مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fish Day!

Today I discovered what might be my favorite part of Boston:
The harbor. I positively skipped off the Blue Line (inbound to "Wonderland!") this early afternoon into a beautiful, warm, clear summer day after a leisurely morning and a large bowl of Frosted Minis. I could smell the ocean right away and almost ran toward the long wooden dock where the boats and buoys bobbed. Weaving my way through throngs of happy travelers, I zoomed all the way to the end of the platform and held out my arms toward the sea and sky in overwhelming ecstasy. It was the happiest I've felt in a long time. [I really feel free and breezy these days because my results at work are making me feel like a rockstar scientist. My PI loves the figures, quantifications, and statistical analyses I've made of my tissue culture work, and I love crafting them all by myself!]

The line to buy tickets for the New England Aquarium was immense, but after conversing with one of the worker dudes I was let in on a secret: if you want to see an IMAX, which I did, you can buy a special aquarium-and-IMAX ticket inside the theater where there is no line. I thanked him, smiling, and hurried over to the theater just in time to watch "Under the Sea: 3D," an unparalleled feat of movie engineering. The colorful documentary guides you through the weirdest and most impossible creatures that populate the ocean floor, and I gasped out loud as I watched crazy-looking rare fish swim in awe-inspiring patterns or gobble each other up. After the movie I entered the aquarium, which to my pleasant surprise was packed with excited children. I miss children in this city; I attend an all-adult singles ward and live in Cambridge, a city of students, so I feel like I never see anyone under age 18. Little bodies wriggling through the crowds, tapping on glass, and proclaiming, "That one's DEAD!" made me miss my family. The aquarium is built in four stories of progressive exhibits that orbit around one huge, central tank that spans the height of the building. My favorite sea creatures were the stretchy, gooey octopus; the ethereal baby jellyfish; the manta ray with the five-foot wingspan; and the titanic turtle who waved at me (I swear!). I watched the workers feed the swimmy penguins and the sleek seals and felt an undiscovered love for marine biology.

Lunch/dinner (when I eat out alone, I always go between normal meal hours) was enjoyed at Legal Seafoods right on the wharf, where I ordered light clam chowder and delicious fried clams with cornbread. I finished my solitary excursion wandering around Boston until I successfully located a huge Borders Bookstore I'd made note of two weeks ago and sped, addicted, through "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It," a collection of essays by Maile Meloy, an author I met at a reading this Wednesday evening at Harvard Book Shop. I topped off my night at Finale desserterie in Harvard Square with a mini sampler plate of Boston Cream Pie, cheesecake, and Valrhona chocolate mousse. Dreamy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Reading this Glamour.com list made me think twice about what it is to be a single girl. While I don't doubt the value of learning to stick up for yourself, trying a new physical activity, or witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime event, "36 Things Every Single Girl Must Do Before She Settles Down" also recommends such life-changing items as getting drunk during the day, dating a rich older man who'll "take you somewhere nice and make you feel like a million bucks," dating "creeps" (to value the nice guys?), investing in sexy stilettos, and making lists of all your faults.

A subsequent night of study and learning has yielded my own version of this list, largely lifted from advice given by various LDS General Authorities. Love or hate, appreciate.

Jessica's "36 Things Every Single (Mormon) Girl Must Do Before She Settles Down (Or Anytime)"

