Thursday Thoughts 5.0

Can it REALLY be Thursday already?!?! This week has gone by so fast!!! Well, the calendar says it’s Thursday, so I’m linking up with Sarah!

***

[1]

This weekend was very busy and just generally awesome. So awesome in fact that I didn’t have time to write a Weekend Update post.

First up on Saturday was the annual Dillo Day BBQ. This year, Beth, who blogs over at Science and Cupcakes, hosted the event. I got kind of a late start in the morning (I have a hard time being motivated to do anything before 10 am on the weekends), but was ready to go by lunchtime. My friends Alex and Kayla picked me up, and we made a stop at Taco Bell. At Tbiz, we bought a Taco Party Pack to commemorate the  Gluttonous Dillo Day Feast of 2011.

Last year, after the last Dillo Day concert the three of us bought and consumed all of the following (I’m somewhat ashamed to admit): 1) A Taco Party Pack, 2) Three Crunch Wraps (one for each of us), 3) A batch of guacamole, and 4) A 12 pack of Wingwalker Amber Ale (because it was on sale at Jewel). So, we decided to honor this event by…buying another Taco Party Pack. It was just as delicious as last year, although we had help eating a few of the tacos this time around.

This year we had plenty of hot sauce!

Other than the tacos, the BBQ was a great time. Beth and Andy had lots of delicious food (and Yuengling), and I got to see some friends I don’t see very often.

[2]

I had to leave the Dillo Day festivities early this year (which was kind of sad) for a REALLY awesome reason: The Indianapolis 500. My friend Jason had an extra ticket, which he generously offered to let me use. I’m not a big follower of racing, but I knew this is one of those things you just have to experience at least once. And I was so right. I can’t adequately describe the experience in this paragraph, but plan to devote an entire post to it next week. I’ll leave you with this teaser for now:

Waiting for the race to begin!

[3]

As I’ve mentioned several times before, I’ve been trying to get back into running after breaking my foot last year. I’ve been following a “Return to Running” program given to me by my physical therapist, and it’s going pretty well. I’m back to running at 10ish min mile, and can run for 4 minutes with one minute of walking in between. Despite these advances, I only ran one more mile this month than last month due to my busy schedule. Hopefully, after my classes are over next week I’ll have more time to devote to running.

[4]

I had mentioned several posts ago that research had not been going well. While I wouldn’t say the past three weeks have been a resounding success, there haven’t been any spectacular failures either. I even managed to send devices to TWO different collaborators for testing. It’s the little things folks…

[5]

The end of the quarter is next week. Fuh-reaking finally. After next week, I will *hopefully* be done with classes FOREVER. I’M SO EXCITED!

***

That’s all for now. Have a great weekend everyone!

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.” –Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: June 31, 2003
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit that I really only picked up this novel because it is one of the books on the BBC’s “The Big Read” list which I am working my way through. It’s not that I thought it would be a bad book per say, I just am not generally enthused about reading novels that are 1) written in first person, and 2) narrated by a teenage boy. Needless to say, I didn’t have high hopes for this one. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised from page one.

As mentioned in the synopsis, the novel begins with Christopher discovering that a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, has died under suspicious circumstances. Since Christopher feels a very strong attachment to animals (unlike his fellow humans), he sets out to discover the truth behind Wellington’s death. He documents his search for the truth in a journal, which becomes this book, and decides to cast the story as a murder mystery.

From the very beginning of his search, Christopher runs into obstacles that push the limits of the strict set of rules by which he lives his life. For instance, he interviews his neighbors to gain more information about the night of Wellington’s death, but this makes him very uncomfortable because he doesn’t like talking to strangers. As the novel progresses, Christopher’s search for the truth becomes more complicated, and he is increasingly forced into contact with a human world that he doesn’t understand. However, through his search he gains self-confidence and self-reliance which helps him cope with the disorder of everyday life.

My favorite part of the book by far was Christopher’s narration. In a world where everyone is concerned with being politically correct, I found him to be delightfully honest and very funny. I also enjoyed “getting inside his head”, and watching him progress throughout the novel as he struggles for independence in spite of the limitations of his condition.

At its core, this novel is a coming-of-age story and not a murder mystery. To be frank, the mystery of Wellington’s death quickly takes a backseat to the concerns of the human world. While I enjoyed reading about Christopher’s interesting and heart wrenching journey, I did feel a bit frustrated at times because I was reading a drama that had been billed as a murder mystery. Additionally, I thought the ending was anticlimactic and felt very rushed, almost as if it were an afterthought. I realize this loose ending is probably intentional on Haddon’s part, and is meant to show Christopher’s new-found ability to cope in an uncertain (and equally unfinished) world. Despite these intentions, the ending left me unsatisfied, and I find I have more questions than answers.

