Monday, December 29, 2008

We, the marginalized.

Just once I want to hear a politician say, "My faith is none of the public's business. I am running for a secular office and I will fulfill those duties to the best of my abilities for all my constituents regardless of their faith or lack thereof."

Not holding my breath.

Hat tip to Hemant, the Friendly Atheist.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saturnalia is upon us!

I'll be in TX with the family for the holidays, likely without internet *shudder*, so posts will be non-existent until I get back on Monday, and I'll need a bit of recovery time (love my family, but there are *so many of them*), so things may be sparse around here for a bit.

So, with that out of the way, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Super Saturnalia, Swingin' Solstice, Happy Birthday Mithras and Horus, Crazy Kwanzaa and Happy Monkey to you all!

I'll See you in the New Year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

100 experiences meme

What the heck, I wasn't officially tagged, but GrrlScientist posted on it and I read it and she asked her readers about it, and I'm in a good mood, so here is the list of 100 experiences. Taking the formatting from GrrlScientist, I have bolded things I have done and put an asterisk next to the things I would like to do.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars -oh heck yeah!
3. Played in a band -choirs as a kid, a few "bands" as an adult, never paid, but we sure had fun at a few parties!
4. Visited Hawaii - several family vacations
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain - easy when you grow up in Colorado
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo - several, though I am so out of practice now that people would probably pay me not to.
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris - Great, but all the museum workers were on strike, so that bit sucked.
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty*
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France* (see 12!)
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
24. Built a snow fort - Colorado childhood, again
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice*
29. Seen a total eclipse* - I assume this means Solar. I've seen several Lunar.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run - does kickball count?
32. Been on a cruise - several, both working and pleasure.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person*
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors*
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language* - I'd like to learn Latin
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - I'm a lucky dude. Got enough to not worry too much, that's nice.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person*
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David*
41. Sung karaoke - Sorry to everyone there...
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa* - I have might-as-well-be family with some good Namibian ties, so this one may be doable.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person*
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris* (again, see 12!)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China*
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia*
60. served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (I'm kinda disqualified on this one.)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - Just blood. Up to a couple gallons, now.
65. Gone sky diving (No way am I going to jump out of a perfectly good plane.)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp*
67. Bounced a check - D'oh!
68. Flown in a helicopter*
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar - Meh.
72. Pieced a quilt - If you knew my Mother, you would understand that avoiding that was impossible in my family.
73. Stood in Times Square*
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone - Metacarpal in my writing hand, finals week, Freshman year.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - I chickened out at 110 mph.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person*
80. Published a book*
81. Visited the Vatican*
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem*
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible* - I tried with the KJV. Maybe I'll try a different translation.
86. Visited the White House* - I've seen it from outside of the fence, does that count?
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone's life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby* - Not that I can give birth.
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phonel
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant - @ the Denver Zoo

Not too bad, I guess. If only the French museum workers weren't on strike... Didn't they know I was coming?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Well, I did it. After 5 1/2 years, Lab Boy has proposed to the SO.

She said yes!

I am a happy Lab Boy.

Next comes the wedding planning... eep.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lovely Trio

The Moon, Jupiter and Venus recently got close from out vantage point here on Earth. It made for a pretty sight. My photographic skills are (obviously, based on the shuttle post) limited, but I did remember to use a tripod this time, so it came out OK. So here is the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, and my local bit of Earth:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful to my parents,
The love and learnin' that they gave me,
It lets me pay my own rents.

I am thankful to my sister,
It's too bad she was absentee.
I hope she knows I missed her.

I am thankful to my family,
Support from them's a guarantee,
All the way up the big clan tree.

I am thankful to my friends,
The rascally, varied potpourri.
I toast to them I extend.

I am thankful to my dog,
Though passing years have slowed his glee,
He helps me through the slog.

I am thankful to my cats,
And though the seem to think they own me,
At least they kill the rats.

I am thankful to my partner,
She puts up with so much from me.
Don't know what I'd do without her.

