Monday, March 31, 2008

Where are all the singles at?

I came across this Singles Map of the United States on The data indicate that in most East Coast cities, single women outnumber single men, whereas the opposite is true for the West Coast. I guess they don't call it Man Diego for nothing!
Naturally, the Globe couldn't post an article like this without throwing in a dash of 1950's sexism:
"One reason young women in the prime marriage years - the 25-44 age range - flock to big cities is to compete for the most eligible men." Yeah, right after we go to college to get our Mrs. degrees, AMIRITE?
They then go on to explain that men move to the West Coast for job opportunities. Oh, exactly.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weekend Report

My weekend was a busy one, filled mostly with work and errands, with soccer playing, family brunching, and two dinner parties squeezed in. (As for my stance on dangling prepositions? Firmly pro.) My friend Carolina's sister Luzma and nephew Daniel are currently visiting Boston, so I had them over for dinner on Friday night, along with some other Spanish speaking friends- Oscar, Ana, and JR (I needed another token American). Earlier in the week, I had trouble deciding what to make...I wanted to cook something typically American, but when I think of traditional American food, hamburgers and hot dogs are all that come to mind. Although I am certainly not above consuming processed meats, they didn't seem like an appropriate entree for the occasion. Inspiration struck when the latest issue of Cooking Light arrived- pictured on the cover was the ideal meal (rhyme alert!): Crab Cakes with Roasted Vegetables and Tangy Butter Sauce. Bingo! Although they took some time to prepare, they were very tasty, and using panko instead of regular breadcrumbs gave them a pleasant crispy texture. Here are photos of the model and the actual meals, plus a group shot:

The second dinner party of the weekend took place Sunday night at Caro's, where she and her boyfriend Jorg taught us all how to make sushi. It was a lot of fun and much easier than I imagined, as well as being delicious. I've been inspired and just may have to buy myself some sushi mats.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Book Club: Finally Done

The First ever DCoE book club has officially ended! Earlier this week, I finished our selection, Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie. First off, I'd like to say that although it is a great book, maybe even a Great Book, it is not a great book club book. It's very long (my version was 533 pages) and a very slow read- challenging vocabulary and a mish-mash of languages and characters. If we do another book club, I promise to pick lighter fare. So, congratulations to those of you who stuck with it. Here are some of my thoughts about the book:

  • Despite the title and the fact that they are frequently alluded to, the actual Midnight's Children (the 1001 magical children born at midnight on the same day India was granted independence) play a small role in the novel. They aren't even introduced until the end of Book One. Instead, the book is about one man, Saleem Sinai, and his very interesting life.
  • Overall, Midnight's Children was sort of a history lesson for me. I've always thought that high school should offer one modern history class, starting with the present and moving in reverse. Every year, we were inundated with information about explorers, pilgrims, the Revolutionary War, the founding fathers, and whatnot, but never got around to covering major world events after World War I. The end result is that I am shocked when I learn facts like this one: The partition of India into India and Pakistan led to the largest migration in human history. More than 5 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from present-day Pakistan into present-day India, and more than 6 million Muslims moved in the other direction. A large number of people (more than a million by some estimates) died in the accompanying violence.

  • Rushdie really is a brilliant writer. I liked how Padma served as both a character and an audience, and I also enjoyed how certain themes reappear frequently (mecurochrome, for example), sort of like an inside joke shared with the reader. One of my favorite sections of the book is when Saleem and his companions get lost in the jungle...the descriptions are breathtaking.

