Saturday, November 28, 2009
What I do not love is the fact that people are trying to take all of that away from me by starting Christmas at the end of October. I worked Halloween this year and on that very night, before all the Halloween candy had been sold, the Christmas merchandise went out. What is going on here? Thanksgiving has become merely a marker for when we should start Christmas shopping. Many families spend Thanksgiving Day decorating their homes for Christmas: putting up trees and lights, baking Christmas cookies, etc. Does not Thanksgiving deserve it's due? Especially with people who have the wrong idea about what Christmas is, we need a day set aside that is devoted entirely to friends, family, and food in which we give thanks for all of those very things.
Now, don't get me wrong, I do love Christmas, but Thanksgiving is a favorite of mine too. However, people have apparently forgotten what Christmas is truly about. Heck, people seem to forget when it is that Christmas actually starts! The Twelve Days of Christmas is not just a song; the Season of Christmas (yes, season) starts on the 25th and ends on the Feast of the Epiphany in January. Why, then, are people putting up Christmas trees on Thanksgiving and taking them down on the 26th of December??? To do it the traditional way, one would put up his Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and take it down after Epiphany in January. I'm not saying that's what my family does, since we usually put our tree up the first or second week of December, but we do leave it up until the Season of Christmas is over.
The commercialism revolving around Christmas nowadays sickens me at times. People trampling each other and getting into fights while Christmas shopping? And for what, to save a few dollars on a potential gift? Give me a break... You will never see me waiting outside of a store at 5 A.M., that's for sure. You would think that the people who try to extend Christmas would at least have the right mindset for doing so: peace on Earth, the spirit of giving (as in giving for it's own sake, not for "exchanging" gifts), and the closeness of friends and family. Not to mention, of course, the religious significance of the holiday. Christmas still has the word Christ in it, so that's what I will be celebrating. Otherwise people should be celebrating "Winter Holiday" or something similar.
At any rate, this post is about Thanksgiving. My family and I enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving, which I had a much larger hand in this year. Since I was off work, I was the one that prepared the turkey, and, if I do say so myself, the turkey was extra delicious. I will definitely enjoy the leftovers for many more days (I have already made myself another plate for lunch and a turkey sandwich for a snack). So, if you want any advice from me, and I know that you do, keep Thanksgiving where it belongs and keep Christmas where it belongs. November should be focused on Thanksgiving and December should be focused on Christmas. You won't see anything in our house related to Christmas until December 1st at the very earliest. No more Thanksmas!
Friday, October 23, 2009
The booth we ran was the Alumni Booth, which has varied over the years as to what type of game is played. The concept is the same from year to year, in that every person wins a prize; some prizes are great (cruises, a TV, hotel stays) and some prizes are crappy (mouse pads, key chains, pens). Since all the prizes are donated, we have no real expenses, unless we rent a gaming apparatus like a BINGO set or have to buy balloons, etc. These kinds of games attract children for their simplicity and fun factor, and attract adults for the big prizes.
For the last several years, my friend Emily and I have been running and working the booth entirely ourselves: collecting prizes, numbering/organizing prizes, setting up the booth, running the booth, taking down the booth. We have done so with little instruction and little outside help, because we're good that way. However, it is quite tiring and time-consuming to do all the work ourselves, work for nine hours, and then take down the booth in the end. Rewarding, yes, but still tiring.
This year, my friend is pregnant and is limited by how much she can do with the booth. We decided mutually at the end of last year's Festival to take a less active role in the booth, or at least find more workers to run it for us. Given Emily's condition (she is in her 8th month of pregnancy) we decided not to actually run the booth but hand over the reins to someone else. Otherwise, the workload would have fallen entirely on me, and I was not in the mood to do everything all by myself. At any rate, another woman was put in charge, and we were given the task of simply running the booth from 10 am to 1 pm, a much shorter shift than the 10-7 to which we had become accustomed.
This year was also different from years past because the location of the Festival was not at the school. SJS is building a new gym on the property, so it would therefore be an unsafe location on which to hold a Festival. Luckily my parish church, St. Albert's, has a large tract of land that would easily accommodate the Festival, so it would be held there. There were some drawbacks to this of course: a fairly unknown location (most of the students/parents of SJS attend other parishes), a residential-type area that is less-traveled and more hidden from the public, and of course many former students enjoy going back to the school and seeing what progress has been made since they last attended there. These obstacles were foreseen, and therefore the Festival almost didn't happen, but in the end people figured even if attendance was down from years past, at least some money would be made for the school.
To say attendance was down would be an understatement. When we arrived shortly before 10 am, it was in the 30s or 40s with a biting wind. As the day progressed, the weather did not improve and people seemingly decided to stay home. There did seem to be a fair amount of people there with which to make a successful Festival, but not nearly as many as last year's, when the weather was quite different (in the 70s). Emily did our three hours at the booth with moderate success, and were done right after 1 pm.
