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…

Inspired by food

Helloooo everyone! Long time no talk. We have a bunch to catch up on but today I want to talk about food.

So last week my friend Jem and I met up in Minneapolis to attend a food photography workshop by Lindsay from Pinch of Yum. I’d been following Lindsay for a while and I secretly wanted to attend one of her workshops but I never had the time. This time though, Jem and I jumped on an opportunity to go as “buddies” where we shared a table and set up. We were both pretty nervous since we are trained scientists/science communicators and not professional food bloggers (yet…). But it turned out to be so much fun. Now I am feeling inspired to work on my photography skills again, which is awesome because that’s why I made this blog all those years ago.

Come on, Potassium, enough chatter. Let’s talk about food:

First up: All the food was real. We ate almost everything after we photographed it and it was all delicious. Yum.

Now onto learning how to photograph food! So in addition to Jem and me, there were 11 other women at the workshop. Lindsay organized the workshop into 4 sessions over two days. The first session was a quick how-to lesson for DSLRs and then we got to practice shooting fresh fruits and veggies. Yum. Jem and I chose some radishes and I quickly became obsessed with their tangly roots.

This one made it to Twitter and Instagram but I like it so I’m posting it here too. So red…

In the second session, we learned about lighting. I think this session was super helpful for me because I never really think about lighting and camera angles when I’m shooting, other than “OK. The sun making weird shadows on my subject. I should maybe move.” Or “Crap, I’m photographing people in a lab and there’s absolutely no natural lighting going on here…. uhhh…” After this session, we practiced with tasty cobbler and melty ice cream. Then after our practice, we got to eat our creations. :D

The next day, we practiced our lighting skills again with some tasty breakfast (which also subsequently got eaten). My breakfast is featured at the top of this post.

After breakfast, we started our next session: composition. I loved this session because I think I learned something about myself here: There is no one “perfect” way to compose a photograph. It’s an entirely creative process. You pick what works best for your personal style and the message you want to send or story you want to tell. It may seem simple and/or kind of duh but it was magic for me. I feel like I get frustrated with photography and other creative endeavors (writing, etc.) because my stuff doesn’t match whatever weird standard I think it should match. But now I think that it doesn’t have to. The only thing that matters is that it looks the way I want it to and that it matches me, my personality, and my message (which is usually one of making things accessible in case you haven’t figured that out). MIND. BLOWN.

Anyway, as I was processing that new information, we got to practice our composition with pancakes and a billion possible toppings. Jem and I were really interested in getting motion into our pictures: showing syrup running down the side of the stack or toasted coconut flakes snowing down from above. It was definitely more challenging than we thought it would be but that’s okay. There’s plenty of time to practice. :)

Go syrup, go! Some of you may have seen this on Facebook or Instagram but it wanted to make an appearance on the blog as well.

The final session was to introduce us to Adobe Lightroom, which is one of the Adobe products I hadn’t played with yet. Omg. It is endlessly fun. It’s a different way of thinking about photos compared to Photoshop and it seems equally as powerful as Photoshop (but in different ways). Time for tons of photo playing.

So besides my mind-blowing revelation in the workshop, there were a few other things that stuck out to me that I’d like to mention here. At the beginning, Lindsay asked each of us to write down a few objectives for what we wanted to get out of the workshop. Then she checked in with us periodically to make sure we were hitting our objectives. This activity ensured that everyone had a personalized experience. Also, each session was taught with a small lecture, a demo, and then practice time so that everyone could have a chance to learn however she learned best. Finally, there were so many props for food staging and toppings to try. It was a great safe haven to let your creativity fly! I came home loving my DSLR again and ready to try to take more food pictures on my own.

Below is my first attempt: a matcha green tea latte in a mug that we got for our wedding (they were a set: this one is the Potassium mug and then we also have a blue Cobalt mug <3). I’ve been obsessed with learning how to make my own matcha lattes for the past few months and then this one was so pretty in the Potassium mug. I wanted to show it off. Enjoy!

Mmmm… matcha…

Whew. That concludes Potassium’s epic food photography workshop recap. Stay tuned. More photos coming your way soon (potentially even more food photos).

Now it’s your turn: what is something you have done recently that made you feel inspired and excited? Or what is something you’d like to do? Also it’s summer! Is it hot where you are? We’ve been melting in 100 degree weather up here in… Washington (state)? Yeah… we have a lot to catch up on, don’t we? Until next time!

