Friday, July 11, 2014

Playing Catch-Up

Oy. It's almost mid-July and the total number of my summer posts is embarrassingly low. The problem is, the more I put off writing a post, the harder it is to write one. Vicious cycles and all that.

The main excuse I would like to submit this time for dereliction of blogging duties would be my summer internship. Long story ignored, I have a biochem internship this summer at my 'home' university of ASU. I might not technically attend ASU ((well okay I do in fact 'technically' attend ASU since I signed up with the intention of taking summer classes)) I basically consider it my university. This summer things just fell together and I, a physic chick, found myself wonderfully out of my comfort zone.

Since I brought up the topic to my internship, I can't resist talking a bit of science about what I'm doing: the overall goal is the extraction of Manganese Peroxidase for the development of a peroxide sensor. Or so goes the title of my poster I'm going to present in a couple weeks at a local conference. These past few weeks I've been extracting MnPox from corn seeds. The hard work of trans-genetic biology was already done, and all I had to learn was how to get the enzyme out of the corn seeds.

Here is a woefully blurry picture of one of the many purification steps the enzyme/buffer mixture has to go through. This specific step helps to filter out natural corn proteins that are in the corn seeds.

My internship is not the only factor contributing to my surprisingly busy summer life. I've been studying for the general GRE, which I took this morning, for perhaps a month now. Now that that's out of the way, I get to move on to studying for the much harder physics GRE!

This is one of the busiest summers ever, I believe.

One final excuse: things start to pile up, pictures I want to show, brief stories I want to tell. By the time I finally procrastinated from reading the riveting titled 'Immobilized Enzyme Review' which I really do need to finish, to write this post I had a smattering of photos to share, none of them really connected with each other. But such is life.

Let's see. There was the park my friend and I finally got around to checking out-- it's an island off a bridge we always take to get into Little Rock. We always said we would go and a couple of weeks ago we finally did. It was more expansive than we had previously imagined and was a lot of fun. Even if we did get lost. On a concrete path. On an island.

There was the spontaneous one two year reunion I had with my horse Bryan. Summer after my freshman year in college I took a equitation class that was a blast.

((So I've dropped my phone too many times and my camera has decided that taking good, clear photos is overrated))

Then there was that gorgeous trail ride I did a couple weeks back-- I finally hauled my bike out to the local park and rode around some of the trails.

Even though I've been crazy busy-- what with learning/teaching myself some biology/chemistry, a near full time internship, and the graduate exam-- I've managed to carve out some time to read and try my hand at my newest artistic endeavor: watercolor.

Once, while I was in France, Michelle and I were taking the train back to our town of Saint Etienne. The French never bothered with this idea of train seats 'selling out'. Their mentality was to sell unlimited tickets for a limited space, and if you wanted it, you would worm your way onto the the train. Every seat was taken, the loading spaces were packed, and the stairwells were staked out. Michelle and I ended up standing up in the aisles on the second level. While this seat offered zero comfort points, it did lend itself to people watching. One of the girls who was using the stairwell as a seat had a little journal out, and a couple watercolor pens. Michelle and I nudged each other, impressed by her quick sketching skills with the watercolor pens. Her back was to us so I gawked obnoxiously, wishing that I had her skills.

One of the first things I did when I got back to the US was to go out and buy some watercolor pens.

While I'm not artist, I am slowly getting better.

And in my yard, there is no dearth of inspiration. ((sorry, I memorized a bunch of obnoxiously large words for the GRE and now I feel the need to use them as often as possible))

Whew! That about catches us up to the present! I'll try and post more often-- but as for right now, I really need to get back to the 'carrier methods of functional groups' and their role in enzyme immobilization.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

America's Superiority Complex in the Media

Now that I've written such a stinging title I feel extra pressure to offer forth a well-thought-out and well-written argument. The difference between a sensational title and a thought-provoking one is often the quality of the material which follows.

Today, as I was skimming the commercials during my favorite competition show, So You Think You Can Dance, I fell across a commercial that made me hit play just to watch it.

I was pumped. It was a commercial for one of my all-time favorite crime dramas ((and I haven't even finished watching the season!)) At least, that's what I thought it was.

