Thursday, August 28, 2008

Collection Confessions

Yesterday, during lunch we had a conversation about items that we collected as children. Collecting things seems to be an inherently nerdy sort of activity, so it wasn't very surprising that most of the science crew had been gathers in their youth. However, I apparently took things to a new level: not only did I collect rocks, but I also owned a rock tumbler to polish them (and damn that thing was noisy!) and was completely obsessed with geodes, even though the only geodes I acquired were big disappointments- not a single one was filled with glimmering purple quartz. Oh, and I had a portable UV lamp I could shine on my rocks to see which ones were phosphorescent. Yep, pretty high on the nerd scale right there.

I also collected stamps and was in a stamp collecting club. I think I'll shut up now.

Survey time: What did you collect as a kid? Leave your answers in the comments.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recent Raves

Here are some things I've been enjoying as of late:

  •, Emerson College's radio station, which you can stream online for free. It's a great mix of modern indie rock with college favorites like Bob Marley and The Allman Bros. tossed in. Essentially, if took my iTunes catalog (um, and got rid of the Guns n' Roses and 80s music, which I would never do) and made a radio station out of it, it would sound like just like WERS.
  • Plum Island, Massachusetts. Here's the Google map. I had never been there before, and drove up on Sunday with a few friends to check out the beach. It was great! Only a little over an hour's drive from Boston, easy and cheap to park, and the beach is enormous, beautiful, and not crowded. It's my new favorite north shore beach.

  • Polenta. Yeah, it comes in a plastic-wrapped tube, making it seem like sausage's lame vegetarian cousin, but slice that bad boy up, add some toppings, and throw it under the broiler and you've got an easy and delicious meal. I made this Smoky Shrimp and Parmesan-Polenta Cakes recipe from Cooking Light. It only took about 15 minutes and was super tasty.

  • Spanish Table. For several years now, a group of Spanish-speaking scientist friends have gathered together once every couple of months for food, drinks, and conversation en espaƱol. Last week some friends from Argentina had us all over for delicious empanadas and an assortment of grilled meats. Here are some photos:

And just for fun, two of my partners in crime (um, if grad school were a crime...maybe "fellow indentured servants" would be a better description) are currently sporting very similar hairdos. Carolina and JR: who is who?

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Best Sandwich in Boston

My friend Justin recently moved to Boston, and in payment for helping him during the apartment hunt, he owed me a sandwich. Specifically, the Best Sandwich in Boston: the Tuscan Chicken Sandwich at Francesca's Cafe in the South End, conveniently located right near my lab and Justin's new apartment. It is soooo good that I will even forgive them their lack of a website (but c'mon now, Francesca's, get with the program!).
Gaze upon the delicious combination of warm and toasty pesto, grilled chicken, provolone, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and spinach:

And here's Justin feasting upon the Tuscan goodness:

These pictures were taken with my cell phone- not bad, eh?
Happy Friday, everyone. May your work day be short and your sandwiches tasty.
And while we're on the subject of food, check out these gourmet meals you can make in your toaster oven! I definitely want to try these out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Odds and Ends

Hasbro has updated the classic boardgame Clue. The characters now have first names and professions: Colonel Mustard is now Jack Mustard, a retired NFL player. And some of the weapons and rooms have been altered. Pity, I was always partial to the wrench in the billiard room. Now that you think about it, the whole premise is rather macabre for a game played by children- oh yes! Slain by a candlestick, in the parlor! But maybe that was what made it fun.

In other news, over one hundred college and university presidents have issued a statement urging lawmakers to lower the drinking age, their point of view being that the 21 age limit doesn't prevent underage drinking and encourages the culture of college binge drinking. I mean, binge drinking in college is fun and all (scientists have even proven it), but I can see their point. I realize that the age limit was originally raised to combat drunk driving, and yes, drunk driving has decreased since the age limit was raised, but the work of advocacy groups like MADD certainly plays a role in that statistic. I'm on the side of the presidents with this one: 21 seems like an arbitrary number, and rather absurd one at that, considering 18 year olds are deemed old enough to vote, marry, and join the military.

Finally, I saw Tropic Thunder last night. Mildly offensive, but mostly in the Borat oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-they-just-said-that sort of way, and funny as hell. Really hilarious. And, it may even make you like Tom Cruise again. I actually think it's one of those movies that the less you know going in, the better, but in case you want to read a longer synopsis with commentary, check out Kevin's review.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Phantom Ring

Do you ever hear your cell phone ringing, like, we're talking crystal clear rings, only to discover that it's not ringing, and the sound is your own imagination?
Gah! I hate that.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hail to the Champions!

