Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of Your Union

Did you watch the State of the Union address last night? Alex invited some people over to hang out and cheer/jeer the last Bush address and you know what happened? Only 2 people showed up. I felt sososo bad for him! We had all this food and beer and just 4 of us. We still had a nice time hanging out, but its just a bummer when people don't reply to your invite and no one shows up. Oh well, whatareyougonnado?
I though his address was pretty standard, nothing too exciting. I didn't really appreciate his reference to that stem cell paper in his speech because he has no idea what he's talking about. Maybe I mighty blog about it later. What about his wanting to expand the ability to wiretap American's phones? That seems pretty disturbing to me. Basically, they want to create a giant network that is constantly listening in on your phone conversations, looking for "specific code words". Because using "specific code words" obviously means you are a terrorist. And then they will track you down and take you to Guantanamo. Or something like that. Sometimes I think our government is really trying to replicate 1984.
I went to my first Power Yoga class last night and my teacher is crazy. She's gonna make me do a headstand. Scary! Plus, I found out I have zero upper body strength and today I am paying the price for not staying in shape over the break. My entire left arm is going from aching pain to sharp pain, which is a lot of fun. I am gonna try to get to the gym tonight so I can get my muscles back into shape.
Tomorrow night, we are going to see Avenue Q. I am so looking forward to this and I think it should be really funny and entertaining. Then I really have to get on this paper I have to write by Feb 15th (eek!)
It's raining today, which is kinda depressing. Didn't want to get up this morning for sure. And, clearly, I've got nothing. Have a good Tues :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rants and Raves Monday

I am really getting into this whole ranting and raving thing. I think because it allows me to vent about things and then focus on positive things which I enjoy. Well, here's your installment for today.
First the rants:
1) The economy sucks ass right now. My dad is considering shutting down his business that he's run for the last 20+ years. He's said that his business has never been so slow in all its life. With the cost of gas and truck maintenance, etc. it's looking like its better to shut 'er down than ride it out. The end of an era.
2) My uncle is continuing to get sicker with cancer. The latest updates are that he's "losing his mind" a bit. I'm not sure if its the medicines / chemo / etc or if the cancer's in his brain. We're all hoping he'll hold out to see his grandson born in early March.
3) My cousin is having a baby shower soon. She decided to have it on the one night my mom is busy (figures). And the gift I wanted to get her is not available online at Babies R Us. Seriously, what is NOT available online?
4) My mom bought me a Sunbeam "stand mixer" for Xmas 2006. This thing is a piece of shit, people. Do not buy this. It has no power, you have to constantly scrape the bowl and turn it and it just sucks. Who designed this crap? I feel bad to bad-mouth a gift, but seriously! Never buy one of these things! I used to love love love baking and now I hate it. (soon to change, see rave below).
OK, now the raves:
1) I went to see Juno this past weekend (as apparently, did everyone else). I loved it. Loved it. Loved it. I cannot say enough about it. It was fantastic, witty, charming, touching, hilarious and very, very real. Go see it. Now.
2) I made my first transaction on Ebay recently. I was very happy with the results. Although I have not yet received my item (I got a used Le Crueuset dutch oven), I was really happy with the ease of bidding, the transaction itself and that this person is now shipping me a really nice pan for only $40! Can't get much better than that.
3) Since I love to cook and ended up throwing my "stand mixer" across the room last night, I decided to splurge on myself and dig deep for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I checked them out at Williams and Sonoma over the weekend and I am smitten. With no holidays or birthdays looming in the near future, I decided to spend my tax rebate check early. Now I can bake to my heart's content :)
4) My Power Yoga class starts today. I feel tense in my neck and shoulders and am hoping this class will take care of that. I am just hoping my lazy ass can keep up :)
5) Tonight is the last State of the Union (or perhaps the second-to the last) and we are having a party to celebrate. Alex made ceviche last night, we have a variety pack of the Beers of Mexico and my mom's yummy salsa is chilling in the fridge. Looking forward to hanging out with peeps and just relaxing.
Hope your Monday's good for you :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Two Rants, Three Raves

