Tuesday, September 25, 2012

my life is a joke: part 1 "la cucaracha"

Hey guys,

I love that expression "my life is a joke". It honestly has fit college life in more ways than one but I think this  past summer was the epitome of the statement... and this is all true by the way. I wish I was making up some of it (really wish). Oh and before you read this, I'd like to make the point that I did have a lot of good points over the summer too but I mean, who wants to hear that when you can talk about when all hell broke loose or moments of "did that really just happen"? Also these stories are broken down into parts so that way you don't read a novel in one sitting (you're welcome). For those who are just interested in the science/music/art posted, wait until Thurs... I have way too many assignments this week to read a paper on the side...  I know, I know, great start with this blog right? (you may berate me in the comments) 

We start our story back in May, when junior year of college was coming to an end and I was ready to hit the big city. Yes folks, I was off to Boston for a paid internship with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA if you don't know the acronym already... I spelled it out because you would not BELIEVE how many people don't know what that stands for... one way to scare off creepy guys at bars girls, just tell them you work for the government.. that's a whole other post though). Basically, the world was at my fingertips. This was it! I was finally going to live in Boston, finally going to be that woman from Under the Tuscan Sun where I begin my life anew, prove that I was going to establish who I was, and make a difference in the world. I was also turning 21 that May as well so it was, you know, a pretty big deal that I was going to be legally able to drink in Boston (insert overly ecstatic girl dance/bounce thingy we do). Cloud 9 was no comparison to where I was at.

Our apartment was on Burbank St (photo above that I took one day being nostalgic), right behind Whole Foods by the Prudential Center and about a block away from Newbury St. I was living with my best friend from high school, Kristen, who goes to BU and had a couple jobs in the city for the summer. The location was fabulous! We had a restaurant right around the corner called Woody's Grill and Tap (see photo below...building with blue sign). It was like our mix of Ally McBeal's bar below the office/Friends' The Central Perk/How I met Your Mother's MacLaren's. This became my home away from home as the summer progressed. I didn't care if my family went, my boyfriend Ethan, Kristen, friends, or even by myself. When the "shit-ith had hit-ith the fan...-ith" (10 Things I Hate About You) my go-to-spot was there.

Boston had an interesting welcoming the first weekend. Finals had just ended and my Dad and I went down to shampoo the carpets. Now the reason why we had to do this was because, well, I'm a newbie at apartment shopping... clearly. Kristen and I visited this apartment about a month prior and it was definitely messy. The girl had cat(s) and it wasn't really picked up much. Like I said though, the location was phenomenal so I figured, meh, nothing like a little elbow grease in cleaning can't fix and it'll be as good as new. I smelt a bit of urea when we had walked in (I'm assuming from the cats...) and there was an off smell but someone was cooking with curry in the apartment next store and I just guessed the mix wasn't very pleasant. It had a half kitchen/living room, one bedroom, and a bathroom (aka closet)... oh and an actual closet (aka a small coffin). All for $1350/month total (not including electric/cable/internet). If you know anything about Boston and the location I was describing earlier, that's pretty damn cheap for each of us to shell out $675/month. To put in comparison, the UNH apartment I'm living in now costs approximately $736/month (or it did last year, it went up again). So elbow grease cleaning seemed logical when weighing the pros and cons. A little mess didn't scare me. 

It was a week before move-in day when Kristen called me. She had moved in earlier due to BU wrapping up the year prior to UNH.

"There's bugs here... I think they might be cockroaches... but I'm not sure...they're only by the kitchen though at least..."

I could hear the pain and a hint of breaking point in her voice (it had been a long final exam week). I, which as time goes on you'll find humorous, was optimistic about the situation. We were going to shampoo the carpets, wipe down the cabinets, etc. So there might be some bugs, not the end of the world! They'd go away if there's no food/pets. With that said, science people, or people who have dealt with cockroaches, what can you tell me about these critters from the 7th level of hell? Here's some fun facts I can tell you about German Cockroaches (our roommates):

