Friday, November 30, 2007

Linux computing

Due to the recent failure of my mom's computer, and my role in dealing with it while home for the Thanksgiving holiday, my newest obsession has been cheap computers and Linux. While researching possible replacement computers for her (despite her pleas to not buy anything... I can't help it) I learned about the $200 computer they're selling at Walmart, the Eee PC, and the OLPC (XO). (I had, of course, heard of the OLPC, but this week was the first time I really looked into it to see what it's all about.) These computers all run on Linux-based operating systems. I've never worked in Linux before (though I did do a small amount of work in Unix back in college, but I don't remember much). Fortunately it seems like Linux is pretty accessible for the non-computer-savvy masses these days and I'm really tempted to dip my toes in the open source waters.

Now that my initial urge to buy a new machine has waned somewhat (though I'm still seriously considering the Eee PC sooner or later - it's only 2 lbs so it would be awesome for working in coffee shops and on the plane) I think I'll try installing a Linux OS on one of the older laptops that have been decommissioned and are collecting dust at my parents' house. Maybe one of them will like the fresh install and smoother OS and will be useful to them (or me :P).

My friend over at the Hope for Pandora blog has the Eee PC so I'm waiting to hear about his impressions after several weeks of use. In the meantime, I should probably spend some time cleaning up and backing up my laptop, given the fate of my mom's late desktop...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Heading for sunnier skies


I won't mind getting away from the late fall weather we're having here (it's currently hailing) when I fly to California tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bottoms up!

On a walk during a break in the stormy weather on Monday, I noticed some ducks voraciously feeding in the shallow part of Green Lake. They seemed to spend more time upside down than right side up...

 
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

5-handed pinochle

Several generations ago my family invented a version of pinochle that allows 5 players to play, and is won individually (not as a team). I think it speaks to our competitive nature that this is one of our favorite card games whenever we get at least 5 family members together.

At a family reunion this summer I played it a bit, and decided to write down the rules so I don't forget the next time I play... one time we tried to remember them after a long break, and we got it all wrong.

I still remember very distinctly the summer I learned to play this game. My cousin and great-aunt were visiting from the East Coast. After learning the rules and such, we started getting competitive. I remember being dealt an outstanding hand, outbidding my great-aunt (who was a legendary high bidder) with a bid of 72... and I managed to make it. It was a high point of my adolescence, for sure.

*************
5 players
2 pinochle decks, remove the 9s.
Card hierarchy is A, 10, K, Q, J

All the cards are dealt to the players (often in batches of 3 at a time), leaving 5 cards untouched in the middle of the table (which are supposed to be dealt randomly during dealing, and never the last 5 cards). This is the "widow" and the high bidder gets these cards.

The total number of counters in the deck is 50 (counters = A, 10, K), including 2 points for taking the last trick.

One round of bidding starts at 40. If no one bids, then the dealer is the "bidder", and has effectively bid 40 points.

The highest bidder names one suit to be trump. The next person around the table, to the bidder's left, who has the Ace of trump, is his or her partner. If no one has an Ace, then it's the next person with the 10. The remaining three people then become the "other" team.

The high bidder then picks up the cards in the widow and incorporates them into his or her hand. This ability to get 5 extra cards has often driven people to bid too high and pay later!

At this point everyone lays down their "meld". The points gained here are added to the total number of counters taken during play.

Meld points:
Marriage (K, Q of same suit) = 2
Marriage in trump = 4
Pinochle (J of diamonds + Q of spades) = 4
Jacks in all four suits ("40 Jacks") = 4
Queens in all four suits ("60 Queens") = 6
Kings in all four suits ("80 Kings")= 8
Aces in all four suits ("100 Aces") = 10
A, K, Q, J in all four suits ("Roundhouse") = 28 (?)
Run (A, 10, K, Q, J) - trump only = 15

It should be noted that I learned how to play with "Shore rules" but in other branches of the family, there are "Michigan rules". The main difference (that I can remember) is that for Michigan rules, a double pinochle (i.e. 2 jacks of diamonds and 2 queens of spades) is 20 points, whereas in Shore rules it's 8 (2x 4). This nearly caused an incident this summer, but was thankfully ameliorated by the person with the double pinochle being outbid.

After playing all the meld and counting it up, the high bidder discards 5 cards (and must disclose to the other players if he or she discards any trump cards). If the high bidder has an amazing hand and could meld all their cards without leaving at least 5 out, then he or she has to remove some meld in order to discard. Then the high bidder leads, and must lead in the trump suit.

The play proceeds as standard trick/trump games go. The person who plays the highest card of the suit led takes the trick and leads the card for the next round. Play proceeds in a standard clockwise direction. If someone no longer has any cards of the suit led, they must play trump. If more than one person must trump, the second person must beat the first person's trump card, if they can. In the case of a trumped round, the person who played the highest card in the trump suit takes the trick and leads the next round. If a player is out of the suit led and is out of trump, he or she can play any card of any suit but has no chance of winning that round.

