Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ce que j'ai appris en France!

Please note: All amazing photos in this post belong to my friend Danica Chang, except for those in the very last section!
Lessons learned in Burgundy, France:
  • There is no such thing as a free plate of cheese or a plastic box of plain cheese sticks. Even if the waitress puts it on your table, and it seems to be simply a friendly "free" side-dish, you will still be forced to pay for it if you eat it in your touristy ignorance. ("You ate it, you pay for it," said the mean lady at the counter. "Well, you put it in front of us! What else are we supposed to do? Stare at it?!" thought I.)
  • One thing that is free is gift wrap for practically anything you buy in the souvenir store, even if you weren't asking for it.
  • If you want to speak French fluently in one year, move to France and get a French boyfriend who understands NO ENGLISH, or any other language you speak.
  • You don't need to get an official tour guide to enjoy the French countryside -- go solo and you might even bump into him and get free wine tasting on the way. No matter if it is actually crashing a bachelor party.
  • Wi-fi is such a luxury, and if a hotel has it, is a five star for you.
  • When a street you think your destination is on seems something out of a really chilling horror film, Google maps GPS probably got your hotel address wrong.
  • Trains are the best for the best conversations!
  • Don't be fooled by expensive English-speaking websites when you look for tickets to travel around France: get on the French one and buy a cheap ride first class! :)
  • No matter how good you think your French is, there will be a point where your cover will be blown, and you have to accept once and for all that you are not actually a local. You are just good at masquerading as one when it comes to museum admission or basically any other tasks.
  • Escargots do not taste like chicken, contrary to frogs. They taste like snails, like the ones you have admired crawling and alive many times in your favorite lake.
  • Having a five course, two and a half hour meal for dinner will last you until lunch the next day.
  • Tasting wines is fun, but after a while you realize that you might just be making up your impressions about each taste, just like the wine descriptions themselves (and if you are trying to give people an idea of what different wines taste like, stop describing every single one as "fruity").
  • In fact, when in doubt and you have to guess the taste of the wine, it is "fruity", no matter what it is.
  • The most expensive wines may smell like opening a box, or even taste like one!
  • If you have done a lot of really embarrassing tourist things like talking really loud (in English) on the train and getting shushed by some French lady, il n'y a pas de soucis. Do not worry. You can still redeem yourself.
  • The French people may be so slim for two reasons: (1) Their meals have more of an artistic than filling purpose, especially in the good restaurants. (2) They probably bike up hills a lot, which has proven to be the biggest workout I have so far had this summer.
  • After biking through the countryside and through four different small towns, you can be finally say, "Oh, you are going biking 11 kilometers to that place? Oh, I know 11 kilometers. That's nothing." OH WAIT. MILES. UGH, MILES. Seriously, who uses miles?! Only the US and UK (shame on them), effectively the UH, the United Hipsters of the world. Seriously, why use a unit that has no physical meaning whatsoever, and is literally the most useless in conversion? Beats me.
  • If you want to take the bikes overnight and pay for one day, you might do the right thing but try a little to hard if you bike to the rental shop through a pounding rain storm, to arrive just a minute before it opens. Success!
Biking through Burgundy vineyards? :) 

Me, content in the countryside!
Near the amazing Hospice de Beaune, an medieval hospital
Riding out of Beaune to Pommard! 
Tasting escargots for the first time
 with weird instruments!
Local cuisine: Bouef Bourguignon! Yum!
a.k.a. why the French are so thin!

