Showing posts from April, 2005


Here's a picture I took over the weekend of my girlfriend while we were at a local Garden

It was quite lovely there and I took a bunch of pictures--until my batteries died on me. The only problem was all the damn pollen but that wasn't just in the garden. All of Raleigh was awash in pollen on Saturday. Some lucky parts got some rain to wash it down but not where we were. *ahhh-cho* Well, it's supposed to rain again on Tuesday so maybe that'll help.


I received some new China today from They're from last weeks Friday Sale and were marked down to $10 a set with a 20% coupon on kitchenware so a final price of $8 a set. I like the colors. :-)

Pretty, colorful, and inexpensive. What a combo! I bought 6 sets of them and some matching salt and pepper shakers.

This one is for Ron

Ron seems to like humor relating to lab animals and PETA so here's a joke that uses those elements and adds in lawyers too...


10. There is an endless supply
9. Lab assistants don't get attached to lawyers
8. It's more fun to shave and stick needles in lawyers than rats
7. There are some things rats just won't do
6. It's fun to dispose of them when you're through
5. It's not "inhumane" treatment when it's done to lawyers
4. No one cares when a lawyer squeals
3. We've seen what happens when they are allowed to breed freely
2. Lawyers belong in cages

And the #1 reason lawyers should replace lab rats--
1. Animal rights activist don't care if you experiment on lawyers

Perching on a rock

On a hike in Duke Forest a few years back...

Early mornings on the water

I'm going to go to South Carolina for a few days next week and do some kayaking there. Mostly on Lake Hartwell near the Georgia border but possibly a day or so on rivers up in the mountains near the North Carolina border. I try to do most of my paddling near dawn. Leaving before 6am so that I can take pictures well out on the water when the false dawn appears. This seems to be the best light to take pictures in. A wonderful side benefit is that the water is so quiet. A few powerboats with fishermen in them but that's about it. The jet-skis are the worst water vehicles since so often they're being ridden by kids with no idea about how to approach other craft out on the water. I've been flipped over more often by kids on Jet-skis than for all other reasons combined.

The weather is supposed to be beautiful but you never know. Storms can come up quickly and unexpected. I'll take pictures if anything interesting happens. Storms over water can be very photogenic…

Relaxing Sunday

Today was a nice slow day. Very cold overnight--just a few degrees over freezing--but late in the day it almost got up to 70f and it was very sunny all day long. As nice as it could be. I got half my lawn mowed this morning before a blister burst and forced me to stop. So I admired my tulips as I read on my deck. Except for spraying some Round-up on weeds and painting a door and my mailbox post I did virtually nothing except eat bread with honey butter and read a book. Lovely! I think I'll clean up the wood on my front veranda and prep it for painting tomorrow after work and then paint it later this week. And maybe cut the rest of the lawn on Tuesday after work. Not very exciting but very relaxing.

Animals and research

I don't use any animals in my research. Except humans, anyway. But I have in the past and I don't object to their use. Many people do object to animals being used in research. PETA is one of the most visible.

There's many groups that have an axe to grind against science. Some of them are eloquent, and this is quite frequently true of the folk against animal experimentation, yet others are clumsy and seem foolish. I put creationists in that catagory. It's instructive to analyze why these two catagories of critic give such different impressions.

Here's a page I like from an animal rights supporter. While I often don't agree with his arguments or even his assumptions in some cases, I don't deny that he makes a well considered and persuasive argument. This is fairly typical of the animal rights movement. Contrast that to the creationists who attempt to use science to promote religious faith. It's certainly a flawed endeavor and the end result is lik…


There's something very refreshing about baking bread. No doubt the smells contribute to this but even punching down the dough to redistribute the CO2 is relaxing. It's like connecting back to the very foundation of civilization. Bread isn't called the staff of life for nothing. It's what allowed us to leave our hunter/gatherer lifestyle behind and change into a settled agrarian existance. While I used to follow a recipe to make bread, now I just start off with the desired amout of water for the size loaf I'm making--typically 20 ounces. I put a pound or so of bread flour into my mixer, a teaspoon or two of yeast, some honey and then add water and flour until the water is gone. Since I like things sweet, I often eat the bread with honey butter on it. I make my own with a very simple recipe: equal parts honey, butter, and powdered sugar beaten together. Sometimes a little cinnamon also. It's very good albeit too sweet for some. Here's a picture:

Plants are evil

Okay, okay. That's a slight exaggeration. What I suppose I mean is that plants have their own agenda. Often people seem to think that anything from a plant is good. Vegetarians, especially city bred ones, are often guilty of this. The all-natural folk also. There seems to be the thinking that if it comes from a plant then since it's all-natural it must be good for you.

Plants are basically chemical factories that take inorganic sources of carbon and using photosynthesis for energy conduct endothermic chemical reactions to build new compounds. Some of these compounds are beneficial to humans. Food, medicine, dyes, even cosmetics. But the important thing to remember is that the plant has a reason to produce this chemical and it's not to help humans. If it does, it's purely incidental. It's not just animals and microbes that plants are warring against in their chemical fashion. We're more often than not just innocent bystanders. The main target of this …

Who's the master?

