Friday, January 30, 2009

New Music

Proceeds from the upcoming compilation Dark Was The Night benefit an AIDS awareness charity. Listen to three songs here and click on the widget to make your own. (via Freakgirl)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yes I totally recycled this post from Facebook

Taking a cue from Jenny, I decided to repost my list of 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me here, so those of you without Facebook can learn more about my idiosyncrasies and childhood anecdotes. Or maybe because I'm too busy this week preparing for a thesis committee meeting to come up with anything better.

  1. I’ve broken my fingers five times. 4 playing basketball, 1 playing lacrosse. Four of them are still crooked.
  2. I’ve only been in one non-sibling fight. In 5th grade, the neighborhood bully stuck a stick in the spoke of my bike as I was pedaling by. I crashed and ripped my brand new jeans. I flew into a rage and pummeled him in front of all of the local kids. Shortly thereafter, he developed a crush on me and stood outside my bedroom window singing a song he made up called “Eileen Casserole.”
  3. When I’m alone in my car at night, I often listen to Bedtime Magic with David Allen Boucher.
  4. The best job I ever had was working at Natick Community Organic Farm.
  5. In 10th grade I won an essay contest on current events and attended the World Affairs Seminar in Whitewater, WI. It was my first time out on my own and I loved being in a new place and meeting new people. It made me want to go away to college.
  6. I am great at friendship but terrible at dating.
  7. I dislike brunch. Give me lunch or breakfast and nothing in between.
  8. I have a thing for guys with bad teeth.
  9. I think that Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks is the best music album ever made. I listen to it whenever I’m feeling blue.
  10. Before I started training for my first marathon, I had never run more than 4 miles. Whenever people say “Oh I could never run a marathon” I tell them this fact and also that Oprah did it. Unless they have no legs, then I just keep my big mouth shut.
  11. When I was a kid, I loved and wanted to be a veterinarian. But spending two years around disgusting Nicaraguan street dogs sort of turned me off of pets in general.
  12. Eyeballs creep me out. I rarely wear eye makeup and thinking about eyeballs can make me faint. If I ever had vision problems, I’d definitely wear glasses instead of contacts.
  13. When I was a kid I was terrified of the reflection of lights on a linoleum floor. If you look down at the floor while you’re at the grocery store, you’ll notice that the reflected lights seem to move with you. I thought they were chasing me and would panic and scream and cry. I had to stay on the carpeted areas of places like Filene’s, and grocery stores were my nemesis. I was a weird kid.
  14. I love having sisters but always thought it would be cool to have an older brother and that I could date his cute friends. My friends with brothers assure me that it does not work like that.
  15. I hate grad school and think not dropping out years ago was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I try to avoid talking about it or pretend that it’s fine, but I’ve been miserable for the past three years. Now you know.
  16. Several years ago I made a list of life-long goals. There were 5 items: own a mini cooper, run a marathon, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, write a novel, and fall in love. I have accomplished one of them.
  17. I was once sued for $58,000 as a result of an auto accident. I was driving my friend Jen’s father’s car and he was sued, too. The case settled but reaffirmed my belief that American society is far too litigious.
  18. The best concert I ever saw was Pink Floyd at Foxboro Stadium in 1994 with Kim when I was 15 years old. Her dad drove and mine picked us up.
  19. I am mean to my mom and feel guilty about it. She does drive me nuts, though.
  20. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to own property because I hate the feeling of being tied down. That and I prefer to pay people for stuff I don’t want to deal with, like hot water heaters.
  21. I failed kindergarten screening and had to go to pre-kindergarten with all of the delinquent Framingham youth the summer before school started. The teacher liked me because I was one of the only girls so they let me into kindergarten.
  22. I used to be jealous of the beautiful people, thinking that they had it so easy, but when I lived in Nicaragua everyone thought I was pretty and I hated it. It was like people didn’t care about me, they only wanted to talk to me or be my friend because of how I looked instead of who I was.
  23. I have no musical talent but was once sent to a camp at Tanglewood for musically inclined children because I was friends with the music teacher’s daughter. I played the recorder and all of the other kids had cellos and shit.
  24. I never set my alarm clock exactly on the hour or half hour. Or even the 15 minute mark. It’s gotta be 6:21 or something like that. I change it up every day.
  25. Picky eaters annoy me. If you aren’t allergic, just fucking eat it already.

