Friday, March 31, 2006

Don'ts and Don'ts

I can't believe I've missed this for so long, but this is a great feature on Gawker: Blue States Lose. Which is described by them thusly:
Every week a fresh crop of images of ridiculous-looking hipsters acting in a ridiculous fashion is made available on the Internet. Many of us are familiar with the photo galleries at The Cobrasnake (primarily Los Angeles), Last Night’s Party and Misshapes (both in New York). These sites, which aim to make wasted party-going retards look fabulous, are quite possibly the most infuriating thing in the world. But much like a gruesome car wreck or a Paris Hilton home movie, you just can’t turn away. Every Friday, we’ll steal a little from Vice magazine and post our choices for the Top 10 most ridiculous hipsters, complete with links to the photos and derogatory comments. They’ll make you - a young, liberal-leaning urbanite - suddenly hate everything about youth culture, your city and, probably, life. In other words: Blue States Lose.

Its like What Not To Wear of young hipsters. Oh man. Some images are NSFW, but you'll know which ones by reading the captions. I'm so glad I'm uncool and boring.

Birding around the pretty lake

When I go on walks around the lake at work, I see a lot of cool stuff, other than geese who are out to get me. The other day we saw what looked like a couple of male mallards, except they had white breasts, which mallards don't. They were Northern Shovelers. I wish I had had some binoculars so I could have gotten a better look at their beaks. Yesterday I saw a Double-crested Cormorant airing himself out, like in that photo. They're generally found in more coastal regions, so perhaps he was migrating? I'm also pretty sure I've seen Ruddy ducks in their winter plumage. Whatever I saw had a big white cheek patch like that and was a diver, and I didn't see anything else in the bird book that fit both of those descriptions. I should get a second pair of binocs to bring in here that I can bring with me on walks. I don't go too many other places where I get a chance to see water birds, so its a nice change.
I saw a birding blog listed under the blogger Blogs of Note that I'll have to check occasionally.

Vote for me: The naughty judge

Last week or so, a bunch of those election-time roadside signs began to appear. There is one posted across the street at the intersection when I turn out of my development, so I see it every day when I go to work. I kept meaning to post something about it, but I kept forgetting.
I was just standing here, brushing my teeth, when Brian called. He had just left the house on his way to work. He said:
"Oh! I've been meaning to say something to you about this for a while and I kept forgetting. Have you seen that sign for the judge candidate when you pull out of the development? What the hell? Why would you want to vote for THAT guy?"

Too bad Brian isn't an American citizen, so he can't vote.

The reason we're perplexed by this campaign is that the sign says something like:

Vote for "Naughty" Nauseef for Judge

This seems like a bizarre nickname to be using in your quest to become a District Court Judge. It sounds more like a mobster or something. I think if I were on trial and found that "Naughty" Nauseef was my judge, I'd be a little concerned.

I found this article which discusses the fact that this guy submitted his paperwork to be a candidate for this position, and it says that the nickname is based on a mispronunciation of his name. Which is great, but that doesn't mean you have to use it in your campaign. Because you are not twelve.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

New content, the easy way!

First: a goose update!
Yesterday? I was walking to my car? And a goose totally HISSED at me. I'm fearing for my life now. If you don't hear from me for a while, talk to the geese.

Second: Links!!

I can't stand Kelly Osbourne, but that is a really cute coat.

(also from Go Fug Yourself, Britney's back and she's mad!)

Eve's alternate endings for journal articles are also appropriate for the biological sciences. Writing a paper? Check them out. Its what you're really thinking, after all.

Haiku makes every day life far more interesting. Try it!

Photo Booth is an excellent way to amuse yourself and others!

Soccer is not just for warm-blooded creatures anymore! (I saw a video of this on Good Morning America, and its much more entertaining in video form, I have to say. But I do what I can here, for you, my readers).


