Monday, April 30, 2007

Macadamia Nut Cookies for the Whales

I ran into my first passionate high school environmentalists in WV yesterday. I'm not sure that selling macadia nut cookies (homebaked) in front of Walmart is the best way to save the whales, but I had to buy some because, well, there were passionate teenage environmentalists dressed in whale suits at Walmart! How could I not buy their cookies and sign their petition?

Friday, April 27, 2007


I think that several parts of the country have been getting lots of rainfall recently, and I thought I'd share a photo of the results of our recent rain.

There has been some flooding in central IA recently, and this photo was taken from a bridge over the Skunk River, which runs through Ames. It is one of my favorite place in Ames (which is may explain why I keep posting photos of it...).

For an idea of what the river normally looks like, here is a photo of the river in December.

Spring is here!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wild Blue Phlox

Wild Blue Plox (along with Virginia Bluebells posted below). I'm not quite up with photo layout on the blog yet.

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Spring Ephemerals

I took my botany class to Core Arboretum to see the spring ephemerals today. It didn't rain on the ride there and it didn't rain on the way back (and it didn't rain at all here while we were there). This is an improvement over my invert trip to Pittsburgh on which is did not rain for the first hour of the van ride, rained consistently and hard for the next 9 hours and did not rain on the last hour on the way home. The students partially blame me for the rain (along with the steepness of the hill and the lack of bathrooms at the arboretum).

While I did not get a good photo of the trillium, and the trout lilies had disappeared since Saturday, I did capture at least a glimpse of how stunning the spring understory is.

Consumerism boycott

Who would like to boycott consumerism for a month? This came out of the carbon-reduction post. The intent is to buy less so that we don't contribute to the production of material goods and therefore aren't using as many natural resources. Also, we might realize we don't really need much. You can either stop buying selective things, or go cold turkey.

Suggested guidelines (the most restrictive, but customize it to your own habits or life events):
Allowable items:
Food - could modify this to omit processed food, junk food, mochas, etc.
Plants - unless this is a weakness you want to curb
Medical supplies & kitty litter
Emergency home or car repair (like if your pipes leak and ruin your shoes, or it's time for an oil change)

Clothes (but being wedding season you might adapt this)
Kitchen items
Cosmetics (ha!) and lotions (use up what you have)
Knick knacks
Pet paraphernalia
Books, DVDs, CDs
No cleaning/home products? (use up what you have)

We can use this post for our support group - so post any ideas, objections, questions. I am going to try 1 month of cold turkey no buying, except for anything food-related since I don't like to cook (and coffee shops get me out of the house). But I will think twice about prepared foods (I don't buy much anyway). Sally and I are doing the Mutt 'n' Strutt, so this will allow me to donate more money to this.

Monday, April 23, 2007

College Leadership What?

A professor at a small college asked the professor's spouse, "So what does one do on the college leadership council?" The spouse had no idea, and could not figure out why the professor was asking. The professor was asking, it turns out, because the spouse was a nominee on the ballots distributed to all the faculty today. This alarmed the spouse, because the spouse had only been at the college a few months and did not feel qualified to sit on something as important as the college leadership council. However, the alarm only grew when the spouse found out that not only was the spouse a candidate on the ballot, but was in fact the only candidate on the ballot and that election to the college leadership council is for a three year term.

If you know anyone at the small college in question, you might encourage them to consider a write-in candidate.


The first interview went well, at least from my end. I don't want to say much more about it in fear of jinxing myself. The second interview is on Friday. I need to give a "lecture" on a group of organisms (i.e. biodiversity type lecture). Should I do Cnidarians or Flatworms? Both are wicked cool and I am having a hard time deciding.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Carbon Reduction Suggestions

I was reading an Earth Day article yesterday about a family cutting back their carbon emissions 15% and began wondering what I could do to reduce my carbon emissions (and benefit the planet in general). The family commented that they had already done what was easy (turning off lights, turning thermostat down at night, owning a relatively fuel efficient car . . .) and would have to take more difficult next steps (actually using their compost bin, cutting back driving, replacing light bulbs).
The Mister and I already do those next steps: we compost, we walk to work, I hang out clothes when it's not raining. So, instead of feeling like a smug environmentalist (a completely hypocritical state for anyone living in a warm/cool house that ever drives a car), I tried to think of what I could do to reduce my ecological footprint, as I believe we can all contribute. The only really obvious step-- reducing travel-- is not an option I'm willing to pursue.
I figure many of us are in this position; we do far more than average, and generally feel pretty good about it; but also lead generally comfortable lives. Assuming that we are not going to build a house from scratch (fairly easy to make energy efficient) or replace functioning automobiles/appliances, what should we be doing that would have the most impact? Any impact?