And to anyone who reads this,
I'm thankful to you, too.
And to anyone I did miss,
My thanks go out to you.

Thank you all,
Lab Boy

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Open Letter to Fox Sports

To whom it may concern,
I appreciate your football coverage on the whole. You employ a good number of fine play-by-play people and occasionally get an interesting on-the-field interview. Likewise, your half-time show is usually good, too.

However, there is something that has been bugging me. It used to be a minor annoyance, but has been growing in annoyance factor to the point that I must say something.

Why so many f#&@*@g digital graphics? Spinning crap growing into display boards, wooshing swooshy things to wipe the screen, team logos spinning for no apparent reason. Are these things necessary? They add nothing other than flashy crap that only tells me you have a nice computer system to create this meaningless, distracting, content-free junk. That dancing, guitar playing, Burger King hawking, terminator wannabe robot must die. Remember to take all of the goddamn chips and severed arms and throw them into the molten steel with it!

And get off my lawn you damn kids!

Lab Boy

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happiness is a Bubbling Brew

This is the first beer batch I have made in a while. We have a friend who is hosting a Winter Feast, and I, somewhat brashly, mentioned that I could make a batch of beer. It's a bit of a potluck, and I couldn't think of anything that I could bring that would fit the medieval theme, aside from beer. So last night the SO and I cooked up a nice batch of the beer that has been dubbed (by the SO and I) "Better than Fruitcake". It has some nice spiced character, with a hint of citrus and a fruity aroma, reminding us of the scent of fruitcake, but it's beer. And it tastes good. Hence "Better than Fruitcake".

If you email me and ask really nicely, I may share the recipe. But I'll probably keep it to myself so that people have a reason to invite me to parties.

{EDIT: I changed the video to the one I uploaded to Youtube so that my friends with iPhones and the like can view it.}

Friday, November 14, 2008


This is what a shuttle launch looks like captured from a hand-held camera on the opposite coast of Florida.

The big blobs are a street light (no that's not a mistake). The smaller jittery thing to the left is the shuttle.

Well, they can't all be winners, can they?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blog neglect and other things...

Well, as you may have noticed, I have been a bit remiss in my blogging of late. I'll try to briefly catch up on things.

The Cruise. It's over. I had a time that I can't really call good, but definitely was not bad. It was too busy to be either, I guess. I have several cultures growing (YES!) and a few photos that I'll share when I have some time again. The trip has provided me with plenty of work for quite some time, and the possibility of finding something truly new, which is every scientist's dream, right? I'll post about the cruise retrospectively as I am able.

In short, the boat was OK, the crew was fantastic (very helpful and curious about what the visiting nerds were up to), the sampling gear was barely adequate (better than I had hoped, actually), and I didn't lose the dock rock for about a week.

The Election. James, this bit is for you. Obama won (news flash!). I'm happy about that. For one thing, I can finally watch TV without being assaulted with political ads, so that's nice. For another (few) things, the McCain campaign was the loser. This pleases me. I shall briefly try to explain why.

McCain was someone I could have voted for... in 2001. He revealed himself to not be that person any more. The Maveric(tm) is no more. His campaign pandered to fear, loathing of education and the tribal instincts of our barbarian past that I had thought we might move beyond. His choice of Palin for VP was one of the most shameful, calculated and cynical acts I have seen in a presidential campaign. She is unqualified, removing McCain's argument about Obama's qualifications. She is not only ignorant about the world around her, but proved to be unwilling to learn about it. She is blatantly anti-science. Not only did she deride research on "fruit flies, in Paris, France. I kid you not!", but she has no idea why such research might be (pardon the pun) fruitful. She didn't care that the research was about the olive fruit fly that is a major crop pest to the California olive industry, nor that France was the best place to study the fly because that is its natural range. Nope, just dog-whistle bullshit. "Fruit flies" -- who cares about that? "France" -- Just a bunch of cheese-eating surrender-monkeys! Why the hell should our money go there?!? *sigh*

McCain often referred to the $3mil "overhead projector" that would have gone to the Adler Planetarium. In that statement, repeated often, he revealed his anti-science and anti-intellectual stance. That "overhead projector" was a Zeiss star machine. A planetarium projector that can capture the minds and curiosity of countless children was compared to an obsolete piece of office technology.

