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I didn't forget how to ski. That's good! I haven't been skiing in at least six years, I think. I think the snowboarding years (maybe 3, 4 years ago?) really messed with my confidence about getting down mountains.

Because Shanna and Andrew work at Mt. Baldy during peak season, they have lots of free passes to hand out. I got to go for free, and it only took half an hour to get there, so I went skiing and then went to the lab to do some work. Not a bad way to spend the day, I must say.

Also, it turns out that I'm in much better cardiovascular shape than I ever was when I went skiing or snowboarding before. Stuff that I recall being hard, like uphill climbs on skis, were a lot easier than I thought they'd be.
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When it rains in California, weird bugs start swarming out of the ground. Usually it's just ants, but this storm has brought out some kind of gray swarming thing onto the patio:

click if you're ok with pictures of swarming bugs )

I wish things that belong in the ground would stay there and let me live on in ignorance.


Oct. 1st, 2008 10:43 pm
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Dude. I just got called out at a gas station for trying to pay with what turned out to be a fake $10 bill. How humiliating. Also, now I'm out $10 thanks to some counterfeiting jackass. It's not even a particularly good fake; just good enough to be folded up into one's wallet without paying much attention. I am pretty sure I got it at the diner I ate at on Monday. Should I bother going back and telling them about it? It doesn't seem likely to be their fault either. This sucks.

It was also super weird because I was tired and it was late and I'd just finished swimming, so I was a bit foggy, and it seemed so surreal. I actually have had dreams in which I've been passed fake bills before, and this was much like that, so it was very very strange.
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We had a visitor in the molecular lab today!

Being a bunch of botanists, we were not exactly clamoring to grab the snake to get him out. In any case, we startled him and he crawled into one of our -80ºC freezers.

We considered leaving him alone until he calmed down, but decided that no one was going to be able to get any work done with a snake in the lab. So we turned off the freezer, removed the panels, and tried to grab the snake. He blended in very well with the electrical cords! Mark was finally able to grab it.

Then we took it downstairs and let it go outside.

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I have been obsessed with sloe gin (in concept) for a pretty long while, because it's gin! flavored with a plum-like fruit! that tastes slightly almondy! These are all things I love! However, I have not been able to find the real thing in the US: up until now, the only kind in America has been crappy De Kuyper stuff, which to me doesn't seem to be worth consuming. Sloe gin seems to still be made in England, but all my attempts to get friends going to England to bring me back some seem to have failed.

Finally, I read in the New York Times that Plymouth started exporting a limited quantity of the Real Thing to the U.S.! I immediately found a store online that was going to ship it domestically, and placed my order. It took forever for them to fill the order; probably because of slowness on the part of the exporter, not on the part of the store, because when they did finally ship it, they actually called me to tell me about it, which I thought was quite friendly.

It arrived yesterday, but was all warm from sitting on the porch in the sun, so I put it aside for the time being. I told some friends about it in the lab today, and one of them, a former bartender, was all, oh, sloe gin is not very good. I was hoping (and she could not refute) that she was referring to the nasty fake stuff, but it did make me anxious to try my hard-won Plymouth. So I had some today for the first time. I had it on the rocks with soda, and it was as delicious as I hoped it would be! Yay. It is plummy, with a hint of bitterness and a hint of almond. After I post this, I will probably have another, my third of the evening.

I know, this is not a particularly exciting anecdote. However, it is the story of a small dream fulfilled, so you'll just have to be happy for me and deal.
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From the FDA Recall feed:
The company, under a different name, had manufactured dried smoked catfish steaks and other smoked seafood products and had been subject to a consent decree of permanent injunction requiring it to develop and implement an adequate Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for its fish and fishery products. The firm had not developed this plan. The company cannot restart manufacturing until they have implemented an FDA-approved HACCP plan.

I'm pretty sure catfish are not a *sea* food. I can't imagine eating a dried smoked catfish.

[Poll #1188925]

Have I mentioned here that I'm a dork who subscribes to the FDA Recalls rss feed? Technophilia meets hypochondria!
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So, as it turns out, my outgroup was not really an outgroup in my lupine phylogeny. Everything is different now! It makes a lot more sense to me now, but I do feel like a chump for not having figured this out sooner. Oh well, at least I didn't publish anything yet, and I am sure no one was paying very much attention to what I said at Botany last year :/


Apr. 5th, 2008 09:24 pm
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My house has been Street Viewed by Google! Clearly they've been sitting on this picture for at least six months, because this looks like my garden at the end of last summer.

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Well, actually it took two weekends, one of which was part of spring break, one of which was after. Anyway. My very capable friends Shanna and Andrew decided that my backyard was a disgrace and needed to be fixed. So, we built a concrete paver patio. It is approximately 250 square feet of paved backyard fun. It required measuring, selecting pavers, digging, gravelling, compacting, and laying in of pavers and planters. Of those, I only knew how to do the first two before two weekends ago. Andrew laughed at me when I first tried shoveling to dig up the base of the patio. Shanna, as a fellow short girl, but as a person who apparently once apprenticed with a stonemason, taught me proper shovelling technique. I learned real skills!

While I may not have had any manual labor skills, I will say that my calculations were not very far off. I needed to return 10 pavers, buy 10 more blocks, and would've had just the right amount of sand if the Home Depot guy hadn't talked me down in my sand purchasing.

