Friday, August 31, 2012

The Digestive System on Lunch

We went to Neptune Oyster for lunch today. I imagine this is how my mom's digestive system went:

~ 0 ~

Increase gastric secretion to 40%! The cerebral cortex has been stimulated! By... let's see here... oysters!

All exocrine salivary glands activated! Ready... ready... okay, here they come, go go go!

Let me just close the epiglottis over the trachea... Okay, begin peristaltic contractions! Let's get everything down to the tummy!

All right, team, let's break down those proteins! Enzymes, are you at optimum conditions? Yes? Excellent! Let's turn those oysters into chyme and move it along!

Small Intestine
Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax!

Large Intestine
FERMENT EVERYTHING! Except the fluids. Reabsorb those.

Gastric secretions still at peak levels! Now the cerebral cortex is reacting to lobster caprese salad!

Oh, good, keep it all soft! Let's flood it with saliva and wash it down!

Epiglottis closed! Peristaltic contractions continuing!

All right, team, you know the drill! It's going to be like this for the next hour! Break it all down! Gastrin, Secretin, CCK, GIP, Motilin, we're countin' on you!

Small Intestine
Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax!

Large Intestine
Ferment, ferment, reabsorb, reabsorb...

The hypothalamus and medulla oblongata report a lobster roll on the way! Let's go, acids!


Oh god, when will it stop?

Yes we can! Yes we can! This is the entree! This is our moment!

Small Intestine
Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax! Contract! Relax!

Large Intestine
Storing feces.

Whew! All done! Great work, everyone! ...Oh, uh, we're getting cupcakes, all units stand by... Oh, false alarm, it's for later. Whew! ...Wait, wait, we might have to deal with a giant mango... Wait for it, wait for it... Nope, not right now. Later. Later! Great job, team! Let's take a nice break, eh? ...Oh, wait, okay, just small, tiny amounts of mango and cupcake. We can do this, team!

Entire Digestive System

~ 0 ~

Thanks to Wikipedia's Digestion entry!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The House of Mirth - Half a Review, You'll See Why

Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth boasts a vividly developed main character, brilliant descriptions of surroundings, and the author's signature slyly ironic prose. Wharton's 1905 novel follows pretty protagonist Lily Bart, now 29 (gasp!) and running out of time to snare a rich husband. Lily is orphaned and living with her aunt, but, as a true society femme, she's racked up tailor bills and gambling debts. (Who knew that bridge was so dangerous!) A lot of the story follows Lily's musings about her dull circle of friends and how she's so much smarter and artsier than they are and she should totally become a wealthy man's wife so she can be radiantly beautiful and throw the best parties. I'm making it sound vapid, but it's not, it's really good and delves into themes such as society and freedom and obligations and womanity and beauty and honor and all that good stuff.

The House of Mirth comes more than a dozen years before the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Innocence, and the growth of Wharton's narrative skill is evident when you read the latter. There were times when I felt like I had to slog through a description of a bloody garden in The House of Mirth, whereas The Age of Innocence was like consuming a strawberry-banana Greek yogurt smoothie -- it goes down easy, with just a hint of sourness!

So I reach the part in the book where some ho-bag has scared away Lily's most promising (yet boring) prospect, and this progressive dude Selden Lawrence is all smoochy-facing Lily and was gonna have dinner with her, and then this d-bag tricks Lily into going to his house where they're alone together (except for the servants, who don't count, obviously). She handles it well but Selden sees her leaving the d-bag's house and is all betrayed and flees the country to go on a cruise, in the process standing her up for dinner, and she's a wreck, and then the ho-bag from before is all like, "We're going sailing, wanna come?"

At this point, I had a series of brain farts that went like this: "Lily Bart is supposed to be super pretty, I bet there's a film version, I wonder who they picked to play her?" So I go to Google and I type, "lily bart," and images of Gillian Anderson in period costume show up. I was like, "SCULLY? No." And then I see Eric Stoltz and I'm like, "Yay!" Then my traitor eyes wander down the rest of the search results and GOOGLE SPOILED THE ENDING OF THE BOOK FOR ME. DAMMIT, GOOGLE.

