Monday, December 14, 2009

If questioning would make us wise
No eyes would ever gaze in eyes;
If all our tale were told in speech
No mouths would wander each to each.

Were spirits free from mortal mesh
And love not bound in hearts of flesh
No aching breasts would yearn to meet
And find their ecstasy complete.

For who is there that lives and knows
The secret powers by which he grows?
Were knowledge all, what were our need
To thrill and faint and sweetly bleed?.

Then seek not, sweet, the "If" and "Why"
I love you now until I die.
For I must love because I live
And life in me is what you give.

Because She Would Ask Me Why I Loved Her
a poem by Christopher Brennan


Saturday, October 24, 2009


Bliss comes in many forms and what is considered bliss differs from person to person, but I am sure that there are trends. One form that bliss takes for me is yoga. Doing yoga was the first time in my life that I experienced complete happiness and satisfaction with myself. I stopped judging and criticizing and just marveled at what my body is capable of.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yoga with Tara Stiles

There are a lot of wonderful and inspiring yoga teachers out there. Usually though if you want to learn from them you have to buy their book or DVD or travel to a distant city where they usually teach. Not so in the case of Tara Stiles who posts wonderful yoga instruction segments on her Youtube channel TaraStilesLiving.


Monday, October 12, 2009

eye candy has a great collection of images of microscope photography. One of the most exciting aspects of being a biologist is being able to look into the world of tiny things and marvel at their complexity and detail. I think images like these will spark an interest in science in anyone and maybe even the desire to find out more about the object being photographed. Photos are one of the major ways that people relate with one another and share their experiences. It is a great way for scientists to share their work with non-scientists and generate excitement and curiosity.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Bach's Prelude to Cello Suite No.1
Performance by Mstislav Rostropovich.

Paganini's Caprice 24 played by Yo Yo Ma. This one is just a recording. There is a great video of this piece performed by Wells Cunningham.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Fun stuff to do when I'm done with my PHD

When deadlines are looming, I get easily distracted. It seems as if there is a whole world of fun stuff out there that I must partake in. However I realize that if I do, I will not finish my PHD in the timeframe I have set out. Hence I am making this list so that my mind can rest free that I will still remember to do all the fun stuff when the serious part is over (before the next serious part begins :)

Read Remembering the Kanji and spend more time learning Japanese

Read: Slovo o slovah (A word about words by Lev Uspenski)

Play my cello and go to more yoga classes

Catch up on Youtube :)

to be continued, I'm sure, as time goes on...


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

say it right

The reality of language is that it is not a static thing, but that it is constantly changing. Words acquire new meanings over time, slang twists words and even makes then change their lexical categories, outdated words are discarded and new words are imported from foreign languages. It is in our nature to resist change therefore as we get older the bastardization of language becomes increasingly jarring. I am sure many people have their own criteria of word mis-use that they find appalling; I would like to share a few of mine.

In line or online? I often hear people referring to the act of lining up for something as waiting online. This makes no sense to me. You wait IN LINE, whereas you go ONLINE to surf the internet. While on the subject of the internet, I often hear advertisements that say "Log onto our website ... " when in fact most websites do not require a login, just that you visit their web address.

Sort of speak/so to speak. The phrase is "so to speak" nuff said. Along the same lines are the phrases "bide time" and "for all intents and purposes", which are often said as "buy time" and "for all intensive purposes", respectively.

I'm not sure why these particular phrases bother me when said incorrectly. I suppose it is because the error is needless, and just shows a lack of knowledge of the language. Some phrases, although grammatically incorrect add emphasis or a particular nuance to what is being said, and therefore I find to be acceptable. One of my favorites is "That ain't right," convenient when commenting on a situation that elicits feelings of indignation.


Monday, June 15, 2009

change of heart

Very recently I made a decision about my future. For quite some time I have been seriously planning on leaving the bench upon completion of the phd and seeking a job as an editor. I do, afterall, love to edit. However I came to the conclusion that I am not ready to leave experimental research, because I suddenly remembered why it was I started to do research in the first place.

When I first embarked on the journey of becoming a scientist I was driven by vague notions of brining dinosaurs back to life and making photosynthetic people (giving people the ability to make food from sunlight, like plants). However I became disillusioned by the petty things: competitiveness, secrecy, false or inaccurate data in publications, incomplete methods, waste and seeming pointessness, because one scientist can only do so much. And yet science moves forward in leaps and bounds. Cooperation and collaboration are widespread, sought out, incouraged and generally productive. I was blinded to all that by some setbacks I had in my own research.

