Thursday, December 17, 2009

fur rubbing behaviour

A happy accident created by my bibliography program assigned a (non-capuchin-related) paper this title: "Resource influence on the form of fur rubbing behaviour in white-faced capuchins." In this paper, they "propose hypotheses on possible proximal causes for these differences." Sigh.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Anniversary of 1989 anti-feminist slaughter

A communique from x_ine posted by Dr. Isis:

December 6th - marks the 20th "anniversary" of what is termed the "Montreal Massacre" - the day where a madman showed up at École Polytechnique, an engineering school at Université de Montréal (University of Montreal) with a rifle and killed 14 women and injured countless others.

His goal was purely sexist in nature, as he declared he hated feminists and felt that women had no place in engineering. In fact, when he entered a classroom with his gun, he separated the men and women. He "let" the men go - and his rampage began.
additional reading:
Canadian Press article
CBC News article
Montreal Gazette article

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ode to \vref

I'm using LaTeX to write my thesis, and there is this great command: vref. I have a figure called Variability_transcript_abundance. When I'm talking about it in the text, I can create a reference to it. This:

...this approach is illustrated in Figure \ref{Variability_transcript_abundance}...

...this approach is illustrated in Figure 2.2...

sometimes i want to have a page number too. i use this

...this approach is illustrated in Figure \vref{Variability_transcript_abundance} on page \pageref{Variability_transcript_abundance}...

to get

...this approach is illustrated in Figure 2.2 on page 32...

The genius of vref is this: the same code gets you different types of references, depending on the distance between where your text is and where your figure is. so

...this approach is illustrated in Figure \vref{Variability_transcript_abundance}...

gets you whichever of these:

...this approach is illustrated in Figure 2.2 on the following page...

...this approach is illustrated in Figure 2.2 on page 32...

...this approach is illustrated in Figure 2.2...

applies. when the figure is on the same page, no need to mention the page! of particular joy is that this package was last updated in 1999. such stability. ahhh, LaTeX.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leading cause of dog injury in flight

picture by Roman Fleysher

OK, these dogs are living the good life. I'm not sure if they're strapped in or not, but that's not the kind of injury I'm thinking about.

Based on the reading I've done, which has not been systematic or exhaustive, the leading cause of dog injury in flight seems to be injuries sustained by pets trying to escape their kennels, and sometimes succeeding. emphasizes the importance of zip tying your kennel closed after TSA inspection. I hadn't thought of that, but it sounds like a great idea.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Phone-operated pet feeder

I wouldn't have much use for it, but I love the design.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sequences were mapped to opossum genome

The title is an addition to my collection of favorite excerpts from scientific publications.

Caveat: this picture is much cuter here than the spitting pig-aliens I usually see.

photo credit

N. R. Saunders, M. Wakefield, J. Ek, S. A. Liddelow1, J. Truettner, B. J. Wheaton, D. Dietrich. Rna-seq analysis of gene expression following transection in immature spinal cord of monodelphis domestica. Program No. 415.5. 2009 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Chicago, Il: Society For Neuroscience, 2009. Online.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A study of electrically exploded wires

A Caltech thesis title from 1924. It produced not only that wonderful title, but this image:

Friday, October 02, 2009

Grammar check

Grammar and word usage are two things that web references can't really resolve. Looking up a definition in the dictionary isn't adequate to explain correct usage. I've started using site-specific searches of sites with high-quality, copy-edited writing to check usage. For example, the spelling of the phrase "doling out" looked strange enough to make me uncertain. Spell-check liked it, but it could have been the correct spelling of a different word. I ran this google search: doling out
And got these results:
Bureau of the Public Debt, Doling Out America's I.O.U.'s
N.E.A. Faces Tough Task of Doling Out Limited Stimulus Funds
U.S. starts doling out funds to banks

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

He's hot! He's on Fi-ah!

My dog loves to be in the car. He'd rather be in the car than be at home alone. So I indulge him, but I worry about him overheating. I obsessively park in the lowest levels of underground garages and reset my digital recording thermometer so I'll know the maximum and minimum temperatures in the car while I'm gone.

