Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white!

From my home to yours...
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons' Greetings!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Final Day: Back to Argonne

After a brief off-site respite, I am back at the Advanced Photon Source once more. I was just about to start running my sample, when the beam cut out. Then I had to reload my sample and restart not once, not twice, but three times. My sample just got started in the past hour. Oh well. The data looks okay-ish now, so hopefully, this keeps up! Right now, I am manually recording the temperature at which each pattern is being taken. I will personally pay for Argonne to automate this process if it means that I do not have to do this again when I come back.

In the time that the beam was down, I trolled around Pinterest for a while. Now, I'm not actually on Pinterest because I know that I would turn into that person who is ALWAYS on Pinterest. But that doesn't mean that I can't troll around on it occasionally. (Revelation: I just realized that Pinterest is a play on "interest." Don't judge. Just because I'm in grad school, that doesn't mean that I can't be slow to get things some times. :P Also, it is 2 or 3 in the morning.) I dug up a bunch of fun recipes, so I'll have plenty of things to blog about in the coming weeks. :)

We have about six more hours of beam time left before we head back to Evanston/Chicago. It's been a good experience, albeit a tiring one. Being here and seeing the capabilities has given me a bunch of ideas on stuff that I want to try. That's the problem with research sometimes....one idea can lead to twenty more (or sometimes, one meeting with your advisor can turn into three months of work).

I've got to go tend to my sample now, but until next time!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Argonne, Day Three

Day Three: Coffee consumption increases exponentially

Or, as our sector manager Greg said, day three is when the pessimism starts to kick in. But seriously, all in all, I think our session is going pretty well. We've broken just about everything you can break in our experimental setup, but at least we're learning what not to do and are getting some pretty legit data (okay, maybe that was some of the pessimism right there). Here is a list of the things I've observed so far at the APS.

1) You don't actually need special training to ride the tricycles. However, I discovered that I am really, really bad at riding them. Luckily, I made this discovery at 9 PM at night when no one but my colleagues were around to see me unceremoniously plow into the wall of our sector. Practice makes perfect?

2) The food at the APS is kind of icky. The "401 Grill" is basically a temporary desk put at the edge of the kitchen in Building 401 and serves generic burgers, sandwiches, salads, etc. Also, we are on the direct opposite side of the APS from where the food is. However, the breakfast buffet at the Argonne Guest House is delicious. Sweet potato pancakes with boysenberry sauce? Cinnamon rolls completely covered in frosting? Yes, yes, yes.

3) I can't understand anything that the audible alert system says. I just have to hope that what they're saying means that I won't get zapped with x-rays while I'm changing a sample.

4) The screensavers on the computer monitors for our sector are freaky. Especially at 2 AM. There's one of a cow that just bounces up and down for a good ten minutes. There's also another one that makes me think the girl from The Ring is going to jump out of the screen at me. Odd choices.

5) Opening and closing the door to the beamline hutch makes me feel like I'm in Star Wars. Also, the fact that everything is called a sector makes me think that I should be reporting my distances in parsecs or lightyears rather than meters and feet.

Tonight, I'm going offsite for a bit, but I'm going to be working the 2 PM to 8 AM overnight shift from Saturday into Sunday. Look for more updates to come! Cheers!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Argonne After Dark

Long nights in lab seem like the perfect time to write blog posts, don't you think? Well, this time it's not really my lab exactly. I'm out at Argonne National Laboratory with a few of my collegues at the Advanced Photon Source. The thing about the APS is that when your beamtime is scheduled from 8 am on Wednesday to 8 am on Sunday, this means that you start at 8 am on Wednesday and run 24/7 until 8 am on Sunday, not only-day-time-hours-between-8am-Wednesday-and-8am-Sunday. Thus, I am writing this post in the wee hours of the morning during an overnight shift monitoring our data collection. In the words of Lionel Richie, I am chillin' out at Argonne allll niiiight loooong.

