Thursday Thoughts 8.0

Hey there! It’s Thursday, and today I’m linking up with Sarah.



I’m sure I sound like a broken record here but it is going to be h-o-t in Chicago today. We are in a heat advisory (as is most of the country I know), and are expected to hit around 97 degrees today. To those of you dealing with triple digit temperatures today (and I do truly pity you) that may not sound so bad, but I would also venture to guess that most of you have central AC in your place of residence where as I (and many of my fellow Chicagoans) do not. I do have one window AC unit in my bedroom which I am SO GRATEFUL FOR, but the rest of  my apartment is just boiling hot. It’s days like these where I go to work JUST so I can sit i the AC for awhile.


In the midst of this heat wave I am also in the process of packing to move into a new apartment. I actually stayed home yesterday and packed because the temperatures were quite a bit cooler than what was forecast for today. The move (which is happening on Sunday) is going to be a little bit tricky logistically, but luckily I have several great friends who are going to help me do it!


The rest of my vacation last week was AWESOME and I didn’t want to come home (especially to this heat wave…lame…). After I came back from Louisiana, I continued making the rounds and seeing friends I hadn’t seen in about a year. Highlights: a trip to Boondoggles pub for pizza and a beer (although there was something wrong with the Shiner keg that night so I didn’t get to enjoy that 😦 ), seeing the movie That’s My Boy (it was a lot funnier than I thought it would be), and eating at La Brisa again (as I mentioned in last week’s post I love that place SO much). Overall it was a great trip, and gave me a MUCH needed break from Chicago.


Monday marked the one year anniversary of breaking my foot, and the beginning of my (very very) long recovery process. I had to use crutches (although I was non-weight bearing for only a few weeks) for two months, and then walked around in the boot cast for next 4ish months. Although the recovery process was long and difficult at times, I also found it very eye-opening. I realized just how handicapped inaccessible our public facilities really are (have you ever tried to open those heavy school/mall/restaurant doors on crutches), and how kind people really can be. I had so many people offer to hold doors for me, carry my stuff when needed, and drive me to wherever I needed to go. Looking back, I remember there were dark times during the recovery process where I just stayed home (and felt sorry for myself) because the thought of crunching down two flights of stairs (and then back up on the return trip) was unbearable. I also remember how difficult it was to use public transportation because many CTA stops are not handicapped accessible. However, I also remember moments like this:

I mean how many opportunities does one have in life to have a “real” peg leg?!

And like this:

I am the champion of chair dancing

…and then I remember how much fun my boot cast could make an evening. Your life is what you make of it. I’m really glad I didn’t just stay home.


I ran across The Color Challenge this week. Apparently, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 255 women are color blind, and this test allows you to see how you match up! In this online application, you arrange color tiles “in order” (the first and last tiles are set in place). At the conclusion of the test, a score is awarded from 0-99 which is an indicator of how well you really see colors. A score of 0 is perfect while a score of 99 indicates you are probably color blind. I scored a 4! Overall, I thought this was a really neat application, and my friends and I had fun yesterday taking the test and comparing our scores. Take the test and let me know how you score!


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


Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life

Hey there! It’s Tuesday, and as usual I’m participating in the “Top Ten Tuesday” link-up hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.


The theme for today is “Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life.” I actually had a harder time writing this than I thought I would, but decided to keep the “who” anonymous to protect those in my life (and lets be honest…myself… :P). The characters below remind me of people close to me, people I’ve known in the past, and in some cases myself. I’ve noted the qualities and aspects of these characters that remind me of the real-life folks.  For those of you who know me in real life, you can try to guess who I am referring to but right or wrong I will not confirm the answer…it’s my secret 🙂

Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life:

1. Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy

In keeping with the Hunger Games mania that has descended this year, it seems fitting to include Katniss on this list. Katniss is one of the most focused characters I’ve ever run across, and she nearly always accomplishes what she puts her mind to. She is a little bit rebellious, but mostly conforms to the rules of her world in order to survive and thrive. Katniss at times can seem to be cool and emotionless, but deep down she cares deeply for her friends and family. She is a fierce competitor who isn’t afraid to take others down in her quest for glory, but will also help out a friend in need. Generally, she is someone you want on your team because you know competing against her would be very difficult.

