Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Not Dead Yet 


From the Calvin & Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson. Click on the picture above for an enlarged view.Posted by Hello


It's been ten twelve days since I've last posted. I'm usually quiet, but I guess this was pushing it, even for me. Leave it to Caltechgirl to deliver a swift kick in the butt show concern. Thanks to Bill and Deb for leaving comments. You really like me!

Since it seems I get more comments when I don't blog, maybe I should just run an antiblog without posts. Just silence. It would be an improvement over Juan Cole or James Dobson.

Before I continue, allow me to sweep the tumbleweeds from the site.


SWEEEP. SWEEEP.Posted by Hello



Back to business, and all the thoughts whirling in my head that would have otherwise been on your computer screen sooner:


* That New Guy in the Pointy Hat: I surely can't be the only person who sees the new Pope Benedict XVI and thinks it's the substitute teacher, and the other guy will be back in a few more weeks. It's still weird to see then new guy in the pope's clothes.


* Elephants, Elephants!: I loved last week's story about the elephants rampaging through Seoul, South Korea. As for the elephants that went into the restaurant, the owner could only hope these were the same elephants that were trained to use the toilet.


* Working to Work: Ye Olde Job Hunt continues. Two more calls asking for a resume to be emailed. No word from either of those prospects in a week and a half. The weird thing is that in the past if I received word on a job, it often worked out. I'm going to spend the immediate future reviewing what I've been doing to see what improvements can be made.


* Civic Minded: Last week I was particularly saddened by the death of Marla Ruzicka in Iraq. Only 28, she started her own organization, CIVIC: Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict. She got Congress to give aid to Afghan and Iraqi civilians who lost loved ones during the war. This makes for a nice change from other antiwar protestors, whose idea of doing good is to block traffic, refuse to work with anyone who disagrees with them, and label Bush and the rest of America as "Nazis." Plus she had a wicked sense of humor that got to just about everyone, as noted by the San Francisco Chronicle article:


As she got older, her approach evolved from direct action to pragmatic cooperation. Her mother recalled an early episode when President Bush visited Sacramento during the California energy crisis.

"She mooned the president," her mother said. "The back of her underpants said, 'Public Power Now.' When she turned back around, the president looked her in the face -- he was only about a foot away -- and said, 'Cute.' "



* Lab Leftovers: Last week, the final cleanup of the labs/buildings was completed. I came away with a total haul of around three full carloads of random stuff. About half of that is earmarked for Bodega Marine Lab and The Marine Mammal Center, the rest is mine. Except I had to make room for it all (that's what took up the two previous weekends). Some of the random stuff I kept out of the Dumpster:

A couple of rolls of lab tape, one "Poison" and one "Corrosive," plus a bunch of biohazard stickers. I have yet to decide what pranks uses these will be chosen for.

A pair of brand-new Converse All-star sneakers that happen to fit me.

Two printers that turned out not to work anyway.

A roll of bubble wrap. Better and cheaper than those stress-relief balls.

Two large potted plants that almost immediately sunburned when I set them up at home.

An espresso machine. I drink espresso roughly twice a year, but the damn thing was free.

More scissors, hot chocolate, and sugar packs than any one person could ever use.


That's all for now, but the next post should be here before twelve more days have passed. If I haven't posted by May 8th, you can come carry me out on a pike.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

One Occasionally Foul-Tempered Bastard Seeks Employment 

Poooooped.


I wish I had the energy and mental reserve to blog about Really Important Stuff, (like politics, science, or Britney breeding). Plus life has been busy but unintersting, throwing out the remains of the failed company.

I'm currently in the middle of a batch of job interviews. I'm thinking I should forget the biotech industry, and just apply for this line of work instead:

Assassin

You are an
assassin.