Play continues until all players are out of cards.

Each team then counts the number of "counters" they took during game play. These are A, 10, and K of any suit. The team that took the last trick gets an extra 2 points.

The counters are then added to the meld points. Each person on each team gets the points accrued by their team during that hand.

The bidding team must have beaten their bid (i.e. if they bid 50 points, then their meld + counters must be at least 50). If they do not make their bid, then the bid amount is SUBTRACTED from their overall score (ouch!).

The "other" team, made of the three non-bidders, must take at least one trick during the hand in order to "save their meld". If they do not take at least one trick, they do not get any points for the hand.

The game proceeds until one person reaches 240 points.

***************

The great thing about this game is that your partner is almost never the same person from hand to hand. Bidding can get out of control and then the unlucky person with the Ace of trump can end up being taken down by the high bidder... it's a game full of drama and strategy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Around Town

On the bus last week I spotted this gadget, which is part of the new Puget Sound transit smart card system, called ORCA. I initially assumed it was in the testing phase, but apparently they're already rolling it out everywhere! I wonder if the UW's UPass system will stay the same or if it will get incorporated into this new system.



Also, there's a brand new Starbucks on Westlake between Harrison and Thomas. Wish they'd been there when I worked in that neighborhood!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Another perk of finally graduating...

I happily received this email from United Airlines today:
Congratulations on graduating from college!

Thank you for sending us verification of your degree. We have credited your account with 10,000 bonus miles.

This makes the $6 I spent on an official transcript well worth the money. I wasn't sure they would accept my PhD as a "college degree" - seems so far away from what I consider "college". Those of you who have recently graduated should take advantage of this offer - you can find the details by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Comet Holmes


Comet Holmes
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
This evening I stepped out onto my balcony to check out the newest sky feature - Comet Holmes. Sure enough, it was easy to spot, and when I dragged my camera and tripod out there I managed to get a few nice shots! It's not quite as spectacular as Comet McNaught was back in January, but it's always fun to see new comets when they become visible in the night sky.
I remember going out into our backyard with my dad the last time Halley's Comet came by. I had expected some fast-moving blazing fireball in the sky - and so was considerably disappointed when the thing we were looking at was just a blurry blob that wasn't moving perceptibly. Since I was only 8 at the time, I hope you can understand my misconception. I'm glad that there have been other comets to entertain me in recent years, since I'll be 83 the next time Halley comes around.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Minimum Wage

Did you know that Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the US? It's currently $7.93/hour and will go up to $8.07/hour at the beginning of 2008.

This is good news for me because I may end up trying to find a part-time job in the near future while I conduct my more extensive career search for jobs in the biotech sector. I'm especially interested in finding a company that offers benefits to its part-time employees, as health insurance can be rather expensive (especially when one has zero income).

In other news, I've been told by my 2 readers that now that I'm unemployed I'm expected to be blogging more. Consider this a first effort with more to come.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No, really. I'm getting a little tired of this.

It's 1:50 am on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and I'm still at the lab.... It seems completely unlikely that I will be done with all that needs to be done by my last day of work (Friday 09/28/07). I still have an incubator full of cells (the biggest time suck of all), slides that need staining, slides that need counting, a manuscript to revise and return to my PI, other experiments that need tending, multitudes of frozen cells that need to be moved to the liquid nitrogen tank and recorded, and on top of all that I need to clear out my desk and bench and file cabinets to make way for the next person who'll be using them. And it would be nice if I could organize my samples and reagents that I'm leaving behind.

You might think that I'm a procrastinator and put all this off till the very end; on some level that's true, but there was also the issues of the cells not being ready this summer and I certainly had plenty of other things to do to keep myself busy. I feel like I've been going non-stop since about mid-July; that's about when I started to get back into the swing of things after defending my dissertation and finishing the revisions and then going to various family reunions in June.

Of course, one of the other major tasks I was supposed to be working on this summer was finding a job, and I've completely dropped that ball. I haven't even done anything job-related in about the last month. I should have been sending my resume out to companies all summer. I got some advice to take one afternoon per week to work on my job search, but I couldn't even manage to find that amount of time in my schedule. Therefore, as of Friday, I will be officially unemployed (and officially terrified at the prospect).

In the meantime, here's a nice video of some beating cells that I took tonight.

video

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

SER-iously.

Work is really, really, really kicking my butt right now. Seriously.

(With apologies for the Grey's Anatomy reference...)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

SLU parking changes


Propaganda
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
The city of Seattle is implementing a new pay parking plan for the South Lake Union neighborhood. I saw several new parking meters and signage today, as well as these inspirational posters on every light pole. I'm sure it's no coincidence that they're appearing at the same time as the parking meters. The other posters have similar catchy phrases with people's names in them, encouraging the reader to commute using non-car transportation. I'm always in favor of alternate transportation, but I find this ad campaign a little cheesy since it's clearly meant to distract you from the other changes being made.

