Showing posts from November, 2008

camera skills

While hiking on Kennesaw Mountain last Saturday, JLee and I took pictures of one another near a cannon. Click on the picture if you want to see more detail.
Here's the one I took of her. Nice contrast and composition. Don't blame me that she looks wasted, that's just the look she likes to use in photos. She was actually sober. Believe it or not.

...and here's the one she took of me! And this is the better of the two pics she took. Scary, huh?

It was a brisk cold day but at least it was sunny. Here it is a week later and the temperature is about the same but there's no sun to be found. Oh well, this part of NC can certainly use some rain.

Happy Thanksgiving

Here in the USA it's Thanksgiving Day, a day typically spent with family and a large bird that's been roasted so as to make it good company for the rest of us. Sorry, PETA. Yet more animals for you to try to make us feel guilty about. (Good luck!)

Isn't this a cute picture?

I took this the other day at JLee's house when we made a nice dinner together.

It's not turkey, as is more obvious in the picture below, but it was a good warm up for Thanksgiving since it helped stretch our stomachs. Serious feasting demands a practice round or two beforehand, y'know?

It's a half picnic pork roast and a decent deal at $1.09 a pound. Sometimes the bone really makes the cut not a bargain but this time it was pretty far down on the femur making the bone a very small portion of the package. And that means more meat for us! We used a crockpot since it is a rather tough section of meat.

Here's a plate loaded with more stuff. We did veggies in the crockpot as usual and also fi…

High and Dry

For anyone living on lakefront property, this is a scene straight out of their nightmares.

Upstate SC is in the midst of a record breaking drought. Nearby Atlanta was in the news this past Summer due to their water woes ---Lake Lanier, their main source of water, nearly running dry--- but Atlanta's been getting rain the past few months. Not so the area in which my parents live. Despite the two only being 90 miles apart the rain enjoyed by Metro Atlanta just hasn't visited Lake Hartwell.

The picture on the left is of the inlet that my parents live on. That's their dock straight ahead. I'm standing where the bridge to the dock is usually moored. Over the past 2 years, as the water receded, people moved their docks out from the normal lake bank to follow the water. As you can see, that's stopped since there is no water there at all.

This area normally hits depths of 30 plus feet of water. The lake is down over 22 feet and once the channel to the main lake went dry---arou…

Corn and Book

I finished reading Michael Connelly's book The Brass Verdict and really enjoyed it.

No, this picture isn't here to indicate that the book was corny. Not at all. I just happened to catch this fellow snacking on some corn on my parent's porch this afternoon. It was a brisk afternoon and the squirrels--as well as a couple of birds--were taking the cold as a sign that it was nigh time to get their Winter storage issues in order.

Back to the book, I pretty much read this entire book in one sitting. From midnight to 5am I gnawed my way through all but the last 80 pages. This book, while employing both LAPD Detective Harry Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer character Mickey Haller, focused mainly on Haller via a high profile celebrity case involving a movie producer accused of killing two people. His wife and her lover--and just weeks after she showed interest in divorcing him--highly suspicious timing, you might say.

Haller had the case fall into his lap via an unusual situation that add…


I've been zipping through books lately. I just finished a book, The Judas Strain, by James Rollins a couple of hours ago and I immediately started Michael Connelly's new book, The Brass Verdict. I love the way it starts with the line "Everybody lies" just like they always say in House.

The Judas Strain was enjoyable though the criticisms on Amazon about having thin characters is certainly true. But there's a lot of action and the science that goes on isn't all that terrible. The main plot is that there's a nasty virus starting to pop out somewhere in the Indonesia islands. A group of US superagents that are also trained in science are being deployed to take care of the situation. However they're being hampered by a possible mole in their organization as well as the behind-the-scenes meddling by other US agencies as well as a shadowy evil organization known simply as The Guild. LOL It's actually better than it sounds but at times I did get tired o…

On the Trail

I've got several days off of work, what with Thanksgiving and all.

As a result I'm on a tour of South Carolina and Georgia visiting JLee, my brother and his family, and spending Thanksgiving at my parent's house.

As you can see here, I'm getting some hiking in. This is a trail down the shoulder of Little Kennesaw. Despite the temperature being under 30f I was sweating. The hike up Kennesaw is steep and despite only being a mile in length, it's a nice little workout. Little Kennesaw, in comparison, is a breeze but nice for a cool down.