The food at the Fall Festival is usually what draws people in the most. The whole Festival is centered around delicious barbeque: pulled pork sandwiches, bbq chickens, bbq ribs, etc. Of course, being Mr. Food, I had to partake of the barbeque. In the course of that day I had two pulled pork sandwiches, one for lunch after my shift at the booth and one for dinner later when my parents decided to stop by. At some point after I had gotten my first sandwich, I went home to get out of the weather and eat in peace. By that point, the attendance was the highest of the entire day, since lunchtime is usually when the most people come to the Festival.
I returned to the festivities at 5 pm for Saturday night Mass, followed by more barbeque. By this point, the Festival was dying down, as it had become bitterly cold and windy. We got some more bbq and took it inside one of the heated parish buildings, which had better accommodations than the outdoor tents and tables.
Despite the weather and change of venue, I was still proud of the Festival that my former school put together. It does feel good to give back and work for a good cause, though I think most of us would have liked a less wintry day and a more fall-like day. The food was excellent, the entertainment was nice, and the games drew a lot of excitement, especially with the children. Emily and I have decided next year to maybe put in a little more effort at the booth; it almost didn't feel like enough to simply work the booth while someone else did all the work of organization, etc. Although, hopefully, if we do take on a larger role, there will still be workers that can take on some of the shifts. That way we can still enjoy the rest of the Festival and not be tied down to a booth all day. All in all, I had a good time.
Monday, August 10, 2009
To start out, I wanted to mention that we rented a car this time around. My car has been well-traveled over the last four years with trips back and forth from Cincinnati (though I've never actually calculated the mileage, I'm sure it's quite a large number). To add to that, my mom's car and my car don't have air conditioning, and my brother's truck needs new tires. So, we got a rental car, a nice red Chevy Cobalt. It was a great little car, and except for the right rear tire needing air on two occasions, I enjoyed driving it. If I were in the market for a new car, I would seriously consider getting one of those, though probably not red in color.
This was a vacation to end all vacations since we were gathering most of the family together for a sort of reunion. Those in attendance included my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and their spouses, and even the second cousins, most of whom I had never met. Of those that had to travel to the Atlanta area, my immediate family arrived first. When we got to my grandparents' condo, dinner was waiting for us, though we had to eat by ourselves since we got there later than planned... But the other two families that live in the area (Duane's and Cheryl's) were there to welcome us, which made for a great start of our vacation.
The next week saw the arrivals of relatives both by car and by plane. Some of these people, like my Aunt Dawn's kids, I haven't seen in about 6-7 years. And then of course this was the first time that I got to meet their little ones, which was great. My grandparents' house was indeed a full house, since there were twelve people staying there at one time, and 28 people there for dinner one night. What a crowd!
This gathering of the masses was all centered around one main event: dinner on Friday. Unbeknownst to my grandfather, we had gathered the family together to celebrate his 80th birthday. Since his real birthday is in December and many of the family members can't make a trip at that time, my grandmother decided to have a get-together in the summer when most of us could get the time off to travel. It was truly a great idea, especially since he was clueless as to our motives. This was funny because there were three major clues (the biggest of which was a cake that said "Happy 80th Birthday" on it, hidden in the laundry room) that could have spoiled the whole thing, but he merely shrugged them off and paid no attention to them...WHEW!
As with any family gathering, there is, of course, great food. My one request was stuffed cabbage (golumpki), a Polish dish that my grandmother's family loves. I did help make them one night, and we ate them not only that night but a few nights later for leftover night. My cousin Duane made the main course for our celebration on Friday night which was a delicious grilled chicken dish similar to that made at the popular Italian restaurant Carrabba's. Every day with the family was filled with great meals and desserts, so I'm sure I gained at least five pounds from that week!
Another given at a Beauregard get-together is the playing of games. Card games like Foine and the nickel dice game are a must, so I made sure to bring a couple rolls of nickels to this gathering. I'm not sure how much money I ended up bringing back home, but I am pleased to say that I won a few nickels here and there in the course of those games! The title to this blog refers to a remarkable hand I received in one particular hand of Foine in which I bid that I would take a Foine, or the whole 100 points. Listen to this hand: Ace, King, Queen, and Jack in one suit and Ace and King in another suit! My grandfather said he had only witnessed one other such "Foine" bid in the last 30-40 years, and that individual took all 100 points as well. That was without a doubt the best hand (and the luckiest hand) I had ever received in that game, and it felt GREAT to win!