Two-way Westlake opens up


Two-way Westlake
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
They opened up the new southbound lanes of Westlake this weekend. There were very few cars traveling in that direction, but then again it was the evening rush hour again. Photo taken at Mercer and Westlake, facing south.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Changing seasons


I found this leaf today... last time I checked, it was still August (and therefore technically SUMMER), but apparently that fact is lost on the tree whence this leaf came. [sigh] At least the weather has been nice this week.

Friday, August 24, 2007

New walk signals at Dexter and Mercer

New walk signals have been installed at the (rather busy) intersection of Dexter and Mercer in South Lake Union. These are the type that count down until the hand stops flashing, which I find to be quite useful. I noticed last night, however, that the northbound signal on the east side of the intersection wasn't working - it never went to "walk" so I had to dart across and hope that the cars turning onto Mercer saw that I was there. In the near future the city will be installing pay stations on the streets throughout this neighborhood, eliminating the free parking that currently exists. I guess it's all part of the growth that the area is experiencing under the watch of Paul Allen/Vulcan.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Near miss

As I was reading the Providence Journal-Bulletin on a plane that ultimately never took off (more on that later) I discovered that the hotel I'd been staying at over the weekend had had a fire alarm/evacuation while we were all at the wedding reception. It was really weird to be idly reading the newspaper of a city I don't live in and to come across an article with such relevance to myself. At first I thought the evacuation had happened while I was there, and I was thinking that perhaps I'd slept through it (those of you who know me know that this is a distinct possibility), but then I realized it was earlier in the evening and we hadn't yet returned to the hotel.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How many states have you been to?


I just found this neat tool to show you which states you've visited. There aren't many I haven't visited (and I didn't count a state if I only changed planes there - that would add Georgia and either Missouri or Kansas - wherever the Kansas City airport is). I've lived in three states (CA, RI, WA). I've camped in five (only five?? -- CA, SD, WY, WA, WV). Road trips help bring the state count up - driving around the Southwest with my family as a kid and then driving across the country 7 years ago helped my list grow substantially. (My sister is currently making her way from FL to CA by car, so I imagine she'll add quite a few new states to her list!!) I'd like to go back to Alaska since I was only there for a long weekend a few years ago. I haven't been to the Rockies since 1992, so that would be another area high on my list. Later this week I'll be back in Rhode Island for the wedding of my good friend from college. Interestingly I've never been to Mexico, despite that being the closest country to us where I grew up (the Bay Area in California).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Wonder-ful news

The storm damage that ravaged Mt. Rainier last fall has been repaired enough that the 93-mile circumferential Wonderland trail is now open for business. I attempted to hike the trail three years ago but had to turn back after only 25 miles when heavy, constant rain flooded the rivers and washed away the bridges. The damage from November's storm was far worse. I don't have any plans to try the trail again (though I'd like to complete it someday), but it's great that they've been able to get it back to working order with 1-2 months of hikable weather still left this summer!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Lolcar


Lolcar!
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
The good news of the week is that I'll be getting a new (to me) car pretty soon! My parents' friend's mother is no longer driving, so my parents were able to buy her car for a great price. It has a few issues - a dent in the front side panel, a gas gauge that doesn't work - but it still runs well and has only 73,000 miles on it (100,000 fewer miles than my current car). It also has a brand new set of tires! My mom and I are thinking of driving it up to Seattle over Labor Day weekend, but those plans are far from concrete. The 1992 Jetta that I've been driving for the past 8 years has started to have more and more problems recently, which prompted this purchase. I've loved driving the Jetta - it gets 400 miles to a tank of gas and has a lot of "pep" due to its German engineering and manual transmission - but I definitely won't mind parting with the rusted engine block, lack of cupholders, and a safety system that consists of seatbelts only.

Monday, July 16, 2007

R2D2


Spotted this R2-D2 themed mailbox at the mall the other day. I guess it's a promotion the USPS is doing in honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Wars -- "Jedi shipping and mailing Master" -- [groan]. Not sure why USPS has taken it upon themselves to do this, but they are releasing a Yoda stamp later this year so that could be fun.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Candy spin-off

A staple of touristy Hawaiian candies is the Caramac, a chocolate-covered caramel and macadamia nut patty, made by a company called Hawaiian Host. Quite yummy. Used to be you could only get this delicacy in Hawaii, but now airports and grocery stores on the mainland carry it as well.



