(chocolate linzer cookies for) Frankissstein: A Love Story

The book: Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson.

In the spirit of Halloween and all things strange, I just finished reading Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson. The novel follows two main story lines. First: nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley is inspired to write Frankenstein in the summer of 1816. Then, fast-forwarding two centuries, there is the story of a romance between Ry – a transgender doctor who works in a cryogenics facility – and Victor Stein, an AI specialist dreaming of a future where humans digitally upload their brains to live eternally without bodies. As the novel wades between the two stories, we observe incredible parallels between the story told in Frankenstein, and a not-so-distant future ruled by AI.

My opinions on this book are…all over the place. There were aspects that I liked, and aspects that I didn’t care for…and some things that I have conflicting feelings toward. One thing that I have mixed opinions about is the connection between the two main stories in this novel. I appreciated the parallels between the two main stories…but I wish that Winterson had been more subtle with some of those parallels. For example, Ry and Victor Stein’s story begins at an AI conference in Memphis; at the very beginning of this section, Ry explicitly tells the conference organizer that the conference is in honor of the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. At that point, it felt like Winterson was just beating us over the head with the connection between the two plot lines.

I also wish that the book had been more character-focused. Frankissstein had a strong plot that prodded at interesting philosophical questions…but I felt that it could have used more character development. With the exception of Mary Shelley, I found it hard to understand any of the characters beyond a surface-level, which then made it hard to care what would happen to them.

A praise that I have for Frankissstein is that it touched upon fascinating philosophical issues – particularly, can AI solve the problems of humanity? How will technology continue to transform our world, and what will this mean for the future of humankind? Frankkissstein suggests a world where AI may radically change what life means for humans, yet it also shows that people have been pondering questions about how technology may change society for centuries.

Overall, Frankissstein was a bit of a let-down for me. It is characterized as a love-story, but I didn’t find it particularly romantic (did I miss the point?). I also found most of the characters a bit lacking, and possibly underdeveloped. The plot was interesting, though; and if you like thinking about the future of humanity, this book offers fascinating perspectives on what that may hold.

The bake: chocolate linzer cookies.

Frankisstein is characterized as a love story (the subtitle of the book is literally A Love Story). Although I didn’t find the novel particularly romantic, I decided to roll with this theme, and made a “romantic” dessert. I made chocolate linzer cookies with a cherry jam filling (some were filled with leftover lime curd, too).

To make the cookies, I followed this recipe from Bon Appetit. Instead of making the tahini-chocolate filling (which I’m sure is amazing), I used two fillings that I already had: cherry jam (because chocolate and cherry seems “romantic”) and lime curd (because I had a lot of leftover lime curd that I needed to use).

These cookies take a long time to make because the dough needs to chill in the fridge for a long time…but they are not particularly difficult. And this recipe rewards patience: as long as you follow the recipe (including the chill periods in the refrigerator), the cookies will turn out amazingly! The ingredients are nothing out of the ordinary…but somehow these chocolate cookies taste so rich and decadent. Definitely worth the wait, and definitely something to make for any occasion.

BLOG-tober #4: perspectives worth sharing.

For as long as I can remember, I have been incredibly reserved. As a kid, even when I wanted to “put myself out there” and tried to be outgoing, I was still quite reserved in what information I did share. This habit has never really faded; if anything, it has intensified to the point where it feels impossible in some situations for me to share my perspective. Even when I do have an opinion, I am so unused to speaking up that I’m not very good at articulating or expanding upon my thoughts.

This post is a baby step toward confidently sharing my thoughts with others: I am sharing five random opinions of mine. They are only opinions – I understand that others will not necessarily agree with them. If I were better at articulating my thoughts, each opinion could be its own essay/blog post. But I’m not yet at that point, so we’re going with a short paragraph for each opinion.

Millennials need to stop hating on Gen-Z

Source: medium.com

Millennials have received a lot of flak over the years from older generations, especially Baby Boomers. So much to the point that we are accused of “killing” certain industries, including golf, cereal, and diamonds (to name a few). This type of criticism is ridiculous, but we are good at defending ourselves. It is surprising to me, then, that some millennials then go and criticize the younger generation (Gen Z). Just like us millennials, Gen Z-ers experiences their own unique set of generational challenges that no previous generation had to face. Just because we do not understand their challenges, that doesn’t mean we should trash them as a generation. This is the exact same type of behavior that we detest in Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers.