That means you are a proffessional and do your
job without mixing any emotions in it. In your
life you have probably been hurt many times and
have gotten some mental scars. This results in
you being distant from people. Though many
think that you are evil, you are not. What you
really are is a person, trying to forget your
pain and past. You are the person who never
seems to care and that is why being an assassin
fits you good. Atleast, that's what people
think. Even if you don't care that much for
your victims, you still have the ability to
care and to generally feel. It is not lost,
just a little forgotten. In crowds you tend to
not get to noticed, and dress in black or other
discrete colours. You don't being in the
spotlight and wish people would just leave you
alone. But once you do get close to someone you
have a hard time letting go and get real down
if you loose him/her.

Main weapon: Sniper
Quote: "The walls we build around
us to keep out the sadness also keep out the
joy" -Jim Rohn
Facial expression: Narrowed eyes




What Type of Killer Are You? [cool pictures]
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, April 11, 2005

Yip yip yip yip yip yip 

Bloggers are the best! I had a long nasty, day and I came home feeling down. I was hoping a stroll through my blogroll would provide me a reason to smile. Leave it to Michele to come through; she dug up this gem:

25 Of My Favorite Sesame Street Moments

Since I was the son of a kindergarten teacher, not watching Sesame Street wasn't an option for me. May I never get too old to enjoy priceless dialogue like this:

Bert: I... two the sandbox.
Ernie: I three the sandbox!
Bert: I four the sandbox.
Ernie: I five the sandbox!
Bert: I six the sandbox!
Ernie: I seven the sandbox!
Bert: I eight the sandbox!
Ernie: YOU EIGHT THE SANDBOX?!
Bert: ...yeah.
Ernie: How'd it taste, Bert? (classic Ernie giggle)
Bert: Aww, no


If you're too much of a sourpuss to find that funny, you can't be helped.

What really made my day was being reminded of these guys:


The Yip-Yips: From Wikipedia.comPosted by Hello

These are the Yip-Yips, who are apparently from Mars, and are so named because much of their conversations consist of "YipYipYipYipYipYip." Such positive guys.

Anyway, they would come into a room and attempt to identify a mysterious object by using their Earth guidebook. I guess Lonely Planet prints guides in Martian, too.

The Yip-Yips would do their best to identify the object by guessing what it was, then communicating with it by making the corresponding sound. "Cat, Cat? Meow, meow. Nope Nope NopeNopeNopeNopeNopeNope." "Cow, cow? Mooo, mooo. Nope Nope NopeNopeNope."

This would go on for awhile. They would finally get it right (often when the object made noise). This was punctuated by their trademark affirmation, and they would imitate the object ad museum. Here's an link to an MP3 file of the Yip-Yips encounter with a telephone.

Floppy puppets making noises in strange voices = funny. And I wished I could get my jaw to flap up and down like theirs did. Yet I hadn't thought about them in years and years.

Thanks blogosphere for the cheering up!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

South Park Democrat 

I've heard of South Park Republicans, but I suppose I'm officially a South Park Democrat. I'm sure I qualify: I'm not what you would call a Bush supporter, but I supported both wars, and hippies are lame.

Here's my portrait, a la South Park:


Me Posted by Hello

It's a little more redneck than I normally look, but I had to sports the "Raisins" shirt (Fresno, represent!). I'm at my favorite place (the beach, of course!), and I'm eating an ice cream because I want to.

You can make your own South Park character here.

Courtesy of Caltechgirl, who was switched here blog to http://caltechgirlsworld.mu.nu/.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Scavengers 

I've spent the last four days working at my old company, helping them clean up and give away all their assets. I've been really surprised how happy or sad I've been, depending on the particular moment.

The good moments have been seeing a lot of old people, some of whom have properly chastised me for not keeping touch. Also, since the company needs to clear everything out by next Friday, all manner of items are being given away or sold for pennies on the dollar. We've put the word out to local universities, and many of the biology professors leave our lab with cars set to explode with their biotech treasure troves. It's like Christmas for them, getting a microscope for $400, seeing we have reagents they were about to buy anyway for full price, and filling carts like they're contestants on the Game Show Network. If I have to see that fruits of my labor being given away, at least local colleges and small biotech start-ups are taking advantage.