Update: It's Friday, and if you're reading this you are obviously procrastinating. How about you add one little-known fact about yourself in the comments? It'll be fun, I promise.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's that? Aretha's hat!

Photos courtesy of Maria, proving that:

1. No matter how crappy of a day you're having, Aretha's hat can always make it better.

2. My friends are the funniest people that I know.


I don't think a New York Times article has ever made me laugh as hard as this one on embarrassing place names in the United Kingdom. Slutshole? Wetwang? C'mon now. (source)
Even though I like Billy Joel, I loved this delightfully snarky article on Slate naming him The Worst Pop Singer Ever. To this day, in the minivan that I drive sits a cache of cassette tapes purchased by my mother during the late 1980s. Tucked among the oldies and Irish folk tunes, there is a single album that we could all agree to listen to during the family vacations of my youth. Oh yes, Billy Joel's Storm Front. Don't think that I still don't pop it in every once in a while.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Let's go to the movies

My college roommate and blogger extraordinaire Kris has opened up her annual Oscar contest- enter here to win your very own Batman and the Joker sock monkeys!

I've only seen two of the nominees for Best Picture- I already posted my thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire (loved it! although the backlash already seems to be looming, a la last year's Juno. Suck it, haters- if Titanic wasn't too cheesy for an Oscar, neither is the Slumdog.) and I saw Milk over the weekend. Directed by Gus Van Sant, Milk tells the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States. In 1972, Harvey was a mild-mannered, closeted banker who, at age 40, decides that it's time to make a change. He and his new boyfriend move to the Castro district in San Fransisco and he becomes a prominent player in local politics as well as a vocal advocate for the growing national gay rights movement. For those of you who don't know the rest of the story, I won't spoil it. It's a great movie- Sean Penn is phenomenal in the lead role and according to co-star Josh Brolin, he's "quite an actor, Sean Penn. And not an asshole like Russell Crowe." (love that quote!) It's an impressive turn for Penn, who's played surly and gruff characters in most of his recent movies- he really does seem believably and joyfully gay. James Franco plays Harvey Milk's longtime lover Scott, and he doesn't seem gay as much as plain sexy. The rest of the cast is great except for Diego Luna as a subsequent horribly annoying boyfriend- the Boston Globe said that he "appears to have wandered over from some drunken college production of Pedro Almodovar's 'Bad Education'." So true. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the treatment of Harvey Milk's adversary, the conservative San Fransisco native Dan White. Instead of painting him as pure villain, Van Sant and Brolin make him human- White is obviously captivated by Milk and seems both jealous of his success and desirous of his friendship, even though White was the only city supervisor to vote against a gay rights bill championed by Milk.

The only drawback to the film is that it wasn't released before last year's election on Propisition 8, which rescinded the rights of gay people to marry in the state of California. In an eerie parallel, a major plotline of Milk is a vote on Proposition 6, a ballot proposal that would have banned gays and anyone who supported gays from working in the public school system. Proposition 6 failed. I don't know that an earlier release date of the film Milk would have helped defeat Proposition 8 per se, but a movie that depicts gay activists as Americans struggling for the right to live their lives just like everyone else certainly couldn't have hurt. I don't need to go off on a complete tanget, but I am very proud of Massachusetts for being the first state to legalize gay marriage. As for the states attempting to ban it, adding legislation that limits the rights of a specific group of citizens is about as unamerican as I can imagine. The separation of church and state is a fundamental tenet of our government- if you'd like an example of a society that allows religion to shape its laws, look no further than modern Iran. Additionally, they aren't trying to make gay marriage mandatory- if you aren't gay, it won't affect you. For heaven's sake America, time to leave the bigotry behind and focus on our shitty economy and international troubles, rather than argue about whether or not dudes can marry other dudes. In summary, Milk was a very good movie. And the fact that Harvey Milk didn't even do anything remarkable until age 40 is pretty inspiring. All those teenage gymnasts and tennis stars make be feel woefully behind schedule in terms of my potential for greatness.

