Science is cool (and relevant)!

Potassium and Cobalt playing with mirrors in the “Light Games” exhibit. This exhibit was pretty much all in French so we had to guess how to do all the demos…

Ooo a Thursday post! It’s been a while…. Anyway, if you recall, Cobalt and I got the Paris Museum Pass* for the four days that Cobalt was with me in Paris. One of the (60) museums that was free with the pass was the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (or the Science and Industry museum). Of course we had to go there – one of my favorite things is bringing science to non scientists so I thought it would be interesting to see how the French did it. We were blown away. First of all, this is apparently the biggest science museum in all of Europe. It was HUGE. We didn’t even get to see all of the exhibits! Second of all, I was impressed because the science was explained very well (judging by the exhibits in English…) – probably better than the majority of our science museums do here in the US. Really I mean that the explanations went into slightly more detail than ours do but they still seemed like they could be easily understood by a nonscientist (though Cobalt will tell you that their movies were too long…).

Infrared Potassium (with Cobalt behind her)

In addition, and this is my favorite part about this museum, all of the exhibits included a “so what are you going to do about it?” section. There was a whole exhibit on human biology that taught people all these terms that I use pretty much on a day to day basis. At the end, and there was a huge panel that presented important bioethical questions (cloning, genetic manipulation, etc) that inspired the museum attendants to really think about these important issues we are facing today in our world.

Then there was a huge energy exhibit which discussed where we get our energy from (fossil fuels, wind turbines, coal, etc) and how our current use of fossil fuels has contributed to global warming. At the end, there was a section about new strategies to obtain energy, tips on how the average consumer can conserve energy, and why it is important to conserve energy (there is even a game where you follow an guy throughout his day and tap on all the ways he could conserve energy at his house, on his way to work, at work, etc etc etc). I thought it was very informative (again) about the real types of problems we (as humans, not as scientists) are facing in the world today.

Then there was this really neat exhibit about new textiles that people have developed. There was a bioluminescent jacket that glows at night so people will be able to see you, a dress that cleans the air as you wear it, a blanket that glows blue for babies with jaundice so that they can be swaddled and cuddled while they are healing, and more! I thought this exhibit was cool because it kind of combined creativity with science – showing people how science can be creative (Note: I think all scientists need to be creative, not just the ones who develop new textiles, but I thought this was a good example).

This is the crazy dress that filters out the air as you wear it!!!!

I could go on and on but my point here is that this museum did a really good job making science applicable to its audience. Many museums will tell you that science is cool (and it is) and present the audience with a series of facts about each exhibit but I feel that most museums fall short of making it relevant to its audience. It’s like instead of just saying yay! Look at this crazy physics experiment! Science is cool! That’s all…, this museum really challenged its audience by reminding them that this cool science is relevant to everyone (i.e. “how can you conserve energy?” “what do you think about cloning?” “how do these things affect your life?”). Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now but seriously… I am feeling very sad about how science is explained to nonscientists here in the US now… Maybe I will have to change that. :)

Thoughts about today’s post? What do you think about science? Do you feel that what we scientists do in our labs/offices/giant computer rooms/etc is relevant to your day to day life? Why or why not? How could it be more relevant? Write me an essay no shorter than 100 words on this topic (just kidding but seriously, tell me what you think!).

*I’ll post more on all the other things Cobalt and I did with our Paris Museum Passes soon!

You are delaying the passage of this train!

So last week before I found out about my grant, I wrote a huge post about some things that have been on my mind since we returned from France. It was epically long so I chopped it down into smaller tidbits. Today’s post is about the Paris metro system!

