Even toys like spring

It’s starting to feel a lot like spring here! The birds are singing in the mornings, the sun is looking less winter-y and the trees are getting buds on them. Yesterday, Cobalt and I went for a walk and I didn’t have to wear a jacket! To show off the lovely spring weather we’re getting, I thought I would post some silly pictures of inanimate objects enjoying the sun. The picture up there shows off a horse I found on our walk. PS – If anyone is missing their plastic purple horse, I found it.

This past weekend, Cobalt and I were visiting our friends in Boulder. The weather was pretty much the same as in eastern Washington except slightly more dry. We celebrated the spring weather there by playing on slides with our 19-month-old friend, going on walks with our older friends, eating lots of tasty food, going to see an amazing play and taking my stuffed taco on a trip to Chautauqua. :D

Do you have spring weather yet?

If you give a girl a microscope

Be prepared for some crazy photos.

OK so I may be in science communication now but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about my microscopy roots. Sitting in front of a microscope and looking at cool biology is pretty much the main thing I miss about doing bench work. So when I found out that Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (where I am currently working) made a microscope for your smart phone, I knew I needed it.

You just download the pattern from PNNL’s website, 3D print the holder and put a bead on it to use as a lens. Voila. Microscope. And the baseline version magnifies things 100x!

Sign. Me. Up.

One of my coworkers is super into 3D printing right now. So on Friday I told him about my need for one of these microscopes. He left and came back with an already completed microscope that he found in his desk! :D

I put it on my phone and immediately started looking for things to inspect in closer detail. Like this stuffed shark eye (obviously I have stuffed sharks on my desk).

I like that you can see all the fur around his eye.

The lighting in my cubicle is not great for microscoping, however. Just like most things with lenses (cameras, microscopes, etc.), the more zoom or magnification you have, the more light you need. I packed up the microscope to save it for more adventures over the weekend.

Now it’s fun times for you. Below I’ve posted a variety of things that I imaged around my house. You should try to guess what they are. The answers may or may not be at the bottom (don’t cheat!).





    1. Whatever it is, it looks dirty. But I like the grid…
    2. I think this one is my favorite. It’s so artsy. Also hint: this one is the same object as what’s in the photo above it.
    3. “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”




1. Camping chair, 2. Potassium’s arm, 3. Living room carpet, 4. Kitty fur, 5. Also kitty fur, 6. Kitty ear (poor kitty), 7. Potassium’s shirt, 8. Shark towel, 9. Cobalt’s ear

I love all these pictures because they make science fun and artsy. I think that’s one reason I like microscopes in general. They give you a chance to marvel at how beautiful the world is, especially part of the world that you can’t normally see. Did you have a favorite image above? What would you want to look at up close? I think next I want to try some plants…

What did you do this weekend? Can you believe it’s almost October? I really need to get started on my Halloween costume. In other October news, I’m thinking about doing Inktober again on my Twitter account. I’d have to draw something every day of October. Could be fun…

Let’s talk about America!

This would have been my entry to our photo contest. America: the great melting pot (mmmm fish and chips and Mexican sodas…)!

Today’s post is dedicated to the photo contest Cobalt and I hosted on the Fourth of July. Basically, we were inspired by a similar photo contest that we held a few years ago so we sent out texts to ~20 or so of our friends asking them to text us a picture of something they thought best represented America. As usual, we enjoyed getting responses and I think it helped make our Fourth of July even more fun! Sooooooooooo without further ado let’s announce the winners!

Grand Prize

Cobalt and I were both mesmerized by this one. So pretty…

Second Place

This one came with a caption: “light shining on the bridge of opportunity.” Also points to whoever can guess where this bridge is! I’ll give you a hint: America :D

Third Place

Yummmmm! Here’s a secret about me and Cobalt – we love our barbecue so much that we will grill food year round! We cooked steaks in the snow earlier this year…

All of the other pictures were fun too so I thought I would post them all below. There was a large selection of photos that fell under the food and drink category (we all know we looooove eating here in America!) so it gets its own subheading.

The food and drink category

This pic and the next one are titled “boys with food.”

The last (but certainly not least) photos

This one came with a caption too: “America is education and freedom enough to talk smack with this hippocampal neuron!” (that’s an electrode in the top left corner)

This one is kind of creepy and also one of my personal favorites.