In addition to the stay-at-home games, we are an active bunch to boot. Every day was filled with swimming and playing outside in the hot Georgia air, so most of us came back home a little darker, too. Also, on two different occasions, my mom, brother, grandfather, and I played tennis at a community park not too far from my grandparents' house. My grandfather says that he hasn't played tennis in several years, so we did a good job of whipping him back into shape. The first day I played with my mom, and my brother played with Grandpa, and the score at the end of our real set was 4-6 (we attribute our loss to practicing too long in the beginning). The second time we played, everyone was playing better and we decided not to practice as long. However, due to an unforeseen kids' tournament, we weren't able to finish our set and ended in a tie 4-4. But it was great exercise anyway, and we had fun playing. My mom and I also attended a work-out "class" conducted by my grandfather at their complex's fitness room. Needless to say we felt much better after a work-out, and of course Grandpa is a top-rate trainer.
One other good part about family get-togethers is the chance to go on outings around Atlanta. We didn't do as much sight-seeing this time around, but we were able to get out one day that week. We decided to go to the Cyclorama in downtown Atlanta, which is a Civil War museum that showcases a 360-degree painting and diorama that depicts the Battle of Atlanta. It was truly a remarkable sight, and very informative as well. However, the most memorable part for me was the fact that there is a life-sized figurine of Clark Gable in the diorama part. Apparently he and the cast of "Gone with the Wind" attended the opening of the exhibit, and he enjoyed it so much that he wanted to have his likeness captured in the diorama. Well, it is there dressed as a dead soldier (Confederate, I believe), and the speaker makes an effort to point out this particular soldier during the course of the tour.
Also during our Atlanta excursion, we decided to go to the Varsity to enjoy a hot dog. Yes, I am Mr. Food, but this was actually Uncle Tim's idea...maybe we should call him Uncle Food... Anyway, the food was great and the atmosphere is unforgettable. "Whaddaya have, whaddaya have?!" If you haven't been there or heard of the Varsity, you should check it out.
After what seemed like the shortest week ever, our great vacation was finally over on Sunday. We were able to have a great time catching up with so many people, and had fun doing it. It has been entirely too long since we all got together, but the consensus seems to be that we want to do this kind of reunion every summer from now on. I'm not sure if that will come to fruition or not, but I really like that idea. Blogs and networking sites like Facebook are not enough at times, and the ambiance at a family gathering is like nothing else I have ever experienced. There is nowhere else where I feel more "at home" and comfortable than when I am around all those people. I just want to send out a big Thank You to everyone that helped make this vacation great, with a very special thanks to my grandmother who orchestrated the whole event. I sincerely hope we can do this again very soon.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
As you should already know, I graduated from Xavier on May 16th and headed back home the next day. So far it seems like all I have done is work work work, but as my grandfather says: "if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life." Of course, this is not the case with my current job, but I still do enjoy what I do. Plus, I am so thankful to even have a job right now and to be making a fair bit more than the minimum wage (even when it goes up).
So many of you have asked me about future plans, such as if I intend to continue with my formal education or what field of occupation I intend to join. The simple answer to those questions right now is: "I don't know." I now have a B.S. degree in Biology, and I would love to continue in a scientific field. The original plan was to apply to Medical School after my undergraduate years, and I am still interested in pursuing that, only that is on the back burner for now. I have also considered the possibility of earning my Master's degree before applying to Medical School, since that looks much better on an application, and of course helps one to better prepare for professional school and careers in science.
But for now....
I am just living day-to-day. I do not have the luxury of trust fund children to sit around on the beach all summer and think about my life, but I am doing the latter in my free time. I am working about 35 hours a week as a bookkeeper at the grocery store (Ingles) that I have worked at since age 16. I am saving up as much money as possible and spending much of my free time going to the YMCA to get in better shape (I'm sure my grandfather will delight in that comment). I intend to take a year off from all academic affairs, during which time I will save up enough money to afford to go back to school and pay off debts that I have from Xavier. Also that will give me the chance to figure out what I want to do, and maybe even relax a little (God forbid I should be allowed to do that.)
As for enjoying my summer, we will be traveling to Atlanta on the first of August and staying there 9 days. As I understand it, there will be a family reunion of sorts in which most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be there to visit. I'm hoping there will be plenty of time for fun outings, good meals, and of course the obligatory games! (By that, of course, I mean Foine, Catch Phrase, and nickel dice.) Not to mention that there will be lots of catching-up since some of these people I haven't seen in quite a while. I am really looking forward to that, and getting a nice week off from work.
So, as you can see, there have been a lot of things on my mind this summer. I do want to ask one favor of my readers: your support. I know better than anyone else that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and that my readers do not hesitate to throw theirs around. While I am appreciative of your concerns, I know what I am doing, and I know what is best for me and my life. Opinions, suggestions, and comments will be taken seriously, but ultimately it is my own decision, and my wish is that everyone will respect that. Believe it or not, I have raised every objection in the book and every possibility to the choices I make; I am not that naive. I take things into consideration before I make decisions, and I am confident that I am doing what is right.
