Monday, December 31, 2007

Wicked Awesome Studio Portraits

Despite the hilarity, I do believe that my collection of awkward photos could give some of these a run for the money.

Did you click on that link? Because it you didn't, you owe it to yourself to go back and do so. I'm not kidding.

via Metafilter

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stockbridge

I'm spending the extended New Years weekend in Stockbridge, MA with some friends. We have a fireplace, a lot of alcohol, and some fireworks.



For the record, throwing fireworks into the fireplace may be a stupid idea, but damn, it's fun.




We've been taking turns cooking dinner, and on my night, I made New Orleans Style Shrimp cooked in tinfoil packets. So easy! So delicious! Gaze upon the shrimpy goodness:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Elementary school short stories

After the San Fransisco Zoo incident, I was thinking about tigers, and I suddenly recalled a short story I read as a child entitled "The Lady or the Tiger?" It then occurred to me that during elementary school, we read the same short stories over and over. I don't know if the repetition was due to the fact that the school only owned one set of short story books, or if there just aren't that many good ones appropriate for that age group in existence. Note to aspiring writers: the elementary school audience could be yours for the taking!

The one we read every single year, without fail, was "Charles" by Shirley Jackson. A young boy entertains his mother will daily accounts of his mischievous classmate, Charles. During the parent-teacher conference, she learns (SPOILER ALERT!) that there is no Charles, and the devious juvenile is none other than her own son.

In the aforementioned "The Lady of the Tiger?," a princess watches as her lover stands in an arena in front of two doors. He has been arrested by the king, and as punishment, is forced to choose between the two doors. Behind one stands a beautiful woman ready to become his bride, and behind the second lurks a vicious tiger. The princess knows the location of each, and signals to him which one to open. He opens the door. Is it the lady or the tiger?

Lastly, there was one story that we only read a couple of times, but I found it particularly haunting. It was a science fiction tale by Ray Bradbury (strangely enough, seeing as how I love fiction and am a scientist, I don't really like most science fiction.) about a group of schoolchildren on a colony on Venus. One of the girls was a social pariah, because she had actually grown up on Earth, a fact that made the other children envious. On rainy Venus, the sun only comes out once a decade, and none of them had ever seen it. The day the sun was scheduled to come out, they locked the Earth girl in the closet as a prank, but then forgot about her and left her trapped inside while they went out to frolic in the sunshine. What cruelty!

It's kind of funny how memory works. I can never seem recall where I left my keys, but as for something I read twenty years ago, I can remember it in vivid detail.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A toast to the happy couple


Last night, I hosted a dinner party in honor of my sister and her fiance, who are in town for the holidays. I made individual pork pies from a recipe on The Pink Shoe Cookbook, and they were meaty delicious. If the sign of a successful dinner party is multiple guests spending the night at your apartment, well, I guess you can mark this one down as a success. Maybe the double champagne course wasn't such a great idea, after all.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

When tigers attack

Holy crap....a tiger escaped from her cage the San Fransisco Zoo and attacked three people, killing one of them.

I think the sheer insanity of the story precludes my need to make additional commentary.

Fantasy Wrap-Up

This fall, for the first time ever, I played fantasy football. And I almost won it all. My brother-in-law Adam organized a league of his friends, and Eri's fiance and I also joined (although neither of my sisters participated). We did the Yahoo version, which is pretty easy, and I signed up for the the automated draft because I was attending a wedding while it was scheduled. I did some manipulations- moved Randy Moss way up the list because I predicted he would have a great year with the Pats (and how right I was! That move certainly paid off.) and blacklisted a couple of my least favorite players: Terrell Owens and Peyton Manning. I know, I know; it's bad policy to ban good players from your fantasy team for personal reasons, but I'm too much of a sports fan to stomach rooting for someone who is a nemesis of the actual team I follow. I ended up with a solid squad- Moss, Chad Johnson, Joseph Addai- and later traded for Brett Favre and Dallas Clark. At the end of the regular season, I finished in first place. I had a bye for the first round of playoffs, and then lost in a close semi-final to none other than Ryan, Eri's fiance.