Overall, this is a very unique book with a lot of heart. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a great work of literature (and I question its inclusion on the BBC list), but it does give excellent insight into the mind of an autistic person. I really did enjoy this book (especially the mathematical puzzles), and I would definitely recommend picking up a copy.

What Others Had To Say:

The Novel World

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 3/5 stars
  2. What I liked: Christopher’s honest and funny narration
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: The anticlimactic ending
  4. I would recommend this book for: People interested in gaining insight into an autistic mind

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.

Thursday Thoughts 4.0

Hey everyone! It’s Thursday so I’m linking up with Sarah!

***

[1]

Monday night I went to my first “Dinner with Strangers” event hosted by a graduate student women’s group at my university. These events are a great way to meet a very diverse group of women, and try out new restaurants around the city. I had previously sort of avoided these types of networking events where I don’t know anyone, but I’ve been trying to “expand my horizons” so I chose this event where (in theory) everyone is a stranger. The meal I was invited to attend was held on held Monday night at Siam Paragon. Our group of “strangers” consisted of six women from vastly different field of study, covering everything from materials science to religious studies. We had really nice dinner conversations about the work we do, our thoughts on undergraduates, and the state of the economy with regards to job prospects for Ph.D’s. Overall, I had a really great time and ate some delicious sushi. I will definitely be signing up for more of these events in the future.

[2]

Every memorial day weekend, our university holds an outdoor music festival called Dillo Day. It lasts the entire day, and is a great way to start the long weekend. Last year, I had a really great time and I’m sure this year will be no exception. The lineup this year includes Cold War Kids, Reel Big Fish, and Big Boi to name a few. Additionally, my friend Beth over at Science and Cupcakes is having a barbeque during the festivities which is sure to be fun (and super delicious). The only thing I hope is not repeated this year: mud. Last year the fields were SO MUDDY, and my jeans were never the same. The only bright spot is I know which pair I’m wearing this year…

[3]

Next week is the last week of classes. Ever. I am so excited about that. Of course, after classes are over the reality that quals are approaching will REALLY set in. November is getting closer every day… :/

[4]

I’d like to wish a belated Happy Wedding Anniversary to my parents. As of May 22, these crazy kids have been married for 30 years. Congratulations Mom and Dad! I love you both so much!

Oahu, 2010

***

That’s all for now. I hope everyone has a great memorial day weekend!

Weekend Update: Birthday Celebrations and Delicious Foods

After skipping last week in lieu of Mother’s Day, it’s time for another Weekend Update!

***

1.

Friday night was my “official” birthday celebration (I had another great one on Wednesday as well!), and I had many wonderful friends come to help me celebrate. We began the evening at my favorite Mexican restaurant in town, That Little Mexican Cafe. The table shared 3 bowls of guacamole (and lets be honest I think we could have handled more) which was made fresh for us at the table. I also enjoyed a Mexican martini (margarita with no ice, served in a martini glass), and two extremely delicious tamales. Afterwards, I was very full but we ventured to Nevins to continue the celebrating.

At Nevins, we enjoyed the $3 Goose Island products and I played a game of darts.

I’m a very serious darts player

I’m pretty sure I hit a bull’s eye…or not..

Overall I had a very great night and I really appreciate all of my awesome friends who helped me celebrate. Thank you guys so much!

2.

Saturday was a very busy day. First, I signed a lease on my cool new apartment. Afterwards, I ventured to a Virag Jewelers to get my watch battery replaced. I have been without a functioning watch for over FOUR weeks. Those that know me well will recognize that this is an EXTREMELY long time for me to be without a functioning watch. I mean,I am that girl who (embarrassingly) wore a watch to her first prom (doh!):

Watch…not a pretty, sparkly bracelet

I think my mom even questioned me on that particular choice. Oh well you live and learn.

Anyway, it took me a while to locate a watch repair business near me, but this establishment came highly recommended on Yelp. I walked in had a new watch battery in about 15 minutes. They charged me $10, and guaranteed the battery for a year. Score!

3.

By Saturday evening I was craving some comfort food, so I decided to make chicken and noodles and mashed potatoes. It was DELICIOUS. I also paired the meal with a glass of Lambrusco (thanks Mom), and the movie Date Night. It was the perfect way to begin my evening.

