Birthday Dinner Party at M.Y. China

Martin Yan is the older guy on the left. He sat next to my wife! Eeeeee! *faints*
Martin Yan is the older guy on the left. He sat next to my wife! Eeeeee! *faints*

I went to a birthday party for a friend at a restaurant called M.Y. China.

At first I was sketpical as the restaurant is inside a mall in San Francisco.

Once we got there my face lit up and I got really excited. There was a sign out front of the restaurant that said, “Head chef Martin Yan is personally in the restaurant tonight.”

Martin Yan is a famous Chinese chef who’s hosted cooking shows for the last 30 years. He’s also written cookbooks, one of which I’ve bought in the past.

So M.Y. China isn’t some weird way of spelling My China. It’s “Martin Yan China!”

I got even more excited once we got in the restaurant because apparently the birthday girl’s dad is Martin Yan’s dentist. She is the dental hygienist who cleans his kid’s teeth when they go to the dentist.

Because of that we got a personal visit to our table from Martin Yan and some pictures! And when he talked to the table he put his hand on my back. I got touched by a famous person! Oh Boy!

The food was obviously excellent. We got a bunch of different dishes to share.

There was an amazing tofu dish in a thick soy sauce. There was sweet and sour pork. The pork was breaded like usual, but with something with the texture of bacon included in the breading.

There were scissor cut noodles with soy sauce covering them.

There was rice with soy sauce. That really pointed out to me how good the soy sauce was. It included peppers in it or something to make it taste way better than the normal Kikkoman soy sauce that everyone else uses.

There were sea food dumplings with peppers on top of them as well.

My mouth is watering while writing this. Unfortunately, I’m not a food critic so I can’t do the restaurant justice in this post. The food was amazing.

There were plenty of other dishes, but sadly not very many vegetarian ones. My wife got to eat some rice with spicy green beans. The green beans were good, but not as extraordinary as everything else at the restaurant.

Overall a great restaurant with great food!

-Mister Ed

Last Day of Work

No More Work Keys
My keychain has four fewer keys on it now.

On Friday I had my last day of work at my old job in the rice lab.

It was a bit anticlimactic to leave because a lot of the people I wanted to say goodbye to weren’t there on my last day.

Still, my two supervisors were there. We went out for coffee and talked about my future plans.

It was kind of nice to talk to them as friends. I heard about their families and what their lives are like. I’d like to be in their place in a few years, minus the Chinese immigrant status.

I packed up all my stuff from my job: computer, lab pants, old cords, and old notebook.

I had to leave behind a few things as well like my keys, my new notebook, and a few data sheets that are probably irrelevant at this point.

The last few weeks at work have been a little boring.

I was originally hired to sequence the genome of rice leaves, but that project got passed on to other people.

I was then put on a project of organizing the huge database of rice seeds in the storage room (probably over 10,000 varieties of rice all thrown into cardboard boxes).

I finished that project in June.

For the past two months I’ve been keeping an eye on the rice plants in the greenhouse and doing regular maintenance stuff in the lab.

It wasn’t anything fancy, but it wasn’t particularly challenging either.

I started at my Master’s program today and I felt a lot better almost the instant I stepped on campus. I get to learn things again! I’m so excited!

While it was sad to leave my old job and even sadder that I left it with a whisper instead of a party, I’m psyched for what’s coming in the future!

-Mister Ed

Bois Blanc Island Dinners

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Food on the Island

Due to popular request (one person) I’ll be going into a little more depth about what food we ate on Bois Blanc Island.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of what we ate. Instead, here’s a nice before and after photo of our rental car’s license plate.

Look at how much dust gets on a car when it drives on Bois Blanc!
Look at how much dust gets on a car when it drives on Bois Blanc!

And now on to the food!

There were seven dinners we had on the Island. Ribs, meatloaf, tacos, kebabs, risotto, lasagna, and one night we went out to Hawk’s.

My wife and I made the risotto. We enjoy making it together a lot.

Risotto is a dish made from rice and broth for those of you who don’t know.

The broth is slowly added to the rice over a low flame. The rice absorbs more and more of the broth until it goes past normal rice consistency into something more like thick stew.

Vegetables and stuff are added to the risotto as well. Carrots, peas, celery, or potatoes.