1.    Acquire a sense of personal mission.
2.    Strive for excellence.
3.    Make integrity your first priority.
4.    Be attractive in conversation by being well-read in a variety of subjects—become interesting because you are interested.
5.    If you can’t be beautiful, be well groomed, tastefully attired, and conscious of your posture, and keep a smile on your face.
6.    If you’re not a great athlete, be a good sport.
7.    Try to be a standout in something.
8.    Think for yourself, but respect the rules.
9.    Be generous with kind words and affectionate gestures.
10.    Give anonymously to those in need of a little happiness.
11.    Avoid hateful words and unsophisticated language.
12.    Be positive and not apathetic.
13.    Cultivate real faith.
14.    Lose yourself in the service of others. Look to God and live.
15.    Overcome low self-esteem and actively give your life value.
16.    Choose to see potential in others and help them to develop it.
17.    Turn your focus outward; count your blessings and strive for balance.
18.    Become a scripture scholar and read at least a few verses every night.
19.    Establish a personal space that reflects your own tastes.
20.    Take care of your body. Sleep well, learn to cook nutritious foods, and exercise.
21.    Never make fun at the expense of another. Look for virtue in the lives of all.
22.    Be a quality person with self-respect, integrity, and the capacity to love and be lovable.
23.    Be clean in body and mind.
24.    Be kind.
25.    Be tactful.
26.    Be humble.
27.    Be selfless.
28.    Identify and develop your weak points.
29.    Be realistic and judicious, but willing to trust.
30.    Keep an eternal perspective.
31.    Set realistic, specific goals.
32.    Keep the commandments.
33.    Contribute to your family history.
34.    Engage in personal fasting and prayer.
35.    Realize someone out there needs you. If that’s not true, make it true!
36.    Qualify for and keep a temple recommend.

Take time to make your life special. Don't worry.
In the future, “wonderful surprises await us all.” John K. Carmack (1989)

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am battling a crippling obsession with this movie, which, appallingly, I had never seen before Friday. I know my Shakespeare well enough to quote most of the dialogue, and doing so while Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes star-cross themselves against the color-drenched backdrop of "Verona Beach" only serves to spike my doe-eyed and acid-tripped adoration for Baz Luhrmann. Give me my sin again.
and, of course, I remain obsessed with this city:
Boston's so iconic. I saw Christopher Nolan's "Inception" this weekend (intellectual cotton candy, by the way, and not the kind you can only eat once) and fully three of the pre-movie trailers centered around my city. I love it here, whether I'm buying sliced mangoes at the market on the corner, reading on the grass in Harvard Yard, discovering shops and sights downtown, venturing all over on the T, sampling famous and expensive restaurants, walking home at midnight and watching the street performers (various musicians, a puppet-girl, and an angel are regulars in Harvard Square), feeling important and influential in the Longwood Medical Area with the Children's Hospital ID badge that proclaims me a Student of Endocrinology, sipping my favorite soy berry shake at Boloco, enjoying the company of my lovely lab colleagues, sucking down new and exciting scientific knowledge as fast as is humanly possible in Maxwell-Dworkin for my lectures in stem cell physiology, actually participating (and loving it) at Monday night FHE (all it takes is a small-group setting), or watching early-evening TV in my Cambridge apartment before dinner ("Jeopardy" is on series recording).
I'm fourth from left, if you don't know me.
And this delightful Utah-holiday-weekend (Pioneer Day!) consisted of a "Canoe-B-Q" (exactly what it sounds like: canoeing, a picnic, apple pie, and pioneer games) in Concord; paella for dinner, "Inception," and chocolate chip cookie ice cream with fellow HSCI interns (quote of the night: "I feel...slightly abused."); and a surprisingly spectacular Institute fireside followed by free dinner at the beautiful new Stake Center.

Loving life. Loving summer. Loving leading the life of an East-Coast-urban adult scientist. Miss my family...but I'd rather they come here than me visit there. Part of me thinks she'd do just about anything to make it back here for med school.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I'm sure you've read this commencement address, but presenting it like this is nice.
"Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A treatise.

As a Single Young Nonsmoking Female, I have resided for the past two and a half years in four separate apartments, sharing space with eighteen different women (alphabetically: Amanda, Amber, Amy, Anna, Bethany, Briana, Christina, Elisa, Hannah, Heather, Jessica H., Jessica M., Katherine, Kathleen, Lizzy, Lyndee, Nancy, Natalie C., Natalie S., and Stephanie). Recently, statistical analysis has revealed that fully nine out of the eighteen young women with whom I have cohabited (50%) share one trait I both envy and despise: long, thick, dark hair. (Note: Specifically excluded from these calculations are two former housemates characterized by fine, medium-length dark hair, which is, for the purposes of this study, wholly manageable and otherwise unremarkable). Though when attached, the long, thick, dark hairs of my roommates are aesthetically pleasing and envious to behold, the ubiquitous appearance of their disembodied counterparts in my daily life is proving to constitutively induce in my psyche an ardent desire to spontaneously combust.

