the sometimes senseless ravings (and the occassional rant) of an aspiring marine ecologist who may enjoy killing things a little too much
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
after a busy morning of performing TA-related duties, i headed over to the lab where i met with dr. v. and gretchen to plan our research-related trip to port st. joe, which will be taking place next week. we've decided to leave on monday afternoon and come back on wednesday. this means that we have to get our shit together and get ready to leave. hmm...that statement works both literally (if you substitute "shit" with "stuff") and metaphorically. anyway, while rooting through the lab and various storage areas, i discovered that i have to buy some stuff for this trip. and that means that i get to experience my first purchase order procurement. dr. v. got me an account number (i feel so special) and signed five blank purchase orders for me. oh, the purchasing power i now possess in the form of 5 simple sheets of paper... you may not find my first purchase order experience quite as exciting as i do, but dr. v. and i have determined that this will be a very deep and meaningful experience for me (ok, so we laughed a little when we decided this). i've filled out my purchase order, gotten a PO number from joyce (who surprisingly asked no questions other than where i was making the purchase), and determined what i need to buy. so tomorrow, i will take my purchase order into spectronics and buy some 6" cable ties to make cages (we already have mesh, PVC, and rebar) to keep little urchins in and big urchins out. i've never bought anything with a purchase order before, obviously. it makes me feel important. i am going into that electronic supply store armed with a purchase order and dr. v.'s cell on speed dial (just in case this deep and meaningful experience goes bad) and coming out with a couple bags of cable ties and a receipt (to be returned to the proper sea lab personnel). then i get to go to a thesis defense at USA and later learn how to safely transport liquid nitrogen. sounds like fun, eh?
overall, the weather today was crap, but it turned out pretty well. i like to be busy.
Monday, May 30, 2005
so, dr. v. successfully ran down zimmerman. he's ok with sharing his protocols, and dr. v. told me to email him to set up a conference call. that was thursday. i sent the email, and i have yet to receive a reply. perhaps zimmerman doesn't accept emails from strangers...even though i identified myself as dr. v.'s student (dr. v. cc'd the original email to me, so i know that he told zimmerman about me and why we needed the protocol), so maybe he's just been busy. i'd hoped to do the conference call tomorrow when i meet with dr. v., but it looks like that's not going to happen. oh well. i don't need the protocol right this second, so it's not a big deal. the conference call will happen later. i'm a little nervous. this guy is big time. he's published a butt ton of papers, and now he's a department chair/administrator. i want dr. v. present the first time i talk to this guy so i know how i should act. i'm completely comfortable with the bio dept chair at USA, but i've never really talked to the marine science dept chair. i tend to get nervous when i meet people who are big in the world of marine ecology for the first time. guidance is definitely required.
ok...i'm out of here.
Friday, May 27, 2005
i've decided that, rather than ranting about state of fear myself and discussing the issues i had with the conclusions about global warming that can be drawn from the novel, i will reproduce an article from realclimate.org (you can find it yourself at the earth insitute at columbia univeristy, although it is reprinted below) detailing the problems a fellow scientist had with the book. but first, i will rant (just a little bit) about some of the problems i had with the implications in the author's message and appendix I about science and the scientists who carry it out. first, crichton makes it seem as if all scientists manipulate data to say what they want them to, based on the organization doing the funding. any ethical person of science knows that you can't do that. it's wrong. you have to say what the data tell you. yes, the type of research a scientist does is largely determined by the funding agency. but no matter the results desired by the agency, it is the researchers' job to interpret the data collected during any study. sometimes, multiple scenarios can be constructed to fit the data. then, it becomes the researchers' job to collect additional data to figure out which scenario is correct. sometimes, this is impossible (which is where we stand with global warming right now). sometimes, we are just guessing. but it is our duty to report the possibilities.
second, the author's comments about state of fear suggest that politics direct science. to a certain extent, i guess this is true. journal editors do indeed tend to favor articles on "hot topics." and recently, "climate change" has been a huge buzz word. but i don't necessarily believe that the journal editors are keeping studies that dispute what everyone else says about a hot topic out of the literature. also, the editor relies on peer reviews to determine whether a particular study is worthy of publication.
to clarify my personal view on climate change/global warming: i think that the planet is getting warmer (at what rate, i do not claim to know). no one can dispute that carbon dioxide is rising in the atmosphere. is it all our fault? probably not. if you do a google search on climate change, you will find graphs to show that the earth's current temperature is still far below the mean temperature of the last few thousand years. i think that there is no way (at present) to pinpoint the cause of the current warming trend. is it a natural return to a previous mean temperature? that's probably part of it. is our excessive burning of fossil fuels to blame? i don't know. and no one else does, either. should we stop/slow our use of fossil fuels? yes. why? not necessarily to stop global warming. this is probably going to continue anyway. even if we stopped carbon dioxide emissions now, any heating caused by our current and past emissions would continue for the next hundred years or so. i don't care what michael crichton says. fossil fuels will not last forever, and with more and more countries becoming industrialized, the rate at which we deplete our reserves of such resources will only increase. i am all for improving life in third world countries. i would love it if every person on earth had access to the same resources and facilities that i do here in the U.S. will that foreign progress lead to more pollution? yes. should we try to prevent progress in developing nations? no. should we try to minimize pollution and prevent further destruction of valuable resources like rainforests? yes. lots of things on this planet would change without them. and how can we do all of these things at once? by pursuing new, efficient energy sources and technology. i also think the efforts that are being made to find new energy sources should be better publicized so that the whole freakin' world doesn't think that the oil companies are all trying to perpetuate their near monopoly on energy. let the world know what's being done (accurately), so that when people bitch, they have something to bitch about and know what they're bitching about.
ok, i ranted a bit more than i intended to. here's the realclimate article...
