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elakazal's Journal
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Date:2005-03-01 15:38
Subject:At Jeremy's request, I'm back.
Security:Public
Mood:Is indigestion a mood?

Nothing very exciting going on, really. Had a very good productive night in the lab last night.

Submitted three abstracts for a meeting today (well, one yesterday, actually, two today), and had to wrestle with the usual issue of the fact that they put the abstract deadline five months before the meeting, but don't want work that hasn't been completed. If I have completed work right now, I'm submitting it to a journal by then, not making a poster of it (assuming its any good). The point of a scientific meeting is to find out what other people are working on, and how its going. I know the annoying Arabidopsis people don't work that way, since they're too scared some one's going to steal their research, which is even sillier. I know science has never been as nice and friendly as idealists like me would want to believe, but if you start giving the desire to be first before the desire to do good science to benefit the community, that's dangerous territory. Not that we aren't heading there anyway, with the slow erosion of public research (except for military and 'Homeland Security' research, of course).

I'm currently in love with Electric Six. I literally (okay, not quite literally, but as close to literally as one can get without it being absolutely true) have been singing "Dance Epidemic" every waking minute for the last two days. I believe I have succumbed to said epidemic. The prognosis is very ugly.

Books...I forgot I was discussing books on here. For some reason I haven't read much in the last week. I've read often, but not for great stretches of any sort. I finished "Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" a few nights back. A very interesting book...very archaic in its feel (and clearly intentionally so). The effect is that it is rather slow moving, but in a way which is engaging enough that despite the lack of page turning action, one feels interested and involved anyway. Sort of reminiscent of some Dickens, to me. The ending felt a little incomplete, like I would have like a few things spelled out, just a little more. I don't need all the mystery disspelled...I'd just like to know a little more here and there.

After that, I read King Rat by China Miéville. It was enjoyable, but not up to the level of his later books I've read (Perdido Street Station and The Scar). It's his first book, and I think it shows, which is not to say it was bad, but that it had a somewhat amateurish feel. In general, I think the whole concept, while entertaining, probably would have served better as a short story or novella, rather than a whole book (though its not a long book, really). I also thought it felt like he was trying a little too hard to work Drum and Bass into the whole thing. It seemed to me like maybe he was really into the music, and as it was often on his mind at the time, it wormed its way in a bit too much (although I get that Drum and Bass is supposed to inspire dancing with its hypnotic rhythms, which I assume was the primary conscious motivation for including it).

Now I'm re-reading The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kaye. I say re-reading because I started it a couple years back. Jeremy had loaned it to me along with a bunch of other books, and for some reason I wasn't getting into it, I'd had it forever and he was hassling me about getting his books back to him (to be fair I was about to move to Arkansas), so I never finished it. Since then, though, I've sort of re-discovered Guy Gavriel Kaye, and read the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy and Tigana (all of which I highly recommend) and so I've decided to give this book another shot. I figured I like the author's other works, and I really like the area and era it's based on (Spain during the Moorish period). The wife and I traveled a bit in Andalucía a few years back, and I just find it a fascinating subject. So far the book is working much better for me this time round.

Other new stuff in my life: I got a bunch of fruit plants - Two blackberries (plus a third wild one I dug up), a grape vine, a little Chinotto orange which is just about to produce a zillion white flowers, a banana (Woohoo! Florida rocks!) and a Fragaria x Potentilla hybrid "strawberry". I'm also trying desperately to nurse my poor, abused lemon tree with the mite and drought problem back to health. Some will stay in pots, while others (the grape vine at least) will get planted in the ground. Oh, yeah, we also got a vine of Carolina Jessamine, which I planted by the fence near the other one. Absolutely gorgeous plant, with thousands of yellow blossoms.

Also, I'm doing work these days, which is what I really need to do right now. So...bye.

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Date:2005-01-28 17:21
Subject:Camper Van Beethoven
Security:Public
Mood:Tired but happy.

Well, although it took some fancy maneuvering around work and childcare responsibilities, I managed to go see Camper Van Beethoven last night, the culmination of nearly twenty years of waiting. In the meantime, I managed to see Monks of Doom and Cracker, but I've been following Camper Van Beethoven since I heard "Take the Skinheads Bowling" on some upperclassman's mix tape back in 1987 or so.

I'm kind of in the midst of a hectic day at work, so I won't go into great detail (or maybe I will and I'll just take two hours of intermittent writing to finish this post...).

Anyway, the opening acts was the Hackensaw Boys, who were really good...very blue-grassy, rootsy stuff. The "drummer" played an assortment of metal junk attached to his vest, rather than a drum kit. Good fun...it's always great when the opening band turns out to be enough to have made it worth coming out. I'd have bought their CD, but the lines were big and I didn't want to stray long from my stage-edge position for CVB.

I chatted with a photographer for the local entertainment magazine a bit while I was up there, but CVB moved pretty quick, and before I we knew it they were going. It was a great set...hit most of the favorites that needing hitting (I would have liked "Seven Languages" and "When I Win The Lottery", but you can't have everything.) A just enough new stuff to whet the interest, but not enough that people who hadn't heard it had a chance to lose interest. David Lowery told a great story about the Talking Heads (well, they themselves weren't involved much, but they were the focus of the story), and talked about growing up in Texas and Franco's Spain.