On a recent trip through an airport, however, I noticed that the Hawaiian Host has spun off an "American Host" brand candy, complete with a patriotic Statue of Liberty on the box. I'm not sure how much America can claim the chocolate-covered almond as its own, but this just seemed like a strange way to utilize the popularity of the Hawaiian Host brand.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Life is just a bowl of 191 cherries

I harvested the cherries from my balcony cherry tree yesterday... I ended up with 191 edible cherries in all! Quite an improvement over last year's paltry 15 cherries. I lost some cherries to the wind a few months ago, and the birds managed to peck at a few through my protective netting, but still harvesting nearly 200 seems like a reasonable yield to me :)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Getting out of Seattle


Old Kautz Creekbed
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
Last week, as you may know, I defended my PhD. (I passed.) Yay!

My dad flew to Seattle for the big event and then stayed for a few days afterwards. It was great to have him in town because a) it's always fun to have visitors, b) it's always fun to have family around, and c) it made me take a few days off after my defense, which I might not have done otherwise. Also, we had some great dinners (Pair!) and got to take lots of photos together since he had his new camera with him.

The day after my defense the weather was glorious so we took a little trip down to Mt. Rainier. The road to Paradise just re-opened earlier in the month and the park is still heavily damaged from the flood of November 2006.

We ate our picnic lunch up at the Jackson visitor center, though there weren't any seats outside. Then we meandered slowly back down the road and enjoyed the majesty of the mountain and marveled at the power of nature.

This photo is the old Kautz Creek bed - the new Kautz Creek jumped its banks during the storm and now runs about 1/4 mile away. The small amount of water running in the old tracks was really red, which made for nice contrast with the green trees, white mountain, and blue sky. We couldn't figure out why the water was red. We figured it is probably iron, but the creek wasn't red before, so why would it be now?

I hiked down the Kautz creek trail once before - during another heavy weather event at Mt. Rainier. Several friends and I had set out to hike the Wonderland Trail in the summer of 2004. (The Wonderland trail is 95 miles long and encircles the Mountain, gaining and losing 20,000 feet in elevation along the way). The day we started hiking it started raining and raining, and it just didn't let up. On the 3rd day we crossed paths with several groups who told us that the bridge over the next river we needed to cross had been washed out, so we turned back to the trailhead. We couldn't take the exact route we'd taken in because by the time we got back yet another bridge had washed out. So we hiked down the Kautz creek trail to the road, and two members of our group hitched a ride back up to the parking lot where our cars were.

Mt. Rainier is an amazing park, but its weather patterns (and active volcanic status!) make it just a bit edgier than other beautiful locales.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cruisin' Classics

I finally decided to purge my audio tape collection, since I'm pretty sure that's a dying technology. My car still has a tape player, but I don't even listen to tapes there - I usually just listen to the radio (even though the LCD is partially broken so it's difficult to see the station), or, if I'm going on a long trip, I take my iPod and the radio adapter that broadcasts to an unused radio frequency. So, tapes are a thing of the past. Except that my friends made fun mixes for me over the years, and it would be nice to preserve the collection of music, if not the physical tape. So I'm trying to write down the playlists from those mixes with the intent of finding those songs in my library/buying them on iTunes and re-creating the mixes on my iPod. On the other hand, I also have many tapes that were direct recordings of CDs, so these went directly into the trash. It's quite cathartic.

Another set of tapes that I have is the Cruisin' Classics. These were tapes sold by Shell gas stations in 1989 and 1990 for $1.99 (with purchase of 8 gallons of gas). Each one had 10 songs from the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's. My sister and I LOVED these tapes. We loved them so much we fought over them (though that's not saying much since we fought quite a bit in our childhood). To circumvent this particular predicament, I made copies of the cassettes by making my read-only "Annie" cassettes into writeable cassettes via the old scotch-tape-over-the-holes-on-the-top-of-the-cassette method (sorry, had to start calling them cassettes due to confusion with adhesive tape...). Well, being the packrat that I am, I still have 2 of the originals and one of the copies from 18 years ago. Yeah, I wasn't kidding about being a packrat.

Turns out it's harder to find information about Cruisin' Classics than you might think. These tapes were pretty popular when they came out, so it seems like someone would have chronicled their history and playlists somewhere on the internet. All I could find was eBay listings with patchy information and bad spelling. So, in case you're wondering and don't want to crawl through the interweb to find this information, here it is (Volumes I-III came out in the summer of 1989 and Volumes IV-VI came out in 1990):


Volume I: 60's & 70's
  • You Can't Hurry Love [The Supremes]
  • Kind Of A Drag [The Buckinghams]
  • I Heard It Through The Grapevine [Marvin Gaye]
  • (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher [Jackie Wilson]
  • Joy To The World [Three Dog Night]
  • Proud Mary [Credence Clearwater Revival]
  • Do You Believe In Magic [Lovin Spoonful]
  • Hot Fun In The Summertime [Sly & The Family Stone]
  • Lady Willpower [Gary Puckett & Union Gap]
  • Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) [The Byrds]

