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

Friday, June 30, 2006

Who Doesn't Love a 104 Degree Day?

so, i went out this afternoon around 1:30, and when i passed by a bank with one of those flashing time and temperature things, it informed me that it was a blistering 104 degrees. well, that blew the 96 degree forecast right out of the water, now didn't it?

wow. is it ever hot. and will it ever rain again? i seriously cannot remember a drought like this. ever. or a "week ahead" forecast with no rain in it. we are nearly a foot and a half behind our average rainfall for the year. it rained, like, a week ago. but where are the afternoon thunderstorms that we're all so used to around here? i'd much rather see afternoon downpours every day (or nearly every day) than have some tropical something come and dump two feet of rain on us in a day and catch our rainfall totals right back up to the local average for this time of year. i hope i didn't just jinx myself there, what with mentioning tropical weather and all. stay clear, tropics! stay clear! ...for at least another three weeks.

so, as of right now, the closing date on our house is all set for july 14. the inspection looked really good (did i tell you guys that already?), and our insurance agent has been out and is ready to write us a policy as soon as he gets the appraisal report. the appraiser went over to the house yesterday morning, but i don't know what he found yet. katy has advised me not to freak out about that, because the appraiser pretty much works for the mortgage company and will likely appraise the house for about $100 more than we offered. at least, that's the way it worked when she bought her house.

hopefully, we're done with paperwork until closing. or, we will be as soon as chad signs the seller's disclosure and we fax it back to our realtor. but anyway, we can't wait to officially own the house and move in and stuff. i've been watching tons of HGTV lately and making plans in my head for what i want to do inside (even though it looks really great as it is). the first thing i'll do is get a slipcover for the multi-colored couch so that it matches the other one a little better. and i want to put a chair rail in the living room so i can paint the walls two different colors. but that might have to wait until after maine and spain. but if i have some free time in early august, maybe not. we shall see.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mission Accomplished?

so, chad and i fell in love with another house yesterday. it was not one of the houses on our list (you know, the ones we wanted to look at), but our realtor thought we would like it. and we did. the inside looks fantastic. it's practically within spitting distance of the university (but not in hillsdale, 'cause that's the ghetto and there are plans in the works to bulldoze the whole thing). the house is actually really close to the apartment we lived in before we moved to the one we live in now. i told chad yesterday that we just keep moving around in the same part of town. and we do.

anyway, we made an offer on the house yesterday, and it has officially been accepted. so we're well on our way to becoming homeowners. the house has been almost completely remodeled, so you absolutely cannot tell that it was first built in 1969. it got a new roof last year (it's metal, but at least the dark green color matches the fake shutters), and a new water heater. we talked to the seller yesterday while we were checking out the house, and he has done a ton of work on the inside - new kitchen cabinets (old cabinets transferred to laundry room), new insulation in the attic, new carpet, new marble surrounds and tile in the bathrooms (new tile throughout the whole house, really), fresh paint in the whole house, new sheetrock in the laundry room, and they're having a tree stump removed from the back yard before closing. see, a tree fell on the laundry room during katrina, so they sort of had to get a new roof and redo the sheetrock in there. on the plus side of that, all the trees that were going to fall during a hurricane have already fallen, and their stumps have been removed from the back yard. the current owner told us that the house used to be a 4 bedroom house, but he knocked out the wall between two of the bedrooms to make the master bedroom huge. he also put his and hers closets in there. like i said, the inside looks fantastic. this is what the outside looks like.

the inspector is going to inspect the place tomorrow morning, so we will definitely know exactly what we're getting into before we close. the latest date that we'll be closing is july 14. we'll probably close before that. then we're giving the sellers a few days to move out. we should have about a week to move out of our apartment at the end of july. so no paying month to month rent for us. yay! let's just hope that everything goes smoothly from here on out.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

