If you give a girl a microscope

Be prepared for some crazy photos.

OK so I may be in science communication now but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about my microscopy roots. Sitting in front of a microscope and looking at cool biology is pretty much the main thing I miss about doing bench work. So when I found out that Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (where I am currently working) made a microscope for your smart phone, I knew I needed it.

You just download the pattern from PNNL’s website, 3D print the holder and put a bead on it to use as a lens. Voila. Microscope. And the baseline version magnifies things 100x!

Sign. Me. Up.

One of my coworkers is super into 3D printing right now. So on Friday I told him about my need for one of these microscopes. He left and came back with an already completed microscope that he found in his desk! :D

I put it on my phone and immediately started looking for things to inspect in closer detail. Like this stuffed shark eye (obviously I have stuffed sharks on my desk).

I like that you can see all the fur around his eye.

The lighting in my cubicle is not great for microscoping, however. Just like most things with lenses (cameras, microscopes, etc.), the more zoom or magnification you have, the more light you need. I packed up the microscope to save it for more adventures over the weekend.

Now it’s fun times for you. Below I’ve posted a variety of things that I imaged around my house. You should try to guess what they are. The answers may or may not be at the bottom (don’t cheat!).

Ready?

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    1. Whatever it is, it looks dirty. But I like the grid…
    2. I think this one is my favorite. It’s so artsy. Also hint: this one is the same object as what’s in the photo above it.
    3. “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

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Answers!
1. Camping chair, 2. Potassium’s arm, 3. Living room carpet, 4. Kitty fur, 5. Also kitty fur, 6. Kitty ear (poor kitty), 7. Potassium’s shirt, 8. Shark towel, 9. Cobalt’s ear

I love all these pictures because they make science fun and artsy. I think that’s one reason I like microscopes in general. They give you a chance to marvel at how beautiful the world is, especially part of the world that you can’t normally see. Did you have a favorite image above? What would you want to look at up close? I think next I want to try some plants…

What did you do this weekend? Can you believe it’s almost October? I really need to get started on my Halloween costume. In other October news, I’m thinking about doing Inktober again on my Twitter account. I’d have to draw something every day of October. Could be fun…

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Stay glassy, Seattle

This weekend, Cobalt’s sis and her kiddos (actually teenagers … !!!!) came to visit, and we went on a family trip to Seattle! We even met up with my sister so it was epic family time. Great fun. We went to the Space Needle, Pike Place, the Seattle Aquarium, and… the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum.

I went to college in Washington so I am well aware of Chihuly glass. One of the buildings at my school even had some of his artwork hanging in one of the windows! It looks a little like the glass in my photo on top. It’s always fun to see Chihuly glass out of the Pacific Northwest — once we found it on display in an Oklahoma airport! But I was excited to see what Seattle had to offer since Chihuly is actually from Washington (Tacoma, actually). So I went on a mission for some of Chihuly’s artwork that looked different from what I was used to. I was successful in my quest.

Inside the museum, there were some beautiful glass sculptures that looked like baskets, really nice eel and octopus sculptures, and other interesting creations. I really liked the way the art was staged and lit. It made for fun colors and reflections.

Eeeee Octopus!
I like this egg shape, though those yellow things are venturing into the usual Chihuly territory. I like their reflections a lot though.
I couldn’t really see into any of these so I stood on my tiptoes to take a picture of the inside.

Then we headed out into the garden part and I had fun playing with reflections! This museum sits right next to the Space Needle so you could see it reflected in the art. Fun times!

Double Space Needle…..
Let’s end on a romantic self portrait with the Space Needle in the background. <3

That’s all for today. Is there an artist from your state that you can recognize anywhere? How do you feel about the artwork?

The great Spokane ramen-off!

Hellooooo everyone! I hope you are all doing well, especially people affected by Harvey, Irma, or fires. You are all in my thoughts right now. Tell me how I can help!

Today’s post is about ramen. First of all, I love noodles in almost every form but I have an ridiculous amount of affection for noodles in broth, like udon or ramen. Then Cobalt and I watched Tampopo, a Japanese western movie about ramen (yes you read that right), and now we are on a mission to eat as much ramen as possible.