Oh, I head that Benjamin Button was long and boring and don't actually know of anyone who's seen The Reader or Frost/Nixon. Any reports?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Neighborhood Watch

Some people are eavesdroppers, others cannot resist looking into apartment windows. I am a complete and total people watcher. Most of my people-watching occurs on my commute to and from work. Sure, I can flip through the Metro, sip my coffee, or listen to my iPod, but don't think for one second that I'm not watching you. Because I am. Of all of the people that I watch, I have three favorites:

1. The family that lives right near where I wait for the bus. Every morning, they burst out of the house in a flurry of chaotic activity. There's a dad, a dog, and a bunch of kids, but no mom. Where is she? Dead? Did she leave them? One of the kids takes the dog out, then brings the dog in. Sometimes the dog escapes. Usually someone forgets something. They have wicked thick Boston accents. They all pile into a station wagon so the dad can drive them to school. Who drives station wagons anymore? Usually a couple surly teenage girls join them- a free ride outweighing the uncoolness of being driven to school in a station wagon. This week, on trash day, the smallest boy slipped on some ice and fell into a pile of trash bags. It was hilarious.

2. The gay deaf guy who lives in my neighborhood. I used to see him on the bus and he seemed kind of sad and wore ugly clothes. Then he got a boyfriend! I see them together all of the time, signing happily to each other. And boyfriend had a great influence on his style- all of the sudden, he started wearing Puma zip-ups and cool sneakers. They seem so happy together, it warms my cold little people-watching heart.

3. The Mafia Florist. My lab is located right near a wholesale flower depot, and I walk by it on my way to work. There's a man who works there who I assume is the boss or the owner. He is always standing out front, talking on his cell phone, dealing with vendors and directing the loading and unloading of trucks. He wears remarkably fine clothing. Beautifully tailored suits, a fedora, a long wool coat- like someone straight out of the 1940's. And he is always there- mornings, evenings, weekends. The Mafia Florist never sleeps. I might even have a crush on him, even though he's a good decade older than me and possibly a hit man trying to pass himself off as an ordinary citizen with a fondness for flora.
Now that I'm writing about this, I realize that I may come across as a little bit creepy. But I don't think I'm alone here- fess up, fellow people watchers!
Oh, the picture above came from searching Google Images for the neighborhood watch logo. I kind of love it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

One Last Inauguration Post

As I was scrolling through The Big Picture's photos from the inauguration, I saw one of Barack and Michelle that I really liked. Then, it occurred to me that the pose reminded me of something I had seen before. Specifically, this:

And because I'm a giant nerd, I made this:

See what I mean?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dim Sum, yum!

Last weekend, a few friends and I went for dim sum in Chinatown. If you've never been before, dim sum is a traditional Chinese brunch featuring dumplings and other bite-sized dishes. Typically, food items are wheeled around in carts and diners point at things that they'd like to try. It's sort of hectic and better suited for more adventurous eaters, because a lot of the items are not easily identified by non-Asians. "Sure, I'll take that mysterious leaf-wrapped packet. What's that jiggly white thing? Oh, a coconut dessert? Yes, please!" We arrived at China Pearl, one of the more well-known dim sum establishments in Boston's Chinatown, sat down at our table in a crowded room, and immediately began ordering. Since I was with a large group, we were able to try a bunch of different items- I was a big fan of the tasty balls. The shrimp ball contained a mixture of shrimp and lychee, breaded and deep-fried. The sesame ball was more of a dessert- some sort of rice dough filled with sweat red bean paste and coated in sesame seeds. Sounds weird, tastes delicious. Here are some photos from our dim sum trip, and you may observe my sneaky habit of pretending to use chopsticks but really just eating items with my hands. Busted!
Anyways, this was the first time I've had dim sum in Boston (my only other experience had been in NYC's Chinatown) and I highly enjoyed it. Maybe if I ask nicely they'll let me push one of the carts around next time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kids' letters to Obama