Master might be too strong a word, but dominant life form on the planet is pretty easy to justify. It's BACTERIA! I know. The buggers are pretty small, but often impressive things can come in small packages.

In any case, bacteria more than make up for their small stature with their sheer numbers. In a typical gram of soil, there's billions of bacteria spread across several thousand species. But that number pales in comparison to how many bacteria are in feces. You can find a trillion bacteria in just one gram of human feces. This isn't surprising when you consider that the typical person has over 10% of their dry weight comprised of bacteria--and if you want to measure in terms of number of cells then we lose the battle. Each of us has more bacterial cells living on or in us than we have cells of our own. Amazing. Each of us is really a bacterial colony on the hoof.

Pushing that analogy a little further, there's virtually universal agreement that the mitochondri…

Wind power

My house is located in what used to be a cow pasture, 12 miles from the nearest town. There's no trees and a good wind blows much of the time. In these politically correct energy saving times ones mind immediately goes toward renewable energy sources. In my location both solar and wind are emminently doable.

I've been reading about renewable energy for about 30 years and while the technology has improved quite a bit it's still not very cost effective. It's rare for me to have a power bill over $80 and I've never had one over $100 even in the hottest summer months or coldest winter ones. Of course I'm cheap and tend to keep the HVAC system at low settings. But for me the time to recoup the cost of even a very small wind turbine would be 8 years, and that's without factoring in oppurtunity costs on the used capital. Solar panels are even worse. And if you factor in an energy invertor for pushing the excess off onto the grid you're adding another 3 …

Sex, sex, sex

Despite the racy sounding title this is just more science talk. Sorry!

For much of the history of our planet evolution was a slow process driven mainly by mutations and the sloppy moving of genes from bacteria to bacteria. The advent of sexual reproduction changed that. This innovation allowed for mixing of genes between individuals in the same species and the resulting shuffling of genes on a regular basis allowed for explosive changes. Day to day that doesn't make much of a difference, though some might dispute that when a lovely member of the other gender walks by, but what sex does allow a species to do is adapt with incredible rapidity to changes in the environment.

You take away sexual reproduction and cool off the environment drastically and you'd lose most species. Yet despite a number of glacial periods over the past few hundred thousand years, few species seemed to have been eliminated by glaciation. Humans, of course, have thrived in this period and might have ha…

Evolution in the classrooms

I currently live in North Carolina not very far from the Research Triangle. While still in the southern US, it's a pretty progressive area in terms of religious control of the political process. On the other hand, I used to live in Marietta, GA which is in Cobb County where recently the school board has tried to limit the teaching of evolution in classrooms.

Personally I don't have any problem with stickers being placed in textbooks stating that evolution is just a theory. By the time a kid is taking high school biology he or she should be able to see through silly attempts like that by the religious right to limit what they perceive as secular preemption of religious territory. Christianity is based on faith not logic and attempts like Creationism to appeal to logic are odd. They're not going to convince anyone that's relying on logic and scientific methodology and people of faith don't need peculiar 'proofs' of religious tenets. Faith should be enoug…
cold weather kayaking

Basketball and Baseball

Basketball and Baseball. End of Winter and beginning of Spring. My girlfriend is a dyed in the wool UNC fan so she's ecstatic about their making it to the finals of the Sweet 16. It's been quite a while since they've won, not since 1993 in fact.

Baseball is about to start and largely due to the 13 years I lived in Georgia, I'm a Braves fan. While they've had a long reign as one of the dominant teams in baseball I first went to games when they were a perennial underdog. In fact, Bob Hope's book (no, not THAT Bob Hope) "We could have come in last without you" chronicled those years in a very funny fashion. It's out of print but available for a few bucks at used book venues.

Last season despite a team that wasn't running on all 8 cylinders--or even 4--the Braves made it to the playoffs, this year I expect them to see the World Series again. And from the dugout this time! I doubt they'll win since they're back to a pitching heavy tea…

Favorite Science Quotes

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke

Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it.
Sir Humphrey Davy

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny....'
Isaac Asimov

The great tragedy of science -- the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.
Thomas Huxley

Damn Statistics

Statistics are a basic component of science research. We use them all the time to summarize data and in some cases they're the only way we can even infer anything at all from huge amounts of incoming data. DNA microarrays are a good example with often over 20,000 datapoints in each array, each point having numberous numbers associated with it. Unfortunately published scientific results are often misused by journalists not familiar with statistics. An article on the STATS website illustrates this quite well. Raw Food and Osteoporosis, currently on their front page, shows how Dr. Luigi Fontana's qualified results were misreported in several publications.

Benjamin Disraeli's famous quote "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." notwithstanding, statistics are a valuable and necessary tool in many disciplines, certainly in science. They are subject to abuse however so you should always check the original source for them. The popular media…

A fools errand

April first. April Fool's Day. A seemingly fortuitous day to initiate a blog. In the ensuing days, weeks, and months I'll use this forum to shout out my opinions to a vast and uncaring world. Perhaps someone will notice, but even if not a single person ever sees--I'll feel a little better for having (potentially) given the world the benefit of my wisdom. LOL