Let it be known that my own scalp grows very fine blonde hair of medium length, with which I have never experienced undue exasperation. I live, sleep, and eat freely in a world without visible hairs, never having to unclog them from my shower drain or clear them from public spaces. Therefore, taking up residence with girls of such a different and difficult scalp phenotype has consistently proven frustrating. In my current apartment, I am the sole occupant of a nice little room just adjacent to the kitchen. Though I sleep alone, more often than not I share the space with a most unwelcome visitor: the long, thick, dark hair of my sublease provider. I have never met her, but her hair weaves between us a relationship both awkward and inappropriate. I find the offending pieces of concentrated epithelium entwined in my laptop binding, clothes hangers, bedsheets, and shoe buckles when least expected and experience excessive anxiety about the origin of said hairs and their mysterious paths to my personal things. These hated hairs clogged the bathroom drain my freshman year in college, forcing my roommates and I to shower in ankle-deep water that never seemed to drain until the maintenance man could be bothered to provide us with assistance. They clung to the carpet and to my wet feet as I stepped from the shower bath into the hallway as a sophomore. And they seem to have followed me all the way to Massachusetts.

Women of this hair, take responsibility!
Spare the rest of us from your lifelong battle with drains and carpets, and we will coexist peacefully! Continue to shed, and I'm stealing your toothpaste.

Monday, July 19, 2010


The Most Delicious Things I Have Eaten in Boston (a continually updating list):
Disclaimer: Not all of these photos are mine. I have included links to all originals.

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Caramelized Banana Slices, Henrietta's Table (to die for!)

Chocolate-Dipped Ricotta Cheese Cannoli, Mike's Pastry

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancake with Butter and Fresh Cream, The Friendly Toast

Thick Lemon Square, Mike's Pastry

Warm Apple Crisp, Fire + Ice

Nutella shake, Boloco

Guacamole burger with sweet potato side, Bartley's

Assorted cupcakes, Sweet
Red Velvet (pictured)
Organic Karat
Lemon Raspberry
Pink Lemonade
Pina Colada
Jelly Doughnut
Red, White, and You
Caramel Macchiato
Boston Cream Pie
Strawberry Shortcake

Fresh Fried Clams and Cornbread, Legal Seafoods on the wharf

Thick, moist pumpkin bread, Henrietta's Table

Ice Cream Cake, DQ
 The love here was was sweeter than the sugar. This was ordered to celebrate my last day in the lab.

Baked Peach and Almond Tart with Corn Ice Cream and Blueberry Sauce, Harvest
    Ricotta Pie, Modern Pastry

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010


    I work with six different people in six different situations: three MD/PhDs at various levels of experience; one PhD research scientist; one MS scientist working toward a career in industry; one gastroenterology fellow (MD); and one pediatric endocrinology fellow (MD). Over the course of my time here, we've had the opportunity to talk a lot about the paths they've taken to get to where they are and which path will be best for me. The emerging line of advice, whether I talk to medical students, MD/PhDs, PhDs, or MDs, is "Do what makes you happy," regardless of cost. I think I already knew that, but it's nice to have it reinforced by so many people I look up to. My friends also affirm my decision to pursue an undergraduate degree in something other than basic science; it'll be a talking point in my interviews and besides, in medical school, I'll learn more science than I've ever wanted to know.

    Being able to question all my coworkers here has really helped me to solidify my future plans. As of now, I'm thinking I'll get an MD and then complete a specialty fellowship that involves research, like my coworkers Camilla and Rebecca.

    Oh, and I got some compliments today from two of the graduate fellows in my lab! One told me that Dr. B, the one I mention in this post, "speaks very highly of me," and the other told me (positively) that I wasn't a typical summer student. :-) I'm treated like a full-fledged scientist here, if a young one, and I try my best to act like I belong. Hopefully it will pay off.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010


    Thefbomb: "Taylor Lautner will never top his performance in Sharkboy and Lavagirl. That was his peak, and he must accept it."