Even without getting into the nastiness of the campaign, those few things were enough. The callous pandering to the religious right folks who are proud of their ignorance, the denigration of science, and the use of "elite" as an epithet solidified my vote for Obama.

Is Obama the "Saviour"? Will he fix all our problems? Will he save our reputation in the world? Will he bake me cookies?

NO! (Well, maybe cookies.)

He has a really nasty mess to attempt to fix. I really wouldn't want to be in his shoes right now. All I can do at this point is to wish him well and send letters to tell him when I think he has fucked up. I'll hold him to account. He is no messiah, he's a naughty boy. But he's my president and I'm going to hope that he does the right thing. When (not if) he does something I disagree with, I'll hold it against him. Yes, it's nice we have a progressive centrist in office, but he better do some of what he promised, or I'll... I'll... um... WRITE A REALLY ANGRY EMAIL!!!!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Cruise 1

Well, we left on time and the cruise is well under way.
I'm on the night shift, 7p to 7a.

So, here's a basic day for YHN aboard the ship.
1700: wake up, see if I have samples to process, consume much coffee, process samples
1900: shift begins. So far it's been plankton tows, Tucker trawls and/or CTD casts.
0700: shift ends.
0730: finished with end of shift stuff, scarf breakfast.
0800:take care of laundry (it's been raining for most of the deck work, and glorious when I'm asleep), data processing, quick emails to SO, PI and family and other misc stuff. (cruise axiom: Dry shorts are good for morale. Dry shoes are a pipe dream.)
0900: sleep

Notice anything missing?

Yeah, blogging.

I'll keep trying, if I have time.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Cruise 0.5

I packed up the truck this morning and set off for adventure on the high seas. Action packers full of supplies were stowed, along with a cooler full of micro media and a liquid nitrogen dewar. Water, check. Road food, check. Am I caffeinated enough? CCHHEECCKK! So it's time to go. I bid farewell to my PI (henceforth "PI") and Lab Goddess* (henceforth "LG")

LG's reply: "Have fun storming the castle!"

I instinctivly reply: "Do you think it'll work?"

LG: "It'll take a miracle. Buh-bye!" (Link for those who didn't get the ref.)

Well, I made it to the destination and I load up and board the ship in the morning. I met the Big Boss (henceforth BB. This is the science BB, not the Captain of the vessel, who will be called "the Captain") of the cruise and most of the other crew (scientific and ship crew) for dinner and I really hope I learn all the names quickly. There must be almost 40 people on this leg, with scientists and ship crew. I hope my swiss cheese brain can keep up.

Maybe I'll find the four white horses at the end.

*anyone who has ever had a really good lab manager to work with knows why I chose that title.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Cruise!

Dear reader*,
I am going on a research cruise for the next two weeks. I'll be aboard the RV Big Boat**, and I have been told that there is WiFi aboard. If the internet is real, and reliable, I shall try to blog the cruise. We'll be working in the Gulf of Mexico, studying the deep water corals there. I'll try to post pix and all that kind of cool stuff, as well as what the day-to-day life aboard is like, since I don't know if my reader has ever been aboard a blue water research vessel.

This should be an interesting time, and I really hope for some good samples. Will I get them and have a job for the next year? Will they tell me anything interesting and new? Will I fall overboard while losing my lunch? These questions and more will be answered in the next episode of "Lab Boy on a Boat." Be sure to tune in!

*I think I have at least one reader.
**I'll be keeping things anonymous. Since this space is mine, I do not speak for my employer, the funding agency, the crew, the vessel, the vessel owners, nor anyone else. If I get seasick, I don't even speak for myself.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike looks bad

I don't know if I have any readers in the path of Ike, but if I do, please take care of yourselves. It's too late to run. I hope all are prepered.
Be careful and I'll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First Beam!

