Thursday, April 19, 2012

crunch time

Ahhh, crunch time.  The end of the semester brings with it loads of weighty assignments and the mind aches from just thinking about the pile of things to do.  But I just am thinking positive and keeping vigilant about staving off end-of-the-world-as-schoolwork-knows-it thoughts.  Having work to do in my lab actually helps, because it goes along with the theory (still unproven!) that schoolwork isn't the center of the universe.  And during crunch time all the good in the world is good is even better!  Drinking good tea, eating tasty food, waking up after a nap, breaking a sweat on a morning jog, letting sunlight hit your skin--the spare moments I take to do other things seem extra awesome and help remind me that there's a world of things out there--and I don't have to wait to be all through with the semester to enjoy it. The lovely College Station spring temperatures and breezes are also really pleasant on my morning and evening commutes home.

SUPER good!  Gourmet PB&J--made with homemade raspberry grand marnier jam and slivered bananas

Monday, April 16, 2012


happy friday the 13th--lotsa schoolwork here to do at my desk and in my lab today.  best to get a bunch done & have a great sense of accomplishment heading into the wknd! I think i'll go get a cold beer at the bar by school after a swim/run at the Rec.

My standing army.
here is a deelishous thing to think about: vegan chocolate-bottomed macaroons, recipe courtesy of the glorious ppk.  All of my oceanography friends loooved them.  and they only took 1 easy hour to make from start to final cookie in ur hand.  next up, I will make the Cocoa-on-cocoa variaysh!

I'm rich!  A whole pile of gold!

I  l00ve Isa's recipe comment that, "These are irresistibly adorable, nugget sized morsels that look like they could double as the currency of magical forest creatures." soooo true! and I so wanna live in that forest!!

have a great weekend!! I have gotten several sweet, loving messages from Wilmington friends the past couple weeks (2 in the last day, alone!) and can't wait to do some solid correspondence of my own on my fav self-drawn whale shark stationery!  and probably do a bit of baking, finish my novel, "1Q84"!, and take walks in my peaceful neighborhood :D


WEEKEND UPDATE:  I did finish IQ84, and it was a great ending!! very satisfying!!  Haruki was very nice to do that, to leave me feeling warm and fuzzy about Tengo and Aomame after 921 pages.  And I took nice walks and i also spent lovely hours in my happy kitchen, whipping up a small batches of peanutbutter pretzel rice krispie treats, cornbread, brownies, and chocolate chip muffins!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why are we here?

One of my professor took me by surprise today and wrote, "Why are we here?" on the whiteboard at the start of class.  The discussion that insued was very refreshing.  We talked about what our purposes are in Data Methods Graph Representation are specifically but also got into one of Steve (the professor) 's favorite things--Prelims.  I think he might have just come from a prelim, I'm not sure.  Prelims are when your PhD committee members assess that you have enough knowledge of what you are doing and what has been done in your particular realm to be in the PhD program.  They do this by asking you probing questions.

Steve drew a dot on the whiteboard at this point and labeled it 'You.'  The whiteboard, he explained, was knowldege.  And then he drew a little cross marks to indicate the questions that different professors would ask you in order to draw a shape around the 'You' according to the questions you are able to synthesize using your 'oceanographic suitcase' of knowledge and 'toolbox' of analyzing/thinking.  He said its such a cool moment in the room when a candidate connects things from different questions, filling in more area of that blob around the dot 'You.' 

I loved having this pep talk--it made me really want to commit to reading more literature.  There are so many very worthwhile papers out there, so many even in just the last 10 years that I want to read and understand!  I can, for instance, read a journal article of something related to analytical techniques, methane budgets, air-sea fluxes.  I learn a lot from reading journal articles--mostly from Marine Chemistry, J. Geophysical Research, Science, Nature, American Geophysical Union, for papers I am writing or trace gas homework I am doing that I know it would be so worth it to read some on my own with no particular assignment I have to do associated with it.  I don't have much down time, but I can make room for this I hope!

Love my Sealife vegetable calendar soooo much!  This beet seahorse is a daily cheerleader at the moment.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Island

Rapa Nui a.k.a. Easter Island was reached by the first Europeans on Easter Sunday, 1722.  The first footage of Rapa Nui I saw was from surf documentaries I watched with my brother, as there are huuuge waves off the coast of the island.  But another doc, called "180 degrees South" that I caught on Netflix brought another aspect of the island into my consciousness.

Moai statues assembled on Rapa Nui
Among the things that led to the downfall of the original Rapa Nui civilization was environmental degradation, specifically, deforestation.  In order to erect all their huge symbolic statues, they cut down their forests in an unsustainable manner and after centuries their forests were disappearing and things like fishing fell by the wayside because they were strapped for lumber.  Other things like  Europeans, disease, and slave raiders helped erode their civilization, but this is still a perfect microcosmic example of what we humans today are doing now on a global level--ignorantly using up our world's precious resources of air, water, and forests.

You'd think, oh, didn't the Rapa Nuians see that they were diminishing their forests--why didn't they just slow down?  And we too, as a global populous, are cutting down  majestic tracks of forest to make way for Agribusiness, erecting factories to burn carbon that's hundreds of millions of years old, and digging up mountains to get more of it.  Sure, I myself am not doing these things, but the 20 year old girls in ancient Rapa Nui  probably weren't cutting down the trees themselves either.  Today, and every day, we all need to take responsibility and engage in conversations about how important our environment is to us with each other and with our national and world leaders.