It's called Broadchurch and it's a BBC crime drama which aims to move past the superficiality that has defined the crime drama genre-- as if all issues could be solved, packaged up, and played back in a 50 minute time span. As if all murders could be solved in a quick manner by witty protagonists. As if, at the end of the day, justice always prevails over evil and evil wonders why it even tried. From Scooby-Doo to Bones it's a rare day when, after 50 exciting minutes, the guilty criminal hasn't succumbed to the pull of a sudden moral compass and confessed or been overwhelmed by the expansive amount of evidence (and law breaking by the upholders of the law) and admitted his wrongdoings.

I watched the first episode Broadchurch primarily because it had one of my all-time favorite British actors in-- David Tennant. I continued watching because it was so good.The show crafted an amazing connection between the audience and the characters. You see the aftermath of a murder-- a 'behind-the-scenes' look at what happens when a little boy is killed. The entire season is devoted to solving the crime, watching as everyone's back-story, everyone's skeleton is pushed out of the closet.

What does this have to do with the American superiority complex?

Well, you see, the commercial I had stopped to watch wasn't Broadchurch. Sure, it had David Tennant's lovely face, the small coastal setting, and the same plot.

But, you see, this new show was called Gracepoint. It looked as though it had been filmed at the same location of Broadchurch-- all the names of the characters remained the same. The actors looked simliar-- we had the pretty brunette young, devastated mother, the sullen, loner elderly gentlemen-- and of course, Tennet.

But this show was American. Tennet ditched his lovely Scottish accent in favor of an American accent. The great British actors had been replaced by nearly identical actors-- the only difference being, these were American actors. The deceased boy had been American. It was filmed in America.

Entire scenes-- and lines-- are kept the same. I watched the commercial twice and even checked Wikipedia because I simply could not believe that they would re-make an entire, already wonderful British series, just to put it on the American market.

And that got me thinking. Why? Why not simply show Broadchurch? It is obvious a captivating, new crime drama and those things have been selling like hotcakes, to use a technical term.

Why take the same show and uselessly 'Americanize' it, to make it fit for an American audience? They are perhaps assuming that the only way Americans could ever emphasize-- and therefore keep tuning in to the show-- was if they were watching Americans solve an American crime. That we, as Americans, lack the ability to stay interested in affairs that are not explicitly our own. That the little things-- accents, license plate shapes, affinity for tea-- would prevent us from fully enjoying a British crime drama. Obviously we aren't able to hold any interest in stories where the characters might look or act differently.

And that got me thinking. How does this theory hold up compared to the hit shows on TV in America?

American shows are woefully under-diversified. I've complained about this before with a racial tint but the same position can be held with a nationalist tint. Characters on our hit shows talk, act, and look like us. That, of course, is to be expected; shows are crafted so that we connect, and therefore watch them. But for this to be the case for every single character?

I love old movies (as in 1930s old) and there has been a massive improvement in the way that different sexes and races are portrayed in the media. However, I don't want us to think that we're done; that we've reached the asymptotic goal of well-representation of everyone in the media.

Josh Whedon (an amazing show writer) was once asked why he created such strong female roles in his show. The fact that they existed was so remarkable that the reporter felt the need to point it out-- but no one would ever ask a writer why they wrote strong male roles.

The same is true for the representation of race in the media. It stands out to me whenever I see an ethnically diverse cast-- it's the exception, rather than the norm.

Of course I haven't seen every TV show there is. However, I do know the ethnic makeup of the United States and that its diversity is not represented in the media. 

How are we supposed to embrace our diversity if our television shows focus on pretty, white Americans?

How are we supposed to appreciate different cultures if even the remarkably similar British culture must undergo an American makeover for it to be suitable for American audiences?

The United States is quite diverse-- for that matter the WORLD is diverse! We can't hide away in our corner of the globe and pretend like we are the only ones that matter, like our stories are the only ones we should talk about. We should celebrate the fact that there are other nationalities a) living in our very own country and b) living in the WORLD. There are so many stories to be told and why not use the wonderful media of television?

I'd like to think that Americans can empathize, can enjoy, stories about people who might look/act different than ourselves. I'm not proposing anything radical, just that increasing the diversity in our media would benefit everyone. ((Now there's a radical statement for you. Diversity is good.))

For those of you who like hard numbers ((or opinions that are not my own)) there is a really cool paper written about the diversity in the media.

If you disagree with my arguments and if you're anything like me, that means as you have been reading my post you have been silently disagreeing, creating rebuttals and all-around strengthening your argument. And that was why I wrote this post in the first place-- I wanted to make you think. I wanted to hear your opinions.