Children at 826 Valencia, an after school tutoring program, were asked to write letters to President Obama. The resulting letters were sweet, touching, and often hilarious, and are now featured in a book (sales profits go towards the tutoring organization).

Read a bunch of them here on McSweeney's or check out the New York Times article.

Here are some of my favorites:

Dear President/Mr. Obama,
The best thing about living in the White House would be running around like a maniac. The thing I would like least is the work.
— Holly Wong, age 9, San Francisco

Dear President Obama,
I want to tell you hi. Do you work with Santa Claus? Can I meet you in your house? Can I say bye to you after I meet you? And then can I meet you again? And then again after that?
- Sergio Magana, age 5, San Francisco

Dear President Obama,
Could you help my family to get housecleaning jobs? I hope you will be a great president. If I were president, I would help all nations, even Hawaii. President Obama, I think you could help the world.
— Chad Timsing, age 9, Los Angeles

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Nation!

Here are some inauguration links for your enjoyment:
2. I highly recommend this article from to anyone interested in science: The "war on science" is over. Now what?
"The Bush science controversies were just one manifestation of a deeper and long-standing gulf between the science community and the broader American public, one with roots stretching back to our indigenous tradition of anti-intellectualism."
3. On a lighter note, here's a NYT article on NBA players' reactions to Barack Obama, featuring Ray Allen.
4. Lastly, if you missed the pre-inaugural celebration, you can watch it on U2 certainly cheesed it up a bit, but there were a lot of nice performances. Oh, how great of a combo are Shakira and Usher? I want them to form some sort of international stylish musical crime-fighting duo.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Got tots?

Nevermind quinoa and cupcakes, I'm jumping on the bandwagon for another culinary trend. Tater tots are making a comeback. I first spotted them on the menu at Robyn's in Roslindale Village when I met friends there for trivia night. We ordered the appetizer tots (available plain or smothered with cheddar and bacon bits...oh yeah, we got both types) and I also chose tots as the side item for my sandwich. Actually, all four of us did.

A couple of weeks later, fellow tot connoisseur Lisa and I were sipping martinis at Tremont 647 when I noticed the presence of tots on the menu. "Rosemary scented fontina stuffed tater tots"- hello, fancy tots! Obviously, we ordered them and two giant, crispy tots soon appeared. I recall them being delicious but my taste buds were dulled from gin, so I may have to return to confirm that observation.

I've decided to declare 2009 The Year of the Tot, so if you know of any Boston-area restaurants with tater tots on the menu, let me know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The Black Cab Sessions...musicians perform one song in the back of a London taxi. I could watch these all day long! So far, My Morning Jacket is my favorite.

(thanks DBC, I totally stole this from your Fbook page)

My Jeff Tweedy obsession continues...I started reading his son's blog, which is quite impressive for a thirteen year old.

My co-workers and I all took this online IQ test (the one on the upper left of the page) for fun. I scored a 128 but I think I would have done better if there were more word games and fewer pattern recognition questions. It did confirm that I'm wicked smart, but not a genius. Alas.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A movie and a book to avoid

Ugh, I've recently read a book I hated and watched a movie I hated.