More House Hunting

*sniff* someone else bought my dream house. bastards. oh well. chad and i offered them $104,000 for it, but there were two other offers on the table, and they aren't allowed to tell everyone how much the other offers are. our realtor called us yesterday morning to tell us that all three offers were really close and that we'd hear something after lunch. it was way after lunch (like, 4:30) before we heard that they went with another offer. by that time, chad and i were already flipping through this week's local real estate guide, checking out other possibilities. so, we're going to look at some more houses (7 of them) this morning at 11. we drove around last night checking out the outside of a bunch of houses we were considering. i'm glad we did, because it helped us eliminate a lot of places. actually, by the time we came home from that, we only had one possibility left out of the 11 listings we were originally interested in (it's a good thing our realtor sent us almost 20 more listings to mull over last night). two of the houses actually looked really nice, but the neighborhood looked kind of sketchy (as in, we did not see one single white person in the whole neighborhood, and we saw quite a few people driving around). i don't have anything against black people. i have at least a few black friends, but i really don't think that being a different race in a one-ethnic-group neighborhood is the best idea in the world (not to mention that it hurts the resale value).

the other places we eliminated were in really sketchy neighborhoods. as in, we're pretty sure there was a drug deal going on down the block at this one house we drove by. there were mixed races in that neighborhood, but it was still pretty ghetto. most of the houses weren't in very good condition. i kind of expected it with that house because it was super cheap (3BR/2BA for $68,000). another one wasn't really in the ghetto, but it practially shared a lot with two car dealerships on airport blvd, right near schillinger rd (for those who know the area).

then there was the house in irvington. i didn't know anything about irvington before we drove over there, other than it's in south mobile county, about a half hour from mobile. so we checked out a house over there that was reasonably priced (3BR/1.5BA $80,100 - pretty typical for that area). it was kind of a long drive. and then we hit the dirt roads. and chad said, "this is too country for me." those of you who know chad will realize that it would have to be a pretty hick, totally back-woods place for even chad to think it's too country. and it was. the nearly mile of red clay road was a little much for us. there is an alternative route that takes you on paved roads all the way (which we took out of there), but the house is still on a dirt road, and it is not close to anything, except a few other houses. it's not even really a neighborhood. it's more like a hit and miss collection of run down white trash trailers (i have nothing against a nice, well kept trailer, but these were anything but that), really shitty houses that are falling apart, and cute houses that are well taken care of. we were disappointed to note the blue tarps still plastered on the roof of that house, which was so not alluded to anywhere in the listing. so yeah, we want to stay far away from that house, for many reasons. yep. staying far, far away from the hurricane damaged houses. because, you know, the house is damaged (and i refuse to mess with a house with roof damage) and there's the small fact that getting house insurance in that area is going to be a bitch. so, from now on, we won't be considering any houses south of theodore.

my favorite house (from the outside) that we're going to look at today is off of azalea road (just south of cottage hill rd), in a cute neighborhood. the only problem with it is all the freakin trees, man (bad for the satellite dish and the whole hurricane issue). otherwise, it's a good price (we plan to offer $98,000 for it if the inside looks nice), the house has been completely remodeled (but we still need to see the inside), and most importantly, it is not in the ghetto (or the soon to be ghetto). but there are two other good possibilities. one is in a neighborhood right near hillcrest and cottage hill (where chad's ex-boss lives), and the other one is in theodore. the one in theodore is the biggest of the houses we've looked at so far (2100 square feet!). hopefully, we'll be able to get our realtor to talk to some of these sellers and find out their bottom lines. as in, what price do we need to offer to get them to sell us a house today? the waiting to hear something after you've made an offer is excruciating. i'm all about the instant gratification, man. i'm impatient, so this waiting crap sucks for me. plus, i don't want to waste my time making an offer that the seller has no intention of accepting.

wish me luck...again.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

House Hunting

yes, my friends. you read that correctly. i typed house hunting. chad and i are buying a house. *squeal* i'm so excited. the lease on our apartment is up july 31, and then our rent is going up $50 a month (if we renew our lease, which we aren't). so we decided to buy a house. it was sort of a spur of the moment decision, but i have found my dream house. it's beautiful, and it's in one of the best neighborhoods in mobile county (near the airport, not close to the ghetto, outside the city limits, and in the best school district in the county). it's bigger than we really need, but i love it. and i haven't even seen the inside yet. it just went on the market today, and they aren't supposed to start showing it until saturday. but chad and i have an appointment to see it tomorrow afternoon at 4. i'd say we picked a good real estate agent. here's the picture from the listing our realtor sent us.