Hair Cut 1

So, this is not the best picture, but you can get a sense of how short my hair now is. Will try to get a better picture soon. All the rest I took turned out blurry or otherwise weird.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Heather? Hair?

Can anyone confirm my assumption that my favorite bat biologist was a smashing success at her recent defense?
We want photos of great hair cuts!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back from Jamaica

Why won't all the photos show?

The photos are back! I thought it was just my computer not showing them. There's a bee on the impatients! Carleen is at Hellshire Beach new Kingston, where I think only locals go. I'm at the hotel at Negril, and the food is my 1st meal that Carleen made: boiled green bananas, yams, and akcee and saltfish, the national dish.

I'm Back! Now I wish I was still in Jamaica - the beaches were great! Next time, I'm sticking to beaches and ecotours. I guess my visit to Kingston and Spanish Town was like someone coming to the US and only seeing inner city Detroit. And someone informed me of how much the blue mt. coffee is in the states, so $15/lb for fresh on the spot was a great price. The export 90% of it to Japan. There's the picture of the rasta guy and the coffee.

Knitters in the storm

How are you easterners surviving the nor'easter. Lisa? Irene? Molly? Anyone else experiencing it?


Hi everyone....

No, I don't mean grant proposals. I mean marriage proposals. I received one in a beautiful desert canyon yesterday and I admit, I am still a bit stunned (happy, but stunned!). As with all things Scott, it was incredibly sweet. Of course, I said Yes.

(Anna, we were in the beloved Pima Canyon and we celebrated the engagement with prickly pear lemonade at Tohono Chul Botanic Gardens!)

Thanks for letting me share my news.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

News from Jennifer


Love the new layout - whose handywork is this? I haven't posted much lately and thought it would be nice to do an update.

1) I have two job interviews coming up - both are for visiting professor positions. Both are at small liberal arts schools (I am not trying to be mysterious, but should I mention the names here, would it be unprofessional if someone were to google me and tracked me to this website). I am flying out on Tuesday for the first one (in Ohio). Hopefully I have a better time of it than Erin did.

It's interesting, for both of these positions I have to give a teaching presentation, not a research presentation. For one I am lecturing on Hardy-Weinberg (thankfully - I have lectured on this before and really like this material). For the other - I think it will be flatworms. Maybe Cnidarians, but flatworms are grosser and for some reason I really like the gross out factor.

2) I also have another good job prospect - a two year visiting professor of PLANT ECOLOGY position in the KC area. I really hope to get an interview for this position.

3) Some of my lettuce and spinach seedlings apparently survived the frost.

4) I got a haircut yesterday and my hair is very, very short. Maybe I'll post a picture later in the week.

5) This morning (like at 5 am) Lily was running around wildly in the bedroom and knocked over our full-length mirror. Luckily she was not hurt and mirror only has a small crack in it. I would not have been happy about cleaning up shattered mirror glass at 5 am.

Lily says hi.

6) The weather is FINALLY warming up around here.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Erin survives Texas tornado

I was on my way back from Tucson yesterday and had a layover in Dallas. Did you know there was a tornado there? I was in the airport when it came through and everyone had to run into the storm shelters. The news article says flights were delayed up to two hours. Mine was delayed more than 8 and I got in this morining at 3:30! There were hail-damaged planes, a really long inspection process, gas filling and then unfilling, and cops to control the angry mobs. It was a crappy end to a great trip to Tucson. But I'm just glad to be safe and at home!

st lucia?

Has anyone been to St. Lucia? Josh and I are thinking of going there for the honeymoon and staying at a Sandals resort there for a few days of lying in the sun and relaxing. Just wondering if anyone had been there and knew if it was nice - the pictures look pretty.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Hiking biologist knitters

Erin, Cathy and I had breakfast and stroll in botanical gardens, then a great romp in the desert while they were here for the Landscape Ecology Conference. Mid-80's and sunny, blooming cacti. It was SO FANTASTIC to see Lawrence friends!!! (Remember we have an extra bed here in Tucson... :)

BTW How was the banquet in your honor?

