Friday, November 29, 2013

Interest level: None

Hahaha I just found this in a paper:

I assume they meant that they have no competing/financial interests, but that should have been phrased a mite differently...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

One reason not to buy socks at the grocery store

They might say "no nonsense" across the  toes. Just maybe. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monster veggies?!

It being Halloween month, I thought the monster reference was well played. I accept your virtual applause. 

Last week I got the biggest leek I've ever seen. Why, you ask? Because it was the smallest leek in the store. This week, it's another smallest-yet-biggest. Voila epic Napa cabbage:
 It wouldn't even all fit in my biggest pan! Am I crazy, or is this thing actually massive? I thought I had had enough veggies back in the States to be used to it, but I'm confused now...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Random architecture

Such a random architecture assortment: The biology castle, the biology tower, and The Whale.   They call it The Whale at least. I get more of an upside-down Viking ship vibe...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Toilet paper math is iffy

Note to self: do not let theoretical future future children learn math from toilet paper packaging...

I'm not in Georgia anymore...

Exhibit A

Verdict: Approve!

Exhibit B: there is no Tony Chachere's cajun seasoning in my grocery store. 

Verdict: Fail Connecticut, FAIL. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Calculus and coffee stains

Grad school round 2 has officially begun... Don't judge my math, calculus was a while ago!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The end of one great adventure and the beginning of another

Please excuse the inexcusably cheesy title, but that is exactly what I’m going through right now. My relatively short adventure on Reunion Island has ended, yes, but this is also the end of my great nomadic adventures of late. I’m starting a decidedly less mobile adventure, but one nonetheless—my PhD, during which (among other things) I’ll live in one town for at least four years, and this apartment for at least one.  Throughout the transition I’ve been alternating between being thrilled that I can finally settle down and panicking that I have to finally settle down. What if I don’t like something? I can’t just deal with it for a little while and then run away, never to return. I have to deal with it for a long time… 

But it was time to move on, so here we go! Sorry, there won’t be any more pictures of cool fruit for a while. I’ll have to figure out how to make this blog interesting while I’m doing less exotic stuff. For now though, I am happy to report that so far I love my apartment, neighborhood, school, and all the people I’ve met here. Let’s get a couple of weeks into school and see how I feel then!

In honor of the end of my great 3 year walkabout, a few things I won’t mind not having to constantly think about:

-the date format
-the time format (24 vs 12 hours)
-which paper format I need to use for this Word document (Europeans don’t use letter, obviously, because inches are evil. The use A4, which is just different enough to be annoying: 8.26 x 11.29 inches versus 8.5 x 11)
-The metric system. It makes more sense, yes, but converting between the two is not good for my brain. Or things I’m baking when I forget to convert and BURN THE EVERLOVING CRAP OUT OF THEM. I’ve also realized that I can only think about cold temperatures in Celsius and warm ones in Fahrenheit (growing up in Georgia versus Swedish winter?). I am a mess.  
- What a comma, space, or period means when writing numbers. Is it a decimal? A thousands separator? None of the above?
-Where the *?!/#& a given letter/symbol is on a French keyboard. Seriously, look at this thing. I would frequently need literally at least a minute to find something. And moving the As and Ms? That’s not ok, I use those a lot. On the other hand, I can type mu with one keystroke? Really? That's kinda cool... Useless, but cool. The fact that I can type a British pound symbol but not a Euro one, is less cool.
-‘Where is my passport??' Phrase guaranteed to cause a few seconds of panic, even if you absolutely know where it is.
-Getting/having a visa/residence permit
-Language! I love speaking French and do it well, but man it’s easier not to have to think about every single sentence that comes out of your mouth.
-Random questions about Texas (the world is utterly fascinated with Texas)
-The general love/hate relationship with the US. Endless accusing questions about wars and politics from the same people who go starry-eyed talking about visiting New York…
-“You know where Florida sticks out the bottom? It’s the one above that.”
-Making an entirely new set of friends every 3-6 months.
-The guilt of not doing anything one weekend. When I’m only in a country for a couple of months, I feel I MUST do/see something each weekend, which is exhausting. Here I have time. In fact, I should really slow down and relax and settle in and not see everything at once!

What several of these come down to is that I am ready to be in my own country for a while.  When abroad, you’re often The American, or more generally, A Foreigner. People hear your accent or origin and define you around that. You’re immediately and always “other” to a lot of people. Every time my boss on Reunion introduced me to someone, she started with “She’s American,” like that was my most important characteristic. That of course was not the case with close friends, but with many people you meet, me being American was the extent of the relationship. I am excited that I can finally be me, known for what actually matters about that.

