Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas all!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope it is joyous and all of your family is there to celebrate it with you.

The days get longer from here on out.

Here is Tim Minchin singing it better than I can explain:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sagan day.

We lost a fantastic advocate of science when Carl lost his battle with cancer. It is his birthday today, so I post this video to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

That's just great.

St. Petersburg now has a YEC Mayor.

What the hell kind of country do we live in when ideas that are more than 200 years out of date are still acceptable in a large proportion of the populace? How the hell is it possible in modern times to hold these ideas and not only not be marginalized, but elected into positions of power? Even if he really doesn't believe the Earth is 6000 years old, how on this old, old planet is it politically advantageous to claim "well the last 200 years of scientific advancement are nice and all, and I'm not going to give up my modern medicine or "Dancing with the Stars" or my internal combustion driven car with built-in relativity-dependent GPS, but I'm going to agree with that Archbishop of Armagh from 1625 on the age of the Earth".

What other crazy and out of date ideas does Foster hold? He promised clean energy investment and mass transit. Will he allocate funds for research into the luminiferous aether and phlogiston? Will he implement steam-powered street cars, or is that too new-fangled? Seriously, we're talking about ideas that were out of date before slavery was outlawed in this country.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Florida Gothic

Yeah, I know I should have the fiancee on my right with the implement of destruction between us, but after some serious trimming of an invasive species (the neighbor's Brazilian pepper) I didn't care too much. That saw makes a mean zombie defense weapon, too. Good thing I recharged the battery before Halloween. 18 volts of portable zombie and Brazilian pepper killin' power.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Has it really been that long since I posted? Sorry.

It's been a whirlwind couple of months. Everything from health stuff blowing up (a whole week in the hospital, I may elaborate later), to lab stuff getting busy, to lifestyle changes (I started running, quit smoking, quit caffeine and lost 10 lbs. If you know me personally, but we haven't talked in a while, I'm sorry I just made your head explode.).

That's a lot of parenthetical life events, isn't it? It's also a lot of blog fodder, so I will try to be a little more frequent with the postings. Maybe I can squeeze out a post or two on the weekends. We'll see.

Just keep in mind: I am not Metamucil®, I don't promise regularity.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Galileoscope review. (Updated with new price)

I've promised it, and finally I have had a few nights of clear skies, so I got a chance to take it out for a spin. For those of you too impatient to read the whole thing, I'll give it away at the beginning:

Lab Boy sez "Galileoscope gets 5 moons!"

For those of you who want a bit more in-depth review, welcome to the rest. I must admit my scope time is limited. I have used the 6 inch reflector that was given to me in (I think) 6th grade. I have looked through a 4" Schmidt-Cassegrain in college. That's about it. Other than binoculars and spotting scopes (for hunting), I haven't used much to enhance my views of the skies.

As a kid, that 6" reflector was a royal (and looking back with the learning of age, expensive) pain in the ass. I could never get the spotting scope to line up, and I had no freaking clue how the hell to set up the equafragicaliazimuthicustical mount. I got very tired of that thing very quickly. I never pointed it to anything more challenging to find than the moon. Really. I never even tried to see Jupiter. With no introduction and no training (and no internet), I had no way to try to figure out any of that stuff. It sat in Dad's garage until a few years ago when he gave it to my cousin. I hope he doesn't get as frustrated with it as I did.

Looking through the Schmidt-Cassegrain was amazing. That scope was set up by one of my college profs in my freshman orientation term. It was super fancy: star tracking, planet tracking, moon tracking. That thing could track a falcon on a cloudy day, and it'll find you [/Princess Bride]. It was a joy to use. All I had to do was find the computer coordinates and tell it what I wanted to see, then focus.

These stories are relayed to illustrate my fear of telescopes. As far as I knew, they were either cheap(er) and so frustrating to use as to be useless, or so expensive as to be out of reach of folks like me.