Earth Institute News
Contact: Gavin Schmidt
Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion
by Gavin Schmidt, Earth Institute climate scientist and RealClimate.org contributor
In a departure from normal practice on the RealClimate.org site, this post is a commentary on a piece of out-and-out fiction (unlike most of the other posts which deal with a more subtle kind). Michael Crichton’s new novel “State of Fear” is about a self-important NGO hyping the science of the global warming to further the ends of evil eco-terrorists. The inevitable conclusion of the book is that global warming is a non-problem. A lesson for our times maybe? Unfortunately, I think not.
Like the recent movie “The Day After Tomorrow", the novel addresses real scientific issues and controversies, but is similarly selective (and occasionally mistaken) about the basic science. I will discuss a selection of the global warming-related issues that are raised in between the car chases, shoot-outs, cannibalistic rites and assorted derring-do. The champion of Crichton’s scientific view is a MIT academic-turned-undercover operative who clearly runs intellectual rings around other characters. The issues are raised as conversations and Q and A sessions between him (and other ‘good guys’) and two characters; an actor (not a very clever chap) and a lawyer (a previously duped innocent), neither of whom know much about the science.
So for actors and lawyers everywhere, I will try and help out.
The issues Crichton raises are familiar to those of us in the field, and come up often in discussions. Some are real and well appreciated while some are red herrings and are used to confuse rather than enlighten.
The first set of comments relate to the attribution of the recent warming trend to increasing CO2. One character suggests that “if CO2 didn’t cause the global cooling between 1940 and 1970, how can you be sure it is responsible for the recent warming?” (paraphrased from p86) . Northern Hemisphere mean temperatures do appear to have cooled over that period, and that contrasts with a continuing increase in CO2, which if all else had been equal, should have led to warming. But were all things equal? Actually no. In the real world, there is both internal variability and other factors that affect climate (i.e. other than CO2). Some of those other forcings (sulphate and nitrate aerosols, land use changes, solar irradiance, volcanic aerosols, for instance) can cause cooling. Matching up the real world with what we might expect to have happened depends on including ALL of the forcings (as best as we can). Even then any discrepancy might be due to internal variability (related principally to the ocean on multi-decadal time scales). Our current ‘best guess’ is that the global mean changes in temperature (including the 1940-1970 cooling) are actually quite closely related to the forcings. Regional patterns of change appear to be linked more closely to internal variability (particularly the 1930’s warming in the North Atlantic). However, in no case has anyone managed to show that the recent warming can be matched without the increases in CO2 (and other GHGs like CH4).
Secondly, through the copious use of station weather data, a number of single station records with long term cooling trends are shown. In particular, the characters visit Punta Arenas (at the tip of South America), where (very pleasingly to my host institution) they have the GISTEMP station record posted on the wall which shows a long-term cooling trend (although slight warming since the 1970’s). “There’s your global warming” one of the good guys declares. I have to disagree. Global warming is defined by the global mean surface temperature. It does not imply that the whole globe is warming uniformly (which of course it isn’t). (But that doesn’t stop one character later on (p381) declaring that “..it’s effect is presumably the same everywhere in the world. That’s why it’s called global warming"). Had the characters visited the nearby station of Santa Barbara Aeropuerto, the poster on the wall would have shown a positive trend. Would that have been proof of global warming? No. Only by amalgamating all of the records we have (after correcting for known problems, such as discussed below) can we have an idea what the regional, hemispheric or global means are doing. That is what is meant by global warming.
Crichton next raises the apparently unrecognised (by the lawyer character at least) fact that the interior of Antarctica is cooling (p196), an issue discussed in another post (Antarctica cooling, global warming?). This is more or less correct (given the obvious uncertainties in long term data from the continental interior), but analogously to the example above, local cooling does not contradict global warming.
Next, and slightly more troubling, we have some rather misleading and selective recollection regarding Jim Hansen’s testimony to congress in 1988. “Dr. Hansen overestimated [global warming] by 300 percent” (p247). Hansen’s testimony did indeed lead to a big increase in awareness of global warming as a issue, but not because he exaggerated the problem by 300%. In a paper published soon after that testimony, Hansen et al, 1988 presented three model simulations for different scenarios for the growth in trace gases and other forcings (see figure). Scenario A had exponentially increasing CO2, Scenario B had a more modest Business-as-usual assumption, and Scenario C had no further increases in CO2 after the year 2000. Both scenarios B and C assumed a large volcanic eruption in 1995. Rightly, the authors did not assume that they knew what path the carbon dioxide emissions would take, and so presented a spectrum of results. The scenario that ended up being closest to the real path of forcings growth was scenario B, with the difference that Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, not 1995. The temperature change for the decade under this scenario was very close to the actual 0.11 C/decade observed (as can be seen in the figure). So given a good estimate of the forcings, the model did a reasonable job. In fact in his testimony, Hansen ONLY showed results from scenario B, and stated clearly that it was the most probable scenario. The ‘300 percent’ error claim comes from noted climate skeptic Patrick Michaels who in testimony in congress in 1998 deleted the bottom two curves in order to give the impression that the models were unreliable.