I have been involved in our recruitment/interview weekends here at Penn since I started grad school. It gives us a chance to show off our school to potential grad students and catch up with other grad students you don't see much while you're working in lab all the time. My problem is that I ran into one last weekend and she called me the wrong name! We have been in the same program for over two years now, she's seen me present data and papers before (with my name on the title slide) and I know we've hung out socially before. So, I got pissed and said, "No, that's not my name, it's ceedee." She made some lame excuse as to why she called me the wrong name. Did I handle that wrong? I try to be super conscious of people's names since, apparently, I am so sensitive about mine. Now, if she forgets my name again, I might just have to go kung fu on her ass. LOL
Another rant of mine lately is the use of the prepositions "at about". For some reason this grammar rule stuck in my head from Patty Penny Penrose's Honors English class and it really chaps my hide. It either happed at 4pm or about 4pm, not at about 4pm. I have seen this in print newspapers, magazines, published novels, and today I heard it said on the Today show. Not that I am a huge fan of grammar, but I think at least the media could use it correctly. Perhaps I expect too much.
On to Raves, I am loving two things in music right now: "High School" by Jeremy Fisher and The Jim Croce collection. Let me tell you, these are great! Take a listen.
I recently subscribed to a magazine called Cook's Illustrated and I am really loving it. They take recipes they have either had or tried and experiment to make them better. But they give you the reasoning behind things, like that bread should be between 70-85% water and it needs to rest for a while so the natural enzymes in the wheat flour to break down the proteins in the flour, allowing the bread to be more fluffy. And lots more stuff. You should check out their website if you like to cook at all. I made their super crispy pork chops on Sunday and they were out of this world!
Last rave for the day, I am really loving Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. Another used book I stumbled upon, very well written. I am only two chapters into it, but it speaks volumes. I will definitely let you know my final opinion of it.
And that's that folks. I hope you have a great Thursday :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday Funnies courtesy of my dad

I'm a little busy today, so will post something easy to get thru hump day. Enjoy!

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Funniest first date

Jay Leno went into the audience to find the most embarrassing first date that a woman ever had. The winner described her worst first date experience.There was absolutely no question as to why her tale took the prize! She said it was midwinter... Snowing and quite cold...and the guy had taken her skiing in the mountains outside Salt Lake City, Utah. It was a day trip (no overnight). They were strangers, after all, and truly had never met before. The outing was fun but relatively uneventful until they were headed home late that afternoon. They were driving back down the mountain, when she gradually began to realize that she should not have had that extra latte. They were about an hour away from anywhere with a rest room and in the middle of nowhere! Her companion suggested she try to hold it, which she did for a while. Unfortunately, because of the heavy snow and slow going, there came a point where she told him that he had better stop and let her go beside the road, or it would be the front seat of his car. They stopped and she quickly crawled out beside the car, yanked her pants down and started. In the deep snow she didn't have good footing, so she let her butt rest against the rear fender to steady herself. Her companion stood on the side of the car watching for traffic and indeed was a real gentleman and refrained from peeking. All she could think about was the relief she felt despite the rather embarrassing nature of the situation. Upon finishing however, she soon became aware of another sensation. As she bent to pull up her pants, the young lady discovered her buttocks

were firmly glued against the car's fender. Thoughts of tongues frozen to poles immediately came to mind as she
attempted to disengage her flesh from the icy metal. It was quickly apparent that she had a brand new problem due to the extreme cold. Horrified by her plight and yet aware of the humor of the moment, she answered her date's concerns about "what is taking so long" with a reply that indeed, she was "freezing her butt off" and in need of some assistance! He came around the car as she tried to cover herself with her sweater and then, as she looked imploringly into his eyes, he burst out laughing. She too, got the giggles and when they finally man aged to compose themselves, they assessed her dilemma. Obviously, as hysterical as the situation was, they also were faced with a real problem. Both agreed it would take something hot to free her chilly cheeks from the grip of the icy metal! Thinking about what had gotten her into the predicament in the first place, both quickly realized that there was only one way to get her free. So, as she looked the other way, her first-time date proceeded to unzip his pants and pee her butt off the fender. As the audience screamed in laughter, she took the Tonight Show prize hands down. Or perhaps that should be "pants down." And you thought your first date was embarrassing. Jay Leno's comment: "This gives a whole new meaning to being pissed off.
Oh, and how did the first date turn out? He became her husband and was sitting next to her on the Leno show

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The Center for Disease Control Alert

The Center for Disease Control has issued a medical alert about a highly contagious, potentially dangerous virus that is transmitted orally, by hand, and even electronically.