Afterwards I talked to the band, particularly to Victor Krummenacher, the bassist, for a long while. Seemed like a really great guy, very down to earth. All of them seemed like really great guys. I got a signed setlist, doofus groupie that I am, and the drummer went and got me a hand-screened cardboard poster, too. Anyway, a great night.

Down side was the not getting to sleep until 4am, which has made working today difficult. Despite the difficulty, though, I've gotten tons done...very productive. We did hybridization last night, and I got the second set of filters ready to go today, while last night's sit on the film. Hopefully we'll have lots of colonies to play with.

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Date:2005-01-24 10:58
Subject:What a fun weekend.
Security:Public
Mood:No mood, just here and alive.

Well, I worked on homework, and labwork, but the highlight of the weekend was my daughter splitting her head open on a wooden block.

I'd called home from the lab to say I'd be heading back soon, and if the wife and child were ready and interested in doing so maybe we'd go out for lunch I'd get back. Fifteen minutes later I walk in to find both wife and daughter covered in blood. Apparently my two year old daughter fell and put a nice triangular puncture in the middle of her forehead with the corner of a wooden toy.

My wife had stopped the bleeding, and my daughter was, within a few minutes, tearing around the house encrusted in blood, acting like nothing had happened. But we decided to take her to the doctor's, where they put three stitches in it, mostly to prevent scarring. That was really the most traumatic part of the process (for me, anyway...having not witnessed the torrents of blood), as she did NOT want to be held down (and irrigating the wound with saline was uncomfortable, I think, though she had a local anesthetic for the rest).

All in all it worked out okay, (except having to wait until 4pm to have lunch, which sucked), and hopefully my daughter is fully recovered and unblemished in no time.

On a more upbeat note, I got my radioShark, and it's pretty cool. My only issue with it is that it keeps losing track of the "radioShark server" and I keep having to point out where it is when I start up. I think the problem is that I didn't install it in the OS X Applications folder. I haven't had time to deal with that yet. Also it has really crummy AM reception, but that's more a conceptual thing, because I honestly don't know that I listen to anything on AM locally.

We've been listening to lots of radio on the computer lately, between the radioShark and the wife's discovery of streaming AirAmerica radio online. I wished they'd get an affiliate around here, but the fact that there's liberal talk radio is astounding enough in it's own right. I guess they're in 7 or 8 of the top 10 radio markets and beating Rush Limbaugh in NYC (No, I don't know where this info came from, but I remember hearing it...nothing like the wonder of blog "facts".)

I started on "Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell", by Susanna Clarke. So far I'm enjoying it. The comparisons Harry Potter that I'd heard seem a bit off base, but it's not overall dark or "adult" either. There's an interesting feel to it, with all the long 'historical' footnotes (one footnoote covered 95% of two pages) as suggestions of a complex history behind all this, it has the feel to me of when I discover some new interest, and every little bit of research turns up a thousand new leads to pursue (this is the predecessor to the stage where I have found 99% of the interesting info on the subject and the only way to find more is to read the same 99% over and over again in different forms, hoping for a new fact slipped in there). Anyway, so far it's just Mr. Norrell...Mr. Strange has appeared only once, in a footnote.

Well, back to work. The primers we paid a small fortune to have delivered over night just arrived, so I ought to use them today.

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Date:2005-01-21 23:07
Subject:Final verdict on Idlewild
Security:Public
Mood:blah

Well, I finished Idlewild (see above). The concept was good, and 90% of the execution was good, but I have to admit it was a disappointment in the end, even though I enjoyed it. The problem was that the last fifth of the book should have been as long as the first four fifths. It was likely he was writing along, then, suddenly, for whatever reason, he just said "All right, I'm sick of this...let's wrap this up" and then he just slammed through the rest of the plot he'd come up with and called it done.

That said, I'll still read the sequel Edenborn.

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Date:2005-01-19 09:57
Subject:Actually, I just got an e-mail...
Security:Public
Mood:grumpy

Boss will be in around 11, and apparently screwed things up last night so we can't do this thing anyway.

So glad I got up early.

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Date:2005-01-19 09:55
Subject:Last night...
Security:Public
Mood:annoyed

...I tried to see Orson Scott Card speak down at the library, but it was over capacity when I got there. I'd have probably been in time if I hadn't had to drive around looking for parking for 25 minutes (I eventually settled on a parking garage which I thought was a dollar an hour, but turned out to be a flat charge after 6pm, so I had to pay the last dollar mostly in pennies and nickels from the ashtray.)

I spent some time poking around the library, then went and got a couple of beers.

Hey, I said I'd update, I didn't say it would be interesting.

I'm waiting for my boss to get here. We're going to do a protocol that he needs to show me, and it takes 8 hours. It's now almost ten, and he's not here. Looks like another late night tonight, which kind of sucks, as I've really been trying to cut down on those.

Oh well.

