Showing posts from June, 2007


I've been playing with Photoshop half the day and have potential headers coming out of my whazoo--and let me tell you, whazoos don't like that shit. So now I have to decide whether to scrap them all, put one up, settle for the one up there now, or some other option that hasn't occurred to me yet.

Right now there's a bug one up on top. It might not stick around for long so if it's gone from the blog, you can see what it looked like above. The most recent one I've done is a chemistry themed one as you can see below:

...and if I stick with the bug header, I'll probably change the footer to this one:

What are you worth (dead)?

This is slightly morbid but with potentially useful information to the ones you leave behind when you die. LOL

Liz, over at the Library Tavern, keyed me into this quiz.

Actually while the questions seem valid and well grounded, I don't know how accurate the thing is. After all, it's really a come-on for a dating site. I'm not sure what the connection is between dating and evaluating corpse worth is tho. Anyone have any ideas on that?

$3755.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worthMingle2 - Online Dating

A temporary header?

Is this too plain for a header? I wanted something quiet this time around but this might need a little more oomph. Opinions?

Playing around

If you've been here before, you'll probably notice that there's a few changes underfoot. I've decided to play around with my template. So far I've just switched my header to an old one I used last year for a few weeks, took out my old CSS and implemented a simpler style and color scheme, and I'm in the process of taking out the old menus.

Please bear with me since I'm not getting this done very quickly. Maybe tomorrow I'll get new graphics worked up in Photoshop but for right now I'm making do with old stuff that's just hanging around from previous designs.

Okay. I did bother to do the Photoshop on the menus, at least, despite the late hour. Here's the old design for the green colored blog:

Now I've replaced them with the sand colored buttons there on the left. I like them a lot better--and that stylized sun seems so cheerful. I've still got my blog list on a jump menu but I'll probably switch that out this weekend. I'm just try…

Deja Vu

Deja Vu is a 2006 movie starring Denzel Washington as ATF agent Doug Carlin. I watched it last night and I was quite impressed.

The plot isn't easy to describe and I won't even take a stab at it. This is all due to a time travel aspect which makes all the action quite convoluted and often events aren't actually progressing like you think they are. It's a good idea to pay attention to details early in the movie! What I can describe is the basic set up which initiates the sequence of events that change Doug Carlin's life.

At the start of Deja Vu, a ferry filled with Navy crewmen and their families is blown up in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. ATF agent Carlin is brought in to investigate the explosion and gets attached to an experimental federal surveillance unit, one that uses technology to directly look back a little over four days into the past. Carlin has the good taste to fall in love with Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) and that's what pushes the plot.

The prem…

frisky sheep jokes

I saw a movie review on that Ebert/Roeper show this past weekend about killer sheep. The movie's name is Black Sheep and both reviewers panned the movie. I thought the clip they showed was funny but I suspect the one-joke nature of the movie would be hard to sustain over the course of a feature length film.

They compared Black Sheep to the Evil Rabbit scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail--which I think is good company to be in.

"That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on! " LOL

But in honor of the film Black Sheep, whether a good movie or bad, I'm presenting a short collection of "Sheep jokes". Be warned, many contain inferred sexual content! They're also often not kind to the Welsh. It makes me wonder just what goes on in those pretty green fields of Wales...

What's the fastest thing in Wales?

A Virgin Sheep.

Whats the second fastest thing in Wales?

The virgin sheep's shepherd.

What do you call a Welshman with 50…

chloroform and you

Last week one of the techs here dropped a bottle of chloroform on the floor. She's a ditz and asked me if she should do anything. I told her it was quite volatile and would disappear on its own quite well but that she might want to stand somewhere else--she was standing in the puddle of chloroform--or she might find herself passing out soon.

I'm not sure why she was juggling the bottle in the first place. It's true that chloroform used to be a standard molecule in the molecular biologist's toolset but easy to use kits have largely replaced chloroform. We used to use it all the time to do DNA extractions.