Anyway, there you have my thoughts on the transition.  Stay tuned for the list that I’m sure is coming of things I miss about living in the US! The grass is always greener…

Monday, August 5, 2013

Spaghetti Pie?

So it's not all awesome adventures in tropical fruit here. I've had lots of weird adventures in food too. Mostly successes, but a few rather impressive fails. Take these for example:

They look innocuous enough, right? Some kind of desserty something? They're made of manioc, which I've learned can be either acceptable or a totally weird mess. I didn't understand the difference between the several varieties of manioc pies this woman had, so I pointed at yellow and brown. Yellow was blended to uniform consistency and tasted like nothing but the coconut flakes she sprinkled on top, yet managed to conserve the weird rubbery-gluey texture that is manioc.

Brown, however, was quite a surprise: When I bit into it, I discovered that it was spaghetti-textured! That was unexpected. And weird. Too weird. It again tasted like nothing except what can only be described as "mildly bad," but the texture flipped me out. I don't like spaghetti, and this looking like spaghetti but tasting another kind of bad was too much. I couldn't even look at it!

Try manioc for the experience, sure. Just don't get manioc spaghetti pie... I think I'll stick with fruit from now on. All of the less than one week that is "from now on."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Adventures in Tropical Fruit 5

I swear I do other stuff here than eat fruit. And the other things generate pretty pictures too. I will get a real post together sometime. Probably.

But for now, more fruit! I got this one on Mauritius actually (yes, I had a holiday away from my island that most people come to for vacations). I don't remember what the fruit is called there, but here it's called a kaki. Which I just googled and is persimmon, which I've heard of!

It looks like an orange tomato, and is very fibrous (soft fibers, but noticeable) on the inside. It's a really interesting flavor, a bit sweet and almost nutty, kind of like squash. I feel like a fake foodie snob describing it like that, but it really did have a weird/interesting taste. Recommended as an interesting one to try! Disclaimer: I just read that you're not supposed to eat the skin (oops) and that most people think it tastes like mango. Maybe mine was a different species or... unripe/rottenish? Like I said, interesting. Has anyone tried any version of persimmon before?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Adventures in Tropical Fruit 4

I bought more passionfruit. WHAT? Try them, seriously, if you ever get a chance.

I did branch out though. Guess what this is.

Hint: It's one of those things that's more technically a fruit versus one that goes in a fruit salad. [Aside: Love that quote: "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in your fruit salad." Miles Kington]. No, it's not a tomato.

Giant tropical avocado! Same general idea, only BIG. And weird. It's much less dense than ours and with less flavor. Kinda watery in both texture and taste. A definite eh--our version wins.

Good thing I have lots of passionfruit!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Adventures in Tropical Fruit 3

Remember how your mom always told you it's what's on the inside that counts? She's right. This wrinkly brown thing that looks remarkably like excrement:

is a passionfruit! You in fact chose the wrinkliest ones (they're at the right ripeness stage). This fruit, the fodder of dreams of tropical islands and the associated cocktails, is clearly never pictured from the outside in people's heads. But the taste does not disappoint--cut it in half and you immediately get a whiff of the tropics, and as you eat the crunchy seeds (we're talking corn kernel crunchy) and pulp with a spoon, you close your eyes and enjoy. Wouldn't want to catch a glimpse of the outside while you're eating... Delicious! My favorite so far.

Update: Adventures in Tropical Fruit 4: Yeah, I got more passionfruit :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

A balanced dessert

Balanced meals have lots of colors, yes? Am I doing it right?

Guava jam, lychee honey, and Nutella. Ignore my last question--I know I'm doing it right!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Adventures in Tropical Fruit

There is so much fruit here I don't recognize. Seriously, Google image "fruits réunion". What even is most of that stuff? I'm trying to figure it out. Whenever I go to the market (has to be the Saturday one, the grocery store has nothing interesting) I buy something I don't recognize and ask what it is and how to eat it. The first time I did it, I got a bag of goyaviers, which were at perfect harvest timing:

They look like baby pomegranates! Cute. According to the guy I bought them from, you peel them and eat the mushy inside. They're good--tart, but nice. Tons of seeds, which I didn't know to eat at first, but turns out you do eat them, which makes the fruit much more worth the effort. I recommend them if you get the chance. I do not however, know what they might be called in English. Nothing gives me a translation other than guava, which isn't right--goyavier seems to be Réunion-specific. Just eat the small red fruit in May, ok? So that's one thing to do with them. Another, according to the lady who walked up while the seller was explaining this to me, is to chop them in half and throw them in a bottle of rum for three months. I liked that idea too, so I now have my own rum arrangé brewing! I'll let you know how it is in a couple months. I just made this this morning (yes, this morning, no I don't know why) and it's already bright red... Scary or future delicious? TBD. So that was Adventures in Tropical Fruit 1. A smashing success.