We even made our own ramen to eat while we watched Tampopo! It was okay. We still have much to learn….

Moving on!

So the other weekend, when we were driving to Glacier National Park, we had to drive through Spokane, Washington. It was around lunch time when we hit the city so we decided to stop and grab some food. Two ramen places popped up on Yelp: NUDO Ramen House and King of Ramen. Who knew Spokane had such tasty ramen options? Because we were going to drive back through Spokane in a few days later, we decided to try one ramen place on the way there and the other ramen place on the way back. Then we could compare the two places and I could practice my on-the-go (read: with an iPhone, not a DSLR) food photography.

Conclusion: Though both places were pretty delicious, it appears that King of Ramen really is King, at least with this current dataset (once a scientist, always a scientist).

The breakdown:

We started with King of Ramen (photo up there!).
This one felt more like an authentic ramen shop. It had all these small pots for the noodles in the kitchen, which was separated from the restaurant with cute curtains and a bar. They had a variety of tasty ramen and curry options on the menu. Cobalt ended up ordering something spicy while I went with the vegetarian option. We also got some fried tofu and I got an iced green tea. The tofu was fried to perfection: crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. It was tasty on its own or as an addition to our ramen. Also my tea was yummy too. But the ramen itself felt like something was lacking in the broth and/or my soup was missing a key ingredient. Not sure what though. We’ll have to come back and try it again!

Oh and also we have to go back so I can try the curry because I love Japanese curry.


On the way back, we stopped at NUDO.

If you’re wondering why the colors of this photo are a little more dull than the King of Ramen photo, it’s because it was 110% more smoky outside when we came back through Spokane. Booooo fires… :(

This restaurant is definitely more “hipster-y.” It had ramen-themed pop art on the walls and it just had a cool, sleek interior that seemed to be catering to the millennial crowd (as a millennial, I think I’m allowed to say this). Even the bathrooms were fancy – they had weird sinks.

Okay okay the ramen, Potassium, the ramen. So this time we both ordered a beef ramen and also got spring rolls. The beef ramen was good – the meat was tender and the broth was really flavorful. Plus I liked the bok choy in my soup! The noodles weren’t as good as King of Ramen’s noodles. And there was no egg in my ramen, which was sad because eggs in ramen are the best.

NUDO had one other problem: our waitress pretty much completely ignored us. Not like I need to be entertained by my waitstaff, but it’s nice when someone refills your water. Or at least brings you a carafe so you can refill your own water. I just wanted water! Plus she was so engrossed in a conversation with the only other patrons of the restaurant, that she didn’t even bring us our check. Some other server had to bring it to us. And then he asked us if we wanted to pay together or separate, which we thought was weird, considering it was only the two of us, and not a group. Is it weird? Discuss below.

One last thing. It was insanely smoky here last week (you can even tell that the light is off in that NUDO picture). The smoke was so thick that it felt more like we were eating the air instead of just breathing it in. Not great. But it’s cleared up a little and I even managed to catch a pic of Sunday night’s sunset. I’ll end this post with that.

Fire and ice

Happy Day After Labor Day, everyone! I hope you all had relaxing holidays!

This weekend, Cobalt and I headed to Montana to see Glacier National Park. Our visit was kind of ill-timed, however, because the park currently has an epic fire ripping through it. In fact, just an hour or so after that picture was taken, this part of the park was closed and evacuated. So we got a bit of a smoky tour of the park. But seriously guys, even with smoke around, this park is gorgeous. We’re definitely going to have to come back some time under less smoky conditions.

So what is it about this park that makes it so fantastic, you ask? Well the answer is in the name. The glaciers. Giant glaciers left behind these incredible towers and valleys when they melted. Plus there are still some glaciers hanging out there today!

Glaciers also formed a lot of the geographical features of one of my other favorite national parks, Yosemite. I think I have a thing for glaciers. They do cool things to rocks.

So anyway, Cobalt and I really wanted to meet a glacier, but they are a bit of an oddity at this point because so few are left. So instead we decided to venture to Iceberg Lake because if you can’t get to a glacier, a lake filled with water that used to be frozen is almost as good.