What changed? I went to see the Star Trek movie. Let me backtrak here and say thay Star Trek TNG was one of the first tv shows I watched (and was able to understand) in the US. I was instantly in love with it. Exploring the vast unknowns in space: what could be better? I particularly like the concept of discovering something noone else has seen or experienced before. I was therefore drawn to science, biology in partcular becuase there is so much yet to be learned; it seemed certain that I would be the first to discover something. My expectations were high, I don't know what I wanted to discover, but something BIG, and as years passed I didn't see that happening. What I completely missed was that scientists make new discoveries all the time. They are often very small, tiny bits of the puzzle and often puzzling themselves, but they are completely new nonetheless. Over time the smal bits accumulate to reveal a whole picture. I missed that at first and really didn't see the wonder of what I do anymore. Seeing the Star Trek movie made me realize that what I do everyday, most people mght regard as science fiction. Cloning genes, making fish cells glow, manipulating enzymes in test tubes to cut and paste pieces of DNA together in exactly the way I predict based on sequence I see on a computer is amazing. I am a trained biologist, I can do and have done a great many interesting and new things. Sure I haven't made the BIG discovery, but if I leave research I never will. I will not give up now, not after I have come so far. I will continue on the path of a research scientist and see where it leads me. In the foreseeable future it is leading me to Japan. I am embaking on a postdoc search in Tokyo. This is exciting and scary. WIll I be able to function as a scientst when I don't speak the languge? Will they even reply to my emails? Only one way to find out. Full speed ahead.



I tend to be slow and resistant to new technologies. I didn't own a computer until I started grad school (2002). I didn't get a cell phone until by parents gave me one on my birthday (2004). I only started blogging last year (very hesitantly at that). Although I've had an apple computer from the onset and have had an ipod for the last three years it was not until last year that I started to explore podcasts. Actually, just one, Japanesepod101 for learning Japanese, and not until last week that I started listening to science related podcasts and realized that I have been missing something great.
A couple of years ago I heard a talk by Peter Fiske. He mostly talked about exploring other careers outside of academia for phds. He described that being a grad student is like living in a small, dark room. You have a very narrow focus and then coming from that into the real world can be shocking. So it is important to keep abreast of the many developments in the scientific world, not just one's own field. Last week I read a discussion of whether listening to an ipod is good for lab work. There was a bit of a debate in the comments, but I was struck by one comment, saying that listening to science podcasts made lab work bearable. I was intrigued. I was resistant to podcasts because I don't like talk radio, such as NPR and I envisioned it to be something similar. However in my beginer experience I found that science magazine editors interview on interesting topics in an inteligent way. It was repfreshing and stimulating. I found that listening to great scientists talk about their work is both educational and inspirational. It reaffirms my desire to do something that educates the publish about life science research.

Update: I've since found that not all podcasts are created equal. Nature has a great podcast, whereas the one made by Science is a bit dry for my taste.


Monday, June 8, 2009

What's in your genome?

A genome is just a word to describe all the genetic (inheritable) content of an organism. It is a way to describe a full set of chromosomes. Each cell in the human body contains a full genome. The cells are different because a different set of genes are active at any given time. That is why a liver cell and a skin cell look different and perform different functions and yet have the same genetic material. An exception are the germ cells (the egg and sperm) that contain half the the full set of chromosomes, so half of the genome. Just a few years ago finding out the sequence of a single gene was a big deal. These days the human genome is sequenced along with many other organisms making it possible to compare genes between species. Genomics (the study of genomes) is becoming an everyday thing. To keep up with all the latest news genomics news check out:the genome web.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Intellectual freedom

I read an article today that has made me really happy. There is a lawsuit out there aiming to abolish the patenting of genes. Companies have been engaged in a disturbing practice of patenting genes. This means that any research or clinical testing involving these genes requires a license. This concept is ridiculous! How can anyone own the rights to a gene?! Luckily many people, scientists and patients, hold the same opinion and it looks like this lawsuit might be the one to do away with gene patenting once and for all.