We don't need to shame each other into changing our ways--it's obviously a "natural" handicap of our species to do this type of thing since it is universal across ancient and present-day civilizations of all sizes and from diverse geographic areas.  The first step is admitting we have a problem that we can fix.  That was done decades ago, but we have not been following a plan!  This generation needs to accept  that we, as well as all the generations before us, suffer from short-sightedness and err on the side of convenience.  We can work out solutions that make us collectively behave less selfishly and more intelligently.  We need to get the whole world to believe that we can become much more efficient, much more responsible, and much less dependent on corrupting the environment we depend on.

Not my father's cornbread

I made some deeelishous cornbread Friday morning.  The unusual thing about it was that it turned out blue. Guess that's what happens when you use Blue Cornmeal. :D

The blue corn has kinda a dull, violet-blue hue really.  Reminds me of the color of the Crayola "cornflower" crayon actually.  I don't know why we don't see more of blue corn--the only place it is mainstream is in blue corn chips, which have recently been adopted by Lays I believe, though they started out exclusively in the natural foods market I'm pretty sure.  I've also eaten natural blue corn taco shells, but that's the only blue corn I've ever experienced.  Blue is just more fun.  Sorry, yellow.  Red chips you see in restaurants are just too red--I would hazard a guess that it is just dyed yellow corn.

I followed Arrowhead Mills' recipe, found on their bag of their blue cornmeal, and it turned out great--moist, deelishous, slightly sweet.  I tweaked it a tad by curdling the nondairy milk with a dash of vinegar to give it that buttermilk edge. My friend Morgan was over to enjoy a couple of pieces but I'm pretty sure I will polish the rest of the pan off before the weekend is out--I just can't get enough. 

I topped my cornbread with coconut cream, blue agave, and sea salt.  I made the coconut cream by pouring a can of coconut milk into a shallow container and letting it thicken up in the fridge--maggggical.

My dad makes the meanest cornbread I've ever tasted, and I aim to make his recipe, which is Mollie Katzen's from the Moosewood cookbook, with agave and a vegan egg* someday soon. Growing up, he always carved a big 'S' for Sparrow onto the top of the cornbread just before putting it into the oven and I always made sure to remind him of it.  

*Ener-G egg replacer worked splendidly in this blue cornbread recipe, which called for one egg or egg replacer.  To make an Ener-G egg, you just buy a box of it from your supermarket's baking or natural foods aisle and mix up 1.5 tsp of the patented potato starch and tapioca starch mixture with 2 Tbs. warm water and voila, a perfect no-cruelty, no-cage, no-fence, non-animal agriculture dependent 'egg' for all-purpose baking.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Class field trip

On Monday our labgroup took a lil field trip to "Washington on the Brazos," the birthplace of Texas.  John comes here a lot with his family and he knew it would be a nice place to show the prospective grad student visiting our lab from Irvine, CA this week.  Totally fine by me to peace outta school together early in the afternoon!!  There were some nice paths and lotsa wildflowers to inhale with my eyes and nostrils.  I very much wish I could bottle up the scent of a Texa wildflower field in spring.  Along the path, I came across a long-haired black caterpillar while we were there and we became fast friends.

Eric took some great photos with his phone that I would love to share..

John, me, and Mengran with our lovely prospective student, Mihai, next to me.

Texas paintbrush and bluebonnets
The kids:  Eric, Me, Mihai, and Mengran  w/ the bluebonnets and paintbrushes

Afterwards John wanted to treat Mihai to Texas BBQ, which Mihai incidentally has on his bucket list, or at least his "things to do while I'm visiting this grad school in Texas" list.  John was kinda nervous that I wouldn't be able to eat anything at Rudy's BBQ, but I was not.  Sure enough the dead-animals-made-TX-tasty haven was plenty vegan friendly--not that they would want to know that!  The staff shirts at Rudy's say, "I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain just to eat vegetables!"  Razor sharp logic, indeed.  Anyhow, the smoked baked potato and 3 bean (kidney, garbanzo, and green) salad was very good.  Odd that they wouldn't accept out of state licenses for a beer though and it made me glad that no where else in town that I have encountered is unkindly to the Old North State.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

texas wildflowers viewed on bicycle

Hey there!

My friends Jan and Fenix took excellent photos while we were bicycling last Saturday to check out all the wildflowers that are blooming here.  We rode from Snook, TX to Lake Somerville (about a 50 mile loop) and did some geocaching around the lakeside with Jan's iPhone.

A few of my photos from the day:


Geocache treasures

Cows!  My first longhorn sighting.

Lake Somerville..pretty nice lake!!  About 30 miles around the whole thing I think

The Sea of Rural Southeastern Texas
And here are all of my pics on a Picasa web album, if you can check those out.

I really enjoyed the long ride and riding through the country--fresh air and cows! It was getting pretty hot by the end of our 8 hour journey though and we faced some really rocky/sandy rural roads on the way home.  I came home and ate about a pound of frozen fruit--mangos, pineapples, and peaches--laying under the ceiling fan, which is my go-to cool off and recover stategy.