Well, what do you think? Which one is your favorite? What do you think best represents America? And most of all, how was your Fourth of July? Awesome I hope. Cobalt and I went to the beach in California. The weather was perfect (this does not often happen at the beach in Northern CA, despite all you might think you know about California beaches) and we went running around in the waves. :)

Happy birthday Cobalt!

Cobalt wanted three spoons to eat his birthday tiramisu cake when we celebrated his birthday early last weekend!

It’s Cobalt’s birthday today! Cobalt, I’m sorry I’m in France on your birthday but I still hope you have an amazing day. I am so excited for you to get here and join me too!
Love you,
~Potassium :)

An Evening with Brahms and Beethoven

On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of seeing the University of Colorado orchestra perform. I have to say that even though I have lived here for almost 6 years, this was my first time seeing any of the school’s music groups perform. Not really sure why since I pretty much saw or performed in almost every concert on my undergrad campus. Anyway, on Wednesday night, the CU orchestra performed a Brahms piece I hadn’t heard before (Academic Festival Overture) and then performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (you know, Ode to Joy?) with many of the CU choral groups. Both pieces were fantastic and I found myself pretty much equal parts happy to be in the presence of such lovely music and sad to not be in any performing groups anymore. Maybe this weekend I’ll practice my trombone…

Any plans for this weekend? What do you think about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or about symphonies in general? I find it so hard to believe that Beethoven was deaf when he wrote the Ninth Symphony because it was just so wonderful to my ears. How sad that he never got to hear it…

In other news, yesterday was my sis’ birthday! Yay sister! I hope she had a good day.

Dallas Day 4 – Street photography, Robots, and more!

Hello and welcome to my last post about our Dallas trip. I’m warning you, this is going to be a long post (and very pic heavy) but hang in there! I think it’s a pretty awesome story! :)

All right so where to start. On Tuesday we left off at the aquarium. From there, we headed to this amazing deli called eatZi’s for lunch. It was amazing! It is like a bakery, deli, and wine market all in one place. It was pretty much the place to go for lunch – they had prewrapped foods like sushi, sandwiches, and salads; they had a sandwich and salad counter where you could request the ingredients and they’d make it in front of you; they had a bread counter and a deli counter; and on and on and on… I was so happy in there. I think I would probably go there every week if I lived in Dallas. We each got epic sandwiches (mmm prosciutto…) and other things to share before heading to Klyde Warren Park, which is a park over a freeway, to eat our lunch. It was a fantastic day outside and everyone was out enjoying the sun. After lunch, Jem and I took our cameras for a walk through the park to work on some street photography. Here’s a pic of us in action…

After Kylde Warren Park, Jem and I wandered around the nearby neighborhood and I decided to play with my zoom lens a little. That’s where that crazy picture of Cobalt comes from. How this works – I set the shutter speed to pretty slow (tenths of a second instead of hundredths of a second) and then as I was taking the picture, I would zoom the zoom lens out or back in, creating this awesome blur effect. I think it looked particularly cool with people and cars so that’s what I’m showing you today…

My first attempt at playing with the zoom lens:

Jem taking a picture of me.

I like this picture a lot.

They turned out pretty cool, don’t you think? I think my favorite is the one of Cobalt up there. He decided that it will be the album art for any music he ever puts out… Wahahaha…

After street photography, Jem and I dropped our cameras off at her house and then Cobalt, A, Jem, and I headed out of Dallas to see the town that Cobalt grew up in (before his family moved to New Mexico)! It was so cool seeing Cobalt’s old house in his old neighborhood. We also got to drive past his old elementary school and church. It was neat. After taking Cobalt down memory lane, we stopped at Krispy Kreme donuts before heading back to Dallas.

Jem, A, and Potassium being odd

Back in Dallas, Jem took us to see her work. It was exciting. I met Jem because we used to work in the same lab together back when she was a graduate student. But now she’s all fancy with her PhD and works in a new lab in Dallas. I always like seeing other people’s labs just because it’s so interesting to me how the same basic procedures get done in different labs (sometimes they are surprisingly different…).