Naturally, with the march of technology and the ever dropping price of electronics, that has changed a bit in recent years, but to get a marginally decent computer driven scope will still set you back several hundred bucks. The manual stuff can be good, if you know what you are doing, but if you don't...

And what about your kids? Introducing them to the beauty of the universe with something that isn't a toy?

Finally, there is something available that fits some neglected criteria.

As I said before, the Galileoscope was relatively easy to put together, though the instructions that came with mine were a bit lacking. It seems to be very well thought out and made. I was a little skeptical at first (quelle surprise!), but the main light gathering lens is a glass doublet, which I am told is good for a cheap scope. They even roughed up the inside of the scope to prevent nasty reflections. It has a gunsight style aiming device on the top, so it's basically point and shoot look.

After a frustratingly long time, we finally had a clear(ish) night. We had a couple of friends over (who I had married on July 4, cool, but a story for another time) and I dragged out the scope. I had mounted it on my dad's tripod (probably older that I) and I took it to the end of the driveway. The fiancee was ready for bed and not too happy that I had invited the friends over in the first place, but as soon as I aimed that thing at Jupiter and gave her a look...


This is not a toy. This is a legit scope and I was very pleasantly surprised. It's super easy to use, so it won't frustrate the young folks the way my old reflector did.

I hereby highly recommend the Galileoscope to any lay person who wants to look at the skies, and certainly to any parent who wants to give their child something to spark that curious spirit that will serve them well in life.

So here is the reason for the rating that I gave in the very beginning of this post:

I saw 5 moons of Jupiter!

Five moons. Through a $15 $20 telescope. (UPDATE: They raised the price by $5. It's still remarkably inexpensive. And you can donate scopes for $15.) I'm buying more to give as gifts.

I think the folks at Galileoscope can happily claim mission accomplished.
I can't wait 'till Saturn is up in the early nights again...

(Sky pictures to maybe follow if I can figure out how.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Those wacky Eppendorf folks...

This, um... thing came in with the new centrifuge. It's designed to hold a couple of rotor keys. All I have to say is that the entirety of the lab that wasn't on cruise or in the field laughed our asses off for a good 20 minutes. Yes, the lid does open so you can stick a sharpie or something into its head. They call it Captain Epi.

Useful, useless, hilarious, ridiculous, silly, or brilliant? I'll let you decide. I still snicker a bit when I see it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I get Hate Mail

Well, I guess this means I have truly arrived on the blogging scene. I got my first bit of hate mail. This isn't like some other bloggers' hate mail, no sirree! It didn't arrive in the form of ones and zeros traipsing through the ether of cyberspace. This was a real, honest-to-goodness physical piece of mail, a post card. These senders (yes, pleural) wanted it to be personal. I don't how they got my address, but I know I need to be more careful in the future.

Here is the deceptively cheery front:

Anyone who has read my Science Scouts post knows how I feel about the dolphins. Well, it seems they feel the same way:

Fine. It's on then. I know one thing, you smiling bastards! You aren't so smart on land! Just try to take me! Come on, you know where I live!

Oh, crap. Something just occurred to me. The writing on the post card was surprisingly legible... That means... OH NO!!!

(Thanks to she who has yet to choose a 'nym. I'll call her S. for now. Maybe she'll comment?)

[Dangit! I was trying to schedule this for tomorrow, but it didn't work. Oh, well.]

OK, I think I'm back!

I'm sure both of my readers (myself included, though not my fiance [grumble]) have been missing me terribly during this brief outage, but the power issues on the ole laptop have been addressed. It seems the old Magsafe adapter for the macbook got ripped out a few too many times by by dogs with the zoomies, people in the dark, and all the various things that would previously have sent the computer crashing to the floor.

I guess a new power cord is a smaller price to pay than a new motherboard, case and hard drive.