A few minutes ago the dog came staggering in the open door to the porch. He came over to greet me, and when I felt his coat, it was so hot I couldn't keep my hand on it for long. Who is this sun lizard, and why does he have a long black coat? Choosing to lie in the heat as long as he can stand it is certainly different than being trapped in a car that's too warm, but maybe my dog is tougher than I am when it comes to heat. In truth, that's not hard.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Scientific advance: bang mouse on head

Nature Protocols is a prestigous journal that publishes what they judge to be important advances in scientific techniques. There's an article annouced today called "Mouse closed head injury model induced by a weight-drop device." Maybe somebody made the better mousetrap, but they're underselling it with that title.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

QuickLook CSV Plugin

I never thought I could be a fan of a QuickLook plugin, but I am. Here's the link.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Boars, Barrows and Gilts

I just came across the article, Genetic Correlation Between Boars, Barrows and Gilts for Various Carcass Traits, from the Journal of Animal Science.
  1. "Boars, Barrows and Gilts" - it rolls off the tongue. What a lovely phrase.
  2. Carcass traits. Ick.
Mirriam Webster defines "gilt" alternately as "superficial brilliance" and "a young female swine." Equally evocatively, it defines "barrow" as "a large mound of earth or stones over the remains of the dead: tumulus" or "a male hog castrated before sexual maturity."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

JetBlue All-You-Can-Fly pass

There are publicized restrictions, but I figured there must be more of a catch. But: "No blackout dates apply to Pass travel, and Pass travel is not capacity controlled" (from their terms available here).

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Good-bye, Clarifi

I wanted to see if I still needed the Griffin Clarifi, the iPhone case that allowed me to take good pictures of receipts with my iPhone 3G. The 3G S is said to have a shorter focal length. I included pictures with my Nikon D-70 as a reference standard.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Unique file IDs

I write code to generate graphics. When I have a graphic I like, I save the image I've generated. In order to know exactly what code created that image, I like to save the code with the same name. As I gradually improve the code, the names evolve, with an addition of a descriptive word or with a version number. This all requires a kind of foresight (to know what description will be useful to my future self) and systematicness that I don't want to spend the time on. For now I've contented myself with a script that generates a unique time-based ID that I paste onto the end of the file names for the graphic and the code. The script copies the ID to my clipboard (requires OSX). Now all I need is a quicksilver trigger, and I can be more brainless than usual.

the code:
echo `date "+%Y%m%d_%H%M%S"` | pbcopy ; echo `pbpaste`

E-mail closings

From a WaPo article linked at Lifehacker:

Love and Bacon (Spike Mendelsohn)

Occasionally fun:
Seacrest out
Off like a prom dress

XOXO (meh when i wouldn't XOXO in person)

Does "Cordially" ever mean anything other than "My hostility is only thinly veiled"?
(Ruth McCann, WaPo)

The terseness of these is appealing:
Navy and the Air Force: "V/R" ("Very respectfully")
Marines: "S/F" (Semper Fi)
Army Rangers: "RLTW" ("Rangers Lead the Way")

Sadly, my favorites are probably not fit for public consumption. For example, I'd love to regularly close communications with "I have the honor to remain your obedient servant" but I think it might just make things awkward. I'll be sticking with my stand-by, "Best," unless "Thanks" is relevant.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hour by hour temperature predictions

This is one of the hardest things for me to predict, and something I most like to know about the weather when I travel somewhere unfamiliar. I like pages like this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

scheduled ringer un-silencing: the killer mobile phone feature

How many people have forgotten that they muted their mobile phone ringer? I can go for days before I figure it out.

The solution has been around for years in the land of windows mobile. It's a feature in the third party program called "SPB Phone Suite" which I last used several years ago. It configures different groups of ringer-related settings. You might have one with a quiet, respectable ringer that you use when you're at work and a bunch of goofy loud personalized ones you use on your own time. But my favorite feature uses the one of the default profiles, the one called "Silent." You can set a category of appointments to trigger that profile automatically. Then every time you have an appointment scheduled, your phone will automatically not ring during that time. More importantly, it will switch back to your usual profile again after your appointment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Only minorities have identity-based opinions?