After the movie was over, my friend Elizabeth and I decided to get milkshakes at Kafein. I had a peanut butter and chocolate milkshake and it was fantastic. Since it was a nice evening, Elizabeth and I sat outside on the patio. Although the patio is kind of small and the space is somewhat awkward (think fenced-in hallway), it was a still a really great way to enjoy our milkshakes.

4.

Sunday morning, I made myself some delicious chocolate chip pancakes. Combined with coffee and a magazine, it was a great way to spend a lazy Sunday  morning.

***

That’s all for now, have a great week everyone!

My First Visit To Wrigley Field

Recently, my department purchased tickets for a Chicago Cubs game versus the Atlanta Braves. I love baseball (go Royals!), but am undecided as to how I feel about the Cubs. My feelings for the Braves on the other hand are NOT lukewarm, and I have a intense dislike of the team from hot-lanta. Is it because they beat my team in a hotly contested game? No, and lets be honest the Royals haven’t exactly been a tough team to beat for most of my life (but I still love them). Is it for some other silly reason (i.e. dislike of the mascot, team colors, etc). Nope, none of those things particularly bother me either. So what is it then? Only the most logical reason for disliking something–television.

Did anyone else have this experience in the 1990’s: You return home from a long day of school and turn on TBS expecting to see this

But instead saw this

Yes, that’s right Ted Turner. I haven’t forgotten.

Needless to say, I wasn’t very excited about rooting for either team (although I did end up cheering for the Cubs) so I decided to think of it as a trip to Wrigley Field. Previously, I’d passed by Wrigley dozens of times on the El and have been to Wrigleyville many times, but I’d never actually set foot in the ballpark before. So as you can see, I was pretty excited on the way in:

Once we were in the ballpark, we found our seats and set out to find food and beverages. Wrigley Field does offer a plethora of food and beverage choices, but you’d better save your pennies before coming to the ballpark to make a purchase. For example, this Old Style shown below costs $7.50.

Hand model–the lovely Kayla

Once we made it back to our seats we scoped out the field…

..the Wrigley Rooftop seats, which are located on buildings adjacent to Wrigley Field….

…and the famous ivy-covered outfield wall.

Then the game began. For the first several innings the game was somewhat uneventful. So much so that I asked my friend Bernie to take a picture of me and my friends Elizabeth and Kayla. As he was set to take the picture, the Cubs hit a home run which diverted our attention…

Bernie was (understandably) somewhat upset that he had potentially missed the only Cubs home run of the game. But, being the nice guy that he is he agreed to take another picture of us. As he was set to take the next picture, the Cubs hit ANOTHER home run…

Sorry Bernie! We did finally get it right though:

Thanks in large part to the two home runs that occurred during our photography session, the Cubs won 5-1! After the game, we stopped at El Burrito Mexicano as I mentioned in a previous post. Kayla and I had a delicious burrito and then we all hopped back on the red line to go home.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Wrigley Field and I’m glad I got to experience it with great friends!

Thursday Thoughts 3.0

Hey everyone! It’s Thursday so I’m linking up with Sarah!

***

[1]

This week has been very busy, yet it feels like I have not accomplished anything. I am frankly baffled as to how it got to be Thursday. Oh well, that just means I’m one day closer to the weekend!

[2]

Yesterday, I turned 26. It was a really great day. The weather was beautiful, and I had many birthday messages from friends and family. I even had a birthday cake, thanks to my good friend Elizabeth! Believe it or not, the cake was finished in about and hour and a half. After work, I met up with some friends at Nevins and shared a few drinks. We ended the celebrating (relatively) early because we wanted to be wide awake for the much anticipated keynote lecture in the morning (see thought #3). The celebration will continue this weekend with dinner at one of my favorite restaurants!

[3]

This morning I had the opportunity to hear Professor John Cahn’s keynote lecture at our department’s Hilliard Symposium. We studied some of his work in our phase transformation course (especially the famous Cahn-Hilliard equation), and it was pretty cool to hear this living legend in materials science speak!

[4]

I am happy to report that I was finally able to exercise 3 times in one week! This is the FIRST time since breaking my foot last year (on June 26, 2011…a date which I will not forget anytime soon) that I was able to physically accomplish this. Previously, when I attempted to rest just one day between workouts my foot and ankle would swell. It was such a good feeling to FINALLY get in 3 workouts in one week.

