Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movies and an update

Oh hello, Neglected Blog. I've had a busy past few days- gearing up for a big two day training session at work and preparing for my trip home to Massachusetts...I leave in about three hours (so I should probably finish packing). I'm really looking forward to catching up with family and friends and enjoying some Dunkin Donuts iced coffee and Mexican food cooked by real Mexicans rather than Australian teenagers.

I have seen a couple of movies recently:

1. All About My Mother. This Spanish film from 1999 comes from the famous director Almodovar, known for his unconventional characters and the fact that most of his movies are about women. I've seen several of his movies, and my previous favorite was Volver. However, I must say that now I consider All About My Mother Almodovar's best. It's a stunning film- interesting and creative and a treat for movie/theater buffs, as allusions to All About Eve and A Streetcar Named Desire pervade the movie. All About My Mother is about a mother, Manuela, whose teenage son dies in an accident at the beginning of the film. She travels to Barcelona to find his father, a drag queen named Lola who never knew that he/she had fathered a child. However, instead of finding Lola, she befriends and unlikely group of misfits: a transvestite ex-prostitute, a famous theater actress in love with her troubled co-star, and a pregnant nun (played by a young and adorable Penelope Cruz). Almodovar's movies aren't for everyone, but one of his strengths is that he portrays the types of people who live on the edge of society, the freaks, weirdos, and misfits, with compassion and without judgement. I thought All About My Mother was fantastic- highly recommended!

2. The Social Network, a.k.a the Facebook movie, stars Jesse Eisenberg (from Adventureland and Zombieland...perhaps they should have called it Facebookland to continue the trend?) as Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. It's written by the people from the West Wing, and as expected, features some great dialogue and good acting, notably Justin Timberlake as the egomaniac developer of Napster, Sean Parker. The Winklevoss twins (played by just one guy, I wonder how they did that?) were hilarious. However, the movie didn't do much for me, basically, because Mark Zuckerberg is big jerk. He has a big chip on his shoulder for being a geek, and if that's supposed to make you sympathize with him, it didn't work. Hey, if you're brilliant and go to Harvard, don't expect people to feel sorry for you. In the movie, he's mean to his ex-girlfriend, he steals the idea from Facebook, and he royally screws over his best friend. I guess I have trouble enjoying a movie when I don't like the main character.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Redneck cooking: Buffalo Chicken Sliders

A while ago my sister Eri asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted her to send me. Having recently stocked up on peanut butter, I requested another American favorite that is unheard of in Australia: buffalo sauce. She sent me three bottles of it along with a NASCAR-themed birthday card. I decided to make buffalo chicken sliders and used this recipe- I love the description: "like chicken wings on a sandwich!" Basically, you buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, pull the meat off of it, and stir in some diced celery, blue cheese (I suppose real rednecks use ranch dressing), and buffalo sauce, warm it up in the oven, and serve on little rolls. YUM!! So easy and really tasty- I served them up for dinner with corn on the cob and salad, but they’d make a great party appetizer.

Movie Review: The Town

After hearing how all of my friends and family back home liked The Town, the new movie starring and directed by Ben Affleck, I was looking forward to it coming out in Australia. I saw it over the weekend, and I must admit, all those aerial shots of the city of Boston made me a little bit homesick. The Town, unlike the recent string of Irish-American crime dramas set in The Hub, takes place in Charlestown rather than Southie. I knew that Charlestown was considered a rough neighborhood but wasn't aware of its reputation as a hotbed of bank robbers. The Town centers around of group of friends who make their living by robbing banks and armored cars. Ben Affleck's character Doug is the ringleader and the likeable one- we see that despite his trade, he's not a bad guy. On the opposite end of the spectrum is his best friend Jimmy, brilliantly played by Jeremy Renner- he's tough, unpredictable, and dangerous. Things get complicated when Doug falls for Claire, a bank employee they briefly took hostage during one of their exploits. I could relate to Claire as the suburban girl who moves into an insular city neighborhood. Overall, I enjoyed The Town but didn't think it was as original as his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone (which is fantastic btw). However, it's definitely entertaining and worth seeing- especially if you're prone to smile at shots of Fenway Park and the North End.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Links! (science themed)

A fascinating article about sabotage in the laboratory, which allows me to use one of my favorite words- saboteur! (thanks, Mike)

Fun chemistry video. No, really. (Thanks, JR!)