Spice are welcome as well. Garlic, salt and pepper usually.

Most people add something more substantial like meat as well. My wife is a vegetarian so we opted for cheese and mushrooms instead.

It tastes pretty much like what you’d expect, thick rice stew. We really like it!

Risotto seemed a little boring for us to serve on its own. We included a side dish of roasted potatoes covered in honey dijon mustard and my aunts made a salad as well.

We were a little worried that risotto would weird people out but I think it was a success!

The other notable dinners were mostly the meat ones because of what my wife ate instead.

We were forewarned that my grandmother would be making ribs ahead of time. Fortunately, there is an excellent substitute meat product made by Morningstar for ribs. I call them fibs because they are fake ribs.

My wife ate the fibs while everyone else ate the ribs.

My wife made a side dish for herself of macaroni and cheese (her favorite) to replace the meatloaf.

My aunts made my wife some kebabs without chicken for that dinner. Unfortunately most of the vegetarian kebabs were bell peppers which my wife doesn’t like.

The gesture of preparing something especially for my wife to eat was still appreciated. My wife still had plenty to eat with all the other food made by my aunts (salad, leftovers, crackers, bread, etc).

So there it is! A few of the dinners that my family had on Bois Blanc Island.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Arriving to and Leaving from the Island

Rice Husks and Video Games

I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.
I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.

Rice seeds grow with a husk around them. After the husk is removed they look like the rice you buy in a store.

Sometimes the seeds from a particular strain don’t grow right.

The lack of growth often happens because a fungus infected the seed from the start.

The fungus is removed by washing the seed.

The husk needs to be removed first to ensure the seed is fully cleaned, just like you have to take off all of your clothes to ensure your body is fully cleaned when you shower or bathe.

While I was washing the seeds in diluted bleach I talked with one of my friends in the lab about streaming Hearthstone.

The oldest member of the lab besides the professor (I sometimes call him the lab fossil) overheard us and was curious about what streaming was.

We described it to him and he was a little surprised that people would want to watch others play video games.

He’s seen his son play first person shooter (FPS) games and he dislikes them, but not for the usual reasons.

The lab fossil dislikes FPS games because they don’t match reality.

He feels they teach people that if you die/fail you can just get a do-over where you try again.

The real world and the real battlefield doesn’t work that way. If you die in real life, you’re dead.

You can’t respawn, you can’t start over from the beginning. It’s over.

He told us about when he was in the army for two years.

All the time they would do drills and the drills were about staying alive.

Not about shooting and killing others no matter the consequences to yourself like in FPS games.

One of the first things the lab fossil learned is that if you hear gunfire, you should immediately drop to the ground (something people in gang neighborhoods already know).

He told us that the way you survive a battle is by finding cover, not shooting your gun.

He said bullets are heavy, you don’t want to waste them, you might need them later to survive.

My past experience with army veterans is that they never want to talk about their experiences.

Out of respect, I’ve never asked them to recall memories that might be painful for them.

This was one of the first times I actually got to talk about war with a soldier, even if he’d never been actively deployed.

It was a good learning experience.

-Mister Ed

Small Leg Injury

dammit, tim. 

So this afternoon I injured my leg. I took a picture of it, but it looks nasty. I decided you should get a picture of a beaver and his friends instead.

I hurt my leg while at work. It’s not broken or anything like that. I received a cut in a strange way.

You see we have these rolling tables at work for putting rice plants on at the greenhouse.

The tables are designed for maximum storage capacity. I’d guess that their dimensions are 5’x8′ (1.52mx2.44m).

The tables are supported by two long sliders.

Two rollers rest perpendicular along both sliders, one at each end.

The chain link fence material table then rests on top of that.

The rice plants then go on top of that.

The purpose of this is so that the table can roll back and forth.

There are four tables in the greenhouse, two on each side with a pathway through the middle.

The default position of the tables is to be rolled back against the walls.

The whole thing is designed to save horizontal space.

The tables can be rolled out into the pathway and one can go behind them to reach the plants on that side of the table.

It works great and its actually a lot of fun to roll the tables back and forth.

But since the whole thing is to save space, the greenhouse gets a little cramped.

Today while I was disposing of some old plants I rolled the table out to reach the back plants.

I placed my leg incorrectly and the table rolled over it, pinching my skin.