Gorgeous biologist hiker-knitters

Blooming cholla

Pretty mystery flower

Why yes, I do use partial derivatives, thank you

Most odd conversation I've had regarding my dissertation recently-- at a happy hour.
Context is chatting about our summer travels, Alma and her book, blah blah blah
"So, was that your dissertation?"
No, a side project.
"What was your dissertation on?"
Population models of prairie turnips.
"Do you use differential equations?"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Skunky McGoo

I and my family descended upon my parents' house in San Diego for Easter, eating up food like the locusts that supposedly have disappeared from the midwest this past week. My sister also brought along one of the dogs, who had never before encountered a skunk, and so was completely surprised at the consequences of her harrassing a poor creature last night at 11 pm. She ran inside and immediately started rubbing herself on every available piece of cloth in the house before my sister snatched her up and held her outside. The smell and commotion woke everyone up, and my uncle mixed up a concoction that really worked to get the skunk smell out of Maggie (the dog, now christened Skunky McGoo): hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, a few drops of dishwashing liquid, and water.
I was sorry to hear about SS and the Mister's hurt skunk... I personally think they are among the cutest wildlife around.

Breezy Jamaica

Hi - I put this on the lonely planet travel forum, the thorntree & accidently sent it to Cathy when I email my paretns! I walked all by myself to the vegan restaurant 2 blocks away! I'm having the sweaty skirt problems Lisa has. Yea! We have a rental car to go to the beach for the rest of the visit! We have it so good in the US it's amazing.

Hi - I'm in Jamaica! I went on the bird tour on Wed. It was great! We
drove up in the blue mts to the starlight chalet, taking our time and
stopping and walking on the road, then the guide would run back to the van
and bring up to where I was waiting. We got a bit of a late start, but he
came to SPanish Town to pick me up!!! And my host came with up and he
dropped her off at her office. It was $100, and I gave $10 extra for the
drive to and from Spanish Town. We stopped at a coffee plantation at
Section, I'm not quite sure what it was all about. A Rasta commune?
MikeyMike might be laughing at me for not knowing. But the guy there showed
me the different stages of the beans, and how they roast it, and I bought
some, $15/lb. ANd there was a hummingbird feeder so saw an orangequit and
got some hummer photos. I really enjoyed the trip. I'd prefer a trip of
just the mts and ocean, and wildlife places, but had no idea that it's so
hard to get around here, and my friend works. We're renting a car for the
rest of my stay here, to get away. ANother friend (didn't know he was here,
ran into him on Peace Corps van!) showed me around New Kingston yesterday,
saw emancipation park, the devon house and shops.

Robert at Sun Venture Tours was great! I recommend him!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

in search of a knitting pattern

So I don't want to grade right now and tonight Josh and I were looking at honeymoon locals. We're thinking a beach idea and I starting thinking about knitting either a bikini or coverup for the honeymoon or something on those lines. Or a tanktop or something.

Patterns, ideas? Or Beth's gone nuts with planning and grading?

btw - if I forget to comment, it's probably because I forgot to visit the page. :-)


hi from JAMAICA MON!

Hi everyone! Here's an email I sent to some people...

I'm at Carleen's house in Spanish Town, she's at work (Peace Corps in Kingston the capital) Tell Geoff it does smell like burning tires! At least near the cities. It's horribly humid and hot and not a tropical paradise around here
The north coast is more pleasent, and the Blue mts. are really cool. Went birding there today, and saw a coffe planataion, seems like a rasta commune that makes there own, wasn't so sure what was going on. But it's the most fair trade coffee ever - $15/lb! Carleen will tell me I should hv argued for lower. They gave my tour guide a lb for free. But they grow and roast it right there, so very fresh.

Jennifer - I saw Shane! Went to the trelawny yam fest with the PC van. SHane said he'd take me around wed or thurs, Bob Marley museum I hope & some place called devon house. He knows the bus system. I wouldn't want to travel here alone. Carleen is taking very good care of me. Made salt fish & ackee for my 1st meal - the nat'l dish. She has a tone of fruit trees - cherries, orange, lime, mango, spinach that grows like a vine. And it's a tiny house. Her grandma is here -has no teeth so hard to understand. Hard to understand everyone.

So I'll hang out with her til Carl.'s home. Maybe take photos of the little lizards, and the 2 stray dogs Carleen feeds. Momma dog with 4 pups (though I haven't seen them for 2 days) and another. Rusty-like dogs around her house.

Yes, they play loud raggae. the ratafarians seem nice, and the educated people. Others are questionable.


Sunday, April 8, 2007

The cacti are blooming!

I went back up to Pima Canyon (of course!) yesterday. The cacti are blooming -- yay!

