Monday, December 21, 2009


I am free at last from the semester, like a chest-burster breaking out in Alien.

It's a very satisfying feeling. I won't be checking my grades until after Christmas. No need for the pressure. Here life is all reading books and seeing wonderful people.

I hear it snowed back at the university. HAH. That must be a terrifying sight to see, all those southerners panicking.

Here it continues to snow, and the sky is the same color as the ground--a phenomenon I strongly dislike, especially with the red orange overtones of sodium streetlights at night. It makes me feel as if everything were burning, unpleasantly.

It is difficult to get settled. I feel like I'm walking in a dream. I wish I had a list of things to do (you DO have a big stack o things to do)... well, okay, that helps.

Finish WSTAR work
figure out car and house insurance
call stupid billing people about my health insurance
finish christmas shopping (!!! FUCK)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Great Convulsion

So here we are. Last day of classes. Everything coming to a head.

I'm coasting. Not quite on top, but with my chin above water. Like being pushed by a reasonably sized coastal ocean wave--my feet don't touch the bottom, so it can send me anyway, but I'm pretty buoyant so I can still breathe. And for now I'll let it carry me along. It's my direction and my guidance. I can try to return to shore later (and we'll see if I have the strength for it).

Things to do today:
finish Steve's lab write up, gah!
finish Li's analytic write up
finish my motherfucking star.
study at least 2 hours solid for Li (which is 3 hours attempted, I believe).
sleep like hell.

Those are good goals. I have a lot of studying to do for the next couple of days, with a splendid reward on Saturday night in the form of a cookie-baking-plus-alcohol-drinking party.

I can do this. Just keep paddling... just keep paddling... paddle paddle.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crazy Astronomers!

Yesterday was fun! It consisted mostly of panicking about programming until 5 in the afternoon, panicking about a locked up key until 5:30, an hour and a half of break, and then 4 hours of lab followed by 8 hours of observing.

If you did your calculations carefully you should see that this leaves us at about 7am, which is the time I was driving home this morning. I was surprised and a little pissed at the early morning runners who decided that the road was the best place in the world to do their jogging. Seriously, people? It's still dark out, and you think that you need to cross the road at the blind spot on the downside of a hill? get outta my way! *honkhonk*

I made it home accident-free and crashed until the afternoon. Now I'm all wired, which is good since I have a butt-load of homework to do.

Thanksgiving was fantastic. yay for family! and plans have been laid--INTRICATE, UNWIELDY, AWESOME plans--for getting home for the holidays. Glee!

Now I just need to survive the next three weeks. *sigh* at least one final has been commuted into "project". That will help.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Telescopes of the Southwest United States Part 2

Other things I've done for the first time now:

Found bones in the wood.

Or wished was the first time, but it isn't:

1am IHOP party!

Hah. Now I am back in town but still sort of drifty and out of it. Trying to catch up--as always. There's work to do, data to reduce, people to see, problems to fix.... sleep to catch up on, I suppose. Family to talk to.

TelObs tonight followed closely by sleep and then homework.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Telescopes of the Southwest United States

Things I did for the first time on my tour of the telescopes of the southwest US:

been above 9500 feet
experienced altitude sickness (just a bit)
saw at least 10 deer at once
went sledding on something that wasn't snow (in this case, white sand)
climbed a sand dune (that was freakin hard!)
gone through border patrol
peed in the woods
run an optical telescope
Judged a telescope operation based on its weird slewing noise
seen the sun set from 9500 feet
seen the milky way AT FIRST GLANCE (even before my eyes adjusted--my GOD it was gorgeous)

Things I wish I could say I did for the first but I've actually done before:
Swung from part of a telescope
Climbed around on a mesh catwalk while it swung around, so I could look down through the mesh at the earth spinning away below my feet (eek! at least this time it wasn't 500 ft up, just a few dozen)
thrown pine cones at someone
lived without the internet (well... sort of)
cursed unknown weather gods.
lived in a cabin on site of an observatory
fallen in love with New Mexico *sigh*
crunched through deep carpets of pine needles

The trip has gone well. We spent a crazy couple of days running between Kitt Peak National Observatory, the giant Mirror Lab, and the location of the Large Binocular Telescope. We finally ended up here at Apache Point Observatory, where we settled down for a luxurious 4 days of frantic observing. We had three gorgeous days with photometric seeing, and tonight, when we need the most data, the weather is crappy and our seeing is 2 arcsec (here's a hint: that's TERRIBLE).

Friday we go to the VLA. I can't wait, radio being my specialty and the VLA being one of the epitomes of powerful radio science these days. Then I can add something else to the second list: cooked without microwave! since they're not allowed at the VLA.

Missing home. Lots of work to do--Li's homework and WSTAR data (hey, I actually worked on that!) and emailing Arecibo about the proposal and more. Oh, and did I mention studying? so I can actually understand what's going on? that would be useful!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

First All Nighter

My first all nighter tonight, in the quest of a difficult homework assignment.

I'm surprised at the weight of it. Like my shoulders and thighs are bearing heavy bags. (which, I suppose, they are. :P.). But my fingers, too, are heavier.

Gonna poke a few more points into this set. I can write up an answer to 4, calculate some stuff for number 2, and see if I can pull anything out of my ass for number 5. number 1 is hopeless. number 3 is probably fairly hopeless with the amount of time I have left before class.

Shoot. what am I going to do with the car until I can drive home at 10:45 and pass out?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Even for me the level of stress has been high at work lately. I ended up visiting The Twin a few weeks ago for a weekend, and when I got back on Sunday I discovered that one of my profs had decided to surprise us with a lab. So on the following Monday and Tuesday I was up at the local observatory trying to figure out why the camera suddenly stopped taking images and hauling on a giant 100 year old telescope and praying that the tracking gears didn't turn off by the time we finally got things in focus. I stayed up there until 3am both nights, and we had so much trouble with some of the data that we had to trim some of the parts off the lab, but on the plus side we got some sweet images of Jupiter and resolved a lovely binary despite it being smaller than the seeing would allow.

Scientific aside:
(What I mean by that is that the atmosphere is full of fluctuations that keep you from distinguishing really small things, like two stars that are very very close together. Ie, binaries. Basically the atmosphere bumps your image around so much that you can't distinguish between a point of light that might've come from one star or a point that'd come from the other. But... there are secret methods! Speckle interferometry, specifically. You see the atmosphere is lumpy and tangled and turbulent, but it acts kind of like a whole bunch of lenses (like from your glasses) spread fairly evenly across the sky. So you can use those lenses and some statistical methods to pick out which points of light belong to which of the two stars in a binary and thus figure out how far apart they are! fun!)

Anyway, the Wednesday after that was the day before a large homework set was due so I stayed up until 4am finishing it. Thursday night I started working on the huge set due on Monday, but I also had to plan the picnic, which took up all of Friday and Saturday. Sunday I came in and worked until 3am, Monday until 4am. Tuesday I got home by 2am, and last night (this morning) by 4am.

So basically, sleep deprivation is prevalent, and now I have to start a new lab, a proposal, and a homework set.

It's very strange, though. Once I finish a homework set (especially a big one like I just turned in), a great calm envelopes me. It's cathartic--just letting go and being free. Even if I have a ton of other stuff piling up around me, for a few minutes anyway I feel rested and relaxed.

This weekend I am going to buy a cheap, small laptop from someplace like walmart or AT&T or something. we're talking $200, for reals now.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What bothers me the most

I think what really bothers me the most about being in my field is the fact that most people are convinced that there isn't a problem.

Even here, where I've found a welcoming environment and classes I enjoy and challenging, interesting research--even here we have at most 3 female faculty and 1 African-American. Even here, there's a lack of parity in admitted graduate students, and at every other level.

These people are SCIENTISTS. Look at the data! And don't try that "Well, [x group of minorities] just don't seem to be interested in the field." Scientist, remember? Ask why! Look for causes and correlations. Try experimental techniques (like putting some of x group on your recruiting posters, or nominating them for awards, or hiring them). Plot results. Repeat experiments. TRY.

Instead I get the "shrug", or the "yeah" and moving on, or, *shudder* worse yet, the "Well, I wish there were more of x group as well." Yeah, some of your best friends are x group too, right?


Autumn has come at last. The fall air closes its crisp mouth over the auburn and cinnamon leaves. Outside, decades of pine needles lay gathered like straw colored hair, sweetening in the sun. The air without sun has a bite to it, and the air full of sun is yellow as sunset, waiting for winter to gather.

Last week at my food coop I got apple cider, more broccoli than you can shake a stick at, honey, 2 lbs of apples, 2 lbs of potatoes, sprouts, and bibb lettuce. oh, and a pumpkin!

too bad I can't make pie out of it--it's too big. But I will carve it and roast its seeds and love it and call it George.

In other news: homework eats me alive. I have to finish a huuuuge lab report for Tuesday, and a huuuuge homework set for Monday. And then there's the weekly medium-huge homework set for Thursday, and meetings galore, my flu shot this week, I need to reduce data from my thesis, I should write letters and call people, mail packages, get kittens, go shopping, go to the halloween party, clean and organize my apartment, study, learn, study some more.... oh, did I mention I started my research? It looks pretty neat! But you know, more time.

(I think my head may explode. If so, remember that I love you all and I am made of candy)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Yep. They're coming to eat you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Delicious food and deadly homework

I was here until 4am this morning, and came back after 3.5 hours of sleep. nrrrr. But I also got permission to turn in the programming/graphing part of the homework in before today is over. So; yay for that!

