Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday #60: Hello, November

Self-portrait 11/12/17.

Hello, friends!  Or are we strangers?  I've been absent for about a month.  Here's a self portrait -- I cut my hair awhile ago and I've gained a lot of weight.  Same person inside, a little different wrapping.  For the past month, my camera has barely been touched and my social life was basically nonexistent.   It definitely felt awkward to be in front of the lens today.  To be honest, I think I needed a break from social media and blogging for this time as well.  By now, you all know that if it feels forced, I won't write here, though I'd attribute most of my absence to putting graduate school as my first priority.

I'm currently writing this on my couch, listening to the new Taylor Swift album, and soft lights in my living room (see below).  I'll be making dinner soon: pasta with meat sauce and brussel sprouts cooked with pancetta.  A little bit fatty?  Yes.  Satisfying?  100%!  For now, let's have a catch up, shall we?

Fairy lights in my living room.


For the past few weeks, I've had my nose to the grindstone, poring through the scientific literature, reading, and writing.  I handed my written proposals in this past week and my exam is coming up on Thursday.  However, everything in graduate school is a learning experience.  For all the stress that writing proposals amounted to,  I've emerged from as a more efficient writer, a better read scientist, and with a lot more new ideas percolating in my head.  In addition, my advisor put me on a new project in September, which has kept me busy.  There's been a lot of trial and error (always more to come in research), but it's been one of my favorite things I've studied in my graduate career.  The new research has reinvigorated my relationship with science as well as opened up new intellectual avenues that I hope to have the chance to pursue!  A downside to the new project is going back and forth between two campus in a sprawled out city.  However, I quite like the change of scenery, the new environment, and also, having wonderful meals out in Los Angeles with my friend.  A local, family run pasta place is our current favorite spot!

Clams in white wine sauce with spaghetti.


Fall has finally arrived in Southern California!  Personally, it's still too warm for me.  When I work from home, I have the windows wide open to let cool air into the house.  I can't wait for temperatures to drop even further.  Aside from the cooler weather, I'm enjoying the arrival of other fall treats such as the new Taylor Swift album (it's catchy and fun, but derivative) and Stranger Things 2 (absolutely fantastic).  Last year, I started to look for Venus, the winter star, in the horizon as I walked home each night.

I can't believe it's already mid-November.  The holidays will be upon us and there is so much work to do!  I'll be in town for Thanksgiving, but not sure what I'll do yet.  If I have to, I'll work in lab to push things forward.  It's so surreal to think that I am almost at the end of my Ph.D.  

I'll keep it short and sweet this evening.  Honestly, life has just been work so there isn't much else to talk about that won't be repetitive.  My days have consisted of coffee, work, literature, science, and exercise when time and energy resources permit.  I got to see my friend today for brunch so that was a nice highlight!  If you're still reading after the long absence, leave me a note in the comments.

Questions for this Sunday:  
What is your favorite thing about autumn?  
What did you think of the new Taylor Swift album?
Are you watching Stranger Things 2?

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Last week, a classmate of mine was headed out to the opera and coordinated a photoshoot session for our cohorts.  I shared one photograph in my Sunday post from this week and figured I'd share the set of this girl who I will name Rapunzel!  She wanted some more glamorous photos.  Believe it or not, as graduate students, most of us don't wear our nicest clothing into laboratories.  (Sarcasm).  

We met up in a nice part of our city to do these photos and I provided only the necessary direction.  I would pick a spot, briefly describe the composition I was looking for, and let Rapunzel move to her own whims.  This was how I directed the other subjects I worked with that day as well and the feedback I received was that people felt very comfortable!  As I strive for natural, organic photographs, this is just the response I want.

Like other photo sessions, I provided as minimal direction as I could.  I asked the model to do what felt most natural and let her express the emotions she was feeling that day.  I wanted her to feel relaxed, confident, and able to shine which I think we achieved!  Does this translate across to you?

FYI, I once watched a docuseries called Tales By Light that showed the lengths photographers go to obtain their photos.  One photographer went to document a tribe, but directed the minutiae of every picture, from the posing, to the artifacts he wanted the subjects to hold.  It's interesting how he wanted to document the culture yet staged it to how he thought it should be presented, thus inserting his own cultural viewpoint into it.  To me, that was no longer a true or organic representation of the native people.  

What are your views on direction in photography?  What constitutes too much or just enough?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday #59: Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law states, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."  Listen, I'm not using this as a platform to whinge, but transparency is a big part of my philosophy on authentic blogging.  You'll find no blush toned, marbled backdrop, or glossed over stories here, no missie.  I intend to Keep It Real. 

Hence, this Perpetual Disappointments Diary seems particularly apt.  My friend is a new scholar in the lab and we got this matching diary on our last bookstore trip.  You'll find translations for unfortunate situations such as being locked in the toilet, death dates of famous people, prompts for listing personal shortcomings, and a full week of Monday stickers.  There are even disappointing proverbs for each week (If ignorance is bliss, why are you so sad?).

Ok, I'll get to the point.  Here goes . . .


These past few weeks have been full of ups and downs.  A few weeks ago, my bike was stolen from campus.  This doesn't upset me on a material level, but it sure makes it inconvenient for me to get around now.  I don't drive so I now walk, bum a ride, or get an Uber.  This has been very annoying for getting to school rapidly or going to my regular photo job.  Part of recent job responsibilities has included working in West Hollywood for 12 hour long experiments.  Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of equipment issues this week and came back earlier than planned.  I suppose it doesn't sound like a lot written out, but it was a trying week.  However, graduate school isn't meant to be a walk in the park!  One of the biggest lessons I've learned is the importance of tenacity.


You know I wasn't going to talk about problems without looking for the silver lining, right?  I want to acknowledge my wonderful friends and colleagues.  People aren't required to bestow favors, but I appreciate those who go above and beyond.  I had many moments this week when I was grateful for company, for gestures of kindness, for human decency, and for people who were as pleased to see me as I was them.  I may be extremely stressed with a formidable to-do list, but I am happy!  Even on bad days, I smile and laugh more than I ever have in my life.

(1) Gallery wall in Westwood, (2) White oleanders, (3) Wilshire Blvd street plaque, (4) Basecamp Fitness Pasadena.

Speaking of good company, Basecamp Fitness in Pasadena invited Ana and I out for a free class this Friday.  The class completely kicked my butt!  I actually couldn't finish because I got so queasy from the HIIT workout.  Lesson here?  Start doing cardio again because while I can lift and I'm strong, I need to work on endurance and intensity.  Afterwards, we had a lovely dinner of delicious tacos at Trejo's Cantina before I finished out the night watching Wonder Woman with my partner. 


My friend asked me to do a photography session for herself and a few people in the community.  She organized the event and gathered the photo release forms, making my job far easier.  All I had to do was show up and capture people at looking their best!  I'll be sharing a dedicated post on one subject, but here is one of my favorite images from the day.  I think this girl looks like a real life Vermeer painting!

On Sunday morning, I went to 85C Bakery with my new friend/colleague to get some pastries for breakfast.  We ended up walking around for a few hours and shopping afterwards (oops!), but made it into lab in the early afternoon.  I picked up a few things from an aromatherapy and natural wellness store in Old Town.  I can't wait to write a post about the items because they're such amazing quality.  If anyone needs aromatherapy for relaxing, it's a senior graduate student!

This Sunday's question: What are your favorite scents?  Do you have a scent that always calms you down?


• Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish win the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on validating the existence of gravitational waves (ripples in space and time).