1)  Remember that smell I thought was the cats?? Cockroaches tend to leave a chemical trace in their waste aside from letting out airborne pheromones for swarming and the purpose of mating. What I was smelling was ammonia.
2) If you ever find a stray German Cockroach during the day, this could only mean that there is a large colony infesting your home already. (yay us!)
3) Females, who are apparently very slutty, lay egg cases having over 40 eggs inside. These egg cases can be laid for over 4 times in a year after the female reaches maturity of adulthood in 40 to 60 days after 6 moults and the egg capsules are only ejected from their bodies once the babies are ready to be hatched. Therefore when you squash these stupid biddies, you are just spreading the eggs into your carpet.
4) Cockroaches are carriers of viruses and bacteria. These includes diseases such as dysentery, enteric fever, typhoid, poliomyelitis, leprosy, bubonic plague (really? really??), diarrhea and gastroenteritis.
5) THEY SURVIVE NUCLEAR WARHEADS. (I know that's common knowledge/myth but still ... )
6) They do not look this cute or act like loyal puppies (Pixar lied kiddos, sorry):

When my Dad and I came Thurs night prior to moving in that weekend, our goal was to clean the carpets and then to spray with pesticides along the walls. I figured I may even have time to clean the bathroom because it couldn't be that bad, right?... right!? (here's where you picture a little cockroach shaking his head no and killing himself laughing... damn you Jose...). We arrive at the street and Kristen opened the door to meet us. As she did this black rat by the steps came running at me with a vengeance and diverged under the car at the last second.

This is where I should have gotten back into the car, drove home, and found a new place to live for Kristen and I. But no... I wanted to live in the "real world" and be an "adult". Ha. yeahhhh....

We walk up the three flights that barely fits two people standing side by side and into our tiny home. The first thing I should mention is the carpet... We were told by the past tenant that she had cleaned the place and it just needed a bit of vacuuming.... By vacuuming she meant rip up the carpets and replace them, then yes I agree completely. There was (and I'm not exaggerating) about 1cm of cat hair layer across the entire carpet that then got thicker in areas that were walked on more. My socks went gray after crossing from the living room to the bathroom if you can't picture it. Here's where I list off the rest of the insanity:

1. couple wine stains (I think?) on the carpet
2. chocolate (once again, I think?) stains on the stove and fridge
3. garbage disposal was broken but wrapped with a plastic bag
4. cat dry food spilled all in the cabinet below the sink
5. food particles/gum smeared in to the cracks of the tile of the kitchen section
6. walls stained with oil grease and food all by the sink and oven
7. oven that had a electronic malfunction and would turn on randomly (mind you, it's a gas run oven)
8. dust layering all high areas of the apartment (granted the past tenant was my height, but really??)

On a side note relating to the cat food that was apparently a fixation in the apartment, later that week my Dad helped me pull back the fridge and stove and, low and behold, cat food covering every inch of the floor (and I wondered why we had a cockroach problem).

So needless to say I was at this point within one night:

...Yet I still moved in Saturday...

On Monday I called the landlords and maintenance hired an exterminator for the pests. Now originally they told me it'd be no sweat and that they'd use the organic pesticide and not to worry. I was so excited to come home to a chemical induced apartment, you have no idea. I just was so sick of seeing them all the time. When I came home I saw all these cockroaches coming from nooks and crannies that I didn't even know existed. They kept flapping their wings and twitching, slowly losing motor skills. As happy as I was, I somehow ended up on the coach in a fetal position crying in horror as I saw them... it was just too freaky. I called the building maintenance wondering if this is the normal killing spree of cockroaches. The guy started chuckling when he heard it was me.

"Yeah, you guys had quite the infestation! Way worse than what we expected. So we actually kiboshed the organic idea and went with the old stuff... You'll see them crawling around a bit at first but they should all die off. Then we'll come back in two or three weeks for when the rest of the eggs hatch."

Quite the infestation?? I could have told him that from my sleeping arrangements. At the time I was sleeping in the living room/kitchen on the coach and every night before I went to bed (with all the lights on mind you) I would count cockroaches instead of sheep (15-20ish). 

Well, we ended up having the exterminator come two more times until finally, I saw only 1 cockroach every 3-5 days. I never cooked in that apartment and I found now that I have a neurotic habit of thinking anything in the corner of my eye is Jose/Juanita/Juan (I named them every time, don't judge until you've been there).

