27 October 2008


YaY! A doggy refuses to abandon four kittens in a burning building and all are saved!!!

Lion Cub v. Pup!

I don't know the story behind this, BUT this puppy and lion cub are apparently being raised together, as buds! More pics in the link!

Madison & Boulder

This is part of a two-part series describing the similarities and differences between Madison and Boulder, the cities & the schools. Now that I have lived in Boulder for a year, I feel as though I can make an accurate assessment. First, the similarities:

Both are:
College towns
Party schools
Various kinds of bars
Bike towns
Public transit
Great scenic beauty
Near larger citi(es)
Ethnic restaurants
Pedestrian malls
Farmers markets

Anyone got anything else?

26 October 2008

25 October 2008

Tips From a Poor Graduate Student: On Being Poor

So, you're poor. We all know you would rather spend those student loans on that ski pass, rather than food or other necessities, so here I will outline my personal sacrifices I make to save money. I am beginning to think that being poor, at least for a little while, is good for you; my dad would agree.

Turn your thermostat down. Mine is at 60 right now. This has several benefits. First, you will get use out of those slippers and all those blankets and sweaters you only used sometimes before. Second, you will get used to the cold much faster in the winter. This is useful for when you go skiing!!! Third, your cats will get nice and fluffy winter coats, and may start sleeping under the covers with you. Then you will have a purring, furry heating pad. Downsides to this is that it is COLD.

Go on a diet. You will save money on food, lose the weight you may have gained during or after college when you were not so poor, and then when you have lost weight, it will be cheaper to maintain! Then, you can also spend more money on booze. Make sure you are not replacing your caloric reduction in food with caloric intake in alcohol, because that just doesn't work.

Insulate your water heater and turn down the temp. I have yet to do this, but it is a very sensible thing to do. Water has a super high heating capacity, and any benefit you think you may get from having your water heater give off heat is WRONG. You are wasting gas trying to keep all this damn water warm. If you are so cold, just turn up your thermostat, you pussy. Or bake more. Also, turn down the temp on the water heater. In theory, I think that you don't need the water any hotter than what you would shower in. Then you won't have to turn the cold water on at all. I don't know if this actually saves money, because then you are using all the water up in your water heater faster, but it seems like a good idea. At least turn your water heater down a little. I will do the calcs for you at some point. Or I will suggest to my dad to do it. *hint hint*

Get a cheap fucking car. My car is awesome. It is paid off, it hardly has any problems ever, and the insurance on it is SO CHEAP. Seriously, I just got a quote this morning. $141 for 6 months of coverage. Unreal. My car is going to last forever. It also helps to live in a town where you don't have to drive very often. I get gas less than once a month, so my car doesn't get used much => it will last longer! I am thinking about putting goldleaf on it, since I think it would be pretty, and lets be honest, I will never sell it. Til death do us part.

Develop a taste for a cheap alcohol. This is essential because drinking is very important in grad school. Cheap beer is hard for grad students to handle; we like micro-brews. I don't know why. I am allowed to drink PBR on occasion because I am from WI. Otherwise, I think I will start getting cheap wine again, though, because I do not mind it. My grandpa would be disappointed, but what do I care if it comes out of a box.

Use your disposable contacts for way longer than youre supposed to. The optometrist is lying to you anyway. I'm sure he is in the pocket of the corporations who make the contacts. I currently have one-a-day type contacts. I wore my last pair for three days (and then I slept in them last night, but that was an accident). Combined with glasses, my year-long supply of contacts will last me two, maybe three years if I'm lucky. Your parents may express concern for the health of your eyes, but just assure them that your young, healthy eyes are just that: Young and healthy. Take that, Corporate America! Plus, that red-eye look just makes your blue eyes look so much bluer! Kidding.