We continued our tour of Dallas by heading to Deep Ellum to see The Traveling Man, a series of three robot sculptures that pop up kind of out of nowhere by this train track. They are super neat so here come a bunch of pictures… Ready?!

Each robot sculpture is surrounded by these little adorable bird sculptures…

Of course Cobalt wanted a picture of him riding one.

This one, called Waiting on a Train, was my favorite.

Jem and I were both sad that we’d left our big cameras at her house and had to resort to our iPhones for pictures. I immediately downloaded a fisheye app for mine because I thought the robots would look neat with a fisheye lens (don’t happen to own that for the DSLR anyway…).

Cobalt and I got photobombed by this Waiting on a Train guy… It was awkward… :-/

This is the second sculpture, called Walking Tall (We kind of saw these out of order, I think Walking Tall is technically the last sculpture in the series) through the fisheye iPhone lens… I love how it turned out. Also, notice that in addition to the bird sculpture the robot is holding, there’s a real bird perched on his shoulder…

Here’s me and the Walking Tall robot as viewed on this bird’s head. I tried to make it look like he was holding my hand. Weren’t the clouds amazing that afternoon?

Another angle of the Walking Tall robot… I like this pic a lot too.

Finally, the last sculpture (but I think technically the first sculpture) is called Awakening. Also, notice that cool art on the wall behind the robot.

The Traveling Man is a really cool and inspiring series of sculptures. They are really close to each other too so I highly recommend that you check them out if you live in the area or ever choose to visit. Next time we visit Jem, I am definitely going to go back to visit my robot friends.

At this point, everyone was getting a little grumpy because the donut high was wearing off and we all realized how hungry we were. So we headed to The Alligator Cafe for some cajun/creole food. Holy crap, this food was amazing. Everything that we got we loved. I had been craving fried catfish the whole time we were there so I got the Catfish Ponchartrain which was seriously soooo good that I am drooling right now just thinking about it. Yum. Highly recommend this place too!

AFTER DINNER (I know what you’re thinking… there’s more?! Seriously, I told you Day 4 was a long day… remember that on top of all this stuff we went to the aquarium too… don’t worry… we’re almost done.), we met up with some of Jem’s friends at a bar called The Ginger Man. It was nice to meet Jem’s friends and see a little bit of Dallas at night. Hurrah. Also, A and I decided to play around with the fisheye app on my phone and we got this gem of her…

In the morning we got up early and A, Cobalt, and I loaded up the car before driving allllllll the way back to CO. It was kind of a sad drive because we all really enjoyed our trip to Dallas and then we had to go home! Things got epically boring in Kansas and we brought out the license plate game to keep entertained. Turns out that a lot of people from all over the country drive through Kansas!

Okay folks, it’s time to end this epic post about our epic trip to Dallas. I hope you all enjoyed reading it. And now it’s your turn… What was your favorite part of our trip? Is there anything you wished you could have heard more about? What are you doing this weekend? Something fun I hope? Tell me! Jem is actually coming to Boulder this weekend to visit (yay!!!) and Cobalt, A, our friends J, K, another A, and I are all running in a 5K called the Rave Run. I am normally super grumpy about running (I just hate hearing my inability to breathe while running so I only like it when it is connected to soccer or some other sport…) but the Rave Run seems right up my alley. It’s at night so there are going to be flashing lights and colors and music and glowy things… I will probably just dance the whole way through… :)

Make snow lemonade?

Lur the great snow shark….

On Sunday, I had a very fun adventure planned. Cobalt and I were going to spend the morning and early afternoon in Denver with our friends and then watch the Oscars in the evening at our house with anyone who wanted to come over. Then it snowed 5 inches before we even got up on Sunday morning… The roads were a mess and it was still snowing pretty hard so nope on the Denver plan. That left me feeling pretty conflicted because I really wanted to go see my friends in Denver but it never snows 5 inches here in Boulder so I also really wanted to go play outside in the snow. Since I didn’t want to drive up to Denver in crazy snow, the only option was to play! So play I did.