Thank you again for reading my blog and putting up with me all these years. I intend to go back to my weekly blogging, no matter what! I will try to find something each week to write about, and, hopefully, to entertain you or at least interest you. I hope all is well with you all, and I will surely hear from you soon.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
There is really no impetus for this post, just something I have begun to think about after reading this awesome quote. I will be myself and share how I feel with you in all my posts. I encourage you all to do the same with your posts. I understand that everyone has his or her own opinion about things, but let's keep this quote in mind when we read anything. No specific criticisms; again just something I have had a while to think about lately.
I'm sure you are all waiting for a juicier post that I promised, but some patience is in order here. Don't worry; I haven't forgotten you!
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
As part of the poster session, I set up my poster in a specified location and stood in front of it for approximately two and a half hours to answer questions. For the most part, only Biology faculty and Biology majors stopped to ask me anything, but it was still nice that some people were interested. I even had an education major stop by and ask me questions, and she seemed extremely interested! Only after she asked me all these questions did she tell me that this was part of an extra credit opportunity for her Psychology class... Oh well, I was happy to oblige anyway.
The Biology faculty seemed to be impressed with my work and were actively trying to understand the principles and formulate intelligent questions. Some of these faculty I haven't spoken to in several years, so it was nice to get to talk to them again. Not only did they ask research-related questions, but were genuinely concerned with me personally, such as was I excited to be a senior and so close to graduating. Or even what my plans were after leaving Xavier. Wow, that was a great feeling to actually be engaged by these brilliant people. That made me respect them even more (if that was possible).
The highlight of the poster session for me came toward the very end. As the session was wrapping up, the Dean came over and was looking around at the various posters in my area. She stopped right in front of mine, looked at the poster, and decided to ask me about it. She hadn't talked to anyone from my research group and picked me out of our four groups! This was a bit of a challenge for me, since most of the people who had stopped until now were familiar with biological terms and jargon. Since I wasn't sure what her background with Biology was, I had to be careful not to go overboard, but in the same way, she is the Dean and I didn't want to seem like I was dumbing it down. She seemed to be following along and was genuinely interested, asking intelligent questions just as the Biology faculty had done. At the end of my little talk, she seemed to be impressed and congratulated me on all my hard work. WOW! Plus she was genuinely interested in me personally, asking about what my plans were and if I was going to be at Commencement in May. Well obviously I am going, so she made a point to say, "Good, then I'll see you there!" What a rewarding experience, let me tell you. It's nice to be acknowledged, isn't it?
Part of the program, at least for the participants, was to receive a booklet with pictures of all the presenters and the abstracts of their research. (We also received a certificate for our participation, as well as a commemorative book bag for the occasion.) Our research advisor, Dr. Finke, decided to take a group picture instead of submitting individual pictures, so this was the photo that appeared in the booklet.
Underneath the picture and following on the next page were the abstracts from our presentations. So technically I was published! Here is the text of my abstract as it was included in the booklet. The only change that I made for the poster itself was that I included results as a part of the abstract. (The abstract was due about a month prior to the presentation, and at the time I didn't have results.)
EFFECTS OF SODIUM SULFATE SALINITY ON NITROGEN FIXATION ACTIVITY WITHIN THE AZOLLA-ANABAENA SYMBIOSIS
Sean M. Monroe, (Dr. Linda R. Finke)
Department of Biology
Nitrogen fixation is an important process within the nitrogen cycle in which atmospheric nitrogen is reduced to ammonia by the bacterial enzyme nitrogenase. This process is typical within bacterial-plant symbioses in which the bacterial symbiont fixes nitrogen, which in turn benefits the plant symbiont. The Azolla-Anabaena symbiosis is a perfect example of such a relationship, since the Anabaena cyanobacterium provides ammonia for the Azolla fern, while in turn receiving a suitable habitat under the leaves of the ferns. Since this symbiosis exists in aqueous environments, small changes in the content of the water can have a dramatic effect on the survival and activity of both symbionts. Salinity is one cause of such problems, and was the basis for this study. In this study, the effects of the salt sodium sulfate (Na2SO4) were studied on the Azolla-Anabaena symbiosis. The symbionts were exposed to three concentrations of Na2SO4 between 5 and 15 mM and allowed to grow for several weeks. My hypothesis was that the Na2SO4 would be detrimental to the survival of the symbionts and would cause a decrease in nitrogen fixation activity. The acetylene reduction assay was performed at hourly intervals to measure nitrogen fixation rates of the experimental groups exposed to Na2SO4. Acetylene reduction data were compared among these treatment groups, and with reference to a control group of organisms not exposed to Na2SO4 salinity.
Friday, April 17, 2009
YouTube won't let me embed this video in my blog, but I strongly recommend that you visit it here.