2. Petyr Baelish from the A Song of Ice and Fire series

Confession time: I have yet to read any books of this series but I am a BIG fan of the Game of Thrones television show. One of the most interesting characters in the show (and presumably the book series) is (Lord) Petyr Baelish. He is one of the shrewdest and most intelligent characters in the series. As a “self-made man” he maintains his status by constantly changing allegiances, and manipulating circumstances to suit himself. He’s a character that audiences love, and love to hate. You are never really sure whose side he is on, and the truth is the only side he is really on is his own.

3. W. P. Inman from Cold Mountain

I am currently listening to this audiobook, and the character of Inman frequently reminds me of a few people I know in my real life. Inman is a confederate solider in the Civil War who grows disenchanted with “the cause” and war in general, and ultimately deserts the army to begin a long journey home. He is intelligent (although he doesn’t have much in the way of a formal education), posses ample amounts of street-smarts, and has a strong moral compass that always points north. Inman is most definitely an individual, and marches to the beat of his own drum (as many people who are brought up in rural areas do). He is always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need, but also isn’t afraid to stand up for himself if the situation calls for it.

4. Emma Woodhouse from Emma

Emma has always been one of my favorite characters from literature…probably because certain aspects of her person hit a little too close to home (I bet you can guess who this character reminds me of!). She is intelligent, high-spirited, and genuinely wishes for the happiness of those around her. This desire to see her friends and family happy generally extends into interfering in their love lives. While I’ve never gone so far as Emma frequently does, I have been guilty of doing some matchmaking in my day. Luckily, so far those matches have gone well (one even resulted in a marriage!). I do think I distinguish myself from Emma though because I have more real world expierence, and am (I hope) more self aware.

5. Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series

Luna is a very sweet girl with a gentle disposition, and she has an ethereal, almost otherworldly quality to her. She is by far one of the most “unique” characters in the Harry Potter series. Although she is best known for her strange interests, bizarre fashion choices, and unique turns of phrase she is also one of the most loyal and loveable characters in the series.

6. Don Quixote from Don Quixote

Don Quixote (DQ) is by far one of the most memorable characters in literature. After stubbornly setting out on his quest to restore chivalry, he is able to sweep along friend and stranger in his long journey. His optimism, courage, and unwillingness to accept reality as it is make him particularly memorable. His “reality distortion field” (borrowing a term from Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography)  does indeed sometimes make reality malleable, and it can seem as though he is able to make things happen just because he believes so strongly in it. We all need a DQ in our lives to pick us up when we are down, and to encourage us to “dream the impossible dream.”

7. Ellen Olenska from The Age of Innocence

This was one of my favorite books that I read last year. In exploring the boundaries between responsibility and personal freedom, Edith Wharton created Ellen Oleneska. Despite suffering from a troubled (and perhaps abusive) marriage to the Polish Count Olenski, Ellen returns to the United States with her dignity in tact. She is honest, fair, and treats everyone (even her maid) as her equal. Although some may take aim at her behavior throughout the novel (especially in regards to her affair with Archer), she ultimately chooses to make a personal sacrifice for the good of her family. In the gray areas that overlap the black and white portions of a life, she makes her decisions gracefully and selflessly.

8. Denys Finch Hatton from Out of Africa

Although Denys is not a fictional character (as he was a real person who is portrayed in Isak Dinsen’s famous memoir), his larger-than-life persona could easily be adapted into a novel. In the memoir, he is portrayed as a dreamer, the quintessential “anywhere but here” guy. Denys  is intelligent, very well-traveled, and retains a certain wildness which makes it impossible for him to be tied down. He is a friend to everyone, but ultimately is unable to belong to anyone.