The first beam has made it around the CERN LHC ring!

Read about it here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Football is back. All is well with the world. Lab Boy is happy.

I said all is well with the world.

Don't make me stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Well, crap.

Over the last week or two, I've been reading (and watching) the coverage of the conventions and their attendant protests. The cops in both cities have over-reacted. In Denver we had this, for example:

Nice, eh? An NBC reporter was arrested for... um... something nasty, I'm sure.

Then at the RNC, we have Amy Goodman (Democracy Now anchor and pacifist) arrested:

We have "flower girl" pepper sprayed:

So after all this, I was thinking about my constitutional rights. Assembly, expression and all that kind if hippie stuff. I decided to pull out the new toy (iPod touch) that I had loaded with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, so I could read what the founding fathers had to say about the whole protesting the government thing. What did I see? Well, I'll tell you that I had a fleeting moment of panic when I saw this:

Says it all, don't it?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

This does not look good...

OK, who was the jerk that taunted Gustav? In less than a day and a half he goes from a strong TS or weak cat 1 to CAT FREAKING 4? His eye is over Cuba, and here in the Tampa Bay area we've been having some fairly nasty thunderstorms that look (on satellite) like they're connected to Gustav.

He's big, he's mean, he's strong and his predicted path takes him directly over the Loop current, the warmest water in the Gulf.

He's headed for LA, but if you're anywhere "in the cone" on the northern Gulf coast, pack your stuff up and get the hell out of there. Get to higher ground. Now.

He could easily be a cat 5 when he lands on Monday.

This will not be pretty. Take care of yourselves up there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fay is coming!

Man the battle stations! Pack your rations! Cover the computers and thermal cycler! Put the -80 on the generator!

Yesterday was a fun one at ye olde lab. We had that storm coming up through the Keys, and with that angle of approach, there was no telling where she might finally land, so we had to prepare. Everything in the lab was unplugged (aside from the fridges and freezers, which we made sure were on the generator circuit), computers and stuff were covered and we got the email that the building would be closed Tuesday (today).

The eye of Fay, such as it was, crossed over Key West about 3 pm on Monday, and that's about the time that the Pinellas county emergency folks decided that a zone A evacuation was in order, starting at 6AM Tuesday. For those of you from outside of Florida, zone A is the low lying and waterfront areas, mostly populated by idiots who forgot that Florida gets flooded in hurricanes. Being a classic example of said idiots, I live close to the water.

Fortunately, I had an admittedly rather amorphous plan. Some easy foodstuffs were shoved into the backpack (essentials only: tuna, mustard and rum), the truck was loaded with he firebox full of the essential papers, and a box with the treasured stuff like pictures, the SO's jewelry and stuff like that. Then we watched some Olympics and the Weather channel and went to bed ready to fly. We didn't really think that this storm would amount to anything much, so we thought of this as a "dry run".

We weren't wrong.

Got up at 6 today, checked the NHC's 5am forecast... Fay had turned a bit and was already about to make landfall way south of us. Cool! I called the SO's work hotline and she didn't have to go in, so I didn't wake her. I checked the Pinellas emergency folks and found that the evac order was lifted. Sweet! Stormy day off! (I love those, they're great for reading.) I still had to check in on the lab, but not until later, so I went back to bed.

Eventually, I drag my butt out of bed (thanks to the neighbor who needed a jump start) and after some coffee, I figure I should get the lab check and the BioLog reading out of the way before the really nasty stuff hits. So I do.

The place is all but deserted. Only a few essential personnel are there. I do my thing, plug in my computer, check my email, shut the computer down, unplug it and leave. Before the nasty stuff hits.

The nasty stuff never hit.