And now for something a little more sinister- earlier this month, the US apologized for a study run during the 1940s in which Guatemalans were deliberately infected with syphilis. Yikes! I'll try to remember this when I'm complaining about my latest human ethics application.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What I've been up to

Books read:
1. Howards End by E.M. Forster (I'm still following along with my Boston book club, just like a long-distance stalker). Published in 1910, this English novel tells the story of three families from three different classes, whose paths frequently cross. The two Schlegel sisters, the thoughtful Margaret and the beautiful and immature Helen seem like they jumped straight out of a Jane Austen novel. In one of the major plot points, a valuable object bequeathed by a dying woman to a kind acquaintance was hoarded by greedy relatives only to end up, in entirely unexpected circumstances, in the hands of the rightful recipient. This reminded me of the book On Beauty, which I just learned (from wikipedia) was written as a homage to Howards End. I enjoyed Howards End and would recommend it, especially to fans of britlit.
2. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, by Warren St. John. This non-fiction book tells the story of a New York City journalist and Alabama native who returns to his home state to investigate life and times of diehard college football fans, specifically, those who cry "Roll Tide," worship a man named Bear Bryant, and spend every weekend in red RVs. He spends one football season traveling in motor homes to every University of Alabama home and away game and makes a point to meet everyone in the fans' orbit- the legendary crazed fans who stick out among their fellow fanatics, the reviled sports journalist who makes his living criticizing Bama, and the scalper ("ticket broker") who has the tickets they want. Luckily for Warren (and his readers), his gateway companions, the Bices, are a pleasant couple who just plain like their Bama football and add a refreshing balance to the less savory fans in the mix. I'm not normally a big fan of non-fiction, but Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is both funny, insightful, and well-written, and a highly enjoyable read, even for a Notre Dame fan.

Concert attended:
Cloud Control at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne. One thing I miss about Boston is the abundance of live music venues where you can see good bands for under $30. Melbourne does get a lot of good music, but the international bands (i.e. all the ones I've heard of) all charge $80 or more- and as much as I like Todd Rungren, that's just too much to ask. Imagine my delight when I saw that an Australian band I like, Cloud Control, was playing a show that cost a mere $18. Sold! The Corner Hotel is somewhat of a Melbourne institution, similar to the Paradise (it even has a giant pole obstructing the stage). And the show was great! A four piece band from the Blue Mountains who play mellow modern rock.
Download here:

Gold Canary (right click and save as) - Cloud Control

And what concert is complete without a blurry concert photo? None, I say.

Soccer tournament played in:

My friend Alison invited me to join her North Sydney team in a women's over 30 tournament on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Despite the fact that there were literally monsoon-like rainstorms the entire weekend, I had a fantastic time. The team was full of good soccer players who also like to have a good time, and the weekend was an fun and exhausting mix of soccer and partying. The trip reminded me of the time my old co-ed team went to a tournament in Miami, but at least this time we won a couple of games. Seriously, though, I have never played on a wetter or muddier field, and the tournament organizers ended up canceling the last day of games, which was annoying but understandable considering one of the players in the men's tournament broke his leg in two places the night before. They consoled the disappointed footballers by hosting an open bar at 10:30...AM. Since I didn't manage to get a photo of the team in our uniforms, here's one of us at the surf club and another of the waterlogged field (complete with a giant wooden squeegee that the club used in a feeble attempt to remove water from the field).

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

What's cooking

Now that the weather in Melbourne is warming up, it's grilling time! I made these chicken satay skewers and served them with this peanut satay sauce, basmati rice, and grilled veggies. Yum city.

My other recent achievement was to make homemade pancakes, due to the lack of Bisquick down under. I used this recipe and added a cup of fresh blueberries. Super easy and tasty. I didn't take a photo, but picture some delicious blueberry pancakes and there you go. My parents had brought me some real New England maple syrup so that made them even better than the ones you're imagining.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Science in Darwin

Last week, I went to Darwin to do some lab work with collaborators at the Menzies School of Health Research. Darwin itself is a very unique city, located at the very top of the remote Northern Territories. It's surrounded by beautiful beaches, but you can look but not swim due to crocodiles and poisonous box jellyfish. The heat is sweltering, and the residents are very relaxed and friendly. I was very impressed with Menzies- their facilities and equipment are top-notch, and the scientific staff is both talented and welcoming. The institute does a lot of work with Aboriginal populations, who have high rates of disease and a life-expectancy 17 years shorter than non-Aboriginal Australians (more info here). I went to a seminar on a rare type of cancer that's striking young Aboriginal women in one region of the NT- they did a study on HPV rates in women in the area, and the acknowledgments included a group of tribal elders that assisted in recruiting women to the study.
One reason why I enjoyed the trip so much is that I'm starting to feel like I have an actual career- working with people in my new field (bacterial pneumonia), talking about ideas, discussing projects, making plans for that conference in Brazil we all want to attend, etc...

On my last day in town, they set me up on an eco tour that went to the Adelaide River and Litchfield National Park. The highlight was the jumping crocodile boat ride, where they dangle hunks of raw meat off the side of the boat to attach crocodiles (and the occasional eagle). Here are a couple of pics I took: