Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A carrot is a carrot is a carrot...?

I spend about 50% of my day listening to WBEZ. My commute is mostly done standing on a moving bus and my experiments are highly repetitive. I need the company of NPR to get me through it all. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE NPR, but I've become that annoying person that starts all new topics of conversation with "I was listening to NPR..." or "I heard an interesting interview on NPR..." or "I must be supper smart because a guy on NPR believes the same thing as me..." or "Blah, blah, blah..." That being said, I heard an interesting interview on NPR discussing the role of cooking in evolution. The simplified hypothesis from this interview states that Humans evolved the way that we did (ie developing smaller mouths, smaller intestines, smarter brains compared to our primate cousin) and gained evolutionary advantage (function at a higher level) as a result of the fact that we cook our food. Basically, cooking makes us human. There is a little bit of the chicken or the egg feeling in this argument, but for the sake of this post lets go with it.

Cooking our food allows us humans to actually obtain more net energy from our food because we don't have to send hours gnawing at a hunk of raw meat or processing leafy greens. The anthropologist described two studies to back up his story. The first paper he alluded to was a study (Oka et al., 2003) of two groups of rats. Group 1 was fed normal pellets and group 2 was fed a softer, air puffed version of the same pellet. Both group were fed the same total number of Calories and all results were normalized to exercise. At the end of 26 weeks, it turns out that the soft food group was (statistically) significantly fatter than the control. The post-eating temperature of the soft-fed rats were lower than the hard-fed, suggesting that the metabolism of the hard-fed rats is 'working harder.' The conclusions drawn by the actual researchers and the NPR dude from this experiment are slightly different. The rat guys hypothesize that the different in weight comes more from neurological cues from the act of eating the different textured pellets and Mr. NPR says that the lower temperature comes from the little rat body not having to work as hard to process the softer pellet. I find both interpretations interesting.

The second scientific article (Evenepoel et al., 1999) that is mentioned was slightly more relevant to the argument that cooking food changes the caloric energy that is obtained by humans from food. The researchers in the study labeled eggs and tracked them through human digestion and determined the amount of protein absorbed by the small intestines as a function of whether or not the egg was cooked. There was a 30% difference in the amount of protein that escaped digestion within the small intestine between the two eggs, with the cooked egg having almost 95% of labeled proteins digested in the small intestine. This brings up the question of what cooking food actually does to the nutritional or energy value of foods. According to this thinking, the old dogma of 'a calorie is a calorie is a calorie' does not quite hold up. Cooking may change the amount of net energy we get from food whether the caloric discrepancy comes from our metabolism working harder with uncooked foods or that the energy from the harder to metabolize raw food isn't processed during the relatively short time it is in our digestive tract.

So what does all this mean? Well as with all science, especially science covered in the media, these results and hypotheses should be taken with a grain of salt. What I take from this discussion is an affirmation that we need to be more cognizant of what we eat and how we eat it. I am by no means at all saying that we should al be on the "raw foods diet." Our bodies evolved to eat cook food and we need it to get the energy necessary to function properly (as mentioned in the podcast, women on the "raw foods diet" often stop menstruating because they do not get sufficient energy from their diet). I do think, however, that we need to cut back on the processed foods and let our bodies do some of the processing. Those mashed up, freeze dried carrots that are puffed into chip like things are probably not as good for your body as an unprocessed carrot, period. Anyways, I thought this was interesting food for thought.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Dreaded Giggle Loop

The Time Traveler's Wife made me cry. Scratch that, it made me bawl. The end got me even though I knew everything that was going to happen in the movie before I even took the turkey sandwiches that we had smuggled in to the theatre out of my oversized purse. So here I am in a crappy theatre on a Tuesday night (free small popcorn night), surrounded by a theatre of women (with a strangely high percentage of lesbians), sitting next to my boyfriend with my nose running and tears streaming down my face. Then it happened, the giggle loop. I took one look at Mike and he saw the helpless embarrassment behind my shameless tears and we both started to giggle. The giggles got worse and before I knew it, we where laughing. The inappropriate nature of our laughing made us laugh harder. I was uncontrollably laughing between uncontrollable sobs, Mike was just laughing. Yup, we were the jackasses laughing out loud during the tragic climax of a chick flick. Damn you Giggle Loop!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Best of Chicago

As of today I have been an official Chicago resident for one year. It’s amazing, I move 5 miles and the city opened up to me. In Evanston I was bound by the silly Purple line and going into the city almost seemed like a chore. Now we explore. The city buses no longer intimidate me. I feel a connection to my neighborhood. We go on missions to seek out the best sandwich, the best pizza in the city.

So to commemorate my city living, I present you my 2009 best of Chicago.

Best Coffee Shop

Metropolis @ 1039 W. Granville Avenue, Edgewater

This little coffee shop roasts their own beans, has rotating local art on the walls and is less than a mile's walk from our apartment. Metropolis will also go down in our history books as the location where Mike wrote most of his doctoral thesis.

Best Restaurant

Lula Cafe @ 2537 N. Kedzie Boulevard, Logan Square

I love Lula. It has fresh, local food put together with ease. Their menu has a good mix of higher end and more affordable food. The best food in Chicago without any pretension along with it.

Favorite Shop or Boutique

Andersonville Galleria @ 5247 N Clark St, Andersonville

With four floors and 90 merchants, the Galleria is like a mini Chicago Etsy shoved into a sun-filled old warehouse. If I had more money I'd shop here all the time, get handmade clothes, jewelery, make-up, art.

Favorite Chicago Tourist Attraction

Millennium Park @ N. Michigan Avenue & the Lake, Downtown

The architecture, the concerts, the people watching, a marvelous view of the skyline and now a bridge to the new modern wing of the Art Institute; Millennium Park has it all.

Hidden Treasure

Chicago Cultural Center @ 78 E Washington St, Downtown

Now home to the Chicago Cultural Center, the old public library is beyond beautiful. If all libraries were this magical cartoons would be unnecessary and every kid would be an avid reader.

Favorite Sports Team

The Chicago Blackhawks

Although Wrigley Field is pretty awesome, I still like the Blackhawks better than the Cubs.

More to come.....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Not funny, Yet hysterical.

I think that phdcomics are very funny and very unfunny at the same time. Sometime the comics on that page satirize my life a little too well, hit too close to home. I know this is the second comic I've shared in as many posts, but honestly I can't help it. I believe this comic is a direct paraphrase from a conversation I had last week with my sister... except that conversation didn't seem so silly and included stress filled tears. At least I can use the comic to give me a little prospective if not a laugh.

Friday, July 24, 2009

False Assumptions

Often in science, when trying to solve a difficult problem or model a complex system, researchers make simplifying assumptions. A good scientist will constantly reevaluate their assumptions to make sure they are still valid. As a community of scientist and researchers we need to begin to question whether the main assumption governing the current structure of academia is legitimate. We assume that because a person is smart enough to get a PhD, land a good postdoc position, publish some papers in high impact journals makes them a qualified teacher, manager and mentor. Currently, university faculty receive little to no direct training on how to be a professor. I actually find it had to believe that in most states you need a postgraduate degree in education to instruct kindergartners on how to say their ABCs but no training on effective teaching is needed to teach the future doctors, engineers, business superheros the intricacies of their respective trades. Tenured track university facility are also expected, immediately upon hiring, to create, run and fund a productive lab. From experience and observation, many principle investigators lack the managerial know how to effectively coordinate the efforts of their students. If research facility was given training on how to effectively run a lab research endeavors would progress forward at a far faster pace. AND if college professors were forced to focus on how to improve their teaching, the students that graduate from college and grad school will be better informed and possibly better members of society.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New things in the R.P.

Over the past few weeks Rogers Park has seen the opening of a few new things. Is this a sign of the economy getting better? I guess we will just have to wait to see.

First up, Royal Coffee. Good cheap coffee but the same old sandwiches as the previous cafe.

Next, the movie theatre that I wrote about in January has reopened. The New 400 is a dollar more expensive, doesn't have the BYOB (bring your own bag) but it's nice having a movie theatre that you can go to on a weeknight and be in bed 7 min after the movie ends.

Third, CVS opened right where I pick up the bus for work. I don't know why I am so excited about this opening but I AM! Their prices seem a little steep though...

No wonder my parents wouldn't buy us lunchables, they ARE expensive.

Finally, Rogers Park now has a Five Guys. Is it possible to overdose on French fries?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

iPhone app

In order to try and update more I impulse bought an iPhone app to help. I like BlogPress so far.

It even let's me easily post pictures. Alright back to work.... I get distracted easily when I try to work form home.

Orphaned blog

I know it's been a LONG time.... I bet the select few who actually read this blog thought that it had become part of the 95%... poor abandoned blogs. Well, my new goal is for a new post every week. Lets see if I can parent this blog again.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Turning Over a New Leaf

I love my neighborhood and after an accidental discovery made yesterday by Mike and me, I think I'm going to love it a bit more. Yesterday, after what has turned out to be our bi-Saturday trip to get fresh roasted coffee and to our local butcher (not to mention a quick stop at the fabric shop), we took a different route home and stumbled upon a tiny organic grocery shop. New Lief Grocery itself wasn't that exciting, a very small amount of organic fruits and veggies and a lot of packaged soy and gluten free products. However, the store is basically just a front for an organic co-op that offers weekly boxes of assorted fruits and vegetables for only $15 for 1-2 people. Awesome! You just put in your order a week ahead of time and BAAAM a assorted selection of locally grown produce. Hopefully this will help Mike and me be a bit more diverse and healthy in our weekly eating habits. I can't wait to pick up our first box but we will have to wait a week because we head to California to visit my Dad and Stepmom on Wednesday night! I'll try to give updates during our trip from my new fancy dancy iphone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Sorry for the hiatus in entries but I have really been trying to focus on lab work lately. Mostly, I have been trying to put together and write a paper. The key word in the previous sentence is ‘trying’. It has really been a struggle to just get words on paper and I feel that the words I have been able to spit out are inadequate. I feel my words and my work needs to be meatier but I’m having trouble beefing it up. I think that some of my graphophobia results from this being my first first-author publication and firsts always scare me a bit. As I admitted in my 16 facts, I’m afraid of being wrong or of people figuring out that I am not as smart as they believe me to be. I think a small neurotic part of me feels like this paper (or my inability to put it together) will be the proof that my fears are grounded in some sort of reality and it is really a mistake that I’ve made it this far in science. Okay, so I’m a little dramatic and have anxiety problems, I know, but it doesn’t make these feelings any less real. Well, either way, this has to get done soon. I’m hoping to have a rough draft to my adviser by Friday (I just have half the results and all of the discussion to write, blurg). Oh and I was told today that I have to present at group meeting next Wednesday. So, long story short, I probably wont be updating the blog much in the next week or so. Sorry.

Send me energy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Over it

Snow was once magical; it was powerful and mysterious. Snow could cause the world to stop or at least substantially slow down. The thought of impending snow had the ability to cancel school and clear grocery store shelves. I loved snow and welcomed it with open arms. As a child, and even a teen, I would even go as far as trying to invite snow to visit by wearing my pajamas inside out and backwards. The sight of snow made me giddy and made me feel as though anything could happen.

Not any more. Chicago has sucked away all of snow’s power and stripped away its magic. Snow is now just a nuisance, something that makes life more difficult and cold. Snow, I am so over you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Theatre Geek

Now that I’m back in the blogging mood, I would take a moment and thank my wonderful boyfriend for taking me out last night. He surprised me with theatre tickets. As a recovering theatre geek, I still have a very warm place in my heart for live theatre. Don’t Dress for Dinner was a very entertaining show albeit is was jammed pack with some stereotypical comedic theatre themes; the dumb blonde with a squeaky voice, miscommunication that leads to comical misunderstanding, multiple adulterous characters, an over the top French cook, … you get the point. Nevertheless, like a recovering alcoholic’s need for more and more alcohol after falling off the wagon, going to the theatre has unleashed the former theatre addict in me and I just want more and more theatre tickets. Luckily (or maybe unluckily) for me Chicago isn’t hurting for theatre. Mike, you may have created a monster.

Adventures in Sinusitis

I don’t want to make this statement prematurely, but I think I feel almost human. For the few of you out there who don’t know, I’ve been struggling with some serous sinus trouble. Who knew that a pluggy nose could knock you on your ass so badly? With a chronic sinus headache coupled with a case of winter blues, I’ve been in pretty bad shape for probably the past 3-4 weeks. I finally was able to see an ENT specialist this past Monday. After sticking a camera up my nose (yes, it’s as unpleasant as it sounds), he sent me home with corticosteroids, antibiotics, a referral to get allergy tested and an appoint to check back in a month. I think the drugs are working and I can even put up with the TERRIBLE taste in my mouth caused by the antibiotic because today I didn’t feel worthless, haven’t taken any painkillers, and was motivated enough in lab to do a bunch of cleaning that I have been putting off doing. Tomorrow I become a pincushion in the name of determining if the cause of my sinus issues is allergy related. Lets just hope I keep on improving and I can somehow keep this from happening again.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sew What?

I've been making pretty good use out of my sewing machine. So far I've made 4 pillows including 2 new pillows for our couch to match our new rug (pictures to come, hopefully sometime this week), yesterday I made an apron (I'll hopefully get a picture on here of that too) and I've made a few bags (pictures below). I'm really enjoying the creative outlet that these sewing projects are giving me. My research is pretty continuous with a big focus on the long term, so it's nice to be able to come home, start and finish a project, it gives a sense of closure and completeness that I'm lacking at work. And to top it all off, I think I'm making pretty cool stuff.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love muffins

Nothing like love muffins and a latte for breakfast!

May you find love everywhere you look....

Happy Valentines!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dakota Fanning is Cramping My Style

Mike and I watched The Secret Life of Bees tonight. A good movie, although not as good as the book. Is the movie ever as good as the book?

Anyways, I am not sure if I will watch any more movies with Mike that have Dakota Fanning in it because he is convinced that she looks like me and keeps pointing it out. Should I think it's strange that my boyfriend sees me when he looks at a 15 year old girl? Well at least he'll watch movies like Life of Bees with me with out complaining, I guess I shouldn't complain about Ms. Fanning cramping my style.

What do you think? Do we look alike?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Need More Bacon in Your Life?

Let see if the old adage is true, is everything better when you add bacon?

what about Perennially Bellis with a side of bacon?

Google bacon?
Chicago Police?
George Bush Bacon?

Need more bacon in your life? Baconize your web surfing!

Thanks to How About Orange for finding and posting this!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fiddler Crab

I am a little afraid that the experiments that I’ve been doing in lab lately will turn me in to the little guy pictured above. Not because we do crazy gene mutation in the lab (we don’t) or because I was bitten by a radioactive crab (I wasn’t), it’s because in the past two days I have I pipetted approximately 3637 times. That number isn’t a hyperbole, it’s an actual engineering estimate with an error of plus or minus 8. The experiment I started yesterday has 35 conditions that I deposit in quadruplicate on 5 different 384 well plates followed by seeding cells into each well of each condition, add in the initial reagent dilutions to total of pipetting approximately 1516 times, then today I pipette in to each well of each plate 3 times in order to first induce a signaling pathway and then to image the response, add in a few extra uses of the pipette to dilute the imaging substrates to reach a total of 2121. And BAM you get 3637 times. Luckily, I can use the repeat pipettor 2800 of those times since I am delivering the same thing to each well but since using the normal pipette you have to push the button two times, once to suck up the solution and once to expel, that means that I in the past 2 days I have pushed a pipette button a total of 4474 times. Anyway, I’m going to be repeating similar experiments for a good long time in the foreseeable future and therefore I will either get carpal tunnel or have a really buff right arm.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Hey, did you guys see my boyfriend on American Idol last night??

What is it about physics boys and beards?

"Where do you see your self in 11 years time... in your wildest dreams"
"I'd probably have a simple house with nice floors, I want marble"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Inauguration

I, like many others, watched the swearing in of our 44th president today. It was a pretty amazing event. A day to be remembered. I really hope this power transition is the start of something spectacular for our nation. I witnessed history today.

Watching the national coverage of todays events I was happy to see the number of families that braved the cold and the crowds and ventured out onto the mall. What will the children that attended todays events remember from it? what message did they take home? I have some strong yet fractured memories from an inauguration and the associated festivities that I attended in January of 1993, I was 10 and William Jefferson Clinton was being sworn in to the office. Somewhat sadly, my strongest memory of the celebration was the commemorative Metro passes. Printed specifically for the weeks event, the cards had Clinton and Gore’s signature on them. Although, the memory of the Metro cards seems somewhat trivial to me now, as a 10 year old I think I saw it as proof that it was a big deal, I was apart of something special and that these men were very important people. And indeed they were both important and influential figures in our nations history. President Obama and Vice President Biden arguably have the potential to be far more important and have broader reaching influences. I just hope the children watching today's event realize how important this is and that they are apart of history whether they take their proof from metro cards or from the tears of joy on adults faces or from some other detail unnoticed by adults....

Anyways, welcome to a new beginning. Happy Inauguration Day.

(So, with just minimal searching I actually able to find the aforementioned metro pass.... apparently I'm a little bit of a packrat)

Monday, January 19, 2009


I’m having computer issues, very frustrating ones. My Macbook is having trouble connecting to wireless networks, but not all networks and not all the time. Most of the time when my computer is able to connect, it somehow has trouble getting an IP address and just gives a ‘Self-Assigned IP’ (example This IP address is completely worthless and it means I can’t get on the internet. Sometimes I can’t even connect to the networks at all, it gives me an error of ‘Connection Timeout’ when I try to submit the network password. I have been tracking my connection status through my System Preferences, however, my network preferences will crash and unexpectedly quit. This problem has become very testing and frustrating. One very frustrating aspect of the issue is that I haven’t been able to recreate my problems the two times I’ve been to the Apple store to consult a “Genius”. The last time I was there (Saturday) the Genius said that he thought the problem was most likely hardware related, not a bad guess, and that he would swap out the airport card and hopefully that would fix the issue. It didn’t work. Now I don’t know what to try, I’ve talked to a number of people and Mike and I have talked a lot and I think my four options include 1.) reinstalling OS X 2.) getting my internal antenna replaced 3.) cry 4.) reject all technology and live a duller simpler life.

Any ideas? I’ve decided to tell everyone who will listen about my issues just incase someone out there can help me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Don't let the sunshine fool you, the high today, according to my widget, was -5 degrees.

RIP Village North

It’s official the economic recession has weaseled its nasty little head into my world. My favorite bargain movie theatre has closed its doors. Only a half a block away from my apartment, with $6 student tickets and free popcorn on Wednesdays (BYOB, bring your own bag), this place will surely be missed.

As a grad student, I have not been been greatly affected by the economic crisis. My paycheck, although small, is stable. Nothing has really changed in my finical life but I’ve still felt the need to scale back just like much of the country’s population. However, I’ve been thinking lately, maybe it’s best if I don’t change my spending habits. My local restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment venues need my money more than ever. So I think it may be my new goal to patron a non-chain store/restaurant in my neighborhood at least once a week. I know my money wont make a big difference but it couldn’t hurt.

Buy local, think global.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Research Makes You Stupid

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article I read last week. The overall theme of the essay really resonated with me. Grad school has made me feel stupid. It feels both reassuring and bit demoralizing to find out that I am not alone in this feeling. I was first drawn to math and science because it’s not subjective. In high school and later on in college, I loved the certainty that the STEM classes gave me, whether or not my answer was right didn’t depend on the teachers opinion. However, now, as the science gets newer and newer and the research tries to be more novel, the answers become more and more subjective. And the less solid my answers become, the more nervous and self conscious I get.

Happy Birthday

And a Happy birthday to baby D.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


So today despite the snow, I took Sewing 101 at The Needle Shop. Besides it taking me 30 minutes to find a parking spot I could get into, out of and not towed because of the snow and it taking me 30 minutes to find the cell phone that I apparently dropped into the snow once I got home, my day was great. Below is my finished pillow, zipper included. Now I just have to buy a sewing machine to finish up the other one.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chicago on Film

So Mike is out of town. He is on a road trip of sorts driving to California with his old roommate. So long story short, I’m home alone. What does a girl do when her boyfriend is out of town and has the apartment all to herself? Well, eat popcorn and watch the most girlie movies I can get my hands on of course.

I am currently watching My Best Friend’s Wedding. Apparently it takes place in chicago, didn’t remember that. It is really amazing to me how many movies take place here and I get overly excited to see my city on film. I really do love Chicago. In addition, I take pride in being so “Chicago” and knowing my city well enough to get piss off when the exit they take in a movie does not match where they end up.

Other Great Chicago movies:
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Adventures in Babysitting
While You Where Sleeping
The Blues Brothers
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
High Fidelity
Home Alone
Kissing a Fool (no one likes this movie but me)

Anyway, back to the movie.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I'm Not Working

So it's the Monday after the holidays and my first day back at the lab. Am I doing doing any work?? Judge for yourself.....

This is a video I put together with clips from our trip to visit the family in Maryland. I am absolutely enamored with my nephews. I know that I am totally biased but they are truly the most amazing kids. Sam has more personality than most adults I know and he also has negotiation skills that could rival any UN mediator. David is beautiful, his big brown eyes could melt anyone's soul, not to mention he holds his own pretty well against Sam (second born are always tougher and less documented).

Anyways, I hope you enjoy the video. Let me know if you have trouble watching it. You should expect more video posts in the future, the new little Flip my mom got me for Christmas is pretty fun.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy holidays

Sorry for the lack of posts the past couple of weeks but the holidays kept me pretty busy. I'll try to upload pictures/videos to share.