Share a wireless internet connection with neighbors. Seriously, this is such a great idea. I spent $13 a month on internet, because we split it three ways. It is awesome. The only problems arise when the guy leaves for a couple days, and the internet goes down and he's not home to reset the modem. It can be annoying to be without internet for a couple days. But just remind yourself that it is so goddamn cheap. You may have mixed feelings about torrenting on such a connection, but just do that under the cover of night so they don't know youre sucking up all the bandwidth. Another kick in the balls of corporate America. (I have recently decided that a real internet connection is probably fairly priced. It is like going to the movies like four nights a month, and you use the internet way more than that. Maybe that just shows that movies are overpriced?)

That's all for now. I have more sensible tips for some other time. Now, I have to get ready to go to an all day symposium on infectious diseases! Free food and booze, that's all you need to know. That's another tip I unknowingly put in there. Ha!

24 October 2008

Rice farming the way it should be.

Yay Ducks! Some Chinese farmers are putting ducks back in their fields to help fertilize, clear weeds, and eat pests!

Awesumest Thing Ever!

Are YOU ready for the Zombie Apocalypse?! I am!

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading.

Here is what I will be doing with all of my free time, besides working on my Halloween costume and working on the oil painting I started.

This TED conference seems like a good thing to strive for in life. It means your ideas are great. I don't know if I am capable of great ideas, but it seems like a good purpose in life, to try to forge great ideas. Maybe I'm saying everyone should be philosophers at heart.

Here is the talk that brought me to this site. Good ideas, man, about the spread of ideas:

I would just like to point out that I could put all my tags on this post, because I'm sure you can find a talk about any given topic. Vgames, nutrition, religion, atheism, animals, etc. Jane Goodall, Richard Dawkins, Al Gore, Stephan Hawking, lots of great thinkers you've heard of, and many others we all should become familiar with.

22 October 2008

Graduate School

There are a surprising number of comics created by graduate students (or recent grads), who are probably supposed to be doing real work instead of creating comics. Oh well, it makes for a great time waster. Other comics by graduate students, off the top of my head:

PhD comics

Ok... I know there are other ones, but I forget.

8-Bit Theater is also a classic, but more for dorks. Those other two I listed are also by science dorks, but the pictures for sad children I have been posting is by a lit grad student, from what I can gather.

21 October 2008

Oh geez.

Sorry, I'm a giant slacker. I think I was ahead of my one a day mark anyways, so this is fine. You can't complain. I don't really have anything to say right now except things are busy and that last night I got some antiques from a nice lady! Went on craigslist because I was looking for a smallish kitchen table type thing, and I found this old library desk made of mahogany that I will attempt to fix because the veneer stuff on the top is torn off in a part. I will have pictures later. ANYWAY, I drove for over an hour in rush hour traffic and then the nice lady sold me an antique chair for a third of its price AND she felt sorry for me and gave me a free rug! Sweet! For some reason, middle aged women love me. I can't explain it.

Anyway, here is my new favorite comic. There are many good ones. This particular one is about a travel weary "ghost", Paul.

17 October 2008

Take that, Intelligent Design!

The Miller-Urey experiment was conducted in 1953 with water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen, spurred by an electric shock! The vials were reexamined in 2007 and 22 amino acids were discovered, as well as several amines! Ok, so all the normal amino acids aren't there, but seriously. Awesome.

AND, it also turns out that the Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive" has the perfect beats per minute, 103, to do CPR to!!!

16 October 2008

Space, Solar, Super-cute.

The sad Phoenix watching the two moons of Mars go by. They must have timed this so both would go by at once. Awesome. I know I'm anthropomorphizing Phoenix, but it HAS to be sad. It is such a romantic, tragic situation. It is HIGHLY SUGGESTED that you click on the picture if its not moving.

Here is a really cool slideshow of different kinds of solar panels. Pretty fucking awesome!

AND we also have this super cute picture of a chimp who raises big cat cubs!

And if you missed it, The most Adorable post ever about Platypus and Echidna Babies.

14 October 2008

Eat Sunlight, Not Oil

THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLE YOU WILL READ. Maybe not ever. But very important. This is not related to the most important video you will ever watch, over in the sidebar of the blog. Honestly, it is probably more important. ANYWAY. On To It.

