the sometimes senseless ravings (and the occassional rant) of an aspiring marine ecologist who may enjoy killing things a little too much

Thursday, June 30, 2005

I'm Impressed

Your Summer Anthem is Holiday by Green Day

Hear the sound of the falling rain
Coming down like an Armageddon flame (Hey!)
The shame
The ones who died without a name

Dude, you're harshing everyone's summer mellow.

What's Your 2005 Summer Anthem?

in case you couldn't tell, i'm a little bored this afternoon. i've got lab exams and two more lab assignments from my students to grade, but i'll do that tomorrow. so all these little quizzes are a form of procrastination. anyway, these things are surprisingly accurate. i don't know about the "harshing everyone's summer mellow" thing, but i think that "holiday" is by far the best song released off american idiot. how appropriate that the quiz would lead to a song by the band i dig the most.

How the Hell Did That Happen?

Your Slanguage Profile

British Slang: 50%
Aussie Slang: 25%
Canadian Slang: 25%
Prison Slang: 25%
Southern Slang: 25%
Victorian Slang: 25%
New England Slang: 0%

wow. so a southern girl can speak british slang. who knew? i find it incredibly funny that prison slang is higher on the list than southern slang, and i live in alabama... close to florida, but still alabama. i really don't think i speak a particular slang. my language is in a class of its own... somehow all of the components add up to 175%. but just imagine british slang with a southern accent...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

An Expert, Eh?

so, for the third day in a row, i was back in my old familiar lab in the bio department at USA today instead of at DISL. but never fear, i was doing PhD-related work. i'm actually kind of happy about spending time back in anne's lab at USA. it feels like home. anyway, i was teaching gretchen how to analyze seagrass tissue for condensed tannins and total phenolics when we ran into tim sherman, from whom i learned bunches in my time at USA (not to mention that i borrowed a ton of stuff from his lab or the fact that he's on my dissertation committee). well, gretchen and i were in his lab again, and i introduced them. tim asked gretchen what she's working on during her time as an REU. when she said that she was working on induced defenses in turtlegrass, specifically looking at phenolics, he said something to the effect of, "well, you're working with one of the world's foremost experts on seagrass phenolics." meaning yours truly. it made me smile. i don't know how true that statement was, but still.

anyway, tomorrow it's back to DISL to help o'brien set up the lab practical for our marine bio students. then, basic classroom cleanup for me, along with getting rid of all the fish, etc. that we preserved for the class. tuesday the new class starts, when i'll be the TA for dr. v.'s marine ecology class. i get to do a bit of teaching in this one, so i'm looking forward to it. it's just a few labs, but that's ok. when i'm not so bogged down in coursework, i'm going to ask dr. freeman (the bio dept chair) if i can teach a couple of general bio labs again. i think he'll go for it.

since nothing else interesting is happening to me at the moment, how about a bit of hockey news? i just read this article on yahoo, and i have to say i'm a tad disappointed in my beloved j.r. yes, j.r. i think you are a greedy bastard. but i love you for your outspokenness and splendid hockey abilities anyway. and i will be at games even if you don't want me there. i will purchase NHL center ice so i can see as many hockey games as i want. i will record NHL games that interfere with ice pilots' games with my newly acquired TiVo, and i will watch them whenever i want. your games, j.r. assuming you don't ditch the flyers when this whole lockout thing finally ends. i couldn't be happier that the owners called the players' bluff so that this CBA thing gets done right. and, yeah - i think you all screwed yourselves by not taking the last-ditch offer that the owners made months ago, before the season was cancelled. mario lemieaux thinks so, too. don't argue with super mario. so, yes j.r., i am wildly jealous of your insane wealth. but i am also a part of what made you wealthy. without people like me, you would be just another average jeremy. the only thing that would impress me about what the NHL players gave up at this point, j.r., is to hear that you will all start working for an average person's salary. or even $100,000 a year, which is still more than most people make in a year. as one of the highest paid NHL players, j.r., it is not going to impress me that you had to take a pay cut of a couple million dollars per year, leaving you to make only 4 or 5 million a year (or whatever ridiculously large sum of money you will still be paid after the lockout). while you entertain me for a living, earning millions of dollars every year to do it, my husband and i will continue to go out with our $35,000-$40,000 per year combined salary (hey, we're young - we'll eventually make more) and support the NHL and its greedy players. i'm not interested in what you're "giving up" to play hockey this season. whatever you end up with will still be far beyond what the average american could ever hope to earn. and yet, i will continue to support your sport, j.r., and your league because i think that hockey is a great game. when you start earning an average salary and have to work for more than 15 or 20 years before you can retire, when you have to get a job after hockey, then you can talk to me about what you gave up. then i would be impressed. i really don't think that you and the other NHL players are doing anything so drastic, j.r., to help out with league revenues. you're all trying to make as much money as you can, players and owners alike, period. and you aren't greedy? think about that, j.r. you think about that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

That's MY Territory, Bi-otch!

so i hear that the second shark attack in three days occurred along the gulf coast yesterday. this time, the kid survived. three days ago in sandestin, the girl didn't make it. sad, really. but then i think about what these kids were doing when they were bitten (attacked is such a harsh word...). sandestin girl was boogey-boarding way too far offshore in water that was quite deep - prime shark hunting territory. there was an abundance of bait fish, and surprise! a nice big shark shows up to reduce their numbers a bit, sees something larger thrashing about, instinct tells it that something is injured (why else would it be splashing so much?), so it decides to go for a nice bite of the "injured" (in the shark's mind) critter. you know, see what it tastes like. so, the shark takes a nice big bite. whoa - that's not a fish. then, here comes the gallant surfer to save the girl, who does the stupidest thing possible - he splashes all around in the water to make the shark go away. hello! that's what attracted the shark to the now massively bleeding girl in the first place. so while this guy is telling the story of his "heroic" effort to save the 14 year old's life to the clustering news cameras, including how the shark just kept coming at them, and how he was splashing his hardest to make it leave, and how he finally hit the shark on the nose, which made it swim away, i was shaking my head at the lack of education of vacationers. it is rarely someone who resides year-round in a beach community that becomes victim to a shark attack. when you grow up hearing all of the news stations spouting beach safety, some of it eventually sinks in. it is absolutely tragic that the girl died, but really there was nothing anyone could do for her. she was too far from shore to stop her bleeding in time. the lesson here: don't venture too far from shore, get the hell out of deep water when you notice schools upon schools of small fish there, for god's sake, don't thrash around like a crazy person if you do see a shark, make your way slowly and calmly to shore, and if, heaven forbid, you do get bitten, bop it a good one on the snout (this is a very sensitive area), get the hell out of the water lest you attract more sharks, and fear not, 'cause it doesn't really want to eat you. it just had to take a bite first to know that for sure. the real danger is bleeding to death before you get medical attention. for this reason, stick close to the life guards, who have limited medical training but can get help to you asap.

now, on to the second attack. this kid was engaged in something even more stupid. the thing that bothers me about this one is that took place on cape san blas. 8899 cape san blas road. that's the address of st. joseph peninsula state park, where i'm doing research. yeah, that teenage boy was bitten by a shark in my territory. well, he was on the gulf side of the peninsula, and my work is on the bay side. but that doesn't change the fact that it was the same general park area. so, this 16 year old kid is at the beach, fishing with his buddies in waist-deep water, putting the bait right out there, when (duhn-duhn-duhn!) a shark bites him on the leg. and this kid lived. he was close enough to shore and lifeguards that he got help right away. his leg was amputated, but that's better than being dead. the lesson in this case: don't fish while you're standing in the surf. i can't say enough how stupid that is. not to mention that you're tossing bait out really frickin' close to shore where children are swimming, attracting all sorts of things that might be tempted to take a big juicy bite out of an inevitably splashing, thrashing child.

despite what you might think from my words here, i think that the beach is a relatively safe place for swimmers and fishermen (and fisher-women). but i don't think that the two can safely take place near each other. when the proper precautions are taken, when people are properly educated - a problem with vacationers, the beach is perfectly safe. but i don't recommend swimming when there's a shark advisory up, just as i don't recommend swimming under any red flag conditions. just a note - neither of the kids who were bitten in last few days were from florida. the girl in sandestin was from louisiana (which is technically on the gulf, but when was the last time you heard about a louisiana beach?) and the boy in port st. joe was from tennessee (can't get much more land-locked than that).

