Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oslo: Part V. The Science Part.

I've shown you the city, and the parks, and the conference, but I haven't talked much about the science that went on at the conference.

It was really pretty exciting, being with scientists from all over the world who are trying to understand the rapid changes occurring in the Arctic and Antarctic. Changes like sea ice volume, which is decreasing rapidly along with sea ice extent:


One really interesting talk I went to suggested that ice volume is actually decreasing much faster than satellites suggest- because the satellites can really only "see" the top layer of ice. But the ice underneath that has been getting thinner and thinner. Researchers who have gone up to the Arctic in ice breakers have noted that in regions that used to be "unbreakable", they are now plowing through with ease.

There's also some real concern that we'll break the record for sea ice loss this summer as well. Currently, the lowest sea ice extent value occurred in 2007. Right now, we're below the amount of sea ice where we were at this same time in the 2007 season (and way below the 1979-2000 average level):
So maybe some of the public thinks: so what? Why do we care if there is no ice in the Arctic?

Well, besides for maybe feeling bad for polar bears, there was a lot of discussion at this conference on how loss of sea ice can drive changes in weather patterns... in the mid-latitudes. In other words, you lose sea ice, you change how much rain and snow you get where the majority of the world's population lives. Perhaps more importantly, as you melt ice from glaciers, like in Greenland, the sea level rises- and even a small sea level rise can have a dramatic influence on coastal areas. Not to mention impacts on ocean circulation, ecological systems, methane emissions, and local populations of Northern people.

The idea is that, if you change something major, like melting sea ice, even far away from you, it ends up having global effects. It may be easier to ignore now than birds covered in oil, but in my opinion it's no different. Both are caused by our dependence on oil, and both will have dramatic impacts on all of us.

I don't mean to be sensationalist. I don't think the world is going to end because of this any time soon. And I certainly still drive my car all the way to D.C. at least 2 times a week (though I try to use public transportation on the other days). I travel on planes frequently. I'm still very dependent on fossil fuels. But we need to acknowledge that this is a big problem, and we need to demand policy changes from our government to address it. We need to accept that maybe paying much more for gas, or non-local food products, or other commodities highly dependent on oil, is worth it.

This sea ice problem- it's not something that is just going to be a problem 50 years from now- we're talking complete loss of sea ice in summertime as soon as 2013-2020 (one estimate I heard at the conference). Climate change is happening now. It's real. And we are causing it. And it's frustrating to no end, particularly given the thousands of pieces of evidence in front of us, that some people want to take the chance that we're not.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dining Review: Hull Street Blues Cafe

Hull Street Blues Cafe
1222 Hull St
Baltimore, MD 21230

We tried out the Sunday brunch, and it was quite good! They put out a yummy display of coffee cake, eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and rice, asparagus with a tasty creamy tomato sauce, meatballs, salad, pasta salad, and fruit, among other things.

The highlights: the blueberry pancakes brought to your table are fantastic. Like maybe I would return just for those pancakes. They are just a little bit crispy around the edges with lots of blueberries. Yummy! They also cooked the bacon just right, and the meatballs and beans and rice all had lots of flavor.

The lowlights: Orange juice seemed a bit watery, coffee cake tasted dried out to me, eggs were just so-so. Overall seemed a bit overpriced at $16.95 per person.

Hull Street Blues Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 28, 2010

Oslo: Part IV

Wednesday afternoon, my friend Nikki and I decided to take a break from the conference to see some of the sights of Oslo. Nikki and I first met when our advisors were working under a joint grant in grad school, and we've had the fortune of being able to travel internationally 3 times together.

Unfortunately, Nikki and I seem to invoke the rain gods. Here are some pictures from our last conference together, in Bergen, Norway, in 2007:

Bergen
Top left
: Me in Bergen- this was August, and it was freezing!
Top right: Nikki and I on our "Norway in a Nutshell" tour (how did it get in that crazy nutshell?). It rained the whole time!
Bottom left: the cable car we took to go on this painfully long and intense hike.
Bottom right: Lovely but rainy view of one of the fjords near Bergen.