This week, the ACLU, several breast cancer survivors, and professional groups representing more than 150,000 scientists, sued Myriad Genetics over their breast cancer gene patents. Those genes, mutated forms of BRCA1 and BRCA2, are responsible for most cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. They’re also very lucrative, because Myriad has created something of a monopoly. It charges $3,000 per test, which often isn’t covered by insurance. No one else can offer the test, and researchers can’t develop new or cheaper ones (or new therapies for that matter) unless they get permission from Myriad and pay a steep licensing fee. So women have no choice about who performs their tests, and they can’t seek those second opinions. That is no small thing. Tests aren’t 100 percent accurate, and results sometimes come back inconclusive. Women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations have a 40 to 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer, so a positive result helps them decide whether to have their breasts and ovaries removed to prevent future cancer. But with its lawsuit, the ACLU isn’t just fighting Myriad’s patent—it hopes to end the practice of gene patenting entirely on the grounds that it’s illegal, unconstitutional, and interfering with science.
read the rest of the article by Rebecca Skloot...


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

chicken and carrots

This is a recipe I came up with last night for dinner. I liked it a lot and it went well with buckwheat, although I'm sure any grain would be just as complementary.

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 carrots
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 fresh red pepper
12oz tofu (any tofu is fine, but I like the silken Mori-nu firm tofu.)

Peel the carrots and cut into any shape you like. I like to just cut them into disks. Cut the chicken into small cubes or strips, add salt, pepper and a bit of dry or ground ginger and set aside. Heat a medium pan on medium heat with 2 teaspoons of olive oil (extra virgin if you have it). Add frozen peas to the pan and stir to cook. Add carrots let them cook for 2-3 min, stirring frequently. Turn the heat to medium high. You don't want the veggies to turn watery. Remove the veggies and add the chicken to the pan. Dice the red pepper and add it to the chicken. Stir frequently to get the chicken and pepper cooked evenly and quickly (3-5 min). Slice the tofu in any shape you want and add it to the pan. Keep stirring. The pan should be pretty hot and the chicken should turn golden where it touches the pan. Add the carrots and stir together for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat. Add salt to taste.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Funny and bizarre

They say laughter is the best medicine. I recently came across a site that leaves me laughing hysterically every time I read it.

I also came across this site, which documents the bizarre and unexplainable behavior of russians.


Friday, April 24, 2009


I am the center of the cyclone, so whatever happens around me makes no difference to me. It may be turmoil or the beautiful sound of running water; I am just a witness to both, and that witnessing remains the same. As far as my innermost being is concerned, in every situation I am just the same. This is my whole teaching: that things may change, but your consciousness should remain absolutely unchanging.


Friday, April 17, 2009

the wonder of embryogenesis

As a graduate student studying developmental biology* I try to understand how certain processes happen in the zebrafish embryo. When I started graduate school I wanted to study the genetics of cancer. However I quickly realized that a majority of this type of research involves giving cancer to mice (this is an overly simplified view). I didn't want to spend several years killing and cutting up mice so I explored other options. The first time I looked at a chick embryo under the microscope, I was sure that this was what I wanted to study. Watching an embryo develop over time, from a clump of cells to a living thing with functional organs felt like I was getting a peak into something miraculous. The cells knew what to do, they were following some sort of internal program that made the embryo develop the same way everytime. I really wanted to know more about the program driving this development. Initially my project was studying chick embryos, but about a year and a half ago I switched over to zebrafish. Their embryos are transparent and the whole process can be observed. The video below shows the first 24 hours of zebrafish development.

*developmental biology is the study of how a multicellular organism develops from its early immature form (embryo) into an adult. This is different from embryology, because developmental biology examines the molecular and genetic mechanisms that regulate the development of the embryo, while embryology looks at the structure and morphology of the developing embryo; it is based more on observation rather than experimentation.


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Over the past year as I've become curious about all things Japanese my knowledge of Japanese food has increased a lot. I used to just know sushi and soba, but now my vocabulary has expanded. Words like ochazuke, nikujaga and oyakodon bring up delicious memories in my mind. Oyakodon 親子丼 : おやこどん is one of my favorite and very easy to prepare dishes. Litteraly it means parent and child and consists of chicken and eggs plus onion. Traditional Japanese flavoring is a combination of soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin, which is a sweet cooking wine. I don't eat sugar, so the oyakodon I prepare takes a bit different, but still very delicious.

recipe below...