Monday, June 27, 2005

Making a Comeback?

are the 80's upon us once again? i think they are, musically at least. before i'd heard the whole album, vanessa had told me that the killers' hot fuss cd was very reminiscent of the 80's. after hearing more songs than just "mr. brightside" and "somebody told me" i am inclined to agree
with my dear friend. that's not to say that it's a bad album. quite the contrary. it totally kicks ass. along the same lines, i have recently acquired weezer's new album, make believe, which i have been looking forward to for some time. before running off to best buy to pick up a copy of the cd this afternoon, the only song i'd heard from it was "beverly hills," a very catchy song with a completely enthralling video. of course, i popped in the disc on the 15 minute drive back home from best buy, and was pleased to discover that this is an excellent album. really, it's like chocolate covered strawberries for the ears... weezer's best album since the blue album. you know what i'm talking about - that kick ass creation with "buddy holly" on it. anyway, the point is that, like hot fuss, make believe also has a distinctly 80's sound, particularly the song "this is such a pity." as soon as the song began, i had visions of adam sandler in the wedding singer. and, also like hot fuss, make believe totally kicks ass. i am quite pleased with the band's new effort... and also relieved that i didn't just waste $14 on a disc that sucks. really, this is the first cd i've bought since green day's american idiot. i rarely purchase entire cd's, so it's kind of a big deal for me when i do. i've become a notorious downloader of random songs whose videos i see on fuse (the kick ass music channel on directv that i've raved about in previous posts). one big disappointment for me, though - iTunes does not have seether songs. blasphemy, i say! i really dig their new tune, "remedy" and i'd planned to download it, only to discover that iTunes doesn't have it. what a shame. i guess i'll be looking for that one in the realplayer store. ok, then. adios, amigos.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Out with the Girls (mostly)

yesterday was good. busy. yet strangely relaxing for all its activity. vanessa and deva came over, and we went to o'charleys for lunch with chad. then we dropped him off at our apartment and headed for the mobile museum of art followed by an adventure in the mobile botanical gardens. then it was back to my place to pick up chad again, but not before many music files were shared between me and vanessa (gracias, chica). after all the music sharing, it was off to the mall with all of us to hit the victoria's secret semi-annual sale, with which none of us was all that impressed... but that didn't stop us from making a few purchases. the beauty side of the store actually had a better sale going than the lingerie side. once all purchases were completed, we stopped for pretzels, then made our way over to hank aaron stadium to catch a mobile baybears baseball game. and even after all that, the day was not over yet. a pit stop at steak and shake for a late dinner had to be made before everyone headed home.

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the museum was actually pretty cool, even though one floor was closed for the setup of a new exhibit and the local artists section was bare. i was impressed that they have a renoir, but my favorite painting was one i spent a fair amount of time complaining about. it's called "boyboypinguino" (sorry, i don't remember the artist's name), and it's one of the creepiest paintings you will ever see. it's a giant portrait of this little blond boy with blue eyes that seem to follow you everywhere and a killer expression... and he is surrounded by these little fuzzy penguins. it's mega-creepy. anyway, the museum also housed some cool statues and these awesome glass creations... but the thing that stuck with me was the creepy little boy painting.

so, i said that our trip to the botanical gardens was an adventure, and i meant it. we (sort of, kind of, in a way) crashed a wedding. well, there was a wedding being set up when we arrived, and they were still in the setup phase when we left. anyway, we didn't see the little holder thing with maps in it, so we were just sort of wandering through the gardens with no real picture of where we were supposed to go, with me acting as mama duck for the day. anyway, we saw all these seemingly random trails through the woods, and i just picked one and followed it. again, i had no idea where i was going, and there was a real fear of getting lost. but it all turned out fine, and we made our way safely through several unmarked trails and back to the entrance to the gardens. i got some cool photos in there, so i'll give you a peek at a few.

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here's a shot of vanessa and deva in the gardens...
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...and here's one of me.
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after that grand adventure and some shopping, we ended up at a baseball game. usually, i say that baseball is far too slow, which i still think is true, but i had fun at the game anyway. it's better when you're physically at a game than when you watch one on tv. when my little bro played little league baseball, i always had a blast at his games. but my twelve year old self viewed them as more of a social event than a sporting event. deva told me i talk more during a baseball game than i do during a hockey game. chad told her it's because i was bored. i told her that's because there's always something happening in a hockey game, and if i talked the whole time i'd miss something good. baseball doesn't have that quality. you can talk the entire game and not miss a thing. it lasted longer than most hockey games, too, even though most of the innings sped by pretty quickly. i was hella pissed to find that, not only do the jerseys in the southern league not have the players' names on them, but the programs do not have the players' numbers. so, figuring out who the hell anyone was was a bit of an adventure, too. we still don't know who the second pitcher was. he never came up to bat, so i guess we'll never know. the closers for both the baybears and the west tennessee diamond jaxx (where do they come up with these mascots?) were the best pitchers we saw through the entire game. the other 4 pitchers who played really sucked ass... and they were bad hitters. but there were 6 back-ups in the bullpen looking bored out of their skulls... wonder if any of them were any good. i was amazed at the overabundance of pitchers on mobile's roster, coupled with a shortage of infielders (there were only 4 - guess they're screwed if one gets injured). you know, come to think of it, i actually spent most of the game making fun of the pitcher(s) and rooting for the canadian (his name is luke carlin, i think, but he was the only canadian on the team - a big change from what i'm used to seeing on the ice pilots' roster). i guess he wanted to stand out from his fellow canadians and play a little baseball instead of hockey. or maybe he can't skate. it's ok. i can't skate, either... but i'm from the south, so it's to be expected. so anyway, i enjoyed my second pro (semi-pro?) baseball game ever (the first one was ~7 years ago - i'm telling you, i just don't do baseball well. on top of the hella slow pace of the game, they play too many games - and this is coming from a hockey fan, where my local team plays 72 games a year).

okee. time to go do something else - like some stats on my st. joe data. laytah.

Friday, June 24, 2005

In the Grip of Inadequacy

i have got to be the weirdest person ever. for some reason, when i get a compliment in a certain context, i begin to question whether or not i deserved it. why can't i just accept it, feel good about myself, and go on about my life? because i'm a freak whose own opinions of herself overshadow everyone else's, that's why. sometimes i feel like such a fraud, like the good things people think about me are completely unjustified. sometimes i feel like i have no idea what i'm doing, especially with this whole TA thing. it feels weird because it's not my class. i'm a teaching assistant, and i never really know when i should be making decisions.

anyway, last night, after the longest day ever, o'brien thanked me for the help, told me i'm a really good TA, and compared me to the greatest TA in the history of TAs, julie (the marine bio TA when i took the class three years ago). ironically, this marks the beginning of my feelings of inadequacy. on the drive home i kept thinking of all the times over the past few weeks when i've felt like i really screwed something up or just plain felt dumb because i couldn't remember something that i should've known. since it was a day/night lab (comparing critters on the beach in the daytime to critters on the beach at night), we decided to cook on the grill under the classroom building. or rather, some of the guys in the class decided this. i mentioned the lovely red snappers we caught on our last boat trip in a previous post, and that, along with a bunch of shrimp fresh from mobile bay and hot dogs provided by o'brien, was what got cooked. the snapper served their original purpose of being dissected and their stomach contents and intestines examined, then they got filleted, grilled, and eaten. well, their guts were removed more carefully than usual when cleaning fish and taken up to the lab. red snapper eat crabs as well as fish, in case anyone was wondering. anyway, this one guy in the class basically did all the work. i felt so bad... but he did volunteer. i felt hella lazy and useless. but i survived. the actual lab activities went pretty well. i guess i could feel more inadequate than i do now. last summer i TAed for the marine botany class, having never taken a marine botany course before. then i felt really stupid. i knew next to nothing that was going on in that class. i was no help. but i was just a glorified go-fer so it didn't really matter.