The trail to Iceberg lake starts on the east side of the park, which also looked like it was a little less smoky. Cobalt and I were staying in a hotel on the west side of the park so to get to our trailhead, we either had to

  1. enter the park at the west side, drive through the whole park, drive out of the park, go around another lake, and then drive into the east side entrance or
  2. drive alllllllllll the way around the whole park and then drive in the east side entrance

We opted for option 1) because it meant getting to see the park on our way to/from our hike.

So we got to the west side entrance around 9 am. It was a little smoky but not too bad. It was actually a little chilly outside too, a welcome feeling after melting all summer in the Tri-Cities. It was perfect day for exploring a national park! We wound our way through the park, stopping here and there to take pictures and marvel at the beauty of the park. It wasn’t until we entered the east side of the park that the ranger told us that the west entrance had been closed and evacuated at 10! Yikes! So much for going back through the park on our way back to the hotel…

Anyway, it was time to find that Iceberg Lake! The east side of the park was way less smoky than the west side (though it got smokier as the day continued). So we filled our backpacks with food and water, slapped on some sunscreen, and headed up the trail. It’s a really pretty 5 mile (each way) hike! My favorite part about the trail is that you can actually see the top of the basin that holds the lake pretty early on. Then we weaved in and out of forests and over waterfalls to get up there.

Cobalt on the hike to Iceberg Lake. I think the walls surrounding the lake look a bit like the Black Gate of Mordor. So jagged…

I think it was worth the hike! So pretty (even with the smoke). We ate our lunch by the lake, even though it meant chasing away some pretty fat and sneaky chipmunks. I attempted to get into the lake but the water was really really really cold (though other tourists did make it all the way in). For the record, Cobalt got his feet in too.

This little fatty tried to steal our cheese!

This is as far in as I could go. Photo credit: Cobalt.

Then it started to get much more smoky and we decided it was time to bid our new lake and chipmunk friends goodbye. Don’t worry, Iceberg Lake! We’ll be back soon!

Some sharks and a whale made the trek up with us. Luckily the water was too cold for them too so they didn’t try to swim away! Photo credit: Cobalt.

After we left the park, we had to drive all the way around it to get back to the hotel. It seemed to take a lot longer (especially when I was driving on crazy twisty narrow mountain roads) but when we actually did the math, it took us the same amount of time as it did for us to drive through the park. Good to know.

In other news, the smoke was pretty terrible on the way back to the hotel and on Monday morning. In fact, we drove back to Washington through a smoky haze. It’s bad, guys. These fires are outta control.

It’s Taco Tuesday!

Happy Taco Tuesday, everyone!

Today I am sharing pictures of chorizo tacos that Cobalt and I made last week. Yum. It’s beef chorizo too, which makes me happy because I generally don’t eat pork.

Anyway, let’s talk about about tacos. I love them. I think they might be one of my favorite foods. They’re so versatile! You can pretty much put whatever you want in there. Add some form of protein + tomatoes, onions, and avocados and you are good to go.

For these tacos, we also added green chile because it’s green chile season in New Mexico right now. Apparently there are enough New Mexicans in this part of Washington to ensure that we get our own stash of green chile up here too.

These tacos also feature Cherokee purple tomatoes from our local farmer’s market. Yummmm…

I also picked out tiny corn tortillas. I liked the idea of having miniature chorizo tacos that fit snugly into your hand. I always overstuff my tacos (as you can see here) so they weren’t really bite-sized. Maybe more along the lines of three-bite sized. But still, they were fun to eat. And I was pretty full after this plate.

Let’s add some cheese to these guys…

Thank you Cobalt for being the cheese shaker. I was pretty hangry by the time I was taking the cheese pictures so it probably wasn’t easy to help me…

Speaking of green chile, this weekend we bought a box of freshly roasted chiles and brought them home to peel and freeze. We’re set for the year now… or at least for the next few months.

That’s all for today. Short and sweet. I couldn’t write any more because I got hungry looking at my pictures. Your turn now: what is your favorite taco ingredient? Or if you have a taco speciality, what is it? Let’s talk about food!