How to write and defend your PhD thesis in 2 months

  1. Start working from home. It’s lonely but it allows you to have whatever writing schedule you need every day and keeps you from distracting yourself by hanging out with your labmates. Only go to lab for mandatory meetings with your advisor or to get information out of your lab notebooks.
  2. Teach your labmates all your lab jobs (editing websites, taking over the lab safety and hazardous waste removal jobs, etc) for you while you are out. They will do them so beautifully and without asking very many questions. For this, you are forever grateful.
  3. Sometimes working from home means going to a coffeeshop and drinking a cappuccino while working. Your advisor agrees to meet you at the coffeeshop so you don’t have to go all the way into lab to meet with her. Also sometimes your labmates will join you.
  4. Work every day for 1.5 months straight, taking breaks when you need them but never taking a break that lasts for an entire day.
  5. Get on an antidepressant that reminds you to eat and sleep on a semi regular basis despite all the anxiety and stress you constantly feel. As soon as you defend, you can get off of it but for now, it’s necessary.
  6. Go home to California for a week and write feverishly at the desk you used to do your homework at in high school. Your parents will make you tasty food, force you to take breaks when you need them, and cheer you on. Plus one or both of them will stay up late every night playing on their tablets while you write so you won’t be as lonely.

    You and Gustav making weird faces on a tiny plane heading home…
  7. Exercise at least a little every day. It helps break up the monotony and the lamity of sitting at a desk all day and it reminds you that you are a human – not a writing machine. Soccer, swimming, running, and biking work pretty well. Take Cobalt on your exercise adventures if he’s around.
    One of your exercise breaks includes going to see the aspens change color with Titanium and her mom. So pretty… you could have stayed there all day. You tried to but Titanium and her mom said you had to go back to work…

    While you were looking for pretty aspens, you also found this cute little puff…
  8. Attend two of your friends’ weddings. Weddings let you take a break from your stress bubble and remind you that you are surrounded by wonderful people. :)
    One of the weddings you attend is at the Denver Botanic Gardens during the Chihuly glass exhibit. Having gone to undergrad in Tacoma, Washington, you can recognize a Chihuly piece anywhere but you still find it beautiful in this setting…

    One of your favorites is this boat. You even come back after the wedding to photograph it all lit up at night.
  9. Let Cobalt take you to a movie sometimes. It’s nice to do stuff with just Cobalt even though you are a stress ball.
  10. Go to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta with Cobalt, your sister in law, niece, and nephew because it’s great to spend time with people you love and also because the balloons are majestic and awesome to photograph.
    You go on opening weekend and it is packed! But it is a perfect day for balloons so the sky is also packed!
    You and your family get there early (~6 am) to see the first balloons go up. Included is this Wicked balloon, which you think is pretty neat because you are going to see Wicked later that day.

    You are among the first people to ever witness the Yoda balloon, which was unveiled this day.
  11. Learn how to use Adobe Illustrator in 3 days (your skills expand drastically when you NEED to make Figures)
  12. Go suit shopping with your friends the day you turn in your thesis. This is great because you get to shop for fancy adult clothes in celebration of turning in something epic and also you really need a suit for your defense talk…

    Here you are super nervous because your defense is the next day. At least the suit looks great!
  13. Go to your favorite undergrad conference to recruit new graduate students to CU even though you defend your thesis in a week. You’re stressed out, yes, but the students’ excitement to go to graduate school and learn is inspiring. Plus you have really cool conversations with your fellow recruiters, your sister (who is recruiting for her school), and some of your friends that you haven’t seen in forever (who are recruiting for their schools!)

    Look at you and your fellow CU grad students at the SACNAS 2014 conference, recruiting new grad students for your school! You look like a freak, but at least your friends look good. :)
  14. Be prepared to reanalyze your data at least 4 times while writing and then again right after you defend.
  15. Surprise your advisor by finishing everything on time even when she thought that “no one” could do everything in that short amount of time.
  16. Present your research to your family and friends with only one minor technical glitch that is easily solved. Do not lose your composure over the glitch or over the whole situation because your presentation turned out awesome and you really know your stuff!
  17. Shake hands with your committee faculty after your defense because you’re a doctor now! Yes, it feels weird and anticlimactic now but just keep smiling and it will slowly feel more and more real! Congratulations! Now it’s time to figure out what’s next…

PS – Is it obvious that you just read Neil Patrick Harris’ Choose Your Own Adventure Autobiography?

We got a kitty!

Yayyyyy! Look who’s posting again! It’s Dr. Potassium! That’s right! I am (unofficially) a doctor now! I need to edit my thesis and turn it in to get my diploma and officially become a doctor but the hardest part is over! Whew… it’s been an insane few months, you guys. INSANE.