ok, it's time for me to haul my feelings of inadequacy out of my office and over to admin to drop off some packing slips, then to the classroom for another lesson in the joys of fish dissections.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Procrastination, Among Other Things

procrastination has been a common theme on this blog in the past. but not so much this summer, until now. i've spent my morning reading other blogs that i haven't had time to read lately, with all the research (*yay*) and the TA duties. the only ones i've really been keeping up with like i should are the friends' blogs - see the "welcome to the circle" links. ooh... before i forget (even though i already said this in a comment on her livejournal) a big happy birthday to jamie. glad you found a job, etc, etc.

i guess i can't really say that i'm catching up on my blog-reading on my day off, since even though i'm staying at home, it's not really a day off, as you will soon see. this blog-reading thing has been a major form of procrastination for me, as i still have 147 labs to grade - today. that's 7 lab assignments from 21 students, and it's not easy grading. it will quite literally take me all day. which is why i'm putting off starting and have been doing so since friday. but i promised i would have the labs graded on thursday and i will have them if it kills me. on the bright side, i don't have to venture out to dauphin island tomorrow until 1 pm (so i have to leave mobile at 12:15)... but i'll be at DISL unitl 10 pm. so maybe it's not really the bright side. tommorrow is the day/night lab - there will be much killing and much dissecting (including the one living triggerfish we caught on monday).

speaking of killing, tragedy has struck my little aquarium again. phil has kicked the bucket. *sniff* one night he was all swimming and happy and not afflicted with ick (ok, maybe not happy, but alive) and the next morning he was all sad and dead on the bottom of the tank. but nothing tried to eat him... i guess that whole tetrodotoxin in the liver thing kept gary and the crabs away. sadly, phil has joined my nameless damselfish in the mobile sewer system.

ok, enough death talk. yesterday gretchen and i ground seagrass samples all day. she was a little freaked out by the whole liquid nitrogen thing at first - especially when she spilled a few drops on herself. i told her not to worry - i do it all the time. it stings a little, but it evaporates so quickly that it doesn't have time to do any real damage... as long as you don't, like, shower in it or anything. andy and charlie each dropped in at some point to watch us work with the supercold liquid. i found it hard to believe, but charlie had never seen or worked with liquid nitrogen before. i remember going to the kennedy space center in 5th grade and seeing the liquid nitrogen demonstration, where the guy stuck a straw and some other random things in the nitrogen, dropped them on the floor and shattered them. i've never been able to get anything so fragile with the liquid that it shattered when dropped on the floor. it's kind of disappointing, really. but it does make wet seagrass nice and crunchy and grindable. anyway, anne was right - it's a big pain in the ass not freeze-drying the plants before grinding them.

a bit of exciting news for me came yesterday when dr. v. ventured into the lab to introduce me to a potential student. he told me he'd heard from the editor (he couldn't just say ken, could he?) that the revisions on my manuscript had been accepted. *excited squeal* ken was in the field yesterday, and dr. v. got to me first. i'm told that ken was "very impressed" with the paper. it makes me happy. so, in ~3.5 months, my paper will appear in marine ecology progress series. as soon as it's listed on the 'forthcoming publications' page, i'll post a link.

in completely non-research related news, i hear that the chicago blackhawks have hired a new gm who, as his first act, fired brian sutter (the head coach). he could have made a worse move. what's was chicago's record in the 03-04 season? not good, that's what it was. here's to hoping the NHL gets its shit together in time to start a new season in october. but regardless of what happens in the NHL, i'm excited about the ice pilots' schedule (even though i'm pissed that they changed the team colors). i can't wait for the season to start, even if scott gomez heals up and returns to the devils and i don't get to see him play in pensacola. why couldn't we play alaska last season? ah well, water under the bridge.

all right. enough of this procrastination. gotta go grade labs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Never Ceases to Amuse...

i was just checking out my site stats, and the odd word combos in a google search that hit on my site never cease to amuse me. people actually search for things like "eklund hockey blob," which if you were wondering, lists my blog first. it's so weird. maybe they meant to search for "eklund hockey blog." who knows? but they went to my site anyway...

when i see that a hit on my blog has come from a google search, i always click the link to see what was searched for and where my site appeared on the list. the one that made the most sense was "bates battaglia girlfriend." probably some bates fan trying to find out if he has a girlfriend... all of those words have been used at some point on my blog, so google says, "hey! this site has all of your keywords - go check it out!" maybe that person found the bates's-hand-on-my-bum story amusing. anyway, perhaps those of you who have hit counters should check out some of the random google searches that send readers to your sites. it's guaranteed to amuse.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Attack of the Killer Mockingbird

so i was quite excited today when i learned that i had 6 packages waiting for me at the sea lab. the news came after a long day on the boat followed by freezing fish (including one huge red snapper) and cleaning up, but that didn't put a damper on my excitement. it was the stuff i'd ordered last week, so it was expected... but it's still nice to get packages, no matter what they are. anyway, so i was making my way into the administration building to retrieve my packages when i was attacked by a psycho mockingbird. the freakin' thing tried to dive-bomb me as i made my way into the building... and then it came back for more. it screeched as it plummeted toward me. who knew a mockingbird could screech? i'm talking bird of prey going after it's dinner screech here. crazy bird. it was really pissed that i was walking so close to its tree. next time i had to go to admin, i entered through the library door on the side of the building, and i saw the mockingbird at its lookout post on top of the building. it screeched when it saw me but stayed put.

on a happier topic, the weather today was perfect for a full day on the verrill. there was enough wind to make the temperature out on the gulf bearable (which also made the water a bit choppy, but who cares about a little chop?), and it was gorgeous and sunny. only one case of seasickness this time - the students remembered their dramamine. the girl who got sick just wasn't made for boats - she took dramamine this time and even repeated the dose per the bottle's instructions. the trip wasn't that exciting as far as the critters we pulled up in the trawls, but some of the students brought fishing gear, and they caught quite a few red snapper, including one really freakin' humongous one (~10 lbs.). oh, and we got two pretty big triggerfish, one of which we managed to keep alive... even if we are going to cut it open on thursday to look for parasites.

ok, i've got a butt ton of lab assignments to grade before thursday, so i'm going to get to work.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Gator Bait

so, i'm back from port st. joe (again), but not without injuries (don't worry, they're minor). a couple of my students really drove me nuts on the trip (but none who rode in the van with me). my student trouble began shortly after we left DISL on thursday. we were meeting the commuters at the wal-mart by the interstate so they wouldn't have to drive all the way to the island. one of the girls in the class chose to drive her own car on the trip, with a few other girls riding with her. when we stopped to pick up the commuters, driving girl (later to be referred to as "the speed limit nazi") approached me and asked me to slow down. based on this, you may think that i was speeding like a maniac, but no - i was driving 5 mph over the speed limit (i usually hover somewhere between 5 and 10 mph over). when i said to driving girl, "i was only going 60." she came back with, "yeah, in a 55. i'm at the end of the line, and i'll be the one to get a ticket." many smart-ass replies immediately came to mind, but as she was a student of mine, i held my tongue. the many replies i thought about included "it's the person who's first that will get the ticket, not the last," "you don't get pulled over for driving 5 mph over the speed limit, idiot. the cops go for the dangerous drivers, not some average joe (or jane) who's speeding a little," and the one i wanted to say most "you didn't have to drive your own car. don't choose to drive yourself to somewhere you've never been that's 300 miles away and then complain about how fast the person in charge is driving. just freakin' keep up." so i spent the entire 4-hour drive from mobile to port st. joe trying my damned-est not to speed and complaining about how if i ventured over the speed limit a little the speed limit nazi was going to have a duck. it made the people who rode with me laugh. anyway, o'brien passed me after a while (he hadn't heard the speed limit nazi's comment and didn't know why i was driving so slowly), and i just said, "to hell with it" and drove 80. the speed limit nazi expressed her displeasure at this by repeatedly falling behind, forcing us nice, considerate people in front of her who didn't want her to get lost (even though i printed out directions for her) to slow down and let her catch up. anyway, i told o'brien and charlie (who drove our 3rd vehicle) about the speed limit nazi's comment when we stopped for a potty break. after we'd turned onto hwy 231, i was driving ~7-8 mph over the speed limit, and we passed 4 cops (a few minutes apart), all of whom ignored us, verifying what i said earlier about them not really giving a damn about a bit of innocent speeding. now, dr. v., he was speeding a lot. he deserved to get pulled over. i don't speed that much.