Evening, by Susan Minot, is the worst book I've read since The Bridges of Madison County, which is the worst book I've read in my entire life. And not in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way (I'm looking at you, Twilight), just plain old bad. The plot is about an old woman dying of cancer who starts reminiscing about a weekend in which she had a fling with a tall, dark stranger she met at a wedding decades before. She makes him out to be this romantic figure, "OMG after we went swimming he passed me a towel without even wiping off his face first, what a gentleman" when in fact he was just some smarmy dude who was cheating on his pregnant fiance.

The Will Be Blood....more like There Will Be A Really Long And Boring Movie With A Fucked-Up Ending. Yes, Daniel Day Lewis is a great actor, but his character is a nasty oil tycoon who only cares about beating the competition, and doesn't even seem to have any fun or enjoy his money doing so. And it's 2 hours and 38 minutes long, spitting in the face of my No Movie Should Be Over Two Hours Long Unless Francis Ford Coppola Is Involved policy. And the soundtrack was very odd and jarring- it sounded like the opening of a Lost episode and didn't go with the desert scenery at all.

So do yourself a favor and skip both of the above.
In happier entertainment news, I have started watching The Wire and am completely hooked.

Supreme Court Justices Quiz!

How much do you know about our current Supreme Court Justices? Try the quiz. Match the Justice with the fun fact- and yes, some justices have more than one answer.

1. Stephen Breyer
2. Antonin Scalia
3. Anthony Kennedy
4. John Paul Stevens
5. John Roberts
6. Ruth Bader Ginsberg
7. Clarence Thomas
8. David Souter
9. Samuel Alito

Fun Facts:
A. Father of nine and an opera lover
B. Has no use for television, answering machines, ball point pens, email.
C. Most recent appointment to the court
D. His swearing in was rushed and private to avoid breaking scandal
E. Nominated to the court after Mario Cuomo couldn't decide if he wanted an appointment
F. Nominated on his second try because of Ted Kennedy's support
G. The strongest "Constitutionalist" or "originalist" on the Court
H. loves Corvettes, NASCAR, and the Dallas Cowboys
I. Wrote that the real loser in the 2000 election was the reputation of the Justices
J. His interest in foreign law and justices has made him less conservative
K. Nominated to replace O'Connor, then Renquist

No Googling! I'll post the answer key tomorrow morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tennessee Report

I had a great time in Tennessee. The science went really well- it was very helpful learning from an actual person, rather than just trying to perform experiments based upon published methods. I learned a new technique and came up with a couple of ideas for experiments that should help me make a final push at finishing up grad school. Best of all, I'm feeling more optimistic and motivated about both my project and science in general- maybe all that I needed were some helpful suggestions and positive feedback.

Eastern Tennessee is a pretty area, but I didn't get to explore all that much of it. ETSU's medical school is located on an old VA hospital campus, with ample land and trees- it looks more like a golf course than a med center. My one excursion into Johnson City took place when I met up with friends of an internet friend (way less creepy than it sounds) for dinner and beers at Cootie Brown's (way more delicious than it sounds). I tried the Loose Caboose Lager from the local Depot Street Brewery and liked it very much. On Friday, I drove to Asheville, NC to visit my college friend Heather and her family. The drive down I-26 was beautiful- the road passes through the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Heather now has three kids, and yes, they're adorable, but holy cow do things get hectic. I think the chaos level of a household increases exponentially with each additional child. We all went out for pizzas at the Mellow Mushroom, then Heather's husband took the kids home so we could catch up. And where would two Notre Dame grads from Boston go to have a chat? An Irish pub, naturally. Asheville has a cute, hippie downtown filled with shops and restaurants and coffee houses, and I had heard great things about it, so it was fun to visit, even if I was only there for a night.
After that, it was back to Tennessee, where I packed up and flew home to Boston. I was worried that the vials of bacteria cultures and peptides in my luggage would arouse suspicion, but I made it through just fine. Here are some pictures from the trip:

New friends Shelby and Jeff:

New friend the fraction collector:

Me with old friend Heather:

Friday, January 09, 2009

Lesson of the day

Panda bears are not as cuddly as they seem. Don't mess with Gu Gu.

