Showing posts from July, 2007


Last night I watched Mel Gibson's movie Apocalypto which is an adventure movie concerning itself with the epic survival experience of a young South American man, Jaguar Paw, set against the backdrop of the waning days of the Mayan Empire, as he desperately tries to save his wife, Seven.

There's some trappings in the movie of maturity and spirituality, such as the sage advice that Jaguar Paw receives from his father, Flint Sky --seen there on the right-- while hunting, facing dangers never before encountered, and most of all, when facing death and ruin.

Both roles are played quite well by Rudy Youngblood and Morris Birdyellowhead, respectively. In fact the acting in this movie is so good it's very easy to believe you're actually seeing live footage of actual events taking place in the 1500s. Very impressive.

Unfortunately for Jaguar Paw and everyone in his village, the Mayans need sacrifices to appease the gods of their people. The Mayans have had a run of bad luck and the…

recipe for window seat

First you start with the toys 'cause every boy needs a few toys. Seriously, it's less expensive just buying this crap -- the whole point of woodworking is playing with potentially dangerous toys!

Next up you draw up a plan. You gotta have the plan so you have something to blame when you end up with nothing but sawdust, a few small cuts, a bruise or two, and some misshapen and sad looking pieces of "gluey" wood.

Finally toss in some wood and away we go. Well, once I stop procrastinating. Later this week I'll post pictures of my slow and painful progress on this project should I manage to actually get something done. Just don't hold your breath!

movie weekend

My girlfriend is off wandering the East Coast so I'm left to my own devices this weekend. While tomorrow I might be finally building a window seat that I bought the wood for nearly a year ago (Sad, I know. I do tend to procrastinate), tonight is being used for movies.

So far I've watched The Dirty Dozen on cable and Dreamgirls on DVD. Of the two, I'll go with WW2. While I know virtually everyone loved Dreamgirls, I'm in that small group that dissents. Over at Rotten Tomatoes Dreamgirls got a 78% fresh rating but I found it to be boring.

What I did like about it was Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce's wonderful singing and Jamie Foxx giving another great acting performance. There were also very good supporting roles by Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover. Yet, despite those "high notes" the movie struck me as an overly long docudrama which couldn't remember the correct names for the people. Should I blame the Broadway play for that or this movie? I don't know an…

Bacteria can be exciting

Okay. Maybe not everyone would react the same way, but a researcher at Penn is waxing quite eloquent about some bacteria he and a team of other researchers found recently in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.

According to him, "Finding a previously unknown, chlorophyll-producing microbe is the discovery of a lifetime for someone who has studied bacterial photosynthesis for as long as I have." Bryant went on to elaborate, "I wouldn't have been as excited if I had reached into that mat and pulled out a gold nugget the size of my fist!"

[The picture there to the left is from the Penn press release linked above. It illustrates where the bacterial mats are found]

The discovery of the chlorophyll-producing bacterium, CandidatusChloracidobacterium (Cab.) thermophilum, was described in the 27 July 2007 issue of the journal Science in a paper led by Don Bryant, the Ernest C. Pollard Professor of Biotechnology in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biolo…

Align revisited

A few weeks ago I started taking this dietary product called Align, marketed by Proctor and Gamble. I started taking the capsules on July 3 and posted about it at the time.

You see, Align is supposed to help combat a number of annoying maladies such as diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating. These are all symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which unfortunately I'm afflicted with.

So taking Align should help me, y'know? Unfortunately since I've started taking the Align I've had two of the my worst weeks of the past year. And you know what? Oddly enough that encourages me.

I really wasn't expecting this stuff to have any effect at all. And while it might be coincidence that my symptoms have been really bad the past two weeks, I'm betting it's related to the Bifantis in Align. The reason I'm finding this encouraging is that there is an affect going on here. Sure, it's negative but I suspect that's just me adjusting to the new bacterial bal…


The July 25th issue of The Independent, often just referred to as "the Indy", has a story on biological research. It's titled in their inimitable way as "Biotech or Biohazard?". The story is about the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a new 520,000-square-foot federal laboratory designed to research and combat the world's deadliest germs and potential biological weapons. One of the short list of locations for the lab is in nearby Butner NC, around 30 miles from the RTP area.

The reason I mention this is that in a sidebar article about local Biosafety Level 3 facilities, the building I work in gets mentioned! Eeek. There'll be crowds of protestors descending down upon us. Wonderful!