On the other hand, the whole cleaning process has made me blue at times. All manner of people come in; people who currently have their lives and careers all set, no uncertainty, no doubt that next paycheck will roll in. I feel like a broken-down car stuck in first gear, while everyone zips along in the carpool lane.

When I feel that way, I do my best to shake it off, and tell myself that I am after more than the next job. Paying the bills is a part of life, and the paycheck signifies that you are indeed accomplishing something in the world. Still, my life did not start as a biotech Manufacturing Associate, nor will it likely end with me as such.

Still, it would be nice to know that I have a place to be each morning after these two weeks are up. Specifically someplace that puts a monetary value to my commitment of time and energy.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Keeping Busy 

I've been relatively good the past couple of weeks about posting regularly, but any comments about what has been going on in my live have been sparse. It's about time I fessed up to what I've been up to recently.

First off, I must get a particularly nasty piece of news out of the way. My cousin was involved in an accident yesterday, one which tragically took the life of a five-year-old girl. As of Tuesday, it appears that he will be charged with a misdemeanor, but that could change. Any kind thoughts and prayers for the child's family and for my cousin's family are greatly appreciated. I hope the grief of both parties can be somehow lessened.

Now on to my own life, which is fortunately nowhere near as dramatic. In the past few weeks, I've volunteered at The Marine Mammal Center twice. I had gone every Tuesday for over a year, but my schedule kept me away for several months. Since I'm unencumbered by a work schedule (unfortunately), I made the decision to roll out of bed and go in.

Since I had been away for a few months, I felt a little awkward the first time I went in. Doubt can sure creep in when it's been a few months since you've gone into enclosures with seals weighing around one hundred pounds each. Also, I was unsure how I'd fit into the group tasks. How surprised then was I when I was given a round of applause when I walked into the office? Holy crap, it feels nice to be appreciated. My sarcastic side could say they were applauding the fact I finally made it, since I was almost an hour late due to traffic. Oh well.

While I was going to TMMC on those Tuesdays, I was also going up to Bodega Marine Lab a couple times each week. I help out one of the postdocs up there, doing such highly technical tasks as gluing numbers on crabs. I enjoy the Hell out of it; I get to help out research, work in a place with an unreal view, and take in a beautiful drive. I'll post some pictures when I finally cough some money for a digital camera.

Of course I'm a crazy bastard. I've been driving all over the place the past couple of weeks, but I've been closer to what I really want to do for a living than I have been for awhile. Ever since I made the annual summer trips to the coast, I've been hooked in by the sea. So when I get to go tidepooling and collect animals, for research no less, I don’t mind driving at least an hour and a half each way to do it. Most importantly, I'm getting valuable research experience, and I hope the effort helps slingshot me into grad school and a paid career in marine science.

In the meantime, I've been still trying to land a biotech job, although I don't try as hard on some days. In the past week, I've had one interview, and one position still open that I'm waiting to hear from. To top it off, my old employer called. Apparently, the company is closing shop and they need help to clean the place up. I was sympathetic, and when they offered to pay, that sealed the deal. So now I put in a full workday cleaning the labs, and deciding what can get tossed and what needs to get carted off. The kicker is they are paying me more now than before! Too bad the work only lasts a couple weeks.

All in all, I have enough to keep me busy. Kiss that insomnia I had goodbye. A busy couple of weeks, and tonight The Amazing Race. Things for me are pretty good. Now I just need that new job to come through!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Sin City 

I went out last night with friends and watched the new movie Sin City. Based on the comic books of the same name, Sin City was created along the lines of Pulp Fiction: a series of stories featuring different characters acting out their lives against a backdrop of a corrupt, violence-ridden city.

