Food, Libraries and my Reading List of the Week

October 30, 2009 at 10:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Today I have a few things on my mind. It was my fiance’s birthday, so we went to our favorite Indian restaurant, Bollywood Masala in Lexington Park, MD, and had the buffet and their awesome rum-soaked pastry dessert with saffron-pistachio ice cream. Then the owner came over and informed us that in light of it being Charles’ birthday, our entire meal would be on the house. Can you imagine? What a great start to a great weekend!

Tonight we are going to try the Bonefish Grill, which is a new restaurant in Waldorf, MD. We tried Bonefish once before when I was taking some acquisition training at Ft. Belvoir. We went to the Bonefish Grill in Kingstown (a part of Alexandria, VA) and it was great. That time we had Baja shrimp, crab dip and their amazing creme brulee. My favorite dessert is creme brulee, so I’m hoping that’s what Charles will choose this time. But I want to try something different for my entree. Shrimp is good, but I’m more of a crab or scallops girl.

Now that the food is strong on my mind, let me turn to another favorite topic: the library! I have a confession to make. I have a ridiculous love for libraries. I know where all of the local branch libraries are in three counties, and I visit almost all of them at least once a month.

There’s the Leonardtown branch where my mom works, which is in an old building and has a great selection of books on CD and Young Adult fiction. Then there’s the Charlotte Hall branch, closest to my childhood home, which shares its lot with an Amish food market that is a local treasure in itself. Charlotte Hall is where I go to get movies, and copies of old childhood favorites, because their selection of those items is great. Nearest to my new home is the Southern Branch, which is housed in a community center and while it is very small inside, the librarians there are just absolutely the nicest around town. I go there the most often, and despite its size, they have a great collection of nonfiction. The Lexington Park branch is closest to the base where I work, and I go there a lot too. They have a cafe called “Read A Latte” which is so cute, it’s tucked into a corner and they beat Starbucks in my book (no pun intended!) for value and taste. I also really like their selection of YA books on CD, and they have the best space in St. Mary’s hands down. It’s a new building and it’s spacious and comfortable there. Finally, there is the brand new branch in Prince Frederick, MD which is so awesome it made me understand why Carrie Bradshaw chose a library for her (fictional) wedding! I would consider getting married at the Prince Frederick branch. The stacks are just filled with the best finds. I always walk out of there with so many books I can’t fit them all in my library bag.

When I go into a library, I can’t resist just returning the items I have and leaving. Nevermind the fact that I have at least ten or more books still waiting at home, a few books on CD queued up in my car, and even a movie or two. Nope, I walk out with at least two or three more. I have two giant baskets at home with the books that I am going to read, and I always carry a book in my purse for the precious two minutes I can snatch while waiting at the pharmacy or in the case of last summer, when my car breaks down for no apparent reason! Traveling back and forth between southern MD and northern VA everyday this summer, I had four breakdowns in the span of a month (and the hottest month of the year, at that!). I always had a novel or something with me to lean against the car in the hot sun and take in while waiting for help.

What do I read, you ask? At any given moment, I have a disparate selection at my fingertips. My current checkout list reads:

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood; Heartbeat, Sharon Creech; The Rough Guide to the Brain, Barry Gibb; Domestic Bliss, Rita Konig; Shopaholic and Baby, Sophie Kinsella; Women & Money, Suze Orman; Dogboy, Christopher Russell; The Name of this Book is Secret, Psuedonymous Bosch; Autobiography of a Fat Bride, Laurie Notaro; Changeling, Delia Sherman; Other Lives, Sarah Woodhouse; Rescuing Sprite, Mark R. Levin; Pendragon Book One: The Merchant of Death, D.J. McHale; Between Fathers and Daughters, Linda Nielson; Food Matters, Mark Bittman; The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut: Riding Rockets, Mike Mullane… and about seven more that are either in the car, my purse, my bedroom or Charles’ car.

The thing is, I have always been a reader and it is embedded in my routine like brushing my teeth. I can’t help it. If I am not moving around doing something else, then I am most likely reading. I don’t watch TV to relax like most people I know. I read!

So throughout this blog, you’ll likely see posts that are entirely devoted to ce que je ris aujourd’hui. Yes, that was my French that is probably entirely wrong in its usage coming out to play.

 

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Defying Gravity – Overview and Opinion

October 27, 2009 at 3:35 am (Uncategorized)

Today I’m going to give a little information about this great show that I discovered over the summer called Defying Gravity. It was aired in the U.S. on ABC until September, when they dropped it for no clearly given reason. But it continued to air in Canada, so I was able to find it online and finish out the season. If you are interested in doing that, all 13 episodes are available at http://www.casttv.com/shows/defying-gravity/eve-ate-the-apple/zrto7z#episodes. On other sites, there are blocks in place to keep people accessing the page from the Unites States from seeing the episodes, but this one seems to work ok. The caveat is that most of these are on MegaVideo, which only allows its free users to watch 72 minutes a day and occasionally cuts you off after 35 minutes for about an hour.

Now on to the show:

Defying Gravity takes place in the year 2054, and it is about a space program (The ISO, or International Space Organization). In particular, it tracks the Antares mission, which is a mission to visit seven planets in six years, ostensibly for the mining rights of the planets and publicity for the ISO. The show flashes back in LOST fashion between the beginning of the training program (during which a huge number of candidates are narrowed down to seven astronauts who will go on this mission and the remaining twenty or so who will be the team handling the mission from the ground) and the mission itself in 2054.

If you read the message boards at hulu.com, you find mixed reactions to the show. A majority of viewers really enjoy it, particularly those who are science fiction fans. There are a fair amount of naysayers, most of whom clearly watched enough of the show to make it ironic that they spend so much of their time criticizing it. Because it takes place in the future, clearly some of the technology that is being used in the mission does not currently exist. However, having spent my summer working in the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC in the Solid State Devices Branch, I can anticipate that much of the basis of such technological advances are well on their way in the realm of basic research.

For example, the suit that the astronauts wear to walk on the surface of Venus has a built in temperature control system and other systems that allow a person to survive the harsh climate of Venus for up to twenty minutes unscathed. Such technology does not currently exist, nor does the space travel that currently is possible allow for travel to Venus in less than four months as is depicted in the show. However, the magnetic gravity that is used to maintain an artificial gravity on the ship is fairly well explained in the show and the principles of magnetism that are discussed are, as far as I could tell, accurate.

The great thing I found about the “science” of the show was that ordinary phenomena that are perhaps known to physicists and biologists, but not well known to the masses, were discussed in the show. The idea of a Hall current, for example, features in “H2IK.” Genetic engineering, stem cell research and bioinformatics are integrated into the show as well. Some of the technology depicted, like a credit card sized combination of a cell phone, credit card and likely many other functions that are currently handled by multiple platforms, is likely to be a reality in the future as well– the iPod Touch essentially can fulfill these functions already (though much larger than a credit card).

In terms of the drama, I have seen this show compared to other ABC dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy and LOST. I find that the personal aspect of the characters is handled with sufficient intrigue to keep me interested. There are love triangles, controversial issues such as abortion and stem cell research on embryos, the cast is diverse both ethnically and spiritually, and there are religious undertones to some of the events. Clearly the writers of the show were not interested in playing it safe, which is likely part of the reason ABC canceled the show. I find it a travesty that such ridiculous reality TV shows are the eye candy of choice when there are other intellectual and entertaining options like Defying Gravity that can’t even hold on to a slot for the entirety of a season. Thank you Canada for continuing to air this show for the fans in the United States to view online. If you like science fiction, this is a good show to check out.

Signing off for the day, I have to go to sleep. Electricity & Magnetism class at 8 AM sharp tomorrow morning, for me.

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Ready to Go

October 24, 2009 at 4:28 am (Uncategorized)

Welcome. Apparently, even though I followed all directions, my first real post was not saved. I will try to duplicate it but I have to tell you, the name of this blog is really kind of prophetic… in a bad way.

So, this is my first blog ever, and I am (well, was) really excited about it. I consider myself a writer, albeit mostly in a local/organization newspaper/newsletter context. I also write fiction in my spare time and I occasionally share it with trusted friends and family for feedback. But I have a wide variety of interests that don’t mesh well in ordinary contexts and I rarely get to have conversations about the things that interest me most without the inevitable,  “Mm Hmm… listen, Emily, I am not a rocket scientist. I don’t even like science, so let’s talk about (fill in the blank here with something that really doesn’t interest me at all)” or “Um, Em, listen I gotta go (blah blah), but you can tell me about your semiconductor research tomorrow, ok?” and believe me, with respect to that comment, tomorrow never comes. I understand. I rarely want to listen to people ramble on either, if their topic doesn’t interest me and I have something better to do. So I thought by creating a blog, I can have an outlet to talk about things I care about, without fear of the aforementioned inevitable. Of course, there are always comments…

Seriously though, my first post was more upbeat and focused on such exciting things as why I named this blog as I did. Having spent all that time only to find that instead of uploading the post, it was not saved and the generic post that wordpress starts you out with was saved instead, well… needless to say more. I just copied all of the above, in case of terrible repeat events. Now comes the fun part.


So I named this blog for one of my favorite songs, Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” Intuitive. But seriously, it’s a good example of the context issue I mentioned before. Music and science are two of my favorite things to talk about… and that song captures both my favorite things AND my life’s current state of affairs. I realized this year that in spite of nobody saying it would be easy, I really didn’t expect it to be this hard.

Don’t get me wrong– the status quo is not all bad. But there has been a series of unfortunate events this year. I bought a house (which initially seemed fortunate, as my fiance and I were living out of my parents’ house and sharing a bathroom with my 13 year old sister), but then within a month I got laid off. My fiance proposed in April and we made plans to get married next year… and then I got laid off and his position was declared unnecessary within a month after that. He still is working, thanks to some creative manipulation, but he lives in fear of the eventual layoff too. I can’t find a position anywhere right now. We can’t afford a wedding when we’re living like this, and owning a home is ridiculously nerve wracking at times. Like when two appliances break the same week your in-laws are going to visit for the first time AND your fiance is getting baptized AND you have a gigantic exam in your Electricity & Magnetism class. Yep, that’s where I am.

In classic overachiever mode, I picked this week to also jumpstart a blog. So please, bear with me, offer me condolences or criticism, and know that I am looking forward to great things with this endeavor… so you should too.

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