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Date:2005-01-17 23:47
Subject:Well, I'm back. Again.
Security:Public
Mood:cheerful

This journal is starting to become a series of "I'm back" announcements, separated by months of silence. This one was prompted by Jeremy's citing this journal on his much more active weblog, Jaharmi.com. I think that probably marks the first time any one has ever linked to this journal. So I figure I might have something quasi-current here for folks to read.

We've been settling into the new house, and while there's still a garage-full of crap left to be unpacked, it's pretty well liveable now, and we're loving it. We spent a bunch of time raking and bagging leaves this weekend, as corny as it sounds, it almost felt good, raking OUR yard. I say "almost", because really it was incredibly tiring, and my back hurt for ages afterwards. Seems like my body is falling apart these days...carrying my daughter with the same arm all the time has resulted in some sort of weird muscle-imbalance thing, and I feel like my neck is perpetually out of joint on that side. I have to come up with weird pillow arrangements each night in order to sleep.

I've been reading a lot lately. Partly this is because I'm trying to do fewer late nights at work, and part is that my parents bought me every book in print on my wishlist (and some that weren't...you can see the current version here, but since the previous one was recently wiped out, this is populated by impulses of the moment.) Currently I'm reading three things:

Idlewild - Nick Sagan. I got interested in it because Neil Gaiman recommended it very heartily on his website. Generally, he does pretty well, though I was not as impressed with Light, by M. John Harrison, which was not horrible, but a little overdone. Anyway, I'm a little over a hundred pages into Idlewild, and so far it's great. It started out as sort of a standard VR "we can create our own crazy fantasy world 'cuz this is really all in a computer", which was fine, but then it took quite a surprising twist recently. Apparently there's a sequel now, too, so I hope it turns out to be a good book. (Really, if I'm going to be reviewing books, I probably ought to do it after I finish them, but, oh well...)

French Revolutions - Tim Moore. Carrying on the tradition of reading travelogues that we established somehow a long while ago, my wife and I have been reading this one together. By together I mean that I read it aloud, and she listens to about two pages worth nightly and then sleeps through however much I read before I realize she's asleep. Determining just when this happens is made difficult by the fact that she retains the ability to speak semi-intelligibly long after she's gone to sleep, so even if I ask her if she's awake, and she says she is, she probably isn't.

Anyway, on with the book. This one was actually finished last night, so I can report on the whole thing. We've been avid readers of Tim Moore since I discovered his Frost on My Moustache shortly after returning from Iceland. Without exaggeration, I would say he is the best humorous travel writer out there (and I would not bump Bill Bryson lightly). While I would rank French Revolutions slightly lower than his first book, it is still an incredibly funny book (my wife thinks it's his best, incidentally). Moore bikes the entire route of the Tour de France, made interesting by the fact that he is not a biker, or even especially in shape. Amazingly, he more or less manages it, and along the way we learn a lot about the Tour, its characters, and rural France and Switzerland. I knew absolutely zip about the Tour de France beforehand, which meant all the information was new to me, but probably meant a lot of it was less interesting than it might have been, since I didn't have the background to fully appreciate all the humor.

Moore has three books out in the U.S.: the two previoiusly mentioned ones, plus The Grand Tour which retraces the steps of an Englishman travelling in Renaissance Europe. He also has two other books, currently available only in England. One of these probably never will be, because it looks at the places on the British Monopoly board. We've ordered a used copy online, and I already feel that sort of giddy smugness I get when I have something others cannot easily come by (and yeah, I know, anyone else could just get online and order one from somewhere, but just let me have my simple joys, okay?)

Lost Cities and Ancient Mysteries of Africa and Arabia - David Hatcher Childress. By rights, the scientist in me ought to be revolted by this stuff, but what can I say, I love it. Each book in this series is like a textbook on faulty logic, and yet I now am proud owner of the entire series. It's not just the goofy, mutually exclusive, ideas Childress credulously adopts at every turn. He does sort of have a point, in that legitmate archaeology doesn't really like to spend a lot of time on things it can't even begin to explain. So I find the books interesting in that he brings up artifacts and sites that don't get mentioned in standard archaeology books. His interpretations of those objects and sites are of course completely out there, but it can serve as a good launching point for further research in more legitimate sources. The books are structured like travelogues, and in this one we get an unusual amount of insight into the emotional life of David Hatcher Childress. He clearly fancies himself quite the hit with the ladies, which I think is a bit unlikely, but hey, it's his book.

Anyway, I've just been killing time while I watch TV here, and somewhere along the line this got to be a long entry. But now I need to go get to bed. For all my devoted readers, I hope you've had a good couple of months (actually I've talked to all five of you recently, so I know you're doing okay.) I'll talk to you later.

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Date:2004-10-07 11:31
Subject:It's almost lunch and I feel like I just woke up
Security:Public
Mood:tired

And that's how I've felt since my wife's alarm went off at 5:30 this morning.

After the cloning E coli sequencing incident things in the lab are going a little better...I cloned out some pathogenesis-related genes successfully, and I got a couple of goofy things we're attempting to work. I also had some left over PCR mix last night, so I tried it against some DNA I extracted from the loquat tree outside (which I also did because I had excess extraction buffer), and I actually got amplification. So now I have loquat genes. I don't know what I can do with that, but hey, how many people are doing molecular genetics in loquat? I'm a member of an elite club. I'm half tempted to sequence it just to compare it to strawberry, but that'd be silly waste of money.