Lessons learned in Paris
  • The 9:15 bus to work can get so obscenely crowded that middle-aged people start taking pictures of the crowds and posting them to Facebook. Have some shame, or something?
  • Huuuge supermarkets like Auchun are the best for your gourmet needs on the weekdays when you come home late, but it is really exploring the markets on the weekends where things get interesting.
  • People may come to Paris to shop and go to museums and restaurants, but biking through the two huge parks and having yummy picnics is really what it's all about. :)
  • To make people think you are not a tourist, just work on pronouncing that "r". A properly pronounced r in every single word can hide, for a short time, a limited vocabulary.
  • If you speak multiple languages, feel free to confuse the museum workers by asking for an audio guide in one language while speaking to a sibling the second (while making the request in the third, French). It will make them thoroughly puzzled.
  • Speaking with British accents at the Fireman's Ball makes you appear more drunk than anyone else there, even though you are pretty certain you are the most sober. (Reader, you are maybe asking "WHAT? What fireman's ball?" Let me just say one thing; one of the quirks that makes me love this country!)
  • If a very orange, usually several year old cheese is banned in the US, it is probably for good reason, like the fact it has cheese mites. Yum.
  • Cheese tasting evening parties go the best with fresh baguettes and good company!
  • Eating cakes on the edge of Ile St. Louis in the sunset has never been better.
  • There is no need to pay money to go up to tourist things like Tour Montparnasse or Arc de Triomphe to see the views. You'll get equally good views from the cheek Centre Pompidou elevator or the little-known-to-tourists cliff in Parc des Buttes-Charmont.
  • If you spend too much time in the half hour line for the public self-cleaning bathroom, you will probably be late to enter the Champs de Mars for the 14th of July fireworks, and be greeted by a bunch of police cars who have closed off the entrance.
  • In a similar manner, be careful of events like the famous Tour de France. You might get barricaded in the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre Palace with no way out, if you don't exit to one of the other sides in time!
  • If you find yourself to be the whitest person dancing salsa on the dancefloor in front of the Seine, there is not reason to worry - it can only be an excuse for your awkward dancing moves.
One of the reasons I will miss
Paris: fantastic cheese fondue! 
Funny beer-drinking Norwegian vikings
at Tour de France finish lines!
Last lesson: if you never were or planned to become a "foodie", Paris will do its best to make you into one! 

Lessons learned in Giverny, France

  • It is never too late to learn to bargan in French, especially if it's in a small market in Vernon with a seller who is eager to tell you about his kids' lives in Australia.
  • Monet was one cool guy. It is even more evident once you visit his very own garden in Givenry, and walk through the water lily garden you may think you just know from seeing it so often.
  • BIKING IN FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE. If anything is really pure bliss, this is probably it. You see castles, vineyards, cute houses, cute cows, abandoned medieval mills, sailing ports by the river... Need to say more? Thought not!
  • There is nothing wrong with eating oily cheese and a baguette in a beautiful grassy field that says "no picnics", since that is clearly just a snack! (Even if it is really just your lunch).
Enjoying Monet's lily garden :) 
Riding through medieval Vernon!
Looking down from

Lessons learned in France in general
  • You know you've been in Europe for too long when you get confused at the thought of having once used dollars to pay for something. This strange Yankee currency now puzzles you, since you cannot imagine things being not expensive.
  • You know you've been in France for too long when...
  • You realize that you will miss taking your bus and your favorite tram to work, even if it involves unpleasant mobs. You will also miss the ability to get ANYWHERE on public transport with your almighty, now extended to all zones, Navigo card.
  • You are afraid that you will start using terms like RER and metro and "valider votre titre de transport!" and and "La porte, s'il vous plait!" in the T back in Boston...wait, what the heck is the T? RATP Transport is sooo much cooler. I love the little lizards on the posters inside the buses and trams that tell you how to travel smart in public transport.
  • You are also worried you forgot how to say "Excuse me" and will be stuck with saying "pardon" for the rest of your life.
  • You are terrified that when you come back home you will be searching for Boulangers and Patisseries on every corner to buy fresh baguettes, but will see 100 McDonaldses before you spot a single baguette.
  • You will miss the easy and cheap access to 400 types of French cheeses, and worry that you will have no one to share your newfound enthusiasm about cheese with when you return. You'll want Comte, Camembert, and Essoisse -- and all you'll get is Mozarella. =(
  • You know you will miss the ability to hear the beautiful French language spoken everywhere...
  • You just don't want to go home, thinking about how much you will miss everything you've gotten so used to, and how strange your previous lifestyle will now seem to you!