Anyway, I should be back with some semblance of a schedule, and the promised Galileoscope review soon. The only problem with the review is that the summer skies in Florida are very rarely good for sky watching. I've had a grand total of an hour spread over several nights to see some small part of the skies. I will say that even through some haze, I did see 3 of Jupiter's moons. Saturn is still too low on the horizon to see.

I'm so happy that I don't have to squish and hold the power cord to get computer use! Typing with one hand (the wrong one at that) was really annoying.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oh, wow.

I forgot how beautiful the moon could be through a telescope. I could have sat there for hours watching that amazing rock. The clouds rolled back in.

The Galileoscope works.


Galileoscope, a partial review.

I got the Galileoscope in the mail the other day, so here is the promised review, part 1. Unfortunately I can't do review part 2 until this persistent rain and cloud cover clears out.

It is surprisingly well made, for a $15 piece. As it comes in the box, everything is disassembled and it took about 20 minutes to put it all together. It would have been less time if I had used the PDF of the directions from the website, rather than the ones that came in the box. The PDF is much easier to follow, and from it I learned that I had assembled part of the eyepiece the wrong way, so I had to take it apart and re-do it. No big deal, really, but it did add to the assembly time. I hope that in future shipments, they send a printout of the better directions, since the ones shipped don't tell you anything more than the basic 25x setup, so nerd that I am I went on and tried to set it up in the 50x configuration without directions. Lesson obstinately not learned!

The front lens is a glass (of some sort) doublet, which I have learned is a mark of a real telescope, done to make sure all wavelengths of light come together in one imagen (reduced chromatic aberration, as the astro-folk say). This is no toy, despite the price. In the eyepieces (there are 3 different possible configurations) there are a bunch of little lenses that do lensey things, but I understand that the big front light gathering lens is the one to not be cheap with. From what I can tell, they weren't.

The 3 setups that I mentioned are 25x, 50x (with half the field of view) and a 17x right-side-up-view Galileo style lens. These are all accomplished with two eyepieces and a Barlow tube. All 3 modes can be changed in a less than a minute, making this a fairly flexible little 'scope. Everything from Jupiter's planets to the hot neighbor terrestrial viewing.

Terrestrial viewing is all that I have been able to do, with that darn overcast problem, and I gotta say, for that it works pretty good, mounted on a camera tripod. You just gotta use the Galileo 17x setup with the small field of view, or be ok with everything upside down and backwards. Don't try to follow aa bird in the sky with that. It's really hard, trust me.

So overall, it's more than I expected from a $15 scope and it hardly takes up any space. I'll let you know how it works at looking at space once this atmospheric nonsense calms down. Pictures, too, I swear.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Please stand by...

We are experiencing technical difficulties.

I know I owe all of you a review if the Galileoscope and I should be posting more often, but my poor old first gen. MacBook is having some major charging issues. I have a new charger on the way that should fix the problem, but until then, I have to fiddle with and jab the damn magsafe power coupler into the computer to get it to change and then even the slightest movement will uncouple the damn thing. It's rather annoying trying to deal with an uncharged battery and a finicky charger.

Preliminary G-scope review: The quality is good, and I have used it for land based observations. Pretty decent (though upside down and backwards). As for the heavens, it doesn't work at all when the skies are cloudy. Go figure.

More soon, I hope.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's been a nerdy week

Not only did I get the Galileoscope today, but yesterday, I had the pleasure of reading this post on the Small Things Considered blog.

I had wondered how Leeuwenhoek made his microscopes and had wanted to try making a replica, but I had no idea how he made his lenses. I figured there was grinding and polishing involved and all that junk, but no! Glass and fire will do it. Well, being a red-blooded nerd, I had to try it out, and it freaking works! In about 10 minutes I was looking at a greatly magnified eyelash follicle through a hole in stapled pieces of posterboard and index card. Freaking brilliant! Plus, I got to use a propane torch.

My next plan is to make one out of brass, as Leeuwenhoek did. Maybe I'll start with a Coke can first.

Make all the fun you want, but I have fun nerding out!