It’s no secret that public transportation in the US is not amazing. Sure, big cities seem to have their act together but as a whole, it’s really hard to get around most places without a car. I know because I went through college, my year in NM, and my first year of grad school before I finally got a car… Anyway, the metro system in Paris is excellent and really easy to use. One metro pass will put you on any of the metro lines throughout the city (transfers included) or on a bus or on a tram (kind of like an above ground subway). Depending on the kind of ticket you bought, the ticket could also put you on one of the express trains that go just outside Paris to the airport, Versailles, etc. Inside each metro station, the lines that stop there are diagrammed according to direction and the stops. For example, let’s pretend you wanted to take the Chicken line west across the US. You would follow the signs for Chicken San Francisco (because that’s where the Chicken line ends up) and then right at the entrance for the Chicken San Francisco Line would be a diagram of all the stops between your current station and San Francisco. That way, if you weren’t sure if you wanted Chicken San Francisco or Chicken New York City, you could look at the stops and determine if you were going in the right direction. So easy!

I actually found riding the metro a lot of fun (I think I am weird…). I loved sitting in the car jamming to Rodrigo y Gabriela on my iPhone and watching the passengers get on and get off (and sometimes risk getting squished in the doors right as they were closing). It was fun with Cobalt too – I planned all the metro trips for everywhere we wanted to go and it worked out really nicely most of the time. Also, I also loved the variety of passes available for the metro. You could buy just one ticket, a pack of ten, or one of the fancier passes. Shown here is a picture of the two passes Cobalt and I had. He got the Paris Visite pass, which is slightly expensive but worth it if you’re going to only be in Paris for 5 days or less and if you’re going to be doing a lot of traveling on the metro (you can choose 3 or 5 days). I got the Navigo Découverte pass, which is good for 7 days and is slightly more of a pain to get (I had to speak French to the guy in the information booth to ask for my pass, I had to get my picture taken for it, and I had to pay for the smart card, which you just wave over the sensor). However, it turns out to be slightly cheaper than the Visite pass and (best part) it’s rechargable. So when I go back, I can just recharge my pass and voila! Metro time! :D Both passes are modifiable (for example, do you want to just ride the metro in Paris or do you want to also be able to go outside of Paris without buying another ticket?) and really easy to use. Once I got my Navigo Découverte pass and could stop using tickets, I was totally hooked. Seriously, I didn’t have to stress out about running out of tickets and I got to hear the machines ding brightly upon sensing my smart card sensor in my pass which never failed to make me smile. I was sad to put the pass away when we got back to the US… It’s true that, as a student at CU, I actually have a smart card bus pass for getting around Boulder and Denver too but for some reason it’s just not the same… (I should note though that the title of my post comes from the airport train here in Denver, not in Paris).

What are you guys up to right now? Anything you want me to talk about? Honestly, I have so much I could say but I am at a loss as to where to start…

We’re back!!!!

Potassium and Cobalt visiting the palace of Versailles! (Travelers note: we went on a Wednesday and it was not crowded at all but I’ve heard the weekends are horrible…)

We are back from our trip to Paris! Yay regular posts again! But wow… where do I even begin? The trip was amazing and life changing! I met a bunch of wonderful scientists during the work part of my trip. We drank a lot of espresso together; explored Paris together; and talked about life, America vs. other countries, food, science, data analysis, etc. Being able to meet so many scientists from all of the world was definitely a great experience for me and my career and it gave me even more possible options for what to do with this PhD of mine whenever I finish. Also, the class I took about a new data analysis program seems promising too. I sat down with one of the developers after the class and we went through various examples of all the data I have to analyze and worked out some plans of attack. That was a really incredible experience for me because I have never had that opportunity before. Usually it’s just me staring at my computer getting frustrated because I don’t know how to make it do what I want it to do. I am actually excited to analyze some of my data now, which is a very rare feeling for me.