Anthropomorphism be damned- climbing into zoo enclosures is for frickin idiots! What is wrong with people?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tell me what's so great about Gmail

Okay, everyone. This post comes as a response to several friends, one in particular (Kel) who have long raved about Gmail and mocked my cavewoman hotmail habit. I actually do have a gmail account, but I don't use it, for one reason: a pet peeve of mine is when people frequently change their email address or use multiple ones. I end up with several emails addresses for the same person, and I don't know which one to use. It drives me up the wall. And I don't mean minor pangs of annoyance- we're talking irrational feelings of hatred. I've done my part to avoid contributing to the problem by never changing my email address from the very first one that I set up in 1995, back when non-AOL email was sort of a novelty.

Here's the catch...I've been paying $25 a year for extra storage for the past few years, and since Gmail has a much larger space availability, it's sort of silly to pay for what I could be getting for free. And I know that I can have my hotmail forwarded to my Gmail address. But the thought of becoming one of those cursed email address changers pains me!

So, let's say I give myself the allowance to change my email address, once and only once. Should I make the switch? Convince me, Gmail users.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Four things that have nothing to do with each other

1. So far, my visit to ETSU has been a great experience. This is what science is supposed to be like- traveling, meeting new people, learning new things, and sharing ideas. It's supposed to be fun!

2. The aquarian version of a fox in the chicken coop: a seal waddles for 2 miles on land and sneaks into a fish hatchery.

3. Best/worst typo ever? My BIL (that's my new acronym for brother-in-law) Ryan forwarded me an email sent an administrator about a job opening at the Staten Island City University of New York. I bet you can guess where this is headed...

Subject: Open position at CUNT

Oh my.

4. This just in....Most Embarrassing/Hilarious Skiing Mishap Ever? Perhaps. I seriously LOLed at this, and smugly noted the incident to my mental list of reasons why I hate skiing. Not only might you tear your ACL, you could also end up suspended upside down, pantsless, in front of hundreds of strangers! (thanks for sending me the link, Jen! My readers know what I like.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Live from Johnson City

As previously mentioned, I'm spending the week working in a ribosome lab in Johnson City and I'm staying with a faculty member and his wife. They are very, very nice and in their mid-sixties, so last night's entertainment included me taking a quiz on Supreme Court Justices that the wife made up for her book club, then watching Masterpiece Theater on PBS. Awesome, no? I'll post the quiz later this week so you can test your own knowledge of our current Supreme Court.
Observations so far:
  • It is a lot warmer here than I expected, so I look ridiculous traipsing around in my heavy wool coat with a fuzzy collar.
  • Whoa, those Tennessee accents!
  • People here are crazy about football, especially with the Titans doing so well this season. Prior to Masterpiece Theater, we drank wine and watched both of yesterday's NFL games.
  • ETSU has had many different types of mascots.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Take me to another place

On Sunday, I'm headed to Johnson City, Tennessee to spend a week working in a lab at Eastern Tennessee State University. I'm looking forward to getting out of town for a little while, and if the experiments work out, it should greatly facilitate progress on my thesis project. The one little wrinkle in this plan is that I'm staying with the PI (that's Principal Investigator, a.k.a lab boss for you non-science types) and his family, whom I've never met. They offered, it saves the lab money, and I also felt like it was generous of them and it would be rude of me not to accept.

In a six week time frame, I'll have traveled to the following four destinations:

1. Morgantown, WV
2. Binghamton, NY
3. Brunswick, ME
4. Johnson City, TN

Oh yes, it's my Central Northeast Americana Tour. I'm thinking about pitching a show in which I travel to small American cities and report on local dive bars and diners. It'll be sort of like Taradise, minus the fake tans and fake boobs. Still trashy, though.

The only things I know about Johnson City are that it's not anywhere near Nashville or Memphis, and it's mentioned in a song I really like:

Wagon Wheel, by Old Crow Medicine Show.