Me & the bro!
Guess where this is! One of my favorite places! Why?
Because of this...
And this!
C'est tout!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Little Piece of Heaven

What do people do with a fork and a knife? Well, some eat dinner, for example. I just used them to open a bottle of beer. We've all heard the stories of how people over 30 buy alcohol, get asked for ID and consider it a compliment. Behind every compliment there lurks an insult. I am not allowed to drink at all in the US, and in a country where rum-raisin-nut chocolate (with 2% rum) activates the age-validation sign at the check-out counter, I can buy whatever I like. And I really like the grapefruit-beer, possibly because I really like grapefruit juice and I am in Germany, after all. At the MISTI training session I learned the German method of opening beer bottles, but which I did not attempt tonight because somebody is going to check my room before I move out and a hole in the table would not be hard to explain, but rather too self-explanatory.
The German way
This is my final week here and I have two more days of work left to come to terms with the leaving. I am currently celebrating with a piece of the best smoked salmon ever (the fish-stand man at my favourite supermarket always offers some to the passing customers and despite the 6-euro price, it is indeed heavenly). I also have a box of German strawberries, possibly some of the last this season. 

I have lately found myself thinking in German quite often. No longer because I think I should, but because I do. That also means I automatically respond to my non-German-speaking colleagues in German. I can communicate in German and I am quite a bit proud. 

Today at work:
A coworker comes into the lab. 
- Ein Hase! (A rabbit!)
- Wie bitte? (Pardon? - people don't usually walk into the lab and just say "rabbit", atlhough we do use rabbit antibodies)
- Ein Hase ist weiß und schnell. Lotta, was hast du ihr gesagt? (A rabbit is white and fast. Lotta, what were  you just telling her? - for picture proof, look at Erin's post below)

I was in fact talking about Estonian winters and how we always have snow (Schnee, compare to schnell above) that is white so it is not so dark at all. Probably as with every funny conversation, you had to be there. I just think my colleagues are awesome. 

Yesterday, I was in a bad mood (because one cannot be happy for too long, takes too much energy, and I've been happy for far too long), so I took a train to Euskirchen, southwest of Bonn, just so I could take a train. Travelling by train makes my happy. I can't stop myself from emphasising once again how awesome it is to have a student ID and take all there trains in the state for free. I saw the cutest little bug with his drinking bowl at a town hall square restaurant. There are also dogs at bookstores (well, bookstores are also huge 5-storey buildings, so totally valid places where to take your dog for a walk). 

I have grown so fond of Germany. I was reading MIT Admissions blogs the other day of how people love being in Cambridge because they love MIT and would not want to be anyplace else. I love MIT, too, but I am still so grateful I got out for the summer. I still have MIT to thank for me being in Germany. I am a whole other human being here and, more importantly, I feel like one. Then again, it hurts to leave and if I were UROPing on campus, I would not have to. 

I have started to think that maybe I should have gone to university in Germany instead. After all, it was always my back-up plan. Or maybe I shouldn't have. Yet, the idea of doing a PhD somewhere in Germany  one day sounds more and more appealing every day. I love Germany so much it hurts to leave. There is only one other country in the whole wide world that I love so much it hurts. And that love is just because. Or maybe Germany just reminds me a lot of that just because. I love being back at Europe. The good old Old World! I've missed you so.

I have too much time to think. It has also finally started raining and the cloudy weather makes everything even more beautiful. Lots of conversations start with weather, so blog posts can very well end on that. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Life in a Northern State

Farther north than most of the rest of you in any case.  Also farther north than most of the country.

As the recent heat wave has swept the US, it didn't forget about the Pacific Northwest.  We've been enjoying some delightfully summer-like (and occasionally quite hot, though nothing like the East Coast) weather and have had no measurable rainfall in the month of July.