If you're interested, a DNA extraction is when you take a bunch of cells (from tissue culture flasks, blood, ground up tissue, etc), disrupt the cell membranes so that the DNA is released, and then collect the DNA. The problem is that DNA is a very long molecule and very sticky so you tend to get a ball of "gunk" which isn't usable. That's where the…

Concerning cervical vertebrae

The July/August issue of Seed has an interesting column by PZ Myers (who also writes the excellent science blog Pharyngula) concerning the number of cervical vertebrae in mammals.

It seems that almost without exception, all mammals have 7 cervical vertebrae. That's not true of other orders, just mammals. So it doesn't matter if it's a human, a cow or even a giraffe. Neck length clearly doesn't affect the number of cervical vertebrae--which is rather strange. Other species have a clear relationship between neck length and number of cervical vertebrae. Why don't species in order Mammalia?

One of the reasons for this that PZ Myers mentions is that mammals with one less cervical vertebrae tend to die young, often before they're even born. In fact 80% of embryos with this "defect" die before their first birthday. I think it's obvious that having one less vertebrae isn't lethal in itself, so the survival disadvantage must be due to other reasons than …

Of birthdays and unexpected visits

As anyone who knows me can attest, I do love to tease. Chris, from what I've gathered so far, is too much of a straight-shooter to tease. However she has warned me several times that she can spoon out at least as much as she gets--and that card I posted yesterday seems to be her warning shot in the teasing game.

Inside her words were sweet and caring--quite a contrast to the warning message on the front. *whew*

And to make the surprise even nicer she decided to visit me for a few brief hours before zooming off to have a birthday dinner/party with a group of long time friends up in the wilds of Virginia. No boys allowed, dammit.

This is Chris preparing to depart for her party. She's wearing shades so you can't see those lovely green eyes. But you can see from her smile that she's already thinking about all the presents she's gonna get. LOL Can you say "Princess"?

Greeting Card

I got a greeting card in the mail today. It's from the girl I started seeing a few weeks ago. The cover doesn't bode well...

There's always a certain feeling of anticipation and also worry when you get a card that's not associated with a holiday or personal milestone.

If it's your birthday you expect to get a few cards, same thing around Christmas or perhaps St Valentine's Day. But a card that arrives in the void betwixt days like that--well it could be trouble.

"My life was just fine until you came along..." That's not a line to inspire confidence, y'know?

This card from the Chipolte Girl made me curious about the entire greeting card industry so I wandered around the web for more information, getting most of it on Wiki. After all, an industry that only made money on birthdays and a few holidays probably wouldn't stay in business long. So how do they sell all those cards?

As it turns out, According to Wiki, the greeting card industry really g…

Just some thoughts

I watched Blood Diamond on DVD the other night. It wasn't entirely what I expected from the commercials. I was expecting more adventure, I guess. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of adventure as well as poignant drama--and the acting was just amazing. I wasn't disappointed just surprised.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou really went beyond acting. I totally believed they were their characters. Jennifer Connelly did really great in a supporting role. It's quite easy to see why the movie garnered a number of Oscar nominations. The morality tale aspect was very evident also.

Work this week has been torture. Which is why I've not been posting very much. I've been getting to the point that by 11am I just want to hide! Maybe next week will be better...

Instead of writing anything else I'm just going to post a picture of a yellow Canna Lily flower that I thought was quite pretty when I saw it last week. I hope you like it. If you want to get the full effect,…


Beware, Matey. There be lurkers in those murky waters of Georgia. Arghhh.

Ride 'em Cowboy

I came across this Cowboy Act a couple of weeks ago at Sarah Duke Gardens. The bug was on a cluster of flowers well off the path so I held out my camera, all zoomed out, and hit the shutter a few times and hoped for the best. I was amazed to find that I actually had a shot with a fairly good focus on the bug.

To me, this picture reminds me of the album cover of some 80s hair band. Or maybe something that Meatloaf would have liked to have on one of his covers. LOL Ride 'em Cowbug!

Rocky Balboa

I watched the Rocky Balboa DVD tonight. It was a 2006 release from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Columbia Pictures, and Revolution Studios. It was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone who also stars as the central character of Rocky Balboa. The film has a running time of 101 minutes.