Ah, well. I guess it's good to be prepared, but I would have liked at least some rain.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Suburban Wildlife 4

This rather intimidating hymenopteran is a female Eastern Cicada Killer, confirmed by Dr. Charles Holiday of Lafayette. His Cicada killer page is here, and I was able to help him in some small way with his research by sending him the above image and the location that I took the image (my back porch). This "little" lady is about 2" long, and despite her intimidating size, was perfectly passive when I got close to take the picture and was only slightly aggressive when I caught her in a cup to set her free from the screened porch.

As usual, click for a big version.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

It's the 4th, America's Independence Day. That's good reason to celebrate, and I'll be enjoying the day and watching the fireworks come the evening. So: re-read the Declaration of Independence, and Happy 4th to all!

Monday, June 30, 2008

What's going on?

OK, both Carl Zimmer and Phil Plait are pulling something... They're both late. WTF is going on? Are they in cahoots?

That's just mean. Keeping fans in suspense like that! I mean really!

UPDATE: They have both gone over to Discovery magazine's blogs. This should be an interesting move.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Suburban Wildlife 3

The beautifully ugly Wood Stork, perched on the eave of the condo complex a street over. They usually spend the summer with us here in Pinellas, then head south for the winter. They soar with grace, but the take-off and landing can be a bit awkward.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


How does one go about weaving a compelling story about a seemingly simple gut bacterium?

For me it was rather simple: I didn't even try. That didn't get the story very far, though, so thank goodness that there are people around who can do it. I don't need to, and hey, anyone who visits here knows that writing compelling narrative is not my strong suit. That's what Carl Zimmer is for.

'Bout 10 minutes ago I closed the book that contains this remarkable story Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life, and I couldn't resist the urge to write a little something about it. I am not a complete layman when it comes to E. coli, in fact I hijack it's machinery quite frequently. I've used it for such diverse things as developing and testing a detection and quantification method for toxic algae to figuring out microbial communities' components. It is as essential to my work as the mechanics' socket wrench is to theirs. Though the mechanic may take that socket wrench for granted, I shall no longer do the same with my E. coli.

I never really worried too much about how this little bug came to be the wonderful tool that it is, though I knew it has been deployed for all kinds of useful things. Diabetic friends of mine use human insulin produced by huge vats of E. coli, for instance.

Zimmer's prose in this book is classic Zimmer style. He has developed a voice that explains in conversational and understandable ways some of the most complicated bits of biology. Heck, my retired non-scientist father devoured Evolution: Triumph of an Idea and came back to me with some questions that clearly showed that Zimmer's writing helped evolution make sense to him. Call it the "father test." If my Dad can read a biology book that lays out fairly complex topics cover to cover in a week and not only understand it, but enjoy it, that's good writing.

Throughout the book, Zimmer repeats Monod's quote "What is true for E. coli is true for the elephant." He uses this non-intuitive phrase to great rhetorical purpose. As he takes us through the discovery of this humble little gut bug, the stories of the scientists who figured out many of its inner workings, and eventually how to manipulate them, Monod's quote is the recurrent chorus. The story of modern biology, with all of its various uses and troubles, Zimmer shows us, is the story of E. coli.

Zimmer takes us from the beginning, with the discovery of the bug, through the process of proving it even had genes. He takes us through the experiments that Lederberg conducted to demonstrate that E. coli had sex, in a series of not-very-racy scenes (hey, he's not writing that kind of book).

He leads us through how scientists learned it can get sick and that those viruses had genes, too; similar genes to the host they infect. From these humble beginnings, he takes us through the development of E. coli as a serious, though somewhat messy and stinky tool that has proven to be an essential part of modern biology. If E. coli sex and illness sound "neat to know, but useless" read the book. It's truly amazing the power of those two little facts and the impact they have had on modern biology.

There were several moments where I was reminded of facts of life I have taken for granted, until I saw it written in Zimmer's evocative prose. The sheer numbers of these bugs in our guts and indeed their necessity for our survival, was one I need to store away to squick out new lab interns. The truth about the integrity of "humanity" is something I'll let you discover on your own.

