25 October 2010

Ahh, Prejudice

On the one hand, I'm really flattered that someone could be so comfy including me in their "us" category that they'll use words like "fag" while talking about their "them" categories. I haven't been part of any offline "us" categories in years.

On the other hand... well... umm, "fag." T.T

19 July 2010

Slice of Life Reprise

After having lived for several years in a place where people commonly did their best to avoid acknowledging my existence, I can't say how nice it is to be somewhere where people actually look at me and sometimes even randomly talk to me like I'm a normal person, and where service staff actually want to help me. Even if they're old white people! Thank you, Bloomington Indiana, for reminding me what that's like - and restoring some faith that there are at least small pockets of midwestern U.S. where people are decent, even to people who aren't exactly like them.

(Slice of Life)

22 April 2010

Today's Insipid Thought

At some point your potential is supposed to turn into kinetic. If it hasn't by the time you've reached 30, you've lost it all.

11 April 2010

Two Roads Diverge in a Wood, and I

On one side lies the Science Academia path. I can get another job as a data analyst and continue my endless string of research tech jobs. Or, if I want to actually advance, I can get a PhD in something. So far I've narrowed the "something" down to ecology, which is still kind of broad. Then, once I have a PhD, expectations rise steeply about what I do next: develop a research program and find ways to fund it. This would be exactly what I was avoiding for the past ten years.

On the other side lies Freelance Writing. Bright Hub has seemingly endless stuff for me to do, and it's certainly a place where I can help them grow. There are lots of other content sites I can write for as well. For that matter there's "real" freelance writing where I query to write stuff for a lot more money than content sites pay. The pay is very low at the start, but then there are my friends with the seafood market who have offered to let me move into their house for free room and board - so I'll stop having any living expenses to speak of. And just as I was waffling about where I should go, eHow folded up its ad-revenue-share program, and suddenly I'm a part of Demand Studios. Suddenly I can actually make decent money at this.

To go one way, I'd really need to find the right kind of passion for my work. Good scientists don't just go to work, they live and breathe what they study. I don't have that.

To go the other way, I'll basically lose all my credentials to go back to science later. My degrees are already stale, and my leet skillz will go too. I won't be able to go back.

Two roads diverging. I can't keep going up the middle or I'll just hit a tree. I don't know that the one I'm choosing is the less travelled, but it certainly seems to be the path of least resistance.

01 April 2010

March articles

My friends with the seafood market have managed to drag me into helping them on the busier weekends, and also at month starts when they have huge hordes of rabid customers rushing to spend their EBT funds. March was extra busy because of Lent, when people stop eating land meat and therefore more seafood. Plus they were down a worker who had to be out of town all month. So, all in all, I wasn't online a whole lot.

Still, I managed to write four articles for Bright Hub, one for eHow, and one for Bukisa.

Life Cycle of Seahorses - Seahorses are small fish with a life span of one to five years. The seahorse life cycle includes males that get pregnant, which is as extreme as it gets for male parental care in the animal kingdom.

Intertidal Zone and Habitat Functions of Estuarine Marsh Areas - Salt marshes in estuaries have two main functions of interest to humanity. They provide crucial nursery habitat for the young of a great many fish, shrimp, and crab species that we like to eat. They are also Nature's septic system for all the organic waste we produce farther upstream.

How to get ingredients in Restaurant City - there are six ways. I screenshot them all, including pics from inside mine, Anne's, and Carol Elaine's restaurants. :)

Origin and Phylogeny of Vultures - this one is based on "black vulture phylogeny 'animal diversity web' " which lots of people are running searches on for some reason. So I tried to write an answer. :) There didn't seem to be one when I tried the search myself, at least. (If you've landed here by searching on it, please drop me a comment explaining what you're trying to find, and whether the article I wrote was it... if it isn't, I'd be happy to try again.)

How to set up housing in Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom - the second in a four-part strategy guide series I'm working on (apparently at the rate of one per month).

How to remove sticky oil residue from nonstick pans - eHows have the advantage of being quick to write with minimal paperwork overhead fuss. This one, I figured out how to do because I had some uncleanable pans, and then I wrote it down for everyone else.

As for April, so far I've claimed one slot about ecosystem changes. I have lots of ideas for more gaming articles (which, although less fulfilling to write, are a lot faster and certainly entertaining to research...). It all depends how busy the seafood market keeps me.

23 March 2010

First Azaleas of 2010

This is a view of the patch of woods behind my apartment, as seen from my bedroom window on the second floor. It's my daily regular view now that my computer is upstairs.

The splash of purple is one of two big patches of azaleas that began blooming last week. Normally they show up back in February, but we've had an unusually cold winter. So far none of the fenceline flowers have appeared yet (and thus, no closeups).

