30 March 2010

I would have tweeted profanities, but...

I made the firm decision to boycott facebook, twitter, and my chatting clients today until I have my committee meeting. This was in order to make an effort to accomplish the tremendous amount of work that I should probably be finishing between now and Thursday at 1:00 PM. This boycott has actually greatly aided me in my time of crunching. What *hasn't* helped was when the program I was working with froze and now i'm totally fucked because I just lost three hours of work.

Do you know what you can get done in three hours? You can measure the equivalent widths of about 500 lines in one star. One. single. fucking. star. And now I need to start from scratch. While I am all for the "from scratch" movement, I am not above eating things made from boxes. Starting from scratch in science is sometimes a good idea and sometimes it's really fucking stupid because you've just made a whole lot more work for yourself.

At this point, I'm at the really fucking stupid phase and now I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry, or just stoically start anew.

28 March 2010

26 March 2010

Baby food tacos and delicious Chai

So I figured it was time to write something about food (and I'm sick of writing about astronomy). Over spring break, I went to a bunch of coffee houses looking for a nice, quiet place to get some work done. I guess bringing my laptop was kind of bad, but at least I didn't have the TV or people coming into my office as distractions.

My new favorite coffee house is Sodade at Gracy Farms and Burnet. I've only really had their chai, but it offers a nice, quiet place to get a whole lot of work done. I'm pretty sure that they make their chai from a powdered mix, but it's really good and their soymilk is actually pretty tasty. I highly recommend it if you're in the north Austin area, though avoid the pumpkin tea bread. It's a bit dry and not very flavorful. It sits right next to Tacodeli and they were nice enough to let me eat my Tacodeli goodies in the coffee shop.

Tacos+iced chai = awesome.

Or at least, it has the potential to be awesome if the tacos are good. I've been going to Sodade because it's by Colby's work, so I picked up tacos for lunch for us a couple times. So far I've tried the Heather, the guacasabi tuna taco, the veggie taco, and a potato breakfast taco. I've also tried the ceviche yucatan with chips and their guacamole. So far, I have been unimpressed.

The Heather is a vegetarian taco with black beans, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and queso fresco. It sounds like it would be delicious, except for the fact that their black beans are basically baby food and the queso fresco is fried into an unappetizing disk of cheesy grease. The guacamole was fine in this application, but it gets lost in the mushy mess of black beans. Their breakfast taco (at least the one with potatoes) suffers the same baby food fate. It's pretty unappetizing. I mean, don't get me wrong, I *love* mashed potatoes, but I don't love mashed potato tacos.

The veggie taco was basically unremarkable, but edible and the Guacasabi tuna taco was weird. I don't think that i was ever going to like it because I can't really get behind fish tacos, but it was a Friday during Lent and I felt obligated to eat !meat. (! == not, for all you non computer programmers).

The ceviche yucatan and the guacamole were both served with chips. I don't really like ceviche and this was no exception. The piles of cilantro certainly didn't help and it was kind of a weird thing to get from a place that calls itself Tacodeli. The guacamole was waaaay overprocessed. It turns out that I have teeth and I enjoy using them when I eat. The texture just wasn't there and it was too limey to begin with and after awhile it was all too spicy (and trust me, I can handle heat).

I would say that my favorite item from Tacodeli is their (free) green salsa, but I'm a sucker for tomatillos.

24 March 2010

I'm actually a graduate student

Science makes you do funny things. Perhaps I should restate that and say that the pursuit of science makes you do funny things. For instance, this morning I accidentally stole someone's coffee. I line jumped for a soy latte in the morning. I felt really bad about it, but the lady whose coffee I stole was really nice about the whole ordeal and nearly gave me a hug. It turns out that I need more sleep.

I spend an awful lot of time complaining about grad school and how little sleep I get and how much work it is, but I don't think I've ever explained what it is that I do. It turns out that I'm a babyastronomer and I study the oldest stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Now what would possess me to make me want to do something so random? You see, we can learn about the early universe by studying these stars. Specifically, I study the chemical abundances of these stars. My chemistry lab doesn't require goggles and a lab coat, but rather is found in the halo of the galaxy.

from astronomy online

It turns out that carbon is found in more places than just your pencils and the burgers you left on the grill too long. It's also found in the atmospheres of stars.

