Thursday, November 23, 2017

Alaskan Waters

Glacier Bay, Glacier, Glacier Calving, Lumiere and Lens, Lumiere Lens, Glaciers
Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay, Alaska

Hello from sunny and 77° F California!  It's almost December and it's hot enough to go swimming out here.  It's Thanksgiving today and we've got the oven on to cook a 27 lb turkey in a house with no air conditioning.  Since it doesn't appear I'll have cold any time soon, I'm sharing these photos of Alaskan waters and glaciers from my trip this past June.  Yes, yes, definitely long delayed!  However, I'm sitting here in a tank top and shorts, so I'd really rather reminiscence about colder places.

We took a boat (the Baranof Wind) through Glacier Bay and went right up to the border of the Canada, where the Grand Pacific Glacier is situated.  As global warming is a thing and climate change is real, we were greeted by bare earth with a completely melted glacier.  The waters by the glaciers were dotted with small icebergs from the calving glaciers, which is when ice cracks and falls off.  In fact, Margerie Glacier (shown above) was actively calving!  A crew member fished an iceberg out from the bay for us to touch.  It was very smooth, very cold, and definitely smaller than the one that took out the Titanic.

Grand Pacific Glacier
On board the Baranof Wind.

 South Marble Island, a wildife hotspot (top).  Sea lions lounge on the rocks (bottom). 

We passed South Marble Island during our boat ride.  The island is considered a wild life hotspot.  There were sea otters, sea lions, puffins, and gulls.  There was also a humpback whale swimming in the waters.  Occasionally, he would surface to spout and dive back under, flipping his tale above the water.  Look at the beautiful color of the sea lion coats!  They were certainly more vibrant than our California sea lions. 

Islands recovering after glacial retreat are covered in moss, lichen, and young trees.
Glacier Bay

We passed islands that were covered with moss, lichen, and young trees.  The growth of lichen helps prepare the earth for the forest to grow as the land eventually recovers after glacial retreat.  As we traveled North towards the glacier heavy, thick trees gave way to more moss.  Eventually, we saw more rock than green.  When we finally reached the Canadian/Alaskan boarder, the waters were smooth like glass, with small ripples on the surface.  The air was cold, crisp, and clean.  Heaven is a place on Earth and it was these calm, beautiful waters.  

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday #61: Retreat

Photo by Dazy J.

Hello, friends!  Guess what?  I've passed my proposals exam!  Basically, I had to write three research proposals and defend them to my thesis committee.  Passing it means that the last hurdle I have to cross (well, on paper, anyways) is scheduling and doing my thesis defense.  I say on paper because I have a lot of revisions and experimental work to wrap up.  Plus, I have to find post-graduate employment!  I don't anticipate things getting less busy any time soon.


A few research groups and departments have an annual retreat where there are talks and poster sessions in a resort hotel near the beach.  It was my first year at the retreat and it happened to be the day after my exam.  I really enjoyed listening to the panel of speakers and seeing the exciting research that's happening in the Southern California area.  I had some time in the morning before breakfast and a multi-lab workshop, so my friend and I went to walk on the beach.  It's finally cooling down in California -- I loved breathing in the cold, foggy morning air.  I was pretty tired after the retreat because I'd been working for weeks straight before so I crashed the night I got home before going out to Din Tai Fung for dinner.  Pork xiao long bao, garlic string beans, Shanghai rice cakes . . . MMM.

Huntington Beach in the morning light.


I had a slow start to my Sunday, but finally ended up in lab to set up an overnight reaction and take care of my cells.  I'm on two projects at the moment.  One needs to be finished and the other one is new.  It's a lot of juggling, but I don't mind.  I quite enjoy having a lot to do at the moment with the pressure of my exam lifted.  I'm heading to do some work on a different campus for the weekdays before this Thanksgiving so that will be fun!  I haven't gotten the chance to work out much this week so I'm packing sneakers to try to run around campus.  


American Thanksgiving is this upcoming week!  Our house is doing a potluck dinner and I'll be making mac and cheese with bacon.  Since it's a long weekend, I'm aiming to get a little photography done (my poor neglected camera!) and maybe some Black Friday shopping.  I've realized that I don't have much decent clothing that's not adapted for lab.  Might be time to upgrade the wardrobe a little as I'm looking for jobs. 

By the way, I was really touched by how many of you left thoughtful comments on my last post.  Things move fast on blogging and social media.  In my absence, I'd been unfollowed a lot across all platforms so it was nice to see people stick around.  Thank you. 

Questions for this week:
Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?  What's your potluck specialty?
If you could invite any guest you to Thanksgiving, who would it be?

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?