  • Characters I liked: Saleem's mom and grandfather. Uncle Hanif and Aunt Pia. Picture Singh, snake charmer known as The Most Charming Man In The World

  • Characters I disliked: Reverend Mother, Saleem's father.
  • Most fascinating character: The Widow is often alluded to as a powerful villain, but readers don't learn of her identity until Book Three. She is Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India. Intrigued, I looked her up and was surprised to see the white and the black parts of her hair, exactly as described by Rushdie. No relation to Mahatma, she was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister. A controversial figure, she served as Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her she was shot to death by her own security guards in 1984. Rushdie obviously despises her, and part of the book occurs during the Emergency, a two year period in the mid 70s in which Indira Gandhi ruled by decree, suspending all elections and civil liberties. It was during this time period that, as a method of population control, forced sterilization was implemented in poor neighborhoods. I was curious about Indira Gandhi and asked and asked an Indian coworker about her. His response was something like this: "She was an amazing, amazing woman! I met her twice. So strong, so elegant, and the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her family members are still major players in Indian politics. She was great. Oh, except when she sort of turned into a dictator, that was a terrible time of fear in India. And she was criticized for how she handled problems in Punjab- that is why she was assassinated."

  • Phrase I hope to never read again: Nose goo. I was happy when Saleem finally had the sinus operation, because I was so sick of Rushdie mentioning snot and drippy noses on almost ever single page. Saleem's nose runs, we get it, OK!

  • Oh, in addition to Indira, Rushdie also has no love for Pakistan. He makes the "Land of the Pure" seem like a land of idiots.

  • One theme of the book that I didn't enjoy was Saleem's obsession with his sister. He is supposedly in love with her (well, since he was switched at birth, she isn't technically a blood relative), but that storyline rang false with me. It just seemed sort of hollow and I didn't really buy it, maybe in part because the transformation of the Brass Monkey into Jamila Singer also struck me as a little unbelievable.

  • A nitpick: Supposedly, the Midnight's Children born closest to the stroke of midnight received the most powerful magical gifts. However, Saleem and his nemesis Shiva are the two born at the stroke of midnight and therefore the most powerful. But their gifts, a telepathic olfactory system and a set of impressive knees, struck me as far less significant than some of the others' powers, time travel, flight, invisibility, etc. ..

  • I did enjoy the ending, especially how Saleem gets reunited with Mary Pereira, but I won't go into too much detail in case any of you are still reading.
So that's it. I'm only aware of one other person, Carolina, who finished the book. But if you did, here's your gold star, and even if you haven't finished yet, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Twisted Moments in Childhood Cartoons

This article really cracked me up: The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of 80's Cartoons.
Hello, naked Thundercats!
I disagree with their take on the Smurfs- the "GNAP" episode where they all turn dark purple and crazy was definitely way freakier than them singing some poor villain to death.

The two things that scared the crap out of me as a child didn't take place in cartoons. The first was the entire movie The Neverending Story. First, there was the slow and heartbreaking horse quicksand (mudsand?) death scene. But for me, an avid reader, the premise alone was enough to induce terror. Young boy starts reading a book...and gets sucked into it, with no obvious way to escape back to his normal life! I think I avoided books for a good six months after seeing this movie. Probably not the intended effect.

The second big fright? In the movie version of A Christmas Carol (based on the Charles Dickens novel....not to be confused with A Christmas Story), the Ghost Of Christmas Future appears as a shadowy figure in a black robe. After showing Ebenezer Scrooge his depressing future, the ghost leads him to a cemetery and points at a gravestone... and at that moment, in a scene of unparalleled horror, the ghost's skeleton arm pops out from underneath the robe . I don't know which version of the movie this was, but I remember watching the annual broadcast with my family, the whole time awaiting yet dreading the moment when the bone arm appears.

One member of my family did suffer from fear of cartoon drama...back in 1986, my mom took my sisters and me to see An American Tale, but we didn't last long at the theater. We left soon after the movie began because my sister Eri, who was six at the time, began sobbing inconsolably during the storm at sea scene when Fievel gets washed overboard during and separated from his family.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A fan's dilemma

Those of you who know me either in the real world or through this blog are probably aware of the fact that I'm a big Celtics fan. I cheer for all of the Boston pro teams, but the Celtics are my absoulte favorite and always have been. So, yes, I was thrilled when they signed Ray Allen and KG in the off-season. I wanted to make sure I had tickets to a few good games, so I decided to buy a 12 game pack of tickets. Since that purchase didn't really fit within the constraints of my grad student stipend, I had to find someone to split the pack with me, which led to several conversations and email exchanges that went like this:

Me: Do you like the Celtics?