My summary of important points in the article since it is long and I know people are lazy (you know who you are):

Food policy has been focused over the last few decades on maximized food production. The policies of yesterday will no longer work today because we have the more complicated issues of health care, energy independence, and climate change to deal with, and they are all, SURPRISE!, interrelated. It turns out that the current food system uses 19% of the fossil fuels consumed in this country, and also releases ~37% of our greenhouse gases, which is more than any other sector. What has made our food so cheap in the recent past is this dependence on oil, which has lead to the production of chemical fertilizers, and pesticides, and allowed the use of machines and transportation to process and transport food. This all SUCKS because food is made from sunshine, dammit, the cleanest, freest, most abundant energy of all. Cheap, crappy, processed food is the cornerstone of the Western diet, AND is the sole cause of many of our problems, like obesity, diabetes, heart problems, etc. But you all knew that. So stop eating processed foods if you want to live and be healthy. AND good to the environment. One of the other problems with our food system is the transportation aspect, where we import a lot of our food, which leads to a problem in food security. The author notes that over 30 nations worldwide have had food riots in the past several months. So this ain't no joke. In short, we need to get people off of fossil fuels and back on sunshine.

Our food system provides cheap, abundant calories. The downside is low nutritional value. Cheap energy allowed for the creation of monocultures, where only corn and soy were grown, to the detriment of the diversity farmed in prior generations. This was the result of a series of government initiatives, whereby the WWII munitions industry was reworked to produce fertilizer and pesticides, and the government subsidized crops like corn, soybeans, wheat and rice. The government money allowed these grains to be sold cheaply. Animals could now be raised more cheaply on this cheap grain, and factory feedlots were born from factory farms. Animals, whose waste was once used as fertilizer and could till the feeds wi' their feets, now produced waste which became pollution, an ongoing problem. FURTHER, cheap energy made it economical to start shipping food around, all over the world, to be processed and consumed far from the fields. All in all, we're running out of cheap energy, so this process must change, regardless of how you feel about your health or the environment.

GOAL #1: Resolarizing the Farm
The good news!: The government has a lot of say in what happens in the fields. Right now, farmers can't receive government subsidies if they also grow "specialty" crops (ie anything with any nutritional value). What we are ignoring is that diversity on farms would make chemical fertilizers and pesticides less necessary. This is proven in smaller scale alternative farmers here, and in large scale productions in China and Argentina. There, farmers rotate fields between 5 years of grazing land for cattle, and 3 years of grain, without relying on any chemical fertilizer. The author suggests that subsidies be given to farmers based on the number of different crops they grow, or the number of days per year that their fields are green (farmers used to plant cover crops in the fall to retain fertility and reduce erosion).

Also, COMPOST! He suggests a municipal composting program which would benefit local farmers, AND cut down on landfill waste. He also mentions that research into perennial grains that can be grown like prairie grasses, which promotes biodiversity in the fields, and reduce the need to fertilize and till! (As I understand it, seed companies have been very into "annualizing" seeds so farmers have to buy every damn year). Animals and crops together again, circle of life!

Animals right now live in what amounts to crowded cities of animals. Three things made this situation possible: the availability of grain which is cheaper to buy than grow, routine use of antibiotics to permit crowding, and the lack of waste treatment requirements by the feds. This permits factory farms to dump waste loaded with antibiotics, instead of requiring them to clean up their waste like any other industry. This situation is also a waste of water, as one pound of beef from these factories takes 5000 gal of water to produce. INSANE. The author also makes the case that meat is far too cheap now, and should cost the real price of raising a grass-fed, healthy animal, which would lead to less meat consumption, thereby transferring gains to our health, the environment and water conservation.