09 March 2010

Some recent thoughts with no particular point

If we burn the prairie in the fall, the grass will grow better in the spring. This will give the elk and buffalo more to eat, allowing them to grow and multiply. Which means that we, in turn, will also have more to eat.

The above concept comes out of 1491 by Charles C. Mann (p. 279-284) - a great book for short bursts of reading, in that you can turn to just about any page at random, start reading, and learn something interesting about the Americas before 1492. I read the above and thought: Huh. That makes a lot more sense - to work with nature to get what you want, rather than against it, trying to control it. Why don't we do more of that instead?

(Not that that works well in modern-day container gardening, alas. My inclination is to put the plants out there and let nature do whatever it wants. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to give me any tomatoes.)

Then a few days later, I found out via Discover Magazine ("Where the Wild Things Are", March 2010, doesn't appear to be on their website (yet?) dangit) that someone in the Netherlands is trying it out. Or something close to it with the Oostvaardersplassen nature preserve. Basically, put a bunch of large herbivores together, do nothing management-wise, and see what happens. Results so far: you get patches of open forest and grasslands. not unbroken dense forest.

Anyway, like I said in the title, I don't really have a point. I just thought it was kind of cool. :)

04 March 2010

Still Dwelling

You have killed me by Morrissey

I don't share this view of how things ended, but this is how I would respond to it. But then, it's not forgiveness from me that matters.

28 February 2010

Articles Written This Month

I've decided to start a new end-of-month feature - list of articles written that month. Herewith, then, are the articles I wrote in February:

Abiotic (Non-Biological) Factors of an Open Ocean Ecosystem
A Review of Yakuza Lords on Facebook
Arctic Ocean Marine Life
The Dragon Cave: A Review
How to plan your city in Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom

There was supposed to be one more article about alleles, but it's taking a really long time to make it past the editors. I'm told it'll be up before midnight; we'll see...

I also added some pictures to my micro RNA article from last October: Micro RNA and Gene Expression

My test readers found it confusing when it was just the text. Now they only find it partially confusing. Yay progress! :)

My full list of every article I've ever written is linked to the top left, if anyone is interested.

UPDATE: What Are Alleles? is up now. :) This one was really hard to fit in 500-800 words; either I could answer the title question in 8 words ("alleles are different versions of the same gene") or I could write a textbook about population genetics. In the end I just sort of blathered aimlessly for about 600 words and then stopped there instead of coming to any points. Apparently that was good enough to pass muster at Bright Hub.

19 February 2010

And now for something completely different

I've actually been tired of my old blog template for a really long time now, but was not tired enough to overcome my inherent laziness when it comes to actually changing it. Until now, apparently. Because I just now saw the "Edit Pages" tab and thought: "ooo. I should do something with that."

It occurs to me that both General Comments and My Dragons ought to have been pages, if pages had existed at the time I made those posts. There doesn't seem to be any way to move them over, however.

Anyway: the biggest thing that annoyed me about the previous template was the width. Pictures refused to sit next to each other unless I forced them to - and then they'd go off the edge of the post area. This current template doesn't have that problem, so it's already a step up. :)

I might fiddle with the color scheme later on. Or not. I can feel my inherent laziness already setting back in again....

16 February 2010

Things I Ponder

Would it be better or worse if people could actually talk to other cars on the road? Because, at this point, we've probably reached a point in technology level where we no longer need rely on the honk as our only means of communication.

On the pro side, there could be:

"Your tail light is out."
"You left your gas cap open."
"What's the holdup? Why's nobody moving?" "Because there's a wreck in the intersection."
"All y'all going the other way are about to run into a mile-long jam."

But then, on the con side, there would be:

"You drive like shit." "Fuck you."

Or, for that matter:

"Your tail light is out." "Your tail light is out." "Your tail light is out." "YES I KNOW!"

There could be a way to talk both to individual cars, and to lots of cars at once. But it would have to be quick to pick - trying to type in a license plate number while driving would be a no-go, I think.


15 February 2010

Thought for the Day

To "agree to disagree" means "I understand and respect your point of view, but I still disagree." Which happens when everyone knows what everyone else thinks and why, and also knows that everyone else knows what they think. Also, that part about respect is kind of key.

This is not the same thing as "Let's just talk about something else now."

10 February 2010

My thoughts about Teabaggers and other neoconservatives

Once upon a time there was an alternative rock band called Creed. They made lots of great music that was very popular.

One Last Breath from Whisper (2001)

Then one day for no apparent reason, they suddenly broke up. Not long after that, like the very next day, there was a new band, called Alter Bridge. Completely different and separate from Creed in every (legal) way.

Open Your Eyes from One Day Remains (2004)

It was made up of every member originally of Creed except one. I guess they didn't want him to be a part of them anymore. And they lived happily ever after.

Somewhere in that tale there's a lesson to be learned, I think. Especially for the current Republican Party.