There is a despicable implication in many questions Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings: only minorities are biased by their identities. Has no one mentioned that we all have identities that influence our perceptions?

-- Mobile post

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The hot cash market for 3G iphone...

I posted my 3G iphone on EBay yesterday. I've gotten two messages asking whether I would be willing to sell it for cash in person. I wonder what that's about.

The two messages were very similar, but from different EBay ids. They have some indistinct similarity to brief replies I've gotten when selling things and offering apartments for rent on craigslist, replies that are vague and suggest the person is replying to a great number of ads.

Are these phones going overseas? Being superficially altered and resold as 3G S? Simply being sold to people who don't want contracts?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Billed as "Retro Future"

I don't even know what to make of it.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

word of the day: artifactual

dismissive. in biology, it means a result that is unintentionally caused by the process of asking the question (e. g. pressure on a sample when you put a coverslip on a microscope slide). a result that is not relevant to the general biological truth.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Science should be FUN

like this:
Five competition polo ponies were ridden by a professional rider to perform five maximal accelerations and five maximal decelerations in an all-weather polo arena...Stride timings were derived from hoof-mounted 50 g accelerometers logged into MP3 recorders.
From the article "Pitch then Power" in the Biology Letters journal.

As an aside, I think it's interesting that they choose to compare greyhounds with polo ponies. Racing greyhounds accelerate in a linear context. Winning races does not depend on deceleration. Polo ponies, on the other hand, work in a multi-directional environment responding to other players on different paths. Mostly they're turning on a dime, negotiating melees, suddenly starting or stopping, and changing stride to adjust to changing conditions. The study seems to find equivalence between the two groups, but it would be hard to know if any differences were the result of one variable (species) or the other (competion conditions). A hard-core reductionist could instead compare race horses with greyhounds or herding dogs with polo ponies.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Recursive dog

Roomate: Good-night little dog, little dog with a little dog in his mouth
me: He's recursive dog
Roommate: Yes, you need to sew a smaller dog in the little dog's mouth.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Worst phone I've ever had: iPhone

Sure, it's also the best piece of electronics I've ever had, and that's why I keep it. But for making calls, it continues to be the worst phone I've ever had, including my first cell phone, that creaky Kyocera.

Best: interface, content, features. Maps, web, games. There are lots of improvements I'd like to see, but it's the best thing going for a mobile device. One of the reasons I like it is because it reduces the amount of stuff I need to carry. But what I really need to add to my purse is a phone that works.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Still: Women underrepresented in applicant pool for science faculty positions

This is the same result I remember from the last report. Basically, even when women are present in equal numbers in graduate programs, they are less likely than men to apply for faculty positions in their field. However, women who do have faculty positions are generally compensated as well as men. The bottleneck is in the applicant pool.

Why? Here's what I think: women are motivated to pursue science. Once they have reached the point of considering whether to apply for a faculty position, they have become intimately acquainted with work conditions in academia. They've seen that successful faculty forsake all other interests. Many women are not willing to do that, especially if it means forsaking family. So if they have a choice, they don't pursue an academic faculty position.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

gumption traps

gumption traps are small problems that "destroy enthusiasm and leave you so discouraged you want to forget the whole business."

(credited to robert pirsig by nick heil)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Friday, May 01, 2009

this is a "run"

who does this crazy kind of thing?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Short pallets on moving walkway

The pallets on this moving walkway at JFK are about half the length of my shoe.

Monday, February 09, 2009

In support of drunk driving?

This kind of stuff cracks me up:

"...bracelets can promote the support of many causes that sweep the nation such as breast cancer awareness, racial tolerance, drunk driving and free speech."

from here, in this instance.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The downside of ease of use

The ease of use of the mac really opens you up to have a truly disabling drinking problem.
-paraphrased from merlin mann's "most days" daily video project 2009/01/04

Overheard: quality or cost?

Overheard boarding airplane out of Burbank:
"Pick the one with the four stars, I mean the four dollar signs.

