Sunday, May 29, 2016

On the road at Boston - random stuff

I went to Boston last week for a technical conference. The conference was held at Marriott at Copley Place, across Charles river from MIT. 

Boarding Airplane

As I was waiting to board the plane, it occurred to me that the boarding process of letting front seat passengers on first is an inefficient process. The most speedy way would be to let the passengers in the last rows to board and sequentially board from back to front. No one would slow down the boarding process because of loading baggage into overhead cabins, 

The airline industry must have known this - but they keep the current process.
Subway and Marriott Hotel

It costs only $2.65 from Logan Airport to the hotel by subway, $50 by Taxi.  Four day rental plus parking would cost ~ $400 (parking is very expensive in downtown Boston). Instead of rental car, I decided to ride subway. It saved me trouble driving in Boston's traffic and saved my company ~ $400!

I wandered around the Copley Square after dinner last Sunday. The place was beautiful in the evening. But my night at Marriott was not so good - I was the victim of bed bugs at the 5 star hotel. I took picture of my bitten leg but did not get chance to report it to the front desk.

Church at Copley Square
pond at Copley Square
Victim of Bed Bugs at Marriott Copley Place
 Enjoy the conference

Meeting old friends, showing off my own work and feeling the trend in my technical area are always my main objectives to attend the conference.

But I had another goal this time after reading a HBR article "How an Introverted Engineer Learned
to Lead", I wanted to go out of my comfort zone, make new friends, grab chance to speak when needed. I dinned with attendees I was not familiar with, I congratulated the keynote speaker, a British professor and asked a couple questions after the plenary session, I made a friend of a speaker Sandeep since he and I went to the same graduate school.

When I was chatting with Sandeep during a break, the conference's marketing manager Lori joined us. She asked about Sandeep's presentation earlier of the day. When she finished asking Sandeep questions, I took the chance to preview my next day presentation, stating that I will use a home experiment with bottled water to illustrate my ideas. It grabbed her attention right away!

Meeting old friends at the conference
 Light show at Boston Museum of Science after conference Banquet 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Voice of Science - by Lily

As a scientist I have been trained to question a statement, evaluate the facts from multiple sources, and make a judgement based on information at hand. But as I get more and more into the field of applied science, I realize that this is not usually how the general people process information. A lot of people agree with whatever is loud in the media, others tend to believe in their old doctrine without taking into account of new information. I also realize that as a scientist our responsibility is not just to conduct new research and make new discoveries but also to help people understand the new results, and that’s the way to ensure our work makes a difference in people’s lives. So, here’s my humble attempt to address a couple of things close to my heart.

Topic #1:  Sunscreen

Prolonged sun exposure damages the skin. We all know that from our own experiences, just look at the older generation who enjoyed sun bathing when they were young and people who live in higher altitude like Colorado. The red tones, deep wrinkles, and dark pigments are the evidence of photoaging. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun can penetrate the outer layers of the skin and cause changes in skin cells and even trigger DNA mutation. Over the past several decades there have been numerous studies that demonstrated the benefits of using sunscreen to skin health, such as a four-and-half year study involving over 900 participants published in 2013. Yet some people still hold the belief that all chemicals are bad and refuse to use sunscreen as a protection measure.

Here’s what I know about sunscreen:

1. In contrast to a lot of other over-the-counter (OTC) products for skin care, sunscreen is actually regulated by the FDA. FDA not only regulates the active ingredients used in sunscreen - therefore the safety of those ingredients have been tested extensively, but also the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) that is on the label – the value has to be tested following FDA’s monograph, a standardized testing protocol.

2.  There are two types of active ingredients: one acts as a physical shield by deflecting the UV ray, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide; the other acts as a chemical shield by absorbing UV ray and changing it to heat through chemical reaction, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone. Don’t let the word “chemical” scare you away, check out this blog for a fair comparison of pros and cons.

3. Sunscreen used to be tested for UVB protection only until a couple of years ago when the harm of UVA ray came to light. These days sunscreens should have “broad spectrum” label on it. To indicate protection for both UVB and UVA rays.