This movie makes Kill Bill, Volume I look like a game of patty-cake. I think this is the best way to describe the level of violence in the movie: One of my friends and I were rehashing one of the scenes in the movie, and I said "Do you remember the part with the decapitation?" To which she responded: "Which decapitation?"

As a whole, the violence, nudity, and overall pacing and look of the movie push through the boundaries of believability. After awhile, I stopped being shocked and started being amused. However, this was not a big deal since the movie didn't take itself very seriously anyway. As long as you can deal with body parts flying all over the place, people being eaten, and a large does of misogyny, I recommend seeing this movie. Saying "This film is not for everyone" would be the understatement of the year.

That being said, one part of the movie-going experience really got to me. About thirty minutes into the movie, I heard the voice of a small child. Sure enough, about five rows down were a man and a woman, together with their little boy who couldn’t have been older than three years old. Ahem, excuse me, but couldn't these "parents" find a relative or babysitter to watch the boy for a few hours? Was it too much of a bother to read a description of the movie, and understand that this ultra-violent R rated movie just might not be the best place for a toddler? ARRRGH!!!! To those of you reading who know me personally, if I even turn out to be such a bad parent in the future, feel free to come over and beat me within an inch of my life.

It Is Finished 

Finally, Pope John Paul II is free from suffering, and in a better place. God bless him.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Blogs of the Month Plus One 

Now that I have my Sage RSS aggregator up and running, I have lots more blogs I can keep up with and use for my Blogs of the Month. Hopefully, I'll be better at changing them in a more timely manner. The new Blogs of the Month:

* Bacon and Eh's: Some Canadian hoser writes aboot her life. She sounds kind of like the Canadian Michele. Funny stuff.

* Amusing News: Catherine brings us important stories like the World Beard and Mustache Championship. It makes for a nice break from all that oh-so-serious news.

* Lost in Transit. A collective blog with entries from expatriates of various nationalities living in various locales. I could apply, since I'm often in the States of Confusion, Despair, and Stupidity.

I'll keep the Jerry Brown blog on the blogroll. It will be in Politics under Liberal Weiners.


Finally, in honor of today, I was going to give you this extra link: Bill Clinton Daily Diary. Instead, I've used the Google archives of the blog for all links.

Alas, a couple of days ago, some spoilsport had to take the site down. Dammit! The blog was funny too. I give you the funniest part of the blog: the earliest entries that "Clinton" wrote, from June 2004. Here is the one I like best:

The dragon lady just called. She'll be home tomorrow. She reminded me she had asked me to look through some legal papers for her senate commission. I really don't want to do that. Damn. I just can't get myself to do it. Not today. I'll have to make up some excuse tomorrow. I know she'll look at me with that "You let me down again" look. Yeah, yeah, shut up.

Chelsea called. Still with that curly head with his fake politeness.

I'll deal with her tomorrow. Hillary, that is. I mean I just finished a book of more than 900 pages. She could've been a bit more considerate towards me.



Too bad the blog is defunct, I like a good laugh. I also think that the writing is basically how Bill Clinton would write a blog if he was drunk enough. If you're curious about who exactly is (was) behind the Clinton blog, Jenny Rae tells the story here.

Rest In Peace, Father Karol 

I've decided not to wait for the actual moment of Pope John Paul II's death to speak of him, although it would certainly be marvelous news should he recover enough to continue to live. Either way will be God's will. It's simply not possible to watch the scenes from St. Peter's Square and not be strongly moved by how good and decent humanity can sometimes actually be.

Forgive me for being political for a second, but I feel I have to say this: To Yasser Arafat and to both sides of the family in the Terri Schiavo tragedy, this is the proper, dignified way to die.

My strongest memory of the Pope relates to his appearance in Denver for the 1993 World Youth Day. It was all over the news, and I ended up watching one of the services on TV. While I meant to view only a few minutes, I ended up watching at least a half hour. It was strange and amazing, but I could feel the energy present at the event coming even through the television. I grew up agnostic, later to become Protestant. Still, watching TV that day, I could feel the presence of God at that event.

