I work in the Harvard MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery lab (we say “MRgFUS”), which means heating things up with high-power ultrasound, and watching the effects with MRI. I always felt like a bit of an impostor, though, because I had never done either of these things. My ultrasound was always low-power imaging stuff, and my MRI images were always about geometry, not temperature.

No longer.

Tonight I used a focused transducer to heat up a block of gel, and watched the heat build up and dissipate using MRI. A personal milestone, I think, if not exactly a scientific breakthrough.


I’m going to be in Montreal for 7 days, in a week. I’ll be there for a scientific conference but I might have a smidgen of free time in the evenings and around the edges. What should I not miss?

I’ve been in Montreal once before, for about one day, and it was so absurdly cold that we did nothing but wander around the underground city, an endless maze of repetitive mall storefronts. This time I’d like to do better.


I woke up extra early this morning to get to a conference at MIT. I biked over in the subdrizzle, went up to the 4th floor … and the doors were locked.

The conference is next Thursday. Oops.

On the plus side, I learned today about ring chromosomes, which are pretty cool. Circular DNA is the norm in bacteria, and not unheard of in unicellular organisms, but I’d never imagined it could happen in the human genome. (Unfortunately not the genome of the healthiest of humans.)


Oh Shaws, you’re so tricksy. I got a “$3 off a purchase of $30+” coupon, expires on Sunday. I almost never spend $30 in one shopping trip, but I figured I’d be able to do it if I cleared my shopping list and stocked up a little. Next thing I know, I’m checking out with $62.75 of stuff.

$59.75 with the $3 discount.


After dedicating much of this week to the project, we have officially concluded our roommate search. Maybe I shouldn’t say “officially”, as we haven’t exactly signed the leases, sublets, applications, and cheques, but we seem to have a solid gentlemen’s (and ladies’!) agreement.

It’s a bit too early to call the game, but it looks likely to be another big win for our Craigslist apartment-sharing process, now refined over many cycles. Big thanks to my current roommates for shouldering most of the burden and being hospitable to the waves of applicants.

VoiceLab Spring Concert

VoiceLab Spring concert 2011 is coming a week from Sunday:

Sunday May 1st, 5:30 PM (doors open at 5:15)
Dudley House Common Room, Lehman Hall, Harvard Yard

Admission is free and open to everyone, no tickets required. Just show
up, relax, and enjoy. You can also come earlier to hear other musical
performances all around Harvard Yard as part of ArtsFirst weekend.

Hope to see you there!

Sous Vide

I was surprised to discover that the host of last night’s Seder is a practitioner of sous vide, a trendy science-inspired method of cooking in which foods are sealed airtight and heated at low temperatures for long periods of time, typically 8-18 hours. The technique generally serves to maintain softness and moisture while still cooking thoroughly. For example, the traditional hard-boiled eggs were replaced by ultra-soft sous vide eggs, cooked for hours at 64 C (like a moderate sauna), resulting in a creamy texture (and somehow not a hint of sulfur). The whole meal was unbroken deliciousness, and I am absolutely sold on the idea.

There is something slightly funny, though, about applying ultra-slow sous vide techniques to a passover Seder. The focal point of the Seder, maybe even the reason for its existence, is the Matzoh, a bread that, to commemorate the flight of refugees, is cooked as quickly as physically possible (under 18 minutes from flour to bread, by tradition). The meal, altogether, may well have cooked for 100 times that long.


As we were cleaning the apartment today, in preparation for showing potential new renters, I discovered an unfortunate can of orange juice concentrate. It appeared to have rolled under the couch while no one was looking, and later popped, leaving a pool of orange matter.

So far, no one has claimed the can.

By the time I found it the pool had dried into a tough, hard layer inseparable from the wall-to-wall carpeting.

I don’t know how long we spent cleaning it, maybe an hour or more. We attacked with hot water, a rag, and mass quantities of paper towels. In the end that seemed to be just about enough … though I suspect a subtle orange tinge may be visible in tomorrow’s daylight.


I achieved some sort of errand nirvana today. This morning, I put my bike in my car, drove to an auto shop for routine car maintenance, and took out the bike. Then I rode to the bike shop, replaced my broken bottom bracket cartridge, and biked back to the auto shop. My car was ready, so I put the bike back in the car and drove home. I feel like I’m the farmer, fox, and chicken at the same time.

Of course, the two experiences were a little different. At the auto shop (Monro in Somerville) I paid $355, most of which went to replacing the rear brake pads and rotors. It’s only been about 5000 miles, but the shop said the dealer seemed to have failed to lubricate the rear brake assembly properly, leading to premature wear. Who knows? Certainly not I. I didn’t complain too much, especially since the dealership had charged me almost twice as much for the same operation.

At the bike shop (Quad Bikes at Harvard), I did the work myself, with some very helpful advice from the pros. The cost was $10 for an hour of stand time, plus the $10 I’d already spent on the cartridge.