9. Jean Valjean from Les Miserables

After doing the “hard 20” for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her son, Jean Valjean is released back into the world as a marked man. Bearing the markings and papers of a former convict, it is nearly impossible for him to make an honest life. Despite these initial setbacks, he manages to make his fortune and care for an orphan girl. He devotes his life to caring for her and others, often at great personal risk to himself. Through all of his trials and tribulations, Valjean remains fiercely loyal, honest in his dealings with others, and is always willing to give people a second chance. He is dealt one of the worst hands that life can deal a person, and yet manages to make a good life in spite of that.

10. Jane Eyre  from Jane Eyre

I think almost every (female) lover of literature likes to think that she shares common traits with Jane Eyre. Jane is intelligent, passionate, and somewhat of a feminist (before that was even a thing). She has a very strong moral code which she strictly adheres to, and refuses to be subservient to the men in her life, even her deepest love. At times this places her in less than ideal situations, but she always manages to make the best of it. Her courage and “stiff upper lip” are great examples to us even today.


Are there any characters that remind you of yourself or someone you know?

Thursday Thoughts 7.0

Hello everyone! I’m on vacay in Texas/Louisiana, and I’m having a great time so far! Today I thought I’d share some thoughts on my week/vacation so far. Today, as with (almost) every other Thursday, I’m linking up with Sarah.



On my way out of town on Tuesday I learned a very important lesson: always print out your boarding pass for your flight AT HOME if at all possible. I usually do this when I’m leaving town, but this time I just forgot. When I got off the train at Midway airport it was immediately clear to me that something was not quite right. I saw a long line near security, and didn’t realize until I was on my way up to the lobby that that line led to a Southwest Kiosk. When I got up to the main lobby of Midway, I saw barely organized chaos. I have never ever seen so many people in that airport lobby in my life. I’ve been present during some pretty high congestion times too (Friday afternoons, Spring Break, Christmas Eve/Day during a massive Chicago snowstorm etc..), but nothing compared to this particular Tuesday afternoon. It turns out that the Southwest computer system was down and they were manually checking every single person in. I got in the line to get a boarding pass (not check a bag) and I waited for nearly two hours. My flight was at 5:50 pm and I entered the security line at 5:35 pm. By the time I made it out of the security line it was 5:45 pm. I ran alllllllll the way to B14 (yes I was THAT person running through the airport) and made it to the gate JUST as they were closing the door. Luckily they  took pity on me and reopened the door. I was THE LAST person to make it on the plane. Whew! I was so happy to make that flight, and an extra big thank you to the ground crew who reopened the door for me. But take it from me–print it off your boarding pass at home. Trust me. Just do it.


After the boarding pass disaster and the run through the airport, my flight was pretty uneventful. Later, I met up with my friend Philip for drinks at The Swamp Shack in Kemah. I had never been to there before, and it was a pretty cool place. Philip and I shared “coon balls” (not really sure what’s actually in these but they were pretty delicious) for an appetizer, and I had a margarita. Everything was very reasonably priced (then again everything is reasonably priced when you aren’t paying Chicago prices), and the staff was very friendly. I’d definitely go back there if I ever had a reason to again! It was also really great to see Philip, who has been my friend for five years now. I didn’t take any pictures (b0o), but it was really great to catch up!


I AM IN LOVE…with my new cowboy boots. Yesterday, I made a trip to Cavender’s Boot City and bought myself these beauties:

You think I could have a career as a boot model?

I’ll admit they were a bit pricey, but I have been wanting a nice pair for a really long time. They are also very comfortable! I’ve pretty much been wearing them non-stop ever since I got them. 🙂


After buying the boots, I got to eat at La Brisa (I always go to the Bacliff location), my favorite Tex Mex restaurant in Houston. I was planning on taking some pictures of my delicious meal, but it was SO GOOD yesterday that I forgot all about it. The salsa, the chili gravy on the enchiladas, the delicious margarita…oh man my mouth is watering just remembering it!