I thought it started off quite slow and was wishing it'd pick up the pace any number of times. Stallone wrote and directed the movie and it was quite obvious he intended this movie to reach back and pay homage to the early and best Rocky movies. He might have done that just a wee bit too long but this was definitely the movie to do it in. I say this because Rocky Balboa works better than any movie in the Rocky series since the first. At the end of the movie I wanted it to keep on going--and that's the best compliment you can give a movie.

The fight scenes in Rocky Balboa are better than any of the other Rocky movies--including the first. It's amazing that Stallone can get in that kind of shape at 6…

alive and at work

I am alive. I am also very sore and tired. It's amazing what a few days of fever will do to you. Sitting down I feel fairly normal, but just walking up some stairs can tire me out a bit. And I've still got a lot of muscle ache from that fever. C'est la Vie.

No doubt I should be back to normal in a few days. And since I was talking about sore muscles, that reminds me of a page in Wikipedia I was reading a few days ago regarding Rigor Mortis (I was reading it due to that post about opisthotonus a few days ago). This is the passage I mean:

Rigor mortis is very important in meat technology. The onset of rigor mortis and its resolution partially determines the tenderness of meat. If the post-slaughter meat is immediately chilled to 15°C, a phenomenon known as cold shortening occurs, where the muscle shrinks to a third of its original size. This will lead to the loss of water from the meat along with many of the vitamins, minerals, and water soluble proteins. The loss of water ma…

birds and character

I really like the appearance of doves. I can see why they are one of the symbols of peace. They just look nice. Well, from certain angles. For example, observe the dove below as it sits atop the bungee cord I use to keep the seeds from getting spilled.

That's an attractive and smart looking bird.

Now look at the same bird from a head-on angle. Now the bird looks a mite comical and well, more than a little stupid. A little of the Deer-in-the-headlights look about the dove now. Or maybe it's just my fever talking. What do you think? Are doves more attractive from the side than from the front?

And now we come to a bird with some serious character. The cardinal below looks like some tough talking cartoon character that would always be full of salty language and would have your back in a fight. A bird you can depend on! LOL

Of course in reality they're so skittish that it's hard to get close enough to them to take a picture. But they sure look like they're scrappers! And I…

hallucinations and fever

I'm still sick. This is the third day that this sore throat has been bothering me. Yesterday I called in sick and just went in for an hour to do some tissue culture work that had to be done. Cells that you're growing could care less about your health--if you don't take care of them, they just overgrow their containers then crash and burn. Today I called in sick and plan to just stay home all day.

One of the symptoms of this is fever. It's not a real high fever but for some reason I hallucinate mildly even with low fevers. This has been true for as long as I remember. The "visions" are very characteristic also. They almost always take the form of inanimate objects becoming animated. Most typically mailboxes and telephone poles becoming animals and moving--usually taking the form of deer. As long as you're open to the experience it's charming, however I'm glad this fever-stuff doesn't happen too often because you have to keep on your toes when m…

genitals and plants

We tend to think of plants as being innocent but consider their private parts. We don't view our own genitals as being innocent--witness how much effort is made to keep them hidden.

So how can you view the balls of a pine, seen above, as being okay for children to see? Hell, the picture below nearly makes me blush it's so lush and naughty. Perhaps we should be censoring nature in addition to our art museums and magazine stands. Just a thought...

Peppers and spice can be bad for your health

I'm sick as a dog today. My body is amplifying viruses like nobody's business and I place all the blame at the foot of a Chipolte pepper that I was nibbling on a few days ago.

Who knew that a little spicy repast like that could bite me in the foot (actually my throat is sore, not my foot, and there's some fever too) this way? It makes a person wonder if all that capsaicin eating just isn't worth the pain and suffering.

