rebeccmeister: (Default)
The openings on the newspaper and aluminum can recycling receptacles were all tidily duct-taped closed.

If you bring cream with you onto the train, it will turn into butter.

The first seat I wanted, the chair back ratcheting mechanism was broken. The second seat I tried, the footrest mechanism was stuck with the footrest up.

They are trying new things with the diner car menu, but this has little benefit for vegetarians.

Only about a 1-hour delay this time.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
We stopped in this town last year during RAGBRAI, and again on our return to Ottumwa to retrieve Princess TinyHouse and store her in Lincoln again. Thus it feels strange to be here without a bicycle.

48 hours in Coach on Amtrak is a long time. I finished _Anathem_. It reminded me of _Godel, Escher, Bach_, which is to say, of a somewhat tiresome book that is slightly too pleased with itself.

The scenery throufh Nevada, Utah, and Colorado was calming.

Typed via smart-o-phone.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
That was a fuck-ton of work and now I get to do it over again.

I do NOT like systems that involve shipping off samples to another location. The delayed feedback is incredibly frustrating, and then things like this happen.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
I had ambitions for the weekend. Not all of them were realized. One was this: I have a one of those two-burner Coleman Duel Fuel stoves, but it has had unidentifiable issues the last two times I've gone to use it. So I did what one does and poked around online to look for instructions on how to take one apart and clean it.

On Saturday, I cleaned out the generator, and it seemed like the pump assembly is doing just fine with respect to generating and maintaining pressure. After all that failed to resolve the problem, on Sunday I also pulled off the manifold, soaked it in soapy water for a while, rinsed, and then left it out to dry.

I hope it works when I get to test it again this evening.

Also, a question: I got a pair of 10-foot wooden stakes, which I want to use as tomato supports. Then I learned that the soil into which I want to drive the stakes is very hard and rocky. Do any of you know much about techniques for sinking large wooden stakes into that kind of soil?
rebeccmeister: (Default)
It's warm enough today to inspire a certain kind of heat-induced lethargy.

Or maybe that's from rowing 18 km this morning. I'm trying to gradually increase distance to build up for a marathon race in September. None of my callouses ripped open, although I do have one of those nickel-sized blisters on my right index finger that has those little white specks in it. I believe the specks are bits of shredded skin, but I'm certainly not going to pick at an intact blister.

In any case, I suspect it's warm enough that I can finally turn off the cat's heat pad, although she still wanted to snuggle in my lap at mid-day.

I should have timed the bread slightly differently, but it's too late now.
rebeccmeister: (Acromyrmex)
So I still get e-mails from my grad school research cluster, and right now there's a bunch of discussion about an Opinion piece that appeared in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences entitled "Science in the Age of Selfies." At brief glance, it appears to be one of many such articles in the academic navel-gazing category, and I'm not inclined to dwell on it at great length.

Instead, it reminded me of The Dialectical Biologist, which I would still peg as a major work that challenged and effectively reshaped my thinking. It's by two prolific Biologists, Richard Levins and Lewontin, and is a compilation of essays they've written. Learning about Lyssenkoism in particular really changed my view on the relationship between science and society. The book makes The Structure of Scientific Revolutions look like a simplistic child's model of science.

That makes me curious: what book or books that you have read would you say have really challenged and reshaped your thinking? Why?

(I may or may not be shopping for what book to read next, heh)
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Right now, KEXP is the main thing keeping me going. Thankfully, last night was productive, and this morning looks all right, too, so I'll be able to ship off samples today.


Jun. 15th, 2017 06:32 pm
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
I remember reading, not too long ago, that one of the difficult aspects of unemployment is that the unemployed are still tied to the general schedule of those who work. This, of course, may not apply to people who seek quiet time to pursue activities that require deep concentration, but still.

With the circadian experiment, I keep finding myself in a related sort of LimboLand. I came to work late this morning, arriving at around 10 am. I plugged away at a couple of projects during the daytime (sorting crickets, a small data analysis project, a meeting), but now it's 6:30 pm and I've got to wait until 8 pm to weigh the crickets and get them staged for the 11 pm happenings. I'll run my procedures from ~10 pm - 1:30 am, then I'll sleep on my supervisor's couch until 7 am. Then I'll get up, have coffee, and stage the next crickets at 8 am. Those ones will be run from 10 am - 1 pm, and I'll probably try to go home an hour or two after that.