Volume II: 70's & 80's
  • Uptown Girl [Billy Joel]
  • Rosanna [Toto]
  • Love Train [The O'Jays]
  • Your Mama Don't Dance [Loggins & Messina]
  • Crocodile Rock [Elton John]
  • Don't Stop [Fleetwood Mac]
  • What A Fool Believes [The Doobie Brothers]
  • Sara Smile [Hall & Oates]
  • Rock' n Me [Steve Miller Band]
  • Ramblin' Man [The Allman Brothers Band]

Volume III: 50's & 60's
  • Johnny B.Goode [Chuck Berry]
  • Great Balls Of Fire [Jerry Lee Lewis]
  • All I Have To Do Is Dream [The Everly Brothers]
  • My Girl [The Temptations]
  • Travelin' Man [Rick Nelson]
  • That'll Be The Day [Buddy Holly & the Crickets]
  • Blueberry Hill [Fats Domino]
  • He's So Fine [The Chiffons]
  • Reach Out I'll Be There [The Four Tops]
  • I Get Around [The Beach Boys]

Volume IV: More 60's & 70's
  • Come See About Me [Diana Ross & The Supremes]
  • Beautiful Morning [The Rascals]
  • Midnight Train to Georgia [Gladys Knight & The Pips]
  • Mr. Tambourine Man [The Byrds]
  • Build Me Up Buttercup [The Foundations]
  • Chain of Fools [Aretha Franklin]
  • You Didn't Have to Be So Nice [The Lovin' Spoonful]
  • How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) [Marvin Gaye]
  • My Guy [Mary Wells]
  • Monday, Monday [The Mamas & The Papas]

Volume V: More 70's & 80's
  • Listen To The Music [The Doobie Brothers]
  • It's So Easy [Linda Ronstadt]
  • Ventura Highway [America]
  • Could It Be I'm Falling In Love [The Spinners]
  • Can't Fight This Feeling [REO Speedwagon]
  • The Heat Is On [Glenn Frey]
  • Wake Me Up Before You Go - Go [Wham!]
  • Kiss On My List [Hall & Oates]
  • September [Earth, Wind & Fire]
  • Footloose [Kenny Loggins]

Volume VI: More 50's and 60's
  • Sherry [The Four Seasons]
  • Blue Moon [The Marcels]
  • Oh, Pretty Woman [Roy Orbison]
  • Why Do Fools Fall In Love? [Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers]
  • Get A Job [The Silhouettes]
  • Runaround Sue [Dion]
  • Do You Want To Dance? [Bobby Freeman]
  • Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On [Jerry Lee Lewis]
  • Yakety Yak [The Coasters]
  • Oh, What A Night [The Dells]

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Canon's take on IS

I had been wondering whether the next DSLR in Canon's Rebel line would have in-camera image stabilization, since some of its main competitors have already implemented this feature (Sony A100, Olympus E510, Pentax K100D and K10D, Samsung Digimax GX-10, and Panasonic L1, though this last one isn't in the same price bracket as the others). So I was somewhat disappointed to see this Canon advertisement extolling the virtues of in-lens image stabilization as opposed to in-camera. Not that I don't believe them that stabilizing the lens is more effective than stabilizing the sensor, but when you're on a budget, it would be nice not to have to slap down the extra money for the IS in the lens. I still plan to get a DSLR sooner or later, and it will most likely be Canon (though the common 4/3 mount that Olympus shares with Panasonic/Leica is tempting, since my dad has the L1 and the accompanying Leica lens... :) ). Depending on how long I wait it will be the XTi or its successor. It will be difficult to go back to a world without IS after using the S2 for so long. But who knows, maybe I'll be making SO much money by then that I can buy some IS lenses too! Or, maybe not. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. :P

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More balcony plant management


Net
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
Speaking of pests, I learned a few years ago that birds will eat cherries well before they are ripe, so if you want to save any for yourself, you need to put a net over the tree. This worked wonderfully last year and so I have put the net up again this year. If the current cohort of cherries all manage to ripen, it will be quite a bumper crop!

Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of wind today, the result of which was that the net ripped some of the cherries off the tree as it was blowing back and forth. Cherries near the trunk and proximal portions of the branches remained untouched, but I was sad to see bunches of green cherries hanging in the net, helpless.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Field trip day?