So maybe it shouldn't have surprised us that after days of sunshine the day we decided to break out of the conference was drizzling rain. No worries though- we still had fun! In fact, we got to see what turned out to be my favorite site in Oslo- the Vigeland Sculpture Park.

The sculptures were created by Gustav Vigeland. It took over 10 years to complete, and is the largest sculpture park made by one artist in the world. There are over two hundred sculptures in bronze, iron, and granite. The sculptures are meant to represent man's journey through life, from infancy through death. And the people are all naked.

Vigeland Sculpture Park
Top left: To me this looks like a guy who's reached a breaking point with his 4 infants, but the sculpture is called: "Man Chasing Four Geniuses" so maybe I'm missing the point.
Top Right: The Fountain. Surrounded by statues of babies and skeletons in trees, "the fountain suggests that from death comes new life".
Bottom left: I get in with two very acrobatic naked people.
Bottom right: Naked guy lifting girl with one arm.

The thing that was fascinating to me about this park was how well the bodies were shaped, and how consistently. The granite sculptures were my favorite. And there were all types of bodies- fat bodies, thin bodies, muscular bodies, old and saggy bodies.

Picnik collage
Top left
: me with these cool wrought iron gates (naked men were on this one, but across the way were naked women).
Top right: Angry Baby statue- apparently this one is quite famous.
Bottom left: The Monolith- the coolest sculpture in the park. This is made out of one solid piece of granite(!) and towers 46 feet high. It is basically a whole bunch of bodies stacked on top of each other- kind of grotesque in a way, but the detail given to each body is amazing. Wikipedia tells me that it's meant to convey "man's desire to become one with the spiritual and divine."
Bottom right: the Park as seen from the Monolith.

So yeah, it was a great park- I would highly recommend!

We also went back to the Oslo Opera house and walked up to the top to see the view- love that place!

Oslo Opera House

Finally, we took the subway over to the Edvard Munch Museum. We went mostly to see The Scream:

Interesting fact: you may remember that this painting was stolen from this museum in 2004. It was recovered in 2006 and the painting sadly still has some damage on it. Nonetheless, it was put back on display in 2008. It was pretty cool to see it in person! Also, I enjoyed his other paintings a lot more than I thought I would. It helped that Nikki and I like paintings about the same amount- that is to say, we don't really like to sit and ponder too much over what they all mean. :)

Munch Museum

Even with the rain, it was fun afternoon out!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Meditation: Siobhan Phillips


Giving Up Green
By Siobhan Phillips

Sometimes he determines what his choice
requires: if once or twice in coming years
it may seem awkward not to call on friends
with lawns, to walk in gardens, drive through towns
of houses lined in moss and bound with vines,
or gaze from passing trains at rain-soft valleys
lush with ferns and grass, he still might turn
his looking back on bricks and carriage axles.
Here, more simply, moving through a city
bare of cloud, its blocks secure, its river
earnest planes of shade and sun, his practice
slows to basic tasks and paces. Hours
of looking at a single rationed lime.
A morning till a leaf is only veins.
An afternoon of making stems appear
more lucid than their vase's frosted glass.
And yet his daily track grows longer, routes
extended: then he worries, climbing stairs,
that sheer exhaustion might obscure a lack
of patience. Or of nerve. So when the clear
that comes at five o'clock on cloudy days
engulfs the nearby roofs in gold and rose,
a stain of noon beneath the darker flaring
indigos of dust, he maps a blue,
a red, a yellow square across the wall
and stares. It's almost more than he can stand.
His curtains fill the room with fading air.
Below, a window frames a woman paring
apples: knife and hand; the skin unwinding
shyly from her guiding wrist, unwrapping
flesh and falling loose in severed curves.
He stops to rest. She smoothes a strand of hair.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Review: Will Grayson Will Grayson

Welcome bloggers from the hop!

Synopsis from Goodreads
: "One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans."