I gather this little lady is called Mammillaria because it bleeds white (like milk) if cut.

Prickley pear -- I didn't even know they were yellow.

Not a cactus, but cool nonetheless. Larkspur, right?

Happy Easter, everyone!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Bon Voyage Sally's Relative!

We want great Jamaica pictures and stories when you get back!

Friday, April 6, 2007

What did I ever do to deserve having ANYTHING to do with R?

Bob Hagen seemed to take affront when I suggested that R is actually a graduate student torturing device. Hard to tell if someone's affronted on email, but I got a long explanation of how such a thing could exist without the scheming of even a single sadistic evil genius... I'm still waiting to be convinced that I'm wrong, though!

Sweaty Season Fashion Advice

It is very humid in central West Virginia. Of course, as a Coloradan, I found it very humid in Lawrence at times, but that was really no comparison. March-October I generally walk to work in fog, and am "glowing profusely" by the time I arrive at my office (which is usually a sauna, especially in the winter). (Of course today is freezing with a bitter wind, but we'll ignore that). I need to expand my options of what I wear to work (and frankly walking around and traveling) in such conditions.
My "dress pants" are mostly polyester-based and while drapey and flattering in winter, stick like cheap polyester in the sweaty season.
Jeans are way, way too sweaty.
I haven't found a pair of chinos that flatters me (many flat-front pants with a bit of strech just seem to empasize that my front is not flat), but I'd be willing to try others if suggested.
I tried on a pair of lightweight cotton pants today and they looked like, well, like cargo pants, which they were. Lightweight cotton that doesn't look like cargo pants or wanna-be jeans could be considered, but where would I find them.
I think I'd like to explore some linen, but will I really maintain it? (and I'm going to swat whomever thought it was a good idea to take something made out of linen and line it with a cheap acrylic liner-- still wrinkles and now makes you sweat double).
Do I need to be looking at tencel? rayon? viscose? silk? Where would I find them?
Do professors trying to be professional teach in capris? If so, with what footwear?
Also looking for suggestions of tops that can be worn in a single layer untucked. I wear interesing necklaces every day so I don't need fancy tops, but I would like something that's as comfy as a t-shirt but with some finishing on the bottom. I have a few short sleeve cotton sweaters that fall in this category-- they fall to mid-hip and are clearly not meant to be tucked in. Tunics, rib-tees, anything like that? (but no boat/ballet necks as I'll just spend the whole day revealing my bra straps)

Personal caveat-- since I have started wearing pants that are long enough all the time, I don't think I can go back. Any actual practical advice needs to include things that come in tall.

Almost a brawl, but my head was in the way nonetheless

I was going to let Rusty sleep with me last night, but after 1/2 hr. Yoda jumped up beside my head and Rusty kicked into defend mom mode, and charged after him, with my head in the way. So Rusty got booted out of the room, and Yoda snuggled with me.

But, the reason I post is Jennifer asked about the chicken whacking (too bad we can't see all the comments beside the posts.). Most of my dealings with dead critters take place out at the farm. The dogs had mangled a chicken, it was still flopping, so I thought I should put it out of its misery. I think it just traumatized us both more. But in hindsight the chicken may have already been dead, or been past caring about getting its neck brutalized with an in effective ax.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

So what is a 'research specialist' anyway?

Tucson Trekker asked "... what does a 'Research Specialist' do and how do you go about finding such a job?"

Since I find that I often miss some of the comments on any given post by forgetting to check on it, I decided to just make a separate post with more details about the job I'll be starting soon.

At University of Pennsylvania, a Research Specialist is simply someone who carries out research - generally under the direction of a professor or some other type of senior researcher. There are four "grades" of research specialists, and although it might make sense if A was the best/most senior, A is actually the entry-level. So is 'Research Specialist A' just a fancy name for a lab tech? Kinda, but there's a few differences. Penn also has a 'Laboratory Technician' designation, and the difference is that lab tech positions are non-exempt: they're paid an hourly wage. Research specialists are exempt, i.e. they're paid a regular salary. Generally, they have more independence and responsibility, though this varies from one position to another.

In my particular job, my main duties are going to involve developing and maintaining cell cultures, performing experiments on them, doing other miscellaneous molecular bio lab work, and helping with data analysis and manuscript writing. I'm still in shock that I was offered the position, since I've never done cell culturing or taken a cell biology or molecular biology class.