I went through this whole sequence from Tuesday to Wednesday as well. By Wednesday afternoon, I was feeling strongly braindead and unmotivated, so I went home and played videogames (EarthBound Beginnings) until it was time to make and eat dinner.

When I have to keep this kind of schedule, I often cart along small personal projects and think I'll work on them, but I rarely actually manage to follow through. Instead, I wind up feeling helpless and unmotivated, and dither on the Internet.

It will just be a relief when I can ship these samples off. Not quite yet, but soon.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I haven't blogged much about the state of my skin in a while.

But I'm going to begin by briefly mentioning a project my mom is working on: she's decided to put thought and energy into creating a pamphlet for families with kids that have been diagnosed with ideopathic toe-walking. This subject is her specialty and was the focus of her dissertation. Her goal is to outline what it is, how it can be treated, and why it needs to be addressed in developing kids.

I mention my mom's project because the pamphlet I received when the doc declared "Acne Rosacea" wasn't particularly useful. It basically said, "Yeah, your skin looks gross, various things can trigger it, and in extreme cases it can get treated with expensive laser therapy."

I would expect a dermatologist would be more useful, except that the people I know out here who have gone to dermatologists have had widely mixed experiences. And I don't have the energy to deal with that at the moment. Also, the internet hasn't been particularly helpful, either.

I did learn one word which you probably already knew: the word "comodogenic," which is just a fancy word for things that clog one's pores.

That was actually a helpful clue. I got to realizing that the areas of my skin that were suffering the most were very dry. For a while, I tried out some MyChelle Dermaceuticals lotion + sunscreen, but while it helped with sun exposure, it wasn't helping with the dryness and scalyness. So, what next.

Well, a while ago, I started making my own lotion (.rtf file; original url within the file is now broken). I'd tried out pure aloe vera on my skin, but it only seemed to last a very short while and then my skin would be tingly and dry again. The other main ingredient in homemade lotion is some form of oil.

Everything in my life seems to keep pointing back to lipids. But okay, fine.

So then, I finally found this site, which summarizes the types and ratios of fatty acids found in various kinds of oils, and which kinds are thought to be better for different skin types. It also notes that you should test something out for ~2 weeks before reaching a conclusion about any particular thing, to give your body time to react and adjust to the new treatment.

Well, aha. I marched myself off to Berkeley Bowl and picked up some almond oil. I wish I'd known about this back when I was a teenager and scared to put anything at all on my face for fear of clogging my pores. I mean, I've avoided putting anything except sunscreen on my face for the past 20 years or so. But now I am going, well, of COURSE not all oils will clog your pores! Of COURSE certain kinds of oils would actually have the opposite effect! But it feels like it has taken forever to reach this understanding.

Anyway. So I've been testing out sweet almond oil and also jojoba oil, the latter because jojoba's what I could find in a portable size. Applying the almond oil is a strange and interesting experience because it soaks in quickly. It does make my skin feel oily, but not horribly so. After a couple of weeks of this, my skin generally feels and looks a whole lot better, although the rosacea is still present, unchanged. I think I can come to terms with the rosacea, so long as it remains at steady-state and doesn't get progressively worse. And I like knowing exactly what I'm putting on my face.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
Busy times right now, so some background first. We had a grad student heading out to Bishop, California, on this past Monday, and he's doing a bunch of field respirometry measurements on small willow leaf beetles, and is still getting up to speed on respirometry in general, so that's been randomly sucking up time. On Friday at noon, just as I was trying to head out the door with my gear for the weekend, he called me over to the FoxBox in a panic because something wasn't working right.

I quickly triangulated the problem to the built-in air pump, and mentioned that I'd purchased a spare air pump a week or two prior so I could pump air in the dark for the circadian experiments. If he was desperate, he could take my air pump. So he did. But now I have another midnight timepoint tonight. I went back to the Albany Aquarium Store (awesome place), but they didn't have another air pump in stock. They're expecting to get another one today. Close timing.

Between sorting that out, cricket care, lab meeting, and wrangling student researchers, yesterday vanished.

Anyway, the weekend, which was more fun overall. Back in my Arizona Outlaw days, I got to hear a handful of stories about some regatta that happened up on Lake Tahoe. A couple of our Outlaw buddies who went out to the Marathon in Louisiana had gone up to Tahoe and had a blast. So I'd known about the regatta for years, but never had the resources and logistics lined up to attend. Well, after our fun times at the Open Water Regatta in Sausalito, M suggested we look into the North Lake Tahoe Regatta, so we did.