It's here!

It's here! The Galileoscope is here! Nerdgasm! Look:

I assembled it at work (no dog hair to get caught in the tube) after I had finished up for the day, but I didn't have a camera; so no pix of that, sorry. I was too excited to have it, and I couldn't wait a day.

It took about 20 minutes to assemble, but if I had the instructions from here (PDF), rather than the ones in the box, it would have been about 5-10. (What the hell are these two big O rings for? How do I set up the lenses in the second eyepiece?)

Now if only that damn Sun would go down...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Science Scouts, now with more badges!

The Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique

The last time this one went around the blogohedron, I didn't blog, so, while I could have claimed quite a few badges, I couldn't brag about 'em. Now is my chance. They have added a few new badges and there are hints that the real thing may be available for purchase to adorn your lab coat. How cool would that be? so, here are the badges I have qualified for so far in life:

Talks about science badge. Required for all members. Yes, I talk about science, whether you want to hear about it or not. Neither rolling your eyes at me, nor that vacant look protect you from my talking science!

Blogs about science. Couldn't usta claim this one, but I guess I can now, eh?

Aw, heck, who doesn't qualify for the arts and crafts badge. I've made electron micrographs (scanning and transmission), light micrographs, plenty of photography, ceramics (I even built a few kilns), and some sumi-e (heck, I made the paintbrushes myself, too). Does that count?

Yes, I did grow up to be a marine biologist, but...

I kinda fu**ing hate dolphins. "Ooh, look at us, we're dolphins, cavorting merrily! Aren't we just super-cool charismatic megafauna? Don't you wish that you could study us like everybody asks if you do when you tell them you're a marine biologist?" I hate them so much. Why do they always wear that damnable smirk?

The "Don't quite know where I fit in" badge. Oceanographer, microbiologist, do I study corals? Well, yes. I am and do.

Any modern microbiologist worth his salt qualifies for the cloner badge.

The works with acid badge? You bet!

The works with too much radioactivity and still has no discernible superpowers badge? Well, I started out in a sediment dating lab working with 209Po, then in the micro lab with 14C and tritiated Lucine. Weak emitters, all. Maybe that's why I haven't been able to detect my superpowers?

The quack stomping badge. Not too much on the blog, but I have convinced my sis that "alt. med." is bunk and I'm working on Dad. And that leads us to:

The "I can sometimes be a real prick when it comes to science" badge. Yeah, well I ain't sorry.

The freezing stuff for the sake of scientific curiosity badges. Freezer (I), dry ice (II) and liquid Nitrogen (III).

The Experienced with electrical shock badges, level II: the shocking of a human and level III the shocking of oneself. Same event, too. See, my lab partner thought the capacitor was totally discharged, so tossed it to me. He made contact with both poles as he threw it and I made contact as I caught it. That hurt a bit, but the scar has faded. Electricity + sweaty hands + stupidity = pain.

Speaking of stupidity and pain: the "I've set fire to stuff" set. Set fire to stuff for general scientific curiosity (I), while aware of the combustion principles (II), and set fire to self while conducting experiments (IV). Cooking and drinking accidents do not count for the level IV badge, but I think setting fire to the ethanol used to sterilize instruments, panicking, knocking over the flaming beaker which set fire to the BSLII hood and then catching the flaming beaker as it rolled out of the hood, spilling flaming ethanol on my arm probably counts. The hood was fine, thanks, and yes, the arm hair grew back.

Because of, or perhaps in spite of the previous experiences with open flames, I earn the "Fond of highly exothermic reactions" (the chem prof blew up the fume hood with thermite in high school, so cool! Lifelong love, there.) and the "Comfortable around open flames" badges.

"Works with small and potentially dangerous organisms." Duh, microbiologist, remember?

The "I've eaten what I study" badge may be a little bit of a stretch, but I'm gonna take it. I've used microbes to make some delicious things, in fact, I'm making yogurt as I type this, I have some Acetobacter cultures making vinegar on the counter, and I have the supplies for the next batch of beer (future Microbes in the Kitchen posts, I promise).