Bacon cup with toast and egg

After lots of big talk, I finally got around to making bacon cups. Mostly I was motivated by the departure of my fantastic cook friend, whom I wanted to make some food for on his moving day. I had read about them here and learned about microwaving them here, and of course I was goosed by the recent Bacon Explosion mania. I'm really sold on the microwave version - the speed makes the whole thing very quick. Here's a description of how I made them. The "egg sandwich in bacon cup" was a huge hit, and really yummy. I made the bacon cups before I made the eggs, and I reheated the cups in the microwave for 5 seconds before putting the warm egg and toast in it. The toast works well to fill the holes in the bottom - I couldn't eat all the bacon it would take to make a solid bottom. The best way to eat it was like a sandwich, although it was messy. I'm thinking of doing an oatmeal version, and experimenting with maple syrup and brown sugar on the bacon.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Science Tattoos

There's a whole collection.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thank goodness that's over

bye, 43.

Michelle Obama fangirl

I'm a fan of Barack Obama, but I'm wild about Michelle Obama. I've never actively liked a first lady before - I think Barbara Bush was the most personable of presidential wives during my conscious civic life. I was musing on whether the Obamas would get any criticism for going "too black" with Aretha's musical interpretation. But then I looked at the religious speaker and their manner and clothes, and I thought: "they will be given all the room in the world: they out-WASP the WASPs with their poise, reserve, and dignity." Plus, Michelle dresses like a house on fire.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lab coats: the Kathryn Heigl Collection

There's also a "Grey's Anatomy" line. The scrubs themselves are nothing special. How big is that market, anyway?

I find this comforting

All you are is a bag of particles acting out the laws of physics -Brian Greene

(from the Multi Universe(s) episode of Radiolab)

skeleton sweatshirt

more from street anatomy

Saturday, January 17, 2009

from The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art

(by Karen Norberg)

Click the image for a big pretty version.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Twice the size of Texas, it's small and large pieces of plastic gathered by ocean currents.
Wikipedia entry
NYTimes article Sea of Trash
Image from Greenpeace animation. Link is halfway down this page.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Leek soup

leek soup
Originally uploaded by manducasexta

I meant to take a picture before I ate it. My failure to do so is a testament to how yummy it was.

The recipe, loosely derived from cooks illustrated:

Cut and wash 6 leeks

Melt 6 TBS butter in stock pot

When butter is foaming, add leeks

Give it 15 minutes or so until leeks start to become translucent. (I also added 2 potatoes 5 minutes later, but I think I should have waited longer)

Add 1 TBS flour, stir until mixed

After a few minutes, slowly add 4 c chicken stock with stirring (salty stock is ok - this soup needs salt)

Let cook 20 min or so (until potatoes are done)

Let cool a bit

Blend with immersion blender - with more foresight I would have moved the soup into a pot with a smaller diameter to make the blending easier. I didn't blend to homogeneity - I like a little texture left. with yet more foresight, I might have poured some out and then poured it back after blending most of it.

Taste, add salt & pepper, repeat

I couldn't find any herbs or spices I was very inspired by - I smelled the ones I had and wasn't moved

I let the soup cool even further and stored most of it away in the fridge.

I poured the rest (~1 cup) into the pyrex bowl in the picture and added a couple tbs of heavy cream and gobbled it up before I could remember to take a picture.

I'm not sure if i'll put cream in the rest. It's pretty good as is, but cream is pretty good too!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My biggest weakness

Click for larger image.

Horrible to have it laid out so clearly.

XKCD is often brilliant. This is another of my favorites.

New roommate

New roommate
Originally uploaded by manducasexta

Thanks Jason.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Burda twist dress

This dress looks fun to make. People report that it's easy (!?). The pattern is from Burda's World of Fashion magazine (2008 number 103). The picture is a version of the dress made by Melissa Fehr, but many other people have written about sewing it too.

I want to like

But the truth is that there are many better sewing websites. Stodgy and european-leaning are stuffed (stuffed!) with highly skilled sewing enthusiasts, and even, which covers many areas other than sewing, has higher quality projects and information. When ThreadBanger raved about the movie Bride Wars, our relationship ended. We still talk, but not regularly.

Jonathan Gold reviews Noodle Island

Adding Noodle Island to my list of Place to Eat Before I Leave. Yum!

Street Anatomy

A lovely new find. Thanks Jordan!