Saturday, March 25, 2006

When geese attack

The institute that I work at is very park-like. We have a pretty lake in the middle with a path around it. I like to walk it sometimes when I'm waiting for an experiment to finish. As a result, we also have tons of geese running around. I've heard stories of people getting attacked by geese when they're on the path, but I've never had a problem. That is, until yesterday, when I came head-to-head with ATTACK GEESE.

See? I took this picture over the weekend at the pretty lake. Look at how that goose is coming to kill me.

So, I was walking into work in the morning, drinking my tea (which I now inexplicably take with milk and sugar. Those Brits got to me!!), minding my own business. I was approaching the building when I saw a car coming up on my right, and to my left I heard some geese going nuts. They like to yell at each other sometimes, so this didn't really faze me. Actually, the day before as I was walking in, I watched a goose chase after three guys drving around in a John Deere tractor. That was pretty funny. The goose was full-on angry, and the guys were just moseying along in their little tractor, totally not caring.

I'm getting off track here. Okay. Minding my own business. Drinking tea. Car on right, geese going nuts on left. As I'm crossing the little parking lot entrance, I hear the geese coming closer, and fortunately I looked to my left because THREE GEESE WERE FLYING STRAIGHT TOWARDS MY HEAD. Holy crap! Here's an intricate diagram that I just constructed for you:

In the split second after I noticed this, I thought to myself "Surely those geese are going to change course so as not to kill me." But as they came closer, it was clear that they were not. Holy crap again. So I ducked!! And shrieked loudly, I have to say. They flew right over me, I swear they were less than a foot away from my head. Oh my god. After they flew past, the car that had been coming from the right pulled up next to me, and the guy rolled down his window to say "Holy cow! I thought they were going to hit you!" Me too, buddy!

Seriously, if one had hit me? It would have broken its neck and totally died. Died from hitting me. Thank god I don't have to be the 'Girl Who Killed a Goose with her Head".

I hear that when the geese have nests (which they will soon!) they get extra testy, so I'm looking forward to THAT. Because clearly, they are out to get me.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Oh, that Duke v LSU game last night was HEARTBREAKING.

Don't you just want to cry looking at this picture (which I lifted from of my two favorite Dukies, JJ and Coach K? Oh. I do.

I mean, Duke was certainly not in top form, and LSU did a good job of keeping JJ Redick under control, which I think is pretty important if you want to beat Duke. I am so sick of hearing about 'Big Baby' though. Gag me.

But I mentioned that I love JJ Redick. He seems like such a nice guy (I cannot vouch for how this idea holds up in real life having never run into the guy anywhere in Durham. I do know from having dated - or tried to anyhow - many apparently nice guys, a good chunk of them are actually total jerks) and I really wanted him to be on a winning team in his last year, because he deserves it! So, I was sad. And I was really actually tearing up when he walked off the court and was crying and hugging people. Ohhh. Because I am that pathetic.

But anyhow. Any hopes I had for doing well in the NCAA pool were also dashed, along with my JJ dreams.

Can I also say that I love the ads that they play during games for the NCAA, with the athletes talking about how they're going pro in something other than sports? I love them. Brian hates them though. I just have more respect for college students who are students FIRST and athletes SECOND. Actually, I don't mean that. I know that being a college athlete requires a SIGNIFICANT time investment, so I am sure that they spend almost as much time on sports as they do on school. But I hate the guys who drop out of school before they finish to pursue a professional sports career (hello, last year's UNC team!). If you're in school, you're in school to get a degree. Yes, perhaps your sports playing GOT you to school, but you should at least accomplish your education-related objective while you're playing. Maybe thats just me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A plug

My friend from high school is a jazz saxophonist who just came out with his first CD. You can buy it on his website.
I totally sat next to him in Jazz Band when I was a freshman, people. OMG, I am so cool. Yet he was very good and I was only sort of middling as far as jazz band went. And now it is his career, and I play saxophone in the science-geek band at work.

Anyhow, if you like this sort of thing you should give it a listen!

I heart The Consumerist

The Consumerist had several great articles yesterday... and I have nothing much to talk about.

