Sunday, June 29, 2008

Update from Irene-world

Annika is 12 weeks old today, which is arguably the same as 3 months... except if she was born on April 6th, shouldn't her 3-month "birthday" be July 6th? Unsolved mysteries.

She has a blog:

We started it at the suggestion of Gloria, Vlad's cousin, who thought it would be nice if there was an easy way to keep up-to-date on what she is doing, and see photos of her.

Speaking of photos, yesterday I bought a new camera. I wanted something more portable and user-friendly than Vlad's cameras, which each weigh approximately a ton. So now I have a fancy new toy for taking pictures of Annika, and whatever else strikes my fancy. But mainly, it's for pictures of Annika; before she arrived, I didn't have much interest in taking photos.

We're off to Oregon in a few days, to visit family for the 4th of July weekend. Annika will get her first plane ride, and get to meet more people who will make a big fuss over her. She's getting to be quite the social butterfly, so I think she will enjoy it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The teaching is over... For now

I just finished teaching my 5-week intensive summer course yesterday! Holy Shit ... I don't know how you real professors do it. Granted it was 18-22 hours of contact time a week, not very well organized by the lab staff (but at least I DID have lab staff!) and something I've never taught before. I was seriously working 14 hours a day nearly 7 days a week. Nate nearly mutinied because I never had time to spend with him. How DO you guys stay sane???

It was a biotechnology summer college course for high school students. Highlights were when they drew pictures on petri plates with glowing bacteria and got to see glowing pictures the next day, when one of the students told me she came in to the class thinking biotech was probably something she'd like and left the class knowing for sure that she really loved it, and when my students gave a series of (generally) excellent powerpoint presentations. Low points were when I couldn't lecture because they wouldn't settle the hell down (never put it that way to them but wanted to), when they got frustrated and angry trying to do the sequence editing lab I had stayed up til' two to prepare, and when I caught two of them in blatant plagiarism on the written project. They swore right and left that it was an ACCIDENT that 2/3 of a page was word for word the same as websites that they hadn't even cited. Man! When I didn't love them I hated them and when I didn't hate them I loved them, but they were all basically really neat kids. All 15 or 16 with one 14 yr old.

One cool thing is that I talked a local lab into sequencing our mitochondrial HVR1 genes for free. The cool as shit thing is that I have haplogroup A, which came out of Africa through Asia and across the Bering Land Bridge and into the Americas about 20,000 yrs ago. I had no idea that I had a single ancestor that wasn't European all the way, but apparently I do (and in the direct maternal line). My mom's side of the family has been in America for at least 250 years and probably more (maybe 20,000 or so), so I'm betting that one of those great grandmothers was Native American (as opposed to Asian, which is also possible). Absolutely no family record of it, though! Kinda gives me tingles to think I have native mitochondria. Well, OK, I'm romanticising a little!

Wikipedia has a cool map of haplotype migrations.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I'm finally now in Shirahama, the place I will stay for most of my time in Japan. I'm way behind, but I am trying to keep a blog about what is going on with me in Japan. The site is I don't know how good I will be about it (I'm like two posts behind right now) but I'm trying.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Large Data Set Reunion?

I was investigating scientific meetings we might reune at (Conservation Bio 2009 is in Beijing and probably out) when I came across an ESA/NSF workshop to use NEON Continental Scale Data in undergraduate classrooms. It's a 3 day workshop, Oct 2-4, NSF pays for the whole thing, and they are particularly looking for people from small, undergraduate institutions. I'm not sure we're what they're looking for, but I'd love to meet up with some of you and talk ecology.

Nadine the scooter

I'm loving my scooter! I haven't driven my car since Friday. The seat holds 2 gallons of milk! Check out the koi decals I got for her. Her name is Nadine, after the woman in The Stand who rode a scooter (someone here at work said he was going to start calling me that).

Monday, June 16, 2008

GBKD Reunion Weekend?

Wow, reading SS's last post really strikes home just how dispersed we really are. In our recent travels in Appalachia (which I have been chronicling on my blog), we had a discussion about a larger reunion sometime in the next year or so. Of course there would be a lot to figure out: where, when, what will we do?

Next Summer - easier for those of us who teach
Groundhog Day Weekend - continue the Groundhog Day Party Tradition
An Autumn Weekend - it just sounds cozy! and in the spring, so many times we are setting up field work

This is a bit more difficult, in my perfect world, we would continue with reunions every year, every other year? and the location would circulate amongst different areas of the country. Ideas we had for one in the next year or so

Kansas City Area - Central Location, still the one location with the most people
Hawaii - we would have a local guide!
Chicago Area - Again a central location, and it would probably be easy for everyone to get there.
Any other region where one of us is located would also be great.
Really cool "retreat"-like location - beach house, cabin in the mountains, etc.

What would we do?
This is not so hard. Obviously there would be a lot of catching up. I imagine one evening we order pizza, eat brownies, and do the traditional "knitting night". I think it would also be cool to have a slightly more formal science or education "round table" discussion - in the view towards creating collaborative works (can you plan such a thing?) How about a short "Fun Run/Walk"? Game Night?