Sasha's oyakodon:
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 eggs
1/2 sweet or yellow onion
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water or broth
dash of old bay seasoning
1 tsp olive oil

Heat up olive oil on medium heat. Cut up the onion as fine or course as you like it. Saute for a few minutes until it start to become transluscent. Dice the chicken into small cubes and season with soysause and old bay, add to the pan with onions and let them cook together, covered, for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, combine eggs, water or broth, a bit of soy sauce and old bay and mix together with fork. When the ckicken looks done, stir the chicken and onion mix, and add the egg mix evenly to the pan. At this point it's up to you when to stop the cooking process. Traditionally, oyakodon eggs are slightly runny. To achive this, turn off the heat and serve soon after adding the eggs. If you cover the pan and let the eggs cook though, this becomes more like a fluffy omlet, which is also good. I like to make the oyakodon different consistensies depending on my mood.

Serve over white, short grain rice, or any rice or grain of your choice. Makes 2-4 serving depending on your appetite ;)

And now for a more traditional oyakodon tutorial look here.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

things I found surprising about Japan

1. people stand on the left side of escalators, and walk on the right
2. fancy toilets with heated seats, bidets, and... um...sound effects
3. there is a little melody that accompanies the opening and closing of doors on subway trains
4. malls had pet stores with walls of tiny puppies in plexiglass enclosures
5. many small restaurants had you order food from a vending machine type device that had the food options listed. You pushed a button next to the meal of your choice, paid the money and collected a ticket, which you gave to the waiter inside.
6. no tipping. Not in restaurants, not in taxis.
7. taxi doors are opened and closed by the driver via a lever next to their seat.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

cute baby animals

Baby animals are adorable, and not just mammals. There's something irresistibly endearing in tiny digits and giant eyes, as this collection of photos nicely demonstrates: link.


groovy tunes

I like listening to music; all kinds of music. Russian rock, latin guitar, american pop, classical, etc. What I'm listening to depends on my current mood. I like discovering new artists and finding out what other people are listening to. I never thought of this a s a hobby. I was taking an intorductory Japanese class in the fall and we were learning how to talk about our interests, music was one of the hobbies we learned how to say. 私の趣味は音楽です。(watashi no shumi wa ongaku desu. My hobby is music.)

Recently I found a great playlist of "cruising music" created by Michele Phan creator of many make-up and beauty tutorials on youtube. This music is great for morning yoga, afternoon relaxation and background to work that requires an extra bit of motivation.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

how many sides does a triangle have?

I would like to think that with the internet becoming increasingly accessible to all, people nowadays would be better informed about the world around them. This video implies that this is not the case. Although they probably did pick and chose the answers featured in this video, it is still sad to watch.


Friday, April 10, 2009

full moon - crazy afternoon

The full moon has a strong effect on me. I feel restless, full of energy, creative. I am usually productive in unexpected ways and more decisive. Today it seems I cannot stop writing. I should put this energy into writing a scientific paper, but I guess I have a need to write down my thoughts today.

April started off cool and rainy. At first I dreaded going out in the rain, but I discovered that it was not so cold and the rain was soft. Not like the harsh, chilling rains of fall. It was nice to rediscover this fact, which I must have forgotten over the course of the year. It reminded me of my favorite poem "There will come soft rains", which comes from a chapter with the same title, from the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury:

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And no one will know of the war,
not one will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

This short story was one of the first things I read independently in English, after I first arrived in the US. I was in the 6th grade at the time. I love it still, and Ray Bradbury is still one of my favorite authors.


grad school update

Back in October I wrote about my ambitious plan to defend my thesis by May 8th. Well, that is not going to happen. Experiments take longer to do than expected. Results are ambiguous and need follow-up experiments to be clarified. Procrastination happens periodically. However, my new deadline is August/September. In my current position I think this is a doable goal. I now have real results, I am working on my first paper and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel get brighter everyday.

A few weeks ago I was feeling low and I was having a conversation with one of my labmates. I confessed to her that in my journey towards a phd I've always seen this tall mountain ahead of me that I will need to climb before I can get to my destination. I guess I convinced myself that all the hardest work will come at the end. I felt that as I got closer to finishing, the mountain seemed higher. My labmate said - Why does there have to be a mountain? The more I thought about it, the more the mountain seemed to shrink. Why did I imagine a mountain? I have been working for 6.5 years, I only have a few more months to go. Why would there be a greater amount of work now? Work is just work: certain tasks to be accomplished. I have acquired the skills to accomplish these tasks, all there is to be done to to keep moving forward, one step at a time, until the destination is reached. True, I will have to do writing, which I haven't yet done, but I love writing! That should be the best part. My labmate's simple and profound statement changed my perception of the road ahead of me, and I feel as if I dropped a heavy load and am moving forward with a spring in my step. The past few weeks labwork has become fun. Without the weird pressure I was piling on myself, I can enjoy the process of scientific discovery without anxiety of all that is yet to be done.