1. You know you've thought about this: how many freaking blades are we going to get on razors? Do you remember that SNL commercial? Funny.

2. And you thought your job was sometimes difficult. Click on the link to read the whole story, because its kind of hilarious.

3. Creepy. However, I'd go to her plastic surgeon.

4. This is totally true. I didn't read the original article but I totally agree with this:

We’ll let you read it for yourself, but here’s the crux: “Do you want to be told by your doctor, ‘Oh, nobody studies your disease any more because the owner of the gene/enzyme/correlation has made it too expensive to do research?’” That really just says it all.

That is totally true. I don't know much about how patenting of genes is going now, but back when I was a tech, people still did positional cloning of SIMPLE MENDELIAN DISEASES (can you imagine that??) and gene patenting was all the rage. In fact, Brian had a patent on a gene from his PhD, which was subsequently sold by his university to some company. However, at the time these things were patented little (to nothing) was known of their functions. Most were only patented based on speculation, or even more so because you had to get in while the getting was good and all the genes were already patented. It was not really clear what the patent was going to accomplish in terms of how it would impact other people's research on a given gene. I'm not sure that it has yet... at least not as much in academic labs. At least, I don't ever remember hearing of any instances where this has occurred.

I think a more pressing concern is "Oh, nobody studies your disease anymore because not enough people have it (or at least have your specific mutation) and its not cost-effective for the companies."

Monday, March 20, 2006

The highs and lows of my NCAA bracket

I don't really watch all that much college basketball, but I love March Madness because I love to watch the scores all day, agonize about the state of my bracket and talk trash to other members of our pool. For many, many years I picked Kentucky to win every time (In college I was a UK fan, and also a big Rick Pitino fan, although not so much when he went to the arch-enemy, Louisville) and I got screwed every time. This year actually is the first I didn't go with UK - I picked Duke.

Oh, shut up. I like Duke. I particularly like JJ Redick, and he's a senior, so I want him to win.

I don't know too much about the other teams, particularly ones not in the ACC, so my rationale for choosing teams usually goes a little something like this:
"Okay... Oklahoma vs. UW-Milwaukee. Well, I used to live near Milwaukee, so I'm picking UWM (an upset which I correctly picked!). Gonzaga vs. Xavier.... Gonzaga sounds like 'gorgonzola', and I like that, so I'll pick Gonzaga."
Also, there is a lot of bias in my picks towards who was good in the past but may not be so great anymore. Like Marquette, who I picked to go to the 8 but who lost in the first round.

Of course because I'm a Duke fan, I desperately want UNC to lose. Yesterday they totally got beat by George Mason, so HA. I had picked UNC to win, so its not great for me in terms of the pool, but it IS great for me in terms of gloating.

It seems like a lot of people have picked UConn, which only sort of narrowly avoided defeat yesterday at the hands of my old favorite, UK. I have them in the final, but I'm hoping that this suggests that they're not going to win.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

food photography

For some reason, I've always thought food photography was pretty cool. All of the little tricks they have to make your food look more appetizing are pretty neat. In fact, the father of someone from my PhD lab is a food photographer, and he made a special pizza slice lifter to make the pizza in photos on frozen pizza boxes look all gooey and cheesy.
This video about photographing pancakes for IHOP* is pretty funny.

* if IHOP must advertise themselves as the International HOUSE OF PANCAKES, then why do their pancakes totally suck?? They taste like wallpaper paste. Seriously. If pancakes is going to be your thing, at least make sure your pancakes are awesome. Which they are not.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

dead weight

Brian has had his own lab for about a .... year? or more? I don't remember. Anyhow, when you're a scientist you get thrown into this land of managing people with very little experience. His first tech was okay, but he was only there for a few months before he followed his girlfriend when she moved away. It took a little while before he hired another person, but when he got his R01 funded he had the cash to do so. He hired a research analyst, which is a higher level position requiring a number of years of experience and thus gets paid more, because he had the funds and he didn't want to waste too much time training.