There is a such thing as being too helpful

Clippy is an example of being “too helpful.” Source: office-watch.com

I have always considered myself to be a helpful person, and I still do. However, I am slowly letting go of my belief that being helpful is the most important thing a person can be. When you are overly helpful you risk burning yourself out to help other, neglecting your own basic needs, and being taken advantage of. Being helpful is important, but so is setting boundaries and making sure that your own needs are met.

The problem is rarely “everybody else”

Source: hrdailyadvisor.blr.com

Some people like to blame every other person in the world for their problems. It is human to feel annoyed at others, and it is also easier to blame other people than to look internally and try to change. But when I hear people blame everybody else for their problems, it takes all the self-restraint I can possibly muster to stop my eyes from rolling into the back of my head. The most common example of this is people who complain that everybody else they work with is incompetent. This is narcissistic and also statistically unlikely. Instead of getting mad at others for not reading their mind, these “blame-everybody-else-ers” should figure out 1) why the problem is “everybody else” and 2) what they can do to make things better. In general, when a problem you are experiencing appears to be everybody else, that is when it’s most important to look internally and examine how your own biases might be affecting your perception.

Anti-depressants help people way more than they hurt people

Source: futurity.org

Any drug that is commercially available under a brand name has undergone extensive testing and is generally safe. Corporations want to make money (whether you take this to be a good thing or not is an entirely differently subject), and this means that it’s probably not in their interest to put out a drug that is going to hurt people. There are examples of peoples’ mental health symptoms worsening under anti-depressants…but if these were the majority of cases, there is no way that these drugs would be as widely prescribed as they are. I also think that when people cherry-pick the most extreme examples of anti-depressants having adverse effects, in order to claim that anti-depressants are unsafe, this is unscientific and irresponsible. Anti-inflammatory pain medicine (like ibuprofen) can be dangerous in some cases and people can even die from drinking water. But these examples are not the majority of cases, and that is why we (as a society) generally accept pain medicine (and of course water). We have so much more work to do on stopping the stigma against taking anti-depressants.

Most people are overconfident in their “knowledge” and “expertise”

Source: wittyfeed.com

I went to graduate school to study the biology of a plant pathogenic fungus. It sounds fancy, but the truth is that I gained a lot of knowledge on a very narrow topic. I know a lot about one particular fungus, but I am absolutely NOT an expert on fungi, broadly speaking. It bothers me, then, when people with even less experience and knowledge in fungal biology try to pose as experts, or make broader claims than they should based on their experience. More generally, it bothers me when people claim to “know that GMOs are unsafe” or that “anti-depressants make people homicidal” because of ONE article that they skimmed online. There is a famous quote by Socrates: “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” If more people would set aside their ego and admit what they don’t know, I think that we could learn and potentially achieve a lot more as a society.

Lab Girl (plus, how baking meringues is like doing laboratory work)

The book: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

Earlier this month I read Hope Jahren’s memoir, Lab Girl. Dr. Jahren is a professor and researcher at the University of Oslo in Norway, but she has also held professor positions at Georgia State University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Hawaii. Lab Girl tells the story of how Dr. Jahren fell in love with science, and her journey through her battlefield of a career in academia.

When I first started the book, I felt skeptical of the author’s motives (i.e. her “agenda”). I couldn’t shake the feeling that the memoir was a bit self-congratulatory, or perhaps validation-seeking. As the memoir progressed, though, it really grew on me. Dr. Jahren is refreshingly honest about her career in academia: she unflinchingly describes the countless times she’s been dismissed for being a woman in science, the poor living conditions she endured in order to “make it” as a starting professor, and her experiences living with bipolar disorder. These are aspects of academic research that are present for so many grad students, post-doctoral researchers, and professors – yet they are rarely discussed (in fact, my experience in academia was that students are expected to keep their struggles to themselves).