Sure I still feel anxious and unproductive sometimes, and I have to keep reminding myself of the flat road ahead. I started meditating every morning, including some visualization of the flat road ahead, and I find that it helps to keep me focused. I am also discovering that things get done faster when I stop expecting perfection and just try.

A few days after this conversation I was talking to a classmate of mine, and I told her about my epiphany moment. She laughed and said "Why imagine a flat road, why not a downhill road? You can go faster and faster..and crash and burn at the end" :) She was joking of course, but I gave the idea some thought. I decided that I like the idea of steady progress that the flat road represents. Although I suppose, a slight downward incline just might hasten me to my goal...


write something

Today I took the day off from going to lab to "work at home", because I really need to make my data into figures. However true to self, I managed to do everything but.

1. I found an interesting video about shortening spoken Japanese phrases (link). おはようございます becomes ~っざいます and ありがとうございます becomes あざっす. Oh, what fun! As if understanding spoken Japanese isn't difficult enough already.
2. I watched a video of a painting elephant.
3. I discovered that the reading room at Widener library has an atmosphere highly conducive to reading and comprehending scientific papers. Must return there regularly.
4. I cooked buckwheat, salmon and green beans (separately). The salmon required de-scaling, but the skin was well worth getting covered in flying scales.
5. I contemplated my life and the reasons for not doing everything I would like to be doing.
6. I played my cello fro the first time in probably three or four months and was delighted to find that I love it as much as ever, and that although my fingers got tired quickly, they remembered what they were supposed to be doing.
7. I mulled over the implementation of my plan to build a website, mostly as an exercise in website building and maitenance, since I am not at all sure about the content.
8. I came up with a plan to stop indecision in its tracks. I sometimes cannot decide on the best course of action or the best way to spend my time and so I can spend hours (seriously) going round and round reexamining each possibility accomplishing nothing. I decided that in such times the best thing to do is to exit that rotary, and so something else entierly. And that something will be writing something, so here I am.
oh, and 9. I learned the meaning of the word polysome, which is just another word for polyribosome. Maybe I knew this before and just forgot.

Today is a beautiful partly cloudy spring day with temperatures in the 60s. I enjoyed a very nice half hour walk from my house to Harvard square, bummed around the library and the science center and recaptured what it's like to be a student. I plan to enjoy an equally nice walk back.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rice-cooker Meals

Soon after I moved into my current apartment last fall, we realized that our ancient monstrosity of a stove was leaking gas. It took just over a month for our landlord to acknowledge that there was a problem and buy us a new stove. In the meantime I had to figure out how to make home-cooked meals without a stove.
I've had a rice cooker for about a month at that point, and although I tried cooking all kinds of grains in it, I didn't add anything else. One day desperate for some home-cooked food, I put some diced chicken pieces that I had marinated in soy sauce along with the rice. The result was fantastic! The chicken (I used skinless thigh meat) was steamed and tender, the rice took on the flavor of the chicken. Since then I experimented with adding various ingredients to the rice cooker. Tofu and black wood-ear mushrooms are my favorites to add along with chicken and I like to add oregano and Old Bay seasoning to enhance the flavor. In the few months that I've had the rice cooker I've discovered that it is a wonderful appliance; able to cook not only rice and other grains to perfection, but also porridges and whole meals including meat. The one I have is made by Zojirushi and I am very happy with it.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How are you?

I am learning Japanese. I am planning to move to Japan when I finish my phd. Japan is a beautiful country, I am really looking forward to moving there and so I am trying to learn Japanese. In the fall I took an introductory Japanese class at my university. I feel it gave me a solid introduction to the language. This semester, though, I need to focus wholeheartedly on my research so that I can actually finish within the next few months. Therefore I am not taking the second part of the introductory Japanese class, but I am continuing to learn on my own. One way I found to squeeze some Japanese into my day is to listen to podcasts while I walk to work. The podcasts I am listening to are from Although it is subscription based, it is not very expensive and offers a variety of supplementary materials in addition to the podcasts.