[5]

It’s springtime and you know what that means…allergies!!!  Or at least it does for me this year. I had seasonal allergies when I was younger but thought I had outgrown them into adulthood. However, they have returned with a vengeance this year. In looking at the pollen counts, I discovered that the grass count was high which would explain my symptoms. It will shock my mother to hear that I’m actually considering  buying some allergy medicine…or maybe I’ll just wait until the grass count goes down 😉

***

That’s all for now. Hope everyone is having a great Thursday!

Dear Mom

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful mothers out there! Today, I am dedicating this entry to my own fantastic mother.

***

Dear Mom,

What to say to the person who gave me life and shaped me into the person I am today? I’m not sure I could fit it all in a letter, but on this Mother’s Day when I cannot be with you in person I’m going to try.

From the beginning, we liked to have fun together. You were never one of those moms who took things too seriously. Of course you set appropriate boundaries for my behavior, but you also knew how to kick back and have fun. I know I inherited my humor and general mischievousness in large part from you.

Yes, those were good times. I can tell in looking back at old pictures and videos that we were all very happy together.

Look at how young and beautiful we all are!

…And then things took a turn for the worse.

Ha ha! Just kidding Jen! But really, having a new baby sister was a big change for me and you were patient with me as I adjusted, which couldn’t have always been easy. I mean I know I was a perfect angel and all, but even angels have their off days…

This basically sums up our entire relationship

As I got older, you continued to stay very involved in my life despite working a full time job. You were the president of the PTO (among other positions), and put together several beautiful yearbooks that I still treasure today. I also loved it when you volunteered as a “Room Parent.” To this day, I remember the wonderful holiday parties you put together for the class which included many delicious treats and fun party games. I’m not sure I ever told you how much I appreciated you being involved at my school, but I really did. Now that I am a busy adult, I think back on all of the activities you were involved in and marvel at how you managed to do it all.

In addition to working full-time AND being very involved at school, you (and dad) also made a conscious effort to ensure that Jen I had the opportunity to try our hand at many different activities. These included (but are definitely not limited to):

Theater

Me as a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz

Dance

Oh-me-gee…the early 90’s…

Sports

Yes, I do mostly love this picture because of my sister Jen’s outfit

and a very short cheerleading career…

Jen–I’m sorry to “out” your former cheerleading career on the internet like this…

You always encouraged us to dream big, and gave us the tools we needed to succeed. You’re confidence and semi-fearlessness in the face of the unknown has always awed me a little bit. Anytime I had an idea or an ambition you never told me it was too big or impossible to achieve. Your mantra was always “let THEM tell me no,” and that mindset gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my dreams.

One instance in particular comes to mind. When I was 9, we visited Great-Grandma Belle in Alabama. That trip changed my life in ways I don’t think any of us could have ever predicted at the time. Of course we had a nice visit with Grandma, and a few nice days on the beach:

Gulf Shores, AL

Also included on the trip was a visit to Marshall Space Flight Center.

I still can’t believe you let me wear those shorts

I remember the trip vividly. I was awed by the how large the rockets were, and fascinated by the idea of human space flight. I asked Dad how I could someday work at a place like this, and he told me I’d have to major in engineering. And that’s what I did.

Over 10 years later, I was a junior in electrical engineering and still (somewhat fruitlessly) pursuing my dream of working for NASA. I had applied to several of NASA’s co-op and internship programs, but had not heard anything back. I had a contact at one NASA center through my university’s Career and Employment Services office, but even that river had suddenly gone dry. One day, frustrated at my lack of progress, I called you from a bench outside of a lecture hall. I told you I’d had it, and that I was giving up hope. You paused, and started typing away at your computer. Eventually you said that you had found a phone number for my contact and that you were going to call just to see what would happen. I remember thinking you were crazy (i.e. can she even DO that?!?!), and telling you to not worry about it because the situation was hopeless. Nonetheless, you hung up with me and called the number. When you called me back, you told me that my contact was on vacation which could explain why I hadn’t heard anything for awhile. You encouraged me to not give up, and to try sending one last email.

Thankfully, I did send that email. It turned out my application had been misplaced, and once they realized it I promptly had a phone interview. Amazingly enough, I got the job and accomplished the goal I had worked toward for so many years. My time at NASA was everything I ever hoped for and more, and it’s all thanks to you mom. Without your support and your pluck, I would have given up and not been able to live my dream. I am so grateful that you were there believing in me and my dream even when I had lost faith. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank you enough for that.

Mom, I think you’re an amazing person, and I’m very glad to be your daughter.

Christmas 2008

I love you,

Heather

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