In addition to portraying academic life so honestly, Lab Girl also contains amazingly accessible science writing. My background is actually in plant sciences, but I think that Dr. Jahren’s science-writing could easily be digested by readers from a non-science background. I especially liked Dr. Jahren’s explanations of how seeds germinate, root, and ultimately develop into trees – oftentimes against staggeringly low odds.

Despite my initial skepticism, I loved this book and I have a lot of admiration for Dr. Jahren. I don’t know that her story is exceptionally unique for a female science professor, but I do know that she is incredibly brave to come forth and tell her full story. Her writing style is gorgeous and easy-to-follow, and the book contains a few of my new favorite quotes, including this one: “in the right place, under the right conditions, you can finally stretch out into what you’re supposed to be.”

The bake: (attempted) lime-swirl meringues.

As a scientist myself, I often tell people that what I do in the laboratory is a lot like following a recipe. I have even been known to say that “if you can follow a recipe, you can do a DNA extraction!” Both baking and conducting good laboratory research involve following optimized protocols. As such, I decided that for Lab Girl, I would bake something that required me to follow a “highly optimized protocol” (i.e. a meticulous bake): meringues swirled with lime curd.

I chose meringue and lime curd, because both are tricky to make: just like doing lab-based research, both require that you follow your protocol (i.e. recipe) pretty closely if you want to be successful. I baked these meringues, but instead of using raspberry puree for the swirled topping, I used a homemade lime curd (following this recipe).

Although I have struggled with curd in the past, this one came out very well! I love the bright and zesty flavor of it. Unfortunately, my meringues were not as successful: they took on a weird caramel color in the oven, and they never got crunchy (most likely the result of two mistakes: putting them on too low an oven-rack and over-baking them). I almost didn’t post about this bake, but I decided that – in the spirit of sharing my full story and not just the shiny parts of it – I should write about my baking failures.

I was disappointed with the meringues at first, but like all failed experiments, this was an opportunity to learn and improve. I’m really glad that I also made the lime curd, because now at least one part of the bake was successful. Also, I have a lot of leftover lime curd; I can’t wait to put it to good use in my next bake!

BLOG-tober #3: weird things about me.

A couple weeks ago, Ashley at Mental Health at Home posted her answers to an “eleven weird things about me” challenge. I loved this post, because I feel that it’s important to embrace and be open about our weirdness. I also thought that this topic fit in perfectly with “BLOG-tober,” since October is the month of Halloween (AKA all things weird). Here is the link to the original post, if you are interested! My weird things are:

1. Talking in my sleep

Sometimes, if I have a dream where I am saying or yelling something, I will say or yell that thing out loud in real life. It has woken my partner up many times before, and I often wake myself up that way too. In college, I had a dream where I couldn’t move and needed to call for help. Apparently, I screamed “HELP!” out loud, because I woke up to my housemate pounding on my door to check if I was okay.

2. Crazy cat lady

I love cats! I only have two cats, but I love them and talk to them as though they are actual babies. I also own some cat-themed clothes and accessories including but not limited to: flats in the shape of a cat’s face, rhinestone cat ears, and two pairs of cat-print pajama pants.

3. Lover of fungi

I also love fungi. This is weird to some people, but I just think they’re so cool! I get really excited when I encounter interesting mushrooms and slime molds in nature, and I’ve gone on several hikes for the sole purpose of finding interesting fungi.

4. Falling asleep on the couch

Nearly every night, I end up dozing off on the living room couch in my apartment. Since it happens without fail, I should know by now to avoid this situation and go straight to bed. And yet…zzzzzzzzzz.

5. Cautious (teetering on paranoid) about food-borne illness

I took a food microbiology course in college where we learned about the most common agents of food-borne illness and what foods they are found in. Ever since then, I have become more cautious (excessively so, according to my partner) about food poisoning.

6. “Once I’m out, I’m out”

Once I leave my apartment in the morning, I do not return (unless I have forgotten something ESSENTIAL, such as my work badge or public transit pass). This mentality has backfired on me many times, such as last week when I made the decision to go to work without an umbrella.

7. Perfectionist AND procrastinator

I am somehow both a perfectionist and a procrastinator. Being a grad student only accentuated this tendency of mine, because I worked with MANY other perfectionist-procrastinators at my old institution. I’m probably like this because I thrive under intense pressure…but sometimes these contradictory tendencies set me up for failure.