Now I understand why Fiancé gets really mad and yells at me when I try to spoil a movie ending for him. I thought I was doing a good thing, but I was wrong. I WAS SO WRONG! I WAS FRACTALLY WRONG! I WAS WRONG ON EVERY CONCEIVABLE SCALE OF RESOLUTION! Wah.

If you're so inclined, go ahead and read The House of Mirth. It's a strong work. Meanwhile, I shall slink off with my tail between my legs and sulkily watch the film version. I hope it's better than The Age of Innocence adaptation, where I kept thinking of Winona Ryder as Mina Harker and expecting Gary Oldman to show up in an opera cape and Michelle Pfeifer to bare her vampire fangs. Well, Bram Stoker's Dracula came out the year before, that's my excuse.

Gasp! New movie idea: The Age of Innocence and Vampires! Hollywood, just say the word and the script is yours!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hiking the Blue Hills

Yesterday, we tackled the Skyline Trail in the Blue Hills Reservation, south of Boston. It's a nine-mile hike, with lots of rocky hills. LOTS. We're not talking gentle slopes of land here. We're talking this:

Source: Fastest Known Time

The 635-foot Great Blue Hill was the worst. It was awful. It just never ended. It was made even more terrible by the fact that we had thought the hill before it, at 510 feet, was the worst one. Nope. My quads were going, "What? No." My hamstrings were holding union meetings to coordinate a strike. Meanwhile, the bottoms of my feet felt like they were being continuously pummeled by bodybuilder groundhogs.

Fortunately, by that time we had just come from the reservation headquarters, so we'd had bathroom breaks and refilled water bottles. I had a 0.5 L collapsible water bottle, and let me tell ya, I wish I had a CamelBak. Y'know, the little backpacks that secretly hold a bajillion gallons of water and you just turn your head to grab the over-the-shoulder straw and suck in that sweet, sweet H2O.

What I'm trying to say is, the hike was awesome. I wuv hiking. Here's the one photo I took:

It took us over five hours to complete the hike. We saw deer about three-quarters of the way in. They were pretty! We trekked down to the Ski Area parking lot after we reached the Observation Tower (we followed the round red trail markings instead of the blue lines). Of course, there were no hugs as our group separated, because gross.

I had no ride (Fiancé was busy running a board game at the time), and got dropped off at the T. After those punishing hills, taking the stairs two at a time out of the station was a breeze. Then I plopped into the hot tub. The man came home and baked a stuffed chicken breast and we ate it and watched the tail end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and swooned at young Harrison Ford together.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Rey P.

There's a joke back home that goes something like this: A guy reports that he's been sexually assaulted, when all he did was answer a question. "Well, what was the question?" They wanted to know his name, said the guy. "Okay, what's your name?" His name is Rey Piñoco. In Tagalog, that sounds like "Rape me."

Hur hur hur.

Missouri Congressman Todd Akin got into trouble with malapropism, too. "It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors... If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he recently declared, when asked about his stance on abortion in the case of rape. In other words, Ten Things I Hate About You actress Gabrielle Union had no reason to be concerned about possibly getting pregnant after being assaulted at gunpoint when she was 19. Because her Vagilina Jolie can "shut that whole thing down." Also: "legitimate rape"? I guess that's the opposite of "illegitimate rape," which is rape born out of wedlock and can't get an inheritance. For a humorous twist on other horrific--but legitimate!--things and the non-victims that can shut 'em down, see the From Talking to Doctors Tumblr.

Everyone and their mother's dog jumped all over Akin, who by the way is running for senator and is a member of the House Science and Technology Committee. Our very own Governor Scott Brown, himself a childhood victim of abuse, was the first Republican Senator to call on Akin to stop his campaign for SenateTrue to form, hardcore conservatives rallied around their besieged hero, touting his "Christian values." I will now stop here before I have an embolism.

Of course, the media will let us know how this story develops. Will Akin step down from the race? Will there be a glorious future where no one says stuff like what Akin said, because we're all going to be mutually respectful, reasonable, and/or educated?