This morning on the 16 there were not one, but TWO class field trips using the bus as transportation. The first group looked to be roughly 10 years old, with probably 20-25 kids and several adult chaperones. They took up quite a bit of space despite squishing two little kids into a normal seat. Then we got a second group as we headed south on Stone. Though the group was smaller (maybe 10 kids), the kids were much younger (maybe 4-5) and the bus was quite full by then. Some kind people gave up their seats so the little ones could stay together (I was already standing or I would have done the same). I think both groups were heading to Seattle Center. It was just funny to watch the excitement unfold, though a number of regular bus riders seemed disinterested (and failed to scootch to the back of the bus when the density got higher). It makes you wonder, though - public transportation is a great way to save money for large groups, but I would probably worry about losing a kid or not having enough space on the bus, especially during commuting hours.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Project Ladybug


the good guys and the bad guys
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
This morning I inspected the ladybugs outside and was pleased to find that there were still a few on my plants. They hadn't quite found the stash of aphid-like bugs yet, so I moved a few over there and they immediately started munching on them. (You can see the culprits on the leaf stalks in this picture... click on it for a larger version.) I didn't see very many this evening, though, so most may have already moved on. I hope a few stick around to keep things tidy out there!

Ladybug gators?

After spotting a few aphid-like bugs (maybe even aphids; I'm not an entomologist) on my balcony plants, I decided to treat them the organic way - with ladybugs. I'd seen some bags of ladybugs for sale at Home Depot the last time I was there, so I stopped by this weekend and picked one up. This evening I let them loose on my plants (the packaging recommends a nighttime jailbreak; maybe they fly less when it's cool and dark?). There were actually quite a few dead ladybugs in the bag (I hope I didn't kill them!) but still plenty of live ones. I then spent a while collecting the ones that had fallen to the ground and encouraging them to crawl onto the plants. (The inside of the packaging has some interesting information about the ladybug life cycle, including the fact that the larvae are called ladybug gators... really?) If there are any "ladies in red" left during the daylight hours I'll try to post a picture. I hope they do their job and find lots of little pests to eat! If not, I suppose I'll be doing the neighbors a favor as the ladybugs will probably migrate to greener pastures, as it were. Either way, for $4, it's a fun experiment!

Friday, May 11, 2007

QFC! QFC! QFC at lunch!

Update on the QFC at Mercer and Taylor just West of 99: it's been open since Wednesday a week ago! I stopped in there today, and it looks great. The store has a very similar feel to the new Whole Foods, with an emphasis on prepared foods (but perhaps not quite as much as WF has). There was lots of beautiful produce, and a Starbucks kiosk inside (making it officially the closest Starbucks to my lab!). I didn't have time to wander all the way into the back, but I'm really looking forward to having a nice grocery store so close to work. It's even on my route to walk from the bus stop, meaning I'll probably go there most days to pick up breakfast on my way to work.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Draft done


Pile
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
After weeks of lots and lots of reading and writing and such, I finally finished a draft of my thesis! I finished proofreading yesterday and printed it up without too much hassle. Then I decided that since I'd printed it double-sided, it would be best if I had it spiral-bound, so as to make it easier for my committee to read. I took it to the UW hospital duplicating office, since the Rotunda copy shop is closed (for how long? indefinitely?). Seems like it would have been a simple job, but when I picked up the bound copies, the pages were out of order and flipped the wrong way. So I had to have them punch new holes and rebind the document - except that now there were holes on the outside edge of some of the pages. This seemed fixable by cutting off that edge, but the guy somehow managed to mangle that too. Instead of cutting the whole document, he only cut the pages with the extra holes. So then I had to have him cut the rest of the pages, which resulted in the document edge being somewhat ragged. In the end I still got 5 copies bound and in the right order, but one copy had margins of about half an inch (instead of the 1.25" I'd started out with) and another copy somehow had some pages ripped. I saved that one for my adviser, figuring he was the least likely to care that some pages were taped back together.

If I'd been on time with all this and finished a draft last Wednesday (when it was technically supposed to be done), then I could have gone back to work, reprinted the document, and gotten it bound again. But I was in such a hurry to get it into my committee's hands that I pushed forward with what I had.

Oh, and then my GSR's office is under construction, so I had to trek all around the south campus trying to find him. And it was kind of hot. And I was flustered from the whole binding thing. So it was a bit of a wacky day.

But at the end of it all, I am done with my draft, and that's a pretty good feeling. Now I just have to work on my presentation, read piles of papers, continue to work on experiments for my manuscript, and clean my apartment before my dad arrives in two weeks!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

John Krasinski

Nyanko and I are huge fans of The Office, and my favoritest character is Jim Halpert, played by John Krasinski. I even have a claim to fame - we went to the same college and overlapped by two years (though I can't say I ever met him). Anyway, he apparently stopped by our alma mater last week to talk to the students. You can read a recap of his speech here.

Green and blue

Anyone know why the Space Needle was green and blue last night?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Awesome sign

Apropos of Wednesday's water main break/sinkhole event, this sign was spotted at the Eastlake Bar and Grill: "Sink hole de Mayo!/We're open." (Apologies for the crappy camera phone image quality.)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tutta Bella

A new branch of Tutta Bella pizzeria will be gracing the Denny/Westlake Whole Foods complex. I noticed the "coming soon" sign while there foraging for lunch earlier this week. I've only been to the one in Wallingford once, but it was pretty good! I'll have to check this one out when it opens.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Oops!... I did it again

Seattle suffers its second water main break in a week - this time on Eastlake, causing a sinkhole to form, but NOT the fault of construction workers. The University Bridge is closed, wreaking havoc on the traffic in the U-district for the foreseeable future. Luckily, our traffic problems are probably not quite as bad as the Bay Area's. (Photo via P.I.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Diet Coke Plus

A few days ago I spotted this new Coke product at Safeway. Diet Coke Plus - with vitamins and minerals? It just sounds so weird. I mean, sodas are the epitome of unhealthiness, so does this somehow make them better? Do the vitamins and minerals counteract the phosphoric acid and other chemicals? (Not that those qualities keep me from drinking sodas fairly frequently, but they really aren't great for you). (Ooops, just checked my own facts and discovered that the claims about Coke's nastiness are largely false). I wonder if this will go the way of Crystal Pepsi and New Coke, or if it will catch on and be the newest health craze... only time will tell. I personally can't stand artificial sweeteners (except for whatever they use in Fresca), so I won't be trying it anytime soon. If you're a Diet Coke drinker and feel brave enough to try it, please report back on taste and/or other benefits! :P

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Accept

It isn't a big red stamp, but it's very nice to finally have 7 years of work be recognized by the scientific community.

(P.S. It's kind of funny that the button I click to "blog" this item is called "publish")

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SLU drama!

Walking to my building from the bus today was an adventure - the entire building is surrounded by gushing water from a broken water main on Dexter. My friend tr already blogged about it here. (Photo from King 5 News, whose studios are located right where the main was breached.)


In other news, I noticed that the new luxury condominium complex on Mercer and 5th Ave N (Lumen condominiums) will have a QFC on the ground floor - very exciting for increasing the lunch options in SLU!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Venting

I really dislike it when a paper has an intriguing title, and then it turns out that either it's a crappy study, or the title was misleading. Every time I look at this paper I get excited and think that it will answer all my questions, and instead, it just disappoints every time. It's really dense, doesn't flow that well, and doesn't really tell me what I think it should. Oh, sure, it talks about VEGF and endothelial cells and vascular development. But it doesn't tell me how they are all interconnected; instead it just recaps the same story that many other review articles cover. Oh well, such is life. And yes, I'm still procrastinating. But I needed to vent. So thanks.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sunshine and gravel

Lately, I've taken to working rather long hours. I'm not complaining, it comes with the territory of trying to write one's thesis dissertation, but I'm just saying. So today when I headed home early to meet roomie for dinner, it meant that I was actually at the bus stop while the sun was still up. I wouldn't think that this is really that a notable event, except that as I was kicking the gravel rocks back into the strip along the side of the sidewalk like I always do, I thought it was kind of weird to be able to see them clearly. Anyway, thanks for the excuse to get out early, kc!

And yes, I'm procrastinating. :P

Saturday, April 14, 2007

New plants

Well, I finally got around to potting up some cuttings I've had sitting in water for WAY too long to admit. The water has been nasty for quite a while. Ick. The new additions are: two pots of Tradescantia zebrina, one pot of Ceropegia woodii (actually not 100% sure that is correct), and one variegated Chlorophytum comosum. I'm not planning to keep any of them except the Ceropegia woodii, if I can manage to find homes for them. I already have too many plants to care for! Also up for adoption are several pots of Ornithogalum caudatum, and several more pots of Chlorophytum comosum.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Florera Greenlake

In other construction news, it appears that the new "Florera Greenlake" condos at Woodlawn and Ravenna have topped out, based on the cupola in this picture:
There's obviously a ton of construction going on all over the city, but I seem to live and work at two relative hot-spots. I used to be intrigued by watching the progress of various building projects, but I have to say that I'm kind of oversaturated and fairly annoyed at the inconvenience they can cause. The future doesn't look too much better, what with the eventual renovation of the old Albertsons lot and even more condos in South Lake Union.

Westlake and Mercer - progress!

Wow, the Streetcar tracks at Westlake and Mercer are really starting to shape up! It looks like they might even be fairly close to re-opening the segment of Westlake between Mercer and Valley that's been closed for nearly a year... (Actually, I can't remember when they started the roadwork there, but it has been many months, if not a year.) But they've repaved the non-tracks segment and even painted lane lines, which I consider to be a strong sign of imminent opening to car traffic. I can only hope that this might help relieve some of the constant congestion this neighborhood has had recently.

Northbound:


Southbound:

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Whale sighting in Hawaii

Check out this awesome animated GIF PL put together from a sequence of pictures I took of a humpback whale in Hawaii last December! Thanks PL!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Seats


Seats
Originally uploaded by gecko_12.
I have a short, shameful confession to make. I want more people to view my flickr photostream. To this end, I have implemented a two-pronged Plan. 1) upload some of my coolest pictures from over the years (not just recent ones), and 2) add them to groups in hopes that they might get some more notice. I think #2 is the general strategy of most popular flickrites. I also noticed recently after browsing through the explore/interestingness pages that if I comment or favorite some random person's picture, sometimes they comment on one of mine too. It's a nice reciprocity thing.

In other news. Seattle was hot today. It's midnight and my apartment is still overly warm. Of course, I will forever be shunned by my family (in CA) for claiming that mid-70s is hot, but I've been here for 7 years... I can't help it. I've acclimated. Fortunately for me (as I have a LOT of work to do in the next 6 weeks or so) the weather is supposed to take a turn for the worse in a few days. Can't have too much sunshine and happiness mocking me while I spend all my time in front of the computer.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Moon over the Blue Flame

Waiting for the bus last night, I noticed a waxing moon over my building (and its adjacent construction site). Upon examining the EXIF data, it appears that I took the picture at 7:44PM (and the sky was not yet pitch black). I'm glad that the days are so much longer now! Winter really appears to be over. :)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lightness

Up here in Seattle, we have pretty significant swings in the number of daylight hours over the course of the year, compared to most other parts of the country (except, of course, Alaska). The upshot of this, for me, is that certain parts of the year are marked by odd behavior on my part. The most alarming one is that in the summer, when it doesn't get dark until the 10:00 hour, I frequently forget to eat dinner at a normal time, since the darkening sky is a cue to me for most of the year. More pertinent to this time of year, though similar in mechanism, is that I tend to work much later in the evening when the light/dark transition moves later and later. At some point towards the summer, this stops, because even I can tell that it's time to go home before 10:00 (usually). But right now, when the sky is staying dusky till nearly 8:00, I find myself looking at the clock and being amazed at how late it has gotten and I'm still at work. This effect is made possible by the fact that we have windows in our lab and offices, a feature that was completely foreign to us just over two years ago when we still worked on main campus and were imprisoned in the center of the building, the lab completely window-less. In the winter, though, the reverse effect doesn't seem to happen quite so much. Unfortunately, one can't justify going home at 4:00 just because it's dark outside - on the contrary, since it's already dark, you just end up working till you're done and then go home. But in the spring, it's always like this, and it always catches me off guard.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

FTV

Somehow, despite being out of the country (and away from internet) in between the final two "sweeps" weeks of our most recent fantasy teevee league (and thus unable to update my lineup for the 2nd week), I managed to pull out a win in the end. Roomie kc's boyfriend came in at a veeeery close 2nd. I think the surprise showing by Sam Winchester of Supernatural helped me immensely. Last season I came in second to kc. We're already setting up a new league, so we'll see if the Seattle contingent can continue to do well or whether totoro and his contingent will dominate this time. One of these days we'll get a second league set up so my sister can play - she's dying to have her own "fantasy" league since her boyfriend loves to play all the more traditional fantasy sports (baseball, football, basketball, whatever).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Busy March

Well, I returned from a great trip to Germany and Austria, was home for a few days, and then turned around and went to a conference in Canada for a few more days. I plan to eventually blog about both trips, but in the meantime, you can check out my flickr set as I slowly add more pictures from Europe.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

I'm off to Germany (Munich as the hub) for 8 days, traveling with roomie AS for 6 of those! I'm pretty excited, especially now that I'm done packing. Hopefully I'll be diligent and post interesting photos from the trip in a timely fashion when I get back!

Auf Wiedersehen!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Valentine's Cactus?

After three years of careful watering (well, most of the time), a bit of fertilizer every now and then, and not much else, my Christmas cactus really came into its own this year. Last year it bloomed with just one flower. This year I came home from the holidays to find it chock-full of beautiful pink flowers. Then, a week or so later, another flower bloomed. I should explain that my plant has two different types of "Christmas cactus" in the same pot. The second type has a much redder and more dramatic bloom. Then, lo and behold, just the other day, I got yet another bloom! Perhaps it should be called a Valentine's cactus or a President's Day cactus?

Actually, it looks like the one that bloomed first is a "Christmas cactus" and the one that bloomed a bit later is a "Thanksgiving cactus" - backwards! The main thing to getting them to flower (besides overall age) is to make sure they're exposed to increasing darkness in the winter (no problem here in Seattle), and I think colder temperatures help too. In some climates this can be achieved by placing the plant outside, but my kitchen windowsill seems to work just fine. My plant was made by taking cuttings from other mature plants - one from a coworker, and the other from (I'm a bit ashamed to admit) the floor of the garden center at Home Depot (I asked if it was ok to take it). Now I guess I just need to add an "Easter cactus" to the mix and I'll be all set!