No Learjet required

Well you guys know about my obsession with taking moon pics. I think I’ve eclipsed myself now with this pic of the moon jumping in front of the sun!

So who watched the eclipse yesterday? Who got to see totality? Does anyone feel slightly more blind today? I hope not. :(

My sister, Deoxyribolove, came into town for the event and then we drove down into Oregon to get the totality part. The 97% we were supposed to get in Washington just wasn’t enough.

After spending the weekend frolicking around Boise, we set up camp on an old golf course in Ontario, Oregon, which was in the zone of totality. I spent the evening collecting golf balls and photographing Deoxyribolove doing poi with glow sticks.

Some of the golf balls I found had had a rough few years since the golf course closed.
So many colors…
I like this one because you can see her moving around while she makes crazy circles.

It was a great evening for camping, minus the mosquitos. We headed to bed early to hide from those little suckers. But we had great views of the Big Dipper from our tent and a nice breeze keeping us cool all night.

In the morning, we had coffee and oatmeal and then set about preparing the campsite for the eclipse. Cobalt and I had bought a pack of eclipse glasses from an American-Astronomical-Society-approved site a while ago so those came out. We also brought a colander for playing with the eclipse light and a variety of recording devices: my Zoom audio recorder for recording us reacting to the eclipse, our GoPro for a video of the same thing, and my DSLR + an old 70-200 mm lens (+ 2x multiplier) that I acquired from my grandpa. Pretty sure it was not built for a digital camera. I am so happy that I got everything to play nicely with my camera.

SAFETY NOTE: I did NOT have the correct filter for my DSLR so it only got to photograph the sun during totality (see pic above). The rest of the time, I just used my 50 mm lens to play with the sunlight.

There were so many things to play with! Of course the colander made crazy shapes on the tent wall. But so did my hat, my hair, leaves on the trees around us, and even the crooks of our elbows!

In case you were wondering, this is not how you use a colander to look at the eclipse. I just thought this would be a fun way to document our playing around with light. Luckily Deoxyribolove was willing to be my model. 
Eclipsing sisters. There’s the sun through our bent arms. Deoxyribolove had all these sweet suns going through her long hair too!
Some pictures were an all-hands-on-deck kinda deal. Here Deoxyribolove is making the cute sun shadow while Cobalt holds a piece of paper up to the tent. I was photographing and rapidly changing camera settings and focus to get that little sun as crisp as possible.
Whoa. Leaves make sun shapes on sister, Cobalt shoulders, and paper.

And then it started to get very dark. It was weird at first. Kind of orange and red-tinted. And then it got darker, and darker, and darker! And then the golf course lights came on and then we got that perfect ring up there. We only got 1 minute and 26 seconds of totality so I told myself I had one chance to take a picture with my crazy camera set up. I wanted to make sure I spent some time just experiencing the eclipse.

So as we got closer to the ring phase, I turned on the GoPro and the Zoom recorder so they could happily record the event while we forgot they were recording us. Then I set up my camera on the tripod and aimed it sort of in the direction of the sun (can’t look through the lens at the non fully eclipsed sun). And then as soon as we hit the ring, I sprang into action: pointed camera at sun, focused lens (definitely no autofocus on this lens), snapped photo, and hoped that the exposure time was right. It looked awesome! I snapped a few more with different exposure settings even though I wasn’t supposed to and then I stopped and watched the rest of totality with Cobalt and my sister. We may have taken some selfies…

So cool! Of course there are a million other things I wish I had done and looked at or noticed. A minute is so short and even though I told myself I only got one try with the camera, I was thinking about photography a little more than I wanted to be, especially when I was trying to just be in that one moment.

For the record, the GoPro did a pretty good job of capturing the rapidly darkening sky all around us and the Zoom audio recorder recorded us (and all the other people at the golf course) freaking out. I think the big lesson here is that we’ll have to go see another total solar eclipse sometime. Maybe next time it will be longer. And maybe I’ll leave the fancy lenses at home. We’ll see…

I hope you had fun with whatever eclipse viewing you did too! We certainly did. 5 stars, would watch a total solar eclipse again. :)

Thank you orange shirt guy who offered to take this picture of us. I’m sorry, I have no idea what he looks like because I had my eclipse glasses on the whole time. I could only see his orange shirt out of the bottom of the glasses.