I know what a tadpole is. Got a few in the pond, actually.

My training has made me able to fix household appliances. Especially if there is plumbing PVC involved, or anything with pumps.

I will gladly kick a sexual harasser in the nuts, if necessary.

I have used a telescope for general scientific curiosity.

I'm maybe a little too fond of invertebrates.

My job is such that I often have to wash my hands before I use the bathroom.

My science has kept me away from my bed for a night (I) and for over a week (II). Cruises, gotta love 'em.

I could probably qualify for a few others, like the MacGyver badge, but those would be a bit of a stretch (more so than the eating what I study badge), so I'll leave it at that. How about y'all?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What did Ella find today?

Let's play a new game. Here is the scenario: Ella goes out in the yard and digs up something one of the previous owners left behind.

Ready? Ella, go dig something up!

What did she find?

Give up? Click this for the answer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Microbes in the Kitchen! (2 also with a minor Edit)

Greek cheese! Locally it's called Greek yogurt, and I think that's what most of the packaged products call it, but I've heard it called both. Either way, it's absolutely fantastic. At the end of this very easy process the yogurt you made in our last episode will be converted into a wonderful, light cheese very similar to soft chevre or cream cheese.

Step 1: place a colander or strainer in a bowl. There needs to be drainage room. Line the colander or strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth (unless your strainer is very fine). Then put your fresh yogurt into the colander. (Still with me? It's easy, I swear.) (EDIT: Optionally you can lightly salt your yogurt at this point to get a cheese that will last a little longer and taste a bit different. Longevity of the product has never been a problem around here, though. It never lasts the week.)

Cover the whole thing with loose cling wrap and put it in the fridge. (Whew, tough. Grab a beer while you're there, you've earned it.) Let it sit in the fridge overnight.

The lactic acid and water will drain from the yogurt while it sits, making thicker and thicker yogurt as it goes. Since the lactic acid goes out with the water, the flavor mellows too. It gets nice and creamy without so much of the yogurt "bite".

If you want a softer (think neufchatel, or Greek yogurt, if you've ever had that) and tangier cheese, remove it from the cheesecloth in the morning. If you want a more thick, mellow cheese, wait until you get home in the evening.

You can either just pour off the juice that collects in the bowl, or you an collect it and drink it. I have heard that with a little salt and or sugar it can be very refreshing on a hot summer evening. I haven't tried that yet, but I'll let you know what I think of it when I do.

Serving ideas? Why yes, I have a few, thanks for asking. The SO makes a great banana nut bread and this stuff is a fantastic spread on it. The softer version (the Greek yogurt) is delish on its own or with honey. How about a schmear with lox on a bagel, why not? Or maybe on toast points with cucumber for tea? Lovely, that. Hmmm... I think I could use a cuppa with some cuke sandwiches.

'Till next time, then! Enjoy.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Removing stitches was far easier than I thought it would be. I swabbed everything with alcohol, snipped and tweezed and it was done. Swabbed with alcohol again, just in case, and I almost have my finger back. Cool.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Microbes in the Kitchen! (with minor Edits)

Eeek! No! Not germs in the kitchen! Grab the bleach, where is the steamer? LYSOL ME!

OK, calm down. It's all going to be fine. Trust me, I'm a microbiologist. We all know (or we all should know) that bacteria and fungi are everywhere. Almost literally everywhere on Earth's surface and even fairly deep into the crust. Don't worry about it too much, they were here first. It's their planet. We merely provide a few new niches for them to grow in. Sometimes they find a nice niche in us and can cause harm, but that's not the kind of thing I'm going to be talking about in this, the inaugural post of the Microbes in the Kitchen mini-series.

I'm going to talk about the niches that we make for bacteria and yeasts intentionally. Food. Good food. Spoiled rotten food that's supposed to be spoiled rotten and will make you feel spoiled rotten eating it. And making it, too.