I enjoyed my first season as a fantasy football manager and will do it again. I'm a Patriots fan, but I like watching any decent NFL game (unlike baseball, where I will watch the Red Sox, but that's pretty much it), so it was fun keeping up with my players. Although it does change a little bit how you view the game- for example, I was at an airport bar watching a Giants game and my tight end Jeremy Shockey caught a long pass on the one yard line. The Giants fans cheered, whereas I shouted something akin to "Score the touchdown, you stupid motherf*&^r!" The other patrons were alarmed. I know some people get a little too obsessed with their fantasy teams, but it was a minor time commitment for me- just keep track of injuries and performance, and set the lineups the day before the first game of the week. Another positive is that it is really fun to talk to other fantasy owners about their teams, with the negative being that the non-fantasy owners listening will become bored to the point of tears.

Due to my success at NFL fantasy football, I joined and NBA fantasy league set run by commenters on Dan Shanoff's sports blog. Since I am a huge NBA fan and actually know a lot about basketball, having played it dreadfully for many years, I thought I would do well. I used my normal method of selection, barring players I can't stand (Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd...I have a strict No Rapists, No Wifebeaters policy.) and ended up with a talented team: LeBron, AI (I'm okay with weapons and marijuana charges), Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady. A formula for success? Not quite. In our league, points are tallied daily, so you have to adjust your lineup every day based upon who is playing that night. I just can't keep up, and end up resetting my lineup only two or three times a week. That, and the injuries can be killer. I'm currently in last place with little hope of climbing out of the hole.

I think I've learned my lesson- the NFL is made for fantasy football, but as for the NBA, I'm better off just watching the Celtics.

Holiday Weekend Report


Friday- Attended the 30th birthday party for my hometown friends Yuki and Kevin. We had a great time, although the celebration was quite different from the last they had a joint birthday party- that one was at age 21 and featured the near decapitation of Kevin due to the guillotine-like action of a minivan sliding door.

Saturday- Slept in, shopped, went for sushi at Zen in Beacon Hill, which has become one of my favorite sushi places.

Sunday- Yuki, Jonathan, and I went to the planetarium at the Museum of Science, which was more like a $9 nap for Yuki and me. Then, we headed to Framingham for dinner and visits with the high school gang. After dinner, we went out to Lucky's for Sinatra Sunday.

Christmas- Family, church, food, presents, friends, relaxation, the usual. It was great. Hope you all had a nice one, too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!



And now, a holiday YouTube sensation: Indiana University Men's A Capella does the 12 Days of Christmas. The best part is near the end, so make sure you watch the whole thing.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Facebook: Yay or Nay?

I never really jumped on board the social media trend. I signed up for Friendster several years ago, but didn't put much time into it, and I don't think anyone uses it anymore. Myspace didn't pique my interest- primarily because of their terrible design- clashing colors, ugly fonts, business, ugh! It makes my eyes burn, and I'm not even that particular about layouts. That site must be like kryptonite for graphic designers. Plus, isn't it mostly for teenagers?

Last week, one of my coworkers showed me his Facebook page and I must admit, I was intrigued. The layout is rather serene, and people I know actually use it. A lot of them! I had fun perusing friends' pages, and I'm now considering setting up my own. However, a part of me feels that I spend enough time screwing around on the internet (namely, this blog and all the blogs I read), so do I really need another portal for procrastination? Probably not.

So, I'm asking for opinions and feedback. Do you use Facebook? Do you like it? Do annoying people from your past start contacting you, or is it a good way to reconnect with people you actually like?

Should I, or shouldn't I?

Related: a humorous essay from The Morning News about Facebook

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Post Buffet

Okay, there are several things I've been meaning to post about, but haven't had the time or been willing to put forth the effort into doing so. Hence, the Post Buffet:

- My friend Mulvey's band Muy Cansado is playing tonight at the Greatest Bar. All the cool people will be there. Will you?