I turning into a weird little political junkie, checking in on my chosen liberal information sources (dailyKos, Atrios, Salon, LiberalOasis, Electoral-Vote) every time I walk by my computer (well, only the first three...the other two update only once a day, generally). It's sad, and it just means I will be doubly crushed when the bad guys (or, well, the badder guys) win again.

My daughter was extra sweet this morning, climbing up next to me on the couch with her Sesame Street book and pointing out Cookie Monster on each page to me (and angrily shoving the cat off the couch when it tried to get in the way of the book). Nearly broke my heart to leave her at daycare...I stayed too long...the first 20 seconds there were great, because she was psyched to see the toy cows again, but once she gathered them up, she just held onto my pant leg.

I'm going to go check my loquat gel

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Date:2004-10-01 15:07
Subject:A little meanspirited glee...
Security:Public
Mood:amused

Can I just say how happy I was to see Mr. Bush get his ass handed to him in the debate last night?

Another productive day in the lab. Could it be that I've finally shaken the absolute uselessness I've been enacting for months? More likely an abberation, but still kind of cool.

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Date:2004-09-29 16:06
Subject:Back from the dead.
Security:Public
Mood:crazy

After many, many moons, my journal is back. I'd like to promise daily installments of excitement, but it ain't going to happen, so don't get your hopes up.

New in my life:
- In the process of buying a house. We'll know within the hour whether our counter-counter-offer was accepted.
- Spent last night puking. Fun. Then had a test at 8am which I hadn't studied for because I was too busy being sick. Think I did okay...I can't believe that I'm a PhD student and I'm still taking tests which consist of 25 multiple choice questions.
- Got lots and lots done today. Feels good, except that I also found out that a previous 15 days worth of work may be worthless, and unless I can make it work right, I'm not getting on the paper I expected to be on. Grr.
-iJournal now crashes if it tries to check iTunes for music. Don't know if it's a 10.3 problem or what...I haven't run it since Jaguar. So I'll have to do it manually. Life is so hard.

Anyway, back to work.

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Date:2003-11-05 09:58
Subject:Some political musings...
Security:Public
Mood:working

A thought which occurred to me after watching the Democratic debate on CNN last night (most of it, anyway): I wonder if Dean and Clark have been planning on sharing a ticket, right from the start.

- They take it awfully easy on each other. Considering that if there is a front runner in this race it is definitely one or the other of them, you'd think they'd be after each other, trying to knock their opponent back the critical few percentage points. But they don't. They do it to other candidates, but they mostly leave each other alone. They make a few half-hearted stabs here or there, generally going only so far as including the other's name in the list of candidates who differ with them on some point, but no more really than is required to make the public believe they are actually aware of the others existence. This looks to me as if they're working to avoid the issue of "You thought this person was grotesquely evil and incompetent a month ago, and now you want him as a running mate?"

- Clark jumped into the race really late, and only after a meeting with Dean. After that meeting Dean said he'd certainly consider Clark as VP.

- Clark, frankly, doesn't campaign like a man who really wants to be president. He sounds like somebody who is getting his talking points out there.

Although there are those that would say that Clark is not the sort who'd settle for number 2, and they may be right, a Dean/Clark ticket would cover a lot of bases well:

Political orientation: Dean is routinely blasted for being too liberal, Clark is accused of being a Republican in disguise. Both of these accusations seem to me to be rather inaccurate, based on their policy stands...in fact they aren't really that different for the most part, from each other or the mainstream of the Democratic Party. But by tying them together, they may negate the impact of these accusations on each other.

Fund-raising: Clark has picked up a lot of the traditional Democratic donors who had hesistated to back Dean (in part because of his overly liberal image). This represents a good way to bring these sources into their corner for the general election.

Geography: Dean is from the northeast, Clark from the mid-South. Both play quite well to their respective regions. As an Arkansas myself, I can say that I think Clark is the only Democratic candidate with a reasonable chance of carrying that state, though others might have a shot. The addition of Clark would almost certainly help Dean pickup votes in the South.

Military Experience: Dean has handled the war issue pretty well while still staying solidly opposed, but he opens himself up to the GOP's traditional attack on Dems for being weak on defense. A former NATO supreme commander, and decorated Vietnam vet, also opposed to the war, in his corner would blunt that attack, especially when it's coming from the mouth of a man who was too busy doing drugs during Vietnam to defend the skies over Texas and Alabama. Besides, the title "Supreme Commander" is just so damn powerful, I think it ought to be included on every ticket it can be.

Anyhow, that's my thoughts.

Dean is clearly angling for the general election already...and I think he's right in thinking the nomination is pretty well locked up ("pretty well", because weird things happen in politics all the time). His confederate flag comments, although probably not advisable in hindsight the last few times, show that he's more interested in picking up southern swing voters for the general election than traditional core Dem constituents like blacks. Unfortunately, I think he botched the defense of the phrase this last time, and it may have hurt him more than it should have...in it's original context it is clearly not racist, though he should know that it would be spun that way.