Adventure 2 is an actual guava. A white one, which I was unfamiliar with.

It looks like a pear and smells heavenly (yes, it smells so good it warranted that cheesy an adjective). The guy who owns my apartment here has a disgustingly smelly old dog that the apartment usually smells like, but not while my guavas were in the kitchen! That powerful. You know how strong dog smell is. Anyway. I haven't ever had guava in another format than juice, so I don't know if the white ones are like the pink/red ones.  The texture is pear-like, but those seeds will break your teeth! I was really not impressed with the taste. It was like a bland pear, which isn't a fruit I love even when they're good.  So I wasn't going to get those again for eating anyway. Maybe for the smell.

BUT, since Saturday I have developed a truly fabulous bright red itchy lumpy swollen rash all over my neck and around my eyes. I am a sight to behold... The doctors (benefit of working in a hospital, instant access to many) said it's an allergic reaction, likely to food but maybe sugar cane flower, which has started blooming. The only new food I've had is the guava... My itchy cranky ass is therefore calling Adventures in Tropical Fruit 2 a bust. Guava is evil.

UPDATE: According to the doctor I saw today (again, benefit of a hospital) the allergic reaction is due to something I put on my skin, not food. So guava may not, in fact, be evil. But the white one still wasn't very good. So there.  (I'm still itchy and swollen and cranky, an you tell?)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Just some apples

I went to the market for apples. Only apples. I came home with this.

"This" contains no apples. It does, however, contain what will soon be the first installment of "let's figure out this tropical fruit I don't recognize!"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An odd side effect of being highly mobile...

I got an email address at work today (yeah, I've been here thee weeks, there were vacations, it's France). I'll probably only ever get a handful of emails there, and when I leave in three months, it will expire and be closed. No big deal. But it did make me think about how many email addresses I've had in my life. I came up with 14! Many of them, like my newest one, were for short stints (a master's at a different university almost each semester results in several, for example), but the trusty Yahoo has been with me since middle school. And I am currently checking five of them. Ridiculous!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Perfect Weekend

This island has turned me into a morning person in three weeks flat. The sun sets reasonably early here--especially now, around 6pm, since it's 'winter'--but it rises early in the morning (around the other 6), so people here have adjusted and tend to get a very early start. For example, this went by my window at 8:30 this morning:

"This" was a parade led by a trumpet and drums.  Good thing I was already up! I suddenly can't even imagine being asleep at 8:30. Who am I and what have I done with myself??

Saturday morning I was up particularly early for a sightseeing adventure via one of the "long distance" buses. I took it from my town, on the southwest coast, around the southern part of the island across the expansive lava flows dating from various time periods and in different stages of returning to vegetation, which was very cool. The 2007 lava flow is still smoking in some places! On the other side of the lava, I stopped in a little town famous for its church that was not destroyed, but encircled, by lava in 1977. A miracle of course! From that tiny town there is a trail that leads along the coast through an unbelievable forest to a beach with waterfalls coming out of the cliffs beside it. The hike was honestly amazing. I still have trouble believing I'm here, seeing and doing all this amazing stuff, and it occasionally really hits me how cool this is. While hiking the trail, with the full force of the Indian Ocean at my back (I was on the east coast, so it was a "next stop Australia" feeling) and a verdant forest almost entirely full of plants I had never seen in front of me, I had a moment of absolute pure happiness, complete with a laughing fit! All alone in the forest. It was great. The whole day was awesome. Even the buses worked out, which seems to be a relatively rare event from what I've heard!

A flow from 1977

Part of my jungle hike

Ocean view from the jungle hike

The beach with waterfalls--they come out of the mountain you see in this picture.

This morning I enjoyed a lovely working breakfast on the balcony with some loquat (one of those many fruits you and I have never heard of) jam and a fresh local banana, which someone brought to work because the tree at her house was just too overloaded and they couldn't handle them all. So sad, but I helped her out by taking a delicious bunch home. They are short and fat and kinda orange on the inside and DELICIOUS.