I'm hoping to get in some kayaking soon but there's been such a drought going on that it's not going to be easy getting my boat to a place that I can launch from. I should get some interesting pictures though. Lake Hartwell is something like 22 feet below it's normal depth. That's a whole lot of land exposed that is normally under water.

Plastics are the future

But in science research that might be a problem.

A study has recently been published in the journal Science that establishes that the leeching from plastics that we've long known about from activities like microwaving can also affect liquids at room temperature.

Since much of the biological research that occurs uses disposable plastics, this is a concern. Making the concern worse, a lot of the molecules that leech out of plastics have similar chemical structures to hormones in mammals. Thus, when we use plastic tubes and trays for our research we can be having the cells or tissue that we're working with affected by these quasi-hormonal substances.

Andy Holt, the lead researcher of the study and professor of pharmacology at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, has shown that using plastic lab equipment can skew or ruin the results of medical experiments.

By using mass spectrometry to analyze the solutions at the molecular level, Holt and his colleagu…

More kittie porn

Yes, it has a name but despite having heard it several times I don't have any idea what it is right now. Cats just strike me as slightly attractive annoyances so it's hard to bother with remembering their names. And since cats don't bother to learn their names either, why should I?

Cat in a Drawer

Today after work I went to visit Jules. I'd not seen her since early this year---though according to her it'd only been since May. In any case, it'd been at least 6 months (that's girl time--it was 9 months in normal time).

I was responding to a call for help. Jules had bought a dresser at Target and decided she needed help putting it together so she called me. LOL Yes, she must have been desperate 'cause anyone that knows me knows that I have little patience when it comes to building things. Just ask Renee! She and I had some cross words passed back and forth while on home building projects.

As you can see by the box to the left, this was a rather large dresser for a kit. We had our work cut out for us--especially 'cause my boss kept me at work an extra hour looking at some slides with her. As a result, by the time I'd driven up to Jules' house it was already past 6:30pm.

And to broach an entirely different subject: it was damn cold today. It even snowe…

Michelle and the Fox

Here's a first for me--a post about watching television. Heavens to Betsy!

First of all, I watched my favorite show this season, The Big Bang Theory. It's half way through it's second season and I still love it. Must be the geek factor. I feel like I know all these guys--but not the waitress, dammit.

One of the hidden gems of the show is the closing screen. To the left is an example from Monday's episode. In the show, the relative merits--actually the suckiness is more like it---of several of the Star Trek episodes are examined as well as some of George Lucas's work. The closing screen refers to those criticisms aired within the dialog of the show. *giggle*

My second topic connects to the first in an odd way. First though, the name to the left, Michelle Felicetta is the name of the woman who was attacked by a red desert fox two weeks ago, on Monday November 3th in Prescott, AzAs you can tell from the screen to the left, she was on The David Letterman show this past e…

First Stab

First watercolor I've done. Looks like something a kid would do. Maybe one of those "special kids" paintings you see on stamps around Christmas time.

I hope that I develop a little technique over time. And some finesse might be nice too. There's a lot of technical details going on in painting that I hadn't considered. Just loading the brush with pigment, and seeing how it unloaded onto the paper was more involved than I had considered. This might take a while...

Pizza, Pizza!

The title is inspired by Little Caesars Pizza. That was my favorite chain when I was a lot younger. I assure you, they don't taste the same now. More's the pity. Just another case of expanding too fast and losing quality control. :-(

The pizza theme is occuring due to a quiz I took on OK Cupid. Here's what the quiz concluded about me:

The Pizza Geek

You are a pizza geek. You're well-versed in the history of pizza, the regional variations of pizza, the varieties of crust styles and topping options, or all of the above.

If you aren't sharing your next pizza with a fellow pizza geek, though, you may want to make sure they'll enjoy hearing selections from your vast trove of pizza trivia before you start geeking out.

And here's the actual score I received:

80% Traditional, 58% Experimental, 87% Self-Aware, 81% Assertive, 75% Pizza-Geek, 62% Healthy, 60% Regional, 50% Special and 63% Picante!

The OK Cupid member with the name WonderfulLap devised the test and if you w…

Brain and Muscle

The title is derived from the stained muscle cells that appear on my screen, courtesy of some Masson's trichrome staining I did last month. The brain is visiting from the JLee collection, purchased at the Mutter Museum in Philly, PA. Which is where JLee also originated, more or less.