There have been a number of small yet noteworthy things that have been occurring in my life over the past week or two, so let's just see how far we get in this blog post shall we?

Let us ease into new material slowly with an update regarding the tooth incident from the beginning of the summer.  For those who don't remember my grumbling all too well, I will refer you back to "Barbecues and the Anticlimactic".  Anyway, I have had a dentist's appointment, and in addition to removing the stains that my brief trial of Crest mouthwash left on my teeth, confirming that I have no cavities, and offering once again to refer me to an orthodontist, the dentist said that I probably just strained a ligament and there was nothing to worry about on the x-rays.

Now on to the real news, in pseudo-chronological order.

First of all, it turns out that since I have graduated high school, gone off to college, and turned 21, Bremerton has acquired a Beer Festival.  As such, my father and I decided to go and improve our knowledge of the local breweries and beer in general.

Tasting glasses

It was crowded, and hot, and there were a lot of tipsy beer enthusiasts.
We split our tastes so that we could try twice as many... a very good strategy if I do say so myself, and three things were noted over the course of the afternoon.
1. My father and I have similar, but not identical, tastes in beer.
2. If you go to a festival of any kind and have a particular thing you want to try or find, best get to it first or it might run out.
3. A beer festival is a very good place to go kilt-watching.  I think the only time I've ever seen that many kilts in one place was in the Utili-kilt store (remember that Laura?).

I also went to Seattle to visit Linlin, who is known to at least some of you.  It was a beautiful day and there's nothing like an hour-long ferry ride on the Puget Sound when it's warm and sunny without a cloud in sight.  I realize that people probably get tired of hearing about how beautiful Washington is, but the sun and the water and Mt. Rainier looming in the background were heavenly, and photographs are less painful than paragraphs, no?

My town

 It was fun to listen to all the little kids, who were universally trying to spot all the jellyfish we passed.
Once in Seattle, we got Belgian Waffles and went to a Seafood Festival and the Dragon Fest in the International District.  We ran across some cool things and got free sunglasses.

Block Clock
Food #1 you wouldn't expect at a seafood festival

Food #2 you wouldn't expect at a seafood festival

After getting lumpia and candy, walking by a protest at the courthouse, and eating dinner, I finished off my day with a sunset ferry-ride home.  It was a good day.

In other news, I finally made a champagne cake for my mom...

I've finished a few books on my summer reading list...

 I had my first lesson driving stick, which involved some squealing tires, but went pretty well.  Later that day I waxed the car...


It looks like my new school and my brother's new school will be playing football against each other this fall...

Last but not least, and after some great difficulty finding the opportunity to take this picture, meet Bunnicula!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Irish Pub-lic Outreach

Today, I found myself in the men's bathroom of an Irish Pub, helping a little boy wipe his butt while his grandma sat outside nursing a sprained wrist and bruised head. They're Charlottesville locals, who I met a couple of weeks ago.

What the heck was I doing in the bathroom with the kid, and what happened to his grandma?

Let's take a few steps back.

As some of you know, I give talks at the local McCormick observatory. It houses a 26-inch refracting telescope, which back in the day was the second biggest telescope in the country (it was built in the mid-1880s.)

Near the beginning of the summer, I gave a talk on pulsars, and two weeks later gave a talk on radio astronomy. At that second public night, I talked for about forty-five minutes with an equestrian and her grandson, who we will call Carl for anonymity. Carl has big blue eyes, blond hair, and a gigantic toothy smile (he's missing one of his front teeth.) He told me all about black holes, accretion disks around quasars (something about hearing a little kid say "accretion disk" made me smile a lot), planetary formation, supernovae, hypernovae. Classic Carl quote:

"I think that I could make a black hole."
"Really? How?"
"I'd just need...a lot of hydrogen, and a bottle. And soda."

He picked up a board marker and drew diagrams, to teach me about string theory. His grandma told me that she thinks that Carl will become a professor one day, because he loves to teach so much.

Carl just turned eight.