Frankly, if you don't cry when you watch this, you have no soul. I've watched it twice now, and I couldn't stop the tears from welling up. Yes, her voice is so beautiful, but I was also touched by how much the judges and the audience shunned her at first. That whole "don't judge the book by the cover" thing has become so cliche that it has no meaning nowadays, but I think it truly applies here. Why do people feel like they have to be so cruel and unkind?
I saw one girl in the audience that laughed hysterically when Susan was on-stage and rolled her eyes at the idea that she wanted to be a famous singer. These people didn't even give her a chance! I can honestly say that this was a wake-up call for me; I may not always give people the chance they deserve, but I can assure you that I will be much more aware of what I do, what I say, and what I think about people from now on. But, the biggest thing I have learned from this video:
NEVER LAUGH AT SOME ONE'S DREAM...
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Although during the last several years our families have not been close, we were very close when I was younger. Today I find that most of my familial communications are with my mom's family, but this was not the case when I was a child. We visited with my dad's family almost every week or every two weeks for family cookouts or meals of some kind. Plus there were occasional "reunion" type meetings; I can remember the most recent one (sad to say that 10 years ago was recent) was held in Gatlinburg, TN, in the beauty of the mountains. We always had a good time, and I always felt welcome and included.
My uncle Tom was always glad to have us over to the old house; he and his wife Carolyn took care of my mamaw and papaw in their last years. Though sometimes I felt out of place among all the adults (most of my cousins are several years older than I), Uncle Tom always made sure I was happy by giving me something to do or, with my parents' and Aunt Carolyn's permission, a little treat. I can remember very well how fascinated I was by the little M&M machine that they had, and always loved pulling the arm and getting some of those candies right in my hand! Of course, he warned me that candy is not to be eaten any time I wanted it, but when the times were right, we snacked away.
Over the years we also received special packages from Tom and Carolyn with decorations or toys for the holidays. Christmas and Halloween were the ones that I remember most vividly, and I was impressed because no one else had thought of anything like that. I looked forward to the goodies that we would get in the mail and it made the holidays that much better. In fact, I'm sure we still have some of those decorations stored away somewhere...hmm
Unfortunately over the years, our families drifted apart and we did not see each other or really communicate. Even though Uncle Tom was our closest family member in distance, we were probably the furthest apart in practice. We did send Christmas cards and other by-mail communication occasionally, and sometimes saw him around town. I can remember on several occasions, my brother Ryan saw him at antique car shows that came to our area. Uncle Tom loved antique cars, and attended these kinds of gatherings whenever he could.
I also found out only recently that he was very involved in charity work through his church. Although I did know that he was an active member of his church, I was not aware of his work with the Mission of Hope. This charity helps people who live in rural Appalachia by providing clothes, food, toys (usually at Christmas), and decent homes for the poorest of the poor in that area. It was all the more appropriate then that at his funeral, a passage from Matthew 25 was read; this is the passage that you may recall regarding "whatever you did for the least of my people, you also did unto Me." How appropriate indeed!
I was fortunate to be home for Easter break and able to attend his funeral. Since I was working, I didn't get the chance to meet with the family and friends at the receiving, but I did get the chance to pay my respects and talk with some of the family. I hadn't met with Aunt Carolyn or Tom's two daughters in many years, and I had the opportunity to meet with Carolyn and the younger daughter Erin and give my support. It was a sobering experience, but I was still glad to have been there.
Despite the fact that I have lost another family member, I am still reassured by the fact that he passed away so close to Easter. After all, Easter is all about life coming out of death! Jesus had to die to ensure eternal life for us all, and now my uncle Tom is experiencing that eternal life in Him. I know that is comforting to me as I try to understand just why things happen the way they do.
Uncle Tom, pray for us...
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
As my die-hard readers know already, I decided to take some business courses this semester, since I needed electives to complete my degree. One of these is Microeconomics, and I have been surprised to find it fascinating! One of the principles we have learned lately is the law of diminishing marginal returns. The textbook definition, as I have recorded in my lecture notes, is "as more of a variable resource is added to a fixed resource, the margin will decrease, and even become negative." The margin to which I am referring is the marginal product, which is "how the total output of a firm changes with the addition of one more unit of the variable resource." I know that's a lot of jargon mumbo-jumbo nonsense, but please bear with me.
Let's look at the example to which I was referring at the beginning of this post. Every Sunday night after I get out of Mass, I proceed to the Subway in the student center here at Xavier. I order my sandwich and pay for it, and then am on my way back to my apartment. Usually this is a quick transaction that lasts only a few minutes. However, I began to notice that there were certain occasions where I was waiting a lot longer than usual. No, this was not due to an increased volume of customers. No, this was not due to a shortage of workers. In fact, the increased wait was due to a SURPLUS of workers! Now how does that make sense?