After La Brisa, Jason and I headed to Louisiana to see my sister Jen. Well, Jason had a legitimate work-related reason for coming, but I am mainly here to see my dearest Jenny (yes Jen, I really did just call you Jenny on my blog! :P). When we finally go to The Shreve (aka Shreveport), we headed to a local eatery called Zocolo. This was a really nice, calm place, and the wait staff was very friendly. For dinner, I had a garlic shrimp pasta dish (with a nice glass of wine), and it was delicious! Jen and I also split an awesome piece of peanut butter pie for dessert. After dinner, we headed back to Jen’s apartment and hung out for the rest of the night.

“You mean we have to act like we like each other?” -J. Arnold

We finally got it right after about 12312312 tries.

It was so nice to have some time with Jen. We have always been close, and were even roomies in college. I don’t get to see her nearly as often as I’d like, so this was a MUCH needed visit. Thanks for letting me crash Jenny, and thanks for letting me drink your coffee. 🙂


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

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR list

Happy Tuesday Everyone! I’m leaving for T-E-X-A-S this afternoon, but I thought I’d participate in the “Top Ten Tuesday” link-up hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.


The theme for today is “Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List,” so today I’ll be sharing the books I plan to read this summer. Admittedly, many of these books probably won’t be read until later in the year, but my mother always encouraged me to “dream big” so here goes…

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR list:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Yup. This is now the third time (the previous two being on another Top Ten List and my Summer Bucket List) I’ve mentioned this book in the past month. It will get read this summer. If it’s the last thing I do.

2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

This book was also featured on my summer bucket list.

3. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Flavorwire has concisely summed up my initial feelings about this book

“Actually, in fairness, there’s nothing especially wrong with this. It’s just that if we see one more disheveled businessman reading it avidly on the subway, his face lit with the glow of hope that maybe just a little Jobsian stardust might somehow sprinkle onto his next start-up idea, we’ll dissolve into a puddle of existential despair once and for all.”

However, I have heard good things about this book, and I’ve enjoyed reading  Isaacson’s other books. Plus, I like to be able to talk about the latest and greatest books with everyone else…so what the heck, I’ll jump on the bandwagon too.

4. The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager

I recently borrowed a copy of this from Beth over at Science and Cupcakes. I’m excited to read it!

5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Everyone I know who has read this book has loved it. I own a copy and can’t wait to dig into it.

6. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This book has been on my “to-read” list for a REALLY long time now. I also would really like to watch the movie (which I own).

7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

See number 6.

8. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

A non-fiction book that reads like fiction? Yes please.

9. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

I’ve wanted to read his books for a long time, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  This book, his latest, has been getting rave reviews on Goodreads…so I hope to pick up/borrow a copy of it soon!

10. Bossypants by Tina Fey

This book probably deserved an honorable mention on the “Top Ten Books Everyone Has Read But Me” list. I hear it’s good, so I’ll do my best to buy/beg/borrow a copy of it!


What’s on your summer “to-read” list?

Dear Dad

Hello everyone! Here is my very late Father’s Day post. Don’t worry Daddy, I didn’t forget. I’ve been working on this for days, but got caught up at the lab today. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


Dear Daddy,

I was a daddy’s girl from the very beginning, and with precious bonding moments such as this:

Thank goodness we had Mom there to record your most attentive moments of fatherhood…

…how could I not be?

You were my first teacher. You taught me how to tie my shoes, ride a bike, drink a cup of coffee, sled…

Aww look how cute this is…how can you possibly want to get rid this sled!?

…as well as a whole host of other things. You always encouraged me to ask lots of questions, which earned me the nickname “The Question Lady” in preschool. I remember you teaching me how to use a computer, and letting me follow as you fixed things around the house. You even inadvertently taught me how to release the emergency break on the car, much to the chagrin of Mom who found me and the car in the street one morning (after I had released the break and the car had rolled down the driveway into the street)…

In those early days, I know you were very busy working a full time job and going to school part time. Yet, you still managed to find time to spend with us in the evenings:

I know you also made a real effort to attend as many of our activities as you could. Of course you couldn’t resist participating yourself. Don’t pretend like we had to twist your arm to get this classic shot:

I hope you don’t hate me too much for this one

But in all seriousness, I know it couldn’t have always been easy. Between balancing the work and school load, you had the additional worry that Jen and I might turn out like this:

I’m pretty sure this is the definition of “hell on wheels”

…but I hope today you mostly remember things like this:

Not many children are blessed with the example of hard work and diligence that you presented for Jen and I. I remember how eagerly we awaited your return from work each evening (around 9 pm), and how you helped put us to bed before setting off to do your homework (frequently until 3 am). Somehow, you managed to be awake again at 7 am to do it all over again. Today, as an adult still in school (who does not have two small children) I marvel at how you managed to do it all. We may not have always gotten to see you as much as we wanted in those early years, but I will never forget how proud I was of you on your graduation day.

Jen, if I were you I might re-visit the socks + dress shoes decision…

It was your (and mom’s) example that set me on the path I am on today. Many of the things I pride myself on, such as my work ethic, result directly from watching you. Additionally, I was inspired by all of the technical work that you did, and from the beginning I was *obviously* scientifically inclined..

This very important work was followed up with a study on the effects of various ingredients on the appearance and taste of pancakes.

I mean, with groundbreaking work such as this, I’m sure you knew you had a future Ph.D. student on your hands…

But my childhood wasn’t filled with just work. We had many good wonderful vacations, such as visiting Grandma Belle in Alabama,

I’ve seen this picture at least 100 times and this is the first time I’ve ever noticed Jen’s Flintstones toy on the table..

viewing Lake Michigan with Uncle John and his family (who knew I’d live three blocks from it one day!),

This is definitely a “classic Jen” face. Notice how Dad has the ole “git over here” grip on her hand…

embarking on our first cruise,

Wow, we are all so sunburned

journeying to caverns far below ground,

That is a really snazzy jacket

and of course relaxing on the beautiful Hawaiian islands.

Ohau, 2010

It’s been a pretty incredible journey together so far. I am so lucky to have you and mom as my first role models…even if you do embarrass me by wearing matching Chief’s sweatshirts on Skype….

Oh-em-gee guys…oh-em-gee…

Regardless, there is no one else I’d rather drink wine and talk about life with.

I love you always,


Thursday Thoughts 6.0

I’m back after missing the link up with Sarah last week! So, I’ve included two weeks worth of thoughts, but I’ll try to keep the list brief-ish…



Two weeks ago, I attended the Second Glass’s Wine Riot event with some of my friends. For 4 hours and $60, I had the opportunity to taste wines from all over the world, take short wine tasting classes, and eat lots and lots of delicious cheese. Oh yea there was also a photobooth…

These bottles are made of real glass, and are much heavier than they look…

This was the second wine riot I have attended, and I think the event was better this year than the last. For starters, there was more wine this year (which also made each individual station less crowded). Also, the wineries had more fun freebies, and there was a temporary tattoo station! All in all, it was a great night!


Last Tuesday I helped put on “No Skillz” for the graduate students in my department, which was part of my duties as Treasurer for our graduate student association. Previously, “No Skillz” had been a highly anticipated event every year in our department, but for various reasons it had not been held the past several years. Thus, the 2011-2012 board decided to bring it back! In a nutshell, “No Skillz” is like an elementary school field day with lots of semi-silly events that do not really require any particular skill. We had 8 teams (of two people each) participate in the 5 events we prepared this year: 1) 3-legged race + marshmallow chopstick transfer, 2) Dizzy bat, 3) Cubic Crystal Challenge (I had to have one nerdy materials science event in there), 4) Saran wrap worm race, and 5) Egg Toss. Everyone had a really great time, and most people even showed up to compete in costume! It was my last event to help plan as a board member, and I think it was a great way to close out this academic year.


Monday officially marked the beginning of summer for me since I was finally finished with all my school work and my research group presentation. In theory, I am done with classwork FOREVER. I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I realize that somewhere along the way I’ll probably have to take another class for “professional development” and the like, but for now I’m just riding high on the idea that I won’t have to take any more classes for my Ph.D.!


Last night, I attended the quarterly meeting of Binding Affinity, the popular science book club I am a member of. Our book for this quarter was Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman.