What do you do with an eight-year-old who gobbles up information faster than you can provide it? His grandma is eager for resources: I wrote down a list of authors, TV shows, facilities (like the GBT). She told me about Carl's imagination and his energy, about his horseback riding lessons and his desire to learn Algebra. I said that I wouldn't be around Charlottesville for much longer, but that I'd be happy to sit down with him sometime and teach him the basics. I figured that I could probably come up with some cute astro-related Algebra problems for him. I gave her my contact information, and open night ended.

The next week, I was in New Mexico (more on that in another post.) But I'm back now, so today Carl and his grandma picked me up from my house at 11am. We drove to an Irish Pub, where I used onion rings to teach Carl about fractions and percentages (he wanted to learn about percentages because he really likes the % sign.) We played equation hangman, regular hangman (I really stumped him with "telescope." Also, it BLEW HIS FREAKIN' MIND when he wrote down  _ _ _ _ _      _ _ _ _ and I immediately guessed "black hole." Carl: "HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT????")

I taught him and his grandma a little bit about the brain, and together we marveled that all of the elements in our body originated in the Big Bang, or stellar cores, or supernovae. In the meantime, Carl slurped down two gigantic cups of lemonade, which ultimately caught up with him.

Carl: "I need to go to the bathroom."

His grandma leapt up to let him pass, and stepped backwards -- into air.

We were in a booth against the window, and the line of booths were all on a raised platform. His grandma tipped backwards like a tree, sort of caught herself with her right arm, but still hit her head on a chair. She lay there moaning. I freaked out, jumped out and knelt down, while Carl stared with big eyes. "Ice," his grandma said. I got a couple bags of ice from the waitress, and iced the back of her head while she iced her sprained wrist. In the meantime, Carl ran off to the bathroom by himself.

When he came back, a man had helped his grandma into a chair. I continued to ice her head. Carl was nearly doubled-over, and looked very distressed. I thought that he was just freaked out about his grandma, but suddenly he said "I need to go to the bathroom again," and off he went. His grandma took over the ice pack from me, and I took off after him.

When I got to the men's bathroom, the door was locked. I banged on it a couple of times. "Carl? Carl, you okay?" Carl opened the door for me. He was sitting on the toilet, having just been struck by a bout of diarrhea. To keep his mind off the discomfort, I told him stories about my own personal injuries (there are enough of those to last any bout of diarrhea!) Finally, he was feeling better, so we wiped his butt together and washed our hands. His grandma was feeling better by this point as well; while she made a few phone calls, I taught Carl to play pool (which is kind of hilarious, because I don't play pool ever.) Carl (to his grandma): "I think she's so good at it because she knows physics!"

Hell, yeah.

Afterwards, Carl's grandma drove me home. I put my laundry in the washing machine and sat down to blog. This evening, I think that Raphael and I are going to do some work on his car, and maybe take a scenic drive.

It's been a bizarre day (when I was standing in the bathroom wiping Carl's butt I was thinking "WHAT IS MY LIFE???") But SUCH a rewarding, refreshing day. It gave me another way to think about public outreach -- I think that until now I've given it a very narrow definition. It's always meant standing up in front of an audience and giving a talk, or running a museum exhibit, or wearing a name tag and being an official scientist. But today I was a cool grown-up, and Carl and I hung out like friends (friends teach each other math, right?) When he sees me, he gets super excited and waves frantically with a gigantic grin. I think that outreach is most effective when you are another human being, with an interest in non-scientists as other human beings and not just as pre-scientists or, worse, non-scientists-who-must-be-enlightened.

Anyway, washing machine is beeping at me. Until next time! <3

Friday, July 19, 2013

the most important part of this post is the picture of Rashed.

Fondest greetings to you all!  This blog post is about four things: NYC, UROP, teaching, and other fun things.

on ze ferry.
Rashed reminds me that he and Caitlin and I never got around to writing about our NYC romp, which happened last month.  I will just say that it was pretty fantastic.  We went and saw Phantom, which was probably my favorite part (I've wanted to do that since high school), visited the Strand bookstore (at which Caitlin purchased a very cute bag with owls on it and Rashed got a book on the history of the Middle East or something like that), and rode the ferry to see the Statue.  I also got to see my Aunt Lin, who lives in New Jersey.