anyway, we eventually made our way into the park so the students could snorkel around and see cool stuff (about which i could provide much information). gretchen, charlie, and i went to check out the cages, which were still there, although they were not still secure. the rebar had pulled way out of the sediment, so only 3 of our 12 cages still had the original number of urchins in them. anyway, we repaired some holes, took out the extra urchins, and freed some fish that had gotten stuck in the mesh, and all was well. i trapped a big ass toad fish in one of the cages, accidentally of course. there was a pretty large sea horse in one of them, too so i took it out and showed it to the marine bio students, who thought it was pretty darn cool.

anyway, as gretchen and i had the most actual work to do (cage repairs and all), we were the last out of the water thursday. now, i have been to this site at st. joe many times, and each time i have noticed that little marsh area right before it goes out into the bay with its sign warning of alligators (which really freak me out - seriously, i'm not scared of sharks, but gators make me panic a little), but i have never seen a gator there. because i had never seen an alligator at my site, i never really worried about them. but, like, 30 seconds after gretchen and i got out of the water, this big ass gator comes swimming merrily out of the marsh and into the bay right where we'd just come out. i freaked a little. ok, so it wasn't the biggest gator in the world, but it was bigger than i am, which is more than big enough to scare the shit out of me. i thought that it wouldn't venture out very far - that water is really salty, like, 30 ppt. i've seen plenty of gators on the causeway along mobile bay, but the salinity there never goes above ~7-10 ppt (brackish water). anyway, the gator ignored the fact that it's supposed to be a freshwater critter and went right out into st. joseph's bay. the sight of that gator swimming out toward our cages made me a bit concerned about heading out there at night (which we're doing on july 9). a shark i can handle. a gator i cannot. how weird am i? i am just really freakin' glad that gretchen and i were out of the water before the gator made its appearance. otherwise, i would probably still be frozen there in calf-deep water, scared out of my head. oh, plus i was bleeding a little from a cut on my knee and some scratches on the back of my calf. i had a little run-in with a sharp shell or two while snorkeling in very shallow water (which made the cut[s] on my knee), then i sort of backed into this big post covered with barnacles (thus, the cuts on the back of my calf). anyway, i survived, and i'll worry about july 9 on july 9.

the snorkeling at the jetties at st. andrew's in panama city was much less eventful than the grass beds at st. joe. i showed gretchen around and pointed out some cool stuff to her. i showed her how to tell the difference between a ctenophore (comb jelly - the kind that don't sting) and a jellyfish (the bad ones that do sting) - comb jellies don't have tentacles hanging down, and they don't mind if you poke 'em. she was delighted at the blennies, the little fish that hang out on the rocks and are kind of hard to see, and found a couple of cool shells. i chased around a big sheepshead (a big striped fish) until it lost me, and i tried to scare a group of white mullet (that didn't work too well - they didn't swim away) to amuse myself. here are a few shots i took at st. andrew's.

this one is of charlie and gretchen. i use deva's sneak-attack method here. they didn't know i took it.
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here are some of the beach and jetties. the water there is very clear and gorgeous.
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i wasn't annoyed at all yesterday until we were about to leave the park, and o'brien and i were discussing the plan for getting home, and the speed limit nazi said really loudly, "i think we should all go the speed limit and not change lanes every two seconds." i had the same exasperated thoughts i'd had the day before, plus this one: "hello! we're not changing lanes for no reason. we're either passing slow people or moving over to let someone merge." o'brien and i decided that he would stay with her until they got to the interstate (to make sure she didn't get lost - again, even though she had directions in writing and we were going back along the same road we'd come in on), then he'd just drive as fast as he wanted. charlie and i went on ahead. shortly after the speed limit nazi's comment, this guy in the class whose parents have a beach house near st. andrew's started talking about wanting to go to sonny's bbq for lunch, which was not on the way back and would take forever to seat and serve 23 people, even if we split into smaller groups. anyway, i pointed out to him, calmly i might add, that we had to get back to the island by 5:30 so that the students who live in the dorms (including him) could eat dinner and that sonny's would make us late. he proceeded to argue that we could take another route (which i know from experience is slower than the one i chose) which would take us past sonny's and that sonny's has fast service. it was the pushing the point that really annoyed me with him. i'd already explained why his plan wasn't feasible (not to mention that dinner the night before had been expensive and not everyone could afford sonny's for lunch), but he just kept arguing. it didn't matter. o'brien agreed with me, and we did things my way. we stopped at a place where there was a taco bell and a burger king and got fast food to go so we could get everyone back to DISL in time for dinner. we arrived at 5:30.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Everyone else seems to be doing this...

here is what my birthday and name say about me. like casey, i feel that it's pretty accurate.

You entered: 8/6/1982

You were born on a Friday
under the astrological sign Leo.
Your Life path number is 7.

The Julian calendar date of your birth is 2445187.5.
The golden number for 1982 is 7.
The epact number for 1982 is 5.
The year 1982 was not a leap year.

As of 6/15/2005 6:04:04 PM CDT
You are 22 years old.
You are 274 months old.
You are 1,193 weeks old.
You are 8,349 days old.
You are 200,394 hours old.
You are 12,023,644 minutes old.
You are 721,418,644 seconds old.

There are 52 days till your next birthday
on which your cake will have 23 candles on it.

Those 23 candles produce 23 BTU's,
or 5,796 calories of heat (that's only 5.7960 food Calories!) .
You can boil 2.63 US ounces of water with that many candles.

Your birth tree is

Poplar, the Uncertainty

Looks very decorative, no self-confident behaviour, only courageous if necessary, needs goodwill and pleasant surroundings, very choosy, often lonely, great animosity, artistic nature, good organiser, tends to philosophy, reliable in any situation, takes partnership serious.

There are 193 days till Christmas 2005!

The moon's phase on the day you were
born was waning gibbous.

You entered: LaTina Marie Laws Breeden

There are 22 letters in your name.
Those 22 letters total to 94
There are 10 vowels and 12 consonants in your name.

Your number is: 4

The characteristics of #4 are: A foundation, order, service, struggle against limits, steady growth.

The expression or destiny for #4:
Order, service, and management are the cornerstones of the number 4 Expression. Your destiny is to express wonderful organization skills with your ever practical, down-to-earth approach. You are the kind of person who is always willing to work those long, hard hours to push a project through to completion. A patience with detail allows you to become expert in fields such as building, engineering, and all forms of craftsmanship. Your abilities to write and teach may lean toward the more technical and detailed. In the arts, music will likely be your choice. Artistic talents may also appear in such fields as horiculture and floral arrangement, as well. Many skilled physicians and especially surgeons have the 4 Expression.

The positive attitudes of the 4 Expression yield responsibility; you are one who no doubt, fulfills obligations, and is highly systematic and orderly. You are serious and sincere, honest and faithful. It is your role to help and you are required to do a good job at everything you undertake.