Other person: Yeah!

Me: I'm planning to buy a 12 game pack....want to split it with me? We'd each get two tickets to 6 games.
Other person: Yes! Sounds great! I'm in!

Me: OK. Your half comes to $320 and I need the money next week.

Other person: Oh. Nevermind. I'm out. But, if you do end up buying them and ever need someone to go to a game with you, let me know.

Luckily, I remembered that my high school friend Dennis is also a big Celtics fan, and when he said that he wanted to go in on the 12 pack, he meant it.

Cut to last week...Celtics have the best record in the NBA and have clinched a playoff berth. People who purchased 12 packs are guaranteed playoff tickets, but there's a catch: You get tickets to one round of playoffs, and one round only. You had to fill out a form and rank the series (what the heck is the plural of series? I'm going with series.) in order of your preference. If you pick a later round, and the Celtics are eliminated, you get a refund, but you don't get to attend any playoff games.
The question: what series should we request as top priority? First round is a guarantee, but might be a boring series against a weak 8th seed. Second round could be better. Eastern Conference Finals would surely be a great series, and the Celtics do have a good chance of making it that far. But the NBA finals...holy cow...if we have tickets to that and they don't make it, that sucks. But if the Celtics do make the NBA finals and we have tickets, well, that would be like, the Most Awesome Thing Ever.

After a brief discussion, Dennis and I took the optimistic approach and ranked the NBA finals as our first priority. Today, I received the results: if the Celtics go to the NBA finals, so will we. So, keep your fingers crossed for the Celtics and for me.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekend Report

Friday- Caro's sister and nephew arrived from Colombia so she and I picked them up at the airport. Her sister picked me up when I went to Medellin about a year and a half ago, so I guess I was returning the favor. We enjoyed some wine, snacks, and conversation for a while, and then I went home and stayed up until two in the morning watching Lost. I just started watching the DVDs last week and I'm completely addicted.

Saturday- I got my haircut (see post below) at a new place for me, Anita Kurl in the South End. My former hairdresser went to a fancy salon that was way out of my price range, so I decided to try a new (to me) place that was recommended by a friend from work. I liked it- decent prices, friendly staff, and the haircut came out well. Plus, the location is convenient in that it's close to both the lab and my apartment. After that, I continued my self-pampering and bought a pair of shoes that I couldn't afford at Nine West. Time to put the credit cards back in the freezer. I did a little lab work and then headed over to my friend JR's for our fantasy baseball draft. I've played fantasy football and basketball, but had never participated in a live draft before. It was a lot of fun but way dorkier than I imagined- basically, it's a bunch of people sitting around on their laptops, drinking beer and trash talking. After that, back to the apartment for more Lost.

Sunday- I hung out with the family for Easter- church in Framingham, then off to central Mass. for lunch at my aunt and uncle's house. By the time I got back to Boston, it was pretty late, so I just watched more Lost. Um, as for book club, I'm only about 20 pages from the finish, so expect the final post within a day or two.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

State of the Easter Egg

Every year, the White House displays Easter eggs from each of the fifty states. Here are this year's eggs. Massachusetts' submission was a Cheers diorama...sure, it's a bit dated, but it's a classic. I would kind of like to see a Big Dig Egg, though.
My favorites were the simpler ones, like Maine and Kansas. Oh, and Rhode Island totally glammed it up this year. What is up with Mississippi's egg, though? It's a picture of a woman, but I can't tell if she's supposed to be Barbara Bush or some famous Mississippi resident.
I posted about the eggs last year, but this year I have to thank Frances for the reminder.