Anyhow, there's my political thoughts for the day. Now back to the thesis.

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Date:2003-10-27 14:45
Subject:To think I've been worrying about the election...
Security:Public
Mood:hungry

Well, I guess that's that. Bush's dark spirit is now safely trapped in a pot at the bottom of a Thai river.

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Date:2003-10-15 09:08
Subject:"Junk Shit" Equipment...Thank God we got rid of those darned punchcard ballots.
Security:Public
Mood:content

Patching the election: Trouble in Georgia.

The scariest part is that these voting machines are running Windows CE. And what a shocker...a Windows based machine with serious security issues. Who'd have thunk it? Way to take an incredibly simple task and make sure that it is done in the most complex, unreliable manner possible.

This whole Diebold fiasco is a wonderful little microcosm of the fascinating blend of corruption and incompetence that characterizes at least half of what our government does.

In other, much less momentous, news, I've gotten back the draft of the first solid chunk (~45 pages) of my thesis and am now making the revisions. Not too many substantive changes, so I feel pretty good about it...mostly just grammatical, editorial, kind of stuff. Stuff I would have caught if I'd bothered to give it a thorough edit before I turned it in, but what's the fun in that?

I got the combining ability data for my experiment yesterday...no big surprises, though a few little ones. Mostly everything lines right up where I thought it might. No need to re-think interpretations much. Which is nice, because I really despise thinking.

Back to work.

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Date:2003-10-14 10:08
Subject:Here come the Thought Police...
Security:Public
Mood:cheerful

A panel at the National Academy of Science has recommended prior review of all experiments that could help terrorists or hostile nations make biological weapons. Under the suggested policy, the National Institutes of Health would review and, if it deems necessary, prohibit, any potentially risky project, no matter where funding comes from. (It currently does so only for federally funded research.) (See the story at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here.)

And, of course, the totalitarians in the White House think this is a grand idea. John Marburger, Bush's science adviser, thinks this is "a very positive move by the scientific community". Marburger, incidentally, was recently given then authority to classify information as "top secret".

While I do feel scientists have a definite responsibility to consider the implications of their work, mixing politics with science is, in my opinion, an almost universally bad idea, no matter how it's done.

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Date:2003-09-15 02:00
Subject:Monte Ne
Security:Public
Mood:cheerful

On a whim, I drove out to a place called Monte Ne today. Went by myself, while Zea (and, I suspect, Cindy) napped this afternoon. I'd read about it on a website a while back, and I wanted to see if I could find it, as it wasn't too far away.

Monte Ne was a sort of resort / utopian community set up just after the turn of the century by William "Coin" Harvey. Coin, already wealthy from silver mining out west, apparently made his name with a number of books, which just happened to feature a very smart, likeable fellow named "Professor Coin". He had all kinds of weird thoughts on government and money, some very socialist, some very libertarian, and some very, well, weird. He built Monte Ne as both a resort (and apparently it became world famous for a time) and as a sort of center for his teachings. His ultimate plan was to build a giant pyramid, in which he would house all the valuable information he could, so after society had destroyed itself, it could discover the pyramid and start again with the stuff inside.

Unfortunately, Coin, who had at one point been incredibly wealthy, couldn't get together enough cash to build the pyramid. He built an amphitheatre where it was going to be, and a bit of the foundation, but he'd spent too much money on Monte Ne the resort to finish it. And then he died, and that sort of slowed things down a bit too.

Eventually, they dammed up the river, and much of Monte Ne was flooded. But I'd seen pictures, so I knew there were ruins left. I looked at a map, and discovered there was still a "Monte Ne" marked on it, so I plugged it into MapQuest, and set off.

The roads were unbelievable. I do not intend to ever again travel roads like that unless I have both a pack mule and a native guide. There were several places where vegetation was brushing both sides of my car at once. I forded what appeared to be a small stream crossing the road. I drove around a small fallen tree (I also drove around what appeared, oddly, to be a pile of grass clippings, topped with a square of plywood maybe a foot or so across. I'm not sure what it was doing there.) The road was narrow, windy, and riddled with potholes. At the last possible minute it suddenly becamed paved, before just sort of ending at a beach.

After miles without much in the way of habitation (just scary homesteads which you'd swear were abandonded except for the semi-domesticated looking animals hanging around), the last little bit at least had a bunch of cottages and such. Not tons, really. When the road petered out, I parked my car and walked down to the beach, where a scary redneck family was frolicking.

I was very pleased to find a bit of ruins right away. There was a rectangular foundation right at the water line, with a little round attachment, like perhaps the base of tower. I climbed out on it, and down in the water I found the bottom part of a little blue-glass bottle. Probably just garbage from redneck families in ages past, but blue glass isn't that common and neither are bottles that small these days, so I like to think it may be a relic of the original Monte Ne.