If there is too much 4 energies present in your makeup, you may express some of the negative attitudes of the number 4. The obligations that you face may tend to create frustration and feelings of limitation or restriction. You may sometimes find yourself nursing negative attitudes in this regard and these can keep you in a rather low mood. Avoid becoming too rigid, stubborn, dogmatic, and fixed in your opinions. You may have a tendency to develop and hold very strong likes and dislikes, and some of these may border on the classification of prejudice. The negative side of 4 often produces dominant and bossy individuals who use disciplinarian to an excess. These tendencies must be avoided. Finally, like nearly all with 4 Expression, you must keep your eye on the big picture and not get overly wrapped up in detail and routine.

Your Soul Urge number is: 8

A Soul Urge number of 8 means:
With an 8 soul urge, you have a natural flare for big business and the challenges imposed by the commercial world. Power, status and success are very important to you. You have strong urges to supervise, organize and lead. Material desires are also very pronounced. You have good executive abilities, and with these, confidence, energy and ambition.

Your mind is analytical and judgment sound; you're a good judge of material values and also human character. Self-controlled, you rarely let emotions cloud judgment. You are somewhat of an organizer at heart, and you like to keep those beneath you organized and on a proper track. This is a personality that wants to lead, not follow. You want to be known for your planning ability and solid judgment.

The negative aspects of the 8 soul urge are the often dominating and exacting attitude. You may have a tendency to be very rigid, sometimes stubborn.

Your Inner Dream number is: 7

An Inner Dream number of 7 means:
You dream of having the opportunity to read, study, and shut yourself off from worldly distractions. You can see yourself as a teacher, mystic, or ecclesiastic, spending your life in the pursuit of knowledge and learning.

here - find out what your birthday/name says about you.

Fun with Purchase Orders: Part Deux

yesterday i shopped on my day off. today i shopped while i was working. but today's shopping was done largely online at the websites of scientific supply companies. and i spent way more money today, when i was using someone else's money, than i did yesterday, when i was using my own short supply of cash. i must say, i'm becoming quite the pro at this purchase order thing. dr. v. gives me an account number, and i buy whatever i need, even if what i need is a bottle of 90% phenol that costs over $130. i spent about $800 today. who knew that cryogenic sample vials could be so expensive? and i had to order 1,000 of them, which really isn't that many, considering the number of samples i'll be collecting in the near future... and i have to replace the 200 i "borrowed" from anne's lab. anyway, between the cost of various size microcentrifuge tubes, sample tubes, cryopens, and various chemicals (including some concentrated sulfuric acid) and the haz-mat charge added for shipping some of my chemicals, i spent quite a bit of money. $800 is a small fortune in latina-land.

perusing the websites of vwr and fisher scientific and placing the orders was the most interesting thing i did all day. the rest of the time was spent weighing dried epiphytes and making arrangements for the marine biology class. oh, and i made copies of directions to every place we have to go tomorrow and friday for o'brien because he's afraid our convoy will get broken up and he'll get lost. yep, it's off to port st. joe with me again tomorrow. this time, it's just for a night. here's hoping that t.s. arlene didn't mess with our cages.

i have determined that gretchen and i need to head back to st. joe on july 2 to retrieve our cages and take seagrass samples. good luck to us, going to a state park at the beach on the 4th of july weekend. i have already been informed that all of their cabins are booked that weekend. damn. maybe they have a campsite open, and we can borrow a tent from someone (even though i generally have an aversion to not sleeping in a bed). ahh, the things i do in the name of science.

all righty. i need to go and pack and take care of some other preparations for tomorrow's butt crack of dawn departure.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Bit of Shopping to Ease the Pain

as it is my one day off this week, i decided to do some shopping. not major shopping, but shopping. i had to pick up a couple of things from wal-mart, and then i decided that i want a new swim suit. after perusing wal-mart's selection (i'm on a grad student's budget here) and finding nothing to my liking, i headed over to the super target across the street. i was quite pleased to discover that there was a wide selection of swimwear at target on clearance. i did a little mental dance (a physical dance would have drawn a bit too much attention to me) at this bit of enlightenment, only to do an even more elaborate mental dance a few moments later when i saw that the clearance suits were being marked down even more. so i happily spent about half an hour or so flipping through the racks and trying on suits. i fell in love with this one green top, but i couldn't find the bottoms, so i was forced to give up on it. then i found this striped purple bikini that fit well, and when i looked at the price tag, i had to buy it - it was only $7.48 ($3.74 each for the top and the bottom). where can you find even half a bikini for $7.48? i thought so. so anyway, i made my purchase and returned home a happy girl.

Tragedy Strikes on My Day Off

so my nameless damselfish died last night/this morning. he was taken by the ick (that's a fish parasite, as you are probably aware if you've ever kept an aquarium). i had him in isolation and was treating him for the dreaded disease, but he didn't make it. *sniff* oh well. he lasted for over a year, which is pretty impressive, considering that the other two damselfish i bought last summer died within two months, also from ick. all three got the ick last summer, and my striped damsel was the only one who survived. and alas, he has been overcome by the disease this summer... and only a couple of days after chad had said that that fish was indestructable... maybe he jinxed him.

on a lighter note, i am pleased to present a few photos of my remaining critters. i have had a request to post pics of the lovely creatures in my tank, and here are a few.

here is a shot of my gigantic snail, gary. he's in the huge shell at the back, not the smaller shell in the front. dr. v. has informed me that he is a crown conch, Melongena corona. you can't see it here, but his body is mostly black with white splotches.

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here is a shot of two of my hermit crabs (little crab and tiny crab - big crab was hiding in his shell). those tiny snail shells you see are empty. once upon a time, when i put them in the tank, there were little snails in there, but i'm pretty sure gary ate them.

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and, the one you've all been waiting to see, here are some shots of phil, the least puffer i rescued from certain death at the hands of a trawl that the marine biology class i'm TAing for pulled up near mobile bay. chad thinks he's ugly, but i think he's adorable... for a fish, at least.

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he's really come a long way, phil. when he was in isolation he spent a lot of time hanging out on the bottom of the tank. notice his new found buoyancy. it was hard to get good pictures of him, since he's swimming around so much now. i'm quite excited at how well my little puffer fish is doing these days, despite the deep and profound sadness i am feeling at the loss of my damselfish. ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration.

okee, folks. now that you've enjoyed the photos of my lovely marine critters, i'm off.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Going to Lose My Head

yep. you heard it here first, folks. i'm going to lose my head. it's kind of nice being so busy, but i really think that sometime soon i'm going to forget about something very important because there are too many vital pieces of information vying for the limited space in my brain. i don't think i'm very good at that whole "planning ahead" thing... and at DISL, some things must be planned well in advance. i almost forgot that we're going out on the boat next monday (thank o'brien for reminding me) and i hadn't turned in the paperwork. and i had put off a few things i should have done last week (surprise, surprise), so i had to do them today. and i almost forgot again. yeah, i write myself notes pretty frequently, but i have to remember to look at them for the notes to do any good. i'm pretty sure that i accomplished everything that had to be done today. my students will have meal money when we go to port st. joe and panama city later this week, and i have let gretchen and charlie know when we're leaving. everything should be all set for that. it should be a fun trip - lots of snorkeling, and not much work.

this morning, we went out to airport marsh and collected some plants and whatever critters we could catch. i don't think the class liked the nasty mud very much. they thought o'brien was kidding about sinking and having to be helped out of a muddy hole... little did they know. i think the rotten egg-like hydrogen sulfide smell is what really got them, though. big news, people - mud stinks. they should like the grassbeds at st. joe and the jetties at st. andrew's much better.

another piece of news i'm sure you are all just dying to know - the sunburn i got last week at st. joe is peeling. so not fun. the worst is my scalp where my hair was parted a bit. it hurt to brush my hair for a few days, and it was bright pink. now it's itchy and peel-y and looks like i have the world's worst dandruff. my back is itchy and peel-y, too. i got some stronger sunscreen for my upcoming trips to port st. joe, though so no more sunburns for me.

all right. i've babbled enough. go and read something more useful than my blog (but you can send someone else my way).

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Surviving Arlene

yesterday was just a very rainy saturday as far as i'm concerned... and a bit windy for summer. i'm guessing that things were a little worse in pensacola (on the east side of the storm), but i must say that things were fairly normal here in mobile. traffic was flowing up and down my street, the mail ran, and pizza delivery was still happening. really, i'm quite surprised that USA cancelled saturday classes due to the tropical storm. the university of mobile had regular classes, and i really don't know of any businesses around town that shut down. a single limb fell from a tree in our parking lot, but that was the extent of any storm "damage." our power didn't even go out. it really wasn't even that windy here - i think our highest winds were around 25 mph. but it rained all day, so i'm guessing that downtown mobile, along with dauphin island, is under water. i don't really live in a flood-prone part of town, so i'll be doing my regular sunday grocery shopping, etc. without worries.

this morning, the sun is shining and i expect it to be a beautiful day. tomorrow, we will return to the normal summer thing - hot as hell (temps in the 90's) and a bit of rain in the afternoons - for my excursion into the marsh with the marine biology class.

one thing that did have me worried with t.s. arlene was its position yesterday morning. it was really pounding the apalachicola/port st. joe area, right where we just set up an experiment. i really hope our cages are still there when we go to check on thursday. they're anchored into the sediment fairly securely with rebar, but that damn storm caused some pretty rough surf. i can only hope that since the cages are in a bay (even if it is a fairly open one), the conditions didn't get bad enough to move them around and let the urchins out. *fingers crossed*

when i saw that the mail was still running yesterday afternoon, i asked chad if he thought that the pizza places were still open and delivering. it wasn't raining very hard at that point, and i was hungry. he advised me to call and find out, so i made the call to papa john's and, yes, they were still delivering. so, chad and i got a pizza delivered. but right after i ordered, the rain got much worse. i started to feel bad for the delivery guy (who turned out to be a girl), but then i thought, "well, if he's from mobile, he should be used to driving in this kind of rain," and i didn't feel so bad. but when the driver got here, i noticed the colorado tag on her car and felt bad again. i figured she was a USA student and maybe wasn't so used to driving in torrential rain after all. anyway, we gave her a fat tip for bringing us pizza in a tropical storm.

something else that impressed me yesterday was the ability of our satellite to work in adverse weather conditions. we had discovered way back during hurricane ivan the amazing abilities of directv. we never lost the satellite feed, even well into the storm. when the power went out, the in-laws just fired up the generator, and we still had directv. yesterday during t.s. arlene, the same thing happened (minus the power out generator thing). it truly astounds me that the satellite goes out during strong thunderstorms, but tropical systems are no problem for it, with their whipping winds and driving rains.

anyway, that's my account of tropical storm arlene. i'm sure some of you have more interesting stories.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Good, The Bad, and The Tropical Storm

so when i checked my bank account yesterday to see if my paycheck from DISL went through, i got a pleasant surprise. i had assumed that i would be paid at the same rate for the TA thing this summer as i was last summer. however, i am making an extra $4 an hour this summer. kick ass. on the other hand, i'm also doing much more work this summer than i was last summer, as i'm actually working on my project now.

speaking of work, i spent the morning scraping epiphytes off of turtlegrass leaves and weighing them. exciting stuff, right? anyway, after that i had go and do the TA thing and get out fish identification guides, specimen jars, and dissecting trays for my students. i hear that they've evacuated pensacola beach and perdido key because of this freakin' tropical storm (which will probably become a damn hurricane before it hits). but did they do anything at dauphin island? of course not. yes, they told everyone that if they wanted to leave, they had to do it today because the causeway would be flooded tomorrow, but otherwise it was business as usual. classes didn't dismiss early (even though USA cancelled its saturday classes), and the caf will be open for its regular hours all weekend for the kids in the dorms. the point is, we still had a lab exercise this afternoon. the students had to key out (i.e. identify) all of the fishes we'd caught on the boat last week. so, i spent the afternoon helping students identify fish. and now my hands smell like fish. i've washed them, like, 8 times since i last touched a dead (and preserved) fish, yet my fingers still smell fishy. it makes me think of 50 first dates when adam sandler's character offers his fishy hands to drew barrymore's character for her sniffing pleasure. and fish is so not a happy smell. i'm pretty good at the fish ID thing, but there was this one juvenile clupeid (the menhaden/shad/sardine family) that had me pulling my hair out. o'brien wasn't much help there. we eventually gave up trying to identify it. i keyed it out as being a skipjack herring, but it looked more like the picture of the spanish sardine. anyway, we eventually just put it in a jar and labeled it with the family name. but now i smell like fish, and it sucks ass.

it was doing that sideways raining thing that happens at the beach in the summer sometimes around the time i had to migrate from the lab to the classroom. umbrellas don't do much good in that situation, so i was wet and freezing when i stepped into the air conditioned building. that was our first taste of t.s. arlene. at least i don't have to go anywhere tomorrow. i'm hoping the storm hits east of pensacola so it won't be bad here. i still have to bring in the random stuff on my patio (including my bonsai tree) so it won't get blown around. i know that i vowed after ivan to get the hell out of here if there was the threat of even the weakest of hurricanes hitting close by, but as arlene is still just a tropical storm (although a strong one now) i won't be going anywhere. i'm riding this one out in my apartment in mobile (which was actually fine during ivan, too - if only we hadn't gone to flomaton and stayed with chad's parents...). we rode out a tropical storm in our apartment a couple of years ago. i can't remember the name of it...lily, perhaps? anyway, that turned out ok, so maybe this one won't be bad. keeping my fingers crossed, people.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Port St. Joe

as promised, here is the description of my jam-packed week so far. i'm going to "borrow" vanessa's format and go through my most recent adventures day by day. beware - there are a lot of them, so be sure to engage in your pre-reading eye exercises (kidding).

monday started off quite busily with a trip to sand island with the marine biology class. things went pretty smoothly. we didn't really get very many critters in the cores, but that was ok. the students seemed to enjoy the little island. plus, we went in the a.m. and it was a bit cloudy out, so the heat was less than stifling.

after sand island, i changed clothes and headed over to the lab (which is across the street from the classrooms) to make a couple of last-minute preparations for our trip to port st. joe. o'brien had decided to lecture a bit after lunch before letting the students look at some of the interstitial fauna under the dissecting scopes, so i didn't have to be back at the classroom until 3 pm. that left time to load up the suburban. only, when i went looking for dr. v. and gretchen, they were nowhere around. i did locate charlie, so we gave gretchen a call and discovered that dr. v. had gone home and left us to do all of the loading. we had to pick him up at the lowe's by the interstate. i was pretty peeved about that, but there were still the three of us to get things in the suburban. so, gretchen, charlie, and i picked up the suburban and headed over to the storage area where our things were. after loading a few things, we discovered that the back seat had to be let down in order to fit everything. no problem, right? well, in theory. but in practice, it took a horrendous effort to get that seat out (the mechanism that lets it lay flat was rusted in place). and to top off our trouble, in the midst of loading all of our gear, the bottom dropped out of the sky. it was absolutely pouring rain, and of course, we all got soaked to the bone. it had taken us so long to get the back seat out of the suburban that i didn't have time to put on dry clothes before i went back over to the lab, so i walked into the classroom dripping wet. but i didn't stay long - just enough time to gather up some plastic droppers, petri dishes, and forceps. then i left things to o'brien and went to change clothes.

anyway, we eventually got everything packed up and left dauphin island around 4 pm. charlie ended up driving all the way to port st. joe. dr. v. decided he didn't want to drive, and i certainly didn't. anyway, we drove the 4 hours to port st. joe from mobile, checked into the hotel, and (finally) went to get some grub at toucan's.

as we were heading into our rooms for the night (dr. v. with a six-pack of budweiser that he planned to drink while complaining about women to charlie), a question arose as to when we would get started on tuesday. i made the statement that i thought it unnecessary to get up at the butt crack of dawn and that we should leave at 9 am. so, of course, that sparked a discussion of what exactly constitutes the butt crack of dawn. laughs were had, then we all settled down for the night.

as planned, we departed from the hotel at 9 am, but not before gretchen and i had taken a little time to enjoy our spectacular view.