Logistics wound up being somewhat involved, but not terrible, altogether. Apparently D, a rower who works for Maas (open-water rowing shell manufacturer), had volunteered to drive his trailer up to the lake. That sounded leagues better than trying to cartop the Maas 2x all the way up there, so we said, "Sign us up!" So I de-rigged our club's Maas 2x last Wednesday morning, and met up with D on Wednesday afternoon to load it onto his trailer. He had an interesting and clever method for throwing it all the way up onto the top rack, and it worked beautifully. I think he wound up hauling around 15 boats, which allowed a comparatively large number of rowers to compete in the regatta.

Here's the trailer setup, later on. It was a fantastic small boat trailer setup:
Lake Tahoe 2017

So then, back to Friday. After wrapping up a busy morning in the lab, I headed down to the boathouse to meet up with M and drive out to Tahoe. We wound up making good time and didn't hit any especially crazy traffic, so we had enough time to stop for some espresso in Truckee before the evening banquet in Tahoe City at the Tahoe Yacht Club.

Like many yacht clubs, it was swanky:
Lake Tahoe 2017

And there were all kinds of fun trophies and photos on display.

When we arrived, we learned the regatta was canceled due to high winds. The organizers said the cancellation was because our two safety launch drivers decided it was too dangerous for them, especially given the number of race entrants.

I think they had a good point. I could see some impressive waves through the Yacht Club's spotting scope:
Lake Tahoe 2017

There were also large waves on the beach where we were supposed to launch for the race:
Lake Tahoe 2017

Even if we could row in water like that, we'd have a hellish time trying to launch the boats without immediately crashing back into shore.

So that was a disappointment.

Thankfully, there were a couple of consolation activities. Our trailer driver knew of a more sheltered beach, Commons Beach, on the other side of Dollar Point, where he thought we might be able to get in some rowing, at least. And he was right. We did. It was still bouncy over there, but rowable.

Lake Tahoe 2017

After rowing and a leisurely potluck lunch, we also got in a nice hike that included some scenic views of the lake and mountains. Vistas of the route that we would have raced, if it weren't for the winds and freak weather.

The near cove is Kings Beach, where we stayed and were supposed to launch. The winds were blowing directly towards Kings Beach, so it had the worst of the waves.
Lake Tahoe 2017

Dollar Point, our outbound destination:
Lake Tahoe 2017

Sunday morning, a different group of rowers got up early to try and fit in a second row at Commons Beach. It was chilly, maybe in the 40's, and as we worked on rigging the boats, it started to snow. "Time to channel your inner New Englander!" I declared to M. The brief snow flurry cleared up as we waded on in and hopped in the Maas for another couple of spins.

I have a better appreciation for Lake Tahoe now. First off, it was still cool enough to make the dusty hike enjoyable and not a hot and sweaty misery-fest. I think the cool weather also meant that tourism wasn't at its peak yet, which was also a boon. Secondly, I now know of a couple of lakeside swimming beaches that would be pleasant in warmer weather. It looks like it would also be pretty easy to drop in a kayak and go for a paddle. There's a 100-mile road bike route around the lake, so that would be a third option.

So maybe we'll just have to try again next year.


Jun. 7th, 2017 02:06 pm
rebeccmeister: (1x)
I'm heading to Lake Tahoe this weekend with M, to race in the North Tahoe Rowing Regatta. We'll be up against the same two boats as for the Open Water Rowing Club Regatta in Sausalito, but at least this time there won't be a mass start. So I should be able to steer clear of the double that repeatedly cut us off at the turns. In theory.

It's time for me to start building more distance, so I rowed 5 laps around the BAP this morning (16 km). There was the typical head/tailwind, and algae is continuing to bog up the south end.

Evening timepoint tonight (7-10 pm, basically).
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
The hardest part is knowing that lack of sleep makes my emotions go haywire, out of proportion to the things I need to address. But I need to just keep my head down and get this stuff done.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Busy day. I gave a talk at lab meeting at noon, so I spent the morning scrambling to pull together data and analyses from multiple ongoing projects. We had an extended lab meeting so that a visiting scientist could also tell us about her work studying lipid biosynthesis in parasitoids. Parasitoids are insects that lay their eggs inside of other insects, eventually killing their hosts. Apparently there are multiple cases where different parasitoid species have completely shut off the biochemical pathways for lipid biosynthesis. This is pretty crazy if you consider that the pathways for lipid biosynthesis are broadly conserved across animals. Investigations as to why and how are ongoing.