Let's start easy. Yogurt. After reading this, you will be able to make your own delicious spoiled milk product. The thing that makes it work, this time, is one of many species of Lactobacillus. As the name implies, it eats lactose, and it's a long rod shape (the bacillus part). It's Gram positive (maybe I'll get into that later, if anyone is interested, but basically, it tells us about the cell wall), and it's a facultative anaerobe, meaning that it generally prefers low-to-no oxygen in the environment.

As it eats the lactose, its main by-product is lactic acid. It's the lactic acid that does the work to make milk into yogurt. It also puts the sour in sourdough and the distinct sourness into a good lambic, but those are subjects for later posts. A nice side-effect of this lactose munching is that people who don't express the lactase gene into adulthood (the true lactose intolerant folks) can generally tolerate yogurt just fine, thanks.

OK, so with that intro out of the way, let's get cookin'. I promise that this one is super easy. If you can boil water successfully, you're well on your way to making good yogurt. First we'll need to get a high quality Lactobacillus culture. Fortunately for us, we don't have to call the ATCC for this one. Believe it or not, you can procure a very high quality culture that has been selectively bred for centuries for this specific purpose at the local grocery store. Just buy a little tub of plain yogurt. (I told you this would be easy, don't you trust me?) Heck, it doesn't even have to be plain, since all the sugar and fruit and stuff will be diluted out anyway, but I started with plain. This time, though, all we had was strawberry fruit on the bottom, since I ate all of the last batch.

Lactobacillus culture? Check.

Now we need Lactobacillus food.

While you're there in the dairy isle, grab a 1/2 gallon of whole milk. (BTW, how do you get the internet in the dairy aisle? It never works for me.) The lactose sugar in the milk is our friendly bacteria's food. The milk fats and protein, once denatured by the lactic acid will stick together and get all intertwined to give us that great yogurt texture. If you're worried about using whole fat milk, well, I suppose you could try low-fat or maybe even non-fat, but I make no guarantees that it'll work and, frankly, if a little bowl of 4% fat yogurt in the morning doesn't fit into your diet plan, well, I pity you.

Culture? Check.
Culture medium (bacteria food)? Check.

You do have a thermometer at home, right? No? OK, fine, grab that little instant-read one over there. I hesitate to ask this, but without a thermometer in your kitchen... you do have a pot that can hold a half-gallon of milk, right? Whew. And some plastic containers to hold the yogurt? Yeah, that Chinese takeout soup tub'll work fine, it'll hold a 1/2 gallon, wont it? OK, we can use 2.

(EDIT, PLEASE NOTE: I didn't mention this earlier, but it is very important that your containers are as clean as possible. Wash them in VERY HOT water, or, if available, use the sanitize cycle on your dishwasher. If your hot water doesn't darn near scald you, use a 10% bleach solution to rinse the containers. Give them a good rinse with the bleach and let them sit for 10 minutes, then rinse with clean tap water (nothing too nasty in there if you're on a city supply.) If you're not on a city supply (well, etc.) boil your containers and lids for 10 minutes.)

Back in the kitchen we have everything we need, so let's get going. Put the milk in the pot (that's the hard part), then put the pot over medium to medium high heat. Check the temperature every now and then, but if you notice the milk almost starting to boil, with some nice steam you should be about there. Your target is 180 to 190 degrees F (80 to 88 ish C). (EDIT: This step is to re-pasteurize the milk. It makes sure there is nothing too nasty in your milk. Gotta be careful when we're playing with bacteria.) (EDIT: If the milk ever forms a skin, just scoop it off. It can leave little harder curds in the yogurt if you don't) Like so:

When it gets there, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool to 120 F (~49 C). This will feel very warm, but you can leave your hand on it for a while. Like so:

Now put 3 or 4 big spoonfuls of the starter culture (this time, the yogurt you bought, next time some you made) into the plastic container (the Chinese takeout tub, in this case) and add about a half cup of the warm milk, thusly (the color is the strawberry, don't panic):


Stir them together, so that the starter is nice and thin so it'll mix evenly into the rest of the milk. Then pour the starter and milk mix into the warm milk and stir it well. So:

Pour this into as many soup tubs as necessary to hold it all and slap on the lids. Good.

