Saturday, June 22, 2013

Belated Anniversary Surprise

Matt and I aren't really romantics, we don't often celebrate birthdays or anniversaries in a grandiose fashion, and we definitely don't do Valentine's like "normal" couples. But we do enjoy going on adventures :) Since we weren't able to do anything super awesome on our four-cubed-versary, Matt "surprised" me with a night stay at a fancy hotel we've been interested in since we got married. I say "surprised" because I already knew we were going, but he planned it all himself ;)

We didn't tell any of our friends, since we wanted to just do something incognito, but we took a trip up to Appleton this past Monday for our adventure. The weather on our drive up was beautiful:

We drove into town and made our way to the Copper Leaf, a boutique hotel right in the heart of downtown Appleton. After checking in and getting dressed for dinner, we went out to our favorite restaurant, Fratello's, an awesome dining establishment inside a renovated hydroelectric plant right on the Fox River.

Foolishly, I didn't take any good pictures of the outside of the hotel OR the inside of our suite, but it was nice and cute with a whirlpool, and also a bottle of wine for the anniversary couple :) *how sweet* Though I did manage to snap this fancy artwork that was hanging in our room, which upon seeing it I immediately thought "Lannisters!" :D

Thanks for the secret adventure, hubzy! We will be back in Appleton this Sunday for an OFFICIAL visit, and hope to see all of our friends either at church or out for lunch!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Science Saturday 5.1: Speedy Cheetahs, Citizen Science & More

After moving and trying to get settled in, as well as the start of summer, it's time for a new installment of SciSat! I'm aiming for new posts every other week.


I've blogged about citizen science before (here and here), but has compiled a great list of current citizen science projects, and plans to blog all summer long with stories about citizen science and their contributions to scientific research. I will definitely be looking into some of these awesome projects - especially the ones that are game-oriented!


Using a "non-insvasive 'cap'" to monitor brain activity, researchers have taken the next step forward in demonstrating how a thought-controlled device could work. Test subjects wore this cap, and were instructed to think of various movement controls as if they were flying a helicopter (clench left to move left, pull back to move up, etc). Their monitored brain activity revealed certain patterns which were able to be recognized over wi-fi control of the device. In the video below, a quadrocopter (a type of nanorobot) is controlled by these learned patterns, and navigation success rates were as high as 90%. This technology could be helpful for those with neurodegenerative disabilities, such as controlling a wheelchair or a robotic arm.

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Though the artifacts were discovered in 1899, it was only recently discovered that a Neanderthal bone fragment contained a 120,000 year old tumor. Using a micro-CT scanner, researchers were able to accurately image the bone, determining a fibrous dysplasia was present in the Neanderthal's rib.


We've all heard about how cheetahs are the fastest land animal, but until now, speeds have only been recorded on a captive cheetah running on a greyhound track (64mph). New scientific tracking collars have been placed on wild cheetahs in Botswana, and the data tracked the animals' position and acceleration, allowing greater control of speed/movement data. It turns out that while the fastest cheetah hit a speed of 59mph, the more significant data revealed that the cheetahs only averaged a speed of 33mph with greater maneuverability and agility. This makes sense as they must be quick to turn, dodge, and pounce after prey.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Greetings from Wisconsin

We made it! Approximately 900 miles in 2 days, following a 26' moving truck towing our RAV4, faulty air conditioning in our car, wired on Sour Patch Kids...we left Mississippi on good terms with plenty of memories and have arrived in our homeland.

Up next: securing jobs, learning to adjust living with my in-laws, and eating lots of custard, brats, cheese, kringle, and other Wisconsin-y delicacies.

This is home.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Movie Binge

It's no secret that I love movies. I love using letterboxd as a film diary and place to rate/review what I've seen. Every now and then I got through periods of movie madness when I just want to immerse myself in film and analyze it to pieces (like during Oscar season). Well this week, I started using the hashtag #moviebinge on Twitter (not a novel hashtag - boo, I thought I was being innovative) to tweet short quips about all the movies I was marathoning while cleaning/packing up the apartment. Below you'll find my full ratings*/reviews for what I watched.

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn 
I'll be honest, when I play Halo, I don't pay much attention to the plot. I mean, Master Chief is cool and all, but I don't really care about the other characters...But this web series/film makes me want to go back and play through everything just so I can pay closer attention to the "background" characters and plot. 

Following a young Cadet Thomas Lasky, we are introduced into the civilian perspective of the war...first with insurrectionists, and later with the Covenant.I thought the acting was decent, but the filming was quite well done (for a low budget operation). This definitely gives me hope for quality of the upcoming Halo TV series.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire ★1/2
Basically, this movie is Stargate: The Animated Picture. Milo Thatch IS Daniel Jackson (though I say Milo is slightly more awesome because Michael J Fox is the man).

I loved how the plot basically came down to this color scheme: Blue = good magicks / Red = EVILLLLL.

I understand what they were trying to do by adopting a different animation style (inspired by comic book artist Mike Mignola) and while it looks ok, it doesn't really work for me as a Disney film. It's just missing that "Disney charm" found in the Disney films of the golden age/prime/early 90s.

I remember this movie being bad, but not THIS bad. It's like the filmmakers wanted to destroy and franchise and have everyone hate their work.