Yesterday was the first day of Spring (it's amazing how many holidays I keep track of only because Google changes their banner), but it sure doesn't feel like it yet. It was in the 20s and windy on my walk to work this morning, and I'm not pleased.

In other news, I am currently 16 for 16 in my NCAA bracket and in first place in all of my pools. I'm sure it won't last, so I need to enjoy it while I can.

In related news (because I watched basketball last night instead of reading), I still am about 50 pages away from the end of Midnight's Children, so if you're participating in book club, don't expect the big wrap-up post until Sunday.

Happy Friday, everyone! Oh, wait, it's Good Friday, which is one of the more somber Christian holidays. In that case, have a good Good Friday. Unfortunately, it is not a holiday celebrated by my pagan scientific overlords, so I'll be in the lab all day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My New Favorite Blonde Villain

In my opinion, the best villains are not only evil and powerful, but also a little bit flamboyant and awesome. Kind of like David Bowie in Labyrinth. Yeah, he was the bad guy, he kidnapped and threatened babies, and those stretch pants were entirely unnecessary, but still, you couldn't help thinking that he was pretty darn cool. Other notable blonde villains include Kiefer Sutherland in the Lost Boys, Amanda Woodward, and Billy Zabka in the Karate Kid.

Over in England, there's a new villain in town. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Heather Mills:

Where do I even begin? She's completely nuts. She wears multicolored pantsuits. She makes audacious demands. She represents herself in court. She poured a glass of water on the head of her ex-husband's lawyer. Everyone hates her. And she has a fake leg.
Basically, she's a real-life soap opera villain. I could totally picture her living in a lair, and I think that's sort of awesome.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I had a very busy weekend. Ern and I went to a Mountain Goats concert on Friday night at the Museum of Fine Arts. The sound wasn't the best- for a lot of the tracks, the drums were up way too loud, so you could barely catch John Darnielle's vocals. Which isn't good for a band known primarily for their lyrics. Speaking of Darnielle, for some reason, I have always pictured him looking like David Cross, which he doesn't, at all. Once they got the sound figured out, I was impressed by how his voice sounded exactly the same as it does on recordings. Oh, and he has a blog.

The rest of the weekend centered around the St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston. I've lived on the parade route for five years, so every year, I end up hosting a very rambunctious parade watching party. This year was no exception- we had two kegs, and they were both empty by around 5PM. I thought that would be the end of the party, but beers were purchased and the reveling continued for a few more hours. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, especially those of you who brought fun gifts, like a Celtics pennant, a silver mug, and Bailey's cookies. Here are some photos...I especially like the one of all the people from Framingham posing with the "Take Pride In Framingham" bumper sticker that my mom gave me. We're proud of Framingham, but is Framingham proud of us?

Now, go drink a Guinness and eat come corned beef. Sláinte!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

No, it's not a new Quentin Tarantino movie

This story seems to be getting a lot of coverage in the UK, but I haven't seen anything about it in the US yet. The Gulabi Gang is a female vigilante group in India:
Gulabi means pink, and refers to the electric shade of the uniform worn by the 500-plus members, who hail from Banda's arid villages. The women have become folk heroes, winning public support for a series of Robin Hood-style operations. Their most daring exploit was to hijack trucks laden with food meant for the poor that was being taken to be sold for profit at the market by corrupt officials.
The targets of the Gulabi Gang's vigilantism are corrupt officials and violent husbands. The gang has stopped child marriages, forced police officers to register cases of domestic violence - by slapping them - and got roads built by dragging the official responsible from his desk on to the dust track in question.