I might have to go back to my normal diet. It might be bland, but at least it doesn't threaten my health and well being. What do you think? Spicy and dangerous or bland and safe?

dying in agony

Ever wonder why so many fossilized animals, particularly dinosaurs, look so twisted about when they're found? For much of my life the explanations been that ligament drying caused those seemingly agonized positions. That long held theory has recently been revisited by Cynthia Marshall Faux, a veterinarian and paleontologist from Museum of the Rockies, and her co-author Kevin Padian, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

In the March issue of the quarterly journal Paleobiology the article so fetchingly titled "Agonized Death Throes Probable Cause Of Open-mouthed, Head-back Pose Of Many Dinosaur Fossils" explores the problems with the ligament drying theory. Rather, they postulate, the agonized looking positions are exactly what they seem. The result of an agonizing death. Hmmm. Common sense wins out in the end!

Witness the Archaeopteryx over there on the left. Just by looking at the position of the bones you get the distinct impres…

that Chipolte Girl

You might remember this picture from yesterday. The subject's name is Chris and it was taken at Duke University in the Sarah Duke Gardens on the Eastern edge of the campus.

I've received two Emails asking how I achieved the affect in this picture and a few comments on the blog as well. Even Chris wondered how much Photoshop magic was involved. Well, none to be exact. The picture to the left has been shrunk down a little to fit on the page--the original file size was 2 meg and was 2200 something pixels across--but that's the only adjustment I made.

The affect was actually the result of clumsy happenstance. I had been taking a few pictures in a shaded glen of small blue flowers so I was using the flash to light them up. I then decided to take a closeup of Chris' face with the glen as a backdrop. I kept the camera setting on macro but forgot to shut down the flash--so when I took the picture Chris' face was extremely overexposed. It was an oversight--I simply forgot to …

pretty sore

I did a lot of Spring Cleaning on Saturday. I had forgotten how rough cleaning is on the body--and getting older (and fatter) doesn't help in the least. *whew* I was doing a lot of de-cluttering as well as plenty of mopping and vacuuming with cleaning two of my bathrooms to cap it all off. This place was a disgrace! And there's still so much to be done--but at least it's started.

While the house is still quite cluttered, it's a great deal better than it was last week. My body is frickin' pissed off though. My hamstrings are just yelling themselves hoarse in little jabs of pain every time I stand up or bend over. It's quite sad that a little bending over to pick things up or scrub out a tub could make me this uncomfortable. How do people that do this every day--as in tidy folk that don't live in the midst of clutter and dust like I do--cope with the strain on their muscles? And the allergy attacks that all that disturbed dust creates? Oy!

I rewarded myself o…

Of personal seals and blogging poems

Does your blog need a seal? How about your personal correspondence? School lunch box? Come on, work with me here.

There's a site that lets you make your own seal with lots of customizing options. Go give it a try! The seal below is what I came up with. The Latin on the bottom roughly means "an insatiable urge to write." It doesn't say anything about quality--just quantity.

There's also a poem by Holmes using that Latin phrase for its title, and if there was ever a poem that better embodied the concept of blogging, I don't know what it is:

Cacoethes Scribendi
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

If all the trees in all the woods were men;
And each and every blade of grass a pen;
If every leaf on every shrub and tree
Turned to a sheet of foolscap; every sea
Were changed to ink, and all earth's living tribes
Had nothing else to do but act as scribes,
And for ten thousand ages, day and night,
The human race should write, and write, and write,
Till all the pens and paper w…


I had a comment on a post the other day from a person purportedly at an Ad Agency with an offer of a free IBS product from Proctor and Gamble. Of course the first thing you think with a comment like that is that it's Blog Spam. However in this case the comment seemed legit since the Email address wasn't hijacked and it was to a legitimate Ad Agency (Bridge Worldwide) with P&G as a client.

Anyway, the offer was for a 2-month supply of Align, which is a daily probiotic supplement that helps build and maintain a strong and healthy digestive system. Is this a gimmick or a way to use blogs as an aid to marketing? I don't know but I Emailed the PR person back and I'll see what happens. In any case, it'd be a great way to try out Align and see if it helps with my symptoms. Who knows--maybe I'd even be able to eat ice cream without cramps and fast panicy runs to the bathroom.