This virus is called Weary Overload Recreational Killer (WORK). If you receive WORK from your boss, any of your colleagues or anyone else via any means whatsoever - DO NOT TOUCH IT. This virus will wipe out your private life completely.

If you should come into contact with WORK you should immediately leave the premises. Take two good friends to the nearest grocery store and purchase one or both of the antidotes - Work Isolating Neutralizer Extract (WINE) and Bothersome Employer Elimination Rebooter (BEER). Take the antidote repeatedly until WORK has been completely eliminated from your system.

You should immediately forward this medical alert to five friends. If you do not have five friends, you have already been infected and WORK is controlling your life.

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Oh, and if you feel like checking out some cool airplane / SF Bay photos, click here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Two Review Tuesday

I figured I would continue the reviews I have been doing with two movies I watched this past weekend. On Friday, we took in the movie There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis as an oil man at the turn of the 20th century. I went into this movie not knowing anything about it, thinking it would be a period piece about the beginnings of the oil industry. Boy, was I wrong. I have since read the reviews of this movie, the critics raving about this movie and all the things it represented. Let me tell you, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, but I did not get even half of the things the critics were able to glean from this film. Right off the bat, there were two things the bothered me immensely about the film: the music was literally painful, to the point where I thought something had gone wrong with the sound and asked Alex if the theatre should be notified; and secondly, there are no women in the film. The film turned out to be a character study of this one man who was madly mining for silver, so determined to find it that even after a fall which broke his ankle, he crawls into town to sell the silver and make some money. His character is somewhat predictable, being driven even farther and farther into madness by the end of the film. He swindles and uses people for his own gain, while characters all around him, specifically Eli Sunday (Paul Dano of Little Miss Sunshine fame), are doing the same thing, but in a different way. This film is essentially the tale of evil v. evil, a veritable fight to the death of two different evils, the oil evil and the false prophet/religious evil. The film itself had very little plot, jumping into and out of this man's life at certain points, with no real connection among them, merely observing the character's progression into madness. The cinematography was both beautiful, panoramic scenes, and too-close, gritty, dirty head shots of the main characters. The camera tends to jump around a lot, making the viewer feel restless and agitated, and adding in the loud and out-of-place music makes this movie a not so pleasant viewing experience. I had a very visceral reaction to this movie, walking out thinking it was the worst movie I have ever seen. I will, however say a few positive things about this movie. Daniel Day Lewis acted the shit out of this movie. I felt he was this character, through and through. He made me forget I was watching a movie altogether sometimes and, in the end, I despised him with a visceral, gut-clenching hatred. I can absolutely see why he received an Oscar nod today, although I cannot see why this film would be nominated for Best Picture. I must say, though, that this film has made me think a lot about it since leaving the theatre Friday night. I have read reviews of it, trying to figure out why people have liked it so much. Mostly, the critics say the Daniel Day Lewis' character represents a portion of all of us: the greed, the selfishness, the narcissism, and his portrayal is mightily done. I just think I have seen it done better, and without so many cliches, in other films.
The second film I took in was last night at this local bar/theatre which has "Movie Mondays". They were showing The Neverending Story, a film I don't think I've seen since I was a wee child. This is a film about a young boy who gets picked on in school and is doing poorly in classes. He discovers a book and begins to read it in his school's attic (which is a pretty creepy place, mind you). The story comes to life before his eyes, as he is transported to Fantasia, a fantasy land filled will animatronic wonder. He battles evil, goes on a journey of a lifetime, and ends up befriending quite a few interesting things (Falcor, the pink dragon/cocker spaniel?). Of course, he saves the day by shouting "Moonchild" (seriously, why Moonchild?) and then chases the thugs who beat him up on his pink lucky dragon/cocker spaniel thing. Altogether a stellar film, which, when served with beer and popcorn and a lot of snarky comments was a blast to witness. We all had tales of when we watched the film last, reminisces of dancing to the sassy synthesizer music, or traumatic tales of crying through certain scenes. It was a great time and I highly recommend getting friends together to take in childhood movies. It's worth it ever time.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Review Monday