Today I learned a new phrase. It is a way to answer the question: How are you? How are things going? The phrase is ぜっこうちょう ですin hiragana, and it is read zekkoochoo desu (絶好調です).
It means "great! wonderful! on top of the world"

Somehow even saying the phrase lifts my mood. So, can you guess how I'm doing today? ぜっこうちょう です!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Comfort food

When I was younger I was not very discriminating in my food choices and I had a good appetite, as a result, by the time I graduated from high school, I was quite a bit overweight. It didn't bother me too much. I liked to study and to hang out by myself. I spent a lot of time reading, and thinking; the world outside my head didn't interest me much. When I started graduate school, however, my perspective started to change. A major reason for this was discovering yoga. I started to realize that even though I have a good imagination, the real world is a lot more fun. I started to care more about the health of my body. I became more physically active and changed my diet.

At first the change was very drastic. I stopped eating meat, fish and dairy and stopped eating food that had been processed to a great extent and which contained very artificial or unnecessary ingredients. I started reading labels on foods and discovered that even the simplest foods, like canned peas, often had unnecessary ingredients, like corn syrup. I even stopped drinking coffee. I spent the next couple of years refining, my diet, at various times cutting out certain foods. I started to pay attention to how my body feels after eating different foods. I found that some foods make me feel sleepy and sluggish. While others make me feel energized and satisfied.

Nowadays I try to only eat food that makes me feel good. It isn't always possible, especially when going to peoples' houses or eating out. But I try to cook and eat my own food whenever I can, and I always read the ingredients on packages. A couple of years ago I started eating dairy, chicken and fish again and drinking coffee. One of the best things about being a vegetatian is that I learned about many new foods. When you eat meat, it is often the focus of a meal and its easy to overlook the vegetables and strarch that accompany it. When vegetables and grains are the focus of your diet, you start looking for more variety.

One of my favorite new foods is quinua. Quinua (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an edible crop from South America. It can be cooked like rice (2:1 water to grain ratio) and had a delicious hearty flavor and chewy texture. My favorite way to cook quinua is to mix it 1:1 with red lentils (which don't need to be soaked) and boil it with salt and curry powder. The final result reminds me of mashed potatos but with more texture and is my ultimate comfort food, expecially in cold weather.

Quinua and red lentils:
Measure out 1/2 cup each of quinua and red lentils, wash several times under running water. Quinua tends to float, so you have to be careful that it doesn't get washed away. Bring two cups of water to a boil, add the quinua and red lentils and stir. When the water boils again, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 min. At this point I add the salt (to taste) and about 1 tsp of mild curry powder, stir and simmer for another 8-10 min. If I'm feeling ambitious, within the last couple of minutes I add frozen peas and baby spinach without stirring and leave the pot for 10 min after turning off the heat to let the peas thaw and the spincah wilt. I then stir and enjoy. Goes especially well with roasted chicken. Mmmm...



Today I had another realization. Part of the reason I often feel stressed and procrastinate is because I think too much about the possible outcomes of actions. I like making plans: planning my experiments, thinking up step-by-step recipe instructions, mapping out the routes to take to different places, organizing my schedule...even with simple tasks like doing laundry, I spend some time thinking about the order of loads. This is itself, although time-consuming, is not the reason I get in my own way.
I also think about the possible outcomes of each plan, and since there can be several, some being unfavorable, I try to think of ways to avoid the unfavorable outcomes. Before long any simple task seems overwhelming and troublesome. I start thinking that I need to think about it some more before I actually undertake it. I always find that when I actually take action, it is never as complicated as I originally thought, and although the outcome may sometimes be not as I expected, things usually turn out ok, even for the better.

I also find that if something I am doing is taking more time than expected and cuts into the time of what I had planned next, I start to feel stressed. I realized this today, when I was talking with my husband, who is in another country and to whom I nly get to speak to a couple of times a week. I was planning to go to work afterwards, and the longer we talked I found myself thinking along these lines: It's already the afternoon, I was planning to be at work by noon, will I get everything done at work that I was planning? Suddenly it hit me: It's Sunday, I'm having a great conversation with my husband and I'm stressing out about work!?! It's ridiculous! So then (after I finished talking with husband) I thought that I don't have to treat both aspects as one thing: I can separate the planning from the outcome anticipation. Making plans is good, but I don't have to be attached to the outcome before it actually happens. Because that's just as stupid as it sounds and a waste of time.