8. Cold brew queen

I enjoy a “malted cold brew” while my partner drinks a regular coffee.

I have started to become *that* person that drinks cold brew year round. I started drinking cold brew pretty regularly this summer, because both my office and my neighborhood café serve really good cold brew. Now, I am physically dependent on cold brew, because it has a higher caffeine content than regular coffee. I will probably continue to drink cold brew even when it is snowing and icy in the winter.

9. Keeping my opinions to myself

From an early age I have been very reserved, and hesitant to share my opinions with others. I’m afraid of being judged for having “bad taste” or stupid ideas. Luckily, this blog is helping me a lot to overcome my fear of expressing myself.

10. Using men’s deodorant

Ever since college, I have used men’s deodorant. (I think that) it works better than any women’s deodorant I’ve ever used before, and there is one particular brand/scent of men’s deodorant that I absolutely love.

11. Spooky story time!

I can’t think of any other weird facts, so here is a “weird” story in the spirit of Halloween. Around this time last year, I noticed a couple wasps buzzing around my door as I was trying to leave for work. I was so scared that I didn’t lock my door – I just slammed it shut and ran off to work. When I got back home at the end of the day, though, the door was locked. I (again) freaked out, and asked my male neighbor to help me check out the apartment. We opened the door and checked every room – nobody was there and nothing was missing. When we got to the kitchen, I saw a slip of paper saying that pest control (a normal thing in the South) had visited my apartment that day – they must have locked their door on the way out.

What are your “weird” things? If you have eleven that you’re comfortable sharing, please feel free to post your own answers to this prompt!

BLOG-tober #2: wedding planning pro’s and con’s.

Planning a wedding is thought of by many as a stressful and expensive ordeal. The stereotypical wedding planning experience involves navigating family-members strong (and perhaps unsolicited) opinions, spending way too much money on every single wedding detail, figuring out a menu that is agreeable to everyone’s dietary restrictions, graciously dealing with last minute RSVP changes, and perfecting that damn seating chart.

Are these wedding-planning stereotypes true, though? As someone who is almost at the finish-line of planning a wedding, this topic is near and dear to my heart. Taking into account my (purely anecdotal) experiences, these are my opinions on wedding planning:


  1. This day is purely YOURS (and your partners). As such, you get to create a ceremony and reception that is reflective of your unique personality, and your love for your partner. This is a rare – maybe even once in a lifetime – opportunity!
  2. Some aspects of the planning process are fun! Personally, I loved designing invitations, doing menu and cake tastings, and going wedding dress shopping. Different people like different things, but if you and your partner are on the same page about wedding planning, parts of the process should be quite enjoyable. And the stressful parts of wedding planning can be a bonding experience for you and your partner!
  3. You might reconnect with old friends or extended family during the planning process. This depends on how many people you will invite to your wedding, and how close your family is…but my experience was that family-members I hadn’t talked to in years contacted me to congratulate me on my engagement, and offered to help in any way during the wedding planning.


  1. Yes, some people really will find a way to make YOUR wedding about themselves. Chances are, though, the people who bring more stress than support to your wedding planning process are probably not doing so intentionally. This doesn’t detract from the annoyingness – but keeping this in mind helped me not to take this difficult behavior personally.
  2. It is expensive. There is no getting around this. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is about $35,000, and depending on where you live, the average cost may be even higher than that. You can work around budget constraints by doing things yourself (DIY-ing it), but what you save in money you will pay for in time. My partner and I recently spent a full day designing, printing, and assembling handmade table-number signs; we saved a bit of money by doing this ourselves, but it was a lot of extra work. The more you DIY, the more money you potentially save, but the harder you will need to work and plan.
  3. There is a lot to keep track of. No matter how many budgets, spreadsheets, and to-do lists you make – the wedding planning process is still bound to be overwhelming at times. Having a master checklist can help with this, as can delegating tasks to people that you trust. Even still, there will be moments where it feels like you are drowning in wedding planning tasks. This is just part of the wedding planning process.

So is it worth it?