Note: the above version of events is how I heard it as a casual fan of alternative rock. I'm not a hardcore Creed/Alter Bridge fan and probably there are lots of additional details to the story that aren't accounted for in this post. Also, there's a sequel: five years after they disbanded, they reunited last year. Which could also have analogies to the current GOP after some growth and maturity occurs...

Overcome from Full Circle (2009)

28 January 2010


My quest: To play Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, a game that came out in 2003 and only runs in Windows. (I blame my brother for the existence of this quest.)

The problem: I only have non-Intel Macs.

The goal: Somehow obtain a computer setup that will run the game, as cheaply as possible.

Not having an Intel Mac, the only possible emulation solution was something called VirtualPC, which nobody recommends. However, Shawn Powers had an extra copy lying around, so he sent it to me in the hopes it would help. Alas, it didn't. T.T (But thank you Shawn for trying. This was a year ago and you've probably forgotten all about it by now...)

The next possible solution was to acquire the cheapest possible Windows-running machine. That plan stopped the whole quest for a while, due to the whole spending money thing. I couldn't quite justify to myself that I should spend a few hundred dollars just to play one game. But then Christmas came around again, I went back to the place that had the game, I succumbed to the temptation to play it, and thus: here we are again.

So I shopped around. And found a $200 Acer Nettop. :) In the picture below, it's the small white box between my iMac and the other monitor (also new, for another $110).

It lacks a whole lot of features that most people would want in a computer, and some friends yelled at me thoroughly about the whole plan. I should save up until I can get something better, some said. Or I should just not spend at all, said others. However, it does what I bought it for and I don't need Windows for anything else, now or in the future, so I'm quite happy with it. Plus I hoard quite well the rest of the time, and will make it just fine to my next move (either a new job or, if I still don't have one when my lease here ends, into the house of some friends who have offered to let me stay rent-free). And who knows, maybe I'll run into other Windows-only games. ;)

22 January 2010

Package of Sachima: The Sequel

At the same time that I received a box of sachima from John the Scientist, a couple friends also received packages: Anne got a box of instant ramen, and Michelle got ...tentacles.

Michelle didn't actually want her tentacles, so she sent them to me (so that I could, in turn, donate them to the nearest poor, unfortunate octopus that had lost its tentacles in a terrible accident). Meanwhile, I drooled over one of the ramen brands that Anne got, which inspired John to send me a whole case of it. Thus: triple loot for me. :)

The tentacles have now been reattached to a deserving octopus by a crack team of vet surgeons. Here he is, all happy to be able to catch his own food again:

(Note: any similarities between this octopus picture and those found by googling "plush octopus" are entirely coincidental.)

The ramen has now been sampled, and indeed it is the brand I remember fondly from 15 years ago. :) And the sachima? I'm down to seven of them (out of an original 24). The taro ones (purple) especially are pretty good, though my favorite are still the plain (yay nostalgia ;) ).

And finally, along with tentacles, Michelle sent me one of her old cameras. Now I can finally show everyone what the screen on the broken one looks like:

It started out as all-white with diagonal cracks. As time has gone on, it's been turning into ovals of white with rainbow stripes. Picture taking is still perfectly possible through the viewfinder, as long as you don't care what the camera chooses to focus on, or the exact composition, or changing the flash function, or any of the other settings, or seeing the results instantly...

21 January 2010

Grade School Science Fairs

When I was in 8th grade (age 14), my school held a science fair. My project was about the growth of mold in four different drinks - milk, orange juice, apple juice, and grape juice - in glass bottles that were both capped and uncapped. These resided on a shelf in my bedroom for a month and the smell was terrible, and also I couldn't drink apple juice or grape juice again for a very long time. And I got a D. >.> Being as I was a child of restaurant owners, and being as I was in a college town where half the other kids had university professors for parents, well, my crappy little handwritten poster just didn't look all that good next to, say, the sophisticated microbiology project with the gigantic professional-looking poster with petri plates in front of it. And my grasp of proper scientific format was nonexistent at the time.

All of which came to mind during my second experience with a grade school science fair, which was today. This time, though, I was one of the judges.

The projects were interesting and varied, and about on the same level as my project probably was. They grew plants, grew mold, tested for conductivity in things, tested for differences between different brands of various products (toilet paper was popular for some reason), and also wrote reports about volcanoes. It was fun seeing what their perspective was on things, when they didn't quite have all the knowledge that you'd expect in the average adult. :)

18 January 2010

A walk in a park

Despite having lived in Savannah for 8 years, and even though I used to drive past it every day, I'd never visited the Skidaway Island State Park until today. When I got up, though, it was sunny and warm (60s F / 18ish C). It's also right after a week of below-freezing nighttime temperatures, which means many fewer bugs. And I wanted to be outside. So ...