By the way, if this sorta thing gets you worried--this list is so incomplete... there's dozens not listed on here. Fortunately I just have to deal with level one and two biohazards.

Duke University
* Cancer Center Isolation Facility, Research Drive—Studies ca…

random thoughts on tv shows

I finally got around to watching the final 6 episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip this past weekend. I really loved the writing and acting on that show. I wish it hadn't been canceled. I'm sure, given the people associated with the show, that it was very expensive to create--and I guess the ratings just didn't warrant that kind of money. Damn shame.

Last night I watched Hell's Kitchen from Monday night as well as the first two episodes of Burn Notice on USA. Jeffrey Donovan, the star of Burn Notice, is quite charismatic and perfectly cast in this quasi-spy drama. The show is quite entertaining in an almost tongue-in-cheek way. I wish I could say the same for Hell's Kitchen. None of the contestants are appealing so it's hard to have much interest in the goings on. Rock is plainly the best chef--but I can't find any enthusiasm for him. He's too much of a dick. None of the eliminated contestants were very likable either. It was just a season of people …

breast cancer and race

I was reading some news reports on breast cancer today and one was linked to this press release from the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center at The University of Texas.

Despite modest overall improvements in breast cancer survival rates for women with advanced disease over the last two decades, the rates for black women have not improved and the difference in life expectancy between white and black women continues to widen, according to researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

As a research scientist working in the area of breast cancer, I do try to keep up to date on the field but my focus is more on the drugs that kill cancer cells. The sociological aspect is not something I usually pay much attention to. However... this study really contained some conclusions that surprised me. I'm not sure if they're accurate--which is also something to mull over.

The study evolved as a follow-up to recent research of Sharon Giordano, M.D., assistant professor in M. D. An…

morning glory

I took these pictures before work today. I was getting ready to leave and decided to trot back in and grab my camera for a few shots.

Here you can see the corner of my house being taken over by morning glory. This year it started up about a week early so it's been going for four weeks now. It's up on my deck, all over the mulch pile, and snaking its way across my driveway with the old mower you can see in the back being quite engulfed.

...and this second picture is of the morning glory taking over the edge of my driveway. It's amazing how fast that stuff takes off. In just a few short weeks it works its magic. It's as bad as kudzu.

What do big ears mean?

I blame it all on waking up way too early this morning. I woke up at 3am and didn't have much to do. First I watched a movie, The Holiday, then I tried to figure out what to do next.

Since it was still dark I didn't have anything to do outside...

And then it hit me. Start shaving off random bits of hair! Like that clump you see over there on the left.

That used to be my beard. Goat-beard, actually. Goatee, if you will.

And yes, there's a lot of gray in that pile. Too much, in fact.

These two pictures show the intermediate steps on my face. I'd been hiding behind this hair for well over a year now and my skin was definitely not ready for prime time. In fact, it was quite a shock to feel the air on my chin after so long.

The two picture below are before and after shots of my beardedness. Should I grow it back or does my denuded face not need censorship?

The thing I notice the most is that my ears are so damn big! I don't seem to notice that when I look in the mirror each mo…

harry potter and the deathly hallows

Today at 20 minutes after noon, just as I finished mowing the first half of my lawn, the postman rolled up in his SUV and delivered the new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I bought it from, as you can see from that picture to the left. I like how they customized their shipping cartons to go with the book.

Each side had something different with the back being the most elaborate. While my copy wasn't really delivered by an owl, it's nice having a picture of one on the box.

I was quite surprised to get the book today since I didn't pay any extra for the shipping. I bought the book back around 8 months ago and they reduced the price twice since then and charged me the lowest offered price. Pretty damn nice. Low price, free shipping, and no damn lines. LOL

And here's what the pretty little book looks like. Nice artwork, huh?

At 759 pages on good stock the book weighs quite a bit. It's a good thing the postman for my area has a SUV. Accord…

weekend plans

This has been quite the week. I've been having belly issues all week long--Chris suspects a stomach flu but I think it's just my IBS being worse than usual--and I hope that my suffering is finally at an end today. No, I'm not wishing for death. I just want to stay out of the bathroom most of the day.