The injury looks kind of weird. Like a mix between a bruise and a snake bite. I think it looks most like the head of this guy from Star Wars.

Anyways, kinda nasty.

A lot of other cool stuff has been happening lately too. Father’s Day for one!

More posts on that stuff soon.

-Mister Ed

Which Lab for Grad School?

This is the microscope I use to inject DNA into nematode worms.
This is the microscope I use to inject DNA into nematode worms.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about which lab I should work in for grad school.

As it turns out I get to choose among a few different options.

The folks at Sacramento State are okay with me doing my research at either of my labs in Davis.

I’ve been with the rice lab for almost three years now and feel I’ve gotten what I wanted to out of it.

I’ve already written some goodbye/thank you letters, but have yet to hand them out. I’m just ready to leave the rice lab.

Yesterday I looked up some information on what exactly I’d be doing if I joined the new professor’s lab at Sac State.

The professors old students finished their theses which are then stored in the school library.

Recently the library has started putting digital copies of the theses online. I read a few of the more recent ones that were uploaded.

While the research is interesting, there was nothing that I wanted to do more than the intron research I do currently.

Part of it was the occupational hazard of working with food pathogens. Most food pathogens are collected from raw food samples or from poop.

The idea of having to collect poop samples and work with them… Let’s say its not on my bucket list and leave it at that.

Continuing my intron research would be awesome though. The project has room for expansion and it fits better with what I want to do on a grander scale.

I want to create tools for people to use in other laboratories. Enhancing introns could be used in any laboratory to fine-tune the expression of a gene to the exact level required for an experiment.

I want to create tools like that when I get an official job as a researcher, so it would be best if I did my Master’s Thesis on the same topic.

So it looks like I will be attending Sac State next year but performing my research at UC Davis on introns!

-Mister Ed

Disposing of GMOs

The rice we grow in one of my lab's greenhouses.
The rice we grow in one of my lab’s greenhouses.

Yesterday I was working out at the greenhouse for my rice genetics lab.

I was getting rid of some old rice plants that we’d collected the seed from and no longer needed.

If a plant got to this point in a garden you’d normally throw it in the compost so it would be useful next year.

That’s not allowed for the rice we work with in my lab because it is an untested transgenic line.

Some members of the public dislike altering the genetics of food crops to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are a couple of logical reasons for this and a couple of illogical ones.

Logical reasons include: religious objection, lack of crop diversification, cross-species allergens, and the strengthening of agribusiness monopolies that often accompanies GMO crop use.

Illogical reasons often have something to do with safety or not knowing what is in a product when you purchase it at the grocery store.

I could go on about this a lot. GMOs are a complex topic with a lot of ground to cover, but that wasn’t why I was writing this post today.

Because of the fear of GMOs, they need to go through extensive testing before they are declared legally safe. This testing can take up to ten years.

We don’t do that for every strain of modified rice in our lab, so certain precautions need to be taken.

Yesterday I cut off all the excess seeds on the old rice plants. The seeds go into a plastic bag.

The seed bag and the leftover portion you can see above both go into an orange dumpster at the center of the greenhouse complex.

All the stuff in the orange dumpster then goes into a special oven that ensures the modified crops won’t somehow get into the wild and start growing there.

After the special oven, called an autoclave, has destroyed the genetic material in the rice it can go into a normal dumpster or be used for compost.

Just another little glimpse at my job!

-Mister Ed

Exhausting Day

Really long day at work today.

I got to work today to count some germinated rice seeds.

Rice grows best if its put into water to sprout before planted in dirt.

My lab puts the rice seeds into petri dishes in an incubator and waits a week before transfering them into pots at the greenhouse.

I checked to see which seeds had germinated in the incubator and two out of the hundred I put there last week had failed to germinate.

I redid those two for next week, then I set out for the greenhouse.

I wasn’t planting those germinated seeds yet though. First, I collected seeds from one of our older crops of plants.

Then I came back to drop of the collected seeds and grab the germinated seeds.

I went out to a different greenhouse in a fenced in area.

I’d set up the pots to plant them in earlier this week, but the watering system hadn’t been set up for them.

I don’t know how to set it up, so I called my boss and he sent over someone to help me with it.

He helped me put it together and taught me how to set up the dripper water system myself next time.