- New Blog! Trend Vigil, by a friend of a friend with whom I am friendly.

- Attended the Celtics first home loss last night. Bummer. On a positive note, there's an interesting article on ESPN on the Celtics and the misconception that they are a historically white team.

- I watched the news the other night and finally saw some presidential candidates' commercials. Here's how they went:

Hillary Clinton- Worked to get health insurance for members of the National Guard. Okay, Hillary has been a proponent of health care reform for a long, long time, so she has some credibility there. The National Guard aspect was obviously intended to make her seem patriotic and whatnot, but such is the norm for these sorts of ads.

John McCain- Low taxes, cut wasteful spending, a man you can trust. I'm on board with that- fiscal conservatism isn't my cup of tea, but some people really go for that. And even we liberals dislike taxes.

Barack Obama- Change, hope, a better future. Okay, sounds nice.

Mitt Romney- Against giving drivers licences to illegal immigrants. Opposed granting children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition. Promotes English only in schools. That's it? That's his message? What a fucking asshole. Playing upon people's bigotries to garner votes is a despicable (and frankly, a bit racist) tactic. Not to mention hypocritical, given the source. What's his next ad going to be about, how much he hates gay people? Fuck you, Mitt. And you were a lousy governor. (Okay, I'm fired up right now. Apologies for the language.)

- Went to dinner at India Quality in Kenmore last week for the goodbye party of my coworker Vaishali. It was SO GOOD. I really do think I could live on naan alone. Then, we all went out to karaoke and I sang a duet of "A Whole New World" (from Aladdin) with my coworker Vibhu, and it was awful. Oh, did I say awful? Because I meant AWESOME. (all caps is the new black, btw.)







- A couple of years ago, some science friends formed a Spanish-speaking club called Spanish Table (a.k.a. mesa de espanol). The original goal was to help Americans interested in learning Spanish, but it morphed into a monthly (or so) get together of scientists from Spanish speaking countries living in the Boston area, with a couple of interlopers like myself. This week, we got together at a friend's house in Chestnut Hill and had such a great time- empanadas, wine, and champagne to celebrate the holiday season. Pictures below:

What the World Eats

I have a ton of things I've been meaning to post about, but haven't had the time. This, however, is fascinating:

One week's worth of food from around the planet.

Egypt's food looks pretty good to me.

Chad, however, is heartbreaking.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rodents of Unusual Size?


They exist! Several new species have been discovered in New Guinea, including a giant rat and a pygmy possum.

I must admit, though, the rat in the photo doesn't look that much bigger than the ones I've spotted lurking around the streets of Boston.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Weekend Report

Friday- My cousin Myles came to visit and we went out to dinner with some friends and then saw The Golden Compass. I read the books last year and had been looking forward to seeing the movie, especially after I learned that Daniel Craig would be playing a lead role. In the first episode of the trilogy, the protagonist, a young girl named Lyra (living in a parallel universe with a strong resemblance to an English university) embarks on a mission to save her kidnapped playmate, encountering gypsies, witches, and polar bears along the way. Normally, I am not a big fan of the fantasy/sci-fi genre, and the movie on its own would not have won me over- low on character development, high on cheesiness. However, having read the books, it was fun to see how certain aspects were adapted for the big screen, especially the daemons (in Lyra's world, people's souls live outside their bodies in the form of an animal companion.) The acting was solid, especially Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, and the clothes were fantastic, Nicole Kidman's in particular. All in all, I'd recommend The Golden Compass to fans of Pullman's books (even though they might be disappointed by certain plot alterations) and fantasy/sci-fi fans, but not to the general public.
After the movie, we stopped by a party, at which Myles was about 12 years younger than most of the attendees. One of the funniest moments was when Myles was subjected to some standard adult small talk: "So, what do you do?" His answer: "Um, I go to high school."