Here's the kicker to all this,
When I had called the landlords, apparently they didn't know Kristen and I were subletting... but I'll leave that for the next post as a mini story with my belated science article and music.

Like I said, my life is a joke.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

a review of the reviewer

Hey Guys,

I remember when I made my first blog for a "Microbial Ecology and Evolution" course last spring. It was the first time since freshmen year of college I could write freely so I became a hyped up little kid on sugar rambling about my life and ideas. Almost can guarantee I'll do it again for this first post. 

...Actually I know this is going to be a ramble for the first few paragraph because there is no way to write down a bunch of facts about yourself without coming off disorganized...

To introduce myself, I am a senior at the University of New Hampshire pursuing my Bachelors of Science in genetics. This fall I plan on applying to graduate school for a masters (or PhD, haven't decided yet) in microbiology with a touch of interdisciplinary in bio-engineering. The goal is to find a career in biofuels/biomass/alt energies (a huge passion of mine). Along with applying to graduate school, I am also applying to the NSF Graduate Research Program and possibly the DOE Science Graduate Fellowship. Oh, and GREs this fall too... Man, every time I think about this list I picture a tiny little man running in circles till he finally he explodes ... except the tiny man is my brain... But anyway, I also have a senior thesis focusing on genetically modifying the microalgae species, Chlorella variabilis, in producing more lipids for biodiesel production. So that's my nerdy life.

For my last year as an undergrad, I live with 3 girls:  a senior civil engineer, a junior English major, and a senior nutrition/exercise science major in a, for the most part, quiet section of campus. I am dating a second year masters student studying microbiology here at UNH. My other loves include artwork, music, and cooking. I also am a huge marvel comics fan. Oh side note, I am at the legal age of drinking (so if I bring up bar stories, relax) and therefore I will say my favorite mixed drink is a chocolate martini, my favorite wine is Saracosa Toscana, and my favorite beer is Lost Sailor. I am addicted to finding dive bars and cafes with live bands, especially acoustic and/or jazz bands. Exploring cities is a hobby of mine but I mainly stick to Boston for right now. My favorite season is fall and my favorite holiday is Christmas. Umm.. what else? My friends tell me I was born in the wrong era and I belong in the Rat Pack times... my case is not helped that I watch dvds of the Dean Martin Show and say that Ryan Reynolds and Cary Grant are pretty neck and neck when it comes to attractiveness. Needless to say there's a lot more random stuff I could bring up but this is at least a nice summary. So that's the social part of my nerdy life.

What I want for this blog is a way for me to talk to others about science topics, whether it's a recent discovery, an old theory, a specific methodology, a broad topic, etc... Will definitely be discussing science articles and be posting pdfs as well. I would love it if people also post papers, whether scientific or maybe just a random read or another blog that relates. What I would appreciate is if people are open minded and do not jump the ban wagon of harping on one another. We are each entitled to our opinions, you discuss with science, not argue with emotion. With that being said, please leave out politics in these discussions unless it is directly related to some paper being reviewed. I remember in class we brought up the ethics of being able to publish papers in how to design a virus. Government laws were brought up along with society's viewpoints. That's perfectly fine, but don't be bashing on or supporting a politician/party that really has nothing to do with what's being discussed. Okay sorry, parent scolding over... just trying to head off issues.

What I would also like to use this blog for is the combining of passions: science, art, food (typical college student right there for ya huh?... got to add the food part). So you found a cool artwork piece of an abstract virus? Post it! Found a cake decorated as an Arabidopsis? Post it! I plan on being as quirky and abstract as possible with this since this is also my personal stress relief outlet (hence, beware of rambles around GRE time fyi).

As a sign off, like I used to do with my old class blog, I will leave music for your enjoyment. Some stuff you'll obviously know but others I am hoping will be new to you. I will also start posting recipes that I've tried or been wanting to try. To ease into the blog here's a song that I absolutely love and when listening to it, always picture a crisp fall day in a canoe just floating down a lazy Sunday...

Ray LaMontagne "Rock and Roll and the Radio"

Artwork by Ellie McKay
(found this on another science blog! >  http://yanivbrandvain.wordpress.com/blog/ haven't check it out much yet but maybe you'll like it!)