the lot is a full acre, it has a wood burning fireplace, and the back yard is fenced in (convenient for chad and the bull mastiff he wants to get). it's three bedrooms, which is more than we need (one will become an office/library), but i'm ok with that. it also has two bathrooms. and it's in our price range. how nice for us. the bad thing is that eight other people are interested in it, so there are no guarantees (but we will have a kick ass resale value when we move in a few years). if one of them offers more than the asking price, we're screwed. as long as the inside looks nice, we plan to offer the seller what they're asking for it. then we'll have it inspected and all that stuff... if no one else snags it before we have a chance.

i looked at a few other houses with the realtor today, too. one of them i liked. it's just off of university blvd, pretty close to where we live now (and damn close to the wal-mart neighborhood market). that house was $15,000 less than the house i really want. it's also in a good neighborhood, and it also has three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths (full bathroom in the hall, half bath in the master bedroom). it's smaller than the other house, but it also has a fenced back yard and all that jazz. it's freshly painted inside and out (well, the trim is 'cause the outside is brick), and the roof looks good. so that's our back-up house. it would cost us a lot less money than the other one, and if we can't get the other one, i'd be happy with it.

we've also looked into having a house built. the only problem with that is that we would have to pay the $610 month to month rent for our apartment until at least november (maybe longer) instead of our renewal rate of $485. that would suck. we found one listing for a house under construction in a neighborhood off bellingrath road (also outside the city limits) for the same price as the house i really want. the realtor is supposed to find out when that one will be finished for me. that's our third house option.

i talked to the mortgage company chick a few minutes ago, and we've officially been approved for $115,000. the house i want is almost $20,000 less than that, but they're willing to add closing costs, insurance, taxes, and everything in. we might not do all that, but it's nice to know we could. the loan officer actually said we could have gotten a bigger loan (maybe even $150,000), but i don't feel comfortable spending that much. if we were going to do that, there's a house in west mobile that was $ 127,000 that was only a year old that we'd buy. we don't think we could afford those payments, though, so we'll stick with around $100,000.

you can be sure that i'll keep everyone posted on the house situation.

in other news, my latest trip to port st. joe went as smoothly as can be expected. all of my cages were present and accounted for, and they all had the right number of urchins in them. hooray for true controls! and i even got home while it was still daylight (around 8 pm). the people at one of the parks were bitchy, but eventually i got things straightened out. from now on when i deal with those people, i am going to ask to talk to someone of the male persuasion. all the chicks i've dealt with there have been bee-otches. but both guys i've dealt with have been super nice. it must be my girlish charms. so from now on, i only deal with men from the dep.

so, that's all for now folks. wish me luck with this whole house thing. let's hope i get the one i want.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Already Monday

so, what am i doing on this monday morning? i am sitting in my living room, telling myself to go work out instead of sitting here all morning reading or watching tv until it's time for me to head over to dauphin island and start getting all my stuff together and ready to go to port st. joe at the freakin butt crack of dawn tomorrow morning. i'm not doing the best job of motivating myself, though. and i haven't worked out since last wednesday, so i feel guilty about that. my excuse last week was that my arm hurt. actually, it still sort of hurts. and itches. why does my arm sort of hurt and itch, you ask? from that stupid tetanus shot that i told myself i must get or face certain death. yes. today begins day 6 of latina's tetanus shot adventure. i should not still be counting the days since the shot by now. all pain, swelling, and redness should be long gone by now. chad said that his stopped hurting after day 2. true, there has been vast improvement compared to days 3 and 4 (which were bitches in the small universe of latina's upper left arm), but i'm still pissed that there is any evidence of a tetanus shot left at all by now. i'm sure those around me want this stupid itchy red lump on my arm to be gone as much as i do, for all of my complaints. it sort of looks like a spider bite. you know, all hot and red and hard and swollen.

let's recount the days of this tetanus shot fiasco.

day 1 - got the shot, it stung. the stinging went away after a few hours. there was no visible evidence that a giant chrome horse needle was ever plunged deep into my wimpy arm muscle.

day 2 - woke up with the arm hurting like the devil, with a dime-sized red bump between two red spots that marked the places where the band-aid was stuck to my arm. as the day progressed, the bump grew in size and there was excruciating pain any time i used my left arm. but the bump was still only half-dollar coin size at the end of the day.