I was in luck because my friend L was planning on cross country skiing with her dog along some of the running trails here in Boulder and it turned out she wanted company! I was dressed in all my snow gear and hauling my cross country skis out of our “Harry Potter closet” (it’s under the stairs if you didn’t guess) within ten minutes. L showed up and we frolicked around in the snowy wilderness for the next hour and a half. It was lovely. We had wonderful conversations, skied happily through the snow, and hung out with her adorable black lab. Meanwhile it was still snowing….

Later in the day (now we’re up to 8.5 inches of snow), my friend A came over for the Oscar party but she showed up an hour early so we could play in the snow in Cobalt’s and my backyard. We sat down in the snow like children and proceded to build an enormous snow shark spanning our entire backyard pretty much (it’s not that big… we live in an apartment complex…). His name is Lur and you can see him up there at the top before he got his magnificent pinecone eyes… Here are some pictures of me and A with Lur!

The adventures continued yesterday because Gustav wanted to meet Lur. Here are some pictures of that encounter…

I love that Lur totally dwarfs Gustav…

I think they liked each other because of this Instagram pic…

A and I then escaped lab early yesterday because hey… we rarely get this much snow at once and then on top of that, it rarely stays around more than a few hours (the weather here is weird… 70 degrees one day, snowing the next, 50 degrees after that, you know…). A has a new snowboard and she wanted to play around with it on the hills we have here before actually taking it to a ski resort. So we bundled back up and took my cross country skis and her snowboard up to the hills right by our houses. It turned out to be a fantastic day for playing around in the snow – the sun was very bright and warm and there was sooooo much snow to play with. Some pictures of those adventures…

There’s so much snow you can barely see her snowboard!
Don’t judge my lack of coat/hat in this picture. I had just skied a bunch of laps and I was totally overheating… I was cold after A took this picture though and retreated back to the warmth of my coat…

Whew! I am tired now from all this crazy snow playing. It’s supposed to snow again today too! Too bad I actually have work to do though… ;)

Anyway, I’m sad that I didn’t get to see my friends in Denver yesterday but so happy to have gotten to play in the snow instead. I guess the moral of this story is: when life gives you snow lemons, make snow lemonade!

What’s the weather like where you are? Is it spring yet? Do you get a lot of snow or no snow? What are your thoughts on snow? I hate driving in it but I love playing in it/watching it from the warmth of inside…

Best Picture Nominee Summary

We’ll pause the Cobalt and Potassium saga to bring you an important announcement! The Oscars are this weekend! Yay! Cobalt and I like to have a party for the Oscars where everyone dresses up in fancy clothes and votes on what they think will win all the categories. Then we watch and wait for the results. In honor of the Oscars this weekend, I thought I would have a post about all nine best picture nominees because Cobalt and I have seen all of them. I’ll include a tiny summary of each movie and what I liked/didn’t like about it.

Potassium’s top three favorites (in no apparent order):

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild – This is the little indie film that could. It’s an amazing and very creative story about a little girl named Hushpuppy who lives just south of New Orleans with her dad. Her dad gets really sick and Hushpuppy’s whole world starts to shatter. What I think is the most amazing part of this movie was how fantastical and amazing this movie was on such a small budget (Cobalt and I own this one so we’ve watched the making of). It’s also nice because the main actors are not professional – in fact the guy who plays Hushpuppy’s dad is a local baker in the town near where they were filming. I also liked the fact that they used the whole community to make the movie. This one is my personal favorite. It’s neat. You should see it!
  • Argo – this movie is the favorite of the year it seems and is probably the most likely to win. In case you haven’t seen any movies in the past year (and therefore didn’t see this trailer a billion times like Cobalt and I did), it’s about the Iranian hostage crisis and the fact that 6 Americans escaped the embassy and took shelter in the Canadian ambassador’s house. Ben Affleck directs and stars as the CIA agent in charge of getting them out of Iran. Even though this movie is based off of a real event and you know that everyone is okay in the end (if you’ve studied up on your American history that is), this movie succeeds in stressing you out. Will they make it or won’t they?! And that’s why it’s in my top three list – I was clutching the edge of my seat the whole time worried about all the characters even though the back of my head was telling me they would be okay… I also actually really liked the beginning where there was a short introduction about what was going on in Iran at the time – a nice intro/background for those of us who weren’t actually alive/aren’t history majors. :)
  • Silver Linings Playbook – I think there is some confusion about whether this is a romantic comedy or a drama and the answer is it is kind of everything. This is the story of a guy who has just been released from a mental hospital coming back to terms with real life and learning to move on from past relationships. This is a movie by the same guy who directed The Fighter but unlike in that movie, you are cheering for all the characters, which is a good feeling. There are few movies where you actually like all the characters. This movie is heartwarming at times, hilarious at times, and heartbreaking at times. Quite a nice little flick.