I realized I’d forgotten to bring labels for my plants, so I asked that guy to go bring them for me.

I started planting the rice and he came back later with some labels, but they were the wrong ones.

I apologized for not being specific enough about which labels I needed and sent him back to get the right ones.

He found them and brought them back around 5.

I stayed there until about 6 to finish planting all the seeds.

The gates for the fence around the greenhouses close at 5.

I called my boss for the combination on the gate lock, but my cell reception was bad and he kept cutting out.

I ending up lifting my bike over the 7 foot fence and then climbing over after it.

I got home with my back side covered in water from carrying the germinated seeds around in their petri dishes full of water and extremely tired from working in greenhouses for about 6 hours.

Gonna sleep like a log tonight.

-Mister Ed

Coke Floats and a Full Day

Two Coke floats my wife and I made.
Two Coke floats my wife and I made.

I wanted two root beer floats tonight, but we didn’t have any root beer in the house.

I made Coke floats instead.

We only had enough vanilla ice cream for one float, so I used chocolate in the other one.

They were not really root beer floats, but they were really nice.

And apparently my wife never had a root beer float, so this was her first experience.

The floats were an end to a long day which involved: getting fewer privileges at work, trouble shooting a problem at work, talking about relationships, having a birthday lunch with a friend, organizing vacations, doing laundry, cleaning cat poo, and at the end I got floats!

Previously I had thought it was alright to watch Youtube videos at work while I sorted seeds. Boss said no today. I’m disappointed, but its not unreasonable of him to ask this.

Isolating DNA from rice leaves hasn’t been going well. We’ve been getting errors and we finally narrowed down the error to a salt we use.

The stock salt we use to make the salt solution looked dirty though. I cleaned it. We’ll see if it’s good next week.

I talked with my coworker while sorting seeds about his future plans with his girlfriend. He wants to move in with her, but she thinks marriage is the next step.

They’ll probably just live close to each other next year. Right now they live around an hour apart.

One of my old friends from my organic chemistry class sophomore year had a birthday today!

I took him out to lunch at Taco Bell (he chose it). We talked about life and stuff. It was a lot of fun!

When I got home I organized my Memorial Day vacation with my father-in-law.

Another old friend, from high school this time, wants to hang out on the actual Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Organized stuff to make it work.

Laundry and cleaning the litter box are pretty typical chore things.

And chocolate ice cream in vanilla Coke to end the day!

-Mister Ed

Lab Construction Work

The new shelves where rice seeds for the sequencing project I work on will be stored.
The new shelves where rice seeds for the sequencing project I work on will be stored.

Yesterday I got home pretty tired after work.

The picture above is what I did at work. I made some shelves and put some boxes on them. That took all day.

The shelves came in five different cardboard boxes.

The lab manager and I put the shelves together in the hallway because there isn’t enough room for it on the floor in this room. That took about an hour.

We pushed the shelves in after putting them together. Everyone laughed thinking that we couldn’t fit them through the door. SHOWED THEM DIDN’T WE?!?

The shelves are seven feet tall. They’ll be holding the thousands of different varieties of seed in those boxes on them.

Next, the lab manager wanted to construct another set of shelves for other lab storage.

This other shelf had to fit into a space taken up by even more shelves.

The lab manager, another lab guy, and I spent half an hour shoving the other shelves around until there was just enough room to squeeze the new set of shelves in.

The lab manager started putting together that other shelf while I and the other lab guy worked on those boxes you can see in the picture.

Each box holds more than a hundred varieties of seed. Some hold close to 600.

These seeds were stored in ordinary cardboard boxes previously. Like the kind that you pack your stuff in when you move.

This storage was pretty unorganized. Our job is to sort them out and put them into the new boxes which will be much more organized.

So I spent all day taking envelopes of rice seeds from one box, writing down what the envelopes said on an Excel sheet, and putting the envelope into a new box.

It is WAY more ordered now. Previously, it’d take 5 minutes to find a particular variety of seed. When we’re done it’ll take 5 seconds.

I worked my way through one cardboard moving box and was on my second when the day finished.

The other lab worker and I got through about 1,000 seed varieties each. Lots more boxes to go through though!

This taste of the more mundane side of lab life was brought to you by the talking horse.

-Mister Ed