Friday, April 18, 2014

Thank you for the books, Gabo.

"...a person doesn’t die when he should but when he can.”
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

I don't often mourn the death of public figures, but there are some who has touched me irrevocably through their passion, that the sadness pinches my heart. Yesterday, I bade Gabriel Garcia Marquez,  goodbye.  No one heard, as no one should.  He never knew me, and I him, but in his time, he brought me joy, sorrow, angst, and magic. There was something so powerful in his writing that you may forget what it's about, but the feeling remains well after you've read his books. The truth is I only read a handful of his books, 3 as I recall, maybe 4, and I don't remember the plots and twists of all of them, but I can easily conjure up the images that stood out - those that frightened me, some surreal, and some which can only possibly thought of by a genius as Gabo.  The way that he painted his characters was so full of love and life, and yet so transparent. If he was describing someone you love, you cannot help but feel a pang of jealousy. His words were intoxicating.
To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else's heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”

Growing up, I didn't really learn much about history of other countries. So, I didn't even know until much later on that One Hundred Years of Solitude was a metaphoric rendition of the history of Colombia.  I read it in College, at a tender age of 16, and found it hard to keep track of all the many Aurelianos, Joses, Remedios, and Renatas that were the protagonists/antagonists in the 7 generation saga.  Still, one vision stood out, Remedios the beauty floating up, up, up in the air...never to be seen again...while doing something so mundane - hanging clothes to dry. The sheets remained flapping in the breeze, seemingly waving goodbye.  This ethereal image was too perfect, so pure, as was the character. That image still comes to me on days when I see a paper blowing in the wind, or when a dandelion floats gently with the breeze... It calms me.

Farewell, Gabo, and thank you.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Healthy Passover Treat: Roasted Cinnamon Pecans

This past month I decided to take proactive steps to take better care of my health. There were so many triggers... a friend passing...that I ultimately decided to take action. So, I have been going to the gym fairly regularly and eating healthy food. No starvation diet, just balanced eating and proper portions. There are so many tools that people can use these days to really monitor their health on a day-to-day basis. I just went ahead and grabbed some. I love using MyFitnessPal App on my phone, where I can log in my protein, fat and carbs intake, as well as how many glasses of water I've drank. I'm also using UP by Jawbone wristband, which is similar to FitBit, to track my activities in steps and my hours of sleep.  I know it's cliche to say that "I'm doing this for my kids", but I am saying it anyway, and I'm very proud of it.

With Passover coming up, I've prepared a healthier version of my favorite snack these days - roasted cinnamon pecans. This, hopefully, will drown out the call of the Passover macaroons! Anyway, here's my recipe. It's easy, healthy and YUMMMMM.... for kids and adults alike. And yes, this is a fun snack to make with kids. 

2 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups pecans 

1. Preheat the oven to 225 F. Lightly grease the baking sheet.
2. Whisk the egg whites and vanilla in a large bowl.  Add the pecans in portions, and fold.
3. In a small tupperware with lid,  mix sugar, salt and cinnamon. Shake.
4. Add cinnamon-sugar in small quantity to the pecans and mix gently. *I used less than half of the cinnamon-sugar, so I'm saving the rest for future pancakes or roasted almonds.
5. Bake for an hour. Mix in between, every 10-15 minutes. 

And now back to that portion control - just put some in little containers. They're handy to keep for snack, and good to add on your salad. Next snack to make: roasted savory cashews or almonds!

By the way, kudos to my very enthusiastic assistant. 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lab Madness Bracket Challenge

My inbox tend to get inundated with white papers and other updates from the pharma industry.  I usually just browse and delete these, but on this particular Tuesday morning one thing caught my interest - Roche's email: Play the Scientist Bracket Challenge. It piqued my curiosity enough to open it. C'mon! March Madness with a science twist?? Brilliant!
The email headline reads:
Ivan Pavlov is already salivating at the thought...
The 2014 Scientist Lab Madness Tournament Challenge puts 64 of the world's best scientists against each to see who is the ultimate champion...
Other catchy teasers include:
  • Will Freud's Super-ego get the best of him?
  • Will Boyle past the test?
  • Will Schrödinger win, lose or both?
Needless to say, I was hooked! Bring it on. Imagine me rubbing my hands together and squealing in delight. So, below you will find my bracket and the reasoning for my picks, but if you want to fill yours, here's the link: Lab Madness Bracket Challenge. I have to say, I spent more time thinking about this bracket than my NCAA March Madness bracket.  No wonder I'm losing miserably in that one.

Click to view larger version
The Final Four:
Southern Blot
My Southern bracket was perhaps the easiest to pick. While most will go with #1 seed Albert Einstein, I chose Jonas Salk to win over Einstein on the Sweet 16 round, and move to the Final 4. Thanks to Salk's successful vaccine, polio is almost completely eradicated. You will also see that I chose David Baltimore to upset James Watson for no other reason than I am not a fan of Watson. Shocked that I chose Ptolemy over Aristotle? Let's just say that Ptolemy is more well-rounded with his interest in astrology and music! Plus, we know what happened with Aristotle's geocentric theory.
Northern Blot
This was a hard bracket.  I was so rooting for Marie Curie to at least make it to the Elite 8.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  I advanced Hubble because there's just something sweet about pitting Hubble vs. Kepler. Don't you agree? While other may struggle in choosing between Neils Bohr and Otto Hahn, this was an easy one for me. Hahn, in addition to being the father of nuclear chemistry, is just an overall peacemaker, and an ardent anti-nazi. However, moving Louis Pasteur over Otto Hahn to the round of 8 is a no brainer. More on Galileo's impressive win over Pasteur and taking the championship crown later.
Western Blot
My explanation for Copernicus winning over Mendel:  The sun is the center of the universe. Plus, the Mendelian trait cannot explain my 2 daughters' blue eyes.
Charles Darwin over Linus Pauling then Copernicus was more difficult to pick. My rationale - To this day, Darwin, in his grave, is still fighting and trying to convince people that the Theory of Evolution is not a 'mere' theory. Still, this was another tough bracket. And for that, Darwin automatically advances to the Championship, beating Newton's easy-peasy Mid-Western bracket.
Mid-Western Blot
How fun was it to pit Tesla vs. Edison and have Tesla win?  Lots. Still, it is Newton who makes it to my Final 4. Why? Sure, Gravity Theory. Although the cartoonish vision you have of an apple falling on Newton's head and leading to his Eureka! moment is a myth. Whether he's really a vendictive fellow or a misunderstood one remains as much of a mystery as where the myth came from.
Galileo wins it all.
Ah, Galileo.  I have always had a sweet spot for Galileo. His fascination with the milky way and its astral bodies is similar to mine... except he invented the telescope.  Unlike Newton who has been widely lauded in his lifetime, Galileo loved science and was punished for it. Supporting Cupernicus in championing heliocentrism, his books were banned and he was charged of heresy by the church. He died suffering and alone. Well, in my Lab Madness bracket, he wins it all. 
Who's your Champion?