Will sustainable farming feed the world? Basically, it has to, because we have no choice. Organic farmers get 80 to 100% of conventional yields off their fields and significantly more during drought years. World agriculture is not yet at even these levels of productivity, and if we all were to apply these principles, food supply could increase by 50%. This type of farming is also complicated, and will require more farmers to be trained. The author suggests programs which will train a new generation of farmers in ecological farming - "more highly skilled small farmers in more places all across America." This would also include curbing out-of-control urban sprawl to save land for farming.

Idea #2: Regional Food Economy
We need to build the infrastructure to support regional, diverse food by supporting stores and markets that purchase locally. Regionally obtained food is fresher, requires less processing and engineering, and thus is more nutritious. Decentralizing the food system also protects our food system from threats and accidents that can contaminate our food supply. Luckily, this move towards regional food is already happening, with growing farmers markets and community-supported farms. The author suggests supporting this further with grants to build indoor farmers markets for year-round use, decreased regulations for smaller-scale operations and local meat-inspections agencies. He also suggests the government have a strategic grain reserve, like the one for oil; increase regional purchases of food within government agencies, like for school-lunch programs, prisons, and the military; and to redefine food as meaning something with nutritional value, which would effectively tax junk foods (Ha!).

Idea #3: FOOoood Culture
In order to make all this work, Americans need to be on board and stop eating crappy junk foods! We can create a healthy school lunch program. One of the cooler ideas is providing grants to culinary school graduates to work in a school lunch program and get real, healthy cooks in the kitchen. Public-health campaigns from the surgeon general about the dangers of unhealthy food would help curtail consumption, as it did for smoking. Food labels could even include that amount of oil wasted in the production of your food to promote eating low-energy-cost foods. A bar code system could also be used to call up data about a particular food source, such as pesticides used on plants and drugs used on animals. He also suggests cameras in the farms and slaughterhouses so that people are more connected to where their food comes from.

The President and White House chef should also provide guidance and set an example of healthy eating and living, with a chef's blog about recipes and where the food comes from. The author suggests tearing up part of the White House lawn to put in a garden, as Eleanor Roosevelt did in 1943. Back then, Americans followed suit, and by the end of WWII, a staggering 40% of produce was from home gardens. Excess crops could be donated to local charities and foodbanks. This self-reliance can be equated to home-schooling to gain support from conservatives who tout family values. Who doesn't love eating with the fam' around the kitchen table, anyway?

In the end, the author (Michael Pollan, I suppose I should mention his name), successfully argues that even though our food is cheap, it is "unconscionably expensive."

And even though this post is very long... I am going to post ONE MORE LINK to a picture and article about the dwindling water sources in America. The picture shows how draining the aquifer dropped the LEVEL OF THE GROUND by 30 feet. Unreal.

UPDATE: Here is another blog talking about Pollan's argument about meat consumption. He makes good points himself. Meat is not cheap. Also, I am posting a MUTTS comic strip the creator, Patrick McDonnell, is doing to promote awareness for Prop 2.

Politicking Away...

SUPER CUTE slideshow of Barack and Biden love.


11 October 2008

Sweetest Fish EVER

DUDE! This fish is awesome. Let me explain. The fish I am speaking of is the Antarctic icefish, which lives in supercooled minus 2 C water. This fish has No swim bladder, a demineralized skeleton, AND its blood is clear, due to the LACK OF HEMOGLOBIN. Scientists are studying how its proteins fold at this frigid temperature. A new grant was obtained for comparing its skeleton development to a normal fish in hopes of elucidating the demineralization process, which is similar to osteoporosis. THE COMPLETE LACK OF HEMOGLOBIN in these fishes only exists in this family of species of all the vertebrates in the world. These fish absorb oxygen directly from the water because of its increased solubility in cold water. UNREAL. AMAZING. These fish are my new heroes. I mean, the protein folding problem is cool enough, but then throw in the lack hemoglobin?! Crazy. Another thing: it takes 9 MONTHS for their eggs to hatch. That seems like a crazy long time for a fish. Watch, the Japanese are going to get a taste for these fish and drive them to extinction because theyre so slow growing.