4. How to read SPF value, is it the higher the better? The value of SPF indicates the fold of energy it can protect comparing to without protection. So SPF 30 is 30-fold effective, meaning it protects about 97% of UV ray (only 1/30 gets through); SPF 50, therefore protects 98%. There’s about 1.3% difference in their protection power. FDA’s new guidance on product label states that the maximum SPF value on product label is limited to SPF 50+ to avoid misleading consumers.

5. When determining SPF value, certain amount of sunscreen is applied on test skin. So when using it if you skimp on the amount you will not get the full protection. The testing amount is 2mg/cm2. In practical term, there’s shot glass rule, 1oz to cover full body when wearing minimal clothing. And don’t forget to reapply every ~2 hours as the products do break down upon sun exposure and you do sweat and wipe off the product.

6. Physical shade definitely provides good protection from the sun. But keep in mind about the reflection of radiation from the ground and environment. We actually did a study and showed that reflection from sandy beach can causes serious sunburns to people who stayed in the beach umbrella shade without sunscreen.

7. Cool temperature makes people forget about the UV ray from the sun. But the UV index in a clear cold day can be as high as a sunny hot day. This is especially important on a ski trail, with the strong reflections coming from the ground.

Topic #2: GMO, to be continued…

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Double Yolk Egg

Lily and I share the cooking duty in our household. 

I cook on weekdays with help from her ; she washes and cuts vegetables and prepares other ingredients of a dish the previous night.  When I get home after work, with everything ready to cook, I can have dinner ready everyday in about half an hour, we almost always have dinner before 7pm.

Lily cooks on Weekends. She usually takes time to cook more sophisticated dishes for the whole family to enjoy. She also has the cooking menu ready by Sunday night so I don't have to think about what to cook everyday and we have a balanced diet.

double yolk egg 

Last Thursday, she had seafood tofu and Chinese cabbage on the menu. When I got home Thursday afternoon, thawed shrimps and washed Chinese cabbages were in the refrigerator ready for cooking, tofu in the packaging box waiting to be unpacked and rinsed. She also put 3 eggs by the stove.

I fried the shrimps lightly, added sliced tofu cubes to simmer. After a few minutes, I added chopped Chinese cabbages and simmered the combination a few more minutes. When it was almost well cooked, I cracked the eggs into the pan, and a double-yolk egg caught my eyes, it was the first time in my life that I saw a double-yolk egg! I was quite excited.

Called out to Nicholas to take a look at the dish, he came around the stove, looked at frying pan without noticing the double-yolk egg. I prompted him that there was something special there, and he finally noticed the double-yolk egg.

I also took a picture to send to Lily, who was still at work then, with a caption - "special today". She replied with a happy face.

She did not comment on the dish or the picture I sent. Later in the evening, I asked her if she noticed anything special about the seafood tofu, "it was delicious but not anything special", she said. Upon suggestion to look at the picture again,  she noticed the double-yolk egg when she opened the picture on her phone.

Chance of finding a double-yolk egg  is ~1/1000.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day Presents from Nicholas

Last week Nicholas and I talked about what he could do on Mother's Day - something not done before and special. I made a few suggestions  - what you can do for Mom that she does for you, something Mom asks you to do and has to push you hard to get it completed. He asked time for thinking.

By Saturday night he decided to do a few things for Mom on Sunday morning - he would cook breakfast for Mom, fried eggs, and he would also make his bed in the morning and be at Chinese school on time. 

Mother's day breakfast for Mom
When I went to the kitchen around 7:30am this morning, he was there cooking the first egg in a frying pan already. He rarely gets up this early on weekends, standing there with sleepy eyes. I looked at the pan - he forgot to pour cooking oil in. I added oil into the pan, and he cracked two more eggs to add into the pan. One egg white flew around another egg to form a crescent moon shape - not a perfectly cooked egg, but ideal to make a happy face, with cherry and sliced apple! He went back to his room to sleep a bit more until Mom was ready for breakfast.

Nicholas made his bed on Mother's day
When Mom went to ask him to come to kitchen for breakfast, she was pleasantly surprised to see that his bed was made already. 

We had a great Mother's Day breakfast together.

No card, No flower, Nicholas gave his Mom great presents from his own efforts. His mom was really happy and proud.