In short, I guess this review all boils down to a few points:
->if you like bacteria, buy the book,
->if you don't care about bacteria, buy the book 'cause, really Zimmer uses E. coli as a window to "the new science of life"
->just buy the damn book, it's a great read.

Next time someone tells you that science and understanding takes away the wonder and awe, send 'em one of Zimmer's books to show them just how wrong they are.

Oh, I almost forgot! Galileo likes it too:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Did I mention that I'm psychic?

I have a prediction to lay upon y'all (all 1 of my readers, including myself).

I predict that some time in the first few month of 2009:
someone will forget to use the new year on a personal check,
someone will lose their keys.
someone will be unable to find the gift receipt to return the horrible thing that was given to them for the holidays,
someone will state that the commercials during the Super Bowl were the best part of the game,
And someone will sue the state of Louisiana with an establishment clause violation.

Governor Jindal, LA, signed into law the "academic freedom" bill, covered in the Times Picayune. Oft attempted by other states, including my current home of Florida (which died due to lack of time, not interest), these bills are nothing more that an attempt by the Religious Wrong to insert their faith into the public school system. When some misguided teacher attempts to "teach the controversy" about the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory of evolution, there will be a court battle. The state will lose. They may win initially, depending on the specifics of how the case is set up but eventually they will find out that their legislation in this area is unconstitutional. It will cost them mucho dinero.

The crystal ball grows fuzzy...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits!

I'm gonna miss George.
Here's the original 7 words bit, in brief:

So, the question becomes, where is George Carlin now?

The weather tonight will be...dark.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Suburban Wildlife 2

Cuban Tree frog, on the screen to my back porch. It's an invasive, and the recommendation is that we catch them, put them in a bag and then in the freezer. I have a hard time doing that, so I'll try to break the reproductive chain instead. I'll make sure all the eggs in the pond laid during their orgies are killed. It's like friggin' Calligula out there when they're gettin' it on, but their egg masses are pretty distinctive, so either the fish eat 'em or I'll start scooping 'em out. It's free plant food, right?

I don't want to mess with the eggs of the other frogs that use our pond, so I'll have to scoop 'em quick. We do have a few native species that use our little pond for their procreative needs.

She's cute, though, huh?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Always run your backups!

I have finished installing the new HD, installed Leopard, and, after much manual shuffling, transferred almost all of my files. The old drive was so messed up that I couldn't just transfer my account, so I have to reconstruct everything basically one folder at a time. Most of the pictures and music made it through fine, but a small minority were too far gone. The email all came through ok, so that's nice. I'll see about the address book and bookmarks and calendar and all that rot over the weekend.

I'll have more pics and rants soon!

Final reminder: Always run your backups!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I'm not dead, yet...

...but my computer is. My HD is on the blink and failing rapidly. I've decided not to use it unless absolutely necessary to save it for the hopeful last-gasp download to the new HD. I'm using the SO's compy for now, but she gets a bit testy when I'm on her computer all day. I can't imagine why.

So that all means posting will be a bit light for a while. I hope to have the problem resolved by the end of the week.

Does anyone know how to swap out the hard drive on a MacBook?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Phoenix has landed!

Waiting for the signal from the lander...

Still transmitting! W00T!

7:00 nearly every weekend morning...

They aren't mine, they came with the S.O., but sometimes, it would be nice to sleep in...

Suburban Wildlife 1

Every now and then, nature makes itself seen, even in one of the most built-out counties in Florida, Pinellas. Here I begin a photo series, mostly taken by yours truly, of wildlife in our suburban area.

Here I begin with the obligatory charismatic megafauna. This little fella (little, heh, he's about a foot tall) is our neighborhood Red Tailed Hawk, perched in our neighbor's Flamboyant tree (click for the big version). This was taken a few months ago, just before the tree put out its leaves. You can see the neighbor's main power line crossing behind him.