As you might expect, these fish are highly evolved for their niche. Scientists have noticed that the winters are less drastic at the Antarctic base where they visit the fishes. That's right, folks, this wonder of the world could disappear if their oceans warm up enough. So SAD.

10 October 2008


This is basically what Georgie does when she's hungry to. SO FUCKING CUTE. There are also other videos by this man that I will leave you to discover, if it pleases you.

Yay! These are OUR lakes, bitches!

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Compact has successfully been passed, ensuring responsible regulation of their waters by the bordering states, and to prevent the water from being stolen by remote cities/states, like what has happened to the Colorado River. The National Wildlife Federation has more information about conservation in the Great Lakes region.

I took a limnology class in college, which was very interesting, and we learned about things like this, as well as other super interesting things. I actually thought about going into it for a while, but the actual work didn't seem very exciting. Not that sittin in a lab all day growing up and crystallizing proteins is, but whatever.

IN ADDITION, NWF has answers to important conservation issues by the presidential candidates. They are limited to 200 words per answer, so its not terribly heavy reading. Just looking at it, it appears as though Obama has given longer, but more thoughtful answers, with actual policies stated! So, yay. Obama believes in conservation!!! The last question asks what animal they would want to be; McCain answers a jaguar, but sadly, Obama doesn't answer directly :/

09 October 2008

Back Off Man, I'm a Scientist

Don't piss scientists off. McCain did when he said he said it was a waste of money to fund a planetarium in Chicago. Granted, I expect that most scientists weren't planning on voting for McCain anyway, but its not really in your best interest to piss them off when the US is trailing behind other nations in science and math education, and there are Universities and opportunities abroad for bright minds. Did I mention I was thinking about picking up and leaving for Montreal if McCain wins? That is, unless martial law is somehow declared and our borders are closed. More about what I've learned about that later... if I really want to seal my place on the no-fly list.

If you click on the picture, it takes you to the website where you can donate to fund the Sky Theater Projector, which actually never received the funds McCain was talking about.

Yay Monticello on Beating the Big Guy

You may remember that, a while ago, I mentioned a small Minnesotan city, Monticello, had been trying to build its own fiber-optic network, only to be sued by the local telecom company (turns out that I just mentioned that Monticello was sticking it to the man, and linked to an article, but same difference, really). I was particularly pissed at telecom's at the time because I was in the market for an internet connection, after my month-long theft of an insecure internet connection came to an end (They discovered me and my bandwidth-hogging ways). Today, I learned that Monticello won! So hooray! This means that telecom systems can be considered basic conveniences, like sewers and whatnot. SOOOOOO- I hope that other cities (Boulder) follow suit! Internet prices are ridiculous. We all know that.

07 October 2008

Fishes Post!

This post is all about fishes! (With some doom n gloom thrown in, of course)

First! Scientists have been watching some ciclids evolve in Lake Victoria! From what I understand (I didnt read the journal article, but I DID download it!), some of the fishes are changing to a reddish color, thus have red pigmented eyes and can better see red? And other fishes are turning bluer. The strange thing is that both populations are in contact with one another, and that this selection is occurring by female preference towards the colorful males. In any case, fully expect a crazy fundie person to claim that they made up the data and that proof of evolution in process has to be false! (BTW, that whole sequence of articles is highly entertaining. The back-and-forth between the prof and the crazy person, etc)

Second! Some sweet-ass fishes that live 5 miles beneath the surface of the ocean! They were captured on video tape swimmin' around and bein' cute, much more actively than you would expect these deep-sea fishes to be. These are the deepest fish ever captured on tape! They "see" with little vibration sensors on their noses. They kind of look like big tadpoles. Anyway, the incredible thing about them is the PRESSURE on their little heads! I personally calculated the pressure at 7.7 km for you, and I came up with roughly 746 atm! OR 75561325 Pa! Which is nearly 11000 pounds per sq inch!!!! Amazing adaption. (You are all free to check that calculation. I readily admit I do not often do fluid statics calcs) I also want to mention that when they tried to bring one up to the surface a while ago, it died before it got there, so maybe it NEEDS this pressure, OR they weren't very gentle with it on the 5 mi elevator ride up!

