This week's staff picks
Every week, the ASBMB staff shares what we’ve been reading, listening to, watching and doing. As we all weather the COVID-19 pandemic and our new normal of social distancing, we look for ways to cope and connect — and a bit of entertainment to take our minds elsewhere.
Americans (Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian)
Since we are homebound right now, here's a virtual museum exhibit all about Americans (American Indians). This exhibit addresses the question “How is it that Indians can be so present and so absent in American life?” through stories, great art direction and great art, with some fun and kitschy objects added into the mix.
— Lisa Schnabel, senior designer
Ducks and chickens … who knew?
As we enter our fourth week of social distancing and working from home, it has become clear that my son is a country boy. Before we were ordered to shelter in place, he visited our local farm store, just to look around, he said. Some time later, he came home with four ducks. At first, I was not pleased; we have a dog and two guinea pigs to care for already. Just as I got used to the idea, here he comes with two more ducks and four chickens. Whoa. Enough. “This is all, mom”, he assured me. When he needed more bedding, off to the farm store he went again. He reappeared an hour later, six more baby chickens in tow. As cute as they are, I was not happy. As the days passed, I started going out to the garage to watch the animals, and helping my son and husband bathe the ducks became a routine during these anything-but-routine times. To my surprise, the ducks and chickens have become a great escape, a way to forget the worry and uncertainty we are all experiencing … and they make me smile. Who knew?
— Jeanne Gladfelter, publications manager, Journal of Lipid Research
Smule — The Social Singing App (Smule Inc.)
I’ve been really missing my local karaoke bar. Thankfully, the Smule app is there for me. With a headset mic or just a pair of headphones and your cell phone receiver, you can join half-duets or group songs recorded by premium members (or, if you have some spare cash, throw in for premium access and record your own to see who sings along). No complaints from my neighbors yet! I choose to believe they enjoy it as much next door as my online companions do across the world.
— Vic De Luz, publications department executive assistant
Open Door: Inside Celebrity Homes (Architectural Digest, YouTube)
While I’m stuck in my D.C. apartment, I’ve been watching videos from Architectural Digest to see the various extravagant homes other people are self-isolating in. This channel features a lot of celebrities, and it’s interesting to get an intimate glance into their life. I personally like Dakota Johnson’s episode because you can tell she decorated the house herself with personal touches and kooky furniture that brings her joy.
— Stephanie Paxson, diversity and undergraduate education coordinator
This documentary film about the CRISPR breakthrough was scheduled to open in movie theaters this spring. Fortunately, it is now available to stream online on various platforms at a reasonable price. The distributors offer a “host a screening” option for educators and learning communities as an educational resource. The film features the voices of prominent ASBMB members, including Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. I can’t wait to watch it this weekend!
This Means War! (excerpt from Duck Soup, 1933, Paramount Pictures, on YouTube)
During times of much worry and anxiety, I often find that it helps to step back and remember the old adage “beware your own unguarded thoughts.” If let loose, such thoughts can go on a rampage (and may cause some real damage when acted upon), which this short clip from the Marx Brothers’ movie “Duck Soup” humorously brings home.
— Martin Spiering, technical editor for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research
Home Before Dark (Apple TV)
I’ve been watching this family-friendly mystery-thriller series in which a super-curious 9-year-old, Hilde Lisko, is following in her father’s footsteps as a reporter. The family has returned to small-town America after Hilde’s dad gets fired for getting “too involved” in a missing-girl story in New York. It turns out that his best friend from childhood went missing as well. Hilde uncovers it all and shocks the small community. The show is full of never-ending layers of mystery that keep getting uncovered, one by one.
— Laurie Reluzco, meetings coordinator
Test Kitchen Talks @ Home (Bon Appétit, YouTube)
Like many people, I watch videos from Bon Appétit as much for the personalities of their chefs as I do for the recipes. The whole channel is worth perusing, but this series in particular is a nice distraction that still acknowledges our current situation. With everyone practicing social distancing, the chefs have found a way to continue to bring us content from their own — or their parents’ — kitchens. It’s interesting to see what techniques carry over from a professional setting where any tool or ingredient is easily accessible. As we all find ourselves more and more attached to our Zoom accounts these days, there's an added charm to the crew providing instructions via video conference while chefs walk through their preferred method of making coffee or describing the many uses of their favorite kitchen tool.
— Kirsten Block, director of education, professional development and outreach
Lemon shortbread bars (Elisabeth Epperson Farris, Elisabeth & Butter)
I don’t like to cook, but I do love baking! Since social distancing started, I’ve made a cheesecake with fresh raspberry sauce. It was a process but turned out OK. I also now have springform pans to add to my collection of baking supplies. Since I’ve been watching “Little Fires Everywhere” on Hulu, I started following Reese Witherspoon on Instagram. She recommended this recipe for lemon bars. It’s next up on my list of things to bake. It looks refreshing, and I just love sweet and tart combos. If you give it a try, tweet me your tips and pics at @AllisonFrick.
When I was in grade school, computer classes focused on teaching the primary components of a computer, learning home-row keys and mastering skills in word processors and database software. Learning how to program software was nowhere on my radar. These days, however, lessons in computer programming are increasingly common in middle school and high school computer science curricula. A number of coding languages can be used to accomplish a variety of tasks. Among them is Python, a high-level general programming language that can be used for anything from machine learning to data visualization. To prove that an old dog can still learn new tricks, I’ve started taking online lessons to learn Python. While I’m still early in my education, I’ve been pleased with how comprehensive and easy to follow the lessons have been so far. Several free resources are available (including Codecademy), so take a look if you’re interested in learning to code.
— Anand Rao, science communicator
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René Fuanta, a second-year assistant professor at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, tries to support his students through a semester of unexpected challenges.