I am a big fan of used bookstores and despise having to pay $14 for a simple paperback book that I'm not sure I will like. So, I've found two great little stores, one in the Italian Market and one on 10th and Pine stuffed to the gills with used books of all kinds. I decided to pick up The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve since I had read The Pilots's Wife a few years ago and I really enjoyed it. I am unable to give The Last Time They Met the same review. I am still somewhat on the fence about whether I liked it or not. It is a story told in somewhat of a backward sense. A middle aged Linda Fallon starts off the story attending a writer's poetry meeting and runs into an old flame, Thomas Janes. They meet together, catch up, and end up in bed together. She has lost her husband and her children are grown, and her feelings for this man are still quite strong. They often refer to "things that happened in the past", with very little explanation. Linda goes through some painful and rigorous questioning of her life, reflecting on her marriage, her children, etc. The reader is then taken back in time to the last time they had met, in Africa. It turns out that she was in Africa as a teacher, and he was in Africa accompanying his wife, who was a doctor. Since both are married at the time, they begin having an affair, which is ultimately discovered, leading to a very dramatic confrontation. It is during this part of the book that you get to know Thomas better. The book shifts from his perspective to her perspective, back and forth. They send love letter to each other and are painfully, all-consuming in love with each other. After the confrontation, the reader is then taken back in time to when Linda and Thomas met in high school and how they came to be high school sweethearts. In the end, the last few chapters explain many things the characters have been alluding to, and the last few sentences of the book actually reveal an unexpected ending. Altogether, I found this book interesting, although a bit slow. The beginning third of the book is spent on so much description that it become tedious. Initially, the character of Thomas Janes was actually somewhat creepy and weird, although I think the author was going for intellectual and direct. Linda is somewhat uninteresting, concerned about her looks more than her life. (Perhaps, when I reach middle age, I might identify with Linda as a character more.) As the story unfolds, I felt some compassion for Linda and Thomas. They seem both to be trapped in unhappy marriages, but I was not comfortable with the whole "cheating" thing. I was not endeared to their situation very much, even though they were the main characters. He despises his wife in an unnatural way, yet is too cowardly to get out of it and be up front with her. Her husband seems to be a bit naive and dopey, and she clearly uses him, yet also will not be honest with him. The last third of the book, however, I fell in love with the characters. They are young, silly, interesting and dynamic. They meet and date, and it seems so fresh and new and exciting. He is an awkward teenage boy, and she a shy and interesting young woman. They have yet to face the hardships their relationship has caused. The end of this book was really the redeeming factor for me in this book. I could not put it down. I actually stayed up until 3am to finish it. The author does leave a few loose ends. We are only exposed to when these two people meet, so we have no idea what has happened between these times. It is a unique book which tackles some pretty intense situations with a generally interesting prose. If you are looking for a different type of love story, this might be it for you.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Let's talk for one minute about the boy who was killed by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day. Today, the police revealed that they believe the boys were drinking, smoking pot, and taunting the tiger in its cage. How smart is that? Hey guys! Let's taunt a large predatory animal penned in a cage? How's that sound? Dangle a leg over? Stand on the fence? You know what? That sounds like a brilliant plan. Akin to dangling a leg over the side of a boat during a shark feeding frenzy. Go ahead, eliminate yourself from the gene pool before you can pass your dumbass genes on. What is it about people who do not believe that wild animals are wild and therefore dangerous? I think teenagers are old enough to know how stupid this whole thing is. And, while death is a high price to pay, I won't say they didn't deserve it. I think it's sad they won't be charged for anything and the zoo now has to do PR damage control because their tiger pen (built in the 1940s, nonetheless) was a few feet too short. No one thought the animals could jump that high. And while I absolutely do not support zoos in their efforts to cage otherwise wide-roaming animals, I think they are in the right here. And we lost a beautiful and amazing creature because of it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wilson Phillips