I wandered up the beach for a long way, found another even scarier family. Kept walking. Walked for a long while, but didn't see anything ruin-like, so I turned around and walked back. I walked past the parking spot in the other direction, and didn't see anything either. I was actually getting back into my car, when I spotted some kids heading into the woods above the little point of land I'd just rounded. They seemed as if they might be going somewhere, so I followed...and immediately felt like an idiot, because I found a whole lot of stuff that should have been obvious from the beach.

First thing I found was a sort of tower, three stories high, flanked by a long low wall that was probably a foundation. Upon closer inspection, the tower was actually a big stone/concrete chimney, serving many fireplaces...I could see them all along it on either side, all the way to the top. It was covered with colorful grafiti, too. Like an idiot, I tried to climb it, but about half way up had an image of lying back in the woods with a broken back for days, and thought better of it. As I was clambering down, I saw another building through the trees, and decided to make my over to it.

This building was huge, three stories, and mostly intact, thanks in part to the fact it was solid concrete. There were no stairs, these had apparently been attached to the side (you could see where) and probably made of wood, so there were just hovering doorways on the sides. The inside was sort of odd...lots of small rooms with fireplaces. Everything, inside and out, was covered thick with grafiti. The sort of alien feel of the place and the sheer volume of the grafiti made it almost seem like some sort of bizarre tribal artform instead of vandalism, decorating the buildings the way the Maya might have painted their temples.

Just as I was leaving, a family came by. They asked me if I knew where the pyramid was. I told them that I thought it was never actually built, and they acknowledged that fact, but they said that the water was low enough that you could see the foundations again. I said I'd keep an eye out. I had passed a "Pyramid Road" on my way in, so I thought I'd check that on the way back.

I couldn't see anything else around, but I'd seen a building remnant in one of the photos online that I hadn't found yet, so I knew there had to be more. I went back down toward the beach, rounded a spit of land, and came across the building I'd been looking for. According to the website, this had been the servants quarters. It was a long row of doors, set into the side of the hill. Most of them opened into tiny (6 x 6 would be generous) rooms, though the last two opened into a big room with various columns in it. I crawled around inside, while two fisherman nearby glared at me (probably the noise of me crashing around was scaring fish.)

Satisfied I'd seen what there was to see, I got back in the car and headed for home. Spent a while lost...one scary, narrow dirt road looks a whole lot like another. Finally found my way back, called Cindy from a payphone to explain I'd be a bit longer than anticipated, then headed out again. I swung down Pyramid Road, which was lined with cottages and turned out to dead end before the lakeshore. I turned around headed back out. As I was rejoining the "main" road, I looked down through some one's yard and caught just a glimpse of some kind of stonework. Didn't really look like what I'd been expecting, but when I got home, I saw a photo online of the amphitheatre and "pyramid" when they were completely exposed in 1977, and it looked to me like the same thing.

Eventually found my way home again, paused briefly on the road from hell to read a civil war historical marker (some general and his army built a giant set of barracks there and spent the winter, but then burned them down) then made it home. Went back and did a little more Coin Harvey/Monte Ne research online. Found that the big three story building was the end of the famous Oklahoma Row, which was once the world's large log structure (my hometown, Cuba, NY, is home to the world first concrete block construction, the famous Block Barns. Really, they are famous. Sort of. Okay, well at least they're cool). Apparently only the non-log part of it has withstood the ravages of time. There was a long flat expanse stretching out from it...I kind of took it as a road, but I now think it was proably the floor of the old Oklahoma row.

Anyhow, that's my adventure. Quite a lot of fun for not a ton of effort, and I always like a sense of exploration...I get to do that so little these days (babies + exploration = being lost with a screaming child who needs a nap).

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Date:2003-09-13 16:30
Subject:I don't have anything profound to say, really, but...
Security:Public
Mood:cheerful

...I have a sort of sense of guilt for not posting anything in a while.

I had a meeting regarding my stats for my thesis yesterday, which was very traumatic. Basically, everything I've been doing has been worthless, and everything I'm supposed to do doesn't work. Oh well.

I'm trying to figure out the inheritance of resistance, and I feel like I know what I'm seeing, but I can't get the right statistical test to see if it's the case. I feel like what I'm dealing with is polygenic resistance, with a recessive sensitivity gene in a couple of things. But I'm having a hard time knowing how to separate the effects of the general, multi-gene resistance, which is a quantitative kind of thing, and the hypersensitivity gene, which should be more quantitative. The fact that blackberries are tetraploid just makes everything complicated. And to think I'll be working with octoploids soon...

Anyhow, now that's I've bored you all with that, what's up...

Not much. I work on the thesis. I come home. I eat, and sleep. I watch the Z grow up before my very eyes.

Going out for a BBQ tonight, though...I'm psyched about that.

Went to the Mac Users Group meeting on Wednesday, hosted by some one spectacularly obnoxious. And barely anybody there has an real Mac experience. I literally have two times more years of Mac use than the entire self-appointed officers corps of the club. I can't decide whether it's worth attending again. The felt my computers were almost laughably out-of-date, apparently, which didn't endear any of them to me. I'm not claiming they are cutting edge by any means, but a 500MHz iBook and a heavily upgraded beige G3 minitower (500MHz, 416MB RAM, FireWire, USB, CD burner, OS X 10.1.5) are not hopelessly out of date...in fact they're probably quite representative of the sorts of computers the average Mac user out there has. But these folks in the MUG would like to assume every one has a G4, preferably a 17" Powerbook like the "president" has...