On the left is the brain trying to eat my highlighting pen and watch while clinging to my computer monitor. On the right is a shot of the lid of the brain's container--where it sleeps--against the backdrop of my monitor. I Photoshopped this picture a little. Like they say at Mutter---Disturbingly Informative!


No, it's not really cold here. The freezing is happening on television. Two shows this season---Life and Eleventh Hour, in case you're curious---have had plots involving people killed by freezing to death. And if that's not odd enough, in both shows the corpse did not thaw out in a reasonable fashion. Freaky, huh?

And if that's not enough, the show I like less was the one with the more reasonable explanation--even though the banter during the examination was quite ridiculous. "Are you sure she wasn't exposed to a virus?"

Ummm. How many viruses cause a person to freeze to death on a sunny beach in 90+ weather? Why would a ME be looking for internal causes for freezing when it's obviously going to be an external factor? (yet, it did turn out to be an internal factor so I guess in the long run I was wrong on that objection)

Did anything unusual go on in TV programming last night at 8pm? Nothing that I had programmed in from 8 to 9pm got recorded. It was w…

Top Chef

WARNING: Spoilers follow...

WTF? It's the first episode of the new season of Top Chef and the hottest woman is already eliminated. What the hell? Are they trying to push away their audience? The two people I liked most from the interviews, Patrick and Lauren, did the worst in skills challenge. Not good. I've only watched the first part of the show---I'll watch the rest in a few minutes.

The Manhattan apartment the contestants are being put up in certainly looks great. I wonder how much cash it takes to hold down an amazing pad like that. $$$$

I just finished watching the rest of the first episode and Patrick lost at the end. Damn. My two favorites both gone on the very first show. They were also the two youngest at 21 and 24 which might have something to do with it. One was a CIA grad and the other is currently enrolled there. Interesting.

Dirt Cheap

How's this for a drug discovery strategy: go out and grap a cup of dirt. Sounds a little far fetched, doesn't it?

Well, that's exactly what two researchers from Rockefeller University did--and they published their results in the November 11 issue of PNAS. That's the start of the article over there on the left.

Typically a teaspoon of dirt contains an estimated 10,000 species of bacteria but most of those can't be grown in a lab thus they've never been used for pharmacological research. This method allows research folk to take the dirt and extract bacterial DNA from it and then search for known DNA sequences common to anti-bacterial drugs, particularly the gene sequence called OxyC.

Since nothing is more interested in fighting bacteria more than other bacteria, getting possible drugs from bacteria makes sense. Evolutionarily they've been working on this problem for nearly 4 billion years.

The researchers collected soil samples from a number of different places, …

Playing with Nature

In the 1970s Dena Dietrich was in a series of 30-second commercials for Chiffon Margarine, playing the part of Mother Nature. Dressed in a gown of white and adorned with a crown of daisies, she would announce "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" after being fooled into thinking Chiffon Margarine was in fact butter. And lightning and thunder soon ensued.

Why do I bring this up? Well, it's a bit of a stretch but it might apply to some scientists at VIB in Flanders, Belgium who recently figured out how to fool some annual plants into becoming perennials. Neat trick, huh? (but will Ma Nature be amused?)

Researchers have been fascinated for a long time by the evolution of herbaceous to woody structures, which is one of the traits separating annuals from perennials. The research at VIB clearly shows that only two genes are necessary in this process.

If you deactivate those two genes, the VIB researchers found that mutant plants can no longer induce flowering, but they can c…


I've been buying a few songs this week for a CD I'm making for my car.

I want to cover a variety of eras, starting with the 1950s. A little while before I was born, but an era I'm familiar with due to seeing a number of movies like American Graffiti and American Hot Wax that were based in the 1950s.

American Hot Wax included a performance by budding actor Jay Leno. He's better known now for his comedy and television skills than acting-- and if you watch American Hot Wax you'll see why he changed his vocational focus. The movie also had Fran Drescher and a walk-on part by Cameron Crowe, who was just a teenager in the 1978 movie.

Reading about the stuff going on during the filming of American Graffiti as well as how difficult it was for George Lucas to sell the concept to a studio was interesting.