day 3 - my arm hurts even when i'm not moving it, and the huge red deformity is now approximately the equal in diameter to a baseball. even having a t-shirt on it is unbearable. but at least the bump stops growing.

day 4 - pretty much the same as day 3. slightly less pain when i move the arm.

day 5 - significant improvement (finally!). doesn't hurt much when i move my arm, but still hurts when i push on the bump or lay on the arm (which i do a lot when i'm sleeping). bump shrinks to quarter-sized, but is still very hard and hot and red and itchy.

day 6 (today) - feels just like yesterday. this thing should so be gone by now. but at least i can use my left arm regularly again.

are the effects of a tetanus shot usually this long-lasting, or am i just freakishly sensitive? my consolation - tetanus has to be worse than this. 'cause, you know, i don't think my life is any actual danger from the shot.

anyway, that's enough bitching from me today. tomorrow, it's off to psj to check on my experiment. i'm hoping all the cages are still intact and secure and that no urchins escaped. and now there's no fear of tetanus.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I Hate Permits and the People Who Issue Them

whew. two posts in one day. that's become a rarity for me. but i just cannot contain my pissed off-ness, and there is currently no one here for me to vent to. so i will vent to the internet instead.

now, the source of my pissed off-ness. i'm sure you remember last month when my life consisted of permit application after permit application. well, most of these permitting agencies promised a response within two to three weeks. a month later, i still had heard nothing from any of them. so i sent an email to the chick who first sent me the application info. and a couple of days later (read: today), i get two emails from two separate agencies saying that they've (allegedly) been trying to call me, but they got no answer and had no way to leave a message. here's the simple explanation for that: the entirety of dauphin island has been without power from 6 am to 6 pm for the past two days while the power folks do... something. i don't know. i just know that the sea lab wasn't supposed to have power yesterday or today.

anyway, i'm really pissed because when i called these people back, the chick i talked to acted like i'm the biggest moron on the face of the planet. the first guy i tried to call wasn't in the office, so i left a message explaining that the lab has been without power and that i would call him back tomorrow. so then i tried to call the other person who had contacted me, and got the girl who thinks i'm stupid. the first words she said to me went something like this: "yeah, i think that collecting seagrass is going to be a no go. see, seagrasses are in decline and our park is no exception, etc, etc." like i'm dumb and don't know that seagrasses are declining all over the freakin globe. i only study them for a living and have been doing so for the past 5 years. that's all. i'm trying to help the freakin seagrasses and the people who manage them by finding out as much as i possibly can about what factors (natural as well as anthropogenic) affect their productivity and how. doesn't that tell you that i have no intention of going in and digging up every friggin seagrass shoot i lay eyes on and killing vast areas of seagrass meadows? that wouldn't be very bright.

on my permit application, i had to list the species i'm collecting, what i'm doing with them and why, how many samples i need, etc. so, i said that i will need 1,500 shoots of Thalassia testudinum and 2,500 shoots of Halodule wrightii, to be collected over a two year period. i also said that i would be collecting these shoots by digging up small plugs of grass with a shovel. like the grass that makes up your lawn, seagrass shoots grow very close together (on the same rhizome, in fact). so, one plug dug up with a shovel will bring up anywhere between 15 and 100 shoots, depending on the species (Halodule is much smaller than Thalassia, so Hal will give me close to 100 shoots/plug, while Thal will give me 15-20 shoots/plug). anyone who has ever seen seagrass should know this. yet somehow, my application was interpreted to mean that i would be taking 1,500 plugs of Thalassia and 2,500 plugs of Halodule. yes, my friends. that would be insane and would probably go a long way toward to destroying the seagrass bed. but that is not what i'm doing. i'll actually be taking about 80 plugs of each species, spread out over a two year period (and spread out over a rather large area)... which i proceeded to explain to park service girl. so she said she will reconsider my application, but i have to re-submit the application, specifying the number of plugs of each species i will need instead of the number of individual shoots. what a pain in the ass.

oh yeah, and when i called the other chick who is applying for all these permits with me to tell her all of this, she informed me that the guy at the park we've been doing research at finally realized that we've been using an expired permit (where the hell is the freakin renewal, for crying out loud?). and i'm going back over there tuesday. which means that when i re-fax all this crap to park service girl tomorrow, i have to get her to fax me a permit by monday or i'm screwed. yay me. who wouldn't love applying for research permits?


