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.