Last night, my co-ed soccer team won our league championship in an exciting 2-1 match. I forgot to take the required team photo at the field, you know, the one where everyone poses in two lines and the goalie lies across the front holding the ball, which is sad, because our uniforms are bright pink. So this shot of us celebrating at the bar will have to suffice. We were supposed to be making our tough faces, but apparently the group on the left did not get the memo.
And, just because it's fun: Star Wars Alpacas. (Make sure your sound is on.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Review Roundup

Here are some brief reviews of some things I've watched/read/attended recently and been meaning to post about, but haven't.

  • As mentioned below, last night I saw Wilco play at Tanglewood out in western Mass. It's funny, although Wilco's been around for a while, I only got into them a couple of years ago. I loved their most recent album, Sky Blue Sky, but I wasn't sure how they'd be live. I caught them on Saturday Night Live a couple of months ago, and lead singer Jeff Tweedy looked like he'd been ridden hard and hung up wet. The guy has been through a lot- chronic migraines, drug rehab, etc.- but he remains the heart and soul of the band and, as I can now attest, puts on a fantastic live performance. Wilco sounded great, both on their guitar heavy rock songs as well as the lighter ones that feature Tweedy's vocals. He played up the location as well, making references to James Taylor and asking the crowd if they shout out requests at the BSO. They played a satisfying mixture of old and new songs, including my two favorites from their newest album: Hate it Here and Walkin. It seems like Tanglewood might be testing the waters for more rock concerts, and I did like the venue- it's like a nicer, more distant version of Great Woods (or whatever they call it now). We sat in the shed, which puts you a lot closer to the stage, but they do allow people on the lawn to bring in their own food an alcohol. So if you're willing to take a gamble with the weather, lawn seats could be a lot of fun. Here's a review of the show.
  • Last week, I caught Gnarls Barkley at the Wilbur Theater. They sounded good live and played a high-energy set full of songs from their first two albums, and even threw in a Radiohead cover. Here's the Globe review. Only one complaint- no alcohol sales at the Wilbur. Dude! Gnarls Barkley plays party music! The people want beer! So, a solid B+ for the show with a D (needs improvement) for the venue.
  • Onto movies...while I was recovering from my mystery cold/flu illness, I watched two DVDs. The first was All The Pretty Horses, Billy Bob Thornton's 2000 adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel. I've definitely covered this on DCoE before, but Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors, and the border trilogy, of which ATPH is the first installment, is my absolute favorite of all of his works. Best books ever, people. So, even though the movie got crappy reviews, I still wanted to see it. And it was actually pretty good. A lot better than I had expected. Set in the 1940s, young Texas cowboy John Grady Cole heads to Mexico with a buddy looking for ranch work. Matt Damon does a fine job as the lead, and Penelope Cruz plays the rancher's daughter/love interest. Maybe some audiences found the plot confusing or thought it moved too slowly, but I enjoyed it. If you like Westerns or are a fan of the novel, it's worth checking out.
  • Next up, Dan in Real Life stars Steve Carell as Dan, a widowed father of three girls who writes an advice column, even though his own personal life is a mess. His daughters can't stand him, and when he finally meets a woman he likes, she turns out to be his brother's new girlfriend. This movie isn't one of Carell's typical comedies; if anything, it's a family drama with a few funny bits mixed in. You know when a friend who you honestly like is acting like a big jerk, and you're all "geez, what is his problem lately?" That essentially sums up the movie: Dan is acting like a jerk and his whole family is wondering what the deal is. Good acting, good cast, realistic interactions, fairly predictable.
  • Lastly, a book. March, a novel by Geraldine Brooks, gives a fresh perspective on a familiar family. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women tells the story of a mother and four daughters whose father has gone off to fight in the Civil War. March tells the story from the point of view of the absent patriarch, Mr. March, focusing on the harsh realities of slavery and combat in the South during the Civil War. The book won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but I think the committee must have a soft spot for Civil War era historical fiction (see my review of The Known World). I liked March and found it an interesting read, but didn't love it. The appearance of actual historical figures like John Brown, Emerson, and Thoreau fluctuated between intriguing and gimmicky, and honestly, I could have done without the Marmee and Mr. March love scenes. But it is well-written and informative. I guess after the Known World, Cold Mountain, and now this, I've had my fair share of Civil War fiction. (FYI, of the three, I definitely recommend Cold Mountain.)