    Sunday, July 11, 2010


    It's Saturday night--Boston's bars are packed, the police are out, and the subway smells like cheap vodka. But if you happened to pass the huge, softly lit Harvard Medical School quad between ten thirty and midnight, you would have seen eighteen or twenty totally sober twentysomethings engaged in a life-or-death game of Ultimate Frisbee. You can't help but love my singles ward.

    It's strange for me to participate in such an athletic activity; since my early teens self-consciousness has gotten the better of me and I've always strategically not shown up, faked a phone call, or made some other excuse to leave before people start running around. Aside from a brief stint on a high school softball team, I've generally left sports to people like my brothers--wiry, muscular, confident, speedy people who aren't afraid to dive for the ball or smash into each other. But tonight I chose to play. I felt comfortable enough with the people and the setting to put myself out on a limb. Yes, it was embarrassing. I'm woefully inexperienced. But I can run fast, and I have a good eye for defense. With a little practice, I think I'll be all right. And that, for me, is saying something.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010


    Excerpts from MSNBC's "Brutal Heat Wave to Roast East Again," emphasis added:
    (Subtitle: Humidity intensifies misery; air to feel like 105-plus in some areas)

    NEW YORK — Summer's first heat wave is expected to keep the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states sizzling Wednesday.
    The areas roasted Tuesday under unrelenting sun and many areas were putting up with a night in which temperatures in urban areas were failing to fall below 80 degrees.
    The National Weather Service issued heat advisories for Wednesday ranging over a wide swath from Kentucky to Vermont. Hot temperatures and high humidity are expected to combine at oppressive, illness-causing heat-index levels, the service warned.
    The heat index in several areas is expected to surpass 105 around the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, and over 100 in areas around southeastern Pennsylvania, New York City, northeastern New York state, western Massachusetts and central Vermont.
    Tuesday as record-setting temperatures soared past 100 from Virginia to Massachusetts, utility companies cranked up power to the limit to cool sweating masses and railroad tracks were so hot commuter trains had to slow down.
    It was also over 100 in cities from Richmond, Va., to Boston, and Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn., also set records.

    I cannot sleep, breathe, go outside, stay inside, read, watch TV, stay clothed, or die.
    Last night was miserable and my apartment doesn't have air conditioning. I moved my pitiful little fan to the head of my bed and stretched out, naked, in front of it for some relief, but when it's 90 degrees and 75% humid in your room at 3 AM, you kind of have to accept that you aren't going to sleep. And you're not getting any cooler, either, because rather than cool the air, your fan just circulates the drenching, oppressive heat. I spent time in Egypt last July and wasn't this uncomfortable, primarily because I could come home to a place with air conditioning. After attempting to pass the time by drifting into a semi-nap on my couch at six pm with every window open, I woke drowning in sweat. I ventured outside at around eleven, foolishily thinking that the dark might provide some relief. It didn't. I walked to the air-conditioned 24 hour pharmacy, wandered the aisles until people got suspicious, and stepped back into the choking darkness to wander home. My room doesn't feel any different than it does outside. And dressing modestly has never been more of an obstacle. Non-sheer shirts with sleeves and knee length shorts be darned--I want to be naked or almost naked. IT'S JUST THAT HOT. Even lab professionals are coming to work in flimsy barely-there dresses--not because it's cute, but because it's far too sticky to wear anything else.