A week into my stay in Paris, Cobalt arrived and we frolicked all over the place. Our feet hurt so badly at the end of every day because of how much walking and exploring we did. Sometimes we loved Paris (it’s a very neat city bustling with life. We loved the random musicians who would jump onto the metro at some random stop, play music a for a few stops, and then get off. Can you imagine playing a song flawlessly while you’re being jostled around a moving subway car that is starting, stopping, turning, etc?) and sometimes we hated Paris (it rained… a lot. Also, The Louvre… don’t go… unless you go at some weird time when no one else is there). However, by the end of the trip, Cobalt and I were feeling very sad that it was over because there’s so much we didn’t get to see/do. I think we’re going to be figuring out how to get back to Paris (and probably more of France/Europe) soon!

So my question for you guys (and this is important because it kind of determines the fate of my blog for the next few weeks so please answer!) is what do you want to hear about? I can post about travel advice (where we stayed, how we paid for stuff, what we did about our cell phones, what we saw, dealing with jetlag, eating at restaurants and speaking French, etc) or I can just do general posts about every day/experiences. Let me know if there’s something specific you want to hear about too!

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 :)

May showers bring…

The Mona Lisa is concerned about seeing Cobalt and me in person in the coming weeks… I would be too… We’re kind of a crazy pair..

You guys… I can count the number of days until I go to Paris on one hand! I am simultaneously jumping for joy and freaking out (it’s kind of awkward to explain). I have been constantly obsessing over one detail or another all while trying to get through my normal life here in Boulder. It’s been an intense week – both with the planning for the trip and just with everything going on with life. I thought today I’d basically give a little photo summary of some of the things that have happened this week.

First of all, the trip. Cobalt and I picked up some euros for me to take with me next week and set up a travel bank account through our bank here for easy access to more cash at any ATM anywhere. I learned something about euros too. Did you know that they get bigger in size in proportion to their amount? Seriously, the guy at the bank showed us the 5 euro note and it is so tiny compared to the bigger bills (and our dollar bills). They’re all so shiny too.

In addition to doing some money things this week, Cobalt and I bought Paris Museum Passes. I’ll give a full review when I get back but I think these guys are going to be awesome. They grant us admission to over 60 museums and landmarks in Paris (including the Louvre and Notre Dame, etc) so we won’t have to wait in line for tickets (apparently this is a thing…). Also, they’re good for four days so that means we can go in and out of places like the Louvre as many times as we want during those four days. I am really excited! The passes arrived yesterday so they’re featured on the top of my blog post today! Next up – we need to plan out what museums/attractions we want to go to and then figure out which attractions should go on the same day…

And now a lab thing. You may recall me mentioning about a month ago that my labmate K did his PhD defense and now has his PhD. Normally after you defend, you get to walk during commencement and be hooded (you get this crazy hood attached to your robes – seriously, google PhD graduation) by your advisor. Well our advisor came all the way back from France for K’s defense but she couldn’t get back for commencement this week. My friend/labmate G and I took matters into our own hands and we held a “commencement” for K yesterday. We asked Cobalt to announce him (Cobalt has this amazing radio announcer voice), we got him a king’s crown and a feather boa to act as his graduation cap and hood, we asked our boss to record a little video so that she could be there in spirit, we got him a stuffed neuron with a graduation cap as a present/”diploma,” we invited all our labmates, and then we all threw confetti and had a little party at the end. I think K appreciated our crazy efforts to make him feel special for commencement. Yay! Congrats again, K! :)

The confetti turned out to be quite a hit. Every time we cleaned it off the floor, someone else would throw it at K…

In the midst of all of this, Colorado has decided that the phrase is actually “May showers bring June flowers…” At least it’s not snowing anymore, right? :-/

Sometimes I just get caught by how beautiful the Flatirons are… They’ve been especially amazing with all the rain/fog we’ve been having lately.

How are you guys doing? Anything fun planned for the weekend? I’m going to France next week and I’m probably going to be super busy/jetlagged so the post schedule is going to get a little crazy. Is there anything you’re dying to hear about (Paris trip planning or otherwise… I know I haven’t talked a lot about our plans for the trip so please feel free to ask away!) before I go?

Spring maybe?