So how did I find it in the first place? I originally set out to find whatever I thought I might stand a chance to get hired into. There aren't many jobs around here for ecologists, and though I did apply for the few I found, I didn't hear anything back. So I looked at anything that would use a biology background, and wasn't so specialized or advanced to be totally out of reach. In my meanderings around the various job websites like Careerbuilder and Monster, I noticed that sometimes if you follow the link back to the actual company website, they'll have more job postings than they put on the outside sites. Somehow I stumbled across the University of Penn website, and found all sorts of research-related job postings. I think most universities of any size have such positions posted online.

Tired but not sleepy . . .

cold but sweating, long list of things to accomplish and no desire or clear head to do them, but too bored and well not to think about them. I hate being suddenly sick. And it's snowing (which isn't all bad) and I have a day off tomorrow but I can't work on my garden because of the cold. And now I have just made myself whiner-of-the-year for following up Irene's super-cool good news with a foggy-minded-whiner-post.

LCE (Life-Changing Event) Trifecta

2007 is turning out to be a "big event" kind of year. Generally, any one of these would be enough for a single year, but hey, why not cram 'em all in together:

1) As you all know, we bought our first house in January. It's starting to feel more like home, although there are still a lot of projects that we want to work on.

2) Last week, I got a "real" job - in a couple weeks I'll start work at the University of Pennsylvania, as a Research Specialist in the laboratory of Dr. Vera Krymskaya.

3) And the biggest and most life-changing yet - if all goes well, in mid-November we will have a new baby! Currently the little endoparasite is only 1/2 inch long, but already making its presence felt via those lovely first-trimester symptoms - fatigue, queasiness, sore boobs, mood swings. I've heard the second trimester is typically more pleasant... here's hoping!

Somewhere in there, I still do intend to finish and defend my MA thesis. Hopefully that will occur in June or July. If you're wondering why it's not on the list... well, "trifecta" rolls off the tongue much more easily than "quadfecta." Also, it's not in the same class of events - it will be a milestone, but it won't have a huge impact on day-to-day life in any direct, immediate sense (other than not having to work on the darn thing anymore).

Some of you might be wondering how I ended up deciding that now, of all times, was a good time to job-hunt. After all, did I not state that I wasn't going to get a job until my thesis was finished, or maybe not even until after the first child? I did. But after we moved in and the dust started to settle, it took me all of about a month to get bored and restless. When I started applying for jobs, I was already pregnant - but I didn't know it. Would it have stopped me if I knew? Maybe, but I'm glad I went ahead with the search... 9 months is a long wait if you don't have much to do. It does add a certain awkward element to the process - when should you mention your condition? At the interview? When you're offered the job? After you start? At the end of the 1st trimester? I 'fessed up shortly after the offer was made, and was very relieved when my soon-to-be boss said "Congratulations! Not a problem."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Swelling buds in the desert

I went back to Pima Canyon today for a morning hike. None of the cacti are quite in bloom yet, although the ocotillo are:

Ocotillo, March 31
(Many of them are in full bloom as of Apr 4)

Buckhorn cholla, April 4. One of the most mature buds I saw.

Prickly pear, April 4.
Again, one of the most mature buds.

Coyote in Chicago

My coyote made the national news! He had a hankering for a sandwich and decided to hang out at Quizno's.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Ah the mild breezes of spring

Well, it's 85 degrees here in Tucson, headed for 88 as today's high and 90 tomorrow. I'm a COOL weather gal. What I wouldn't give for the 60 degrees I see in Lawrence! I'm going to melt and April's hardly begun! Will I survive June and July?!?

(Random picture of someone who is too hot!)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Rabid Skunk, Broken Toe, No Foolin'

Three very strange things have happened today:

  1. first thing in the morning I tripped and fell most of the way down the stairs. Based on the amount my middle toe throbs every time I stand up and that all of the hideous purple is between the joints, it's a possibility (albeit slim) that I broke it. But it's a middle toe, what do you do?
  2. the other bio prof (our age, my friend), who spent the whole long day at the WV Academy of Science meetings with me on Saturday, and, who would, one would hope, have noticed if I had been whisked to the emergency room in the middle of the meetings before driving home three hours in the rain, came in this morning to commiserate about rabies shots. Equally amusing is she knew exactly which students would have been stupid enough to feed rabid squirrels.
  3. we have a weird-acting skunk on our property. Researching scientific names for my rodent blog (yes, I know they aren't rodents), the first thing I read about skunks is "Skunks behaving oddly may have rabies and should be avoided."

Are the fates commenting on my April Fool's jokes?