The middle three (in no apparent order):

  • Lincoln – This is the story of the ratification of the 13th amendment so it’s another one where you know the end. Daniel Day Lewis portrays a believable and hilarious Lincoln and the whole movie provides a nice little peak into our country’s history. I also was intrigued to see Lee Pace play a villain when he’s usually so sweet and adorable. My biggest complaints are that I thought it was trying too hard to be an “Oscar movie” and that I didn’t like how it ended. I thought it was unnecessary to include Lincoln’s assassination (spoiler alert… ;)) when the story was actually about the 13th amendment…
  • Life of Pi – This is the pretty movie of the best picture nominees. It tells the story of a boy who is lost at sea on a life raft with a tiger for over 200 days. Ang Lee does an amazing job adapting the (sometimes boring) book into a colorful and exciting movie. The soundtrack is also amazing (my favorite of those up for best score). All in all this is a pretty awesome movie, I am just not sure it has what it takes to be best picture… That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go see it. Rent it whenever it comes out on blu-ray/DVD and be prepared for amazingness…
  • Django Unchained – This is the story of a slave who becomes a bounty hunter in return for his freedom and then goes to free his wife. It has an amazing performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz are good too though Christoph Waltz seems very similar to his character in Inglorious Basterds, though he’s not evil. Over all, I found this film enjoyable though it was a little too graphic and bloody for my taste (thanks Quentin Tarantino…). Like Life of Pi, there’s nothing wrong with the movie, I think it just isn’t amazing enough to be best picture.

Potassium’s Three Least Favorite Movies (in order):

  • Amour – This is the story of an older couple who undergo a severe trial of their love when the woman has a stroke. This movie is REALLY REALLY depressing. I was pretty much depressed for the rest of the evening after we watched it. I did enjoy that it was in French (it was spoken fairly slowly so it was easy for me to understand, especially with subtitles). This is the best of my least favorite movies though because besides the fact that it was depressing, there wasn’t anything really to complain about except for the fact that it didn’t have a soundtrack – sometimes it was cool to hear just breathing or walking or whatever and sometimes it was really grating and made the movie drag. The other issue I had with it was that the camera was kind of odd sometimes – people would leave the room and the camera would stay focused on the empty room so you had to wait for them to come back… Otherwise it wasn’t bad… just really really really REALLY REALLY REALLY SAD.
  • Les Miserables – So I need to admit right off the bat that while I generally like musicals, I am not a huge fan of Les Miz. Now onto the movie, I am not really sure why Anne Hathaway is getting a lot of acclaim for this movie because she’s in it for a spilt second. I thought Hugh Jackman did a great job and I at least wasn’t offended by Russell Crowe’s singing (at least he could sing unlike Gerard Butler in The Phantom of the Opera…). My actual problem with this film was with the cinematography. So Les Miz was directed by Tom Hooper, who also directed The King’s Speech. The King’s Speech had these really awesome shots that were super wide angle like this one where all the action is in the corner of the screen and there’s all this blank space in the rest of the picture. That worked out really well for them in that movie. So in Les Miz, he’s at it again with these quirky shots – in this case they are super close ups with really really really low depth of field. The photographer in me was intrigued – what a neat idea! But the movie goer in me was bored because these shots would last the entire length of songs – 3 to 8 minutes of just staring at someone’s pores really isn’t very interesting… It left me feeling disappointed because I wanted to know what else was going on in the scene while that person was singing. In a musical play there’s always something going on while someone is singing… So that’s Les Miz’s fatal flaw in my opinion…
  • Zero Dark Thirty – And finally my least favorite. This movie is about how one woman’s utter determination allowed us to find and kill Osama bin Laden. This is a really fascinating story about how she just randomly stumbled on a bunch of paths that lead her straight to him and yet the movie was….. such a disappointment. The excitement and intrigue is lost in a web of horribly graphic torture scenes and unexciting “chapters” as the movie drags on. Instead of excitement and nerves that I thought I should have been feeling when the soldiers landed in the compound where bin Laden might be living, I was just rolling my eyes and wondering if I had time to pee before they found him (spoiler alert – I probably did). And then it was FINALLY over and she was crying because she finally did it and I couldn’t share in any of her emotions because I was just so annoyed at the whole thing. Boo… It really struck me as how the two movies portraying “recent” events in US history (Argo and Zero Dark Thirty) could be so different. For both of them you know the end but Argo has your heart in your throat the whole time and Zero Dark just has you bored and overexposed to graphic violence. :-/