So what do you think? Is this viable? Please put in your 2 cents! I am willing to take the lead on this if there is interest. I really miss you all and our weekly support system.

Bon Voyage

The GBK has just expanded our range westward*. Abby is off for Japan for the summer today and Erin is, I believe, already in Hawai'i, with Mario to follow soon.
*Technically, I suppose, Abby is now the furthest east of us. Japan, BlueBell, D.C., Glenville, Chatanooga, Chicago, Ames**, Liberty, Lawrence, Lincoln, Tucson***, Hilo.
**Speaking of Iowa, Jenny, are you underwater?
***Spearking of Arizona, TT are you there or off on another adventure?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Flood Fun, and a Mole!

I've just added the photos of our flood to sparkling squirrel (Beth, the pictures from the air were nothing), along with a new mole. If our carport were a boat ramp, it would have been terribly picturesque.

Scooter woman!

I bought a scooter today! I need to practice a lot, but will ride it around town whenever I don't have the dogs with me. The salesman took this picture. He's a hoot. Sold 20 of these in 2 days. This is a Rocketa which I've since found some poor reviews on, but hey, it's my 1st one. I'll upgrade in a couple years if I want to go out on the bigger roads (like 23rd). Now I'll only need a gallon of gas every other week!

Childhood Books

Now that I have my very own young mind to corrupt... I mean educate.... I am suddenly obsessed with children's books. Especially the books that I loved when I was little. At this point, I'm mainly interested in picture books; the books-without-pictures will come later. As I mentioned on Fractal Metamorphosis, I've been treasure-hunting in thrift shops for "vintage" children's books, with some success.

What were your favorites as a child, or for those of you who have any experience reading books to youngsters, what are your favorites to read to little ones?

So far, most of my attempts to read to Annika have not met with much enthusiasm, but 2 days ago I did manage to catch her in just the right mood. I put her on our bed, and laid down next to her, and held a book above her while I read it. She was actually very enthusiastic - paying attention to the pictures, and cooing a lot while I read. It was such a success that I read "At the Zoo" twice, "Happy Baby Alphabet" once, and "A Color of His Own" once before she finally got bored and started fussing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

marathon interview

Remember that feeling of total freedom that came the last day of the school year in elementary school, when the summer was just beginning? I actually felt that way yesterday, and it was soooo wonderful to remember that feeling :)
And what prompted it was the fact that I survived the interview process at the museum for a curator position. Here was the schedule: Friday, 8 am: interview with head of department. 9: interview with collections manager. 10: interview with search committee. 11: give departmental seminar. 12:30: lunch with search committee. 2: interview with USDA staff at museum. 3-5: interviews with individual curators. 5: interview with posdocs and students. 6-9: dinner with search committee. Monday, 7:30 am: breakfast with search committee. 9: interview with head of research at museum.
Boy oh boy am I glad to be done! I've been thinking so hard about the interview, now I have to remember what it was I was actually doing in my research before this all began! (But not today. Today I'm going to be as lazy as possible, while also doing stuff I've ignored for way too long, like laundry and groceries...)
Hope all is well with everyone and hope the flood clean up is going ok over there one state to the west. We lost electricity and one of our pine trees toppled, taking down a large part of a chestnut tree in the process. Luckily no damage to the house.

Monday, June 9, 2008

No time to gloat

Jennifer and I had what turned out to be an all-around great trip to North Carolina together last week (with plenty of "issues" that made it an adventure: sitting through bad talks, roads on the map that didn't exist, poor tea selection) and we kept thinking that we needed to post and gloat about how much fun we were having (in part to encourage a bigger reunion at a conference in future years). We were deterred from gloating by having a good time (see Jennifer's pictures of gardens and Raleigh over on the road to somewhere), by being part of the crowd that hangs out ourside drinking wine and playing instruments late into the night on the last night of the conference, and driving way too far to see plants that were not in bloom. While we were gone, my town (and my house) flooded and we returned to help the Mister replace raised beds that had floated away and clean a thin layer of mud off of everything in the basement in 90 degree heat (more on the flood on sparkling squirrel soon). Then it was time to take Jennifer to Pittsburgh (via brunch and a Pirates game) and for me to get back to work. But, while we haven't had time to tell you what a good time we were having, know that we were having one and that it would be even more fun if more of us were together for the next GBK reunion!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Haiti cards to raise ecotourism funds

Hey Knitters and eavesdroppers to this blog, I'm selling cards of my Haiti photos to raise funds to buy bird guides and binoculars to take back to the town of Pignon to equip the locals to lead bird watching tours for the various nonprofit groups that go there. The cards are $20 donation for a pack of 5 (includes shipping), or if I see you around town and can deliver the cards in person there will be 6 cards in the pack. The pack will contain a variety of scenes (cultural, nature, livestock) and a variety of sizes and colors with envelopes. If you'd like to order a pack, just email me (, or my work address if you know it) and include your address if they need to be shipped. I'll take cash or checks.