Since I've not been feeling well, and 'cause Chris has plans for half the weekend anyway (bridal shower and movie with best friend) I'm probably flying solo. I picked up a couple of movies and one book at the library today (The Holiday, Night at the Museum, and James Lee Burke's Pegasus Descending) to keep me occupied over the weekend. I've also got to return some pants that don't fit to the store, a trip to the landfill and plenty of yardwork to do. There's also a woodworking project that I've been ducking for over a year. Knowing me, I'll be surprised if I end up doing even half these tasks--but it's good to know that should I be motiv…

sleepless thoughts and global warming jokes

I was lying in bed tonight trying to get to sleep and it occurred to me that what with all this global warming stuff going on, and the resulting increase in ocean levels, it might be a very good time to take SCUBA lessons. Can't hurt, good hobby and all that, and it might come in very handy in the future. I really need more sleep.

I found this graphic on The Humor Archives but it wasn't credited so I don't know where it originally came from.

Some Jokes:

"Scientists say because of global warming they expect the world's oceans to rise four and a half feet. The scientists say this can mean only one thing: Gary Coleman is going to drown." --Conan O'Brien

"President Bush said global warming is happening much quicker than he thought, and then his staff pulled him aside and said 'It's just springtime.'" --Jay Leno

"According to a new U.N. report, the global warming outlook is much worse than originally predicted. Which is pretty bad when th…

new Cable TV shows

There's a few new shows on Cable Television premiering this week that I'm recording to see how they are. I've not watched any yet but I have hopes for all three that I profile here.

The shows are on 3 different networks, AMC (American Movie Classics), not a network, given its name, that you would associate with regular serial programming, USA Network, and Lifetime.

Mad Men premiers on July 19 on AMC. It's a drama set in 1960 about Madison Avenue advertising executives. The series was originally written up 7 years ago by Matthew Weiner--and that was what got him noticed by HBO. While Mad Men sat in the background ever since, Weiner did get a job to create a new series for HBO. The Sopranos. Now that gig is over he's back to working on Mad Men. Hopefully it'll be just as good as his last series.

Here's the write up on the series from AMC's website:

The Setting: In 1960, advertising agencies were an all-powerful influence on the masses. Personal and professio…

old blog look

Here's what the blog used to look like, and of course the current appearance is all around. Which do you like better? Is there anything about the appearance of the one you don't like that you think should be on the one you do like?

Eventually I'm going to redesign the blog. This last go-round was mostly cosmetic and not structural but I've not decided on what changes I want to make and whether to host on Blogger's servers or not. I'd have more flexibility if I did it on a server of my own.

water and you

I was born in the early sixties and when I was a kid growing up, long before the term "yuppy" was coined, I lived in a tourist area that catered to "rich folk" from New York City, NJ and Long Island as well as some tourists from Montreal. I now realize they weren't really rich, they were middle class and living beyond their means. Ha! And now everyone is doing it.

But back then, one of the ways I noticed who were the haves and who were the have-nots was that the people with money would carry water around. More specifically Perrier-- in those pretty green glass bottles. Like the ones over on the left. (The Perrier brand was introduced to the US from France in 1977)

The idea of paying money for water was just insane to me. And me and my friends figured being crazy was a side effect of being wealthy. I pretty much still think that, y'know? Only now everyone is paying money for water, not just the wealthy and social wannabes. Go figure.

This month's issue of

I love toys

I received the new issue of Popular Mechanics in the mail on Friday. There's several toys profiled on the pages within that caught my eye. Some I can easily afford--some are way beyond my reach.

The least expensive is this neat USB drive from Kingston called the Mobilelite 9-in-1 card reader. It can read 3 cards at the same time and even swap files amidst the cards and it's got built in lids so you can store the cards in the card reader when moving about between computers. Since it works with all 3 card types that my cameras use, I think I'll pick up this sweet little thing. And the price? Just 9 bucks!! Amazing.

An interesting item that I'll never use--since I don't like beer--is Heineken's Draughtkeg. It's a real working keg that dispenses draft beer using a self contained CO2 compressor. It holds 5 liters, costs $20 and the beer stays fresh for at least a month. I see dorm rooms everywhere having these as soon as college starts up in September.

Something mo…

a list of missed things

My life is far better today than it was 5 years ago. Back then I was working for dot coms and every time I got a job the damn company would go under. Finances were getting worse than just tight! And while it always seemed I was seeing someone, most of the relationships were short term and I just don't have the kind of personality that likes short relationships. And I was living in apartments--which I just hate!