Tim Drake at National Catholic Register wrote about the effect World Youth Day had on Denver, even ten years later:


..."When the Pope came to Denver, many people were saying that the young of America would not care for the Pope … that the young here were very secular. Denver proved that that was baloney. The Pope received an extraordinary welcome," recalled Msgr. Edward Buelt, pastor of Our Lady of Loretto in Foxfield, Colo. More than 200,000 young people responded to the Holy Father's invitation to World Youth Day in Denver...


The spirit of the Pope and of the gathering led many to dedicate their lives to the Catholic Church:


...Perhaps the most obvious fruit of World Youth Day, however, has been vocations - vocations not only to Denver's seminaries, Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary and St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, but elsewhere as well.

At least five of the 37 sisters with the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and at least two of the 79 New York-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal trace their vocations directly or indirectly to World Youth Day in Denver...



I'm 29 years old, so John Paul II is the only Pope I've ever known. To me, he's always been the personification of not only the Papacy, but all of Catholicism. Because of this, It often seems to me that I have a better opinion of the Catholic Church than many non-Catholics. There is a lot of ugly history regarding acts that specific Popes have sanctioned or not spoken out against: the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Western Schism, where rivals claiming to be Pope excommunicated each other and their respective followers.

As an outsider, I've disagreed with many of its teachings. I'm a little uncomfortable with its focus on Mary, I see nothing wrong with married people using contraception (I think it's a great thing, actually), I was horrified at the disgusting Catholic priest sex abuse scandals, and I have always been somewhat baffled at the intricate rituals of the Church. Still, I have always had a more or less positive view of Catholicism, because John Paul II (Father Karol) who led it was obviously such a powerful man of God. Ever since 1990, I've tried to make a point of watching the midnight Christmas Mass on TV; I'm always struck at how beautiful the ceremony is.

I'm happy to say that I've had friends of Catholic faith all my life, and I offer my thoughts and prayers to them and all Catholics on this sad day.


UPDATE: 4:42 PM US Pacific time, 2:42 AM Vatican time: No news for several hours, the death watch continues. Angry in the Great White North informs us of what is to take place when a new Pope will need to be selected. The rituals are fascinating, especially considering this Information Age we live in. Here is a description of the gathering to choose the new Pope:


The Cardinals are cut off from the world. This tradition dates from 1274. Prior to that, elections could take months, as Cardinals came and went, wheeling and dealing (and sometimes fighting rivals with private armies). Now, no one gets in or out. No mobile phones or other communications devices are allowed (including laptops with wireless LAN cards -- no blogging Cardinals to keep us up to date [No blogging? Nuts! Ed.]). The Swiss Guard sweeps the area regularly for electronic bugs. The Cardinals sleep in a complex known as the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and when they walk the 300 yards or so from the Chapel to the dormitory, the Guards make sure no one is anywhere close enough to contact them. The Cardinals will be visible though, and Vatican watchers will be on the news debating the significance of the order in which the Cardinals are walking, who is walking with whom, and any facial expressions that might be picked up by cameras.

The ballots are burned in the Chapel furnace, and the smoke is coloured (in the old days, by adding wet straw, though now they use chemical pellets to ensure that there is no ambiguity) -- black smoke ("fumata nera") if no one has been selected, and white smoke ("fumata bianca") if the election is successful and the person elected accepts (see below). That chimney is easily the most filmed piece of roofing in the world.

Once someone has received the required votes, he is asked two questions. First, does he accept (if he doesn't, voting continues). Second, by what name does he wish to go by. Why do they change names? Because in 533 a Roman priest named Mercury was elected Pope. Since no one wanted a Pope whose name was that of a pagan god, he took the name John II, and the tradition stuck.

In which Chapel, exactly, does all this take place? In the Sistine Chapel before Michelangelo's Last Judgement. It is one scary painting .


Read the whole thing if you want to learn more regarding this centuries-old ritual.