Look at those Flatirons all ready for spring!

Well for now it appears the snow has stopped and maybe spring can finally arrive in Boulder. This Saturday, Cobalt and I repotted some of our plants (still too cold for the peppers to go outside though…), went out for delicious taco truck tacos, and then we took a walk around a lake. The lake walk had all these neat little exercise activities located every 0.2 miles. Cobalt and I had a lot of fun trying all of them out. Here’s Cobalt on the parallel bars!

Can you find the shark in this picture?

Is it spring for you guys yet? We’re supposed to get a lot of rain this week – just in time for all the undergraduates to graduate this Friday. Did you guys do anything awesome this weekend? Did anyone else see Iron Man 3? Cobalt and I liked it but not as much as the first one…

Cobalt and I are getting excited about our France trip! Hopefully updates on that later this week….

We’re super excited because

We’re going to France!! In less than a month! Crazy how everything comes together at the last minute sometimes…

So how did this happen? Well my boss is in France on sabbatical and pretty much as soon as she got there, she sent me an email saying we should figure out how to get me out there for a bit because she really wants me to interact with the huge bacteria community (my project involves bacteria) at the institute where she works. Then it turned out that they have this computer program that is designed to help with analysis of microscopy images. If any of you have heard me talk about my project, you will know that the biggest issue with my whole project is that I don’t know how to analyze my data… at all (What does it meaaaaaaan?!?!?!?). Every month, there is a class that teaches people how to use the program so my boss and I are both signed up to take the class next month… together… in PARIS. Yay! Exciting! It’s been kind of a whirlwind of an experience for me because we had to figure out how to fund my trip because funding has been a bit awkward here and because I still don’t know if I got that giant grant I applied for last July… Ugh…

Anyway, so the first few days of my 12 day stay will be spent learning that computer program and interacting with the other scientists there and then Cobalt is going to fly out so that we can explore Paris together! How awesome is that?! I call this mini honeymoon part 2. These past few weeks have been spent in a whirlwind getting Cobalt a passport and figuring out the necessary supplies for our trip… how exciting!!! Looks like my French for travelers class and my obsession with listening to French rap music at work will pay off after all! :):) I have to admit though that I am kind of nervous too. I’ve been to Canada before and allllll over the US but I’ve never been anywhere else. Crazy nerves and excitement simultaneously!

I think Finn wants to go to France with us…

Now it’s your turn. Have you been to Paris? What is something that Cobalt and I have to check out? Have you traveled abroad? Any words of wisdom for two people who have never left this continent? And finally, tell me something you are SUPER excited about right now. :)

The Rave Run

A and Potassium showing off our awesome t-shirts and glowy items pre Rave Run.

You guys… I am really tired. I have been working pretty much nonstop this week (seriously… two 12 hr days in a row) so this post might not be as awesome as I was originally intending it to be. We might have to revisit it later when I have more time!

Anyway, the Rave Run. Cobalt, A, J, K, another A, and I all ran/walked the Rave Run 5K in Denver last Saturday. We dressed up in everything glowing and then headed out to the race, which had a lot of lights and color and music but less than what we were expecting. It turned out to be more of a fast walk simply because there were so many people out that it was more or less impossible to run (especially at the finish line :-/) but it was still fun. And we got sweet t-shirts! I have to say though that doing a 5K less than a week after the Boston Marathon tragedy really fell heavy on my heart. My thoughts were pretty much constantly with everyone involved in Boston even as I was bobbing up and down to the beat. A lot of people had signs honoring those fallen during the Boston Marathon, which I thought was really nice!

In other news, doing a 5K at night surrounded by music, lights, and tons of people all glowing the dark turns out to be a great way to make me want to run (we kept weaving between people so we could actually run). I am so excited that I might go ahead and sign up for the Firefly Run 5K coming up in July!