wednesday is such a boring day of the week. smack in the middle, it is. but this wednesday has something a little bit more exciting in store for me than the average wednesday. today i'll get to hang out with vanessa and deva, which i haven't done in the longest time. see, vanessa recently moved into her very own apartment, and she is hosting a little dinner party for us (me, chad, and deva) tonight. isn't she sweet? i'm looking forward to it. we were going to watch a movie after dinner, but since carolina has a chance to win the stanley cup tonight, i'm going to change my vote to "let's watch the game." and Go Carolina! since my team was disappointingly eliminated in a pretty decisive fashion (they went down 4 games to 1) in the first round, carolina became the only team left that i felt i could root for. thus, the 'go carolina' attitude that i have adopted for the remainder of the playoffs. if only i were jamie and living in raleigh... but i'm sure that tickets would be impossible to get. but it would be sweet... the stanley cup finals live and in person. world cup? what world cup? well, chad and i actually did watch most of the second half of the england/paraguay game the other day. but only because nothing else was on.

so, what else am i up to this wednesday? well, i got a tetanus shot. it kind of stings. chad tells me it will hurt worse tomorrow (i made him get one when he cut himself pretty deep on a job site after hurricane ivan). i didn't seriously injure myself or anything. this a precautionary tetanus shot. plus, it's been 10 years since my last one, so i'm due. and i'm accident prone, and i cut myself a lot out in the field, and some of those cuts get gross and infected sometimes. and i don't want to die a slow and painful death from tetanus. thus the shot.

i also need to try to find a new way to measure the growth of my seagrasses in the field. the traditional method for doing this involves marking shoots by pricking it with a needle and then weighing all the new tissue below the pinprick after a certain amount of time. the problem is that i can't find the pin holes after i make them. so i have to find a new way to do this. which could be a problem. i intend to bring this up at our weekly lab meeting tomorrow, so maybe dr. v. will have some suggestions. i have to find a usable technique by tuesday (when i leave for psj again to sample from my experiment). wish me luck.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Just My Luck...

i knew it. i so saw this coming. *sigh* yes, my dear friends, it has happened again. the moment i get a field experiment set up in port st. joe, along comes a soon-to-be hurricane churning up the gulf of mexico and tossing around my cages. right now alberto is still a tropical storm, but it's pretty strong and will probably strengthen to a category 1 hurricane before making landfall. the surf is very rough all the way over here in alabama, so i'm sure that it's at least this rough over in port st. joe, just north of where alberto is currently hanging out. psj is not slated to take a direct hit from alberto, but the rough surf will be enough to loosen up my cages and allow some urchins to escape. at least i put them in an area without urchins this year, so i won't have the problem i had last year (urchins getting into the cages and ruining my controls). we shall see how bad it is next tuesday when i head back over there. *fingers crossed*

alberto is not the kind of storm that i would worry about unduly under normal circumstances. it's pretty weak as far as tropical systems go and probably won't be too much of a problem. the real problem i have with alberto is the fact that it's messing up my experiment. dammit. hopefully, this will be the only storm i have to worry about this season. once again, *fingers crossed*

Friday, June 09, 2006

R.I.P. Refractometer

note to self: refractometers are not submersible.

so, meg and i returned from port st. joe last night. i got home around midnight, and i am absolutely exhausted today. we left for PSJ bright and early wednesday morning, and when we arrived at the park (where i'm doing my research) a little before 2 in the afternoon, it was crawling with people. and it was low tide. that meant wading way the hell out in the water to where the sea urchins live instead of snorkeling there. which kind of sucked. because it was kind of a long way. anyway, we finally found some sea urchins, and we did our counts pretty quickly. then it was time to take core samples of the two seagrasses there to count the smaller grazers that live in them (like amphipods [teeny crustaceans that look sort of like way tiny shrimp] and limpets). that was the most time consumng part of wednesday's work, since we had to sieve all the cores and pick out all the tiny critters. well, the few tiny critters we could find. the bad part of this whole thing was that we managed to drown the refractometer (the thing we use to measure the salinity of the water). who knew they weren't submersible? well, now we do. the good part was that we had already taken our salinity measurements when the refractometer met its unfortunate demise.