Actually, it makes quite a bit of sense, and the law of diminishing marginal returns helps explain that. With each increase of inputs, in this case an increase in labor, the marginal product will decrease. As I have witnessed, the more workers there are on any given night, the fewer sandwiches they can make in a given time period. This illustrates that law perfectly! The increased amount of workers have to be crammed into a tight space and must share responsibilities. The sharing of these simple responsibilities leads to redundancies and inefficiency. Also, having more employees leads to goofing off and inappropriate conversations when they should be working.
So you see, this Subway restaurant works best when there are only 2-3 employees behind the counter. On nights when there are four or more employees, the service suffers, and the customers end up waiting longer to get their food. I have pointed this out to other people on several occasions, and it is quite frustrating to watch the employees goof off and carry on personal conversations when I am hungry! Thankfully, though, these incidents have been less and less frequent lately, so my eating has not been adversely affected. (Not that it ever was, of course.)
Did any of that make sense? I tried to explain it as best I could, but the concept is a little bit challenging to explain. In reality, it is quite simple and makes complete sense. Isn't it great to apply what you learn in a classroom to the real world??? That's one thing that makes Economics a fascinating subject.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
One of the most interesting food preparations we have studied was that of cheese. If you didn't already know, cheese is created by the fermentation of milk sugars by specific bacteria. The type of milk and the type of bacteria are ultimately what cause the different kinds of cheeses, and there are a lot of them, as you know. Other than that, the processes are pretty much the same. The bacteria ferment lactose and break down the proteins in the milk, causing solid particles to form within the liquid. After a while, the solids are numerous and are separated from the liquid; the solids are called curds and the liquids are called whey. "Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey" comes to mind here...
The mixture is poured through cheese cloth and allowed to drain for a while. In some cheeses, this is all that must be done. In others, the cheese cloth is tied up and allowed to hang to further allow for drainage of the whey. In others, weight is put on the cheese to extract out any moisture and keep it that way. Ultimately when the cheese is dried it comes out slightly creamy yet overwhelmingly solid, and should be refrigerated to ensure it stays fresh.
In class, we were allowed to make one of four types of cheese: mozzarella, queso fresco, yogurt cheese, or lactic cheese. The mozzarella and the queso fresco were the most time-consuming as far as that particular class time, but required no additional work. The yogurt cheese and the lactic cheese took much less time in class, but required that we come in the next day for further treatment. Since the mozzarella and queso fresco groups filled up quickly, I chose to work with some people at my lab bench on the lactic cheese. I must admit, that name was a bit of a deterrent to me at first, but I went in with the attitude that I would try it anyway and make it as good as I could.
The lactic cheese process was extremely easy. First we poured a half gallon of milk (I think it was 1% or maybe whole...it had a red label, if that means anything to you) into a saucepan and heated it over a hot plate. The temperature had to be 30 degrees C (around 86 degrees F), since that is the optimum temperature for the bacteria involved. A small amount of a starter culture of bacteria was added and stirred, and allowed to heat with the milk. Once the temperature was reached, we added a small amount of the enzyme mixture rennet, which allows for the formation of curds. After this was stirred up thoroughly, the mixture was poured into a large container, covered, and set out overnight at room temperature. My official part of this section of the cheese making was that of stirrer. However, two people were needed to check on the cheese the next day: one in the morning to filter and hang the cheese, and one in the afternoon to take it down, stir it up, and refrigerate it. Since none of the other group members could come in during the morning, and I had a free hour after my 8:30 class, I decided to be the morning person.
When I got there in the morning, I checked the consistency of the cheese. For some reason I was anticipating that the cheese would still be liquid and not form any curds, but thankfully I was wrong. I poured the mixture through the cheese cloth and allowed it to drain for a while in a colander. Then I tied it up with string and made several unprofessional knots to hang it for further draining. Then I left it for the afternoon person making sure she knew which cheese was ours and when I had hung it to drain.
Today was judgment day: time to taste the cheese of our labor. It's always a little nerve wracking to try things you have made yourself in lab, since you are well aware of how things can go wrong. But hey, this is cheese, a food we all love. So we tried it all. And we loved it all! Despite the name "lactic cheese," everyone tried it and it was the biggest hit of them all. By itself it was a little bland, but with the recommended addition of spices and salt, that turned into an awesome spread for crackers. At the end of class, some of us were asking to take some of it home (including myself), and mixed our own combinations of seasonings. I did try it all, and the lactic cheese and the mozzarella were the best of all; I have some in my refrigerator waiting for me.
So now I have a much better appreciation of one of my favorite foods. Maybe some day I'll show y'all what it's all about. I know I enjoyed doing it, and of course the end products are mucho delicioso...