Okay, I sound like I'm griping, but I just like complaining.

Well, need to get things together for the BBQ.

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Date:2003-08-08 16:59
Subject:Yes, I am still alive.
Security:Public
Mood:busy

I'm so bad at posting anything to this thing. My intentions are good, but somehow everything else takes precedent. I like to think of this as a way of not only sharing what I'm up to with the five friends who read it, but also kind of recording it for my own use, so I can look back and see what was going on in my life and in my head at a given moment. In practice it doesn't always work out that well in that respect as it might if I was updating frequently.

But...oh well. Maybe I'll get better.

I'm sitting in the campus coffee shop, working (in theory anyway...obviously I'm not right this instant) on my lit review for my thesis. It's incredibly difficult...not in the sense that it's hard writing, or in the sense that I don't have material to do it with (I do...and then some), but more in the sense that I've never done anything like this really, and I hate the feeling of not knowing if I'm doing something right. It's one thing when its something short, or something unimportant, which involves either little effort or risk...but this involves lots of both and I'm not entirely sure how to do it. It's tough to know how to organize things...there are really at least two separate studies to my thesis, and neither resembles anything done with the same species in the past, so most of the literature I'm citing is only indirectly related. It makes it hard to know how to tie it all together.

I know I must be frustrate, because I sat down and wrote the bulk of a draft for a journal article based on one part of the thesis project. It was really rather satisfying. Now I just need to get the last of the data, do a little retooling on my results and discussion (if necessary), and I'll be all set as far as that's concerned. Though I'm no closer to having a lit review written. I told my advisor I'd have a Lit Review done by Sept 15. I really hope I have something to show him.

I have at last received official notice that I've been accepted and offered an assistantship to do my PhD work at the University of Florida. So we'll be moving there come December. I'm psyched...I think my wife's a little nervous though. The thought of four more years of school is a little intimidating, though.

In other school related news - I am a student no longer. At least officially, for the time being. Since I'm taking no classes, I've been moved off assistantship and am now an "employee", though what exactly my job is, I have no idea. In fact, I have no idea if I'm going to be paid at the end of this month, because nobody appears to be very concerned about this change, and knowing the office staff here, there's a reasonable chance they've just forgotten and I won't get paid. They managed to screw up my employment and pay once before through sneaking weird bookkeeping, about which I knew nothing until I stopped getting paid.

Luckily, I can absorb a little delay these days, thanks to the fact that I've been paid for my two books on Indians. They aren't the finest books in the world, and I sort of feel bad implying that I'm an expert on the subject, but I think they're pretty decent, and I'm quite proud of them. They're listed on Amazon now, though they won't actually be available until January. If you feel like dropping $23 for a 96 page book (lots of nice color photos, courtesy of my brother, though), feel free to pick one up (I don't get any royalties, so don't do it for my sake...I got a flat fee.)

There's some one in here with a cell phone which has a ring that consists of a little Mario Brothers type noise followed by a human voice saying "You have an incoming call. You have an incoming call." Just when you thought it couldn't get any more irritating than annoying musical jingles and the like. I guess when you have a cellphone which does more than the average laptop, you expect more than Commodore 64 calibre music.

I "fixed" my broken trackpad woes by buying a Logitech cordless trackball for my iBook. Not a 100% perfect solution, but I really like the thing. A great trackball, and it fits perfectly in iBook bag (which is getting a little full, although the new square power adaptor bought me a little extra space.) Reception between trackball and receiver unit seems fine...the only time I had any problem was when the receiver was dangling off the side of the bed, and the trackball was on the bed, toward the opposite edge.

Well, I ought to get heading home. Hope this finds all of you happy and well.

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Date:2003-06-05 14:55
Subject:Hey, I'm back.
Security:Public
Mood:bored

Anyhow...I'm back from a very long absence. My apologies to you, Journal, and to those few of you for whom this is your only link to me and my ever-so-exciting life. The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

So what's new in my life? Here's a selection:

- I'm finally getting paid for those books I wrote. The biggest check of my life was mailed yesterday and will soon show up to make my life infinitely better in so many ways. Well, actually, it will mostly make it better in not especially noticeable ways, basically by keeping debt collectors away. Nearly half is going to go towards paying off debts...credit card, university, medical bills lingering from Zea's birth, insurance, etc. Then the expenses involved in the next phase of grad school...application fees, transcripts fees, the GRE, and, of course, moving expenses and a little padding in case it takes us a while to find Cindy a job. And most of the remainder is going to be secreted away in the "house down payment fund".

- I've earmarked about $500 of it as money to squander on things I would not have otherwise been able to afford...if I don't get something obviously worthwhile out of this deal, I'll feel like the months of crap I went through was not worth it. So...I ordered an iPod. I'm so excited. It should be here in about a week!