So, let me know if you've seen, heard, or read anything good lately!

Olympic Links

Despite my initial passiveness (passivity?), I am loving me some Olympics!

In case you missed the Opening Ceremonies, The Big Picture photography blog has an amazing set of photos. Seriously, check them out. I especially liked the last one.

Also, is it wrong that this photo series of President Bush looking drunk at the Olympics makes me like him a little bit? Fun fact: he's the first US President to attend an Olympics on foreign soil. (link via Freakgirl)

Related- Reason #312 that I would make a lousy President: Would spend an inordinate amount of time representing the United States at awesome sporting events and concerts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ticket Giveaway!

My friend Carolina and I have tickets to Wilco and Andrew Bird at Tanglewood tonight, but we are both sick and not feeling up for making the 2.5 hour drive.

Anyone want 'em?

Drop a line in the comments.
Should be a great show.

San Diego

So, I went to San Diego for a weekend earlier this summer, and despite the fact that we went out to dinner twice and went to the beach twice, the only pictures I have on my camera are of karaoke. (Okay, so we also did that twice.)

Trivia question of the day:

Can you guess what song this is?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Insult to Injury

Being sick on the weekend sucks double. My throat feels like I'm continuously swallowing broken glass. And I have to wait until tomorrow to get a throat culture because my crappy insurance doesn't allow me weekend doctor visits.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ain't no party like an Indian party

A word of advice: if you ever get invited to a party by your Indian coworker, by all means, go! Last night, I attended the graduation party of our coworker Ajit's son, and it was a blast.
Let's high school graduation party? Burgers, hot dogs, chili, and a case of Red Dog in my parents' backyard.
Last night's party? Rented hall, catered Indian buffet, open bar, and lots and lots of dancing.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Picture time!

Hey, it's Friday afternoon! Who wants to look at pictures from a wedding? (Someone just emailed them to me today.) My friends Jen and Mike got married in July and my sister Eri and I were both bridesmaids. Here are some shots of the bride with dad, us in our bridesmaid getup, and the happy couple.


Happy Friday, everyone!
The Olympics start today- maybe I've just been wrapped up with other things, but I haven't really gotten into this year's summer games yet. I'll probably catch a few events over the weekend, though.

Things that I am into:
The Clark Rockefeller case. Rich divorced dad (with no custody rights) kidnaps daughter during a supervised visit in downtown Boston. Father and daughter found several days later in Baltimore. Here's where things get interesting....Rockefeller appears to be a classic con man. The reason why he wasn't granted any custody rights is that he refused to prove his identity in court. Now he's linked to the murder of a California couple back in 1985....they disappeared at the same time as their socialite tenant, whose story bears a striking resemblance to Rockefeller's. Here's the Globe page with all of the links. And here's my favorite sentence written about the case:
"In Cornish, N.H., where he and his wife lived, he appeared to many as a man of leisure, who often could be found gliding down his street on a Segway, dressed in gray slacks, blue shirt, and a bow tie. "


Also obsessed with: the anthrax case. Suspect microbiologist Bruce Ivins killed himself before he was arrested, so I guess we'll never really know if he did it or not. Looks like he did, though. But then again, the FBI was wrong once before, and the government ended up paying out $5 million in a lawsuit to a previously accused microbiologist.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Distraction of the day

How many of the 100 most common words in the English language can you guess in five minutes?

I got 46 of them. Care to give it a try?

via Kris, who beat me with a 52.

P.S. Don't read the comments until after you take the quiz, in case people leave some hints.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I'm just not that into...celebrity baby photos.

It seems like the past couple of years, celebrity baby photos are all the rage. I like babies, and I fully admit that I am not above following celebrity gossip, but celebrity babies just don't pique my interest. Celebrity wedding photos? Sure. Celebrity mug shots? Oh hell yes. But celebrity babies? They just look like...other babies. Except with more eccentric names.

Like, when everyone was all "Suri Cruise is sooo cute!" I didn't get what the fuss was all about. Maybe people were expecting a harelipped thetan or something, but, to me, she just looked like an ordinary baby.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is my friend Carolina, who has been vigilantly scouring the internet for photos of the Pitt-Jolie twins for days. I'm tempted to buy that new People (or Hello!, were I British) and paste the pictures all over her lab bench. But I'm too busy reading stories about the Canadian bus beheading.