Dr Hansen is further quoted (a little out-of-context) saying: “The forcings that drive long term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change". Given the discussion above it is clear that without good estimates of the actual forcings, the differences in the model projections can be large. It is widely accepted that exact prediction of what will happen to climate in 50 or 100 years is impossible. Much of the future is of course unknowable. A new energy source could replace fossil fuels, governments could control emissions, or maybe a series of huge volcanoes will erupt. Therefore it is much more sensible to ask, what would climate be like if you doubled CO2? or if this or that scenario occured. There are much better defined questions. Hansen’s quote is often taken to imply that models are so unreliable they are useless in helping assess the issue. In fact it is the opposite - Hansen is actually claiming that the uncertainty in models (for instance, in the climate sensitivity) is now less than the uncertainty in the emissions scenarios (i.e. it is the uncertainty in the forcings, that drives the uncertainty in the projections).
Continuing to p315, it is claimed that “in the 1970’s all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming” (and, as described on p563, the MIT academic apparently still thinks so). However, this is not an accurate statement and William Connolley’s pages on the subject are an illuminating read for those wanting more details.
Another issue that often comes up in discussion about the surface temperature record is the impact of the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHIE), and here it appears on p370. It is undisputed that the centres of cities such as New York are significantly warmer than the surrounding countryside. This issue has been extensively studied and is corrected for in all analyses of the global temperature trends. To see whether there might still be a residual effect in the corrected data, a recent paper (Parker, Nature, 2004) looked at the differences in the trends if you looked separately at windy and not-so-windy conditions. Wind is known to diminish the impact of urban heating, and so the trends on windy days should be less than trends on still days if this was important. The trends actually end up almost exactly the same. Other validating data for the corrected surface temperature record comes from the oceans, which have also been warming in recent decades. Even Richard Lindzen , normally an arch-skeptic on these issues, stated that “ocean temperature increases present some support for the surface temperature record” Lindzen (2002). Another demonstration that the corrections are sufficient is that over the continental US, where many cities have a clear urban heating signal, the mean of the corrected data is actually rather flat (p88) - i.e. none of the strong urban biases in the US has made it into the regional or indeed global mean.
A central issue in the book concerns sea-level rise. Vanuatu is singled out for special attention since the islanders there are understandably concerned about their low-lying islands eventually being swamped. Sea level however is a surprisingly difficult thing to measure. Tide gauges are very noisy, and are usually located on the continental coast. Global trends in sea level from these gauges are between 1.7 to 2.4 mm/yr. Sea level though is not rising everywhere. In Scandinavia the continents are still rebounding from the ice age and local sea level is receding. Satellite data (TOPEX/POSIEDEN and JASON) can give a global picture, and indicate that although the global mean rise over recent years (2.8 mm/yr) is significantly larger than the longer term trend estimated from tide gauges, sea level change is actually very dynamic. There are many patterns of behaviour particularly in the Pacific, associated with El Nino variability - possibly related to Vanuatu’s lack of actual sea level rise over the last 40 years. Curiously, Crichton cites the higher satellite derived number to claim that the rate of sea level rise has not increased recently ("[Sea level is] rising faster, Satellites prove it","Actually they don’t"), p424. There are clearly some problems in comparing tide gauge and satellite data, and of course, satellites can have their problems (cf. MSU data), but the quoted numbers don’t support the actual statement at all - though it would be fairer to say that the satellites are consistent with a recent rise in the rate, rather than a proof that it is occuring.
There are only a few out-and-out errors, but to be generous, they probably just slipped through the editing process. For instance, on p187 “higher temperature means more water vapor in the air and therefore fewer clouds” - Presumably, he meant that if the temperature is higher, the relatively humidity could be lower (and so there might be less clouds). On p368. “Croplands are warmer than forested lands". This is probably a confusion with the urban heating issue, but the actual impact is the opposite - croplands have a higher albedo than forests, reflect more solar radiation, and are thus cooler. In fact, while this is not yet fully quantified, it appears to have been a significant cooling term in the global budget over the last 150 years. On p461 “…Greenland shows that, in the last hundred thousand years, there have been four abrupt climate change events” More like 40. And that is probably an undercount given that Greenland may not record events in the tropics.
At the end of the book, Crichton gives us an author’s message. In it, he re-iterates the main points of his thesis, that there are some who go too far to drum up support (and I have some sympathy with this), and that because we don’t know everything, we actually know nothing (here, I beg to differ). He also gives us his estimate, ~0.8 C for the global warming that will occur over the next century and claims that, since models differ by 400% in their estimates, his guess is as good as theirs. This is not true. The current batch of models have a mean climate sensitivity of about 3 C to doubled CO2 (and range between 2.5 and 4.0 degrees) (Paris meeting of IPCC, July 2004) , i.e an uncertainty of about 30%. As discussed above, the biggest uncertainties about the future are the economics, technology and rate of development going forward. The main cause of the spread in the widely quoted 1.5 to 5.8 C range of temperature projections for 2100 in IPCC is actually the different scenarios used. For lack of better information, if we (incorrectly) assume all the scenarios are equally probable, the error around the mean of 3.6 degrees is about 60%, not 400%. Crichton also suggests that most of his 0.8 C warming will be due to land use changes. That is actually extremely unlikely since land use change globally is a cooling effect (as discussed above). Physically-based simulations are actually better than just guessing.
Finally, in an appendix, Crichton uses a rather curious train of logic to compare global warming to the 19th Century eugenics movement. He argues, that since eugenics was studied in prestigious universities and supported by charitable foundations, and now, so is global warming, they must somehow be related. Presumably, the author doesn’t actually believe that foundation-supported academic research ipso facto is evil and mis-guided, but that is an impression that is left.
In summary, I am a little disappointed, not least because while researching this book, Crichton actually visited our lab and discussed some of these issues with me and a few of my colleagues. I guess we didn’t do a very good job. Judging from his reading list, the rather dry prose of the IPCC reports did not match up to the some of the racier contrarian texts. Had RealClimate been up and running a few years back, maybe it would’ve all worked out differently…
This commentary is reprinted with Gavin Schmid's permission from a blog entry on RealClimate.org. RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
apparently, i came across more peeved than i intended to in the letter. anne suggested that i rephrase a few things so that i wasn't pointing out that some of the reviewers' suggestions had been in the manuscript all along. tom, however, didn't seem concerned about my phrasing when he responded with comments on the manuscript and the letter, which i'd emailed to him after i made the first set of revisions. anyway, the changes were made. the letter is now nice and ass-kissingly polite. all of our figures have been labeled according their numbers in the paper (that was quite an experience - looking through all the figures from 3 years worth of experiments, trying to figure out which ones we'd used for the paper, because, no we did not do the smart thing and relabel the figures we used). two electronic copies of the manuscript and the individual picture files have been burned onto a cd, and the whole shebang (including hard copies of the letter and the manuscript + figures) has been mailed to our local MEPS editor. allow me to reiterate - i am quite happy. i can't wait to find out what issue the paper will appear in...or to see it on the list of pending publications on the MEPS website. *squeal*
i have finished state of fear, and as promised, i will rant about it. however, i'm in a good mood, with the finished paper and all, so i'll save the ranting for tomorrow. i also met with o'brien today (thankfully, that was before the marathon meeting with anne), and we're going to DISL in the morning (he drew me a map to his house so we don't have to take 2 cars. that was thoughtful), so the posting will occur sometime tomorrow afternoon. and now, i am off to start the da vinci code, which i am sure i will not be ranting about.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
i've been working all morning (i know, a rare occurrence these days), mostly communicating with committee members via email. i met with my reu student this morning (notice how i've claimed her as my own), and we talked about her role in my summer research. translation: we talked about how we're going to make her helping with my work look like her project. so, she will be designing the first field experiment with the urchins. i think i remeber saying once that i'd seen enough urchins at that point to last me a lifetime. well, i'm going to be seeing many, many more urchins in the near future. anyway, i've never done a field experiment before, so this should be an exciting new experience. but that also means that i have no freakin' clue as to what i'm doing when trying to design the things. well, i know how to effectively design an experiment. i'm just not accustomed to all the factors one has to deal with in the field. i'm used to lab experiments where i am god...i control everything in the lab (oh, those parrotfish and urchins are gonna have a blast with me later on). but not the field. so, dr. v's help is much needed there. it's ok, though. gretchen (my reu) and i are meeting with him tuesday.
anyway, i put together my "shopping list" for dr. v. so he can beg the dept chair for money (the problem with preliminary research is that you don't have a grant yet, which means you have no funding and are reduced to begging for money). when i emailed him the list, along with some more plans, and things i don't want to worry about over the summer, he addressed everything i'd talked about in the email, and at the end, he wrote, "so far nothing scary so you go girl!" then he said he would run down zimmerman (a guy whose ideas i'm hijacking, so i need his protocols). that sounds a bit intimidating. run down zimmerman.
anyway, things are definitely on track for me and my summer plans, so i'm a little giddy. i'm such a nerd. that is a frequent statement on this blog, but i really am. you have no idea how excited actual research makes me. i can't wait until we take our first trip over to port st. joe, which should be in the next couple of weeks. i'll take pictures for you. i just have to work around o'brien and my TA duties for his marine bio class. i get to take a tank of liquid nitrogen with me to st. joe. i've never traveled with liquid nitrogen. but i did pour some down a sink once, and it fogged up the whole lab. the lesson - let excess liquid nitrogen evaporate in its own sweet time. do not pour liquid nitrogen down a sink. i'm probably lucky i didn't suffocate.
speaking of o'brien, i'm meeting with him tomorrow to talk about those TA duties i told you about. he wants to get a boat and take the class over to sand island for the beach lab. i like sand island. i like the idea. the problem: i can't pull a trailer or drive a boat, so we'll have to recruit someone who can to cart us around between islands.
oh, and an update on my paper progress, for those who are interested: i'm meeting with anne tomorrow to make final final revisions (we've had input from tom, so all's well in seagrass paper land) and prepare to send it back to MEPS so they can publish it.
how am i dealing with all the excitement and giddiness in my life right now?
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
as a general rule, i'm a big fan of michael crichton. i'm impressed that he has a phd in biology and still manages to write in such a completely engaging fashion. i think it's his educational status that gives his books such realism. i adored his last book, prey, and timeline was much better as a book than a movie (although, i really liked the movie, too). so, when i picked up state of fear in barnes and noble one day shortly after its release (and yes, i'm just now reading it - i tend to collect books when i don't have the time to read them, so they just sit on my shelves for a while) i expected to be just as impressed by this latest novel as i have been with his others. i knew when i purchased the book that the premise involved global warming being a figment of our collective imagination, perpetuated by politicians with an agenda. fine. it's fiction...with a solid scientific base. but when i read the author's note, etc. and realized that much of the story reflects the author's point of view, i became inexplicably irate. i strongly disagree with most of what our beloved mr. crichton had to say about modern science and environmentalism. i don't think this would have enraged me so if i didn't know that this particular author holds a very high degree in a scientific field.
so, why am i reading this book when i am convinced that it will just make me mad? well, being pissed off at the author isn't going to keep me from enjoying the story, which i fully expect to be just as cleverly presented as works such as jurassic park. and who knows? maybe after i read the book, i won't be as mad as i am now. maybe i will have accepted mr. crichton's position (although i don't expect to ever agree with him). or maybe i'll be even more pissed. so, be prepared for a second post about state of fear, one that will inform you of exactly what i'm so angry about and why.
an aside: the book i just finished (dan brown's angels & demons, which i've been quoting on my website lately) was fantabulous. it deals heavily with the concepts of science and religion, so if talk of either of these subjects offends or frightens you, don't read it. but whether you think that science and religion don't mix, whether you think that science and religion can work together, whether you believe in God or you don't, whether you're an advocate of organized religion or not, angels & demons is a great book, and dan brown brings these subjects together masterfully. i highly recommend it. i guess you'd call it the prequel to the da vinci code, although angels & demons was written first. i haven't read the da vinci code yet (it's on my bookshelf, patiently waiting to be opened), but i've heard good things, and if it's anything like angels & demons (it's based on the same main character) i'm sure i'll love it.
the last i heard, damien and amber were naming the baby dylan nathaniel (sounds kind of like damien nathaniel...but i guess they didn't want a damien, jr.). but they did call mom before the birth certificate was signed, so they may have changed their minds. anyway, everything is as it should be - a healthy baby boy, ten fingers, ten toes, 8 lbs 2 oz, 21" long...as soon as i get a picture, i'll post it.
aunt latina...i wonder if he'd be willing to call me aunt dr. latina ;) by the time he's talking very well i should have my phd...just give me a few years.
Monday, May 23, 2005
went to flomaton saturday...ate pizza and watched movies with mom and sammi. saw the renovations on the in-laws' house. it looks really good, even though they went with basically the same color scheme they had before. i think i would've changed it up a bit. they bought new furniture anyway, so it wasn't like it would have been a big deal. oh well. i dig the new kitchen tile, though.
sunday, back in mobile...laundry day. i decided to go with chicken tenders and fries for dinner. no big deal, right? simple, right? yeah, unless you're me. now, i have uneventfully cooked chiken tenders and fries many, many times before. but, this is the girl who once set fire to her grandmother's kitchen while making a grilled cheese sandwich, so with me, anything can happen. before i describe the events of last night's dinner preparation, let me give you some background on my experience with fire. i'm really a pro at dealing with kitchen fires by now. it all started with a 3rd grade science project - demonstrating that fires need oxygen to burn. how did i accomplish this? i lit a papertowel on fire and dropped in a jar with a lid, then put the lid on the jar and watched the fire burn itself out...at least, that's how it was supposed to work. instead, while practicing this feat in my kitchen (with parental supervision, of course), i dropped the flaming paper towel on the kitchen floor...my mom stomped on it and killed the fire. next try, i drop the flaming paper towel in the sink and catch a dish towel on fire. this, we drench with water. crisis averted. third time's the charm - i get it right. fast forward a couple of years. 5th grade - making s'mores in the microwave. i catch the styrofoam plate on fire after less than 30 seconds. let that be a lesson, kids. styrofoam + microwave = bad idea. unfortunately, i did not learn my lesson. i have set many a microwave oven on fire heating various items on styrofoam plates. then there was the grilled cheese incident. to this day, i don't know why that skillet caught fire. i was innocently preparing a grilled cheese sandwich in a skillet on my grandmother's stove when the pan caught fire...so i tossed it in the sink and ran some water on it (after first salvaging the perfectly good grilled cheese sandwich). shortly after my sister was born, i was making some mac and cheese (this was in the house we lived in with the gas stove - bad news for fire-prone kids like me), and when i picked up the pot to drain the noodles, i was using a couple of dish towels to hold the handles (it was quite hot, and i stupidly didn't turn off the gas before moving the pot), and one got too close to the flame - and caught on fire. another incident in which i killed a flaming dish towl in a sink. then, when i was about 14, i was making hamburger helper or something for dinner, and i spilled some on the burner...and on the stove...and of course it burst into flames. it had to, it was me doing the cooking. my mom saw the flames from the living room (they were pretty awesomely reflected in the refrigerator door), came running in and threw some flour on it. we had a huge mess, but i didn't burn down the house. then, i caught some microwave popcorn on fire somewhere around 10th or 11th grade...i set fire to lots of microwaves. and i've had a pretty good track record since then. until yesterday, that is. after frying up some french french fries, i decided that there weren't very many left in the bag, so i'd just go ahead and cook those, too. the oil was set on med-hi like always. the pot was less than half full of oil. the first batch had cooked uneventfully. but as soon as dropped the last handful into the oil, it went nuts. the oil started bubbling rapidly up to the top of the pot, and i knew that it was going to spill over...so i moved the pot before it could spill onto the hot burner. but i was a tad too late. as i picked up the pot, a little spilled over onto the burner and, of course, burst into flames. i set the pot in the sink (having spilled grease all over the floor, since it continued spilling out, even after i removed it from the heat source), and the little bit that had spilled on the burner burned itself out before i had to take any anti-incendiary action. so, my kitchen floor was greasy, and those fries finished cooking in the sink. but i'd turned off the burner, and the grease on the stove was minimal. i was careful to hold the bubbling grease pot away from myself as i moved it the 4 feet to the sink, so nothing got burned, except the burner. and that was that. i cleaned up the grease...chad had come into the kitchen when i went, "ahh" when the pot first started to bubble over, and he helped me clean up the oily mess. then the oven timer buzzed, i removed the spicy chicken tenders, and we ate...we watched desperate housewives and grey's anatomy (at which i laughed my ass off), and had an uneventful remainder of the evening.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
the trip to dauphin island was not wasted, however. i took care of the payroll paperwork i needed to fill out for my TA. i also decided it was time i got a sea lab id (i know, i know. i should have done that a year ago). then i stopped in the library to copy a couple of articles that weren't at USA's library. i also had a nice chat with dr. v. about our research this summer, as well as his marine ecology class, which it turns out that i will also be the TA for (charlie and i have been discussing who would be his TA this summer. we'd figured it would be derrick. we were wrong, apparently). dr. v. advised me to go through the lab manual from last year so we can make any necessary changes and to pick a few labs that i would like to teach (translation: pick some labs that i have to do the pre-lab lectures for). i'm looking forward to some teaching. i also gave him a good idea to remedy the lack of pre-lab reading done by the students. it was what i did when i taught freshman labs senior year...but we had lab quizzes every week, anyway, and i just had to add questions from the current lab's reading. anyway, this summer, the marine ecology students will have a mini-quiz before we go out for each lab exercise to ensure that they read the labs beforehand. it will count as 5% of their overall grade. my idea, so i will now also have the responsibility of thinking up 3 questions for each lab. oh well. i need a little more responsibility in my life.
after my rather productive chat with dr. v., i decided to head for the beach for a while before dropping off the fellowship form at the gradute school's office at USA. obviously, i spent a little too much time wandering around the beach...which i didn't realize until i had been in the car for a while and noticed that the backs of my legs were burning and sticking to the car seats (and no, i do not have leather seats. they're just plain cloth, nothing that legs woud normally stick to...and the AC was cranked up, so it wasn't hot in there after a few minutes). anyway, after i got home, i stripped down to my swim suit and took a look in the mirror...and saw a latina-shaped lobster staring back at me (but my face wasn't at all lobstery - i wore a visor). this is weird. my legs don't usually burn, but there is no question that they are well on the way to roasted. so now i have to sit funny. i'm trying to just sit on my butt and not touch my legs to anything, which makes my butt bone hurt after a while, no matter what i'm sitting on. on the upside, my back isn't too bad, so i can at least lean back. anyway, i guess i should get used to this. the time of year that i like to call sunburn season has arrived, and i have greeted it appropriately - with a sunburn.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
ooh, speaking of ken, i'm meeting with him tomorrow morning at the sea lab, so i need to get cracking and plan exactly what i'm going to say to him. i also need to write down my summer research plan for thursday's committee meeting. i'm glad that the ball that is my graduate research is finally rolling somewhere.
Monday, May 16, 2005
vanessa crashed at our place friday night, and deva came over to join us for fondue and drinks. she provided the cinematic entertainment for the evening (meet the fockers - very funny). well, before we could have fondue and drinks, a shopping trip had to happen (because this is a grocery week for me and chad...we have next to nothing in our kitchen), so we went out to super target (they have nice produce) to buy chocolate and various other ingredients and dippers for our dessert fondue. then, it was off to deva's apartment to pick up a shaker for our sour apple martinis followed by a trip to the liquor store for some malibu and happy vodka (we just liked the bottle. i'm keeping it 'cause it's cute).
the movie was funny, the fondue was yummy (even if we did lose some strawberries and shortcake in the chocolate), as were our girlie drinks. then, it was bedtime, as we were making an early start for new orleans on saturday.
saturday morning it was up at 6 am and out the door at 7, on the way to the big easy. we arrived at the audubon zoo shortly after it opened, and we were all pleased with scenery, along with the many animals. the renovations worked out well for the zoo...it's very pretty. here is an example of the nice landscape between exhibits.
of course, we were also entertained by some very amusing animals, although most were being kind of lazy. here were some of the more awe-inspiring animal displays.
some really fat bunnies, hiding in the trees.
the most ginormous tortoises i have ever seen in my life. notice their size in comparison with the surrouding trees (which are pretty big, too).
a neurotic bear cub. he appeared to be having a bit of a panic attack, rapidly pacing back and forth along this log.
a nice group of rhinos...i also liked the hippo, but it was submerged - not conducive to taking its picture.
a couple of wildebeasts butting heads. they are much larger in life than they appear on the discovery channel when they're being taken down by lions and crocs.
these things tend to freak me out, so i try not to get too close, but i had to post this. it's the weirdest looking croc i've ever seen. i have to wonder if its mouth is supposed to be crossed over like that, or if something is wrong with it so that it can't close its mouth properly.
after about 4 hours in the zoo, we took the free zoo shuttle to the street car stop on st. charles where we hopped on the street car and headed for the french quarter. it was my first time on the street car, and it was nice...much easier than navigating downtown new orleans by car. we exited the street car near bourbon street, which we of course took a walk down. after much walking, we ended up at jimmy buffet's margaritaville cafe, where we wolfed down some much-needed cheeseburgers in paradise. and then...some more walking. along the riverwalk, by the house of blues, into the bubba gump shrimp co. gift shop, through jackson square. we had some good photo ops around town. here are a couple of my favorites.
i got this one right after we stepped off the street car. i turned around and saw that we were surrounded by tall buildings. it looked pretty cool.
this is probably my favorite shot from the whole trip. we were standing at the bottom of this huge church, looking up at it.
i had to get a shot of a street car, even though we took a green one, not one of these red ones that runs downtown.
i like this one, too. it's funny, with the horse and buggy traveling in the street with the cars. it makes me want to take a carriage ride through new orleans. maybe next time.
after touring downtown, looking like the tourists that we were, we hopped the street car back to the audubon park, which we took a walk through on the way back to the car...then, home again.
yesterday was chad's and my first anniversary. we took it easy after our busy day on saturday. we decided not to do big gifts (i pretty much go ahead buy anything i really want, anyway), just cards and dinner. we went to zea's. it's pretty nice. i like the decor, even though it's mostly in black...the light fixtures, the seats, menus, napkins (cloth ones), half the walls (the top half is a marbled beige). the food was quite tasty, and you get a lot for the money. i ordered the garlic and herb glazed chicken with roasted potatoes and sugar snap beans. yummy. chad had barbequed chicken. also yummy. they give you half a chicken (rotisserie style). there's no way i could finish all that, so i also have lunch for today. yeah, we decided not to go for the pricey prime rib (it was more than twice the price of half a chicken). chad pointed out that the first zea was opened in new orleans (it was in a blurb on the menu), so we had a very louisiana-style weedend. another nice thing about zea...they have drink specials every day. yesterday was bloody mary's (yuck) and screwdrivers...but we just had sweet tea. then, after dinner, it was back home for some year-old (still slightly frozen, since i waited kind of late to thaw it out) wedding cake.
like i said, quite an eventful weekend.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
but anyway, that's not the point. i'm back to my usual bad self (and i don't mean that like, "go on wit yo bad self." i just mean that i'm doing things i shouldn't, not that i'm totally rad or some other long dead phrase popular in the early 90's). yes, i will eventually get to the point. which is this - rather than reading science-related articles that i must read before next week, i have been doing some recreational reading. yesterday, i pretty much read all of charlaine harris's club dead, which i found pretty funny, though i'm not sure it was supposed to be humorous...definitely the best book in the dead series so far. i even stole some quotes from it - "real men always have duct tape in their trucks." "true adults don't have sex just because the other person is skilled and pretty." even out of context, i find these funny and thought-provoking.
this morning i started reading the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy while i walked on the treadmill (i do not have the coordination required to read on an elliptical, though it is a better workout than a treadmill). of course, my renewed interest in this book was sparked by all the recent promotion of the new movie. i never watched the tv series or the older movie (pretty sure there was an older movie) or read the book until now. but i did have the game when i was a kid. i played it on an old commodore 64...those were the days, man. anyway, the intro at the beginning of the book (actually, the one i have is a collection of every hitchhiker book douglas adams has ever written, which makes mine a 5-in-1) says the old game isn't anything like the books, the radio show, or the tv show. but so far, i'm finding the game and the book fairly similar. the book seemed quite familiar right from the beginning. i remembered arthur dent's headache in the beginning (the game was one of those where you type in what you want your character to do and it prints out the results. for instance, i was told my character's head hurt, so i typed in "look in medicine cabinet." the computer then printed out the contents, which included "buffered analgesic." i remember this because my childhood self had no idea what "buffered analgesic" meant. i asked my mom and was informed that this was pain medication - basically tylenol.) i also remembered the bulldozer thing, only when i was playing the game it never occurred to me to lay down in front of the stupid thing. i just let the stupid guy demolish my house and didn't know what do about it. anyway, reading the first few chapters of the book brought back memories. also, the book is pretty funny itself.
i have a tendency to enjoy things that are sort of off the wall, so i like the funny sci-fi thing. i guess maybe i have a weird sense of humor. my favorite part of the movie final destination (apart from the evil dripping toilet water, which kind of creeped me out and made me wary of water on the bathroom floor) was when the blonde chick yells, "drop dead!" and steps off the curb, to be immediately creamed by a fast-moving bus. the first time i saw this, i sat shocked for a second, and then started laughing. i think my mom thinks i'm crazy, but i thought that was really funny. then, when i watched mean girls, and regina george got hit by the bus, i laughed my ass off. maybe i am crazy. i have no idea why i find unexpected bus accidents so freakin' hilarious. maybe i just like to see pedestrians get squished. chad has this war game, and i'm always telling him to run over some pedestrians with a tank instead of shooting them. i intended to minor in psychology in college (but i discovered that i only had to take one extra class to minor in chemistry and took the easier route), so i took 4 psych classes (including abnormal psych), but i have no idea what my weird sense of humor says about me. i would be interested to find out what a psychologist would have to say about my fascination with people getting smashed by buses.
ok, enough. i'm going to read at least a couple of those papers today. now.