i also got some new critters for my aquarium while we were there wednesday. i found a little sea hare (a snail without a shell - they look really pretty when they swim), a little snail with a cool striped shell, and this long skinny fish that may or may not be a baby eel. they are now living with me.

after our day of field work, meg and i were starving, so we stopped for dinner at the first place we saw after leaving the park. it's this cute little restaurant right outside st. joseph peninsula state park called coneheads. the building is bright blue on the outside, and the walls inside are pepto bismol pink. they have lots of ice cream varieties, and the food was quite tasty, too. apparently, this place's hours of operation are very sporadic, though. right after meg and i ordered, another group of people came in, and the guy who took our orders told them that they could order drinks but that they weren't taking any more orders for food. that was only at 8 pm, local time (which was 7 pm to me and meg). one of the guys in that group then asked the waiter guy when they were open. apparently, that guy had tried to eat at coneheads several times, but each time, the restaurant was closed.

anyway, after dinner, meg and i made the nearly 2 hour drive to panama city. the house we were staying in is located there. we seriously considered sleeping in the suburban in the park to avoid that drive. but we didn't. the reason that we didn't stay somewhere closer to the park is that the house was free. it belongs to ken's brother (ken is one of my committee members), and he's letting us grad students use it this summer when we have to go to port st. joe or panama city for research. so i have to drive for two hours instead of 30 minutes, just to save a little $. oh well.

anyway, thursday it was up before the sun for us. we woke up at 5 am and headed back to the park for another loooong day in the field. this time we were building cages for my experiment and then getting them all set up. which meant that once again we had to wade way the hell out in the water, this time hauling lots of stuff. it was a very, very long day. we arrived at the park around 7:30 am and didn't leave until nearly 4:30 that afternoon. but we got the experiment set up successfully. then we had to collect some plants to bring back with us for meg's lab experiment. she also needed pinfish, but unfortunately they all died on us. *sniff* so now my legs are a mass of scratches from the edges of the mesh we used on the cages. my arms, too. i even managed to scratch my left armpit when i was putting the leftover mesh back into the suburban. i also have a weird sunburn on my back where meg missed putting sunscreen right along the edge of my swimsuit. but we used lots of sunscreen, and that's the only place i'm burned. i'm getting a pretty righteous tan, though. my once pasty-white legs aren't so pasty white now.

after that long day in the field and showers in the campground, meg and i decided to stop by coneheads again, this time for ice cream. but it was closed. and it wasn't even 6 pm local time. so, yeah, they have very sporadic hours of operation. so we ended up just stopping and buying ice cream bars at a gas station. then we stopped for dinner at a sonic on I-10 on the way home. and a few hours later, we were back at the sea lab and unloading things, then finally i was home and able to sleep. yay.

then today i had to own up to killing the refractometer. al's going to see what he can do to resuscitate it. ok. nap time.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

If I Were a Desperate Housewife...

i would be susan. i decided this for myself long ago, and then i got bored and discovered that there is an actual quiz on so i took it. and i'm susan. here's what the results have to say about this:
you always mean well, but somehow things don't always work out as you'd planned. it doesn't matter. you take your tumbles with good grace and always come up smiling. but try to remember you're the grown-up in your family.
i can see that. i'm always doing goofy things without meaning to. sure, i'm not exactly like susan. i'm not divorced, and i don't have a kid... and i don't live on wisteria lane... and i've never had my arch-enemy burn down my house... and i've never burned down my arch-enemy's house. wait. i don't even have an arch-enemy.

but that's beside the point. the point is that i see myself as susan. i was just thinking this last night, for some reason. it started out as a thought that i always do things the hard way because i never see the easy way to do something the first time. and it seems like people are always rescuing me. not literally, of course. but like susan, i feel like someone is always having to help me with something, despite my best efforts to be independent. and it's not like i go around begging for assitance. it just seems that people see me fumbling with something and say to themselves, "wow, that chick needs help." do i give off a "damsel in distress" vibe or something? i don't know.

maybe i'm over-thinking this, and i just work and hang out with naturally helpful people with too much time on their hands. yep. that must be it.