Before we ever saw him, we had some good idea that there was a fast predatory bird in the 'hood. Every now and then we would see a streak across the sky and a Ring Necked dove would vanish from a power line, leaving behind nothing but a cloud of feathers, just like in the cartoons.

We have seen him a few other times, and if I ever manage to get a proper portrait, I'll be sure to post it here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


NASA's latest mars probe, Phoenix, is almost ready to land. Click the image to go to their mission page. Tomorrow, Sunday May 25 at some time before 8pm eastern time (US). It's supposed to land near the northern polar region of Mars and its primary mission is to look for water ice. Ice and to investigate the climate. It's two main goals are to look for water ice and investigate the climate and to look for signs of life. Three! It's three goals are...

Sorry, I'll stop that. It's silly.

Climatology, geology and the search for life or life's traces are the major goals of this lander, and it's got a great collection of tools to do all that with. Built at the Lockheed facility in Littleton, CO (I used to drive by it once a week or so when I was in high school) its suite of instruments is interesting, with MECA as the really interesting unit. Wet chemistry and optical and atomic force microscopy. The page linked is rather old, saying things like "The probe will probably consist of three small spikes that will be inserted into the ends of an excavated trench." Probably? Isn't it a bit late to change your minds now?

I don't see any mention of the one instrument I would have tried to put on it: a mass spectrometer. Life on mars, if there still is any would probably be very small, maybe analogous to bacteria on Earth (look down, you can probably see Earth from where you are). Life on Mars in the past was also most likely bacteria-like. Small things eking out a living very frugally, to the point where even the isotopes they use are preferentially the lighter ones. This leaves telltale signatures in the stuff they leave behind, and a skewed isotope ratio would be a good indicator of life, past or present.

They need more microbiologists on staff at NASA. Maybe I should apply.

In any event, I'll be glued to the computer, watching NASA TV probably starting at 7ish. I hope all goes well, if this mission fails, that will bring the Mars totals to .500. Who knew landing on a little red rock hurtling through space would be so hard?

*EDIT: Watching the live coverage, I just learned that there is a mass spec aboard. That pleases me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Congratulations Californians!

California has made marriage equal.
I hope the other 48 states will soon follow suit. Thank you Mass for setting the tone.

I was surprised to see so many states that had constitutional amendments barring "same sex marriage," including my home state of Colorado. I thought they were more enlightened than that, as a whole.

OK, dear readers (though I guess that's just me at this point), I have a confession to make. Before I left the beautiful state of Colorado to go off to college in 1994, I made a bad choice on a ballot. I voted for the ban on same sex marriage (prop 2?). I bought into the "special rights" argument. Looking back, I can't figure why I thought that was reasonable, but there it is. Hell, I even labeled myself as a libertarian at the time! A libertarian, voting against civil liberties? How the hell did I make that work in my head?

Well, I've learned and grown. I'm sorry for that vote I cast. I have made gay and lesbian friends that I can't live without. One friend still lives in Colorado and, though we don't talk as often as we should, it breaks my heart that her marriage (from another state) is not recognized in her home state. It's against the law, according to the state constitution, that she married the person she loves, simply because they were both born female.

L., C, (I'm not going to use your names out of respect for your privacy) if you ever come across this post, I'm sorry for that vote, and I promise to remember what equality really means from now on.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe... go back in the water, Pelicans ATTACK!

I told ya Florida was weird.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Pete M. over at Pharyngula makes an interesting point:

When you act just to avoid punishment, it isn't clear that you're acting morally at all! Think about someone who gives money to your favorite charity, and you think, "Hey, what a great person. How nice." Then you come to find out that this was a condition on their avoiding jail-time, set by some judge who was perhaps a little full of herself. Now, what do you think? Did this person do something good; do they deserve moral credit?

Morality by coercion isn't morality at all.