But let’s save all that insanity for another post because today we have much cuter things to talk about! Cobalt and I got a cat and named her Tarantula (really, are you that surprised?)!!! Look at this adorable little puff.

So a few weeks ago when I was feeling really stressed out from all the craziness that goes into writing your thesis and then having to make a presentation to defend your thesis, my friend Titanium picked me up and we got coffee. It was great because we went up into the mountains above Boulder a little and sat on a rock overlooking the city. So pretty. As we talked, we decided that petting kitties at the animal shelter could make the end of our coffee time even sweeter! So we headed to the Boulder Humane Society to check out all the cats. They’ve seriously updated the cat area and now instead of rows and rows of cages, there are big rooms with tons of toys and shelves for the kitties to hang out and play/sleep all day! Titanium and I went into the “playroom,” the biggest of these rooms, to play with the kitties there. We met each of the cats there, including one super sweet but super skinny orange and black kitty. After we met all the cats, we sat on the bench in there and Miss Skinny came over and hopped up on the bench with us. Titanium put her on my lap where she proceeded to fall asleep! Awwww….

Soooooo I pretty much immediately fell in love with this cat and asked the Boulder Humane Society if I could put a hold on her so that Cobalt could come meet her the following day. However, we ended up having to wait almost a week for Cobalt to meet her because the Humane Society wanted to monitor her eating and make sure she was generally healthy before they released her. They finally determined that she was going to need some dental work done before we could take her home but that we could come in and see her before then. We got that news the day I defended my thesis which meant that my family (my Mom, Dad, sister, and sister in law) was in town! So the next day we all went to the shelter to meet our potential kitty. Cobalt fell in love with her too so the day of her dental surgery, we went to two different pet stores to prep our house for our new little puff and then we brought her home the next day!

I think Tarantula is feeling quite at home here now. She’s already looking a lot healthier and she is practically inhaling her food. Plus she loves snuggling and purring. At first, she was super distressed when Cobalt and I weren’t both in the same room but now she has calmed down about that. Awww yay! She also loves to look outside windows and has commandeered almost every window in the house for her personal viewing (downstairs in the morning, office after dinner, bedroom at night, etc).

Hey human! What are you doing outside?! Come inside and pet me!

In case you are wondering where the name Tarantula came from: one time, Cobalt and I went to go play with kittens at the local Petsmart. There was this adorable calico kitten named Tarantella but Cobalt and I read her name wrong so we kept calling her Tarantula! From that moment on, we vowed that one day we would get our own Tarantula (read: a cat named Tarantula, not the spider, much to Cobalt’s disappointment) one day. From the moment our Tarantula fell asleep on my lap, I knew she was purrfect. :D

Tarantula says “Stop talking about me and come cuddle with me!”

Finally, today is my mom’s birthday! Happy birthday Mom! What a great day to start posting again! :D I’m going to try to do twice a week but we might have to wait a little for me to work my way back up to that… Hopefully I’ll post on a semi-regular schedule again though. I’ve missed you guys!

Now it’s your turn: tell me about your pets. Tell me your favorite story about when you first got your pet! If you have a kitty, is she/he an inside/outside cat or just an inside cat? I grew up with mostly outside cats so it’s been fun learning how to have an all indoors cat. :D

We’re Still Alive!

Helllloooooo everyone! It’s been forever since I’ve written a post. It’s so sad! I’ve missed you guys so much!

Anyway, it’s starting to be summer here in Boulder! It’s finally stopped snowing (maybe?) and a bunch of my friends graduated with their PhDs (stay tuned for pictures of my friends in their funny robes and hoods). It was a rough semester for me with the super sprained ankles (still healing…) and the crazy science all the time. Science is still crazy but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Last week, my thesis committee agreed to my (slightly crazy) plan to be ready to defend come mid September! So that means that as long as I don’t die of exhaustion soon I too will get to don a crazy robe and hood and be called Dr. Potassium. Wahahahahaha…

So yeah! It’s summer and I have a ton of stuff to talk about! Cobalt and I have been going to a bunch of concerts and plays (including seeing Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch last week in NYC) and I have fun graduation pictures, etc etc etc. Plus I want to update you on future plans/what it’s like being so close (and yet so far) to being done with the PhD program, etc. So let’s get these posts going again! Life is still insane with trying to graduate and such so I’m going to try to write in here maybe once a week (on Wednesday or Thursday I’m thinking). Who’s excited?! I am…