Today I have a house, a new girlfriend in a relationship that I think has legs, a former relationship that lasted well over 3 years, a job that's been going well for the past 5 years, and my finances are finally on an even keel. I do like continuity. Still, there's things I miss:

My girlfriend--she's out being social and I'm left to my own devices this weekend.Sleep. I'm not sure I even remember what it feels like. Let's see--something to do with closed eyes...NC Zoo. I was going to go there this morning but since I'm still awake and it's 6am I…

movie: Stranger than Fiction

I love to watch the Tour de France --cycling is the only sport that I want to go out and participate every time I watch it-- but I wish bicycling worked better on television. It just doesn't translate well to the screen.

I saw two movies on DVD this week and I liked both of them. Stranger than Fiction is a very good movie with great casting; Code Name: the Cleaner, on the other hand, has horrible writing and directing, stupid and obvious plot, but I liked it anyway due to the acting/chemistry of Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu.

Stranger than Fiction is a miracle of wonderful casting. There was a short period in the first third of the movie where I thought the voice over gimmick in the movie got old but I think that was on purpose--right after that the plot twisted and Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) met the love interest Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The contrast between Crick's life before Pascal and after is the point of the movie and that slow passage emphasized the transit…

Thursday wrapup

It's been one of THOSE weeks. I'm sure you've had plenty of them yourself. Insomnia is acting up worse than it has in many months, that IBS thing is really grumpy, and the administrative aspect of my job--that I dislike quite atrociously compared to the science research aspect--has been rearing it boring trite old head this week.

I've spent so much time this week: orienting a new post-doc; finishing work a med student has started but not finished; given a tour and info session to a 2-week rotating grad student; plus the various clerical and accounting functions that I have to periodically perform. *whew* All these things that I only have to handle occasionally happened to fall in the same week. Is there like some triple full moon thing going on? In the stock market there's a triple witching hour thing where options and such can freak out due to simultaneous expirations. I wonder if that's going on in life too...

My Dad turned 70 today. That's a huge milesto…

sometimes you just have to wait

All this hot dry weather makes me want to eat barely cooked hamburgers with the flavor of charcoal. But that damn charcoal takes forever to burn down into coals. What to do while waiting, what to do....

Utenzi Review

Unica and Fiona over at Berate my Blog reviewed my blog the other day. They're obviously women of refinement and high taste because they gave me a 9.7 out of 10. Woo-hoo. Some might say that indicates low standards on their part but I suspect those are jealous folk who say that!

Seriously, the rating seems a bit high but who am I to second guess them? They're professionals in the design business and must know what they're doing. They are kinder than most of the other review blogs that I've come across. The worst score in the 2+ months they've been doing this is a "5" and there's been several "7+" scores. The 8's and 9's have been much more frequent. So if you want some ego boosting... Berate my Blog is definitely the place to go. After all, they gave my funny looking blog a good score. How bad can you do?

Here's the text of the review they gave me:

Graphics -- Going through the avocado green (the most restful color for the eye) pag…

kicked out

What happens when a lovely candle lit Sunday dinner gathers in an unwanted guest? See if you can figure it out from these 3 pictures!

It's a dam, Toto

This dam shows every sign of drinking. It's anything but square and standing straight hasn't been possible for decades at least. Hell, it's got logs holding it upright. I'd not want to live downstream! Yet, despite all that, it's a pretty damn. I like the greenery behind it and the water running down the stonework looks nice too. I found this dam along the Blue Ridge Parkway along with a whole lot of pretty scenery of mountains, valleys, and trees--but never Kansas. Into the Light was correct about that.

night lights

Just looking down at the pretty lights. It's so much nicer being outside when the humidity takes a dip like it did last night. After a few weeks of hot humid weather, this felt like a reprieve!

book reviews

Bad Luck and Trouble (May, 2007) by Lee Childs.

In many ways, Jack Reacher is stubbornly married to the idea of living an unexamined life. He's no Platonic scholar. He wanders the country, kicking ass, and then at the end of any of these books, he just wanders off into the sunset to some new destination. Introspection is not part of his repertoire.

However in this 11th book in the series, surrounded by his old MP friends from the service, Reacher realizes several things. First, that he actually does have friends. Second, that he has missed them and the camaraderie they shared back when they were a unit. Reacher also is forced to consider the idea that maybe the choices he’s made since he left the Army were bad ones. Would he have a fuller life if he wasn't isolated and alone? If you've read other books in this series, I bet you can guess the answer he comes up with by the end of the book.