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we had a few stops to make before heading for st. joseph's peninsula state park, where we would be conducting our experiments and sampling. we had determined on monday that we needed something to float our gear out on, so we had to purchase a rubber raft (which dr. v. dubbed the r.v. latina). gretchen and i insisted on stopping for breakfast (the boys didn't want to eat for some reason), snacks, and lunch (which we would pack in the cooler and take into the park with us). dr. v. and charlie had come across $10 and a girlie slip (about which many jokes were made) behind the dresser in their room, so dr. v. bought snacks and drinks for all at the local piggly wiggly supermarket. then, we got breakfast at mcdonald's (for which we were actually late, as port st. joe is on eastern time, but our hotel in mexico beach was on central time), then made for the subway across the street to pick up sandwiches for lunch. but alas, the subway was out of bread. how can a subway not have bread? we were all quite unhappy and wound up buying salads from burger king.

so, after many stops along the way, we finally arrived at the park to begin the day's work. gretchen and i were to do some basic observations using transects while dr. v. had a chat with charlie about his master's project. since it was my work that was getting done, i was the boss for the duration of the trip. all decisions were made by latina, and any suggestions had to be latina-approved. it made me feel important, or maybe it was powerful... anyway, gretchen and i dutifully gathered our clipboards (equipped with expensive water-proof paper and pencils), a transect tape, and a T (pvc cut to 1 meter so we knew when to stop counting grazers) and headed out into the water to find a turtlegrass bed teeming with sea urchins. but along the way, we did something that was... let's just say it was less than intelligent. we had a bit of trouble finding the urchins. turtlegrass? no problem. it was everywhere. but we couldn't seem to find any urchins, even though i know from experience that the site is full of them. so, instead of hauling our gear all over the grass bed, we decided to put it down in a bare patch and remember our position from shore while we snorkeled around looking for urchins. well, we found the urchins a bit farther out, but when we went back for our things, they were nowhere to be found. now, i did know better than to abandon our gear in the water, but for some reason it never crossed my mind what a stupid idea that was until after we'd done it. so, gretchen and i wandered around in the general area where we were sure we'd left our gear, and charlie and dr. v. eventually made their way out to join us. when i saw them coming i thought, "shit. now i have to tell them what we did. we're gonna look so stupid." but it wasn't that bad. no condescending comments were made by either dr. v. or charlie. they just commenced to help us with the search. well, after a fair amount of searching, gretchen finally spotted our bright pink and yellow clipboards, and we started our grazer counts.

gretchen was quite excited to see a few sea hares, and i felt uber intelligent when she asked me what they were and i actually knew a fair bit about them. i advised her to poke one (that's how i discovered sea hares - it just looked like a blob of goo, and then i poked it and saw how pretty it was), but she didn't really take to the idea. when i spotted a small one swimming along, i pointed it out to her. if you've never had the pleasure of seeing a sea hare, you should go out and find one. they're shell-less snails (well, they have a vestigial shell, but you can't see it), and they look quite pretty when they swim - almost as if they have wings. gretchen was also excited by the sizable striped burrfish that are so common in the grass beds in st. joseph's bay. and again, i was pleased to be able to provide some info on them. she's from maine and attends the university of virginia, so she hasn't really encountered much of our local fauna before. seeing her there made me think of my first trip to st. joe and how awed i was at the difference between perdido key (near where i grew up in florida) and port st. joe. it's a very bahamas-esque place (minus the corals - too hot here).

after a bit of snorkeling and grazer-counting, it was time to collect some samples to analyze for phenolics later on. but before the plants could be collected, the r.v. latina had to be inflated so we could float our gear out to the grass bed. here's a pic of charlie and dr. v. exerting a massive effort in inflating our small raft.

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we spent the rest of the afternoon cutting up grass blades and stuffing them in tubes. i think i confused dr. v. a bit with all of the sections i made him separate, but i knew that the additional effort was necessary. we found many tiny amphipods on the blades, and i found a single tiny, bright green nudibranch (a sea slug - i think they're cute). i placed him on the table and commented that it looked like a bright green booger. dr. v. thanked me for that bit of imagery. i think they were sarcastic thanks.

there were quite a few fisherman at our site when we arrived, and as i was walking back to shore from doing the transects, one of them asked me if i was there for a high school biology class. funny, eh? he seemed quite surprised when i informed him that i was there doing preliminary work for my Ph.D.... but he didn't ask how old i am.

after acquiring some pretty impressive sunburns (well, gretchen and i had sunburns...dr. v. wore a shirt in the water, and charlie just had this one red splotch on his back) on a day filled with field work (we left the site a little after 6 pm central time, so 7 pm at the park), we headed back to the hotel in mexico beach for showers and then went out for food. one would think that this work-filled day would be over then, right? but it wasn't. i insisted on repeating the grazer counts at night to see if there was a difference in the grazers present day vs. night. plus, the extra field work meant that gretchen and i could put our swim suits back on and take off those bras that were so painful on our burned backs. so after a yummy dinner of fried shrimp, fries, and salad at the fish house, charlie chauffered us back to a random site on the side of the road in port st. joe so we could do more transects (the park closed at sunset - we're going to camp in the park next time). that was actually a bit of a disappointment. after two 10 meter transects (counting grazers every meter), gretchen and i had seen a grand total of three hermit crabs and nothing else, so we abandoned the attempt.... but we did step on numerous fiddler crabs along the shoreline. they're much more daring at night than they are during the day. anyway, after that let-down, we showered again and wound down for the evening (it was ~11 pm when we got back to the hotel).

i'll leave the talk of tuesday with a couple of shots of our site. as you can see, we had beautiful weather.

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we got started a bit closer to the butt crack of dawn on wednesday than we had on tuesday, leaving the hotel a little after 8 am. that meant that we had to check out early. when gretchen and i turned in our room keys, the girl at the front desk asked the same question the fisherman had the day before - were we there for a high school biology class (the reservation was in the name of the sea lab)? she too was quite surprised to learn our true ages, even though she herself was only 22 (the same age i am). personally, i think i look exactly my age. apparently others don't see it that way.

wednesday was a shorter day for us in terms of field time. we just had to assemle 10 urchin cages and put them out, then collect 50 shoots for me to analyze back at the lab. the edges of the mesh we used to make the cages were quite sharp, and i have many scratches from the cage assembly. here are some shots of the cage-making process.

this is me (left) and gretchen (right) putting the finishing touches on a couple of cages. that's dr. v. behind us.

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and here's a shot of charlie, just to prove he did more than just drive us around.

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after the cages were finished and placed in the appropriate areas with the appropriate numbers of urchins trapped in each, we had to pack everything back into the suburban, including the r.v. latina. since charlie had had the fun of deflating the r.v. latina on tuesday, he passed the honor on to me wednesday. it was quite an adventure, indeed. here, be a witness to the fun that was had deflating the boat. dr. v. decided that i wasn't deflating it fast enough, so he and charlie came and stood on one side while i laid on the other, which since i was laying on the raft caused me to roll a bit. they found it funny, so they moved around when i was unprepared, and we all had a laugh.