First of all, the movie drags on and on. The movie felt like it had already built up and lost steam at the 40min mark. We're not even halfway through the movie yet?! While normally I think Matthew Broderick is "adorkable" (did I really just use that term? I hate that term), he was awful in this. Oh! Let's use "big words" to make him sound like a legitimate scientist...oh wait, he's not saying anything the average person doesn't already know. And the female love interest, I don't even know who the actress is, was AWFUL. She takes blonde valley-girl stereotypes to a whole new level.

I'm not even going to comment on the awful science regarding GOJIIIRAAAA...just so bad. The only reason to watch this movie is to see Hank Azaria as a ridiculous Jersey boy.

Street Fighter 
If you think about some of the movies that came out in the 90's, this actually makes a decent campy action flick. The fight scenes are good, and there is some semblance of a plot. And of course, no review would be complete without paying homage to Raul Julia - thought not his best role, he was still a commanding presence.

As a kid who didn't know any better, a movie about some cool video game characters seemed awesome. As an adult seeking nostalgia, unfortunately these characters fall short. Why was Ken Masters such a dweeb? Chun-Li is a reporter? Blanka is a product of Gatorade transfusions and brainwashing?

The acting is horrible all around, which is made worse by the cheesy one-liners and bad writing. But like I said, for a campy 90s popcorn flick, it hits the mark.

Blue Like Jazz 
This movie was...interesting. I have to re-read the book because I honestly didn't remember a lot of his experiences, but I remembered there was stuff I agreed with and stuff I didn't agree with. Since the book was more a memoir in the style of ramblings, it was a bit awkward to piece together the narrative in the film.

The acting was decent...better than most Christian indie films. But I feel like the movie suffers from being too "middle-ground" by not diving deeply into the doubt Don had, and also not fleshing out the relationships that helped him realize/strengthen his faith. The confession booth scene was powerful, though. It's not easy to ask for forgiveness when you're supposed to be a "holy Christian" but like Penny said in the film, "we all make mistakes, we all have our own crap."

Hopefully this film can help people (Christians and non-Christians) to put away the pretense and accept that we aren't perfect...and maybe find Christ along the way.

A "dark comedy," Special puts an interesting twist on superhero films, while taking a jab at pharmaceutical companies. Michael Rapaport is one of those actors who is in EVERYTHING but you don't really remember his name. He really shows off his acting chops in this film.

As with a lot of indie films, the ending is quite ambiguous, not really giving any resolution and leaving it up to the viewer to interpret what really happens to the main character. I like resolution (or at least a clearer ambiguity, if that makes sense) so that kind of ruined the plot for me. There were also quite a few subplots that could have been explored more (like the adorable stuttering cashier/possible love interest).

What movies have you seen lately?

*ratings are on a 5 star scale

Friday, June 7, 2013

Tea for Two

My history with tea goes back several years. I remember doing a persuasive speech assignment on the health benefits of tea vs. coffee back in high school english class. In college, when caffeine was a necessity, I turned to tea because I've never really liked the taste of coffee. But I'd always just bought the cheap tea bag brands found at the grocery story. When Matt and I first became friends, a couple months later he got me a tea sampler from Adagio Teas for Christmas (I didn't get him anything...shows that Matt was more ready for a commitment than I was ;) I keed I keed). That was my first taste of loose leaf teas. When brewed properly, the flavor is WONDERFUL. I was hooked.

Flash forward to a few years of marriage, and Matt and I have accumulated quite a stash of teas. But this hasn't stopped me from purchasing new blends to try. I've talked about Adagio's fandom blends before, and the site let's any member can create their own signature blends. My friend Valerie has become quite the tea blending enthusiast, and when she asked me "What would a 'Mariel' tea taste like?" What a challenge! How would I define myself as a flavorful tea?! Well I finally sat down tonight and tried my hand at making some blends.

My favorites are white teas, rooibos teas, & sweet and fruity blends. Matt's favorites are aromatic herbals like jasmine or lemongrass. So here we are, two signature blends inspired by our personalities & tastes.

The Mariel Tea is a blend of rooibos vanilla chai, black raspberry, & honeybush vanilla with an accent of raspberry leaves. MJ's Spiced Green Jasmine is a blend of rooibos jasmine, lemongrass, & gunpowder with an accent of cardamom.

Matt's tea is currently unavailable because they are restocking their gunpowder leaves, but as soon as it's back in stock, I'll be excited to order these and try them out! Feel free to try them and let me know what you think! Both tea blends are in a "'ship" meaning if you purchase them together, there is a 10% discount. I also have $5 gift certificates to send, so when you are ready to order, let me know!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spectacle of Spectacles

It's been 2 years since I've had a new pair of glasses (which I blogged about here), and even then, the prescription I used to get them was outdated (or close to). It got to the point where I couldn't see the TV screen very clearly while sitting on our couch only a few feet away. Needless to say, it was due time that I got some newer ones.

Because we are moving in a week, I wanted to have an updated pair so that if I needed to drive, I could do so without having to wear my contacts for the whole 13-hour trip. So updated prescription in hand, I decided to try out the "First Pair Free" offer on that I've heard so much about.

I've been wanting some "hipster" frames (when in reality, they are actually well suited for me, since my prescription is quite high so the thick lenses look better in bigger frames anyway) so I went with these. It's a little nerve-wracking to go on faith ordering online, since you can't try them on first, but the price was right. I'd much rather order straight from the warehouses than have to pay an optometrist office some ridiculous rates.

Anywho, here's a comparison of my old frames with my new ones! What do you think? I'm still getting used to their HUGENESS, hahahaha, but I think I like 'em!