Even though I'm being facetious about this whole thing (probably due to lack of sleep and overabundance of cookies), the opportunity to be out at the APS is kind of awesome. I thought that I wouldn't really have need to come out here given the nature of my research, but I'm really glad that the cookie crumbled such that it was possible. You can get data here that you really can't get anywhere else. People come from all over the world to work here, and it's right in our backyard!

In between frantic periods of sample changing and gas line fiddling, there's a whole lot of waiting, as you can tell by the fact that I'm writing this post now instead of hovering over an instrument somewhere. Luckily, the folks at the APS thought of this and gave us office space full of spinning, rolling office chairs. Hours of entertainment. Also, to get around the APS, there are, I kid you not, adult-size tricycles. I think you need special training to ride them, but oh man. Oh man.

More on Argonne adventures later...now it's time for some frantic gas line fiddling!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Overnight Oats in a Jar

After my last post, this little blog has reached over 1600 pageviews! Thanks to everyone who has read my posts. Your support means a lot to me, and I'm glad that I can share my baking and grad school adventures with all of you!

Do you ever have those jars of peanut butter hanging around that only have a liiiiittle bit left at the bottom? You know what I mean. The ones where you can see the peanut butter, but you can't always get to it with a knife/spoon/pretzel/finger.

Look at it sitting in there, mocking me. 

Lo and behold, I have found a solution to this problem: overnight oats.

You may ask yourself, what does this mean? Overnight? Oats? These are two words not normally found together. Basically, overnight oats are a cold version of oatmeal that you mix up the night before you'd like to enjoy it and then let hang out in the fridge overnight. Poof! You have breakfast waiting for you in the morning! The resulting mixture is along the lines of an oatmeal shake, although you can adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe to achieve your desired consistency.

You don't have to use a peanut butter jar - any container (Tupperware, leftover Chinese takeout container, glass jar, etc.) would work fine. The jars are nice because 1) they use up that pesky little bit of PB (or cookie butter or Nutella...), 2) the airtight seal prevents the bananas from getting brown, and 3) it's easy to grab and go without worrying about spillage. I keep a spare glass jar around to use when I'm not making peanut butter-based oats for this reason.

It looks a little wonky now, but trust me, it's going to be awesome!

I love the addition of chia seeds (yes, like that chia) because it gives the oatmeal extra volume and keeps me full all morning long. When the chia seeds are exposed to moisture, they expand and have a tapioca-like consistency. Also, I cut my banana slices a little bit on the large side so that there are still banana chunks in the oatmeal in the morning. If you cut them smaller, you'll taste the banana, but you might not see the pieces. 

Getting cozy in the fridge, making friends with the lime juice and half & half.

Before I get in the shower, I take the oats out of the fridge and let them sit on the counter for 20 minutes or so to take out the chill. The result is still refreshing but not quite as frigid. It also gives the oatmeal some time to mellow and get ready for consumption.

 The finished product. Yum!

Overnight oats are great because they are so versatile. Don't like yogurt? Leave it out. Can't imagine oatmeal without brown sugar and raisins? Go for it! If you do a quick search on The Google, you will find myriad recipes and variations. I've made versions with peanut butter, assorted fruits, and even pumpkin. Feel free to experiment with all kinds of ingredients. You might find a new favorite breakfast!

Done! Now off to the recycle bin with you!

Peanut Butter Cup Overnight Oats

Makes one jar

almost empty peanut butter jar (or about 1 tbsp of peanut butter)
1/4 cup quick cooking or old fashioned oats (do not use steel cut oats - they won't get soft enough)
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp Greek or regular yogurt (for extra protein and oomph!)
1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 of a large banana, sliced
splash of vanilla extract
honey, sugar, or your favorite sweetener to taste
additional milk to achieve desired consistency (optional)

Add all ingredients to your jar of choice. Stir the mixture gently to make sure that everything is incorporated. Tightly close the jar and give it a hearty shake. Place jar in refrigerator overnight.

Before enjoying, let the jar sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to take the chill off. Open jar, give it a stir, and add additional milk as desired until the perfect consistency is achieved. Enjoy!