Potassium and Cobalt just after the finish line! We did it (and I acquired glowy ears between the first picture and this one)! :D

In other other news, Cobalt and I have been reading The Great Gatsby together in preparation for the movie coming out soon. We started reading books together when he still lived in New Mexico and I lived here in Colorado because it was something cute we could do together since we couldn’t be together. Once, when we were reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I got so annoyed with the book that I couldn’t read it anymore. Cobalt recorded himself reading a few chapters and sent them to me to keep me reading. It was adorable and I grudgingly finished the book, just for him.

In other Cobalt and Potassium news, here’s today’s hint for what we’ve been planning: it has to do with a part of our proposed ideal honeymoon. Can’t remember? I think it’s somewhere in one of my many Wedding Wednesday posts if you want to go hunting for it… or you can just wait till next week and I’ll tell you. :D

Now it’s your turn. What do you think of doing a 5K? What do you think of Cobalt’s and my reading books to each other? Any fun plans for the weekend? Seriously, you guys have been pretty quiet. What’s going on with you all? Something exciting I hope…

One Slimer Cake Coming Up!

So my friend J wrote a blog post last week about this crazy vegan avocado chocolate cake that she made. I was intrigued because 1) what would a cake made with avocados instead of eggs taste like? and 2) it has freakin’ green avocado buttercream frosting to go with it. So I got the recipe and Cobalt and I set about making the cake. It turned out pretty good actually. It doesn’t really taste like avocados – mostly like chocolate and bananas strangely actually… Also, if you don’t like the idea of slime-green frosting, you can add cocoa powder to your frosting. I think it’s kind of neat green though. Might make for a fun cooking activity for kiddos…

Anyway, upon frosting our cake yesterday afternoon, Cobalt and I decided that it reminded us of Slimer from Cobalt’s favorite movie ever, Ghostbusters. Thus, Cobalt decorated our cake in proper Slimer fashion! Shown above – our claw machine Slimer gazes in awe at himself in cake-form. Below – slimer cake eaten… Yummmm…

In other news, I’ve been in kind of a photography funk lately. I tried to challenge myself this weekend – taking some self portraits of my new octopus earrings (Now I have black ones and I got some yellow ones as a gift too!) and taking some pictures of the ice we acquired from rain/snow on Saturday and I was frustrated with both activities. Booo… I just got some new photography books from the library… I’m hoping they’ll inspire me…

You know what time it is now… Your turn to comment on my post. How do you feel about avocado chocolate cake? Yay? Nay? Curious about that ridiculously green frosting? It’s REALLY sweet. I’ll tell you that… How about hobbies? What do you do when you’re feeling frustrated with your hobbies? Any advice?

So… what’s going on with you guys again?

I apologize for the lack of post yesterday… food poisoning makes fools of us all… :(

Anyway, it’s time to continue the Cobalt and Potassium saga (part one is here in case you missed it)!!! Are you excited?! You should be! It’s time to learn about the “not dating” years….

This is a perfect example of us “not dating.” Look how disinterested we seem to be in each other at this party…

Year One – What do you do if you really like someone but you are scared of relationships?
We left off on the beginning of Cobalt’s and my first date, back in October 2007… I was super nervous as I was getting ready for our date that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. It turned out to not be a problem and we had a great time. We went to go see Dan in Real Life and then we went out to pie! It took about two dates for us to realize that we really liked each other but we were both a little too scarred from past relationships to really start something serious. So we decided to go slow. This worked out great for both of us because we got to hang out pretty much all the time getting to know each other.