I hadn’t read any popular neuroscience books before this, so it was very eye opening for me. However, there are two neuroscientists in our group and other people who have read other neuroscience books before, so they had a different view of the material than me. It was really interesting for me to listen to them debate the merits of this book versus other popular neuroscience books, and to see how the material in this book did or did not relate to the neuroscientists’ daily research. After the meeting, I left with a much different perspective of the material (and just a larger context for it in general), which is one reason I love going to this book club. I will post a review soon, which will include the book club members thoughts (as I remember them…lol).


“I see miles and miles of Texas”…almost. My annual visit to Texas is getting SO close (less than one week now)! I love seeing all my friends in Texas, and after the past month I’ve had…well let’s just say I really need the break. On this trip I will also get to visit my sister in Louisiana. I don’t get to see her very much anymore, so this visit is LONG overdue. One last thing I am determined to do on my vacation is to finally buy a *real* pair of these:


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

My Summer ’12 Bucket List

Hello out there! I do still exist! With the end of the quarter approaching (boo final projects!) and my research group presentation looming, I have barely had a spare minute the past few weeks. But, I am happy to say that they are O-V-E-R. I’m free (sorta)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So now that summer has “officially” started for me, I thought I’d make a list of things I hope to accomplish this summer. I realize this is far from an original idea (hello to all you other bloggers who have posted similar lists!), but it seemed like the perfect way for me to celebrate my first day of freedom! Happy Summer everyone!


Summer ’12 Bucket List

1. Run 25 miles in one month

To a serious runner this might seem like a silly goal, but for me it would be a big accomplishment. Between my crazy schedule, and trying to get back into running after breaking my foot last year I have yet to accomplish this. Last month I only ran 18 miles, and this month is not shaping up to be much better (again, darn you finals!). I hope that by July I will be able to run 25 miles in a month, and maybe I”ll be able to keep it up into August!

2. Read 2 books off the BBC’s “The Big Read” list

I’ve been working away at this list for probably about two years now, and I’ve only managed to read about 30 books off of it. Last year, I made really great progress, but the allure of flashy new books (I want to be able to talk about the latest and greatest with everyone else!) has distracted me this year. So this summer, I pledge to read:

The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

3. Watch a concert at Ravinia

This outdoor venue hosts many great shows all summer long, and some of them (including The Chicago Symphony Orchestra) are free for me because I’m a student!

4. Attend a Chicago Street Festival

There are all kinds of festivals and events that go on in Chicago all summer long. I’m determined to make it to at least one of them this year!

5. Go to the beach (at least once)

I bought a beach pass last summer, and broke my foot one week later. FAIL. Thus, there was no “fun in the sun” for me all summer. So, this year I hope hit the beach at least once. I live so close to it, it would be a shame not to.

6. Bake a pie

I’m ready to announce it on the internet…I’ve never made a pie (other than the Sara Lee “throw it in the oven” versions…). I hope to rectify this by making something super delicious this summer!

7. Try new restaurants and bars in Chicago

As much as I like to think I’m adventurous (and I do love doing/trying new things!), I am also somewhat a creature of habit. This certainly extends to venturing to new neighborhoods in the city, especially when it’s so much easier to stay close to home. However, this summer I’d like to see some new neighborhoods and try some different places.

8. Go to a Chicago blues club

Chicago is famous for its blues music, and I know there are several great places around the city to listen to it live. A trip to a blues club has been suggested by a member of my lab group, so this might actually happen soon!

9. Do some kind of Nature hike or outdoorsy thing

I spend almost all of my waking hours indoors, and many of these are spent in windowless labs and offices. So, this summer I’d like to get a little vitamin D and see more of the great outdoors!

10. Try a new summer cocktail

In the same vein as my tendency to visit  restaurants and bars close to home, I also tend to get the same drinks when I go out. Usually, I opt for whatever is cheapest (Bud light anyone?), but I know I’m missing out on lots of delicious concoctions.


Well, that’s my list! I’ll check back around labor day to see how I did. What’s on your list for the summer?

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