Caitlin and I woke up before Rashed did.  Rashed has specifically requested that he be able to view this picture, so here 'tis.

My UROP is going pretty well.  I have decided that I like this computational stuff and will apply for grad school in computation with aerospace applications.  My UROP project is about parallel simulations for chaotic systems.  My UROP experience has been less about parallel simulation and a lot more about learning what not to do.  Here are some examples of things I have learned not to do:
  • run lots of simulations without clearly documenting where all this data is coming from.
  • store data in user-friendly format.  user-friendly is computer-unfriendly, and that is a pain.
  • run code on the cluster without testing on my own machine first.
  • forget to account for edge cases.
Yesterday I spent a really long time noticing something I should have noticed in February.  Alas, I don't think I was ready for it then.  Here are some things I have learned since then:
  • all the powers of two up to 524288.
  • to use screen with ssh-ing.  This is allowing me to happily run a long script and type up this blog post simultaneously.
  • python is 0-indexed.  Also, the statement "a = b" will point a to b, not copy b to a.
  • python's LIL matrix slicing is inefficient.
Junction started last Monday, and I have now taught 6 full lessons, and one 5-minutes Firestorm class.  Topics were: Space Mission Design, Aircraft Stability & Design, Genetic Disease, Romantic Nationalism in Music, Engineering System Failures, and Short Stories.  The 5-minute Firestorm class was based on the lit class I took freshman fall - "Foundations of Western Literature".  I "covered" the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Republic, Oedipus Rex, Medea, and Genesis in five minutes and maybe 15 seconds.  I was beaten off the stage with pool noodles in the last 15 seconds for going over. ;)

I had the students act out a clotting cascade.
Sometimes people ask me how teaching is going, and I usually don't really know if you're looking for some sort of specific response or not so I just go with "well".  But there is a lot of stuff going on in my brain when I think about how teaching is going:
  • for the most part, I adore the students.  We have a great group of enthusiastic and engaged learners, which makes my job as a teacher much easier.
  • have I been boring the students?  some topics, like Space Mission Design, automatically grab the students' interest so they come eager to learn.  I know students found Aircraft Design more boring - but probably because of the way I taught it.  I can probably do better as a teacher finding interesting ways to engage these topics.
  • how do I make the students keep quiet when I'm talking?  I have a new appreciation for my K-12 teachers now... I have to continually ask the students to shush so I can be heard.
  • I think the students are here to have fun first and to learn second.  They're not like college students, where we're in classes to learn first and to have fun second.  I should find ways to make things more fun so they don't notice that they're learning. 
  • when I reflect on the last time I did a program like this (two years ago, in Germany), I realize that I am a much stronger teacher now than I was then.  I suppose age, experience, and additional grumpiness make for good teaching.
Other fun things:
Juliette & Lucetta in Two Gents.
  • Last Friday, Sasha and I went to see The Two Gentlemen of Verona on the common.  It was fun, as Maggie said. :)
  • Last Saturday, Sophie and I went to see Much Ado About Nothing in the Kendall Square Cinema.  We got lunch at Cosi first, and then took a wild detour to the theatre due to the fact that neither of us knew exactly where it was.  It involved some running, lots of asking people for help, and making it into the theatre before the movie started. :D  It was really good.
  • Reading:  I have recently finished The Princess Casamassima (James) and Death in Venice (Mann).  The former was very good, the latter... disturbing.  I am now going to work on the German things I have in preparation for going to Germany.
'tis all from me.  with very much love,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Break from lab thanks to a chemical spill

I am currently sitting outside in the shade while people discuss science and papers because there was a TEMED spill in lab. TEMED is used when making SDS Page gels because it polymerizes acrylamide, and one usually uses about 5uL (or less) per gel. It is extremely smelly and apparently corrosive to tissues, as I just learned (not from experience, fortunately).