Next time you tune into your favorite show, I wanted you to examine what type of characters were being given the limelight and what type of characters (African American, immigrant, Mexican) were absent.

Friday, May 23, 2014

DIY: Fitted T-Shirt

What I made:

Last Thanksgiving I found myself in the wonderful city of London. After two trains, a plane ride, an two hour search for a friend, my friend and I made our way to our hostel. We walked into the 100 degree heat, dark dorm style room. Even though it was only around 10 pm at least half the beds were full of presumably sleeping people, which makes it hard to find your bed and settle your stuff. It was then I realized I had not packed any pjs-- and sleeping in the same room as ten other people meant I really did need pjs. The next day we headed to a huge, packed department store where I tried to find something cheap to sleep in.

Et, volia!

The only issue was that once I got back to France and didn't need to sleep in the shirt I realized just how shapeless the thing was. While acceptable when I'm using it to sleep in, I wanted to make it more practical. My recent foray into tailoring gave me the idea to just pin and sew the shirt to make it be more flattering. My inspiration was this tutorial, which I had planned on sewing sometime.



Sorry for the crappy quality pictures! This was a quick (well, more on that soon) DIY and I just shot some quick photos with my phone.

Anyway! To make the shirt more flattering, I put a fitted t-shirt on top of it, and pinned where I wanted to sew.

This was actually pin attempt 1 of 3! The first time I pinned my shirt I realized that it wasn't symmetrical. So, I took out my pins, adjusted my fitted shirt, and pinned again. Then, I realized that if I wanted to try on the stretchy shirt with the new pins then I really needed to pin with safety pins. So, I pulled out all my straight pins and re-pinned with safety pins.

Two Things to Remember:
  • Pin the shirt right side in-- basically do NOT turn this shirt inside out, as one normally would when tailoring a shirt. I made this mistake and had to take out both of my seams and re-sew the shirt right side in. 
  • Pin the shirt with safety pins and they won't fall out when you're trying your outfit on.
Other than that, it's pretty straightforward! I pinned it almost to the armpits of the fitted shirts and sewed.

Final Result:

I loved the result. It's not a huge change but it does make my large shirt more flattering. And, if I had had better luck pinning/sewing, this DIY would have taken less than 30 min! 

Thanks for reading! :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Leaving/Arriving Home

Yesterday I packed up and left my little room in the French house which I had grown to love despite the fact that I was a stone throws away from a very active railroad line and a crossroads where people loved to rev their engines at three am in the morning.

I've discovered a disturbing trend to dislike where ever I'm living-- I disliked Couch, my dorm sophomore year ((and believe me, I had great reason to dislike Couch: gagging smells permeated every hallway, mold was ever prevalent, I lived with two lovely girls in a room barely big enough for one person, and I had a third roommate with an infestation of ants)). I disliked my 'room' ((which I not so affectionately nicknamed my cell)) in the dorm in France. Once again I believe I had great reasons to dislike it-- the room was just big enough to take five steps, a board would have literally been more comfortable than my bed, and at one point I found myself wearing every coat and sweater I could fit in, boiling water in a cup just to hold in my hands because the French people didn't believe in central heating even when it was literally freezing outside.

Even though I believe I'm justified in my dislike, I consider myself a laid back person and I didn't like this troubling trend of complaining about everywhere I live. So I was quite happy to love living in the French house this semester. Sure there was the odd terrifying flying bug that made it into my room but there were also crazy comfortable couches in the living room, endless hot water in the private bathroom ((a rarity in college)), a...workable kitchen, and a budget to cook weekly meals.

As a college student I live a semi-nomadic life. Every couple of months I've been packing up and moving-- sometimes to a different country, sometimes to a different town. Now, I'm back 'home'-- rapidly becoming a relative word. I drove home yesterday for summer in 55 degree weather with driving rain. Someone needs to tell the weather it is supposed to be summer. This is Arkansas-- normally this time of year I would be dreaming of a cool breeze, or anything that wasn't suffocating humidity.

I really do love my backyard. I can sit on my couch, look out the window, and only see trees; no neighbors, just branches overlaying branches.

My backyard also is great fodder for mother's day cards ((I took this picture a year ago!)).

While I am pumped that finals are finally over, I was sad to leave Hendrix and all my friends for the summer. There are perks, of course, with summer-- I can't wait to start sewing and crafting. I have plenty ideas in mind so be sure to check back to see if I fail miserably or if I create beautiful works of art (ha!).