Storm over Fort Jefferson

This is a lucky shot I got a few summers ago at Fort jefferson. Ft. Jeff is on one of the islands of the Dry Tortugas, some 90 miles west of Key West. I was there doing a study on the water quality, and they let us stay in the fort. Let me tell you, that little island is fantastic once the tourists leave on the last ferry at 3:00 PM. There is no noise aside from the diesel generator (and that can't be heard from more than about 10 meters away), just the wind and waves. The light pollution at night is almost nil. I watched satellites pass overhead, with the glow of the Milky Way arm behind. Meteorites... Ah, it was lovely, and then this storm rolled in and it got even more fun. I can't remember how much digital film I used to finally capture this pic, but it was a 30 second exposure, with the camera set on a brick on the top of the fort and the delayed shutter, so I wouldn't mess it up with vibration. Good times. Click it for all its strikingness.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


OK, this is just beautiful. 

This new fossil is amazing.  The classic Archeopteryx is beautiful, but look at those feathers! Ecoconfuciusornis is beautiful.  Hell, I'm a microbiologist, I don't do things with nuclei, but wow!  What else is China holding back on us?

The column is quite sparse with the information, and I'll have to wait for someone with a more paleo bent to help me understand this finding's place in the great bush that is life on this planet, but I just thought this was too frickin cool not to mention.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Florida Weirdness

Hiaasen was right.  I officially live in a really weird fuckin' state.

A substitute teacher was fired over a magic trick.  Turns out he's a wiccan and he was fired for "Wizardry".  Cue scary music.  Was he Dumbledore or Voldemort?  More here.  

Florida has also managed to make illegal "Truck Nutz."  You know, those bull testicle facsimiles that poorly endowed gentlemen hang off the trailer hitches of their ginormous vehicles? They're gone.  Heaven forfend that someone might get the vapors over seeing a representation of a reproductive gland made of plastic hanging from the back of a truck of the people all those V!@gr@ spams are aimed at.

There is more, but I need a beer to get the taste of stupid out of my mouth.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Flower 2

Once again, I have no idea what this flower is and again it came from Yosemite.   This one was taken in the valley, rather than on the north ridge.  About 1 cm.  Again, any ID (no not that ID, I mean identification) would be great.  Leave a comment. Again, click to enlarge.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Flower 1

I've got lots of pix sitting here on my hard drive, waiting to be shared, so I think I'll start with a series of flower pictures.  This is an unknown species that I saw in Yosemite National Park.  Click to get a larger view.  If anyone knows what it it, please leave a comment.  IIRC, it was about 1.5 cm across, but may have been smaller.

Ain't he a peach?

Ben Stein on the Trinity Broadcast Network, in an interview with Paul Crouch Jr.:
Stein:   When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch:   That’s right.

Stein:   …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Crouch:   Good word, good word.

[emphasis mine]
Nice, eh?

Expelled Exposed has the real scoop.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Water Hyacinth

This is a water Hyacinth.  It's an invasive species introduced to Florida a long time ago and has become a major problem, choking waterways and taking over lots of fresh water habitat.  But damn, those flowers are pretty (click to embiggen).  This was taken in my back yard a few years ago and the nasty invaders are now gone.  The back yard pond is now home to a water lilly and lots of frogs.  You'll have to wait for pics of those.  

Getting used to Blogger 2

Well, the vid worked fine, now how about another pic of your humble narrator.  

Hey, this blogger stuff ain't too hard, even for a relative luddite like me.

That pic is a few years old, but the bike looks the same.  She's a Honda Magna, a 750cc v4 and she's a sweet little ride.
Her rider is quite a bit more hirsute now, though. And I can't vouch for my sweetness of riding.

Getting used to blogger 1

Let's see if I can manage embedding a video from Youtube:

Happy day for Florida

Scary she-devil Ronda Storms didn't get her way.  

Though the senate did pass the Orwellianly titled "Academic Freedom" bill, the House failed to get it through before they shut down for the summer.  Brandon Haught and the team at Florida Citizens for Science covered the whole thing here.

Hello World

Let me introduce myself.

My name is Mike.  I am Lab Boy.

And now I'm a blogger, I guess.