Monday, May 09, 2005
is this what life is going to be like for the next three weeks? i think i'm going to go crazy. really, i should be used to all this down time by now. but i'm not. at this time last year, i was crazy for a different reason. i was super-busy, completely overloaded. at the end of last year's spring semester, i was making final wedding plans, preparing for four fairly intense final exams, finalizing my senior thesis, preparing final grades for the two labs i taught, hyping myself up for graduation, and still working in the lab. practically every minute was scheduled. and now? i have more free time than i know what to do with. so, i have reached the conclusion that i have no choice but to fill my time void by re-reading dr. v.'s comments on my proposal, reading the papers he referred to, and writing down my ideas. otherwise, i'll make myself nuts. there's only so much tv i can watch, so many books i can read, so many household chores i can do, so much time i can spend in the gym before i become certifiably insane. so, it's time to get off my ass (my physical ass as well as my metaphorical ass this time) and actually get things done instead of just writing about it.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
i also sent out emails to potential committee members outlining my new idea. well, it's really dr. v.'s new idea. but he gave it to me, and i'll be doing most of the work, so i'm claiming it. now, i have to go fill out whatever paperwork is involved in assigning people to my committee. i don't want too many profs on it. that would make comps even more hellish than they inevitably must be. the fewer committee members i have, the fewer questions i have to come up with answers to come comp time (or to really capture the mood of comps, a few days of the deepest circle of hell). but i've got time before i really need to focus on the "joy" of comprehensive exams (that was sarcasm, in case you didn't pick up on that). next week, while dr. v. is out of town w/ his kid (whom he got custody of in his recently finalized divorce), i am supposed to be developing a research plan for the summer, making some predictions about what i should see (if x happens, then i should see y). he gave me some paper citations that i need look up and get to reading. the sooner i do that, the sooner i can get out in the field. *yay* and yes, i am fully aware of the degree of my nerdiness.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
anyway, i guess it's nice to know that chad and i are astrologically compatible. he's a libra; i'm a leo. and let me tell you, judging solely on the attribubtes of my sign, i'm kinda bitchy and overbearing. i also have a huge ego, am controlling, have "unbounded energy," am outlandish, direct, and flamboyant, and i am ruled by the sun and enjoy spreading warmth and invigorating life. oh, and i'm apparently a good leader, despite the overbearing dictator, no-compromise thing. am i really this bitchy and overbearing? i don't know, i definitely have some of these qualities. but on the upside, according to astrology, i'm also loyal, generous, confident, and a good entertainer. ok, so maybe i am somewhat like my sign...i do have a healthy ego and lots of energy. and i do get antsy when i feel i'm not in control. and the sun...i love then sun. i would be one of those people who get really depressed if i lived somewhere where the sun doesn't shine for months. i don't even like it when it rains two days in a row. and warmth...i hate the cold. hmm...how many other people actually pay attention to their horoscopes? i usually read them for a laugh, but their predictions almost never come true. and statistically, even crackpot astrologers have to be right some of the time.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Monday, May 02, 2005
ok, done venting. returning to exam.
i know it's not often that i go all weekend without posting something, but i was busy, folks. forgive me. surprise, surprise, people. i was a good girl over the weekend and actually got some studying done. no moral dilemma for me during this closed-book-take-home exam. no agonizing over whether i'm going to cheat and how bad i'll feel if i do. i didn't cheat last time, and by god, i'm not cheating now. especially after wasting a good chunk of my weekend actually studying for this blasted exam. three hours or so on saturday morning, a few more hours yesterday, a half hour behind me already this morning, a few more hours ahead of me before i check my email to retrieve the exam. a final glance through all 6 chapters before the notebook gets stashed on a shelf while i answer the questions and email them to dr. park. now, i just need to actually study the last couple of chapters...yuck. i hate heavy-duty studying. if we had a test after each chapter, life would be easier. it would force me to study throughout the semester instead of waiting to study until three days before a major exam. and there would be less to study.
so, i said i studied over the weekend, but obviously i didn't spend the whole thing with my nose in my notes. deva and i went to see a lot like love - the plot is a lot like boys and girls, but it's a pretty good movie. not as funny as fever pitch but worth watching. we also spent some cash at the mall. i hardly ever go to the mall anymore. it was kind of nice. zach visited this weekend. he and chad were going to go to a bay bears (baseball) game, but it got rained out, so they ended up hanging out with deva and me...they came and met up with us at the mall, then we headed for hooters for some grub. but we ended up eating at applebee's. then zach decided he needed to head for his parents' house - it was his dad's bday. i grilled him a little on his new girl prospect. the last one was a DA's assistant that he met in court. zach wasn't on trial or anything. he's a state trooper. anyway, chad tells me his new girl prospect isn't really girlfriend material. she's some chick that zach pulled over for something, and she called him sometime after that (how she got his digits, i do not know). guess she was turned on by the uniform - even with the silly mounty hat. i haven't seen zach in uniform. but i don't think i'd be very intimidated if he pulled me over, anyway. when you've seen a guy in a dress, it's pretty tough to get nervous around him. he makes a very pretty girl, btw.
all righty. time for serious studying. gotta knock out a couple more chapters so i can kick this exam's ass.