Hur hur hur?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Dear Mr. Jeremy Renner,

Thank you for your visit. I enjoyed pummeling you with my sweltering heat. It was truly a pleasure to cause those rivulets of sweat to run down your toned body. On an unrelated note, I hope you appreciated the skill with which my inhabitants spoke English.

My only regret was my inability to supply the tropical beauties that you, of course, automatically imagined when you heard Ms. Rachel Weisz utter, "The Philippines." I can only say that you already had a beautiful woman beside you, and that it would have been rather forward of me to include my prettiest mestizas in your film. They were all busy doing Pantene commercials, anyway.

Please consider another visit to my crowded streets. I would also love it if you told your friends in Hollywood that I am a top filming destination due to my affordability, millions of readily available extras with pan-Asian features, and the special relationship between our two countries.

I remain, as always, your loving friend.

Best wishes,


Now that we have that out of the way...


Jeremy Renner holds together The Bourne Legacy. His character, Aaron Cross, can slap around bad guys one minute and then have a pointed ethical argument against you the next. He's earnest, conscientious, friendly, and best of all, he's A Nice Guy. Kind of. Like Matt Damon, Renner is an effective everyman. He's got the Goldilocks thing going for him: he's not too handsome or fugly; he's just right. Aaron Cross is just this guy, y'know, he keeps his head low and won't kill you at all if you just leave him alone.

My movie-watching experience was a little bit jarring because the guy right beside me kept rocking with laughter whenever Jeremy Renner's character beat the crap out of someone. I mean, I laughed at the funny bits (all two of them), too, but whoa. Now I know how it feels like to be someone else sitting near me during a horror movie (I snicker during "scary" moments).

Rachel Weisz, hallelujah, was actually a useful female character, in keeping with the Bourne series. I guess this means she'll be killed within the first 15 minutes of the sequel? Oh well, at least she already has an Oscar and Golden Globe.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Born on a Blue Day (2007)

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant begins with Daniel Tammet sharing how he visualizes numbers. To him, they're shapes and colors that make him feel warm or comfortable or uneasy. Then he describes growing up and slowly realizing that he's different. Daniel has Asperger's, and autistic people typically have issues with expressing (or even feeling) "appropriate" emotion. He talks about viewing other children as noisy, moving objects to be avoided; spending hours at a time just sitting and thinking in his room; obsessively collecting favored items; being overwhelmed by changes; and his family's enduring support for him all his life. Daniel starts to become independent after a year volunteering in Lithuania (where he learned to speak the language fluently), and his journey takes him to his record-setting recitation of 22,500+ digits of pi when he was 25. He also meets Kim Peek, the inspiration for Rain Man, when they film the documentary Brain Man. In between, he falls in love, launches an educational website, and learns a few other languages.

Born on a Blue Day is a great read because Daniel is an engaging writer. He communicates ideas simply and in logical sequence. He comes across as humble and self-aware. He's relatable. He was the bullied kid who sat down and waited for the bullies to go away. He was that boy who stood a little too close to you. He was that guy who went on and on with encyclopedic knowledge about a topic that interested him. In other words, he's that awkward person that we all sometimes are, except his brain works differently from ours. Through his book, he introduces us to a different world, Planet Autism Spectrum, now inhabited by 1 in 88 kids in the US, according to the CDC.

After reading this book, I've invented a new term for my condition: I am autastic. It's like the opposite of autistic. To be autastic, you must:
  • have a keen awareness of personal space 
  • have the ability to read between the lines, even when there are no lines
  • be unable to visualize numbers 
  • be incapable of quiet introspection
  • change your mind every five seconds
  • overcommunicate
Like autism, autasticism is brought on by a combination of factors, including genetics, a diet high in fried fat and oils, and vaccines. Because I am generous, the term autastic may also apply to someone who has autism and is hot. Let me know when you meet someone autastic like me; it's lonely being so unique.

Daniel Tammet has another book, Embracing the Wide Sky. What say I read it and check back in with you, eh? 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fitness Test

How fit are you?

I went to the gym yesterday to find the answer to this burning question via fitness test. R, the perky "Master Personal Trainer," had me go through the following steps:

1. Paperwork: First, you must confess to having a bad back/smoking/diabetes/etc. and sign a waiver promising not to sue the gym if you get hurt.

