Friday, March 31, 2006

A filler post

Ok, so I don't really have anything to say, but judging by the comments, some people don't like looking at my last post when they visit this site. I'm not taking it off, but thought I'd add this real quick to bump it down a little.

A little while ago I talked about how I don't really work hard enough at what I do to be successful (according to E.O. Wilson), and that was reinforced today by another leader in my field - Dr. Stephen P. Hubbell talked to our research group about his 'neutral theory of biodiversity.' He's a really smart guy, and cool to talk to, but some of the things he said about what it takes to be successful in my field have me discouraged (plus the fact that a lot of his 'neutral theory' went right over my head).

The main points were as follows:
  • The last faculty position they filled in his department, they didn't even look at anyone with fewer than 12 publications. I have 3 so far.
  • Graduate students in their department have a high success rate of getting dissertation improvement grants from the National Science Foundation. According to his timeline, I should have already gotten one - I haven't even applied yet.
  • Funding for the kind of work I do is getting harder and harder to come by (thanks in large part to our president) so the competition is really intense.

There were a few others, but I'm too tired to try and think of them right now. Plus I need to study. I hope you guys are happy that the pig has been bumped further on down the page.

Bacon anyone?

In case you're wondering what exactly it is that I do all week, I make students do this type of stuff to different organisms ;-)

Some of these people are your future doctors. It's better that they get their practice in on something like this first, don't you think?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stress Management

Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress, but I think my way might be the worst way possible short of drug or alcohol abuse. I have a million things I should be working on, all school related, but can't seem to focus long enough to start working on any of it. I meant to make some progress last night, but instead baked cookies, watched t.v. and screwed around online.

This morning I woke up early with an upset stomach (a common symptom of stress for me), and thought I should start reading something. Instead, I started messing around with my new camera, and now I'm blogging. Can anyone say ADD? Quick, someone prescribe me some Ritalin.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Smells like pisnash, . . . smisnash, . . . POT ROAST!!! With green gravy.

I was walking by the library yesterday when I caught a familiar aroma from my childhood - freshly lit Marlboro Reds. I don't smoke, nor do I like the smell of cigarette smoke (especially when it gets on my clothes or hair), but I do like the smell of a fresh burning Marlboro. It's the only brand I like the smell of, and only when it's still burning, I hate all the rest. I'm pretty sure that's because Marlboro was the brand my dad smoked when I was growing up, so I have memories associated with that smell (it's well documented that olfaction has significant ties to memory - it's how migrating salmon are able to get back to their rearing grounds to spawn - just had to throw that in cuz I'm a nerd).

My mom didn't approve of my dad's smoking habit, so he never smoked in the house, or anywhere around her for that matter. However, he didn't have any reservations about lighting up in front of us when she wasn't around. Almost every time I smell Marlboro Reds it reminds me of driving through the mountains with my dad because that's usually where we spent the most time without my mom around.

I got thinking about the other odors that remind me of things from my youth. Here's a list of a few that I came up with. I'm interested in seeing if others have the same ones (my guess is probably not, unless you're related to me, or crazy).
  • Bubble gum reminds me of Little League and the bubble gum flavored ice cream we used to be able to get at Coaches Gallery (an arcade that really did have a typo in the name), or the feeling of opening up a new package of baseball cards (or Return of the Jedi cards - convinced I'm a nerd yet? Keep reading).
  • Cooking roast beef always reminds me of Sundays around the house - my mom would have that in the crock pot for Sunday dinner at least once a month.
  • Freshly cut grass reminds me of my summer spent mowing lawns (what else?).
  • Motor oil and grease reminds me of my oldest brother and his friends who were always tinkering with their cars. Oddly enough, so does the smell of burning rubber.
  • The smell of soil reminds me of weeding the garden with my brothers and sisters - that or my first job, which was picking rocks out of a farmer's field for a whopping $2 per hour the summer between 3rd and 4th grades (child labor laws be damned).
  • Exhaust from a weed eater or similar piece of equipment always reminds me of cutting firewood with my parents .
  • The smell of wood smoke reminds me of cold winter days.
  • The smell of dandelions reminds me of playing with my brothers and sisters at the park - we used to rub them on our arms to make them yellow.
  • The coppery smell of blood reminds me of my job cleaning a meat packing plant (ok, that's one I don't smell too often any more - thank goodness).
  • The smell of rotten milk and mildew reminds me of living with my ex-wife (wait, that wasn't my childhood, but it's basically the smell of a sink full of dishes that have been sitting for a while, and sadly enough, really does remind me of her).
  • The smell of chlorine reminds me of when we were bad and my mom used to pour bleach on our eyes (ok fine, I made that up - how about swimming at the pool?).

Monday, March 27, 2006

The quilted thicker picker upper

I was driving home from a movie yesterday (V for Vendetta - go see it, it's good) and was talking to my sister on the phone when a kid rode his bike out in front of me. It wasn't very close so I didn't have to brake, or even swerve, before he got out of the way, but it still startled me.

She started talking about how someone we know hit a kid on a bike a few years ago. It was a similar situation where they were just driving and this kid came zipping across in front of them, except there was no time to react. Luckily the kid didn't die, but he did get hurt pretty bad. The person who hit him ended up getting sued by the kids parents, but the judge threw the case out of court because there was a police officer who had witnessed the entire thing and said that the kid came out of nowhere, so there was no way they could have done anything to stop it from happening.

I didn't remember any of this, until she said the part about the cop seeing it all.

Me: "My memory must be getting really bad. I can't believe that I didn't remember any of that happening."
Her: "It's not that your memory is bad, you're just too self absorbed."

That I am, Sis, that I am.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bad Presentations

I left this part out of yesterday's post, but my talk sucked. Other people told me it was ok, but they were just being nice. I'm not complaining. It serves me right for not preparing like I should.

For those of you who have never been to such a meeting, the presentations can be in two formats. You can give a talk (usually 12 minutes with 3 more for questions) or you can put together a poster that shows your work, and you stand by it to answer questions that anyone may have. Posters are generally easier to present, but they have to be done far enough in advance to be printed in time for the meeting. One of my lab mates asked me why I didn't just do a poster instead and I told him it was because I knew I wouldn't be able to put one together in time to get it printed.

I also told him that even though my talk sucked, I can take solace in the fact that no matter how bad it was, I will never in my life put something together that's as bad as a poster Yang and I saw at my first professional meeting. We had looked through the program the night before, and saw that there was a poster about the ecological interactions between dinosaur species. I think there's something inherently cool about dinosaurs that brings out the little kid in us all, so Yang and I decided that this poster was a must see.

The organizers of these meetings number each poster so that people can just walk around to the ones they want to see without reading them all, so as we walked around the poster session we knew we were coming up on the dinosaur poster. We rounded the corner, and there it was, in all its shameful glory. Instead of a 'real' poster, the author had hung sheets of white paper with the words and pictures drawn on them in crayon. He was sitting on a chair, hunched over with his back turned to the aisle so as to avoid making eye contact with anybody. We kept on walking.

In hindsight, it was probably some sort of psychology experiment where they just wanted to see if people would stop and be nice because they felt bad for the guy or something. I can't imagine why anyone would present something like that otherwise.

When I told my lab mate this story he said "The only way you can do a worse job than that would be to make a poster by mixing pig's blood and ashes and writing it on a cow's hide."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Be Prepared

I received some funding over the past year to help pay for some of my research. The people that gave me the money hold an annual research forum, and require anyone who received money from them to report their data at it in order to be eligible for future funding. I gave my talk today.

I worked on my talk over spring break, and intended to put the finishing touches on it earlier this week so that I would have plenty of time to practice it. That didn't happen. I had other things come up instead, so I found myself working on it last night, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say for each slide. I finished that part, but never gave it a practice run to make sure it all fit within the allotted time (12 minutes).

Needless to say, this morning I was a little nervous about giving a talk I'd never practiced before, but I was in the first session so had run out of time for tinkering anyway. I usually don't take these things too seriously (it's not a real meeting after all), but still prefer to have at least given one practice talk, even if it's only to myself. It helps me to get rid of the feeling of being unprepared.

Then the timekeeper walked in, introduced herself, and asked if anybody had a watch. I felt much better.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Proven wrong?

I had to go to the doctor the other day. My friend went with me to make sure that I got there o.k. As we were sitting in the waiting area, we noticed that a girl who was waiting to be seen was eating an apple.

My friend: "I guess that means it's not true what they say."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Going on 3

I've mentioned here before that my diet sucks. I just thought I'd prove it by showing some of the items I picked up on a recent trip to the grocery store.

I should point out that the Cadbury Creme Eggs didn't make it this far. By the way, I'm 30, and my kids live 6 hours away.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My Mama Always Said . . .

I grew up in a religious atmosphere, and some of the things my parents taught me still stick. Apparently the part about always telling the truth isn't one of them.

I lied to someone a while ago, and it's been long enough that I had forgotten about it. I almost slipped up the other day by nearly saying something that might have let them know I'd lied to them. Luckily I caught myself, so my secret is still safe (for now). The funny thing is that it's not even about anything important, it's just that I don't want this person to know I lied.

I guess if the concept of right and wrong isn't enough to make you tell the truth, you might want to look at it this way: If you do always tell the truth, you never have to make sure you have your story straight, because it always will be.

Don't worry. I didn't lie to anyone who knows about the blog (so it's none of you. Really. But now that you know I'm a liar, how do you know that last statement wasn't a lie as well? muuhuaahahaha).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Can't call it cheatin'

I was riding in the car with my brother yesterday. We were listening to a cd, and I was telling him about the time I saw the band play in Vegas.

Me: "There was this Brazilian girl who was hitting on me that night."
Him: "Brazilian girls are hot. Why didn't you do anything?"
Me: "Well, at the time I was still going out with my ex-girlfriend."
Him: "Yeah, that worked out real well for you. See that's the problem, if you keep being faithful, you're going to miss out on a lot of opportunities."

He claims he was talking about being committed to a relationship that's clearly not working out. That I should have realized that mine wasn't a long time before that, and then I'd have been free to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Speaking of toenails . . .

I have big feet. They're too big, yet not big enough. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Since my tax return is burning a hole in my pocket, I thought I'd start off by getting a new pair of hiking boots, so yesterday I went to REI to have a look around. I found a pair that I really liked and asked the salesman to bring me a size 12.5 to try on. He came out with a size 12 and a size 13 because the company doesn't make those shoes in size 12.5. I tried on the 12s, and they were much too small, then I tried the 13s on and they were big enough to cause blisters if I were to actually hike in them.

Do you mean to tell me that I'm the only person in the world who requires a 12.5 sized shoe? I hardly think that could be the case, so why on earth would a shoe company do half sizes right up to size 12, and then just have full size increases from that point up? I find this extremely annoying. I've never had this problem until the past two years or so. I think the shoe companies are out to get me. I thought about going around barefoot to boycott, but I have a broken piece of glass (or something) in my foot that's been there almost a week, yet I can't find it to get it out. That seems to indicate that transforming myself into Shoeless Native Minnow might not be the best idea.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A few random thoughts

If you hail a cab, and the driver gets pulled over for speeding, does the meter keep running while they get a ticket?

Is it possible to bill someone a portion of their salary if you're constantly being forced to do a portion of their job?

How ironic would it be if one of those designated driver services that guarantee to get you and your car home safely got hit by a drunk driver while driving your car to your house from the bar?

Isn't it hypocritical to leave a show that is notorious for making fun of religion only after it makes fun of yours? (I'm talking to you Sir Isaac Hayes)

Can you leave any famous last words when you're somebody nobody knows? (ok, that's from Ryan Adams, but it is good)

Is it realistic to think that you can become a samurai after one college semester?

Does it automatically earn you a ticket to hell if you accidentally make fun of a blind girl?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Not just me

I went to a seminar that covered the essentials of searching for a job in academia. I'm nowhere near graduation yet, but they were covering some things that I've often wondered about, such as things to consider before applying, tips on landing an interview, etc. The main one I was interested in was how to negotiate a better contract once an offer is on the table.

I went to it with a friend, and we were the youngest ones in the room (for a change).

When we went to sit down I didn't notice that there was a slight dip in the floor so I stumbled. One woman came in and sat right in front of us, and did the same thing. Then another one. She looked at the first woman and said "Oh Jesus! There's a step right there." The first woman replied "If you don't know it, you could break a leg."

Immediately after that a really old lady came into the room. My friend leaned over, nodded and said "Oh, she's goin' down."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Keepin' it real (sorta')

This post is for my friend flieswithoutwings. He and I used to draw little cartoons and stuff in our notes when class would get too boring. I just wanted to show him how little things have changed since then. I came across these as I was cleaning off my desk. They're from a symposium I attended a few months ago.

Someone gave a talk in which they referred to the 'beefier' composite flowers. I'm assuming they get that way by eating their spinach (hence the can). It was an interesting choice of words since I tend to think of beef as, um, well, meat.A friend of mine studies mosses. He talked about skewed sex ratios in desert mosses, and we all know how susceptible desert ecosystems are to the actions of humans. I'm sure the female mosses would be quite upset by this depiction.
I don't really know why I drew these next two. It certainly wasn't related to any of the talks. I must have just had Thanksgiving on my mind or something.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Now accepting applications

My roommate just bought a new Audi A3. He needed help getting both his vehicles back from the dealer, so I got to drive it back to the house.

I'm in love. It is now more important than ever for me to find a sugar mama who will buy me something like this. This car is amazing! You can email me your applications - there is no deadline. The position will remain open until filled.

Reading the signs

I went with a couple of friends to a bar to watch a basketball game. Our waitress ended up convincing one of my friends to get a shot of Petron. After he drank it he said that it was heavy, almost like a double shot.

Him: "It just felt like a little extra. You know how a shot feels in your throat, right?"
My other friend to him: "You know how I know you're gay?"

Friday, March 10, 2006


Some of my friends are ornithologists. A couple of them just got back from a 3 week trip to Panama where they were collecting specimens for the museum they work for. They said that the trip was good, and that they were able to get most of the birds they were after, including some Trogons - the group that one of them studies (pictured).

He mentioned that he wasn't looking forward to preparing the Trogons for the museum because they are some of the hardest birds to skin without pulling all their feathers out. One guy they work with always jokes about how Trogons lose half their feathers when you shoot them, and the other half when they hit the ground.

This prompted one of my other friends to say, "It's almost like birds weren't meant to be shot . . . almost."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

All Apologies

I just realized that I used almost identical titles on two posts within the last week. I'm sorry, I'll do my best to pay more attention so such things don't happen in the future.

I'm a Creep

I went to dinner with a friend of mine last night. He and I haven't really talked for a while so it was nice to catch up. I gave him the updates on the girl situation (or rather, told him about the lack of a girl situation). I told him all about the past few weeks regarding my ex-girlfriend, but also about the girl I was interested in before all that went down. As I was driving home I recalled one of my last phone conversations with her, and think I may have pinpointed why nothing developed. See if you can find the sentence that should have remained un-uttered:

Her: "There, I just ordered some new panties from Victoria's Secret."
Me: "This late at night?"
Her: "Yeah, I got them online."
Me: "Well, what do they look like."
Her: "I can't really describe them, but they're really cute."
Me: "I'm sure they are."

A little while later:

Her: "Well, I should probably go. I still have to take a shower before I go to bed. Now don't go to sleep thinking about those panties. I wouldn't want to feel like you're undressing me with your eyes the next time I see you."
Me: "Do you usually feel like I'm undressing you with my eyes when you see me?"
Her: "No."
Me: "Good, that means I've been doing a good job of hiding it."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Trying to tell me something?

I might be a supplementary character in a new horror movie. I haven't seen the cameras, but when I got out of the shower this morning I saw that someone had written "Eduardo will eat your eyes" on the mirror.

I can't think of another logical explanation for that.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hard to find

I have a general mistrust for mechanics. After all, one played an instrumental role in the falling apart of my marriage. But all that aside, it seems like it's hard to find one who will actually be honest with you when you take your car in. Too many of them look around for extra things to fix that aren't really necessary, just so they can make more money off you.

Luckily, I've got a good mechanic here in Vegas. My car has been running a little strangely lately, so I took in in a few weeks ago to have it looked at. It was idleing weird at stoplights, and I was worried that there might be some problems with my fuel pump or something along those lines. Rather than just replacing my fuel pump, like a lot of places would have done, they looked around and saw that it was just a hose that had been disconnected. They replaced it, but only charged me for a half hour of labor (not the hose itself). It worked for a few days, but then my car started doing the same thing again so I took it back in today. This time they looked a little more deeply and saw that there were some other places where the connections weren't tight, and fixed that for me free of charge. I'm sure it didn't take them long to do, but most places would have tacked on another half hour or so of labor, just because they could.

If you ever have car problems in Vegas, call T & M Auto. They'll treat you right.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The taxman cometh

I normally prepare my own taxes, and after my experience at H & R Block this week, I remember why. I don't know if there's a bigger rip off than paying someone to use the same computer program you can find online to prepare your taxes.

A couple of weeks ago I prepared my taxes, but had a few things this year that I wasn't quite sure how to deal with. This is the first year that I'm filing since our divorce was finalized, and I had a few questions about claiming my daughter since she doesn't live with me. It's in our divorce decree that I claim her, so I knew I could do it, but I didn't know if that would allow me to qualify for the earned income credit as well. The second thing was that I received a lump sum permanent partial disability payment for my back injury. I knew that it was not taxable, but figured that the IRS would need to be made aware of it in some way, I just couldn't find anywhere to enter it on the worksheet. So I called an H & R Block office and asked them about these things. They told me that I didn't qualify for the earned income credit, but that I would have to report settlement so I should come in for an appointment. I scheduled one for 2:45 the next day.

I gathered up my forms, and as soon as I finished teaching my lab, headed over there for my appointment. I got there about 5 minutes early, and the waiting area seemed pretty full to me. There was only one woman working, and I figured that these people were walk-ins who were just waiting for an opening. It turns out that most of them were, not that it stopped the H & R Block employee from taking them first.

Eventually another woman came in and started helping people. There was some bickering between the two employees about how it could have gotten so backed up, why the first one hadn't called anyone for help, etc. I heard them taking shots at each other by saying things like "I'm sorry about that - she should have called me and then you wouldn't have had to wait so long" and "she's not very good about coming in anyway" to the clients they were working with. I don't think they heard each other, but it certainly was not very professional. Then to top it all off, their computers quit working for a little while.

I didn't get my turn until 4:30. That's right. I sat in that stupid waiting area for almost two hours even though I had an appointment. As if that wasn't bad enough, I found out that I didn't have to report my settlement check, and the return they filled out was identical to the one I had already prepared on my own. It just cost an extra $100 to have them do it for me.

The lesson? I'm not as dumb as I think I am, and I should start realizing that.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Flava' of Love

For some high quality entertainment, click here. It's a train wreck, but who doesn't like to see a good train wreck.

Not that clever

A lot of times when I post something on here, I come back to it a day or two later and wish that I would have spent more time getting my thoughts together, or at least think of something clever to include. I was thinking that I should have titled my last entry "I might smash up all these windows, and set fire to the curtains." It's a lyric from Halloween by matt pond PA that seemed to suit my mood, even if it would have made me seem more crazy than I am (no really, I promise, I'm not that crazy).

I have to admit, I'm still a little depressed about the whole girl situation. But I've realized that I'm doing the exact thing that I've said here that I shouldn't do, and that is rely on someone else to make me happy. I mentioned once that I'm trying to get to the point where I'm happy with my life the way it is, and that if I find love it's just an extra bonus (it's something that someone close to me once said). When I look at it from that perspective, I'm totally overreacting to this whole thing. Instead of being upset that we're not going to be together, I just need to be glad for the time we spent. Like I said, it was a good weekend, and thinking about it over the past couple of days, I wouldn't have done anything differently even if I'd known it would end up like this.

Maybe I'm making progress after all.