Anyway, SUPER CUTE! Like little gollum fish!

Heres some doom n gloom to damper all the cuteness. Apparently the world will be "extinct" by 2050. All these poor fishes MAY live through the environmental catastrophe we have caused. Those ciclids might make it, since they're also evolving. Anyway, seriously, stop consuming, people!

Happy Penguins!

Some penguins that had mysteriously washed up in north Brazil were released to the ocean in an area closer to their home! Scientists think the penguins got off course either as a result of altered ocean currents, or a change in the food supply. While the release of the penguins was a happy occasion, many more penguins had died before they were washed ashore, or shortly afterward.

Nature's Best Photography 2008 & Some Alarm

Nature's Best Photography, on msnbc. Gorgeous photos!

Photos like these underscore the importance of conservation and slowing global warming. Turns out our carbon dioxide emissions were higher than expected last year. Sigh.

06 October 2008

Argh! Protons!

Weird! This guy had a proton beam go through his goddamn head!

My Little Funky Pony!

My Little Pan by ~Spippo on deviantART

Holy hell, the person who makes these is amazing!

05 October 2008

In Case You Don't Pay Attn.

I highly suggest today's Dark Roasted Blend postings. I have a link to it down there on my blog listings, but just in case you don't pay attention.... Theres a lego V8 engine, fully functional, and a steampunk clock-fetus. And a baby deer. And other cool stuff. Don't forget the abandoned urban building posting from earlier today. Does this person have a job, or do they just sit there and dig up cool stuff ALL DAY LONG?!


This is Odin, who lives at a zoo in San Francisco. He reminds me of Chinese scroll paintings of tigers with his vicious face. Apparently they make that face to scrunch up their nostrils so water doesn't get in! He looks like he's out of a dream. There are other pictures here and here.

Spending Some Time with Seeds

Yesterday I volunteered with a local conservation group, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, to collect seeds of the wildgrass, Mountain Muhly. Let me tell you, I never knew grasses were so different. After we knew what to look for, every other grass seemed so obviously not the right one, and it was easy to spot the Muhly even when walking at a briskish pace. It was an interesting experience, the people were all very talkative and interesting, and I learned lots of new things. Lots of plant dorks. We were collecting the Muley because you can't buy it commercially, and it is needed by the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Dept to restore meadowlands after fire, reclaimation, etc. They're going to take all the seed we collected and grow it up in a field to get even more seed! We collected a surprisingly amount of seed.

In addition to meeting interesting people and learning things, I met a woman who does oil portraits for a living on commission. We were talking about the idea of the starving artist, and she encouraged me to pursue art, even if only on the side. And that one thing always leads to another, the paths that we take should lead us where we are supposed to be. I don't know how much I believe that, but it's nice to think about because it negates regret. She suggested I read "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. We also talked about Jan Michael Vincent for some reason, and I'm supposed to google him because he's some 70s hottie.

I never realized seeds were so important and that there really were all these different species of plants in any given meadow. There are a lot of strange and distinct plants when you're down there looking at them. In related news, an international seed storage facility, Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, that wants to save seeds from every flowering plant on Earth, is lacking funds. I didn't really realize that this was an important project, but they already think they have six species of extinct plant seeds there. I picture a world like in Wall-E, where all the seeds kept in this facility are released onto a dead planet and the Earth returns to its former glory!

Today I'm canvassing for Obama for the last time since voter registration closes tomorrow. Next week I'm going to volunteer with WRV again and restore a local creek by clearing out non-native water-sucking trees and replacing them with native species.

02 October 2008

Amazing Speech

This guy almost had me in tears, he is so passionate.

This is cute

An Addiction: Fantastic Contraption

This is all I've been doing recently.

It is fantastic. And involves contraptions. The image is an example of one of my vehicles.