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
1. It was not Spring.
2. I did not get any real "break."
The end of February and the beginning of March are by no means spring-like. In fact, some of those nights were the coldest it has been this year! Fortunately enough, the last few days I was home on my "break," we had weather in the 60s and 70s, which was a welcome change for me.
I had no real "break" because this time home was a working vacation from school. Of the ten days I was home, seven of those were spent working at Ingles. Of course if you take away the day I arrived and the day I left, I actually worked seven of the eight full 24-hour-days that I was home. What can I say though? I'm a college student nearing graduation that needs moolah!
I did take off from work on Monday the 2nd for my dad's birthday, and the family and I went out for that. I also got together with some friends for lunch one day, and the time I wasn't working I spent at home with whomever was around that day. All in all, it was a productive vacation as far as the income game goes. The school work game...well, let's just say it was a TRUE vacation from school!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
While it is not important that you know what all of my Lenten sacrifices will be, since each person's plans are personal, suffice it to say I will not be satisfied by simply giving things up. Below you will find YouTube videos of a prayer I have elected to say every day whenever I have the free time. This set of three videos shows the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is just an overall great prayer. If you want more information about it, go here. It is simply a beautiful prayer, and praying for mercy and peace for myself and the whole world is a great way to prepare for the season of Easter. (Not to mention that the prayer was first revealed to the recently canonized St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, of Poland. A shout out to all my Polish family!)
Happy Ash Wednesday to all; I for one will be getting my ashes tonight.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
It all sounds very complicated, but in practice is quite easy. For the research I am doing, I am measuring acetylene reduction activity by an enzyme (nitrogenase) present in certain bacteria, in my case, a bacterium that lives in a symbiotic relationship with plants. Acetylene is a gas with the formula C2H2; the nitrogenase enzyme "reduces" acetylene to ethylene, a gas with the formula C2H4. After injecting a measured amount of acetylene into a vial containing the plant/bacteria symbionts, the vials are set aside to allow for photosynthesis and acetylene reduction to occur over time. At certain time intervals, a small amount of the gas phase is removed from the vials and injected into the GC to measure the relative concentrations of acetylene and ethylene present in the sample.
Below I have scanned in a print-out that I recorded during an acetylene reduction assay that I performed this past Friday. The first peak shown is that of methane gas (CH4), which is apparently present in the tank of acetylene already. The second peak is that of ethylene, the peak in which I am most interested. Finally, the third peak is that of acetylene, which is so large that our graph cannot fully capture it. There are two sets of peaks shown in this print-out. Sorry that the image is so straining on the eyes; the lines on the paper ended up standing out more than the red peaks.
Even though this whole process is very time-consuming, according to my professor/advisor, I had excellent data from my acetylene reduction assay. Apparently the bacteria in my plants are readily reducing acetylene, and increasing with time, a good indicator of the nitrogen fixation activity that the nitrogenase enzyme actually performs. Nitrogen fixation is the process by which nitrogen gas (N2), the largest component of air, is "fixed" by the bacteria into ammonia (NH3), which can be used up by the plants as a nutrient. So, you see, the good results from the acetylene reduction outweighs the amount of time that I spent in the lab.
I can imagine that at least several of you have no interest whatsoever in this information, and may find this information boring and useless. I can admit that it is a little bit boring to read about this stuff; science has to be experienced, not just read. So, believe me when I say that it is much more interesting in practice. Wanna try sometime?
Sunday, February 08, 2009
The first VIP celebrating today is my mom, Karen. Unfortunately I will not be home to celebrate and spoil her on her day, but what can you do? More unfortunately still, she will be spending her day working and doing paperwork. Happy Birthday anyway!
The second VIP celebrating today is Adrienne. Unfortunately I have not grown the ability to spontaneously fly, so I can not make it to sunny CA to celebrate and spoil her on her day either. More unfortunately still, she will be working too! Happy Birthday anyway!
I hope both of you have a great, happy, hopefully somewhat relaxing day, and that you both have many, many more Happy Birthdays to come!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I did some more walking around today as I went to the cafeteria for some lunch, only to find the beauty that is ice-covered plants. I snapped a few pictures on my way, but when I came back, I came across such a surprise. A few of the fattest, happiest birds I have ever seen were playing in the iced-over trees! All of the trees they were "playing" in had bright red ripe berries for the picking, so of course they were looking to score some delicious food. I can only imagine their dismay to find out that the berries were all frozen, but I got a great picture of them! I'm sure they'll have a nice little meal anyway, as soon as the ice goes away...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Some people, not really myself (any more), enjoy playing in the snow. I could be happy just walking around in it and taking pictures, which is lucky for you, since here are the pictures I took on my walk! I'm sure doing snow angels or having a good-natured snowball fight would be fun, but I'm just enjoying the beauty right now. I hope you enjoy it too, and that you can do so from the comfort of either a warm climate or a warm home.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Round two begins Tuesday evening with additional snow accumulations of about 1-2 inches, but the likelihood of seeing ice is much greater. We are expecting from 0.5-1 inch of ice between the two snow events, which as many know will be the more dangerous form of precipitation. Class cancellations for Wednesday? More possible and highly probable.