Will Grayson, Will Grayson Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was borderline between three and four stars. I really liked some aspects of it a lot. I liked how there were parallels, but not exact parallels, in both Will Grayson's lives before they met. I liked both of the main characters (both Will Grayson's), and depressed WG was hilarious! (when he wasn't so mopey). The relationship development between the first WG and Jane was good.

The only thing I didn't really like was I wasn't convinced depressed WG would really like flamboyant Tiny. I just didn't find that relationship development convincing. And Tiny was a little too much for me at times. I felt like the authors wanted me to love him much more than I did- like at the end.

The best part of the book though was the discussions on friendship and truth in relationships, and Tiny's relationship with the original Will Grayson. Here's a favorite passage (not sure I agree with it, but I like the idea of it):

"When you date someone, you have the markers along the way, right: You kiss, you have The Talk, you say the Three Little Words, you sit on a swing set and break up. You can plot the points on a graph. And you check up with each other along the way: Can I do this? If I say this, will you say it back? But with friendship, there's nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that's something you choose. Being friends, that's just something you are."

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oslo: Part III

After enjoying the city and my workshop weekend, I was ready for the conference to begin.

Usually when you think of the opening session of a conference, you think big conference hall, coffee and tea station if you're lucky, probably someone somewhat important in your field giving a talk.

Maybe it was because of the crazy registration fee for this conference, but the opening session was really wild. I explained it later to Kevin over email:

me: "today is the first day of the actual conference, and the opening "ceremony" was crazy- the prince of Norway really did come, and then they had like smoke machines, and then the lady who was sort of the emcee broke out in song, and then this children's soul choir ran out on stage and started singing "Heal the World". "

kevin: "I definitely don't believe anything you just told me. I think it's more likely that you ate some funny mushrooms or there's a CO leak in the building or something."

But it's true! First, take a look at this set-up:

misc 4744

I mean, there's smoke, and fancy colored lights, and a camera crew, 3 big screens, and of course, pictures of Arctic creatures.

Though I didn't take pictures of all that happened, I was able to get some from the website.

The very beginning of the ceremony was kind of cool and kind of crazy- this group played instruments made entirely out of ice. It was pretty good but then this guy had a giant ice trumpet and he started making some very strange noises out of it (photo credits to John Petter Reinertsen/Samfoto).

This is the lady who was the "emcee" who suddenly (and then repeatedly) broke into song:


And the Oslo Soul Children singing Heal the World. I have to say, we need more kids' choirs like these in the U.S.- these kids were crazy! They were so into it- likely really, really into it. It was pretty fascinating to watch. Though I think I was still in a state of disbelief over the ice trumpet.


And finally, my own personal photo- The Crown Prince of Norway (actually the Prince of Monaco also gave a talk, but I didn't get a picture of him):

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Hmm. I have to say, and maybe it's an American thing, but I was kind of hoping for more Prince attire. Like a crown, and maybe a purple or red robe lined with ermine fur. He just looks like any other guy. It was really a little anti-climactic. On the other hand, I thought it was nice of him to come talk to a bunch of scientists about climate change.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oslo: Part II

My first two days in Oslo, I attended a workshop for early career scientists. One of the reasons I could actually attend this conference was because I got a travel stipend for early career scientists (less than 5 years from the PhD). One of the results of this award is that they pay for your lodging, at the lodging of their choice- in this case, Hostel Anker. I was very wary of this mega-hostel when I found out we would be rooming with 8 other women scientists- and sharing one bathroom. Yikes! And here I thought my hosteling days were behind me. Nonetheless, you don't get to be picky when someone else is paying for the room. Science isn't always glamorous, y'all. ;)

Luckily, I was very pleasantly surprised by how great the other women in my room were. It actually provided an awesome opportunity to meet other people studying Arctic Science (though the range of science was astonishing- from ecology to biology, from ship parasites to ice cores). In my room, only 2 of us were Americans; then there were two New Zealanders, one girl from Finland studying in Scotland, one girl from England studying in South Africa, one girl from Germany, and another from Brazil. So it was really cool to hear their stories and make these international connections.