This is my favorite book in the series so far. Reacher isn't as alienated and violen…

Genetics and the Eucalyptus tree

I've got a story below that's off of the Reuters' science wire. It sparked a few thoughts in me about science and genetics and nature.

According to this news item, there's a big push starting to determine the genetics of the Eucalyptus tree. The stated benefits include developing trees that respond better to stressors like salt and aridity as well as improved hardness and density of the wood itself. However they also stress that they aren't going to make any genetic changes to the tree, just catalog the genes.

My question is how are you going to reap those benefits without changing the tree? LOL Of course you can't.

My point here is that many people are concerned when they hear that an organism is having it's genotype changed yet that's what we've been doing for thousands of years. Dogs used to be wolves. Not anymore. The list of genetically modified critters and plants is long and very advantageous to mankind. We've just been doing it by incest i…

A day to celebrate

Mozilla is coming out with a new version of it's very popular web browser soon. Right now they're alpha testing Gran Paradiso Alpha 1 which will eventually replace Firefox. I downloaded it yesterday and so far it's worked like a charm. Since it's in alpha release, I expect to eventually have some issues, of course. With this release, Mozilla is no longer supporting Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows ME. And so it goes...

Gran Paradiso, for what it's worth, is the highest mountain group in the Graian Alps, located in the Aosta Valley region of Italy. It was also the name of a German film (2000) about a crippled fellow that wanted to climb the mountain in the Alps. And now it's the name of a piece of software. And so it goes...

Here in the US, we're celebrating the aptly named holiday, the 4th of July. Admittedly that's not a very exciting title but when it was coined Madison Avenue wasn't filled to the brim with marketing agencies. They didn't have…

Toys in the mail

I received two items in the mail today that I can play with. One is a toy in the traditional sense whereas the other is more a metabolic toy.

The metabolic toy is a test package of Align that an ad agency sent me. I'm supposed to use it and review what I think of it on my blog here. The package consists of a bottle of 28 capsules of Align, which are taken once a day, and contain 4 milligrams of Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 each and a manual and diary for its use.

The odd thing is that according to the cover letter from Bridge Worldwide there's supposed to be a 2 month supply of tablets but there's only 28 pills. To the best of my mathmatical ability I can't figure how 28 once-a-day tablets will last for 8 weeks. Maybe this is where Jesus comes in with the fish and loaf of bread.

I've had IBS symptoms since I was in my early 20s so it'd be great if Align would diminish them somewhat. I'm not overly optimistic since my IBS seems to occur almost as often in res…

weekend presents

They say to beware Greeks bearing gifts (due to that Trojan Horse gag, y'know?) but since Chris isn't Greek, I don't know what to think.

Chris came by after work on Friday and gave me this pretty candle, the lovely 3-D card at left and below, and that attractive gift bag with lots of Hershey kisses (Neapolitan flavor). She wasn't staying long since she needed to be in Charlotte all day on Saturday but it was still good to see her--and she was going to be back on Sunday to visit.

Unfortunately I hadn't considered getting her anything so I had no present to give her in return. How serious do women take these things? Can anyone give me any advice. BTW, would the fact that she cleared all her things out of my bathroom be significant?

Here's a different angle on that card. Isn't it clever? Once you fold the card out it looks like a fish swimming in an aquarium. What a nice card! (and again, I didn't get her anything)

I don't have to work today since I took M…

Leslie Caron

Happy Birthday Leslie Caron!

Leslie Caron, former professional dancer and longtime film star, native of France, star of many movies including Gigi, An American in Paris, Father Goose, Chocolat, and Daddy Long Legs, had her birthday today. She was born July 1st, 1931 which makes her 76-- though she looks far younger.

I turned on the television this afternoon since Chris was busy writing up a report that she needed for later this week. On the tube were a number of movies with Caron in them and we watched the last quarter of Gigi. Chris thought she was in her mid-20s but I thought she must have been older than that since I knew she'd been a professional ballerina in Paris before she made any movies.

Turns out I was wrong about Caron's age due to her being a dancer at a very early age. She was hired by the Ballets des Champs-Elysées when she was only 16 and worked there for 3 years before Gene Kelly personally recruited her for his movie An American in Paris due to his seeing her dan…