Here are articles from the Guardian and the Daily Mail. I know is should feel some unease about vigilante justice and their use of violence, but nevertheless.... badass awesome.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday on my mind

Happy Friday, everyone! Or as I like to call it, the first day of St. Patrick's Day weekend. Does he look ready to party or what?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A flock of cranes

Completely unrelated: Sandals and socks, oh my! If someone makes a site like this for Crocs and socks, I fear my head will explode.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

List #39...Grad Student Perks

There are few perks that go along with being a graduate student. Unless, of course, you happen to enjoy long hours, low pay, and worst of all, the lack of a finite ending. Yeah, yeah, there is the joy of possible scientific discovery, and someday at the end of all of this, I'll get a Ph.D. and start insisting that people call me "Doctor." Just kidding, I would never do that. (What do you think I am, an M.D.?) But for now, here's a list of the perks that occasionally brighten my day.

1. Easy access to scientific items for Halloween costume purposes. Need a syringe? Lab coat? I'll hook you up.

2. Leftover food from seminars. Occasionally, meetings are held in which food is served. It's pretty much standard policy that any leftover food is immediately snagged by a grad student, tech, or post doc and then transported to the lunchroom for the enjoyment of many. When it comes to scavenging abilities, Scientists > Vultures.

3. If I am wearing nail polish and chip it, I don't need to worry about finding nail polish remover, because hello lab acetone!

4. You can wear the same jeans two days in a row and no one cares. Not that I do this.

5. The view is quite nice.

There's a notch in the roof of the building across the street, and I like how the Prudential and 111 Boylston line up inside it. For the past couple of weeks, a crane has been hanging out there as well. Speaking of the Pru, did anyone else notice that the top of it was lit up in blue last week? Does anyone know why? It's back to normal, this week, thank goodness. The blue reminded me too much of the State Street building, which I think looks evil, but not nearly as menacing as Chicago's Sears Tower.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Midnight's Children Map

DCoE book club participant Caro has created a handy Google map, on which she has labeled (in green) several of the locations that appear in Midnight's Children.
Click on the map to enlarge it.
Oh, and apparently I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to major world events of the past few decades- I had no idea that Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan.
And on an entirely unrelated note, I'd just like to say that if I ever find myself in the (highly unlikely) circumstance that my famous public figure husband is caught in a prostitution sting, there's NO WAY in hell that I'd stand by his side during his apologetic press conference.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

What? No 617?

I love maps, and the blog Strange Maps has some delightful ones, like this map of Area Codes in Which Ludacris Claims to Have Hoes.

via Metafilter

Saturday, March 08, 2008

How fast do you type?

If you're me, not very fast:

67 words

I somehow avoided the typing class that was offered during middle and high school and developed my own admittedly less efficient method of typing. The index fingers do most of the work, thumbs hit the space bar, and the middle fingers help out on occasion. As for the ring fingers and pinkies, they choose not to participate.

via Kristy, who types much faster than I.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Vegan Night at UpStairs on the Square: When lentils attack

Earlier this week, I attended a vegan dinner at UpStairs on the Square in Cambridge. No, I'm not a vegan, but I had heard good things about the restaurant and wanted to check it out, and my friend Timm is a vegan as well as my roommate's brother, so the three of us embarked on a culinary adventure, during the making of which no animals were harmed, although about which one run-on sentence was created. Anyways, the restaurant itself is very quirky and our dining room reminded me of an Easter egg. The staff members were all quite friendly, and so were the vegans, until I pulled a McDonald's burger out of my purse and went to town. Just kidding; I did not do that. The meal consisted of a beet and walnut salad, a lentil dish, and a tofu dish, as well as a chocolate dessert that I skipped because I'm allergic to chocolate. Everything was tasty, although the portions were on the small side. The wine, however, was abundant. They made a big deal about the wine being vegan, which was sort of confusing, until I learned that almost all wines go through a fining process that involves filtering through egg whites. Weird, huh? I had no idea.

I was too distracted by the food and my five glasses of wine to take many pictures, but the one thing I did capture on film was our lentil challenge. The objective? To spear one lentil on each prong of a fork. It's tricky-they are slippery little buggers. The victors? Ern and myself. And let's just say that one member of our party came up empty-pronged.