PS: Points if you knew where my title came from. I had the line from “You’re so vain” stuck in my head the whole time…

Meteors and other camping phenomena

Hello everyone! How are you? Cobalt and I went camping last weekend! On Saturday afternoon, we and our friends M and E (and their dog Bear) and K (and her dog Josie) piled into two cars with tons of camping supplies and hit the road to go camping in Umatilla National Forest!

So I like car camping because you don’t have to carry all of your stuff on your back and you have plenty of room for all the fun camera supplies you want. I had an extra bag full of a tripod, a variety of lenses, and my trusty DSLR because I was hoping to photograph the Perseid meteor shower.

While I gave myself a crazy photo challenge of trying to catch meteors streaking across a random spot in the sky, I think that camping offers a fun environment to try night time photography. It’s usually way darker out there since one point of camping is to get away from the city. And wow you can see so many stars (unless the moon is out…)! Plus it’s just fun to play with light when it’s dark. So I thought I’d talk a little about that, show off some crazy night sky pictures, and then we’ll top it all off with some fun hike pictures from the next day. Sound good?

Great. Let’s get started. So for those of you have followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that Cobalt and I love taking weird photos at night. There are some creepy ones like this one of him sneaking up on me. There’s a romantic one of us with the Big Dipper. Plus there are some weird ones like this one with the moon making weird patterns in the sky.

The thing I like about night time photography is that you have to be creative about what kind of light your camera sees. So sometimes I use the flash followed by ambient light. Sometimes I use just ambient light. And sometimes I use ambient light to convey motion. That is the most fun.

Check out my crazy star pictures from this weekend. Both of them have a pretty long exposure — I left the shutter open for a long time to try to capture a meteor in action. Look at how the stars are swirling around. Cooool.

Holy light streaks, Batman! Also maybe that’s a meteor in the top right hand corner? I played around a little with the settings in Lightroom here but maybe it’s too black and white? Check out the next photo for comparison.
We started the picture and then walked away for ~10 minutes while we got ready for bed. The stars moved sooooo much! Also maybe I caught two meteors on the right? It’s hard to tell. :-/

I ended up getting pretty frustrated with this whole process because the remote control I usually use with my camera to start and stop loooooong exposures was on the fritz. I think it needs a new battery. Also we kept seeing AMAZING meteors in the opposite direction from where my camera was pointing. Oh well… that is life. Plus, it’s important to remember to actually experience life too. Not just stare at it through a camera lens.

P.S. Do you see all those weird specks of light all over my pictures? Pretty sure it was still smokier than we thought out there. :p

While the night sky was perfect for star watching, we woke up Sunday morning to rain. Not big fat drops but just enough to make for a wet, cold morning. After hot oatmeal and coffee, five damp humans — and two soggy pups — shuffled up the trail for a 5 mile hike. I decided to leave the DSLR in the car though because I didn’t want to get it wet. So the iPhone got to take pictures instead.

Check out this fun panorama with Cobalt and M. I think they need to start making music together because it looks like an album cover to me. What do you think? Something indie, most likely.

I think their band would be called “Elk Snacks.” Thoughts?

If I had brought my DSLR, I think I would have liked to do some jumping pictures like I have in this blog post about the Maroon Bells. Those are always fun to do but they require some playing around with settings that makes them best suited for a DSLR instead.

I like to test the limits of my iPhone camera anyway though so here is my attempt to photograph this wet bee that was clinging to a flower. I got the camera close enough to the bee that you can make out her spiky fur while the background is a blur.

Fuzzy…..

Finally, I got one of my favorite hiking photos: Cobalt with the trail in front of him. I take this type of photo a lot. I like it because it shows off some scenery but then Cobalt’s there to put it all in perspective and make it interesting. Plus he’s always so determined on hikes. Here he’s wearing my amazing shark backpack. Also, isn’t this trail gorgeous? We’ve really been missing our trees over here.

That’s all for now. Who’s excited about the eclipse in LESS THAN A WEEK!?!?! What percentage totality is it where you live?