This afternoon it was off to the lagoon for some snorkeling in the amazing aquarium that's attached to my beach. I saw a sea slug on the move today and wonder if that was the inspiration for the classically horrible series of Tremors movies... Then I headed home to get ready for a concert I went to with a coworker on the beach in a nearby town. It was awesome of course! We arrived just a bit after sunset and set up our picnic on the grass just beside the beach and talked and drank wine and ate amazing baked goods (one of the friends' friends is a baker in the process of opening his own bakery! Talk about a friend I need...) for hours. Seriously, it's been an amazing weekend. And tomorrow's a holiday!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm on Reunion Island!!

In light of all the administrative fumbling that led up to my arrival here, I was thinking of bringing back the WTF series. "Welcome to France," remember? But everyone knows that story (if not the details, how it usually goes at least). In short, the reputation of French bureaucracy is well deserved. Don't go down the rabbit-hole if you can avoid the allure of this strange lovely disaster of a country. I can't. It keeps pulling me back. But I made it through the admin, and here I am once again!

I'm not in what most people think of as France. My temporary new home is Reunion Island (La Réunion), a French overseas region located 430 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. No, I'm not studying lemurs. I work on a database of birth defects at the University Hospital in Saint Pierre where I am...not sure exactly what my job is. I thought I was doing research with a tiny bit of teaching. Then it seemed to be mostly teaching (a program I've never used, in French). But now I think I may be a biostatistician. It's all a bit unclear. But hey, I was never coming here for the work!

What I was coming for, I have found :) I live in an apartment two minutes from the beach. The beaches here are awesome. The ones where you swim are the ones with coral rings around them (to keep out the hungry angry sharks). The coral fringes turn the beaches into calm lagoons full of coral and tropical fish. There is AMAZING snorkeling 2 minutes from my front door! As someone who almost went down the marine biologist track, I'm rather over the moon. So many good memories of other tropical snorkeling adventures, and I can still ID a lot of the fish! And as nice as the beach here is, I hear tales of much better options scattered along the coast, so I'll have to explore those! I already checked out a black sand beach near here (Etang Salé) over the weekend, and it was awesome as expected. I started at one end of the beach, in town, and wandered way over to the wild outer edge of the area, where there was no coral and there were big tube waves (the kind you see in surfing pictures, probably 8 feet tall) and an agave-filled forest behind the beach.

But as amazing as the beaches are, everyone here will tell you that you don't come to Reunion for them. You come for the interior. The island is volcanic, so it has lots of topography. The highest point in the Indian Ocean is on Reunion (the Piton des Nieges at 10,069 feet--I'll see if I can get myself into suitable hiking shape to scale it...). The interior is made up of three old collapsed volcanoes called cirques (they're vaguely circular), which are sufficiently awesome to have earned the interior the designation of a World Heritage site. I already went to Cilaos, the closest cirque, and I get the attraction. I would have been totally happy with just the drive into the cirque from the coast! The road was long and wound along the incredibly steep edges of a ravine. Once in the cirques, you find villages scattered in unbelievable places. There's one cirque that even now has no roads--if you want to see it, you park at the edge and hike in. And yet that cirque has several villages in it! From another time... The cirques are most known for the hikes though. I was only briefly in Cilaos, but we hiked down a ravine and across a river, coming up the other side, then went back around via the road that ran through an interesting high-altitude cool forest. And there were so many other trails we didn't have time for! I'll absolutely be going back. Plus I bought my travel guide for the island, so I'm plotting other adventures now!

View of the town of Cilaos from across a ravine

Cute beach trees in St. Pierre

Look at that water!

My black sand beach with wave show

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The chocolate-almond croissant challenge is baaaaaaaaack!

Look what I found yesterday!! It was kind of pathetic, burnt and deflated-looking, but it was the first one I've seen here so I sorta freaked out and bought it.

Walking away with my burnt prize I realized I should actually start looking for these things! Reunion Island is strange--it's very French in many ways but not all, so I didn't even think about finding them here. More on the island itself soon, but for now, just know that they have chocolate almond croissants, so I'll probably be ok. Although I must admit I hope the rest of them are better than this one. It was, in fact, burnt, and tasted so. It was also soggy--more of the almond bread type of confection with very little of the flaky croissant texture. And not much chocolate either! I'll probably give this place another chance because it's right by me and clearly this was a bad day, as I'm reasonably sure I've never before seen a burnt pastry for sale in a French bakery...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Things I Love: Lemon Soap

Whatever mess you've gotten into and made your hands smell like, that little bottle of lemon soap by the kitchen sink will make you smell awesome again!