The workshop took place at the University of Oslo, in this lovely building:

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I thought it was funny that this was called "George Sverdrup's Hus":

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We had sessions on proposal writing, managing a research team, making good presentations (surprisingly entertaining), and relaying climate science to the media. The sessions were good because they encouraged a lot of interaction. One thing about science conferences- they can be frustrating and lonely if you don't know anyone. This workshop helped to encourage relationship among young scientists before the conference even started, which made the actual conference much better.

Sunday night, we also got to go on a trip up the Oslo fjord. Here's what a bunch of scientists look like waiting to get on the boat:

misc 4739

The trip was billed as a dinner cruise- so we thought it was funny when they put out some white sandwich bread and butter and buckets- I mean, huge ginormous buckets- of shrimp, shells and heads and all- on a big table. Don't get me wrong, I love prawns and these were super fresh, but all the Americans were kind of like, "Oh this must be the appetizer!" Once we realized that was dinner- well, I ate a lot of shrimp. We were on that boat for about 5 hours too, so there was plenty of time to eat a lot of shrimp.

misc 4741

I actually didn't pay that much attention to the scenery- the boat was crowded and there were a lot of interesting people to talk to. There was a pretty funny moment though- the boat stopped alongside this waterfront property where a grand-looking party was occurring. Somehow (I have a feeling this was like that game Telephone where one person starts out and somehow by the end the message has totally changed), the rumor started getting passed around that we were picking up the Crown Prince of Norway himself!

So we kept looking around and asking people if they had seen the prince yet, but the crown prince never did show up that night. (this sounds a bit crazy but no joke the Crown Prince would indeed appear just a day or two down the road... stay tuned).

We didn't get back until midnight that night and the sun was just setting over the Akershus Castle:

misc 4743

I have a feeling if I lived in Norway I would basically never sleep at night during the summer because it would always feel like daytime, and when it feels like daytime I always want to be doing something.

Anyway, next up: the conference!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oslo: Part I

I can't say my recaps of Oslo will be terribly exciting, as I spent most of my 9 days there in workshops or conferences, but I did have some time to see the city, and what I saw I loved.

Norway is maybe one of the most expensive places you can travel (wikipedia says that in 2009, it became the world's most expensive city). They are not on the euro-system, but have their own currency, the Kroner. Luckily, I got a lot of free meals through the conference- just as well, because from what I can tell, the Norwegian cuisine isn't anything special- a lot of fish, reindeer, and mayonnaise-based dressings. It's not a place you go to eat good food (unless, maybe, you have a lot of money).

This was not my first trip to Norway- I went to Bergen for another conference in 2007. Bergen and my brief visits to the fjords was awesome, even though it rained the whole time. This time, we had great weather in Oslo for the first part of the week- upper 70s and sunny (and by sunny, I mean the sun was up for ~21 hours of the day, being so close to summer solstice). By the end of the week, we were getting sheets of rain all day long.

One thing I noticed- flying from the East Coast (I flew direct from Newark) is a lot easier than flying from Denver. I know I don't have a great sample size, but seriously, I had almost no jet lag going either direction (there is a 6 hour time difference from Baltimore). It helped that I slept about 4.5 hours on the plane out there, and stayed awake the whole time on the flight back.

Norwegians have a very high standard of living. The quality of public transportation available in Oslo, a city of 1.4 million, is in my opinion, unsurpassed. They have subways, light rails/trams, buses, and trains, which all link together very well and all use the same pass. The city center itself though is very easy to just walk around. The weekend I arrived, there was a music festival going on, and on almost every street there was a band playing music, people drinking beer and soaking in the sun that they must be so glad to see in the summertime. Though signs are in Norwegian, everyone speaks excellent English, and it's a very easy place to feel right at home.

The first day I arrived, I didn't know anyone else there yet, so I wandered around the city to try to stay awake. It's hard to take pictures of things other than buildings when you're by yourself- I've condensed the pictures here in collages so you get a feel for some of the sites.