Thanks for reading! :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

On Easter and Bubbles

The title would make more sense if I had written this post when I wanted to write it-- during Easter weekend.

However, my Methodist school doesn't even give us Good Friday off; various things kept me late in Conway, so my Easter weekend didn't contain copious amounts of free time.


Photographing nature has made me more observant. It's interesting, to me at least, to compare when things bloom and how that changes year to year. For example, this year, our spring is ridiculously late-- when I woke up this morning it was in the 40s. Following that, everything has been blooming later. Luckily there were some things in bloom when I was home.

I didn't take any photos that I really loved-- and not only is that due to lack of time, but also I'm out of practice. I haven't taken many photos recently, basically none, due to being crazy busy. Hopefully this summer I can remedy that.

Easter morning I had breakfast at my church and then a beautiful service followed by a huge potluck. Then, I drove and stayed with some relatives for Easter dinner-- even for me, that's a lot of good food for one day.

I had a fun time photographing my little cousins playing with their new bubble contraptions.

In other new, finals are rapidly approaching! I have one day left of classes-- Monday-- and then my first two finals are on Thursday. Electrodynamics is going to be rough, but Classical Mythology shouldn't be too bad. Then I have my French final the next Tuesday and volia! the semester is over!

Which is crazy; I feel like I just got back to Hendrix, not like my junior year of college is basically over. Because that means I'll be a senior. Which is just not okay because being a senior is one step closer to graduating, leaving Hendrix and all my friends-- which I'm not ready to do yet.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Soakin' in Savannah!

Ever time I sat down to start a post all ideas fled from my head until I was thoroughly convinced that I had nothing to say. Luckily I have something easily concrete to write about-- my first time going to the American Physical Society!

Last weekend was the April 2014 meeting of the American Physical Society. Seven students, I, and one professor headed down to Savannah, Georgia for the weekend.

To get to Savannah we had to fly through Atlanta, where our group broke up to take two different flights to Savannah. I was with the early group, after a quick layover we boarded a plane and landed in Savannah. It was just before eight and we hadn't had time to grab dinner; we thought we could easily grab some food at the airport.

Think again. Every store in the entire airport (all three of them) were closed. It's hard to explain how excited we were when we stumbled upon a vending machine hidden away in some dark corner of the airport.

We had to wait a couple of hours for the rest of the group to get to Savannah and we took a bus to our hotel on the river. It was easily midnight by the time we, still hungry, finally arrived at our rooms. The hotel had given away our room, so the other three girls and I were put in a room with a king bed and a cot. Suffice to say, there was a lot of togetherness going on.

The professor we were with suggested we order pizza-- which sounded immensely better than our previous plans to walk downtown and hope a bar was open and serving food.

When I was abroad the idea of ordering pizza and having it delivered to your door sounded like the coolest idea everrrrr. I don't even know why-- they did deliver, as far as I could tell, in my town. Still, the mere idea of trying to order pizza over the phone in French convinced me I really did need the exercise to go out and get food.

After maybe four hours of sleep we got up the next morning in order to get to the convention center in time for the opening session. My usual crutch of caffeine was mercilessly gone as our coffee maker was broken; somehow we all managed to drag ourselves out the door.

 Sunrise on the river! Our hotel, and the downtown restaurant area was on one side of the river, while the convention center, where almost all of the activities were held, was on the other side of the river.

But have no fear! Ferries came to the rescue.They were like free public buses and ran from the two main hotels to the convention center.They were awfully cute.

There was a cute little candy shop on the riverfront that we ogled every time we passed. I got some truffles-- their flavors ranged from Irish coffee to Strawberry Cheesecake.

Sadly they all just tasted like chocolate, but it was a delicious taste so I couldn't complain.

Savannah is a gorgeous town, filled to the brim with lovely live oaks. Sunday morning, after the undergraduate awards brunch-- where four Hendrix students took home awards--we meandered downtown, jumping from green square to green square. The entire area was pocketed with little gardens.

Monday morning, before we ran to catch our flight, we caught Neil DeGrasse Tyson's talk. Now whenever I tell people about this I automatically assume they know who he is, which is a bad assumption to make. Suffice to say, he's one of the only celebrity astrophysicists. Anyway, we were all pretty pumped to see his talk but all left feeling a bit disappointed. His talk was mainly a collection of science memes, which means it was funny but it lacked substance. 

Two flights and one car ride later we arrived at Hendrix just in time to miss housing selection. Luckily my friend was present and we snagged the triple we had been eying for next year!