Saturday- Slept in, went out to lunch, tried unsuccessfully to purchase a shovel in not one, nor two, but three Boston locations (sold out everywhere! although you'd think I'd already own one.). Had dinner with the grandparents and finally completed the shovel quest at the Natick Home Depot. Then, soccer, pizza, and beer.

Sunday- Lounged around indoors for most of the day, then my roommate Ern and I went to watch football at The Junction. On our way home, we took a detour to the Black Thorn and stumbled upon Customer Appreciation Night. Next thing you know, our pictures ended up on the singer's website- apparently he took a shining towards Ern because she is up at the top of the page, whereas I am down below the guy pretending to use his pint glasses as eyeglasses. Guess what I didn't do? Shovel my car out, which lead to it being encased in a prison of frozen slush come Monday morning. I used my new shovel to hack away at it (good thing I bought the sturdy metal one) for about a hour, at which point a giant man who wanted my parking space got out of his truck and finished the job.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This just in.....

MY SISTER ERI AND HER BOYFRIEND RYAN GOT ENGAGED!!!!!

Hooray!





Friday link fun

The Boston Herald sure does try, but nobody does inappropriate headlines quite like the New York Post. Yikes!

Best/Worst title for a cookbook.

Awesome t-shirt that I just bought. (thanks, MJ!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Restaurant Review: The Red Fez


Every December, the boss takes the lab out to dinner. Somehow, I always end up choosing the restaurant. It requires some thought: good food, good drinks, expensive enough so that it's a treat for the grad students, but not so expensive that the boss notices and gets annoyed, takes reservations, seating for bigger groups, vegetarian options, somewhere we haven't been before. In the past, we've done Tasca, The Black Rose, and Cottonwood Cafe.

This year, we stayed local and went to The Red Fez in the South End. It's listed as Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine, but I believe that the owners are Turkish. When I called to make the reservation and said my name, the man on the phone got all excited and asked me if I was Turkish. Apparently something that sounds like Eileen is a Turkish name.

First off, the drinks. Amazing, delicious cocktails. They make a mean mojito, but I prefer the Brazilian version, the Caipirinha. They make it the right way, with a Brazilian rum called cacha├ža. I've been to places that try pawn off a vodka-based drink as a Caipirinha, and it angers me.

Now, onto the food, and, you guys, it was SO GOOD!

We started off with the Hot Mezzes combination appetizer platter, which made me think of Jenny and her use of the phrase "hot mess."

For an entree, I had an eggplant and tomato dish called mussakaa, and it was crazy delicious. I also tried some of the salad and tasted a couple of my co-workers meals (I'm an unabashed food sampler) and everything was very tasty.

I'd been to the Red Fez for drinks before, but never eaten there, and now I can't wait to go back.

On an unrelated note, there is a huge snowstorm in progress! Yay!

Phase I

I have entered the first phase of Christmas shopping, the one when you go shopping for other people but end up buying things for yourself.

Related: My new coat. (as worn by a model, outdoors)




(as worn by me, in a laboratory)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Neighbor Letdown

You know when you're a kid, and a "SOLD" sign replaces the "For Sale" sign in the neighbor's yard, and you get all excited imagining who is going to move in? Okay, maybe not all kids did this, but I sure did. Maybe they'll have kids my age to play with! Maybe we'll be allowed to sled in their backyard! Maybe they'll have an Atari and be allowed to eat sugary cereal and when I go over their house it will be awesome! Maybe they'll build a pool and let everyone in the neighborhood use it! Even if they don't have a kid, maybe they'll have a puppy that they'll let me watch when they go on vacation!

Inevitably, the new neighbors turned out to be childless, puppyless, and poolless retirees.

I feel a similar burst of anticipation when a new business moves into my neighborhood. Maybe it will be a delicious burrito place! Maybe a cute and affordable clothing boutique! Or a bookstore!