The cast of the film just staggers the mind: Ron Howard was well known but Richard Dreyfuss, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips,…


The nights are getting colder, the leaves more colorful, and that tang of mildewed leaves is in the air. I guess Fall has arrived in eastern North Carolina.

skull food

I had an odd visitor today. He's a mite skinny so I thought some food might be in order.

Yep. Just skin and bones. Well, bones anyway. You'd think the fellow would be fairly sturdy what with all that calcium and such...

But just look what happens when you give the fellow a little hug. And that's not as bad as it gets.

The skull innerds just keep coming out more and more. It's more than a mite icky and not the sort of thing a guest should display to his host.

I must admit that the display did inspire my food choice. I made goulash 'cause it reminded me of the stuff coming out of the poor guy's eye socket. Yum-yum!

Potato Chips and a toy

This is my newest toy, and at $18 a fairly inexpensive toy. Despite the low cost, the ceramic blade in the mandoline is quite sharp. I was careful not to test that sharpness on my own flesh. The reviews on Amazon gave ample warning that I'd be sorry if I did such a test.

Here's a closeup of the thickness selection spindle. You can adjust the thickness of slices from 0.5 mm to 3mm. The reviews were mixed on how well this worked. From what I've seen so far, I think it'll work well on less dense items but on spuds, I'd keep the control at 2mm or 3mm. The thinner settings are 0.5mm and 1.3mm.

This is Mr Potato (AKA spud) cut in half and getting ready to be sliced a whole lot more. I feel bad when I cut up a mouse but not so much when it's a potato in my sights. Thems just taste good---particularly when copious amounts of grease are involved. Be sure to use that knobby finger protector 'cause the blade is very sharp.

See what happened to that spud?!?! It's now…

yes we can

Senator Obama, speaking in Chicago, just finished his presidential acceptance speech a few minutes ago. It's easy to believe that President-elect Obama will have a term of office that could well be considered as symbolically important as the Camelot presidency of JFK. And I certainly hope that his real impact on the country is even greater than that of Kennedy.

The acceptance speech, particularly President-elect Obama's use of 106 year old Ann Nixon Cooper's lifetime to act as a yardstick for where the country has been and where it might go, was inspired and well, presidential. His repeating the phrase from his campaign, "yes we can", and the crowd chanting it with him was particularly powerful.

And in a wonderful departure from the past 8 years of partisan bickering by many in the GOP, Senator McCain gave a timely and gracious concession speech. The Republican crowd that was gathered in Phoenix wasn't as filled with grace, but to his credit McCain quieted the …

Baby, it's cold outside

...and inside but not for long. 16 years of deep freeze ends in "new life."

A friend that recently lost her father sent me a link to a story about how scientists at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, have managed to clone a mouse from the brain cell of a mouse frozen for 16 years. I suspect that she misses her father very much and is keeping a close eye on technical developments that might aid "his return."

The Cloning process, for those unfamiliar with it, involves creating an exact genetic duplicate of the original organism, from a normal cell of the original organism. The best known example of this was Dolly the sheep who was born on July 5, 1996 from the nucleus of a normal sheep cell transferred into the egg cell of an unrelated ewe.

Just in case you're not aware of it, I'll emphasize that the clone resulting from these technical unions are not exactly like the original adult organism--rather they are the same as that original orga…

Real Food--sometimes

Yesterday Judy expressed some concern about my eating habits.

I do realize that I eat too much candy but I eat "real food" also. Really!

Here's what I had for dinner last night and the leftovers for lunch today while I watched the first half of the Bills and Jet's game.Chicken fried pork medallions with cream pork gravy on mashed potatoes with apple sauce on the side. Yum?
Actually the gravy wasn't very good. I don't like the taste of caramelized meat so home made gravy often doesn't taste good to me. One day I'll give up on making it!

Here's what it looked like. I liked today's lunch a lot better 'cause I didn't have any gravy with it.  Icky gravy--but the meat and taters were quite nice.
So, don't worry about my nutritional needs. I do eat some real food. It's just more fun to eat candy and kid's cereal.   :-)

I Love Sales

...and I love candy and best of all is sales on CANDY!
My heat is on and it's up to 62f (and still climbing--I like it around 65f). I had all the windows open when I first turned it on 'cause I hate that stinky smell when it first comes on. And I went in and got a much needed haircut right after I picked up all that pretty candy.  I'm set until Xmas now.