I promise that I will make myself write another post within a reasonable time frame. Even if I feel I have nothing to write. I know that I'll always have one reader!(yes, I'm looking at you) 

Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Back to Normal

Normal being, of course, a vague and relative term.

In this case I mean I'm back to Hendrix and a life filled with physics problems. Which is pretty normal for me. What was not normal was a semester studying only a language. It was a nice break-- one I might regret senior year when I have to take Quantum Mech and Thermal at the same time to catch up for my time off. 

I haven't written a blog post in forever. After leaving France I didn't know what to post-- I haven't had time for crafts, or cooking really, except for the communal meals I help cook in the house I live in. I thought about really putting in some effort and writing a text only blog post that rather than show off some pictures of what I've been up to, grapples with some issue that I'm interested in. 

And then I thought about a) my lack of writing skills ((my friends reading this are primary English majors and all talented writers)) b) my lack of free time ((at any given moment I should be doing something, case in point, I'm starting this post while taking a 'little' break from research)) and I just never got around to posting anything at all.

The longer I put off posting, the harder it got to find inspiration to start a new post. Yet here I am!

Coming back to Hendrix has been great. I was warned, many times, about the possibility of reverse culture shock-- all the sudden certain aspects of your home culture that were normal before seem annoying and you miss your time abroad.

The second I stepped onto American soil I was yelled at/reprimanded by customs officials for not doing, by accident, exactly what they wanted me to do. In that moment I hated America and yearned for the normal, non-crazy intensive attitude the rest of the world has towards security at airports. In France I didn't even have to take off my shoes. No one was particular intense about the whole thing-- two seconds into America I was yelled at for not standing in the right place.

Walking through the airport Americans seemed impossibly loud. I heard someone having a very emotional phone call almost yelling argumentatively into their cell phone seemingly not caring that they were in a public space and that I really didn't want to hear about what so-and-so had said about them.

And perhaps it was primarily due to the fact I had just gotten up at 2 am, driven 7ish hours to Paris, and then sat in the same place on a plane for 10 hours, that I was a little lacking of patience and grace as I was faced with my impossibly loud culture.

I meandered through the airport in a generally grumpy mode (traveling does that to you. I feel like I'm 80 but whenever I traveled anywhere in Europe I was absolutely exhausted. Not the best when you have like two days to explore an entire new country) and stopped to purchase some Gatorade. The cashier smiled at me, asking how I was, and if I had a good Christmas-- small talk between strangers that would have never happened in France. I was buying groceries the other day, trying to decide between grape tomatoes and the much more expensive cherry tomatoes. A lady passing by told me that she always used the cheap grape tomatoes instead of the cherry ones, and it didn't make any difference taste wise. Helpful strangers just striking up a conversation-- also a rarity in France, but a normal occurrence in the US. 

I was sitting on a train in France with plenty of time to think when I realized that I really did miss the US. It took four months of being away from my home culture to realize there were a lot of things I liked about America. I like the fact that our culture is characterized by being outgoing. I like baseball, TexMex. I like that you smile at people on the street. ((If you make eye contact with a stranger in France, they will not smile at you. This freaked me out for four months as little old ladies would just stare me down if I accidentally made eye contact. I would then spend a frantic thirty seconds making sure my shirt wasn't too low cut, or that I didn't have like food on my face or anything))

And maybe this is southern American culture but regardless I never had much I particularly liked about America. Living in the culture everyday, all I could do was find its faults-- and believe me, I still realize that they exist. I recently saw a car commercial that bashed the entire European lifestyle (In America you live to work) saying that we as Americans were so much better and achieved so much more than those "people who take off a month in the summer!"

Imagine! Taking off an entire month to be with your family! Taking time off from the office to enjoy life!

How horrendous.

Can you imagine if all jobs allowed this break? This idea that your work does not rule your life, but is simply just a part of it? The commercial bashed those "people who stop by a bakery on the way home". Because obviously they should have stayed at work longer. 

And while that commercial made me want to punch the stupid writer who thought that was somehow an effective way to sell a car, it didn't negate my revelations on the good points of my culture. Even with our superiority complex and the fact that we brought McDonalds onto this Earth. Everyone has their faults.

Suffice to say, it's good to be home. :)

I just realized this entire post consists of nothing but words and my opinions. However, I just got two friends who promised to read it so I will break my normal routine and post it.

Thanks for making it this far!