According to the website that P&G maintains for Align, a balance of good bacteria ("…

Hell's Kitchen

Monday nights at 9pm on FOX network is the famous and quite irritable Scot celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay and his Hell's Kitchen. This past Monday was the first show of the third season and it ran pretty much according to the template established in the first two seasons.

Dinner was never served, there were tears and recriminations on the part of the participants, and many cuss words and emotional tirades from Ramsay. All good fun, y'know?

Actually the first episode of this show is always the worst of the season. The first season I didn't get past that first show and stopped watching in disgust. Fortunately I watched the second season all the way through and understood at that point that the show actually did teach these prospective chefs quite a lot. The format of the show doesn't illustrate just how it's accomplished but it's apparent that these contestants ramp up their abilities amazingly far in the course of a short season.

But to get back to the first show of…

Them damn Yankees

I'm having a bit of difficulty sleeping so I thought I might post a little quiz-game. The point of it is to determine how much "Yankee-ness" you have. The demographics that it contains are only going to be germane to people that live in the US but anyone that speaks English will be able to do the quiz.

The Yankee Quiz

I was born in upstate NY, went to college in the Western Tier of NY near Rochester, and had my first job near Lake Placid, NY. So the first half of my life was all in northern NY state. The voice patterns there are similar to those of Eastern PA, not NY City though. Those are my "Yankee" credentials.

After that I went to grad school in Georgia, worked in Atlanta after that, then moved to North Carolina where I've lived for the past 7 years. So the second half of my life I've lived in the South East, home of Dixie.

The results of my quiz, you ask? 49% (Yankee). Barely into the Yankee category.

sleepy weekend

I had high plans for this past weekend. My house is a cluttered mess and I was going to try to tackle it from top to bottom. Well, given my propensity to procrastinate, my real plan was to transfer all my current recycling items to the collection area in Carrboro Plaza and then to sort through my magazines and put together another load of recycling from them and excess cardboard that is laying about the house. Besides that, I needed to do laundry, wash dishes, and vacuum all over the place. How much do you think I got done?

Remember that quote about the best laid plans of mice and men? I'm not sure which category I fall under but predictably the plan did fall through. I lazed about on Saturday and didn't do anything productive. The only thing I got done was sorting through the mail from the past 2 weeks that had collected and pay the bills in that pile. It was a chore that needed to get done but it wasn't much progress for an entire day. I should have at least cleaned the b…

Summer Pepsi

I love soda. And I like Pepsi a whole lot more than Coke. However...

If you see this nasty stuff--just run! It's a temporary product that Pepsi is floating in some markets. It's supposedly normal Pepsi with some citrus tastes blended in.

If you ask me, this is probably slightly filtered cat piss. Where is the FDA when you need it? They're off trying to keep the genetically modified tomatoes in line when they should be saving the American consumer from cat pee in shiny blue cans. *gag*

Anyway... there were a few comments on Wednesday's meme asking about my situation regarding Ren and a few Emails from people that apparently were either shy or didn't want to be labeled shallow. LOL I might just name names here!

Frankly, I really had no idea my life was interesting enough to spark questions but here's the answer for those few that actually are curious. Ren and I had been going out for just over 3 and a half years and the past year I'd really not been paying enou…

plants and peripheral nervous system receptors

You might wonder what plants have to do with peripheral nervous system receptors. It does seem a little odd to associate the two. However there's an article in yesterday's issue of Nature (May 30, 2007) regarding the menthol receptor TRPM8 and how it senses cold. In so doing, the receptor illuminates a mechanism that mediates how the body experiences strong stimuli like temperature that can cause pain.

As such, the receptor -- known as menthol receptor TRPM8 -- provides a target for studying acute and chronic pain, as can result from inflammatory or nerve injury, the researchers say, and a potential new target for treating pain. The senior author on this paper is David Julius, chairman and professor of physiology at UCSF. In 2002, his lab discovered that the TRPM8 receptor was activated by chemical cooling agents such as menthol, a natural product of mint, and cool air.

According to Dr Julius, "It's been known for years that menthol and related cooling agents evoke the …