- You'll notice GRE in the list above...I have to retake the damn thing, because ETS (the Evil Testing Serpent) refuses to report scores older than 5 years, and mine are running up on seven (until like 1988 they'd report them for 20 years, but then they realized they were missing an easy opportunity to screw money out of people). It pisses me off, but it has to happen. So I'm taking it June 21. So wish me luck. I'm in the coffee shop "studying" for it right now, in fact.

- My iBook is broken. The trackpad has bit the dust. The button still works, I just can't move the arrow...so I'm stuck using an external USB mouse. I've just about given up on a software fix, so I think it's hardware...and Apple charges a flat fee of $360 to do iBook repairs. While I will soon be flush with book-cash, I refuse to pay that to replace a $10 part, so I think I'm going to try to do it myself. I'm currently winning an auction on eBay for an iBook trackpad assembly with a bid of $1. I'm fairly sure its not a cable issue, because as far as I can tell, the button and the pad transmit over the same data lines, so if they were disconnected, the button wouldn't work. I also think, but I'm not sure, that the same circuitry on the board processes clicks as does pad movements, so the indication is that the problem is in the pad and not the motherboard, which is good. I tried taking the iBook apart a while back, and couldn't do it, but I wasn't daring to push to hard, and it requires some force. Seems pretty scary. But it'll be worth it if I can make the darn thing work again. My brother is going to give/sell me his 256MB RAM DIMM from his iBook, so I'll be up to 320MB. Almost a reasonable amount for a modern computer! We've got 192MB in the desktop, that's almost passable...

- The seedling portion of my Erwinia amylovora study is done...I'm still trying to figure out the results. Clearly, it's not simply inherited, so I get to muck around with heritability, and specific combining ability and general combining ability, and regression analysis. Fun.

- Dr. Clark is on my case to get my plants repotted...but I ran out of soil, so that's dragging. Oh well.

- We're going to Hilton Head in July with Cindy's family.

- I'm giving a talk on "Blackberries for Homeowners" at the fruit field day at the fruit substation. I've only been working with blackberries for two years, so it's a little scary.

- Oh, and for those I haven't told, it's looking like I'm going to the University of Florida for grad school.

Anyhow, that's my life at the moment.

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Date:2003-04-09 14:52
Subject:A temporary reprieve...
Security:Public
Mood:relieved—kind of...

Well, I gave my advisor and the professor running seminar a preview of my seminar an hour ago, and the verdict was that it might be best to take an incomplete and give the seminar in a few months when I have more data.

I'm torn, because I hate to put this off now that it's all ready to go, but... I have 600+ inoculations to do next week, and the absolute last thing I need to worry about is doing a seminar. And I can't deny that it'll be a better seminar if I do it with all the data. Still, I'll have to psych myself up again for it...

So, anyway, it's decided now. Now I just leave the thing to sit on my hard drive, and a few months down the line I slap the new data, re-tailor the conclusions to match any shifts in data, and call it done.

So those of you have been waiting with baited breath to find out which blackberry genotype wins as far as Botryosphaeria dothidea resistance, too bad...you'll just have to wait. I know it'll be tough.

If you're lucky, I might give you a hint later.

The idiot preacher is outside telling us how he opposes affirmative action because it makes homosexuals the leaders of Christian groups on campus. Huh?

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Date:2003-04-03 22:08
Subject:Seminar woes.
Security:Public
Mood:frustrated

Okay, "woes" might be an overstatement. But I'm still finding it ridiculously frustrating.

This is supposed to be my exit seminar. I'm presenting the results of my thesis project. Forget that 80% of the actual experiment work hasn't been done yet. It's still what I've been spending hours every week working on since I started here almost two years ago. You wouldn't think it would be so hard to put together.

Of course it was always a little bit nebulous, as topics go. Which was fine...lots of freedom to branch out, to go where the study led me. And in my head it all makes sense. I know how I got where I am. I know why I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm pretty sure my advisor and most if not all my committee members do too. But trying to explain that in a half hour seminar is apparently more difficult than I thought. It's taking on a feel of "well, first I did a little bit of this, and then I did a little bit of that, and we couldn't tell anything for sure, so we did something different, and that had some interesting results (which also didn't really tell us anything conclusive), so we're going to do something else, but we haven't done that yet." Which, of course, is exactly what it is, except it makes more sense to me.

Mostly its an issue of organization. It doesn't break down into nice Intro/Methods and Materials/Results/Discussion sections when there are at least seven or eight individual studies, some prompted by the results of others, some of which were required to even get the information in the introduction, some of which haven't been done yet, etc.

I worry that every one is going to miss the fact that I have real results, interesting results, because they're completely buried in the chaos of the disorganized mass that is this seminar.

I suppose I shouldn't worry. What does it really matter? Very worse case scenario: I get a B. A one credit B, the only B of my grad school career. Is this going to have any real effect on anything? And no matter what the grade, in less than two weeks, its done. No more seminars for a little while. So that'll be good.

Well...back to it.

At least I ate some good grapes earlier.

(Until I edited it, I had "hate some good grapes", apparently a compromise between "had" and "ate". Amusing as it was, I couldn't let it stand, lest anyone think I ever felt the tiniest bit of hatred towards my beloved grapes.)

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