Picnikcollage1
Top left: Karl Johans Gate, the major pedestrian walking street; Top Right: the Norwegian Parliament building; Bottom left: tulips in bloom near Johans Gate; Bottom right: the Grand Hotel.

Everything was in bloom in Oslo- they have a late spring, with tulips just reaching their peak in the first week of June. There are lilac bushes everywhere. The Grand Hotel (bottom right, above) is home to the Grand Cafe, where Henrik Ibsen and Edward Munch and other artistic types used to spend their days being inspired.

Oslocollage2
Top Left: Aker Brygge, the harborside shopping area; Top Right: Oslo fountain; Bottom left: statue of Henrik Ibsen in front of the National Theater; Bottom right: the Nobel Peace Center.

Oslo is located right at the top of a fjord, so it has a lovely waterfront. There are fountains (they love their naked statues in Norway- we are not in Loveland anymore) and parks and a whole line of popular shops and restaurants (Aker Brygge) right by the water. Also, the Nobel Peace Center is in Oslo, which showcases the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, right up to President Obama (bottom right, above).

My favorite two sites of the day were:

1) Grev Wedels Plass
This park was just fantastic. The picture here doesn't even do it justice- it's a little city park with a fountain in the center, surrounded on all sides by lilac bushes. Maybe it was the perfect temperature with a slight breeze, the warm grassy smell mixed with the fragrance of lilacs, the little girl picnicking with her mom, or the fact that I was in a sort of post-international-flight-stupor, but sitting in this park was a nearly spiritual experience.

misc 4733

2) The Opera House

More about this later (we came back to visit later in the week), but Oslo's new opera house may one day rival Sydney's for stunning architecture. Built to resemble the floating ice in Oslo's fjord, the opera house extends right into the water, and visitors can walk up the surfaces onto the roof where there is a viewing area. So cool!

misc 4734

misc 4736

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dining Review: Iggie's Pizza

Iggie's Pizza
818 N Calvert St
Baltimore, MD 21264
(410) 528-0818

Took the new Charm City Circulator bus up here (yay for free buses!) to try out the pizzas. They were scrumptious! Okay, so I thought maybe it was a bit overpriced- $10 for a 8 inch size, and the 8 inch size is tiny. Maybe it shrunk in the oven?

Nonetheless, the flavors were out of this world. We tried the Alice (pesto, mozarella, tomato, spinach, parmesan) and the Diavolo (spicy sausage, tomato ragu, 4 cheeses, olives, hot peppers) and loved both. The crust is thin and chewy and delicious and all the ingredients taste like they're fresh from the farm. Super good. I also like the BYOB and the general ambience. Flaky sea salt on the tables was a nice addition sprinkled on top of the pizza. So, overall it was a good experience. I'm sure we'll be back!

Iggie’s Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Meditation: May Swenson

I hope my Sunday "meditations" have been somewhat enjoyable over the last few weeks. Please let me know if you like them! (if you don't, well... I probably will continue to do them anyway. I like finding poetry or other snippets that mean something to me- it brings me back to my two years in college as an English major before I switched to physics. And I get enough of physics during the week).

Like this poem by May Swenson. I like how the poem itself is like the gait of a horse; you feel just like you're riding along. I like the idea of the poem- the body as a faithful but nonetheless temporary carrier for the soul, and wondering what will happen when it's gone. What do you think?


Question
by May Swenson

Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen

Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt

Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
When Body my good
bright dog is dead

How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye

with cloud for a shift
how will I hide?

photo credit

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Red Curry Coconut Noodles = Yum

I actually made this a couple of weeks ago, but time gets away from me! This recipe from Pioneer Woman and her Tasty Kitchen blog is quite yummy, and I love the idea of using the coconut "fat" from the top of the can for cooking the chicken.

First, some of the ingredients. Aren't they scrumptious looking?

Picnik collage

Ingredients (I've slightly adjusted from the link for personal preference):

4 chicken breasts
2 cans coconut milk (full fat is a must here)
2 tablespoons red curry paste (note: this is way more than the 2 tsp suggested, and I still didn't think it was enough)
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
500 ml chicken or veggie broth
1 package rice noodles (we used the vermicelli kind)
1 onion
2 bell peppers (we had orange ones but red ones would be pretty too)- or any other veggies you want to improvise with
Salt and cayenne to taste


Start with a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook the onion until browned.

misc 4670

The brown stuff on the bottom of the pan is the good stuff!

Scoop the cream off the top of the coconut milk, and put into the pot. The cream will be used as the “fat” instead of oil or butter. Along with the cream, add the curry paste and ginger. Let this simmer for 1 minute. Then add the chicken. Cook the chicken through.
Then add the rest of what is in the coconut milk cans, sweet Thai chili sauce, cilantro, and chicken broth. Bring this to a simmer.

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Then add your julienned veggies and rice noodles. Simmer this. You will see the broth slowly thicken as the rice noodles absorb it. It should only take about 5 minutes for the rice noodles to be cooked through.

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Pull the pot off the heat, and let sit for about 5 minutes. It will thicken during this time. Test for desired spiciness and saltiness levels, and add more salt or ground cayenne pepper if necessary (I found I needed quite a bit more heat to meet my satisfaction. I also added some peanut butter, because really, peanut butter taste good in everything!).

misc 4684

Then, it’s done. Slurp these noodles out of big noodle bowls! Garnish it with a bit more cilantro.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Welcome Book Bloggers!

If you're visiting from the hop, hello! Today I am reviewing 2 books that I've re-read, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker. Okay, they're both a bit depressing, but I've been wanting to revisit some of my college favorites for awhile.

First, The Bell Jar:

"The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman's mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity."

The Bell Jar The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the kind of book that impacts you for life. I first read this book in high school, and I was able to identify with some of what Esther was feeling, particularly in the beginning of the book. Now as an adult, I feel farther removed from it, namely because I haven't experienced those kind of lows in a good long while.

Nonetheless, this book resonates with me- because Esther struggles, in a way, with all women must struggle with at some point- the question of how to reconcile being an independent, strong woman and still fit into society's ideals of being a caretaker, and a good wife and mother. In some ways things have gotten better since Esther's time, but in some ways, I think we struggle with this dichotomy even more today.

For example, Esther imagines her life branching out before her, and each potential future is a different branch. She mentions how "I wanted each and every one (of the branches) but choosing one meant losing all the rest." How often I have thought about this myself- what millions of choices have I made that would have led to a different life? What adventures have I missed out on? On the other hand, what sadness have I managed to avoid? What if I want it all? Do I have to choose one path over another?

I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it. It's certainly not a happy book, but it's extremely well-written and thought-provoking.

View all my reviews >>

And next, Possessing the Secret of Joy:

"A New York Times bestseller, this is the story of Tashi Johnson, a tribal African woman now living in North America. As a young woman, a misguided loyalty to the customs of her people led her to submit to the tribal initiation rite of passage. Severely traumatized, she spends the rest of her life trying to reconcile her African heritage with her experience as a modern woman in America."

Possessing the Secret of Joy Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is really quite a horrifying book. I didn't know much about this subject of female genital mutilation, but I think this book presents the material in a really gripping way- by slowly unfolding Tashi's story. The characters seem very real to me. You really feel for all of them at the end- even Adam and Lisette. The one negative that the "jumping" point-of-view isn't my favorite style- maybe if there were just two or three points of view but 6-7 gets to be a lot.

View all my reviews >>

Have you read these books? What did you think about them? What are you reading this week?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Day in Washington, D.C.

It's so nice to have visitors. It helps me learn more about the area I live in too. On the last day of Erin and Myron's visit (previous days in Baltimore are linked), we headed down to D.C. for the day.

I actually have a pretty good walk of the memorials set up. You get off at L'Enfant Plaza metro stop (or Smithsonian if you don't mind the metro transfer), then head a few blocks to the National Mall. Right away you get to see the Washington Monument:

IMG_0860

Continue walking west, and you come to the World War II memorial (we were there on Memorial Day- and it was really nice. Lots of wreaths and flowers- what a touching place to be on this day).

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Right past the WWII memorial is the reflection pool and the Lincoln monument:

IMG_0864

Makes me think about Forrest Gump every time. :) Continue walking to the west, but don't stop at the Lincoln Monument now- turn left to see what I find to be the saddest memorial on the Mall- the Korean War Memorial- though on this particular it was sunny and draped in flowers. But come on a day when it's raining, and the statues seem to be weeping. The line "Freedom is not free" near the reflecting pool in the back is a weighing reminder of what Memorial Day is all about. So many people died, and yet this war is so little acknowledged:

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Next, cross the street towards the Potomac, and backtrack slightly heading east along the river until you reach the Tidal Basin and the entrance to the FDR memorial- who really has the best memorial in the Mall. It's huge, and documents each of his 3 (nearly 4!) terms of office.

Head back to the Lincoln Memorial and climb the steps to look at the stoic face of Abe Lincoln keeping watch over the Mall:

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Finally, as you're heading back down the steps towards the reflection pool, turn left to visit the Vietnam War memorial.

This walking tour will likely take most of the morning, and if you're like us, your feet are already starting to feel pretty tired. We decided to head to lunch at Matchbox, a yummy pizza place about 10 blocks from the Mall (10 very very long blocks when you're hungry and hot, I should mention). Luckily Matchbox is right near Gallery Place metro stop, which we took to head back home. If you were really gung-ho, you could spend the afternoon visiting the Natural History Museum or one of the many other great Smithsonian museums.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

E & M's Visit to Baltimore: Part III

After a fun first day exploring Baltimore with my sister and her husband, the next day we picked up some tasty bagel sandwiches from Sam's Bagels for breakfast:

Sam's Bagels
915 Light St
Baltimore, MD 21230

The bagel sandwiches were toasted and melty, with different combinations of sausage, bacon, egg, and cheese, depending on personal preference. Nothing over-the-top amazing, but the bagels were fresh and it made for a reasonably-priced breakfast.

After breakfast, we got ready and then headed to the Baltimore Farmer's market, under the Jones Falls Expressway (JFX). I haven't really talked about the farmer's market yet, but it's pretty awesome. First, how "city" can you get when super fresh and delicious food is being sold to you underneath a highway? Also, it's huge, with all kinds of different vegetables, meats, dairy, and other tasty bits to try (doughnut holes made right in front of you, anyone?).

We decided to try out a new booth- Wheely Good Smoothies.

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My sister ordered the "Bananaconda". The gist of the stand is, they place the blenders on the back of a bike that's rigged to run the blender motor, and then you get on the bike and blend your own smoothie. Tasty and healthier for the planet! The concept is fun, but the smoothies actually taste quite fantastic- I would buy them even if (or despite, perhaps) having the fun method of blending.

Doesn't my sister look excited about it?

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In the afternoon, we walked out to Ft. McHenry, despite the high heat (Erin and Myron are in practice for Taiwan, so it's all good). Luckily we were able to enjoy the shade at the picnic benches near the water. Then we went to see the Ft. McHenry video (it's super cheesy, but informative). I bet it was filmed in like 1986.

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Finally, we went to one of our favorite restaurants in Baltimore, Woodberry Kitchen. It was just as delicious as I remember the first time. Plus we tried two new desserts- some kind of apple crumble and something I could not possibly resist, called the peanut butter cup. Both were fantastic.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Back from Oslo

I apologize if I wasn't responsive to comments since last Friday- I was at a conference in Oslo on polar climate change. It was an excellent week, and I'm sure I'll be posting about it soon! Meanwhile, thanks for all the comments last week (I *love* comments!) and forgive me while I get back into the groove of things...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Meditation: Jeffrey McDaniel