This girl was a piece of work. She was constantly suffering from 'migranes', and would sit at her desk wearing sunglasses and holding an ice pack to her head. When Brian would ask her to do something, she would sometimes say something like 'do you really think thats a good idea in my current condition?' I do understand that people have migranes. One of the girls in my lab in Boston did. I would say she got one every month or two, and when it happened she was completely laid up. However, I suspect that Brian's tech maybe was not having actual migranes. One incident that tipped me off was when she was sitting there in the lab doing the sunglasses/icepack/laying head on desk thing, and told Brian that she was waiting for the emergency room to call her back to let her know whether they had a bed available, so that she could come over and get treated for her terrible migrane. Okay. A migrane which is so bad that it requires an emergency room visit. Again, I've never had migranes, so I don't know whether this is really something you would do or not. A little while later she was still sitting there waiting and Brian came by and said he had just been to a product show. For you non-scientists out there who get wooed by companies with actually cool stuff, scientists are easy and we will flock to anywhere that there are a) free pens, b) free food or c) free t-shirts (the best). He mentioned that there had been free pizza at the product show. She immediately perked up and said 'Oh really? Free pizza? Well, maybe I'll just head over there while I'm waiting for the hospital to call me back.'

So - emergency-room-requiring migrane can instantly be cured upon the mention of free pizza. Hm.

There were loads of other indications that the illnesses were not always as bad as she made them out to be. One day she came into his office doing charades with a note that said she had laryngitis and couldn't talk. She spent the rest of the day trying to ask him questions by acting things out or writing them down. However, later that day he came into the lab unnoticed and she was talking on the phone. One day I had stopped by the lab to pick something up from Brian, and while we were sitting there talking I kept hearing this dinging noise. I thought she was playing computer games, but no - she was clicking around a pair of those worry balls that had chimes in them. I finally said 'What in the HELL is that noise??' and she was all 'oh! I have to do this all the time, for my wrist.' Uh huh. I had trouble with tendonitis or carpal tunnel in my wrists when I was in high school and college (from all the musical instruments) but you know, I did my physical therapy AT HOME.

This would all have been bad enough, but she was also really crap at lab work. She screwed everything up, all the time. Even very very simple things. It was really setting him back, both time-wise and money-wise.

Anyhow, after going through a long and arduous process, he fired her yesterday. She totally knew it was coming - she had already packed up her stuff. We went to the Mellow Mushroom to celebrate. I'm so very very happy, because now we don't have to deal with this crap anymore. Although the stories were always funny.

Brian has learned many things from this experience, most importantly: LISTEN TO WHAT THE REFERENCES SAY ABOUT A PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEE. There were hints in her references that there had been some problems like these, but Brian didn't really pay that much attention to them (of course, the referees don't come right out and say it, so they were being a little vague, and he wasn't sure how much to believe them).

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lost the go in the go-for-it

I'm having a really bad week this week, for reasons that are probably partially PMS related, but otherwise are unexplained. I mean, come on. I've had PMS like three other times since Ed died, eh? These did not result in four full days of all-crying-all-the-time. I don't know what is the deal this week, but I don't think my eyes can take it anymore! So sore! Also, really not getting much accomplished at work - a minimum.
I have been going to a bereavement counselor, my second visit was this week. I'm sure this is a good idea, but it feels a little strange talking about my feeeelings with this stranger. Duke has a bereavement center that is run through their hospice. Family of hospice patients go for free, everyone else is with donations. Its in Hillsborough, which is quiet and rural-y, and the center is really an old home which is located near the hospice (I think).
One thing we talked about this week was how I felt about how other people have handled things. Feeling abandoned by friends or relatives, etc. I have read that this is very common among people who have lost siblings. Support seems to flow in the direction of the parents, the spouse, the children of someone who has died, while people tend to think that grief felt by siblings is not as great. Or that you must be over it by now (surely, its been four months, aren't you over this yet?). I can't decide what I am most upset about this week: the fact that my brother has died, or the relationships with other people that I feel I have lost (or that never were what I thought they were in the first place). It does help to know that I'm not the only person who has felt this way.
My parents had a great support network around them in the weeks immediately following Ed's death. I assume it has stayed this way. I asked the counselor whether he thought it was just people of my age group who didn't know how to be supportive in this situation, because we have not experienced this as frequently as people of my parents age group? He thought that was probably true, and also mentioned that it might be because people of my age do not form the same kinds of communities as my parents generation did. He mentioned like church communities, neighborhoods, other things. This is probably true, and I never thought about it before. I don't even know my next-door neighbors. Also, my social group is generally the other scientists that I interact with, who end up moving around a lot (every couple of years, especially early in our careers). There are many people with whom I've been the best of friends when living in the same place, only to completely lose touch once one or both of us have moved. I guess thats just the way it is.