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charlie, blessed boy that he is, found us some indoor showers at the park so gretchen and i could wash our hair properly before heading back to dauphin island. you'll understand the hair-washing need if you've had much experience in salt water. hair tends to get crunchy after too much salt exposure. it's quite unpleasant.

dr. v. took pity on charlie since he'd been driving the entire trip and drove on the way home. charlie came to regret his decision to hand dr. v. the keys. when we stopped at subway for a late lunch around 2 pm, dr. v. went to fill up the suburban at the gas station next to the subway. when he came to subway to pick us up, he backed the suburban into the bumper of a truck that was parked behind him... but no damage was done. none of us had witnessed this, mind you. dr. v. admitted this freely to us. anyway, after that incident, nothing happened for a while... we just rode while dr. v. drove for a couple of hours. then, somewhere on highway 20, dr. v. was speeding down the road when we ran across a highway patrolman. dr. v. hit the brakes, but it was too late. the cop pulled us over. 77 in a 60. 17 mph over the speed limit. but dr. v. admitted he was speeding, and we were in a state vehicle, so he got away with a warning. after that, the ride home was uneventful.

back at DISL, charlie, gretchen, and i had to unpack the suburban, sweep it out, rinse our gear, put samples in the freezer, and return the keys and gas cards. then, finally, the excursion was over, and i headed back to mobile.

it was a long trip, lots of time in the field, but it was fun. much bonding occurred among me, gretchen, charlie, and dr. v. it was realized by all that it takes very little to make me laugh, and many giggles were had. as dr. v. put it, there was a fair bit of silliness.


i'm back from port st. joe (i got home around 9:00 last night), and i'm working on a full description of the trip for you. expect to see a somewhat long entry detailing my adventures in port st. joe this week either later today or tomorrow, along with a few photos from the trip (i actually didn't have time to take very many). chad didn't kill phil while i was away, so i'll be putting him in the big tank this afternoon.

so i heard about our first tropical storm of the season on the radio yesterday on the ride back. and where is going to make landfall? where else? here. the current path has it hitting mobile. how much does that suck? i just hope t.s. arlene doesn't reach hurricane strength. after ivan, the mere mention of a hurricane hitting anywhere on the gulf coast really freaks me out. damn hurricanes.

anyway, i have TA duties to see to this morning, so i'm off to shower and head to the island so i can purchase some blue crabs for dissection and go out to airport marsh to grab some oyster clumps.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


went to DISL this morning to help gretchen cut pvc for our cages. we also got everything ready to go for tomorrow. it's gonna be a long day. first, a trip to sand island with the marine bio class, then attempting to recruit charlie to help me collect crabs and oysters on thursday morning (i don't want to put a nasty seine net in my car, so i need someone with a truck). after that, it's off to fill the dry shippers with liquid nitrogen and load everything up so we can leave for port st. joe. i'm still happy about going. i can't wait. it's going to be a couple of very long days in the field, but it's going to be fun. i think charlie may be going with us, too. not sure about that, though. anyway, i'm off to pack so i don't forget anything in the morning. i'll have an update for you on thursday.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Successful Puffer Rescue

well, it was another jam-packed day for me at the sea lab. i arrived at 7:15 am to check out the oldest, crappiest truck the sea lab owns so i could go load up gear and lunches and take them to the dock. i got another lecture from al on not losing the very expensive CTD overboard, and all the marine biology students helped me load our stuff on the verrill (but not the CTD - they were not to mess with the CTD). a former student of dr. o'brien's, emily, joined us on the trip. she's down from virginia dog-sitting for anne while she's in the turks and caicos.

the boat trip was pretty eventful. there were four separate cases of major sea sickness among the students. i guess the verrill lived up to its nickname (the vomit comet) for them. emily and i looked at that as being extra sandwiches for us. no expensive oceanographic equipment was lost, and for the first time (for me, anyway) 4 black-tip sharks came to feed on the leftover fish from our trawls. i was quite excited about that. usually we just get sea gulls and the occasional dolphin. there were many dolphin sightings, but i see them all the time, so i was more impressed with the sharks.

the most exciting part of our little voyage today was the puffer rescue. i'd made it clear to all on board that if any puffer fish were pulled up in a trawl, they were mine. i've wanted a puffer for quite some time now, but i'm too cheap to go and buy one. so when we pulled up the trawl from mobile bay, i vigilantly raked aside a plethora of spots, croakers, hog chokers, blue crabs, shrimp, anchovies, and cutlassfish in search of just one tiny puffer. but alas, i did not locate one on that large table teeming with fish. and then, i heard a chorus of, "latina! latina! a puffer!" so i of course went running back to the table shouting, "get me some water!" emily obliged with a cup and we went to the hose to put some bay water in it for my dying puffer. he looked fairly sad, all upside down in a plastic cup. but i could see the tell-tale gill movement that said, "don't give up on me now. i'm still kickin', see?" so we blasted him with an aerator for a few hours, and now he's doing much better - he's right side up, at least. i'm keeping him in a small tank to himself until he starts swimming better. then, he can join the rest of my critters in the aquarium.

ok, folks, you've learned of my puffer rescue, and i'm covered in boat grime and fish scales, so i'm heading for the shower.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Thank God for REU's

i've decided that i'm going to lose a ton of weight this summer (not that i think i'm fat or anything, it's just a simple fact). the combination of running around all over DISL doing a zillion things at once, barely having time to eat, and having no appetite due to the heat (not that i'm complaining about the heat - i love warm weather) is definitely going to make for a few lost pounds. i now have a butt ton of things to do and not enough time to do them. my trip to port st. joe next week definitely could not happen without my rockin' REU student, gretchen. she and i set about making some urchin cages this morning (but we can only assemble a couple before we leave - no room to carry 24 fully assembled cages in the suburban and the boat), and she's going to finish cutting all the mesh and gathering pvc. i gave her a ginormous list of items to track down for the trip this morning, and she is going to purchase all of the items we don't have around the lab tomorrow. god love her. i'll be out on the verrill in the morning and overseeing a lab on plankton and freezing fish tomorrow afternoon, so i'm really not much help to her now. if this stuff gets written up, she definitely gets an acknowledgment. if anything else needs to be done before we leave, i guess i will be driving to dauphin island on sunday to make final preparations. but for now, i'm going to take a shower. i won't have time in the morning, unless i wake up before 6 am, which i'm not going to do. plus, i'm gross from collecting seawater samples from the beach and the marsh and playing with dirty pvc.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Kelly Cup

so much for a kelly cup in florida this year. when pensacola suffered a heart-wrenching defeat at the hands of the damn grrrowl (even the one game they managed to win that series was a disappointment - see i'll see you thursday and the blame game for more on that fiasco), i was hoping that the florida everblades could make it all the way and bring the kelly cup to florida. well, they made it to the finals, only to have their asses handed to them by the trenton titans...and lose a decisive game 6 in their own building. at least they didn't get swept. they may have lost every single game in estero, but the 'blades did pull out a couple of wins in jersey. there is still some hockey to be played this season, though - in the ahl. it's down to the philadelphia phantoms (the affiliate of my beloved flyers) and the chicago wolves duking it out for the calder cup. since st. john's was eliminated early on and springfield didn't quite make the post season, that leaves me with 0 ice pilots associations to hold onto in the ahl, so i'm going with philly for the calder cup. go phantoms. i saw them in december...mostly for the flyers' players and antero nittymaki (who didn't even play that game...i didn't want to see freakin' neil little!). and brian eklund, of course (who also didn't play. damn the falcons for getting jamie storr the day before the game). the phantoms played springfield that game (lots of former pilots on that team), but springfield was not good this year so i really didn't care who won. it was fun anyway. i miss my hockey already. until october, boys...

Happy Little Blurb

that's all this post will be. i bought two huge bags of cable ties with my purchase order this morning with no unforseen complications. i also called motels in port st. joe and got the ball rolling on getting us a couple of hotel rooms for monday and tuesday nights...that resulted in another "you go girl" from dr. v. it makes me laugh when he says that. we have secured a sea lab suburban and gas cards, a hotel reservation is on the way, and i have plans to acquire a few other items needed for this trip. *happy squeal* i'm so excited about this little field excursion, it's not even funny. i once again get to kill some seagrass...but first i have to label a hundred or so little vials for samples. tedious work, that is. oh well. i'll bring the vials home with me this weekend and label away. things are really coming together now. i am going to spend a couple of days in the field next week (doing my work), and it feels like christmas. yeah, i'm going out to sand island on monday, but i'm not nearly as excited about that as i am about going to port st. joe and collecting some plants and putting out some urchin cages. it's good to be doing research again.