2. Shoulder Flexibility: Stand facing a wall and clench your fists with your thumbs tucked in. Reach back, right arm up top and left arm from the bottom, and see how close you can get your fists together. Do the same for the other side. With years of experience zipping up my own dresses, I aced this test. For some reason, Fiancé can do even better than me, despite not having the same excuse. Hmmmm. (suspicious look)

3. Body Fat Measurement: R took little calipers and squeezed my chub-chubs at the triceps area, abdomen, and love handles. More on that later.

4. Upper Body Strength: I had to do a proper push-up and a girl push-up (on knees, feet up).

My core strength will save the world!
5. Core Strength: The next bit involved being on your hands and knees and doing the superman (extend right arm and left leg) and bringing the elbow to the knee. I could do that, fine. Then R asked me to extend my arm and leg on the same side, and then touch my elbow and knee. It's harder than it sounds! I kept flopping over, meaning I had pathetic core strength. Finally, I had to do as many sit-ups as I could in one minute. I did 30. Not good enough for the army, but pretty okay.

6. Leg Mobility: I lay as flat as possible on a table with my legs dangling and R told me my iliotibial tract (the outer part of the thigh) looked tight. Not tight in a good way; tight as in "needs help." She had me roll my thighs on a glorified rolling pin. It hurt.

7. Posture: R made me walk normally from one end of the room to the other. Apparently, I look like I'm carrying a bag on one shoulder.

8. Leg Power: I had to squat as low as possible. R said my knees tend to buckle inward.

I need to work on my core strength and posture.
I need to loosen up the muscles in my thighs.
I need to keep track of what I eat so R knows whether or not to yell at me.

The biggest downer was that I was 30% body fat, i.e. I'm a walking jelly donut. We set my goal to 26% -- still above average (24% is ideal for women), but something I can accomplish in two months. R said that my belly chubs was "80% diet," meaning working out my abs like a beast can be easily undermined by 10 minutes at a bar with wings, nachos, and beer. Sigh.

Check out this article by CrossFit Gym to see different images of runway models vs. gym bunnies vs. "skinny" fatties.

Unrelated: R also asked where I'm from, because she detected "a teensy bit of accent." LOL

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Inadequacy is Overwhelming

My boss' boss brought his two little sons to work, and after the mandatory "Oh, new interns!" jokes subsided, the older boy (who was clutching a hardcover copy of Quantum) solemnly told us about his blog and handed out his business cards. He's a tutor. He's 10. His blog is about quantum physics. I read it and cried giant woman tears of inadequacy. You, too, may read it and weep!
"First World Problems" meme from
Workaround for saving the file from this tumblr site.

With that, I bid you Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review: Born to Run (2009)

A friend of mine had a psychotic episode a few months after doing a half-marathon. (She's okay now.) What she went through reminded me of when my old coworker also ran a half-marathon, then went psycho -- on me, how annoying. Then there's our friend who runs 20 miles every day and is skin-and-muscle-and-bones at this point. So does running marathons turn you crazy, or are you crazy to begin with, and that's why you run marathons?

"Yes, and yes," I imagine is author and fit old guy Christopher McDougall's answer to that question. In Born to Run, McDougall traces his journey to the desolate Copper Canyons of Mexico to answer a question of his own: why does his foot hurt? He consulted doctors, physical therapists, runners, etc, and found out about a tribe in Mexico whose members regularly run ultramarathons (i.e. 100+ miles at a pop) through mountains. The Tarahumara slap on hand-cut rubber sandals to protect their feet against sharp rocks, and never sustain the injuries common to runners here, like stress fractures and pulled hamstrings. Why not?, McDougall wonders, and tramps south to find the answers. Along the way, he eats awesome Mexican food, realizes that human beings evolved to run long distances, and trains hard enough to race against a mythical running bum, elite ultramarathoners, and the best runners of the Tarahumara. It's epic.