And that's enough science for one post. Perhaps more later. Ordinarily, I'd append a totally non sequitur recipe at the end of this, but I haven't been cooking lately. I have a committee meeting on April 1 (where I'll be the fool) and I'll have to pass a defense (which is going to suck) in order to not get kicked out of my graduate program. This means that I can either starve or let Colby cook... and let me say that sometimes starvation is a better alternative. ;)

20 March 2010

Masters Defense

From an outsider's perspective, my life looks rather put together. At 24 I own (a mortgage for) a house, have been married for (over) a year, and am now responsible for a (puppy) life that is dependent upon me alone. (Okay, that last part I made up. That puppy depends on my husband, who is her BFF.) The one big accomplishment that I'd like to add to that list is to pass into Ph D candidacy and this goal is making pretty much everything else seem like a piece of cake.

I have a committee meeting and April 1, to basically schedule a date for the defense to pass into candidacy (and to see if they'll give me a masters). In order to keep myself on track, I've created a google calendar that I'm sharing here to keep me honest.

And since this is a food blog, I should talk about my food exploits, I suppose. Lately we've been grilling A LOT. It's been awesome. The weather has been wonderful and the grill that we got (for free) is a good size for us and fun to experiment with. My absolute favorite is grilled zucchini and summer squash a la Kaylyn's Kitchen with Parmesan sprinkled on the top for good measure. The other great go-to is habanero marinated chicken breast. I have no idea how long these are grilled for (because the grill actually terrifies me), but I do all the prep work and hand them off to the 'sband, who grills them up. They're quite delicious, if I do say so myself.

Habanero grilled chicken
2-4 chicken breasts, thawed and patted dry
2 T (or more if you like the heat) habanero jelly
juice of 1 lime (or half a large one)
olive oil

in a gallon sized plastic bag, combine jelly, lime juice, and a few glugs of olive oil (maybe a couple T). Seal it and then mash it around to combine. Ordinarily, I'd just combine a marinade in, say, a bowl, but the habanero jelly is painful to handle so doing this in the bag makes sense. Place the chicken breasts into the bag and press out any extra air and turn the bag to coat. Refrigerate the bag for a few hours prior to grilling.

And you caught me, I don't have specific amounts. This is because I sort of tossed it together once. And then a second and third time. It's really tasty and you should definitely try this.

15 March 2010

Grandma's Chili

It's funny how those dishes, the ones that cost only dollars to serve a family of four, are the most delicious. My grandma is an excellent cook. I think. She never really cooked for us too much growing up, but whenever she did, it was heaven. I think she felt that by the time she had begun to raise her second set of (grand)children, she had already cooked for one generation and she was basically done with that. My favorite was her version of chili. It's simple and economical, which is not unlike her, a woman who grew up during the Great Depression and raised her (first) family during WWII.

Grandma's chili (as transcribed by me over phone in a supermarket)
1 lb ground beef
1/2 t granulated garlic
1 small onion, diced
1 T olive oil
1 can tomato paste
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (or, you could stew your own like she did)
1 T chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 In a dutch oven over medium(ish) heat, brown beef.
2 Season with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic in the process.
3 Remove the brown beef, and drain the grease from the meat.
4 Add in the olive oil and then the onions.
5 Add a pinch of salt to help the sweating process and cook until the onions are translucent and soft (~5 minutes).
6 Stir the tomato paste in with the onions and let it cook for a minute or so.
7 Add in the diced tomatoes along with its liquid and then add in the beef, chili powder, and red pepper flakes.
8 Season with salt and pepper (to taste) and allow to simmer, covered for at least 20 minutes. Longer is better.
9 About 10 minutes before serving, add in the kidney beans and let them heat through and absorb a bit of the flavor. Serve with saltine crackers.

This only gets better in the refrigerator. I've made this two weekends in a row to have for dinner the following week. I guess I'm starting to prep meals in advance for the future, when I'm no longer allowed to be a member of the human race and will not be allowed more than 3 hours of sleep per night. (I would be referring to the masters defense preparations)