After that, Monday cricket care duties, with help from a new undergrad, which basically means everything takes the same amount of time or slightly longer while I explain everything.

I have a late-night timepoint tonight, and then I'll sleep on the lab couch so I can remove food from more crickets tomorrow morning at 8 am, for the 11 am timepoint tomorrow.

At least I got the full 5 long-winged crickets with pink flight muscle, unlike on Friday when only 3 out of 14 crickets still had pink flight muscle.

So anyway, that's why I'm on eBay, doing a search for "vintage Tupperware." Apparently one of the containers that I have is actually an "ice cream keeper." We've been using it for various cheeses, but I don't like doing that because the plastic sides aren't completely smooth, so cheese gets smeared in the cracks and the whole thing gets moldy quickly. Maybe it's for people who still buy ice cream in those box cartons, so the leftover ice cream doesn't get horribly freezer-burned?

It does sound like the Tupperware cheese-keepers will hold a full 2-pound block of Tillamook, but then we would want something else for the other miscellaneous cheeses. Fridge space is at a premium in this house.

And maybe I should consider getting more of the 16-ounce square containers for freezer storage. [personal profile] scrottie and I both hate it when sacks of food slip out and fall onto the floor.

And on the third hand, too.much.stuff.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I couldn't go rowing Saturday morning, so [personal profile] scrottie and I decided we wanted to go on a bike ride instead. For a change of pace, I suggested we look into a partial route towards Petaluma, because we eventually want to bike up there to visit the Lagunitas Brewpub. On the local randonneuring list, someone had just posted about navigational logistics in the North Bay, and mentioned good food and drinks at the Mare Island Taproom in Vallejo. Sounded good to me!

On the outbound leg, Google gave us weird directions through Pinole and Hercules, sending us on a strange detour along some small bike paths. Eventually, we reached the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge:

On the bike path to cross the Sacramento River on the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge

The last time we rode across this bridge was the Saturday after moving out here, when I wanted to wedge in a 200k permanent to keep working towards an R-12 Award (ride at least 200k a month for 12 months). On that prior ride, we didn't have time to stop and take photos, so it was nice to take a more leisurely pace and observe the Sacramento River Delta.

Here's the view north, towards Vallejo:
View towards the Napa River and Mare Island

That's the mouth of the Napa River, separating Mare Island on the left from the mainland.

The Mare Island Taproom was in the ferry building in Vallejo, so I suppose if we didn't want to ride our bikes there we could have taken the ferry from San Francisco instead.

Our destination: Mare Island Taproom

We opted to bike back.

Here's an interesting-looking business on the south shore of the Sacramento River delta, a restaurant called the Nantucket. It looked busy on a Saturday afternoon, even though the marina right outside looks like it has seen better days.

Marina by the Nantucket

S is curious about the function of the barge-like boat in the center of the photo, which has a huge ramp on its back end.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Several photos from around the lab.

First, my lab succulent collection, which makes it nice to gaze toward the windows:
My succulent collection in the lab

This Granny Lamp arrived today. I was going to buy a dissecting scope for fieldwork, but got to thinking that one of these lamps would probably be just fine instead, and it might be nicer than the scope for teaching students how to dissect crickets.
A granny lamp's an entomologist's best friend

Before I headed in to work today, I paid a visit to the Albany Aquarium to see what they had in the way of air pumps. Here's the challenge: when I do nighttime cricket experiments, I need to keep the crickets in the dark / under red light, up until the very end of the procedure. We have a small room that doesn't have too much light pollution, but it's too small for the whole benchtop respirometry rig. See, it's full even when I just have injection/blood collection supplies laid out:

Daytime circadian setup

(nighttime view):
Nighttime circadian setup

Here's the scale of the benchtop respirometry setup, for comparison. Too much stuff to fit in that small, multi-use room.
Li-Cor / Oxilla stop-flow respirometry setup

Previously, I was able to use a second respirometry rig that's built into a Pelican case and designed for field measurements, but a grad student in the lab is going to take that rig out into the field this summer, so it's off-limits now.