Now we have to keep them warm for a while, so put them in the oven with the oven light on but don't turn the oven on. Yikes! When was the last time you cleaned that thing? I'm not putting my new yogurt in there. Just wrap them in a clean towel. That'll keep 'em warm. All that's left now is to wait. Give the Lactobacillus 4 or 5 hours to grow, multiply, eat lactose and pee lactic acid. All comfy in their warm place:

Again, wrap 'em up tight and leave them alone. After that time, unwrap and check that the yogurt is relatively set. Gently tilt the container and see if the yogurt stays pretty much in place (good and thick). If so, put your new yogurt in the fridge to set up over night and you'll have some great plain yogurt in the morning. No sugar, no preservatives, no binders and stabilizers, just yogurt. Like mama never used to make. Without all the additives, it will leak a bit of liquid. Just pour it off, it's water and lactic acid. This stuff should be good for a week or so.

I like it with a little honey and granola. It's the best yogurt you've ever had (if you're my typical American reader who gets everything pre-packaged and over processed at the store).

Next up: Greek cheese using the yogurt you just made.

I'm Back.

Hey, y'all. Thanks for waiting. Life seems to be a bit more under control, now, and aside from a sliced up right ring finger (2 stitches, lost ~1/3 of the fingernail. Don't mess with rosemary, it's delicious, but it'll get you if you get distracted), all is well.

So catching up, I have a new series of posts that should start this evening on Microbes in the Kitchen.

Ella is doing very well and still comes to work with me every day. She's a great little pup and I don't understand how anyone could have let her end up in the pound.

Jake is well and wedding plans are progressing. You all may get the rare and cherished chance to see me in a kilt.

Finally, the good folks a Galileoscope need your business. If they don't get more orders, they may have to halt production, according to Phil Plait. So go buy a few scopes, some for gifts, one for yourself, and a few for donation, why not? They haven't started shipping, yet, but when I get mine, I will post a review. Until then, how about this video of the moon through one?

Catch y'all later.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Life has been a little bit odd, frustrating, and busy lately, so I haven't had the time, desire, nor energy to post lately. (Was that too many comma addenda?)

I'll get back on the horse soon, I promise. Until then (whenever that may be) I am afraid that blog silence will last a while.

I want to come back, but hell... I'm tired.

I need a beer.

And some bacon.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

JREF back in the saddle.

I'll let Randi explain what went down:

It figures Granddad wouldn't be mad and tell all us kids to simmer down. ;-p

I see lots of problems here: DMCA is evil and must go, fair use must be properly protected, YouTube must find a better way to deal with DMCA violations (notify the poster, pull specific vids and/or give 24 hours to rectify the problem), and RIAA needs to calm the hell down (it's not like small snippets of low-quality music in an educational vid are hurting their sales).

Good to have them back.

Monday, March 30, 2009

JREF youtube account suspended.

Dammit, youtube! You've pissed me off! You let VenomfangX fuck with Thunderf00t, you let the votebots fuck with everyone, you let flaggingbots screw shit up, and now you kicked Granddad in the nuts.

Let me explain a bit. James Randi is my skeptical Granddad. Phil Plait (currently blogging at Discover Magazine, and current prez of JREF) would be my skeptical pop. I didn't really know about Randi until I started reading the old Bad Astronomy, but I followed the links and learned about Randi and his epic destruction of Uri Geller, and I was sold. You should really click on that last link if you don't know what I'm talking about, it's epic!