The sun is very hot here but it's always cool under the shade because there's not much humidity and the temperature itself isn't too high. The grass is of the bright green shade that I like, and there's actually more grass than weeds. There is a giant tree that provides the shade and a nice breeze. I usually don't get much break during the day, so this mandatory break is quite enjoyable.

I haven't been up to much in the last several weeks. My usual day consists of getting up, going to work, getting overly expensive lunch from the cafes on campus, working more (until late usually), coming back home, eating dinner, and falling asleep to TV. It doesn't sound like a bad life, but I always complain about it because long work days are very physically exhausting.

On the weekends, I do more fun things. I've so far gone ice skating, been to the beach at Santa Monica, visited Hollywood, gone out to get yummy Japanese food in Little Tokyo, spent a hot afternoon riding different kinds of roller coasters, gone shopping at a mall, and gone shopping in Old Pasadena. Oh, by the way, when I say I visited Hollywood, I mean that we spent a total of 2 hours on the metro (LA metro is rather sad), spent 1 hour shopping at the gigantic Sephora store where I even got a complimentary massage to get the 'full hollywood experience', and 1 hour actually walking around and being touristy. Yes, a good portion of my summer has been about glamor and giving into my shallow desires and buying clothes and makeup. Well, most of my friends here are very well dressed and my best friend here is an amazing makeup artist, so I guess I've been learning to enjoy these activities as well. Besides lab, it's been an amazing summer with lots of great people. When I first got here, people told me that because Caltech is so small, everyone knows each other here. I didn't believe them at first but now I do, because I feel like I know way more people than I could have ever imagined.

I think they're almost done cleaning up, so I'm going to end with some pictures. I'm going out to dinner with some friends tomorrow for restaurant week, so I'll take more pictures then for the next post.

ice skating! 

in front of the Chinese theatre where all the hand/foot prints are

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This title is a work in progress.

After my last post, I was told that my blogposts needed to include more baby pictures and less “other stuff.” This is the only other baby picture I have access to until I go back home next Monday.

Toes are fascinating things.

Ramadan started a bit less than a week ago, which has reminded me that the sun in this country is borked and needs to be fixed, since it seems to have forgotten how to set correctly and in a timely manner. No proper sun should be setting past 8pm. It also meant that I needed to acquire some number of chocolate-covered raisins. I don’t eat chocolate-covered raisins all that often, but every Ramadan, chocolate-covered raisins are among the first things I crave. Tabbouleh, Vimto, and cheese sambousak (“samosas”), also make frequent appearances as cravings, since those are things we often consume in ridiculous quantities during Ramadan. Those last few cravings are usually followed by pangs of homesickness, which are somewhat dampened by the fact that I’ll be home in about a week (!).

My current side-project:  a useless machine made out of LEGO.

Last weekend, I went waterfall-touring along with Adam, Caitlin, Shaun, and Sophie. During finals week, I mentioned in passing that I had never seen a waterfall before, and this quickly lead to us planning a trip to NH to see how many waterfall visits we could stuff into one weekend. We ended up touring a number of caves, a maple sugar ‘museum’ that consisted of one room followed by a gift shop, and, of course, a lot of waterfalls. Getting right up close to a waterfall and looking straight up was one of the most terrifying and fascinating things I've done in a while. Definitely the highlight of my summer.

Link Dump #2:

Here’s a matrix of videos, somewhat similar to Click the Squares from my last post. Some combinations aren’t that great, while others are fantastic.

A visual representation of the frequency of words appearing in presidents’ speeches over the years, presented as if it was an eye exam (for some reason). Unusual choice of graphic, but interesting information.  Move your mouse over the small boxes at the bottom to see what were the most frequently used words in speeches given publicly by presidents going all the way back to Washington.
(note: I started writing this post last Monday, so the times in the first section of the blogpost are a bit off)