Over the past couple of years, not one, but two 7-11s have opened up on my street. (BO-ring. We already had a Store 24.) Last week, the signs for a new store went up....and.....it's.....Edible Arrangements. Maybe they should rename it Inevitable Sighs of Disappointment. Because when am I going to want to an purchase an expensive decorative container filled with fruit, cut into shapes and skewered? I'll tell you when. NEVER.

Song of the day

This morning, I was setting up for a rather tedious and dull experiment, and tuned in to KEXP online.

Suddenly, the sweet sounds of 80s retro pop emerged from my speakers, and made me oh so happy!

Mp3: Age of Consent, New Order

That and a second cup of coffee put me in a fantastic mood. No, it doesn't take much.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Weekend Report

Friday- Caught Cake at the Orpheum, which was a lot of fun. I had never seen them before, and it was especially fun to see them on a Friday night show with everyone in the audience in party mode. They were the last of four bands, so their set wasn't that long, but they did play several of my favorite songs: Stick Shifts and Safety Belts, Sheep Go To Heaven, and Short Skirt, Long Jacket. In addition to the music, lead singer John McCrea asked the audience trivia questions, taunting people for incorrect responses and giving away trees as prizes for correct answers. (example: What state has the highest percentage of people who walk to work? The answer may surprise you.) It would have been nice to hear a few more songs, but overall, they put on a very enjoyable performance. Here's the Herald review of the show.

mp3: Sheep Go To Heaven

Saturday- Busy day. Attended my niece Maggie's first birthday party, played soccer, and went to a Colombian holiday party at Carolina's.

Sunday- Lounged around in my bathrobe writing Christmas cards, then went over Phil and Sue's to watch the Pats game. Is there any greater man love than the one shared by Tom Brady and Randy Moss? I don't think so.

My Almost Accidental Cameo

The film Real Men Cry is currently being filmed in South Boston. Yesterday morning, I saw the crew, trucks, and lights on I St., around the corner from my apartment. I walked by to check it out, but it wasn't all that exciting, so I went back home. A few hours later, I was headed out the door, carrying my soccer gear and a giant present wrapped in pink paper for my niece's birthday. I opened the door and immediately froze: at the bottom of my front steps, there were about fifteen camera, lighting, and sound people, and they were rolling. One of them caught my eye and motioned for me to stay still. Turns out that they were filming a scene in which Mark Ruffalo walks down Broadway, past my front door, and I almost stumbled into the middle of it with my giant pink present. I watched for a little while- Mark Ruffalo seems just like a normal guy (Stars, They're Just Like Us!), albeit handsomer than most. Then, I had to ask everyone to move so I could get my car out, which was slightly embarassing because my vehicle is a ten year old minivan with a University of Notre Dame decal and faded Celtics and Red Sox bumper stickers (kinda oozes with local authenticity, though, so maybe it will make the final cut).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Time Waster of the Day

In preparation for the upcoming Patriots vs. Steelers game, a Steelers fan created this game, in which Roethlisberger takes on an arsenal of Pats enemies. Even though the creator is clearly rooting for the wrong side, it's still pretty funny. For example, enemy Randy Moss shoots pot leaves.

via, quite surprisingly, metafilter

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From That Planet Where People Take Shirts off the Normal Way

In addition to the whole Y chromosome thing, I have discovered a key difference between men and women. This observation was first made while I was out at a bar with a male friend, and a guy standing near us pulled off his sweatshirt.

Male Friend: Look! That guy just took his shirt off the girl way!
Me: The girl way?
Male Friend: You know, the sexy way!
Me: The sexy way? What are you talking about?
Male Friend: You know, grabbing it from the bottom front and flipping it up over your face.
Me: That's not the girl way; that's the normal way.
Male Friend: No, it's not. The normal way is grabbing the back of the collar and pulling it forward over your head.

Thus, I became aware of the gender differential involved in shirt removal. It seems to be fairly consistent: girls remove shirts from the front, pulling them backwards, whereas guys grab their shirts from the back and pull them forwards over their heads. Which seems like a very cumbersome way to remove a shirt, if you ask me.