Unfortunately for us, some of our friends thought we were going too slowly and took the matter into their own hands. By February 2008, I was starting to do a lot of traveling across the country for various grad school interviews (I was gone pretty much every weekend on a different school’s dime – kind of cool but also really exhausting…). Around Valentine’s Day, I was in Washington state and one of our friends told Cobalt that I needed more out of our relationship (not true at all… I was quite enjoying the glacial pace of our relationship to tell you the truth). So when I got back from my trip all excited to hang out, Cobalt told me that we had to “break up” because he couldn’t handle being in a real relationship. I put on airs about whatever because we weren’t in a real relationship anyway so we couldn’t even break up… but it actually really hurt because I realized how much I actually liked him…

Thus began the really awkward phase of our relationship where we “weren’t dating” but we still really liked each other so we still hung out all the time and pretty much acted the same as when we were “dating.” We had weekly date nights, I went to see horror movies with him and the guys, Cobalt pretty much refused to hang out with some of his other friends unless I was there (there was an incident when he and one of our mutual friends, C, showed up at my apartment one Friday night when I was curled up in my pajamas watching TV because he wanted to see me… C was annoyed… for good reason), we attended all parties together, we danced together at clubs, etc. The awkwardness was compounded of course by the fact that I was most definitely moving come August 1st to start graduate school in whatever fine institution I decided to attend…

Year Two – Potassium moves away….
So, as you know, I chose to move to Boulder in the end. It seemed like the best fit (as much as I complain about grad school now, this school seemed like the place I was supposed to be when I moved here) and it was a nice 7 hour drive from Cobalt (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take that into consideration when I chose this school… even though we were in an awkward not dating phase, I still felt like he was important in my life). Two problems: 1) I didn’t have a car and 2) as soon as I moved, Cobalt and I both realized that we wanted to be in a relationship with the other person but we were unsure about how the other one felt about us – thus providing the awkward context for year two…

Cobalt dealt with it by casually dating other girls because he wanted to see if it would make me jealous (it did) and because he was convinced I was going to find the love of my life here in Boulder and he didn’t want to be heartbroken when it happened. I dealt with it by throwing myself headfirst into grad school (which isn’t hard to do when you have research, classes, and teaching to do every day) and, after discovering the Cobalt was dating someone new and then not talking to him for two weeks, pretending to not be jealous whenever other girls were brought up in the weekly letters we wrote each other (except for those two weeks). Things went especially funny when I did occasionally get to visit NM and Cobalt and I fell back into our normal not dating but doing everything together pattern only to be forced back to reality when I had to go back to Colorado. Towards the end of my first year, things started to change though and I think we both started to (finally) figure out that we might mutually really like each other. Of course, it would be too easy to come out and just say that so it took the whole summer for us to really figure it out. First Cobalt came to visit me in Boulder in May 2009. It was like a change of scenery (hanging out in Colorado instead of NM) was all we needed to allow our relationship to go from really liking each other and pretending it’s not a big deal to really liking each other and maybe being open to admitting it? Nothing really happened and we didn’t talk about it. We were just kind of cute in that “I really like you” way that we probably were like in the very beginning of our relationship back in 2007… Then I bought a car (finally…) and later in the summer, I drove down to NM for a week long trip to congratulate myself for officially finishing my first year of graduate school (complete with finishing the first part of my qualifying exams – a really really really hard written exam on pretty much ALL of biochemistry). This is when it all FINALLY clicked and Cobalt and I actually had the “do you like me? cuz… I kinda like you… a lot…” talk and we started actually dating – though secretly… kind of… because it was still scary to admit we were in a relationship after all those years of confusion…

Speaking of confusion, our friends were very confused. They’d pretty much given up hope about us ever getting together after that whole Potassium-hasn’t-talked-to-Cobalt-for-two-weeks! thing. It took until Halloween 2009 for the majority them to finally figure out that they were actually together! I’ll tell you though… it made me SO HAPPY.

Whew… that was long and convoluted… you’re lucky you just had to read a few paragraphs of craziness instead of live two years about it. Now it’s your turn. Last time you all told me awesome stories about how you met your SO. Now tell me the gory details about the beginning of your relationships! Was it all good and fine once you finally got together? Were you helplessly confused? Did your friends mess it up? Did your friends approve? I want to know all!