On a completely unrelated note, I also wanted to say that I totally tried to not find out who won Project Runway last night. We don't get Bravo in Durham (although our neighbors in Chapel Hill with the SAME FREAKING CABLE COMPANY do), so I had just been reading the recaps on TWoP and talking to my mom about it. Until, that is, iTunes started selling it. Hurrah! It hasn't come out yet on iTunes, so I didn't want to know. Then I was reading a totally non-PR related post on and IT TOTALLY SPOILED IT. Oh!! So so so so sad. Still can't wait to watch, but it just won't be the same. Sniffle.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I can't believe I'm defending algebra, but I kind of am

As much as I have a well-documented hatred of bugs, I also have a well-documented hatred of math. I did a passable job at it in high school (because I worked hard at it), but I really never got algebra. I did sort of get geometry, but not algebra (I personally think you're either an algebra person or a geometry person), and certainly not calculus (which I got a C on first semester and failed second semester). What the hell is going on with calculus, I have no idea. And I certainly couldn't tell you if I ever required calculus skills in my daily life, because I have no idea what calculus even has to do with anymore.

Like me, my friend Karl has the tendency to 'not suffer fools gladly', but he rants even more than I do. Like, exponentially more (ooh! is that algebra-related? I think so!!). Some of my blog readers surfed over here from Karl's blog, so you already know him. But for those of you who don't, he's a biostatistics professor. So he likes the math. He insists that statistics is not math, but I still don't believe this, owing to its use of numbers and mathy symbols.

He has a post up on his blog today about a recent editorial in the Washington Post (which you can read here), in which the author discusses the uselessness of requiring algebra for high school students. His basic point, as far as I can tell, is that algebra is useless in your life, and students who just don't get it can get frustrated and just drop out of high school entirely, as did his example: a girl named Gabriela.

I totally can't even believe this article, as it seems to suggest to me that we should just eliminate the requirement for any "hard" classes in high school, just so the students don't get frustrated. I quote: " The LA school district now requires all students to pass a year of algebra and a year of geometry in order to graduate. This is something new for LA (although 17 states require it) and it is the sort of vaunted education reform that is suppossed to close the science and mat gap and make the US more competitive. All it seems to do, though, is ruin the lives of countless kids. In LA, more kids drop out of school on account of algebra than any other subject. I can hardly blame them."

How incredibly ridiculous is that? I hate algebra too, but this really seems to send the message that students really shouldn't have to challenge themselves. No one is saying you're going to need algebra in particular to survive in life, but what you DO need is the ability to face these kinds of challenges. I had to study way more for algebra than anything else. I had to get a tutor for calculus, just so I could pass it (because 2 semesters of it were required of anyone getting any degree at my college). It was hard, and I was miserable, but you don't just get to give up because something is hard. You're going to face many challenges in your life that aren't math-related, and you're not just going to be able to skip them because you don't know how to deal with them. You may as well learn that in high school.