The Benjamin Franklin of Monogamy
jeffrey mcdaniel

Reminiscing in the drizzle of Portland, I notice
the ring that's landed on your finger, a massive
insect of glitter, a chandelier shining at the end

of a long tunnel. Thirteen years ago, you hid the hurt
in your voice under a blanket and said there's two kinds
of women- those you write poems about

and those you don't. It's true. I never brought you
a bouquet of sonnets, or served you haiku in bed.
My idea of courtship was tapping Jane's Addiction

lyrics in Morse code on your window at three A.M.,
whiskey doing push-ups on my breath. But I worked
within the confines of my character, cast

as the bad boy in your life, the Magellan
of your dark side. We don't have a past so much
as a bunch of electricity and liquor, power

never put to good use. What we had together
makes it sound like a virus, as if we caught
one another like colds, and desire was merely

a symptom that could be treated with soup
and lots of sex. Gliding beside you now,
I feel like the Benjamin Franklin of monogamy,

as if I invented it, but I'm still not immune
to your waterfall scent, still haven't developed
antibodies for your smile. I don't know how long

regret existed before humans stuck a word on it.
I don't know how many paper towels it would take
to wipe up the Pacific Ocean, or why the light

of a candle being blown out travels faster
than the luminescence of one that's just been lit,
but I do know that all our huffing and puffing

into each other's ears as if the brain was a trick
birthday candle didn't make the silence
any easier to navigate. I'm sorry all the kisses

I scrawled on your neck were written
in disappearing ink. Sometimes I thought of you
so hard one of your legs would pop out

of my ear hole, and when I was sleeping, you'd press
your face against the porthole of my submarine.
I'm sorry this poem has taken thirteen years

to reach you. I wish that just once, instead of skidding
off the shoulder blade's precipice and joyriding
over flesh, we'd put our hands away like chocolate

to be saved for later, and deciphered the calligraphy
of each other's eyelashes, translated a paragraph
from the volumes of what couldn't be said.

Friday, June 11, 2010

E & M's Visit to Baltimore: Part II

When we left off, we had just finished trying our very first Baltimore snowballs.

We then hiked back to Federal Hill, drank some cold water and cooled off, then got in the car to drive over to see the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. My sister's an English teacher so this was her request, though I'm also glad I got the chance.

This was his original gravesite:

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I'm assuming the coins are for good luck?

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And here is my sister and I at his current burial site in the same churchyard (somehow I look super shrimpy in this photo):

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We retreated back to the house for some R&R. After ordering some delicious carry-out from our favorite local Thai restaurant, Thai Arroy, we had a lovely meal on the deck (where else?). Since I never posted it, here is my review for Thai Arroy:

"I was so glad to find a good Thai place in our neck of the woods in Federal Hill. While I found it to be a bit pricey, you definitely get a lot of food for what you pay for. I had the pad kee mao (drunken noodles) with tofu and it was super tasty. My husband randomly tried the chu-chee with chicken and the sauce was great.

I wasn't aware of the online ordering but I'll have to try that out soon! The website (http://www.thaiarroy.com) is nice because it has pictures of all the food, which I appreciate!"

Thai Arroy on Urbanspoon

Finally, we went to the Illusions Magic Bar, which I've been wanting to try out for awhile. Every Friday and Saturday night, this local bar puts on a little magic show for $5 a person. It's a father-son business, with Dad owning the bar and greeting all the customers, and Son as the magician (and one of the bartenders). I really liked the bar itself- it feels like an old speak-easy, and there's pool for $1 in the back, as well as pictures of the magician with lots of different famous people (Neil Patrick Harris! NPH!).

I wasn't a huge fan of the 2 drink minimum per person requirement during the show (though I guess non-alcoholic drinks count as well). The drinks were very good though- I had a mint chocolate chip martini, and a midori sour. Nonetheless, the $5 show soon became a $25 show/person (unless you're a beer drinker, which will save you some cash).

The magic show itself was decent- the script was a bit over-played and cheesy, but the tricks were quite entertaining. They all culminated in an actual escape from a straight-jacket- with the magician hanging right over the bar! At the very least, you'll have a unique evening out. I think I would definitely take new visitors to Baltimore back there.

Illusions Magic Bar & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Pictures from our night at Illusions:

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