Coastal Georgia is basically all salt marshes - think of it as a "floodplain" area as the tide goes in and out. In the park, it was mostly filled with Juncus roemerianus (black needlerush). At the edge of the marsh, the treeline pretty much just starts up suddenly where the highest reaches of saltwater ends.

The standard southeastern maritime forest is fairly open with trees spaced far apart (that is, you can see pretty far into it and it's easy to walk through). The tallest are pines, but there's a variety of deciduous and palm-type trees in the midlevels. Saw palmettos stand out as the main part of the understory. The pines have extra-thick bark and there's lots of pine needle litter, which means fire is a part of the ecology.

Far enough inland away from the saltwater, there are shallow freshwater ponds. Some of which are called "sloughs" (sloo). These are a type of wetland. Also, in places where spanish moss is especially thick, the distant forest can look ghostly silvered.

All in all, I walked about 7 miles and saw every part of every trail (almost... would've gotten the last bit too if my legs hadn't wore out). Skidaway Island State Park isn't that big and can easily be seen all in one day. The trails are all flat and wide (would rate "level 1 difficulty"), but then, coastal Georgia is pretty flat. And it turned out to be a good idea to wear my crocs for the venture because I had to wade through some of it (it rained a lot over the weekend).

Shawn Powers

By now, everyone everywhere has probably heard about Shawn Powers and his family, whose house burned down yesterday. All of their pets died in the fire. Shawn's a friend and fellow UCFer, and much beloved at Linux Journal where he makes many amusing videos.

I can never think of anything to say when things like this happen. But I thought I'd pass along the donation button for people who haven't found it yet.

16 January 2010

Some boxplots about baby fish

It's been a while since I've said anything sciencey here because, well, being laid off from my sciencey day job has kind of drastically reduced (possibly even eliminated) the number of sciencey things I do on a daily basis. However, all is not lost! I can still dig up past sciencey things I've done, such as for my masters thesis. :)

To the right are some pictures of baby fish - five species of Lutjanus snappers that usually live in Florida but had gotten lost in North Carolina at the time they were caught. They were about 1-2 cm long at the time. We caught hundreds of them, mostly L. griseus, during two (non-consecutive) years of sampling with nets. Among other things, we compared their size ranges with each other:

These are box plots. Which is a fun modern statistical way of looking at data besides just getting an average and a standard error or standard deviation (also included, because older scientists who aren't used to fun modern ways prefer to see those there). As you can see, some of them came in bigger than others. :)

This post inspired by Janiece, who is learning about box plots in her statistics class.

11 January 2010

Domestic Excavations: One Year Later

It's now been almost a year since I first started seriously poking through my roomful of old boxes of stuff. A lot has gotten tossed, recycled, or shredded. The harp in one of last year's pictures has been freecycled. Boxes have been emptied, and other boxes have been filled. Stuff has moved into and out of the room from other parts of the apartment. The result so far? I think my stuff is actually multiplying. o.O

At the time I started, I figured it was finally time to unpack everything and settle in. A few months later, however, that turned out to be premature. So while I still unpacked and sorted, I'm also working on repacking it all back up again. Such is the way of my life.

07 January 2010

Taking it down to semantics and definitions

From ABC News:
    Efforts to promote 'transgenderism' in public policy deconstruct one of the most fundamental concepts known to mankind. It renders gender, the most basic organization of social systems, completely meaningless. In doing so, activists like Simpson are asking the rest of society to radically reorder the ways in which the culture makes reasonable and rational accommodation for the two genders," [Monica Schleicher, spokeswoman for Christian group Focus on the Family] said.

There's actually a pretty big difference between gender identity and gender role. When transpeople are talking about the topic, they mean identity. When everyone else does, they usually mean role (as Ms. Schleicher does). This conflation is what causes a lot of confusion and frustration, I think.

06 January 2010


This is a traditional firepot. Or, well, it's actually a huo guo. Which in Mandarin translates as "fire" and "pot" so my family just calls it a firepot. :) It has space for a small charcoal fire in the bottom part, a donut-shaped bowl for food, and a chimney. The bowl is filled with soup (usually pork broth), and the table is set with platters of raw food that get cooked in the soup as the meal goes. Through the chimney is how the fire gets stirred and more charcoal added.

Food items include thinly sliced raw meats, green leafy things like spinach and cabbage, tofu, fish balls, other seafood, and things along those lines. Each eater gets a plate with some soy sauce, sesame oil, and sometimes other sauces (we use a lot of sah tsa, which I have no idea how to describe). The meal ends with putting mei fun into the pot, and a bowl on the chimney to smother the fire (if it hasn't already gone out).

Firepot is what we do for festive occasions (in much the same way that most Americans of the dominant culture have turkey on Thanksgiving). Nowadays, because people are more worried about fire hazards, they make electric versions of the pot or just use fondue pots instead. To me, that's just not the same...