Book Club: Wounded, but not dead.*

Those of you who frequent this site are aware of the book club in progress- that's right, several of us are reading Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie.
At first, my idea was to make post every week or so, and people could comment on the latest section of the book that we all read. Here are the posts from Week 1 and Week 2.
However, although I enjoy the book, it is far more challenging and a much slower read than I anticipated. I've been running behind schedule and haven't been posting much in fear of spoiling the plot for those who are even further behind.
So, here's the new goal: We have until Friday, March 21 (two weeks from today) to finish the entire novel, and then, I'll do some sort of wrap-up post and the diligent participants of DCoE book club can all jump in on the comments.

*Years ago, I was waitressing at a Ground Round in Framingham, and I watched as the bartender attempted to clear a virtually empty glass from the bar. The patron to whom the drink belonged grabbed the bartender's arm and said "Whoa, little buddy, it's wounded, but it ain't dead." He took the glass, downed the remaining few drops, and handed the now completely empty glass back to the bartender. It was spectacular.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Theme of the Day: Garfield

Recently, courtesy of Metafilter, I stumbled across garfield minus garfield...a blog that posts Garfield comic strips with a twist: all characeters except for Jon have been erased. The resulting comic is a dark (yet perhaps more humorous than the original) portrayal of a lonely, disturbed man.

Although I was never much of a fan of the lasanga-loving feline himself, one of my favorite possessions is my Garfield ruler. I've had it since elementary school, as evidenced by the large, shaky block letters I used to print my name on the back of. Back in the day, when everyone else had boring old wooden rules with a metal edge, I was rocking some colorful plastic, complete with inches and centimeters.

I love you, Garfield ruler.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Weekend Report

Friday- Went to the Celtics game with my parents, sister Eri, and her fiancĂ© Ryan. The Celtics defeated the Charlotte Bobcats handily, and I had a soft pretzel and several beers for dinner, a meal choice that would cause problems later. After the game, we met up with some friends at Durty Nelly’s, a small pub tucked along the backside of Faneuil Hall near the haymarket food stands. I hadn’t been there before and really liked it- it was a pleasant surprise to find such a mellow little bar in a touristy part of town. We then headed back to Southie and stopped in at the local tavern before I decided to cut out early and order pizza, only to discover that no one in Boston will deliver pizza after 1AM. This is a shortcoming of our fine city that needs to be addressed.

Saturday- Woke up feeling less than stellar, and then embarked on a wedding venue hunt with Eri, Ryan, my sister Kerry, and my dad. We piled into a minivan and drove through the suburbs, and despite the fact that we were running late, got lost, and more than half the members of the party were hungover, we managed to get through the day without too many unpleasant incidents. I somehow managed to eat ham at every meal of the day: a ham and cheese croissant for breakfast, a ham sandwich for lunch, and a ham dinner at my parents’ house. In FramingHAM.

Sunday- I caught the matinee showing of Be Kind, Rewind- a goofy movie starring Jack Black and Mos Def. The premise is both simple and fairly ridiculous- when the entire catalogue of VHS tapes at the video store where Mos Def works gets accidentally erased, he and Jack Black start filming their own versions to replace the inventory. Their remake of Ghostbusters becomes a neighborhood hit, and soon customers are lining up to request new editions of their favorite films. Although the movie has some very funny scenes, it's not a Nacho Libre type comedy. Be Kind, Rewind is the newest film from director Michel Gondry, who made Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but of all his movies, his documentary Dave Chapelle's Block Party bears the most similarity to his newest release. Despite the comedic antics of Jack Black and Mos Def, it's a movie about a community and the people who live in it. The only critique I have is that it paints an unrealistically rosy picture of an poor neighborhood, but that might be the point- Be Kind, Rewind isn't trying to be Boyz in the Hood, it's aiming to demonstrate how art (cinema, in particular) can touch lives and bring people together.