My new action layout is thus: think of what needs to be done, get it done. If it takes more time than anticipated, that's OK because the task got done. If an opportunity comes up unexpectedly, it's ok to drop any previous plans and follow the opportunity, because another one may not present itself. Family time is ALWAYS more important than work, especially on weekends. Spending less time worrying means more time to get stuff done. Period.


Monday, January 19, 2009


One of my favorite yoga teachers, David Vendetti, writes in his biosketch "Yoga allows me to be who I am without struggle." My feelings about yoga are very similar. Throughout my life I have found something about myself to criticize; lack of excersise, overindulgence with food, too much tv, not enough studying, not being happy with my skin, etc. When I attended my first yoga class, over 5 years ago, I was instantly in love. My mind watched in quiet wonder as my body opened up, lengthened, flexed and stretched in new and unexpected ways. For the first time, there was no criticism. I was completely happy with who I was. I still get this feeling each time I step on my mat. I feel happy and at peace, no matter what else it going on in my life. Some days it takes a bit of effort to get myself to a yoga studio, and a few moments to drop the resistance in my mind and remember how to be still, be present once I'm on the mat. But each time I experience complete happiness.

If you are in the Boston area, check out South Boston Yoga.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

"clench your troubles in your fist"

I like complaining. I freely admit it. Sometimes it just feels nice to whine about the difficulties of life especially if there is someone to commiserate with. However I am also aware of the power of influence of one person's mood on that of others. Someone who is always negative and unproductive is unpleasant to be around. It often feels like their bad mood and negativity is a black hole that sucks up all joy and motivation around it. On the other hand, positivity and productivity are just an infectious: it is easy to get inspired by someone else's positive attitude, especially if it is sincere and lacking in arrogance. Therefore I try my best to keep my sad, negative, defeatist thoughts private, especially when talking to people I care about, because I know their lives are not any easier than mine but they still try to cheer me up when they think I might be feeling down. One source of great inspiration to me is my grandfather. He is a retired engineer who worked very hard well into his seventies and always speaks of his job with enthusiasm. He is constantly saying motivating things to me and although I probably don't tell him often enough, I am very grateful.

It is no secret that I haven't been exactly happy in graduate school. I've struggled to find direction and motivation, and have not been particularly productive. However I am determined to finish my PHD partly for myself, but mostly for the people who believe in me and don't give up on me. My grandfather always has positive advise to offer me. On of my favorite things that he says, although it doesn't translate very well into English is: "Don't let your troubles get the best of you. Gather up your weakness and doubts into your fist, clench them tightly and keep moving forward." I love picturing this! It gives me an instant mood lift :)
I know that I've been spoiled in graduate school. Nobody has yelled at me or told me I'm not doing a good job. My advisors have always found something positive to say and have never been harsh. Yet, I don't think it is unreasonable to say that I have not been a very motivated graduate student. I have been to busy complaining about everything that I don't like about science to really focus on my research. It has not all been playing around though. I have learned a great deal about benchwork and developmental biology. I've also gotten to know some great people and discovered that I love teaching and editing. So overall I think I've met some goals of graduate school. Still there remains the main goal: the Dissertation and publication. I'll admit, it's a struggle. Everyday. I struggle to think positive, to endure unhappiness, to keep my troubles clenched tightly in my fist. Sometime I loosen my grip, I slow down, I start to lose focus. In these times I need only to look around: I am surrounded by people who inspire me. Smart, wonderful, hardworking people, who also have setbacks and struggle with hardships, but who keep moving forward, not losing momentum, being a shining beacon for those, like me, who start to feel lost.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thoughts on a New Year

This year, I hope, will be my most productive yet in graduate school. That is I plan to finish graduate school with at least one publication and FINALLY after 7 years of wondering around in search of myself get a real job and start an actual career. Just over a week ago I got married. It feels nice to know that there is a person there who is also committed to our future together. And although we don't know what our future will be like, or even when we'll live in the same country, it's nice to know that we have a strong bond holding us together. It may be old-fashioned, but being married makes me feel more calm and secure. So I'm counting it as a good thing. I hopefully now can focus more fully on my thesis research.
A New Year and lots to be done. No time to waste!