Terror on the highway

Yesterday it was almost 80 degrees here. Have I mentioned my love of North Carolina? Love. Okay. So, since it was so nice out, we were outside a lot yesterday. We ate lunch outside, and Sheri and I took a half-hour break later in the afternoon to go for a walk around the lake (where I saw what I think were ruddy ducks in their winter coloring). When I went to my car that evening, it was still really nice so I opened the windows a bit.

After I had just pulled onto the highway, something horrible happened: a huge beetle of some sort flew into the car and landed on the dash right in front of me. I am aware of course that I am a grown woman. However. I am majorly terrified of bugs. Majorly. Some highlights from my life of bug fear:

1. In Wisconsin, the summer brought June bugs. I hate June bugs. They fly all out-of-control and bang into things, and if you're unlucky and you get in the way, the thing will be you. Ugh. They congregate around lights at night, so each lit doorway was a minefield of June bugs. There was no way I was going to stand in the doorway trying to open the door when I could be barraged by June bugs. So I carried a garage door opener with me. That way, I could open the double garage door (which had lights at either end) and run in through the center, as far from each light as possible.

2. In a related story, one time in high school I took the cordless phone outside to sit in the car while I was talking. No, I have no idea why. We used to play with the electric seat adjustment controls in the car (we had 'chair races' where you had to take the seat through a predetermined course with the various controls), so maybe thats what I was doing. Anyhow. I'm sure I was talking to Kendra. I decided it was time to go back inside but there was no garage door opener in the car, and there was no frigging way I was going to the front door. So I had Kendra hang up the phone and then re-dial my house, let someone inside pick up and tell them to open the garage door.

3. In England, for whatever reason, it is not common to have screens on your windows. I think it is just to torture me. When the windows are open, any and every insect outside can fly right on in. I can't sleep then, because I'm terrified that something is going to get me in the night, and I end up taking some Tylenol PM just so I can go to sleep. I keep telling Brian that we need to get his parents screens for Christmas sometime.

Anyhow. There are more stories, but I think we've effectively established that bugs and I are not friends. So this bug is in the car and I know there is no way I can drive like a normal human being under these conditions, so I pull over to the side of the road. I get out and go to the other side of the car, so that I'm not on the highway side (and some moron doesn't hit me or something). I can see the stupid beetle overturned on the dashboard, trying to right itself. I'm panicking now, because I don't know what to do. Because obviously, I am not going to TOUCH it either. No way. My phone had fallen out of my bag onto the seat, which I hadn't noticed, so I thought I had left it at home. And I was like, crap. I can't even call anyone (although who would have gotten that phone call from me and not totally hung up on me?). I had some sort of newspaper type item in the backseat, and I grabbed that and tried to push the beetle out the open driver's side window while sitting in the passenger seat. Even when I pushed it, it didn't go far. And it was getting further and further in this narrow gap between the window and the dash, so it was harder and harder to reach. I'm really freaking out now, and kind of half hoping that someone will see me and think I have a flat tire, or engine trouble, or something, and stop and help me out (even thought I'd have to tell them that in fact, I needed assistance getting a bug out of my car). Finally, I got one good flick in and I thought it had gone out the window. Phew! I snuck back around to the drivers side of the car to get in. However. The lighting was rather poor, and thus I couldn't see the floor of the car all that well from the passenger side. When I got over there, I saw that the beetle was on the floor on the driver's side. I was afraid to spend too much time over there trying to get it out (again, not wanting to be killed by oncoming traffic) so I just furiously stamped on it. It was pretty well smashed, but even so, I kept worrying while I was driving that I hadn't killed it, and that it was going to crawl up my leg or fly into my face and then I was going to crash the car. So I kept stomping my foot and rubbing it around, just in case.

I did make it home safely, but totally adrenaline-charged. Now I've got to take the dustbuster out there and vacuum the bug up so that I can get back in the car to go to work.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Some links

These ads are pretty hilarious. (from The Consumerist)

Why in the hell did anyone marry this guy in the first place? Shouldn't this contract have been a bit of a red flag? I'm just sayin'.
(And by the way? This is totally for reals, lest you question the authenticity.)

A really crazy landlady.