and we dated for four years." We ran into him again at the Miami airport during a long layover and had lunch together. He told us the whole tale of his failed romance- turns out that a few days before the wedding, he found out from the bride's brother that she had been cheating on him. Very telenovela, no? He had already bought a house in Medellín and sold his business, and was still planning to move there. This surprised Carolina. "Aren't you worried about safety issues?" His answer: "Oh, I am half-Israeli and was a combat instructor in the Israeli army for three years, so no, Colombia doesn't scare me at all."
The last encounter was more of an observation. At Logan airport, in front of the baggage carousel, a couple was loudly conversing. Well, not exactly conversing. An American guy, who obviously didn't speak Spanish, was trying to explain to a Colombian girl, who obviously didn't speak English, how to make a phone call with a calling card. "NO.....DIAL ONE....FIVE....SEVEN...." Then, she sat down on the edge of the luggage carousel "DON'T SIT THERE....WHEN THE BAGS COME OUT IT WILL START TO MOVE....LIKE THIS.....BRZZZZZ...MOVE...NO SIT...." Hey, here's a little tip: If someone doesn't understand your language, talking slowly and extremely loudly is not going to help matters. It will, however, alert the rest of the passengers awaiting their luggage that you found yourself a teenage bride via a Colombian dating service.
Favorite Movies of 2006:
- The Departed. Not just because I'm from Boston, this movie kicks ass. Killer soundtrack, too- I loved the opening scene with "Gimme Shelter" and the Dropkick Murphy's I'm Shipping Up To Boston made my heart pound. For those of you who attend my annual St. Patrick's Day party, prepare to hear it about a thousand times that day. I'm crossing my fingers that Mark Walberg, whose performance was entirely believable, subtle, and hilarious, gets the Best Supporting Actor nomination over of Jack Nicholson.
- Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Brilliant, shocking, and so f%^ing funny. Just thinking about the naked scene makes me cringe and laugh simultaneously.
- Volver. A well-crafted story from a master storyteller. Spain's legendary director Pedro Almovodar at his finest.
- Casino Royale. Daniel Craig breathes new life into the Bond franchise.
Favorite Music of 2006:
- Two enjoyable bands that I discovered last year: Band of Horses and Scissor Sisters
- New album by and old favorite: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, by Bruce Springsteen
Men I wanted to bang in 2006 (because, yes, women are pigs, too):
1. Daniel Craig
2. Zinedine Zidane
3. Roger Federer
4. Clive Owen
Thursday, January 11, 2007
David Beckham just signed a huge contract to play for the L.A. Galaxy. I think it's great for MLS and will generate a lot of interest in the league. Plus, he's wicked hot, and I'd love to get a chance to see him play. Even if he does have a girly voice.
Overall, I had a great trip, and I'd love to go back, especially to the Pacific coast. To end, here are some facts from Colombia:
1. Questions I was asked most frequently:
a. So, what do you think of Colombia?
b. Hey, where did you learn Spanish?
2. Colombia is composed of the following groups of people, in the following order:
- 3. Medellin has Dunkin Donuts! Yay!
4. Colombia is as safe as the United States (well, at least according to this poll).5. The national liquor is an anise-flavored spirit called Aguardiente. I wasn't a huge fan of the taste, but I liked the fact that it doesn't cause hangovers.
6. Instead of tortillas, Colombians eat arepas, which is similar to a corn tortialla, only larger, thicker, and crispy. I'm a fan.
7. Colombians are crazy about Christmas. Lights, EVERYWHERE. Nativities, EVERYWHERE. But instead of Santa bringing presents, baby Jesus does.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Carolina, her sister Carmenza, and I flew in a small plane to Nuqui, and then traveled by boat to their brother´s place, Pijiba Lodge. The lodge has a main house and several small cabanas, and at capacity, holds about 20 guests. Since we were visiting on the family discount (for free), we slept in the balcony in the main house above the kitchen. The other tourists were all Colombian, either from Medellin or Bogota, and because everyone eats together and forms small groups to take day trips, it´s easy to form friendships with the other guests. During the week, I bathed in a natural hot spring, went fishing and caught an albacore tuna, took a trip up one of the jungle rivers, and did a lot of swimming and hiking. Unfortunately, I don´t think the pictures really do the place justice- with all of the rain, boat rides, and treacherous terrain, I left my camera behind most of the time for fear of ruining it. Here are some I was able to take:
The initial boat ride over and the lodge (hard to see because of the trees):
Me, looking a like a big nerd, on the beach:
Boat ride up the River Jobi:
Hanging out at Pijiba (That´s Caro´s brother Gonzalo, our host, in the first picture):
And lastly, my attempt at taking an artistic photo:
Monday, January 01, 2007
We ate meat, we danced, we drank, we had a blast. I participated in a couple Colombian traditions. On New Year´s, people release giant, lit paper balloons into the sky. They´re like mini hot air balloons, powered by lighting a rag soaked in kerosene on fire. So, yes, a potential fire hazard, but fun. At midnight, everyone runs around the house carrying luggage for good luck, so I did that, too. One tradition that we skipped was burning a huge scarecrow-like doll, although we drove by hundreds of them for sale on the side of the road.
Tomorrow, Caro, her sister, and I are going to spend a week at her brother´s eco-resort on the Pacific coast. From what I´ve been told, it´s a very undevelopled and very beautiful part of the country, home of the Embera Indians (Native Colombians?). No electricity, no telephone, no internet. Hence, no updates for a while. Happy 2007!