I know you remember this group: the daughters of Michele Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. They had one album in the early 90s that I absolutely adored. I loved this album like no other. I listened to it over and over and over again. I had it in my Walkman for an entire summer, if not more. Whenever I hear any song from this album, I remember a summer long, long ago when my cousin Rhonda and I accompanied our grandparents up to Pine Mountain Lake, a beautiful lake outside of Yosemite. Rhonda's dad and stepmom spent the summers up there, waterskiing, playing, and in general, just hanging out. We spent 9-10 hours riding in the car to get up there, stopping at rest stops, giggling like little girls in the back seat of Grandpa's Mercury Cougar. My Grandma often joined us in giggling hysterically. When she got going, it was hard to get her to stop, so we would often collapse, breathless and red-faced, unable to talk for minutes at a time. I listened to this tape over and over and over again, dedicating most, if not all, songs to Joe McIntyre of the NKOTB. I dreamed of someday meeting him and taking him to Yosemite. I fell in love that summer with the outdoors, the magnificent beauty and incomprehensible expanse of Yosemite. I learned how to water ski (although not very well). I ate a lot of Corn Pops and peanut butter toast. I took showers in the afternoons, after the waterskiing time was over and we had successfully eaten all the ice cream in the snack bar. It was such a great summer, although there were fights and misunderstandings. And Rhonda's dad could be mean sometimes. But for the most part, we had a great time doing nothing in particular. Now, my grandmother has passed away, my grandfather has lost his mind, my uncle is dying of cancer and my cousin is expecting her first child. It's a tumultuous time in my family and most of us are not dealing so well. So it's really nice, on this gray, depressing day, to hear some songs from a long long time ago and remember that we all had such a great time together. And that summer will always be in my heart.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Turn the radio up...

Do you ever listen to the radio? Have you been somewhat disappointed lately? Or are you more of a Ipod/MP3 listener? Satellite radio, perhaps? I listen to the radio most days since I am working in a room that has a convenient radio in it. I also feel like headphones on my Ipod block me out from my co-workers, which I don't like to do. I usually listen to NPR or the local Penn radio station, XPN. They have nice programming, interesting talk shows about local and national news. XPN plays a wide variety of music, mostly emphasizing "indie", but also showcasing singer/songwriters, local groups, rap, reggae and even a kids music hour (OK, that drives me nuts!). For the most part, listening to the radio is nice because I feel like someone is "with" me in the room, and it gets me thinking about current events, life in general, politics, interesting places and people, etc. I remember when I traveled with my parents anywhere when I was a kid. I would always have my trusty Walkman, and I would always love to listen to the local radio channels I could get. I liked to hear what music they were playing, how the DJs sounded, what the advertisements were, etc. It was like seeing something familiar and having it be just different enough to be interesting. Now, when I travel across the country, the radio channels don't change. Shows are syndicated and spread across the nation. Or worse, DJs are gone and replaced by some generic computer voice that jumps in after every song to tell you the artist and title. I don't really agree with this type of radio. I almost feel like they've had to "dumb" down radio so as not to create any inkling of controversy. How boring is that?
I used to listen to Howard Stern in the mornings when he was still on the actual radio. Granted, his show was pretty risque - I like how blunt he was with his guests, but ultimately got turned off after the umpteenth time talking about some guest's sex life. However, I did appreciate it when he started talking about his fight with the FCC and Clear Channel, trying to get his program uncensored and trying to speak out against Big Brother. Censorship is not right. The media should not be censored, and, on the same note, one giant company should not own the rights to nearly all radio channels across the nation. It ain't right, I say.
Back in the 1950's, as radio was emerging as a vehicle for musical acts, rock n' roll, blues, R&B, etc, radio stations were independently owned, allowing for diversity in DJs, the music that was played, the opinions presented, the local news covered, etc. This led to local artists becoming popular in their respective hometowns, and a diversity of music in different regions of the country.
Why are radio stations so boring now? Why are there no interesting shows? Opinionated radio hosts? Local news coverage? Why does Clear Channel think we want this kind of radio programming? I don't want to hear "Jack FM" on the East Coast and it's clone, "Jill FM" on the West Coast! Let's get original, folks! Give me some great local bands, local news, interesting information, live people talking to me on the radio. Isn't that what it's for?
As for now, I will stick to NPR and XPN. They're the last few holdouts on a slippery slope.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Let's get political.