    Monday, July 5, 2010


    I'm learning here, and I'm learning in the way medicine is taught: "See one, do one, teach one." In the lab, I'm an adult, and I'm responsible for all of my work and all of my logistics. I have two professors in my lab, two pediatric endocrinologists that have to deal with me accidentally sucking Iscove's modified Dulbecco's medium with fetal calf serum into the pipette filter or accidentally equating AsCre amplification primers to As amplification primers. One of my professors--the one technically in charge of me--is laid back and down to earth. She's comfortable to talk to, very intelligent, very opinionated, and very organized. The other professor scares me. :-) Well, he doesn't scare me. But he does intimidate me, and I think he does it on purpose. He's obviously brilliant and very good at teaching clinical skills (a quality I've never before encountered...so this is what it's like). Around him, I want to get everything right, but let's just say that doesn't always happen. He pulled me aside the other day and basically told me that I come with more experience than most of the other interns the lab has had, and because of this I need to take more responsibility. I need to ramp up my efforts, to outline new projects and always have something going--basically step up in a way in which I didn't think I was qualified, and if I can do that, there is the possibility of coauthorship on an upcoming paper. I honestly don't know what to think. He's such an experienced communicator that I walked out of the meeting with mixed feelings--I can't decide whether his words were meant as compliment or correction. I have no idea what he thinks of me, but I want him to think I'm decently intelligent and a precise, dedicated worker, so I try my best to be my best. It's just embarrassing when trying so hard to be my best turns me into a bumbling idiot, whether I'm awkwardly angling my hands to inject a mouse or trying to think out loud to answer a question.

    Dr. B., I'm trying, really. Please don't think less of me for not knowing what to do.


     Chocolate-dipped cannoli and luscious lemon squares from Mike's Pastry swim in and out of my thoughts at work, which is why I was excited the other night when some girls from my ward invited me to join them to eat pastries on the wharf after dark. We shared some good old-fashioned girl time, talking about cute boys and cuter clothes, and I felt happy. I'm far more comfortable here these days; I guess it just took a month of being semi-lonely to make friends and feel good about my life on this coast.

    Even though the Fourth of July fell on a Sunday this year, I get today, Monday off from work. :-) Normally, this would mean I'd have to have another one of my Themed Days. Themed Days are how I've planned to see everything in Boston. They're little day trips I take all by myself, punctuated by delicious food and awesome sightseeing. For example, last weekend I had Seafood and Science Day. I visited the Museum of Science and saw an IMAX about Saudi Arabia, and I had lunch at Legal Seafoods. Still on the agenda is Sports Day, where I visit Fenway Park and the Prudential Center and have lunch at the #1 sports bar in America; History Day, where I walk the Freedom Trail and have lunch somewhere historic; Fish Day, when I visit the aquarium and eat lots of fish; Ocean Day, when I will hopefully visit the beach; etc. But today I opted to sleep in, shell out for vegetarian crepes for brunch, and read the day away in the iconic Harvard Book Shop.
    My Fourth of July weekend has been wonderfully exhausting. On Saturday, a Harvard student in my ward was baptized, so after the service we partied it up with a huge barbecue--marinated chicken, hamburgers, and particularly succulent beef hot dogs--and an intense game of Slip and Slide Wiffle Ball through the sprinklers (one rule: slide into every base). My team won, and I even caught someone out on the last pitch of the game! Sunday, the Fourth, consisted of church and then a picnic by the Charles River with friends from the ward. We staked out a spot to watch the fireworks five hours before they started and watched them light up the Boston skyline with twenty thousand other spectators on the Esplanade. I wandered off the packed subway platform at 1 AM, the smeared red and blue star on my face outshined only by my smile.

    Living here is like being on vacation all the time, and, of course, the best part of any vacation is the food. I've eaten everything from vegan butternut squash flatbread pizza to soft crab cakes, portabello mushroom "hamburgers," nutella and soy milkshakes, mounds of apple crisp, ginger ice cream, thick lamb kurma, minty Indian rice pudding, sugary sweet cupcakes, shots of cream cheese frosting, whole mangoes, and homemade granola bars. The other night I visited a local "improvisational grill" where you could fill a bowl (unlimited times) with anything you like (I chose calamari, shrimp, salmon, onions, bell peppers, bow tie pasta, garlic, pineapple, and cilantro), choose a sauce combination (I chose marinara and teriyaki), and bring the whole thing up to the central grilling station to be sizzled up right in front of you. Talk about delicious.