On a more positive side: a fantastic haul from the CSA this week!

1/2 gallon apple cider (!!!)
1 giant turnip (stew!)
5 radishes (what am I going to DO with them?)
2/3 lb of green beans, 1 lb of roma tomatoes (nom!)
1 lb of red apples of some sort
2 jalapenos (oh, shoot!)
2 heads of bibb lettuce (the guinea pig rejoices. So do I!)
1 dozen beautiful eggs
1 lb of granola (I have so much granola that I am going to start making granola bars with melted peanut butter)
2 loaves of bread (I splurged with my store credit... don't know why I got two, but they look great!)
3 small loaves of pumpkin bread (! these are like the mini-loaves from the farmer's market back home. They're very delicious, as I have not had so many baked goods in recent times)
2 zucchini (I am SO making walnut zucchini bread this weekend)

They had walnuts and chestnuts, too, but I didn't get any because I don't know if I could crack them--I don't have a cracker, nor a mallet. Might be challenging.

Last night I made tacos and today, a salad. Things are looking up, foodwise.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sweet, Sweet, Spacey Freedom

I got my cast off! Success on all fronts! the ankle is sore and the muscle has disappeared (!) but I've done a lot of walking in the last couple days and I think that's helping.

This has been a productive weekend of getting ready for life, since we had a break here and for reasons unknown to me the homework content for this week went down. I kind of view it as starting over at the beginning of the semester. I purchased a carpet, a dining room table, appropriate clothing for work, and a new lamp. And I got my hair cut and decided to try a perm for the first time (boy is it WEIRD). I also started a new knitting project (doh!) and made good progress on scarf #1 out of 2. I frogged #3 and will have to start it over (but I got some black yarn now, so I think that will go well with the dark purple. Somehow.).

I also gave some serious thought to getting some kitties. There are two brothers at one of the local shelters who are pretty young, and adorable. I think, however, that I might just have to wait until next year, when I live in a better place. Or... until I have more money. Also I worry that the guinea pig will be sad because I will pay less attention to her. And I love the little piggy. Even if she's a spoiled brat sometimes.

Today I tried something exciting with my squash. I call it spice cake:

Squash Spice Cake

2 c flour
1 1/4 c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (1/2 c) of butter
1-2 cups of boiled, mashed, skinned squash (I used 2 small yellow squash for this and did my best to pick out the seeds. Not sure why.)

1) mix eggs, milk, and butter until relatively smooth.
2) in a separate bowl, blend/sift/stir flour, sugar, cinnamon, spices, soda, and salt until well mixed.
3) Pour dry mix into wet mix slowly while beating. Beat until smooth or uniform
4) add squash and mix well.
5) pour in a greased 9x13 or whatever type of pan you like and cook for 40 min at 350 degrees.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Tonight there will be joy!

Eggrolls with Napa Cabbage:

This is based off of many other web recipes. They all pretty much run the same, so I thought it might be beneficial to post one here.

1/2 lb or 6 cups shredded or finely chopped napa cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/2 cup finely chopped/minced onion (the sweet cooking onions work great for this)
1/4 cup chopped sweet pepper (to taste, really)
1/4 tsp garlic powder (it's hard to get fresh garlic to distribute as evenly as the powder)
1/8 tsp chili powder (or more if you feel bold--you can also use a bit of finely chopped hot pepper)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 or 2 eggs
2 dozen egg roll wrappers
1 or 2 tablespoons of cornstarch slowly added to with water, to seal the wrappers. (you can also use a lightly beaten egg to seal the edges, though it's messy)

1) Mix up all your vegetables, soy sauce, garlic and chili powders until well distributed (a big salad fork works well).

2) Scramble your eggs together and cook them in a medium heat skillet. Chop them up finely once cooked. Add to vegetable mix and stir gently. You can mix in a 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch here if you want, to hold things together

3) Lay out your wrappers. (I find it easier to do these all at once before step 4, but if there are two of you working you can have one person fill and the other person fry). Add 2 tablespoons of filling to a wrapper (or use your best judgement here--you'll soon discover how much is too much). Apply the beaten-egg or cornstarch-water glue to the edges of the wrapper and roll it up. It should mostly hold together--if not, use more. I prefer to use my fingers for this, since it's more precise, but you can use a spoon.

4) Fry in hot oil until golden brown (remember to roll if you're using a skillet). Put them out on paper towels to drain.

and Nom! Tasty egg rolls for you!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Magneto Awkwardynamics

At the beginning of class today, as one student went off in search of another who hadn't shown yet, my professor made a comment that the first one was using "the Chinese social link".

I'm feeling guilty for not speaking up, but to be fair I wasn't entirely sure what he was referring to. Still, if this is one of those "they're all Asian students so they must all be connected" thing, I think my anger is a bit justified.

In other news, I'm a big frickin hypocrite, as I ... um... well... accidentally insulted another professor today (?!). I was endeavoring to make a joke when he was explaining why one equation looked a certain way on the board (he eventually said that "we all have our little obsessive-compulsive tendencies" or something; I had suggested the word "neuroticisms" when he was hesitating), and it went... awkwardly. Joy for my voice recorder, which now has that whole conversation on tape. *facepalm*

Finally: what do you do when someone you don't know tries to flag you down in the car in broad daylight? Especially when you're going slow and full eye contact is made? (here's a hint: no easy answer, and they're all bound to be embarrassing).

I've had my share of incredibly awkward experiences, but I have to admit that most of the time it's not my fault that people ask me crazy stuff. (There was a random guy who proposed to me on the street; or the guy who wanted me to call an apartment for him and find out if his ex girl was still working there).

So, share your awkward, weird public or private experience?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cooking Therapy

So, after becoming overwhelmed with work, I had to find a way to take a break. And something other than the addicting internets would be best. So, lo and behold, in steps my Community Shares Agriculture with my bi-weekly food shares. This week I picked up:

1.6 oz garlic (yay!)
2 heads of bibb lettuce
1 lb of concord grapes
2 lbs of apples (apples! awesome!)
one ENORMOUS head of Nappa Cabbage. This takes up 1 shelf in the fridge by itself!
2 small yellow squashes of some sort.
4 orange sweet peppers
2 lbs of sweet potatoes
1 dozen beautiful eggs
1 pound of the most amazing granola I've ever had

and using some of my credit from coming late to the season I got a loaf of bread and 2 lbs of cooking onions.

Pics to follow.

I stirfried a leaf of the cabbage with olive oil, garlic, and chopped onion. I think it turned out all right. probably too much olive oil. Then I crushed the grapes and made fresh grape juice. I know, it's a sin right? concord grapes? I killed them? but I did. The skins are so tough and the flesh is so chewy and the seeds are so big and the flavor is AMAZING that this was the best plan. And it was cold and sweet and delicious, so, win!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stellar Awesome Red Jeans!

Graduate School has risen from the depths like some many-fanged beastie and consumed me. I can just hear the music: duuun DUN...duuuun DUN.... DUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUN!. (or insert Jaws theme here if you can't translate that). Literally, however, I just do not have enough time for everything. I have homework due Friday, and chapters of reading to do to understand it; programming and a new homework set due Monday or so next week; and a new homework set in the never-ending, perpetual-tuesday-homework series. And I have to organize papers for my first TA job, find a grader for my second TA job, and contact my professor for my third TA job. And I need to reduce data for my work this summer, and fix my computer so I can get AT that data.

On top of that, my Arecibo proposal is coming up in about a week and I don't think I can ask my collaborators to look at it overnight. And I am thinking about putting in a second proposal for some supplementary data to the Arecibo proposal. Additionally, I need to pick a research topic for my research credits this semester. And I have to give a talk next week Tuesday. And tomorrow I have to pick up my food and my packages, and I wanted to go look at kittens but I don't think I'll have time.

And I should study so the homeworks don't kill me as much every week, and write letters to my family, and thank you letters to my undergraduate scholarship places so they know what happened to me.

And I need to clean my apartment and my car and buy a rug and vacuum and finish unpacking and set up the books and my desk and move my couch and do the dishes...


Friday, September 11, 2009

Knitting things!

One of my favorite web-zines,, just updated to their September issue. They have free patterns and contests, so it's worth signing up.

I'm especially excited by this Hex Pattern, which more than ever convinces me that I really want to start knitting lace. I like nice warm scarfs and all, but I really want to make beautiful flowing ponchos and shawls for my wardrobe, and I think getting the thinnest of yarns and using lace patterns is the best way to do this. If you've ever heard of Eunny Jang and her Print o the Wave stole, you might know why I'm interested: it's GORGEOUS! Eunny's main site is my introduction to lacemaking.

The main inhibitors? Time and Money, as always. I'm currently up to my elbow in three scarves, and they're luscious, and it's the right season for scarves anyway. I'd like to finish them before I start lacing. And of course, I'm going to need different needles and yarn (maybe even thread) for lace. But I am nonetheless excited about it.

Here's a task for you today:
Set yourself a short knitting goal. (Mine is to make a lace bookmark). You have one month! Post and let me know what your goal is and keep track of your progress!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

So Much New

New Things:

New City:
That's right, I've moved away from the land of quality cheese and adequate popcorn, to the land of delicious cherries and no popcrn whatsoever. I live in a Small Town now. I realized this when I went for a drive last week and determined that there really isn't much else besides what branches off of the main road. Now the main road is quite long and there is a lot of shopping, and the university is at the end of it... but really, if you go anywhere else (okay, maybe follow one cross street) there's nothing there. In half an hour drive I start seeing signs like "Watch for Fog on Mountain". Mountain? that explains why my car's been groaning for the past 10 minutes. Poor vehicle--it doesn't like inclines, and we're surrounded by them.

On the other hand, the view is great. So many trees that there are rabbitholes everywhere. Beautiful star shaped flowers grow along the edges of the parking lot and pool into some of the spaces, filling the air with a sweet scent in the mornings. At dusk I get the cicada effect--it reminds me of Puerto Rico, the way all the insects call out to the dying light. You can even hear it indoors. And coming down a mountain, the land falls away like a blanket, and you can see forever.

New Field:
That's right, I've converted to Astronomy fully now. Sort of. Actually there is not in fact that much difference between Astronomy and Physics. I mean it! I mean, the topics we cover are clearly astronomically focused, and yet at the same time we're delving into and expanding thermal physics and gas dynamics. I will admit that the approach is different--look at the labs! Last week I spent 4 hours in the doghouse at the university's local observatory, with a huge brilliant moon ruining the seeing and stars like pinpricks and the wind blowing fresh and cold above us, squinting through different eyepieces of a 6" refractor. AWESOME! so much better than shoving little resistors and capacitors into a breadboard and wondering why the hell my signal is still zero. And in November the department is taking the entire lab class out to Kitt Peak to do onsite observing and touring of various telescopes there.
New People:
Well, I miss my friends and family like nothing else. It's crazy to come home alone and just be myself in my big empty, boxed and unsettled apartment. But the people here are very nice. Albeit I've only met the ones in the department, but the level of welcome is almost unbelievable. And when I compare it to the physics department back home--well let's just say there are quite a few differences. I haven't found a new advisor yet, though I'm meeting with a guy next week who does cosmology instrumentation (woo!).
New Experiences:
Besides learning how to deal with the heat and humidity, figuring out how to keep my car from overheating, learning to drive in NYC (where Twin lives) and pay tolls and park (it's all confusing there), I've managed to sprain my ankle when I.... um... dove from this burning building to save 18 kittens and a bird. That's right. Anywho, I have a cast on and have learned how to walk with crutches. It's a big pain in the ass, but I'm getting pretty good at it. Fortunately, I should be able to have the cast off this Friday and then, who knows, a walking boot or something?
I've also signed up for a local Community Shares Agriculture, and I get my first batch of food tonight! I don't know what I'm going to get, but I'll let you know tomorrow and also update you on what I plan to do with it. If I can get some baking soda, vinegar, cooking wine and cooking sherry, I should be equipped to cook almost anything!

I've taken a passionate interest in scarves, and am currently working on three of them. Yes, I realize that's a bit excessive. I'll share more as I get some pictures, but one is a beautiful brown and orange, my first time doing stripes, the second is turquoise blue in the Ocean Current pattern (from that book of patterns inspired by the ocean), and the third is purple in a design I'm inventing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This is me. I had my wisdom teeth out yesterday. My cheeks are so big that I can see them when I glance down. I feel like I've packed them with nuts in preparation for winter.

I had laughing gas (nitrous oxide... let's see, that would be NO3, right?) to put me under, and let me tell you, that was the trippiest experience of my life. The room started to spin and my arms and legs started to tingle and it felt like I was moving in slow motion and the dentist and his assistant were at x20 speed. I closed my eyes and the darkness and the weird 70s music and my body all blurred together in one giant spiral, spinning in on each other, and then they did things in my mouth. And then I opened my eyes, a little more oriented, to find out that they were only done with the first stage. There were at least two more stages of them cramming things between my teeth, and a stage where the assistant kept pushing on my jaw and nearly closed off my trachea in her efforts. And there were drills and pliers and other things. But the most important part was that it was fine. A little freaky with the crunching noises, but not that big of a deal.

When they were done and after they had x-rayed me and I'd come up out of the gas I cried just a little bit--not because it hurt, but because it had all been so much, and they'd left me alone and I was worried and scared and disoriented. I would say that having someone to pick you up and help you get your prescriptions and get you home and settled is the most important thing. Mom and I don't get along real well but it was really good to see someone who knew me and cared about me when I was ready to leave.

Surprisingly, I found myself quite well able to talk, and now (about 22 hours later), the numbness is gone (even though my root was exposed and they were worried about long term numbness). However, I have to admit that I am RAVENOUS. I can't even eat soup for another 3 hours, so all I've had is 4 milkshakes in the past 24 hours. And a pudding cup. No straws. Seriously, though, I would kill to get down a vasty cheeseburger with sauteed mushrooms and crispy onions. And some bacon on the side. Plus some potatoes.

Wisdom Teeth Food


Get a big glass.
Pack half full of ice cream of your favorite flavor (vanilla, or chocolate--no crunchy bits!)
Fill the rest with milk.
Stir until it's a good texture.
Drink (no straw!)

Orange Smoothie: (for when you get sick of milkshakes)

Freeze some vanilla yogurt
Chip out 1/3 of a big glass of vanilla frozen yogurt (or vanilla ice cream might work--but at this point in time you probably need protein! go for the yogurt!)
Add a half cup of milk
Fill the rest of the glass with orange juice.
Stir until it reaches a creamy consistency.
Drink (no straw!)

Soon I'm going to upgrade to soup. I can't wait. :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Juicy Chicken Dilemma

I have a problem, and that problem is chicken. I want to like chicken--I really do! As fowls go, it's readily available and reasonably healthy AND can be purchased without bones if need be.

But I can't for the LIFE of me cook a juicy chicken breast. Without frying it. Frying is cheating and also not very healthy.

I tried, really I did. I dug around to find recipes on the internet and combined a few of them to come up with my own garlic-paprika crusted chicken. Theoretically it doesn't matter what you put on your chicken, at least when it comes to how the chicken itself cooks, right? Turns out that's not true, but ANYWAY. I love paprika and I love garlic. So I tossed in a few other items--all of which are delicious--and it LOOKED great when I pulled it out of the oven!

But it was dry on one end and medium-dry at the other end. Shootshootshoot. Does anyone have any advice? Perhaps if I'd cooked it for less time...

Parmesan, Garlic, and Paprika Crusted Chicken

1/2 cup of bread crumbs
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, shredded or crumbled
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped ( 1/2 tbsp of minced garlic will also work, but not garlic salt)
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 to 2 boneless chicken breasts
1/8 cup olive oil
tin/aluminum foil

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Clean and trim the chicken breasts. Maybe even flatten them. place each individual breast on an individual tin foil packet big enough to wrap over and close around them. paint or drizzle them with the olive oil.

2) Mix bread crumbs, paprika, and parmesan on a large plate until evenly distributed.

3) Roll the breasts through the dry mixture and deposit them back in their foil.

4) Sprinkle the chopped garlic on top of the chicken and the chopped onion around the chicken. Drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil if you like. If you want more of a bite, dust some more paprika on top.

5) Close the packets and bake the chicken for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Now, when I was done, I had to add
6) broil on high for 45 seconds
because the breadcrumb mixture was a bit soggy. Perhaps this is why my own chicken turned out dry. Maybe I broiled too long.

I know this recipe would probably turn out very tasty if the chicken was sliced, rolled, and quickly fried in a pan with oil. But I really wanted to try baking. And it looks lovely. So... any tips on keeping chicken moist?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm a real scientist!

I feel a bit like Pinocchio when I say that. But it also feels good. When I was down at Arecibo Observatory finishing up last summer's research, I had a great time. I did finish the new receiver (relatively speaking--it was being installed on the platform last thing I heard), AND I teamed up with some collaborators who are staff scientists to submit an observing proposal! Observing proposals are requests for telescope time--if I'm awarded it, I can use the telescope for my nefarious scientifically-motivated plans. Heh.

I've started a new knitting project, but it's going badly. I'm using circular needles for the first time ever and... well... okay to be fair I'm also trying to make a hat for the first time ever. And I'm not following a design--I'm trying to do something logical. It seems to make sense to me that if you want a nice round winter hat, you just knit and knit and decrease after a while. And continue decreasing. Okay, it might turn out pointy, but still, it should work! right? I guess we'll find out.

Uncovered a neat new band: Sensuous Enemy, which is apparently a dark techno band. Also there's a band called Battles whom I am really starting to like (I heard the song Atlas at a friend's house). They are creepy but neat.

The kittens are doing well. No new pictures of them instead so I give you the following:

Yeah, the kittens are kind of like that. Cute, but dumb. The Twin and I visited the kitten store, which has many small kittens running around. They are very small and snuggly and they love to curl up and purr--but it doesn't last long. Soon they are tearing through the store after a piece of string.

Apartment hunting goes well. I think I know where I will end up in fall--just need to call and arrange. Try as hard as I might, I haven't really been able to use logic in these decisions. I honestly visited a dozen places when I went searching, and while I can logically explain and rank each of them (I have a complicated system based on four criteria: cost, location, like, and pet-friendliness), I still knew almost as soon as I saw the apartment which one I was going to go with. It's not even that it's significantly nicer than the others--my brain just appears to have gone, "want!" and away we go.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tales from Food Science Land

Just studying for my food science exam tomorrow, and I came across some useful advice. Lots of it, actually, but here's a sampling:

Eat More Soy: Soy is damn good for you. First off, it gets you protein without any of the pesky extra cholesterol (which comes from animal products only). Second, soy contains phytoestrogen, which, like it sounds, is shaped a bit like estrogen, that hormone that both men and women have. The accumulated effects of estrogen in the ovaries or mammary glands (yes, for guys too--guys can and do get breast cancer) is related to increased rates of cancer in these areas.
So what can Soy do for you? Well those phytoestrogens, like I said, are shaped like estrogen, so they can get stuck in places where estrogen might normally stick, blocking the effects of estrogen. So they help reduce risks for ovarian and breast cancer.

By the way, I hate tofu, miso, and most soy-based sauces. And soy milk is nasty to me (what can I say? I like cow milk). So how does one get soy into one's diet when one does not like these things? Or how about healthy alternatives for picky kids?

For me the best way is edamame which is frankly delicious and super easy to make.

Delicious and Fun Soy for Kids (and Adults too!)
1 cup frozen soy beans in pod.
2+ cups of water.

Bring the water to a vigorous boil. Add the frozen soy beans (try to get the unsalted kind--like we need more sodium in our diet, right?) and bring it back to a boil. Boil for 7-10 minutes or until beans are no longer ... crunchy. Salt to taste (or don't--they're delicious without it!) and eat. Don't eat the shell. I mean, you can, they're not *deadly* or anything, they're just very fibrous and tough and not tasty at all.

Fun for kids 'cause you can pop them out of their little shells at each other like BB guns.

I absolutely love edamame--to the point where it's starting to take the place of snack foods like crackers and chips in my diet. Slowly but surely!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Today is the day to learn LaTeX!

Well not much to learn really--I found a site of LaTeX Commands and how to use them and I'm going to follow them and use them when appropriate. Going to type up my work for the Thermal Project and see how that works out.

If you are new to LaTeX you might consider using Jext as your word processor. It includes lots of options for markup and will color the appropriate commands--so you can use it to see if you are doing things right.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thermal Physics Project

I begin work on my project for thermal physics this week. It's due Friday--I know, I am running late. Sometimes that's the way things work.

Requirements: 3 pages of work/writing/calculations "on a problem." Not very specific!

What I intend to do: Rederive neutron stars in some fashion. Or just degenerate stars. Or maybe just play along with the equilibrium equation of a star and see what happens.

In any given star you've got something pushing out (radiation pressure) and something pulling in (gravitational force/unit area = gravitational pressure). For a star like our sun, these are about equal--the material's trying to fall into the center of the sun due to gravity, but it keeps running into other stuff and, eventually, combining with that other stuff to make new stuff + energy/light, which pushes everything back out.

Now for all stars, eventually you're going to run out of stuff that can combine and make energy. You've started with something light, probably hydrogen or at most helium, and run hydrogen into more hydrogen to make helium, and helium into hydrogen to make, oh, Lithium or something like that. And then you run that into something else and so on until you end up with iron.

Now the problem with iron is that when you run iron atoms together, or iron + a hydrogen, or iron + anything else, it doesn't release energy when they smack together and stick. Instead, it starts to cost energy to smack those things together and make them stick. The star doesn't want to do this, because it's lazy, like all things. It doesn't want to put in the work. Or perhaps more imagine it that it is not human so it can't have human emotions like "motivation" and "inspiration." there's nothing around to make it do that extra work to make those things stick.

What does that mean? Well eventually you're going to have lots of iron, but it's not going to be making new things + energy, so the radiation pressure, the energy that was pushing it out, falls off and disappears. But gravity is definitely still working, and it is still going to try to pull things together.

Now here is where things get fuzzy. I know you get the following: some sort of large boomish sort of event, followed by some sort of condensing of the core. The star repels its envelope, the hot outer gas and material. Whether it does this via going supernova (and blowing up the rest of the star, too), or just by pushing the envelope off and letting the rest of the core fall in on itself (to become a white dwarf or a neutron star or a black hole, depending on its mass), I am not sure. So I don't know precisely how this works. Why would it push that stuff off first? why not just let all of that stuff fall in? Observational evidence says it doesn't (otherwise how could something small like the earth get big nuclei like those for cobalt or iron? we're not hot enough to make them--we must have "rolled up" remnants of blown-off star bits)

UPDATE: well, investigating. We'll see what happens

The Best Astronomy Pictures

If you don't already know about it, you should take a look at Astronomy Picture of the Day, which you can find by google-searching APOD. As you can see, it's quite beautiful. I love to save some of the pictures and use them as my desktop background. One of my favorite type of images are those that use prolonged exposure, like the one from Friday:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Knitting and pictures

Newbie Ribbed Scarf:

So I started knitting, not this past winter holiday season, but the one before. I borrowed my older sister's Stitch 'n Bitch book while we were at her house for holiday. It was a fun read and I figured out how to cast on right away. Then I promptly put it away and forgot about it. Two weeks later--after unraveling many things and putting them back together--I started a nice ambitious newbie project--a ribbed scarf. It is quite skinny--only 30 stitches across--with k-3, p-3 as the pattern. And it ended up loooong! I wanted it to go around my neck once and come back to the front, which it does, but it's definitely half again as long as I am tall. At least. Okay, I'm short, it's true, but still, this is beastly long in size. Maybe 8 feet.

I like this as a newbie to knitting, and I think it is a good simple pattern for other newbies because it teaches you how to do several things: the knit stitch, the pearl stitch, and how to move between knit and pearl (because you have to move the thread to the back when you are done pearling and to the front when you are done knitting).

The fun thing about knitting is that once you get into a pattern you can do it in the dark. You can feel it with your fingers as you knit. You don't have to watch--though I usually did--you can do other things with your mouth and eyes. Like watch TV. And talk. Or, you know, sing. :)

Want the precise pattern? leave me a comment and I'll see if I can dredge something up, though like I said it seems to run, "cast on, knit 3, pearl 3, repeat until tired."


I think goals and dreams are both important things to have. And I want to learn to push my boundaries, to challenge myself. So heretofore, before I leave for Graduate School, I am going to try something new:

Knitting Goal for Summer 2009: I want to try double-pointed needles to knit in the round. Probably a hat in that lovely paprika color, or maybe some socks.

Cooking Goal for Summer 2009: I want to find and bake one recipe off of TasteSpotting, that most delicious of websites. Maybe with lemon curd. Lemon curd sounds delicious.

Writing Goal for Summer 2009: I want to submit my poetry with intent to publish. R. says it's ready--it would be nice to see it show up somewhere.

Astronomy Goal for Summer 2009: I want to buy and read The Physical Universe by Shu.

and, for fun, Nerdy Goal for Summer 2009: finish either Okami or Final Fantasy X.

There. I feel productive.

Quick and Easy Breakfast

Here's a quick and easy breakfast in the morning:

1 large egg (70cals)
2 slices of your favorite cheese--sharp cheddar for me! (~100 cals). If you are feeling adventurous, try cream cheese
1/2 whole wheat bagel (~130 cals)
1 tsp of water

Try to eat whole wheat when you can. It has a lot of vitamins in it. Enriched flour has had vitamins or minerals added to it that were not there originally. Fortified flour has had extra vitamins or minerals added to it, usually to replace nutrients lost during processing.

Put a skillet on medium-low heat and crack the egg into it. Open the yolk so it spreads out on the top. Split and toast the bagel--in another skillet if you must--and put the cheese on one half. When the egg white has turned... well, white... and is no longer very runny if you poke it, toss the 1 tsp of water onto the skillet and cover for 1-2 minutes. Remove the cover. If there is excess water remaining on the skillet, pour it out. Flip your egg over for 1 minute, then add on top of the cheese.

voila! sandwich!

What is your favorite fruit?

I love fruit. It's pretty healthy and it is darned tasty to boot. I am not very good at cooking with it yet, but I will eat it plain anyway.

So favorites?

Cherries. Absolutely at the top. I love their flavor and texture and juice.

Blackberries may be my favorite berry--though fresh raspberries make for stiff competition. Strawberries are very good, but the dark sweetness of blackberries is a little more appealing.

Otherwise, pears (I had one for breakfast this morning!), apples, pineapple if fresh, papaya, oranges. I don't much like oranges--too much work, and too much mess.

Cooking, Knitting, Writing, Astronomy

Why do you knit?

I love the power in being able to make things for myself--the ability to create something beautiful. and with yarn, no less! I'm a newbie at this, so I'll share tips that I uncover as I learn.

Why do you cook?

One of the best ways to lose weight is to cook your own food.

For one, you can better control the size of what you eat.
Next, you gain a better understanding of what goes into the foods you enjoy. Balance that with a reasonable amount of understanding and you can figure out healthy substitutes.
When you splurge, such as at a fast food restaurant, you are more likely to go overboard--to not only get a burger and fries, but dessert as well. This is less likely in your own home.
When you eat at home, you are more likely to be eating leisurely--taking your time to cook and prepare your food. You can notice more easily when you are full.
Finally, you can better track and regulate your intake in your own home.

It takes 3500 food calories to gain or lose a pound. This is true whether you avoid carbohydrates or bacon. Eat 3500 less calories than you burn, and you lose a pound. Eat 3500 more, and you gain. It's That Simple.

I'll share my favorite recipes, my new attempts, my food thoughts and joys, and all the fun cooking failures that crop up anyway.

Why do you write?

Oh, that's an easy one: because I have to. Tips for writers will follow. Once I find them. heh.

Why do astronomy?

I absolutely love knowing how the world works; but when it comes to understanding new things, nothing's really quite as fascinating as the sky. I mean, you've a good probability for anything you look at that it'll explode, right? How cool is that?!