I was spellbound by the chapters where he explains the science behind human running. He evokes images of tigers and cheetahs, down on four legs and with bodies shaped for minimum wind resistance. Then he describes us humans, up on two legs, but with the same ligament in the back of our skull as the big cats, to stabilize our head while going at high speed, and with our butts sticking out because, um, they're our tails? I might have missed the point in that argument there. But anyway. McDougall discusses how scientists from different fields combined their observations and concluded how homo erectus beat out the Neanderthals via running. It's mind-blowing.

I took away three lessons from Born to Run. One -- for maximum performance, eat like you're going to have to chase down a deer at any time. That means no stuffing your face with giant burgers and a heaping of fries. (Mmmm, fries.) The ultra runners in the book are mostly vegetarian. (A couple of them are borderline alcoholics, too.)

Two -- our feet know what to do when they hit the ground. Pronation is normal, whatever Nike says. Hilariously, after years of telling people they should have padding and springs and gels in their shoes, Nike's new tagline is "Run barefoot." They're going for the barefoot feel with a little support, because that's actually all we need. Top running coaches switch their athletes to cheap shoes for that reason. In other words: your technique matters more than your shoes.

Do you run barefoot, Fragrant Elephant?, you challenge. Why, no, gentle reader. I use the Mizuno Wave Creation 12, which boasts "gender engineering" and, more importantly, bright pink slashes of color. But seriously, I got 'em because the toes sections curve upward slightly, which helps me roll on my toes better, so my heels aren't involved in my running at all. Thank you for asking.

Finally -- running is happy time! Running is joy! I'm glad I live in a city where most of the runners look like they're having a good time. Yay Boston!

To return to my intro paragraph -- no, you probably won't see me run a marathon. I'm reserving my best running for the zombie apocalypse. But I urge you to read this book. It's delightful summer reading!

Monday, August 6, 2012

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Flocculation Friday

I liked Pliny best, although Heady Topper was good out of the can.

You know you're in a room full of nerds when a west coast vs east coast IPA stand-off includes a demonstration and lecture about yeast flocculation. We had an Englishman present during the libations, leading to jokes about how the Brits flocculate when abroad.

Last night's beer-tasting played out like the last panel of The Oatmeal's comic about extremism. We didn't talk about outer space while drinking microbrews, though--we mostly joked around and ended the night watching YouTube videos.

Of course, we had to tell The Engagement Adventure, which will be up in comic form next week! (Check back here for links, or stalk my work at

Know what else is undergoing flocculation right now? The subcutaneous fat in my abdominal region. Just kidding! In biology, that actually means the asexual aggregation of microorganisms. I have no idea what that means. I just wanted to sound smart.

So in conclusion: flocculation.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dream Vacation

You need to get out of your daily grind every once in a while, to recharge and relax. Summer is the perfect time to wander off into the woods, especially when they come with fully furnished cabins and you bring more alcohol than you can safely drink. That's what family's for!

Fiancé (then Boyfriend) had been priming me for his big family reunion for about a year. As far back as last December, he would remind me to save up vacation time for the week-long trip. Every month included at least one mention of the upcoming vacation. No actual details, mind you--this is a man we're talking about here--so all I knew was that it would be in upstate New York on the last week of July. Would we camp out in the forests? Cheat and stay in charming, rustic little hotels? Guessing is half the fun!

Fortunately, we went to this place. It's a family compound that gets rented out, hurray! There were cabins for every family or couple; two docks; a main house for cooking, dining, boozing, or just hanging out; and, most importantly, a lake and trees as far as the eye can see.

We got this cabin, which also had a baby room (!).

Everyone troops to the main lodge for family time, aka eating and drinking.

Kayaking is one of the many fun activities available!

A canoe is key to good fishing!
I do my Muscle Pose on the diving board.
We were near Lake Placid, home of Olympic training facilities and a mutant alligator, so we stopped by to take silly photos like this one:

Ever try bobsledding in a dress? Doesn't work.

I had the best time. I went swimming (come rain or clouds!), ate excellent food, played board games with kids, and we corrupted introduced a new group of people to Cards Against Humanity.

Now I'm back in my daily grind, ready to take on the worrrrrrld!!!

What day is it?

Movie Review: Hereditary (2018)