That really depends on how you weight each item in the pro/con list (side note: I firmly believe that pro/con lists must be weighted according to the values of the person making the list – more on that another time, perhaps). For my partner and me, the pro’s outweighed the con’s. But we were engaged for about seven months before we even started planning, because we weren’t immediately ready. I have noticed (anecdotally) that long engagements are becoming increasingly common. I wonder if this is to prepare logistically, financially, and emotionally for the stress of planning a modern wedding.

Have you planned a wedding? Do you know anyone who has? If so, what were your experiences like?

BLOG-tober #1: my autumn 2019 bucket list.

Hi wordpress friends! I haven’t been posting much over the last month, in part because I have been a lot busier than usual lately. At the same time, though, I love engaging with the wordpress community and posting my content here too. So, in an attempt to not let blogging fall to the wayside, I’m challenging myself to publish 10 original posts this month. These 10 posts won’t follow my usual “books-and-bakes” format (because I already know that I won’t get much baking done this month), but hopefully the posts will still be interesting!

With that, here is my first BLOG-tober post: a list of all the things I hope to do this autumn! Perhaps this list is over-ambitious and/or unrealistic, but I think eight activities in the next twelve-ish weeks should be doable! Anyway, here is my autumn 2019 bucket list:

1. Go apple picking!

This is a fall MUST for me! Apple season ends in about a month (where I live, anyway), so I would like to get this trip done by the end of October! Also, many of the local apple orchards make apple-cider donuts and/or apple cider, which I am definitely interested in. If I make it apple-picking this year, a couple apple-themed bakes will certainly follow.

2. See “Love is Calling” at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

This is what online previews of the exhibit look like: a room full of brightly colored icicle-like sculptures.

The Institute of Contemporary Art recently opened a flashy exhibit called “Love is Calling” by Yayoi Kusama, and it has definitely piqued my interest. I’ve never been to ICA before (actually, I have only been to one museum in Boston), so seeing “Love is Calling” would be a good opportunity to check that out!

3. See The Nutcracker!

From Boston Ballet’s website.

I concede that The Nutcracker is probably more of a WinterThing than an AutumnThing, but showings start in late November. And technically Autumn doesn’t end until mid-December anyway. Regardless, seeing The Nutcracker is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never have! I would like to finally go this year, so it gets a spot on the bucket list.

4. Drink a maple latte.

This may seem silly, but I recently moved from the South to New England. While pumpkin spice lattes are universal, maple lattes are apparently a quintessential New England AutumnThing. So even though I tend to be a year-round cold brew drinker, I’ll have to make at least one exception to try a Maple Latte.

5. Go on a hike during the Fall color change.

This was one of the best Fall color changes I’ve seen in my life…I think this year is going to knock that view out of the water!

The color change is just starting to occur in parts of my neighborhood now…but for the most part trees are still green. When the color change is really underway, I want to go on a walk or hike where I can take in all the Autumn beauty. I’m thinking that my local arboretum, or the cemetery in my neighborhood (which sounds creepy but really isn’t) could be good options.

6. Celebrate Halloween!

From a Halloween party that my friends and I hosted a few years ago (in 2013, I think).

I LOVE Halloween! I love dressing up, seeing others’ creative costumes, listening to Halloween playlists, playing spooky games, and sharing creative food and drink with others. Hopefully my partner and I can find something cool to do this Halloween – perhaps a party or an event at a local brewery. Or maybe just inviting friends over for a fun Halloween-themed spooky games night!

7. Have a progressive autumn dinner with my apartment-mates.

A classic comforting autumn meal.

I live in a three-story flat shared by three couples (my partner and myself included), and we all love cooking, baking, and hosting others. We also all get along very well! We had the idea of having a “progressive” autumn-themed dinner that moves through each apartment in our building. We would do appetizers on the third floor, dinner on the second, and desserts on the first…with drinks to accompany each meal, of course.

8. Drink tea-themed cocktails.

From the tea lounge’s facebook page – doesn’t it look so inviting?

I recently learned about a bar inside the public library that serves tea-themed cocktails (all with book-related names)! Tea, books, and exploring new places are all things that I love – so this bar seems like a must-visit for me.

That’s all for this year’s Fall bucket list! What’s on your bucket list (autumn-themed or otherwise)?