The people working at the Albany Aquarium Store were knowledgeable and helpful, and helped me find an adjustable aquarium pump that provides enough air flow, but not too much, for the purpose of flushing dry, CO2-free air through the syringes that house the crickets during the circadian procedures (at ~800 mL/min, in case you wondered - lowest setting on the pump). Perfect!
Aquarium air pump CO2 flush setup

Okay. To round things out, here's a sophisticated gadget I designed myself. It's a cardboard tube, modified to help keep the cricket syringe upright in a hands-free manner, so I can do other things while the syringe is being flushed:
Sophisticated syringe holder

Time to design something similar for the aquarium pump setup.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I still have the TI-82 graphing calculator that I first got for calculus in high school, but even after replacing the watch cell battery, it appears to be dead and gone.

Today I finally broke down and ordered two solar-powered scientific calculators, one for the house and one for the lab. I'm getting tired of walking over to my laptop to punch keys whenever I need to do calculations at work.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Here's a good summary article about that landslide along Coastal Highway 1 in Big Sur. I've never been to that stretch of California, but have heard all about it from people who have bike toured there. To be honest, it doesn't sound all that pleasant to be sharing narrow, winding roads with cars. I have to wonder if we humans really have business trying to maintain a roadway in a region like that.

From Grist: No one's breathing easy in the nation's new megawarehouse hub. This whole situation makes me sad because it seems like an artefact of LA's poor long-term urban planning / car culture. Also, why trucks and not trains? Sigh.

Apparently a dead blue whale washed ashore recently in Bolinas. Here's a photo album of the necropsy in progress (yes, kinda gory). From what I could find, it sounds like the researchers are concluding that the whale died after it was hit by a ship.

From Arizona: This article on how new shade research could help cool down pedestrian routes has me going, "FINALLY!!" While living there, I really wanted to figure out how to draw up a set of bike route maps that highlighted shaded routes. After I moved away, the campus got way, way better about shading the major walkways (with solar panels!), but the idea really needs to be extended. I'd be curious to know how large-scale changes in shade cover could impact the urban heat island effect in the greater Phoenix Suburbopolitan area. There is interesting history there, in terms of how the canal system used to be used, compared to its current state (think way more trees, communal swimming/cool-down areas in the summers).

I'm still reading through this article about Bleeker Street's nosedive from luxe shops to vacant storefronts, but it seems worth sharing for the sake of thinking about how urban environments change. I've been hearing that clothing retailers are majorly struggling and closing storefronts left and right across the USA, and this seems at least tangentially related.

Blue Hudson

Jun. 1st, 2017 09:31 am
rebeccmeister: (1x)
On Tuesday morning, I took the silver Kaschper out for a long row. It's time to start building up for longer distance rowing and racing. Of course, a "long row" was only 13 km, but it's a start. When I brought it back to the boatyard to rinse it off and dry it, I discovered a nasty punch hole right along the bottom of the hull that was definitely letting in water. So I notified the appropriate people, thoroughly toweled out the bow compartment, and put it away to completely dry for repairs.

So, back to the Blue Hudson this morning! It was fine. I can tell that I am now managing to make it to the boathouse at a satisfactory frequency to sustain and build technique and speed. Now I just have to try and keep that up through another round of circadian trials.

Tonight's a 9 pm timepoint, and tomorrow's a midnight timepoint, so on Saturday morning I'll sleep in and then I'll row with M on Sunday instead. We're getting ready to go out to a long-distance regatta on Lake Tahoe that we're pretty excited about. 16 km. Some of my Arizona Outlaw teammates used to go to this regatta and really liked it.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I'm wondering about two general rules-of-thumb. These are pretty recent concepts for me because up until the current postdoc position I really didn't have the luxury of considering them (see: student loans, non-unionized postdocs, grad school underpayment).

1. What proportion of one's income should one be attempting to sock away into savings, and into what sorts of categories should one consider allocating the sockings? The different places where I have postdoc'd have offered various random flavors of retirement accounts, which I am mostly ignoring for now. I'm currently socking slightly over 10 percent but I wonder if I should do more and scrutinize my frills.

2. How much avocado toast should one forego in order to make a house down payment? (in case you don't understand the reference) In other words, what proportion of a house's price should one have on hand for a down payment, generally speaking?

Two weeks ago, I went over to the house across the street, which had a "for sale" sign up. The asking price made for an interesting thought experiment: if I allocated my entire current salary to house payments and there was no interest involved whatsoever, it would still take 13 years to pay for it. It's a "cozy" 3 bedroom, 1 bath place. Granted, this is in El Cerrito, and we're experiencing another national housing price crescendo.


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