Do you ever think about politics? I find you must live under a rock if you haven't heard of all the presidential primary drama. I find myself consumed by it most every day. And since this little bliggity of mine is supposed to be a way to express my opinions, I thought I might do so at this juncture (in bullet form, nonetheless...)

  • I find it highly encouraging that we have both a woman and a black man representing the Democratic party as front runners for our choice of presidential candidate. I think this is a great hope that perhaps we can move past color and gender lines and actually pick a candidate who represents our ideal(s) for who should run our country. I do not, however, feel that Hillary Clinton should be criticized for her choice of outfit, her hair color or cut, or anything that emphasizes that the media and people alike are not looking at the issues and what she stands for. I feel that, since she is a woman, she is held to a different light than the other candidates, which I feel is mostly ridiculous. She is a grown woman, has raised her child, and is now a senator from NY. Let's focus on the issues at hand here. A war, perhaps? The economy? I also do not feel that since Senator Obama is black, that we should not be able to criticize or talk his interpretation of issues. I find the media emphasizing much more that a black man is running for president than what he actually stands for and the platform on which he is running (Change? I get it...what else?) Let's dig up some inconsistencies in his policies and let's have a real debate about who is the better candidate. Also, I do not agree that all African American people will vote for Obama, or that all women will vote for Hillary. Let's get over these stereotypes and let's get down to issues, shall we?
  • Moving on, what are your big issues? I think I have probably made the point here that I am a scientist, so some of the issues I am particularly interested in are education, scientific funding, and the future of stem cell research. As a grad student who will emerge into the job market during the next presidency, I want a president who strongly supports science funding and education. Basic research institutions are slowly dying (I wrote about it in "A Crisis at Hand" 05-08-07) and we need funding, bottom line. We are not emphasizing education in science and technology enough, and as a consequence are experiencing a "brain drain", if you will, where smart people are going to other countLinkries to study / do science. I like Hillary's policy on science best at this juncture, since I feel she has actually asked scientists' opinions about science policy, which I give a bit thumbs up to. If you are interested in how the candidates stack up, here is a great article in Science Magazine on all the candidates' policies on science. If you can't read it because of subscription issues, just leave me your email and I will email it to you.
  • Another big issue of mine is the economy. Ever wonder why none of your 20-30-something friends don't own houses when most of our parents did at our age? It's because the economy is going to shite and there should be something done (other than increase our trade deficit. Another interesting article to read was recently published in Vanity Fair and I am linking it here. It's not boring - it is actually one of the only econ articles which has made sense to me in recent years. Read it. It's very eye-opening.
  • I am also concerned about immigration. I think this building of a fence along the US/MX border is ludicrous and I see no reason for our government to be paying for that. I would like to see a candidate with a policy that allows those who are currently in the US to stay in the US (and not have to pay thousands of dollars to gain citizenship) and to have a more practical immigration policy which allows people to come visit our country without jumping through ridiculous hoops.
  • Of course, I am also interested in health care, womens rights, minority rights, ending poverty (and that's just the domestic stuff...) as well as getting us out of Iraq and Afghanistan without the countries themselves imploding. I am also looking for a candidate who will open discourse with historic "enemies", strengthen our bonds with our current "friends" and who will reach out to developing nations, such as India, China, and South America to try to make this world a better place. Oh, yeah, and end global warming too.
Sound like too big a request? I don't think so. But I do think it will take more than 4 years to reverse the quagmire the current administration has gotten us into. So, what matters to you? What are your buzzwords? What are your hotbutton issues?