Obviously if you know me at all, you know that I love the snow (or even the prospects of getting any of it). And, as you already know, I love to take pictures of it and post them on here. So, if the situation warrants itself, and we do indeed receive as much snow as they are hyping, I will do my duty with the picture-taking. I for one will be praying for tons of the white stuff. The class cancellations? Just an added bonus.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Balance Sheet
The Income Statement
The Statement of Retained Earnings
The Statement of Cash Flows
In order to illustrate how these documents can be used, my professor brought in several sets of the classic board game Monopoly and gave us specific instructions for game play. We were broken into groups and played as pairs in our own "business partnership." Each pair was given $1500 in stock and $500 in a bank loan (equity and liability, respectively) and was told to purchase any property on which we landed, and to build a house on that property. All along, we were to keep account of everything we bought, paid out, or collected, listing every monetary transaction as either an increase or a decrease in cash.
By the end of the game, an arbitrary time decided upon by the professor, we were to match up the amount of cash in our hands with the amount of cash in the paperwork. Being naturally gifted with math and everything numerical, I was able to come up with that accounting very easily and quickly and precisely. Following this, we were to create a beginning and ending balance sheet to determine our ending assets and equity (the liabilities, the $500 loan, did not change). Our ending assets (property and cash) totaled $2188, and our ending equity totaled $1688. Upon finding this value, we created an income statement to determine whether we had a net gain or loss. We obtained a net income of $188. Success!
We did not get to the other two statements during the Monopoly game, however we did discuss them in class this past Tuesday. We have been practicing creating these statements and calculating the respective values in order to get used to reading and interpreting financial accounting statements. So far, I am enjoying this class. I will be sure to blog more about my experiences and learning as the semester progresses.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I had Bacteriology Lab during the swearing-in ceremony, but luckily for me (perhaps unluckily for some students), my professor brought up a live feed from CNN.com and projected it on a screen in our laboratory classroom. That whole process had to be one of the most exhilarating television experiences of my life (save for maybe the night Obama was elected). The bands playing, the speeches, the sea of humanity, the look of excitement on peoples' faces, the piece by the classical musicians... It was all too much. Too much I say!! Need I describe to you the joy and excitement in my heart and soul, and the tears in my eyes? I think not.
Apart from the fact that Chief Justice Roberts messed up the Oath of Office (which my professor was quick to point out and say, "Shame on him" for), the whole Inauguration process went off very well. To my knowledge, this is the first one that I have gotten to watch at any significant length, so of course this will be the one I remember the best. Maybe to some this is just a routine thing, but to me it really was a magnificent experience, and you can't take that away from me (that means YOU all you doubters and pessimists!).
I for one will be watching the next four years with great interest. I have a lot of hope and faith that this president will do what's right for this country. Despite his many critics (several of you read and comment on this very blog), I believe and hope that President Obama will bring this country into a new era of prosperity and wealth for ALL Americans. Mr. Obama, you and the great US of A will be in my prayers daily...
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
In case you have no idea what raclette is, I shall enlighten you. Apparently it is a Swiss dish (as explained to me by my all-knowledgeable mother) that is made on a special raclette grill. My parents received a raclette grill for a wedding present from Aunt Lori, and boy have we gotten some good use out of it! Anyway, raclette is a dish that contains potatoes, bacon (or I would imagine some other fancy Swiss pork meat), and an easy-melting cheese (Gruyere is apparently very popular, but very expensive). We use monterrey jack cheese due to the tastiness and ease of melting.
May I just say, mmm mmm mmm. It does take some time to cook as you wait for the bacon to cook before adding the cheese to melt. But the finished product...oh my... Just pour over the potato and enjoy! Of course, you should also have a side dish or a salad while you are waiting. Plus, since I'm sure the meal itself is not particularly healthy, you should probably have some leafy greens to counteract the fat that you are consuming. At least then you don't feel so guilty for indulging...
I have not really researched how easy it is to obtain a raclette grill, but from what I can hear, it is not easy. Apparently the one my parents received was bought by Aunt Lori on a trip to Switzerland, and I would imagine they are sold almost exclusively there. But still, if you can make it for yourself, I'm sure you will not be disappointed. Just be sure to have a nice workout the next day...
Thursday, January 01, 2009
As I sit and type this post, I am the only one awake in the house to welcome in the new 2009. Oh well. Guess I'll have champagne all by myself, if I can find any that is.
At any rate, I hope everyone out there in blog land has a very happy and healthy 2009. May your year be filled with wealth, health, success, love, and above all HAPPINESS.