Welp… That’s all of them. Whew… that’s a a lot of typing… Did you see any of the movies? What did you think? Will you be watching the Oscars on Sunday night? Cobalt and I are excited because we are going to see the Oscar nominated live action and animated shorts this week and then we’ll be super prepared to watch the Oscars on Sunday night…

Three to go…

Cobalt and I have a tradition where we like to see all of the movies nominated for best picture before the Oscars. In general, seeing all of the movies up for best picture ensures you’ve seen the majority of movies in many of the other categories. It makes watching the Oscars really fun when you feel like you have an idea about the movies that are up (and it’s also hilarious because they always play THE WORST clip from all the movies so we can always shake our heads sadly at that too). I really like it too because it exposes me to movies I wouldn’t have otherwise seen that I ended up really liking (take The Descendants from last year’s Oscars). Anyway, this year we did a pretty good job guessing which movies would be up for best picture and ended up having seen 5 out of the 9 nominated before the list got announced last Thursday morning. The 4 remaining were: Argo (which we just saw this weekend, as you can see in the picture), Les Miz, Zero Dark Thirty, and Amour. Amour is going to prove to be the hardest to see because, as of Sunday night when I checked out my Fandango app, it is not playing anywhere in a 250 mile radius from us… Woooooo… This year we also miraculously saw all 5 movies up for best animated feature before the announcement came out too…. that never happens…

Anyway, do you have any fun traditions like this? Do you watch the Oscars? Have you seen any of the movies up for best picture? Which ones do you like? Do you want any recommendations? Cobalt and I really liked Beasts of the Southern Wild (it’s already on DVD/Blu Ray so you should check it out) and Silver Linings Playbook. Lincoln and Argo weren’t too bad either (though I found Argo REALLY stressful…). Actually all of the movies we’ve seen so far are good. It’s a tough race this year…. Leave me a comment if you want to know if you should see one of the 6 movies we’ve seen and I’ll give you a little summary/tell you my thoughts on it. :)

The IceMan14 Cometh…

Yesterday, the day that Cobalt and I already had to get up at 4:30 am to catch a plane to leave for the holidays, was the day when Colorado finally decided to give us some snow. Needless to say getting to the airport on time and then actually leaving the airport was a bit of an adventure. First of all, we had to walk to the bus stop with all our luggage in the snow. Then we had to ride the crazy crowded bus on the crazy slippery roads to the airport. Once there, the jetway to get to our plane was not heated so we had to bundle back up to get on the plane. We boarded the plane on time but then we had to wait for people from connecting flights to land and get on our plane. Then we had to wait for their luggage to get on the plane… I watched it all happen sleepily from my window seat at the front of the plane while Cobalt grumpily tried to sleep. By the time we FINALLY had all the passengers and their luggage aboard, we had to take the plane to get deiced. I am from California so plane deicing is not something I see very often. I thought it was crazy to watch and sneakily snapped a few photos of the plane next to us and our plane getting deiced. Craziness. The title comes from the fact that the truck that was involved in the deicing of our side of the plane was IceMan14. I think the truck on the other side was IceMan4…

It’s supposed to snow on the day we head back to Colorado too so you might get to read about more snow/ice traveling adventures sooner than later…

Anyway, Cobalt and I are officially on holiday break for a while so if my posts aren’t regular it’s probably because I am reading/eating/sleeping/doing crafts/spending time with Cobalt and family/etc. I hope you all have wonderful holidays! Stay warm and dry! :)