So, now, for some reason that has yet to be revealed, youtube has suspended the JREF account. Based on the prior account suspensions that I have seen, I am thinking either a DMCA violation (not bloody likely, with the JREF's carefulness) or a nasty flagging campaign.

So, if my reader happens to be a fellow skeptic and fan of the Amazing Randi, watch this vid and mirror it and spread the word.

Don't fucking kick my skeptical Granddad!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

STS 119

The space shuttle has launched about 25 minutes ago, mission 119, for space station service. They will install the final array of solar collectors, and probably some other stuff. Maybe something sciency.

Anyway, we walked about 3 minutes from the Lab Boy lair to see the launch, so you get to see the pix. Here are the best 2:

From before the boosters separated: (click to embiggen)

And one of the beautiful sunsetty aftermath: (again, click to embiggen)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Anyone like looking at the sky at night?
This post is for you.
Don't have the money for a huge telescope?
This post is for you.
Want to excite your kids about the skies?
This post is for you.
Want to encourage learning about science and the universe in kids you've never met? This post is for you.

This year is the International Year of Astronomy, with the goal of encouraging everyone to simply look up and see a bit of the universe they live in. The universe we live in is a fantastically beautiful thing, but unless you have some significant disposable income, much of it as been effectively beyond your reach. You could get toys before that would give you a weird, rainbow-blurred image of the moon, but those days are over!

I introduce the Galileoscope.

Holy Titan, Batman! This little 'scope is designed to be easy for kids to assemble with some supervision, cheap, has minimized chromatic abberation, cheap, compatible with most eyepiece accessories, cheap, made to use any camera tripod, cheap, up to 50x magnification, cheap, has 2" of light gathering opening, cheap and can view up to 1.5 degrees of sky (about 2x the width of the Moon). Did I mention it's cheap?

This telescope is better than anything Galileo had, and will set you back a measly $15. No, I did not misplace the decimal point. $15.00. Even better: you can donate a Galileoscope to be sent out to kids for even less. $12.50 gets some school somewhere a telescope to view the heavens. How freaking cool is that?

Do you remember the first time you saw the moons of Jupiter? If you do, here's your chance to help a disadvantaged kid to see them and help instill the sense of wonder that will serve them the rest of their life. If you don't, then you've never seen them and this is your chance to see the moons of Jupiter and help instill the sense of wonder that will serve them, and you, the rest of their life.

I ordered 3. One for me and 2 for the kids. I'll be our in the driveway checking celestial stuff out if you want to come by.

I'll post a full review when the 'scope arrives.

Hat tip to Phil Plait

World, meet Ella. Ella, meet world.

OK, I know I've been rather uncommunicative lately. It's been a fairly ...ummm... busy month or two. Things are getting better. The loss of Diz was rough, as I am sure any pet lover would understand. But as much as we miss him, life goes on. Work is still interesting, as usual (to think they pay me to be a microbiologist... suckers), plus we have a new addition to the lab.

Not a grad student, nor an undergrad intern. Certainly not a post-doc (we don't have the funds). Anyway, let me introduce her. She's young; A graduate of the school of hard knocks, with Honors. She has been at work with me every day for the last 4 weeks and has shown that she has a great capacity for learning, though she is a bit tentative with new people.

Now let me introduce Ella, the new Lab Dog:

The house was just too quiet without a pup.

She's about 5 months old, and an Australian Shepherd mix, according to the shelter. She's a very smart little gal, and eager to please. During the day, she hangs out under my desk or in my chair if I'm in the lab, and has made friends with just about everyone in the office. When I have to be elsewhere, she has stayed with our lab manager, the previously mentioned Lab Goddess. I'm very lucky to be in an environment where dogs are a welcome part of office life, and I have the opportunity to train an office-friendly dog from the get-go.

Once the teething is done, we should be good...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Abe, too!

Wow, it was a good day to be born, wasn't it? These two men made a hell of a difference in the world. I raise my glass to their memories.

Cheers fellas!