While you’re waiting for an exciting post next week, maybe you should update me. What have you been up to? Do you like the picture up there of me and Cobalt in NYC? I think it turned out really nicely…

This post is about pondering

I miss being able to ponder at the beach… I took this picture when my sis, Cobalt, and I headed to the beach on New Years Eve. It was a spectacular idea… :)

This month, I signed up to get e-mails from The January Cure, which is a challenge to get your house in order one day at a time. It was a lot of fun for the first few days until I headed back to lab after the holidays and then I had a sudden realization: I end up doing all the January cure assignments the weekend after they’re scheduled because I am never home. At first I thought that it’s just due to the fact that I’m in grad school and I have meetings at weird times and science that doesn’t understand what weekends are but I think that even when I am physically present in my home, I am not mentally present. I’m caught up in a mess of what do I need to do for tomorrow, what I should be doing right now, what I am going to eat for lunch tomorrow, what I am going to eat for dinner right now, how should I get to lab tomorrow (bus, bike, or driving?), how much do I hate grad school right this very instant, how many people are making me feel bad about myself, am I being grumpy to Cobalt, should I be getting ready for bed, is it going to snow, etc etc etc. I realized as I was cleaning the counters in the kitchen (this weekend’s activity) how much I am caught up in my head that I forget just to be alive and live. I have all these cool projects that I want to do and all these cool books that I want to read and all these delicious recipes that I want to use but I seem to be giving myself no time to do anything except be miserable. So then I took some time and curled up in my favorite bean bag chair in our office and read National Geographic. It was nice.

I’m learning that it’s important to think about the “intentions” we have behind our actions. For example, going for a bike ride with Cobalt is a lot more pleasant when the intention behind it is to be outside in the sun enjoying each other’s company even though it’s cold instead of OMG WE’RE FAT AND LAZY… MUST GO OUTSIDE. I think it’s going to be really useful to remind myself about intentions as I work on trying to finish my PhD this year. I have gotten really grumpy about science and my career in my “old” (grad school) age and I think it’s really crucial that I don’t let it ruin me.

In addition to pondering, cleaning my house and fighting tirelessly with science, I’ve been up to a lot of stuff lately! I went cross country skiing with some friends a few weeks ago, I made liquid nitrogen ice cream in lab last week, and Cobalt and I caught up with a bunch of friends this past weekend (including: friends from Albuquerque who were in town, friends who like eating hot pot with me and Cobalt, and married friends who like staying up late and laughing – seriously, we didn’t get home till 1 AM Monday morning…. :-/). What have you been up to? What are your New Years Resolutions? Tell me all the things!

Back into the fray!

Hey everyone! I’m back from Germany! It was super fun! First of all, Heidelberg is an adorable town nestled in some mountains in Germany. You should be able to see that from that top picture here. The conference I went to was at EMBL which is a giant laboratory tucked into the forest above Heidelberg. I hung out with my friends as soon as I landed in Heidelberg (adventures will soon be posted) and then spent the next few days being bussed back and forth between the town and the lab for the conference. The conference was awesome. All of the talks were full of innovation and cool science (pretty sure that excitement was the only thing that kept me awake in the face of the death jetlag) and I made a lot of fun international friends! After the conference, I spent one day frolicking in Heidelberg and the surrounding areas with some of the cool people I met at the conference (again with the adventures being posted soon!).

Some more pictures:

Another favorite German word of mine is schloss or castle. I visited the castle with my friends the first day I was there and it was stunning. I learned so much European history… Look forward to a post on the schloss definitely. :)
My last day there, my new found friend T and I went for an epic hike (involving us getting lost a lot) in the mountain next to Heidelberg. The trees were so interesting!

Anyway, now I am back in Colorado. I’m super jetlagged still but life is insane in lab. I have to prepare (read: do multiple experiments) to give a presentation in a few weeks and if I really want to graduate at some point, I have to come up with what will ultimately be the “story” for my thesis. There’s actually a lot to talk about regarding my feelings about graduate school right now so I think maybe that will be in its own post soon.

Random questions below:
How are you guys? Is there anything specific you want me to definitely mention in my Germany (or Boston or San Antonio) posts? Do you want to know my favorite German word (it’s tchüss! – it means bye!)? I’m super frustrated with science/lab right now. Does anyone have any advice for relaxing/getting through hard work times? In other news, I am super excited that Allegiant finally came out today (where was it on my 10 hr flight back from Germany last week?!). Is anyone else a fan of the Divergent trilogy?

In other news, my blog is 3 years old today!!!! How did this happen?!