Anyway. Pictures )

bad poster

Mar. 10th, 2008 11:50 pm
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I got this in an email...isn't it horrible?

It just screams "Look at me! I'm interesting! No, really, I am! Index funds! Woo!" It makes me sad that someone made this on purpose.
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For some reason, while Wikipedia surfing, I ran across the category of Supermarkets of the United States. I found a need to score myself on how many of them I've been to. (43 out of 210, for those interested.) New meme, maybe?

list below cut )
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Adding to the list of plants used for gelling, I just found out that bracken fern rhizomes, in the family Dennstaedtiaceae. Woo! Nine families!

Looking at the list, I note that the Japanese must be really into gelled things. Traditional Japanese desserts use glutinous rice, bracken, konnyaku, agar, and kudzu...five of the nine.
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I have been pining away for a coat rack, but two problems keep coming up: 1) coat racks are expensive and 2) inexpensive coat racks are ugly and don't hold many coats anyway.

I got this idea from the ReadyMade magazine book. It's a hook suspended from the ceiling, with a rope attached and shower hooks used as the hooks. Voilá! Up to 12 hooks ready for hanging coats and whatnot, for a total cost of $11.

Also, I think it looks kinda cool.
pics )
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Tom left me last June and I filed for divorce at the end of last year. There's probably a lot of story in there that I could go into, but the short version, from my point of view: Tom freaked out because he wanted to keep acting like we were 25, and I wanted to be a grown up.

If you really want to read the whole saga, email me and I might let you read the painful protected entries detailing the whole thing in gory stream-of-consciousness. Otherwise, rest assured that I'm fine and am dealing with it quite well. I just thought it was probably time to let the internet friends at large know about the big life change.
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I am totally fascinated by the myriad sources that jelly or gummy foods come from. A short list:

  • Coconut jelly, from young coconuts
  • Gelatin, obviously, from collagen of animals
  • Agar, from seaweed
  • Glutinous rice flour (mochi etc)
  • Tapioca, from a euphorb, Manihot esculenta
  • Sago, from the sago palm (not the cycad, the palm)
  • Arrowroot, from Maranta arundinacea
  • Potato starch
  • Pectin, from citrus peels and apple pomace
  • Konnyaku, from Amorphophallus konjac
  • Kudzu

So that's eight plant families*, plus animals and seaweed. That's a lot of random gelling stuff. I was only even looking at things that gel but have little flavor, too, so that you could then flavor it with something else. I assume there are other gelatinous textured things that are strongly flavored, but I didn't count those.

*Arecaceae, Poaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Marantaceae, Solanaceae, Rosaceae, Rutaceae, Araceae, Fabaceae
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From this NEA study:

"The survey also studied the correlation between literary reading and other activities. For instance, literature readers watched an average of 2.7 hours of television each day, while people who do not read literary works watched an average of 3.1 hours daily. Adults who did not watch TV in a typical day are 48 percent more likely to be frequent readers - consuming from 12 to 49 books each year - than are those who watched one to three hours daily."

I guess I'm the exception that proves the rule? I must watch somewhere between 2-4 hours of TV a day, but I've already read 50 books this year and passed my qualifying exam.
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Yeah. It wasn't very felt about the same level of difficulty as talking to colleagues you don't know about the stuff you work on.


Oct. 23rd, 2007 02:16 pm
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The light coming in the windows is somewhat orange in tone. Outside, you can see a light ashfall covering the cars. It's very eerie.

The fires aren't too near me, but the entire LA Basin is full of smoke, and I don't know if it's psychosomatic or if it's real, but I swear my lungs hurt and my thinking is not up to snuff. Bleh.

bad luck

Oct. 18th, 2007 06:31 pm
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Two flat tires. Two days.

This morning, I took the car in to the tire store to see if yesterday's flat could be repaired, but not hoping for much because I have very bad luck with tires getting punctures in repairable places. Luckily, it turned out to be repairable, so half an hour later, I was back on the road. All was well, or so I thought. It seemed like pretty good luck that I didn't need to fork out for two new tires after having to replace the Jodie-eaten cell phone.

Anyway, I came home after school, a bit early because I was feeling stuffy and tired. I turned into my driveway and hit the curb hard, like an idiot. When I got out of the car, I heard the hissssss of the tire going flat. Bah! This hole was in the sidewall, so UNREPAIRABLE. Fortunately, I am now quite familiar with the procedure to change the Prius's tire, so twenty minutes later, I'm headed back to the tire store.

$200 later, I've got two new tires. Bah. At least this time they have a full warranty.

Extra anecdote: the only two tires of the sort I wanted were on hold. I guess the sales guy felt pretty sorry for me, so he called the guy whose tires they were reserved for, telling him that they only had one of his tires in, but they'd have two in tomorrow, so could he wait until then? I guess he agreed to this deal, so I got my two tires in less than an hour. I like America's Tire Co. They've always been good to me.
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My dog (I assume it was Jodie, but I wasn't a witness to the action) ate my cell phone today. By the way, a chewed lithium-ion battery is really, really hot. I used potholders to put it outside on the driveway so as not to set anything on fire.
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