Concert Review: Cold War Kids and Spoon

Last night, I attended the WFNX holiday concert at the Orpheum. The lineup included Spoon, Cold War Kids, Against Me!, and Mute Math. Feat was also listed on the ticket, however, I did eventually figure out that Feat is in fact short for featuring, and not a band. We arrived in time to catch the end of Against Me's set, and were perplexed by the refrain to their song The Ocean: "There is an ocean in my soul where the waters do not curve." What? Curve? That doesn't make any sense, and it doesn't even rhyme. It gets worse, folks, check out the full lyrics here. Sharks and dolphins? Estuaries? Really? Yes, I realize that I am a big jerk for making fun of a band's lyrics, but whatever. Your favorite band sucks.

Things took a turn for the better when Cold War Kids , an indie rock band from Long Beach, CA (birthplace of Snoop Dogg and yours truly) took the stage. I like their music but had never seen them live before, so I was really looking forward to their performance. They exceeded my expectations. I was most impressed by the musical talent and stage presence of lead singer Nathan Willett, who plays guitar and piano on several tracks. (piano + rock music = awesome) The songs with piano sounded excellent, especially my favorite, "We Used to Vacation." They ended the set with an chills-inducing version of "Saint John." So, yes, we went from a band that sings about dolphins to one who sings about death row and alcoholics destroying their families. Our seats were in the third row right in the middle of the stage, so I could have taken some good photos, except that flash photography was forbidden. I turned my flash off and took the photo that you see here, but when I tried to take another one, the flash went off, and not just a one-and-done; it was on some crazy red-eye setting that was all flash-flash-flash-flash-FLASH!, thus drawing the ire of not one, but two, angry security guards. I didn't want to get thrown out so I put my camera away. (The Spoon photo was taken by a friend with better camera etiquette.)

Lastly, Spoon took the stage. I saw them back in October and it was nice to see them up close once again. They performed most of the same songs, but this time had a horns section on stage with them, so that was fun. They played for about an hour, and by the end of their set, it was like a thousand degrees inside the Orpheum. Nevertheless, they sounded great, and seeing them and the Cold War Kids was well worth the price of admission.

Downloads (right click and "save as"):

Cold War Kids:

We Used to Vacation
Saint John

Spoon:

You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Weekend Report

Friday- Went out to dinner for a friend's birthday at Greek Corner, a Greek (duh) restaurant in Cambridge. It was great! We ordered some sampler plates of appetizers and they were delicioius, especially the spinach pie and the caviar. I had lamb kebabs for dinner (yum!) and tried Retsina, traditional Greek wine flavored with pine resin, which tastes much better than it sounds. The staff were all competent and friendly, and the fact that we were such a big group (about 14 people) didn't cause any problems. It's a little bit of a hike from downtown Boston, but I would definitely recommed it for anyone in the mood for some tasty Greek cuisine.

Saturday- My soccer team had our end of season party, with a pink holiday theme to match both our uniforms and the time of year. There were several spectacular pink outfits present: a pink blazer, a pink bathrobe, a pink velour jumpsuit...all worn by men. We also had a Yankee Swap that was a lot of fun. While I was in Mexico, I bought a pink lucha libre mask for the occasion, and it was a popular present. Not quite as popular was a decorative set of about 30 tiny dead birds, although by the end of the night, the majority of them were either hidden in the apartment or used to adorn partygoers. I ended up with a pink headband, pink wristbands, and pink shoelaces, and I was quite pleased. So pleased that I stayed up until 5AM drinking Pinkles Punch.

Sunday- When I finally arose, at noon, I felt like crap. One cup of coffee and shepherd's pie later, courtesy of the Playwright, I felt hells better. Spent the rest of the day in the lab, then had dinner in Framingham with my parents.

Math and Rap, Together at Last

Graphical interpretations of rap lyrics. This one was by far my favorite: