Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


The week in review

August 8, 2009

Some bullet points from the past few days:

* At work, I told my boss that he was hallucinating (long story), did an experiment of my own for the first time in months, and advised a colleague to add Splenda to his mice’s water. He wants to ensure that they drink the water, which contains a drug, but doesn’t want to use real sugar, which might lead to bacterial contamination. The colleague characterized my suggestion as “not terrible.”

* I spent a couple of evenings trying to figure out whether I can use a single application/website to track friends’ blogs, Twitter tweets, and Facebook updates. The first two can be handled easily with a feed reader such as Google Reader, but integrating Facebook feeds appears difficult at best. Others have suggested FriendFeed, tweetDeck, and Gist, none of which have worked for me thus far. Can’t anyone spare me from the agony of having to actually log on to Facebook?

* I did my first-ever stroller-handicapped interval workout this morning. Phil urged me to “wun wee fast” (run really fast), so we followed Mommy and her friend Tina around Green Lake while they did a series of one-minute pick-ups separated by one-minute jogs.

* Here’s Phil’s latest knock-knock joke.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Orange who?
Green orange!

Maybe it’s funny if you’re between the ages of two and three?

* Words of the week: SOBERING and SLEAZES. I made them both in a game of Scrabble, earning the 50-point bonus for each.

* Quote of the week, from Mommy: “Phil is so adorable when he’s compliant.” Perhaps next week Mommy will generate a quote that covers the other 85% of the time.

As Ryan Carrera would say, that’s all I’ve got.


The times we’re living in

December 27, 2008

The economy is so bad right now that, after spending one night in the Holiday Inn Express of Spokane Valley to attend the USATF club cross country championships, we received a handwritten, personalized card from the hotel thanking us for our patronage. I suppose it’s possible that they’ve always sent out thank-you notes, but I doubt it.

Then at a family gathering on Christmas Eve, my brother-in-law jokingly advised us to get ready for the coming of the End Times. Since my ears are perpetually tuned to science rather than religion, what I thought I heard him say was that we need to prepare for the “Coming of the Enzymes.” Now there’s a scary thought . . . especially considering that the enzymes may already be upon us. In fact, the more you look around (using spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography and so forth), the more you realize that they’re everywhere. Aaaaaah!

Happy New Year, fellow doomed earthlings!


More fun with etymology

July 2, 2008

(Previous fun: A sniglet for our times, 12-23-07.)

1. Modern biology labs are full of plastic 1.5-mL microcentrifuge tubes commonly known as Eppendorf tubes. Somewhat less ubiquitous are similar but smaller tubes that only hold 0.5 mL. Lots of researchers refer to these as mini-Eppendorfs, 0.5-mL Eppendorfs, or PCR tubes … but Dr. Chris Damman, who worked in our lab this past January, has come up with a much better term: Eppendwarves!

2., my favorite news website, has spent the last several months dutifully cataloging the “Obamafication” of the English language. For instance, a Baracktogenarian is “an Obama supporter over the age of 20”; an Obamaton is “a mechanical Obama supporter constructed to act as if by its own motivation.” Now Slate offers a new Obamaism every day. All of this seems a bit silly to me, and yet I couldn’t resist submitting my own Obamaism, which was published today:

Nirbama (ner-BAH-muh). n. A state of bliss and peace gained by breaking the cycle of reincarnation of Bushes and Clintons running for president. Example: After seeing the political soul of George H.W. Bush reappear in the form of his son George and that of Bill Clinton re-emerge as his wife Hillary, many voters experienced feelings of Nirbama when Barack Obama won the nomination.


Have you heard this one before?

February 29, 2008

I often run home from the University of Washington to Beacon Hill along 23rd Avenue. Just after crossing East Yesler Way, I pass the Randolph Carter Family and Learning Center, where there is a message board which, as often as not, says, “For anger management classes call 328-5952.”

Whenever I see this message, a voice inside my head goes: “I DON’T NEED ANY F****** ANGER MANAGEMENT CLASSES! AND I RESENT THE IMPLICATION THAT I DO!!!”

Perhaps this imagined retort was worth a brief chuckle when it first occurred to me. The problem is that it automatically comes to mind every single time I pass the message board, day after day. I’m totally sick of it. But how do you suppress a thought that only takes a second to escape? It’s like trying to stop a sneeze.


A sniglet for our times

December 23, 2007

You know that brief musical “fanfare” that cell phones emit when they are turned on or off? I have the perfect word for that. Let’s call it . . . phonefare!

I’d like to see this term gain widespread usage. If Rich Hall were still collecting entries for his books of sniglets, I’d submit it to him. In the absence of that option, perhaps the readers of this blog can help me out by injecting it into their daily conversations.


The best ambiguous headline I’ve seen in a while

December 19, 2007

Title of an Associated Press story by Mary Pemberton on beluga whales: “Survey Shows More Cook Inlet Belugas.”

I love this headline for its shock value. I mean, who knew that there are enough whale-meat chefs out there to warrant a statistically meaningful survey of their cooking practices?


Gregorio del Laboratorio answers your questions about dating

December 11, 2007

Q. I’ve been dating this woman whose personality is somewhat bland, but she’s extremely hot. Should I ask her to marry me?

A. Before you decide, remember the Second Law of Thermodynamics: over time, hotness cools.

Q. I’m going out with this guy who’s very different from me. He’s always late whereas I’m very punctual, he’s reticent while I’m gregarious, and so on. Our many differences make me wonder whether we’re right for each other. But isn’t there some inviolable principle of physics that says that opposites attract?

A. Most scientists now consider the “bar magnet” model of human interaction to be inadequate. The preferred current model is that of the enzyme-substrate complex. In brief, you and your partner should complement each other physically, and physical proximity should lead to chemical changes. But beware of competitive inhibitors!

Q. My significant other is expecting some sort of holiday gift. What should I get?

A. Try an offering of free radicals, free energy, or free fatty acids. You’ll score points for both science literacy and frugality.


Is this progress?

June 13, 2007

My office for my new job is in the University of Washington’s Health Sciences Building, the same building where I spent several years as a graduate student. That’s not the weird part, though. The weird part is that, although I’m now in a completely different field, and although Health Sciences is an enormous structure (a third of a mile long and, in one part, 16 stories high), I’m stationed just down the hall from the lab where I did my graduate work. I go up one floor to the hospital cafeteria for mid-afternoon salads, just as I used to. Sometimes I park at the bike rack I used to use — although my bicycle is nicer now, my helmet and lock are the same — and sometimes I run into my old adviser there.

One obvious difference is that, although I’m once again on the negative-1st floor (or the 0th floor, depending on your numbering conventions), my new boss’ office is on the 13th floor. At the start of a recent meeting with him, I casually mentioned that all the stair-climbing might help me prepare for my next event — “a 100-mile race with 18,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain.”

“Oh, are you doing Western States?” he asked with an equally casual tone. “I once had a rotation student [Carol O’Hear] who ran that one. Her first time, the medical staff made her stop at mile 97. She was really upset about that.”

A boss who is familiar with and unfazed by 100-mile races? That’s different, too.


Scott has cancer … and is blogging about it

November 20, 2006

Scott is someone I met several years ago through our mutual friend Holly. At the time, he was a pastor and I had lots of questions about what Christians believe and why. In an act of generosity that is still hard for me to fathom, he spent many hours (spread over many mornings) discussing his faith with me, even though I was not a member of his congregration (or any congregation, for that matter). He and his wife also had me over for Thanksgiving dinner one year when I otherwise would have dined alone.

Now Scott has liver cancer, and his prognosis looks grim. I wouldn’t bring this up except that he’s discussing it publicly in his blog, “Aufhebung.” That’s the Scott I know — someone who shares his insights, struggles, strength, and humor with everyone, regardless of affiliation. For an inspiring example of facing tragedy with poise, read his blog.


I didn’t vote on Tuesday

November 10, 2006

One of my main goals as a new father, aside from teaching my son how to pipet accurately and all that, is to avoid withdrawing into my little world of lab experiments, diaper changes, and road races, with minimal connection to people and issues outside of this sphere.

That’s the goal, yet the withdrawal is already underway. This week, I was so preoccupied with work stuff and home stuff that I forgot to vote.

I can forgive myself for this; in fact, I already have. But I need to do better in the future.