Monday, April 15, 2013


I newly love spring. I didn't appreciate it before last year in Sweden, where it was absolutely amazing. There, when everything comes back after the cold, dark, snowy months you actually get the feeling of "rebirth" people always use to describe spring. And it feels like spring all summer, because it stays cool and things bloom for months. That was the first year I really appreciated spring and I spent hours wandering through the town and nature areas taking pictures and enjoying being outside.

It's been years since I was around for a Georgia spring, and I'd forgotten how beautiful it is here too. I think Georgia springs weren't my favorite because here, as soon as it starts to feel like spring, it gets hot! But between a cool Swedish summer last year and the fact that I'll be living in a cold northern place for the next several years (more on that another time), I don't mind at least some Georgia heat! So for now, I have spent my second spring in a row walking around taking pictures and having a great time.

Some kind of cherry

Bradford Pear

Wisteria (a vine that eats everything in its path but is beautiful right now!)
Azaleas, oh my
More azalea, so southern

The only problem I have with spring is this. It looks like we finally got some snow, right? And if you leave footprints in it when you walk, it's snow, right? Nope, that's pollen. At counts of up to 8000+ on a scale where 1500 is considered the 99th percentile. Awesome. The allergies are strong with this one. Probably another reason I didn't appreciate spring before...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Peanut Butter Pie

I have tons of stuff to do and post about, so here's a peanut butter pie recipe instead. This is from Kim K. It's an awesome summer pie since it's served cool and an awesome anytime pie since it's peanut butter-based.

- Graham cracker crust (premade 'cuz I'm lazy, but easy to make at home if not available)
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup peanut butter (I use creamy, but crunchy could be interesting)
- 1/3 cup milk
- 8 oz whipped cream (Cool Whip, Americans)

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and peanut butter in largeish bowl

Mix in milk

Mix in whipped cream

Put in pie crust and chill in freezer. Thaw a bit before serving if you like your teeth whole at the end of meals.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Never boring

A friend of a friend once said, at the end of one of our mutual friend's many interesting (read: crazy as hell) stories, that "at least it's never boring!" While that was not the reaction said friend was hoping for, that phrase has turned out to be SO USEFUL. As many of you have pointed out to me, my life is a little insane. And that's just the moving around, crazy work and living situation part. It doesn't count any crazy interpersonal relations, of which there are a reasonable number, potentially to be discussed further here later... But anyway, you can imagine that when you get together me and several other people from my master's who are all at least as nuts as I am, there is always something (and usually a lot of somethings) going on. It's never boring!

Today has been the least boring day in at least...three days. Everything has been extra special not-boring lately, but today was a winner. More details when I figure out how any of this not boringness is going to work out. Your teaser: in the next month I have 2 big interviews (one of which is at 5am because the three people involved are in a range of time zones covering 14 hours) and may be moving to an island in the Indian Ocean. Not boring....

Monday, February 25, 2013

Random Science Phrases

In scientific literature I occasionally come across terms or phrases that sound ridiculous. They are sometimes less so as a function of the context, but not always. I'm amused and thought I'd start sharing these little laughs. Today's is "foreign body giant cells" aka, rather originally, FBGCs. The definition isn't too interesting, (they rarely are for these odd terms) so just enjoy the momentary "Huh?" and maybe visions of  huge cheesy horror movie amoebae or something.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Sunny warm midwinter Sunday brunch outside. So good!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On the road in Georgia

I took a road trip this weekend to visit friends in Savannah. Hellooooo southern nostaliga attack. I haven't been to south Georgia in years and had forgotten how pretty it is! The city was beautiful as always with its Spanish moss, azaleas (blooming in January due to a nonexistent winter, except the weekend I was there, which was freezing), fancy old houses and people, and the marshes.  Unexpectedly, I also really enjoyed the four hour drive. Lots of agriculture (including pine plantations and pecan groves), forests, hills, rivers, and lakes. The trip both ways coincided with dusk, which never hurts for prettiness. Neither does being recently back on birth control and HORMONES. So much beauty I almost cried. Such a girl.

Two odd things along the way:

-The peacock I almost hit because it was eating right beside the highway. Reasonably sure peacocks aren't native here...

-The "all you can eat fresh seafood buffet" restaurant (shack) in the straight up middle of nowhere. Do. Not. Trust.

A few pictures.
Beautiful Savannah

Sunset during my drive south
The salt marsh! Love these. Maybe love-hate. I worked in them for a while, which was miserable. But they're beautiful from a slight distance.

As a sorta ecologist, I hate pine plantations. But they look really cool as you drive by.

Pecan grove!