Friday, February 20, 2009

Soup du jour

I am currently the organizer for our departmental lecture series. This means finding people to fill the slots, organizing their arrival, and then the dinner following the talk. This week was crazy as we actually hosted our regular speaker on Thursday as well as a special visitor on Tuesday. So I have had a couple of really late nights this week.


I usually enjoy the schmoozy dinners after the speakers, not only is the company usually pretty good but I love to eat out: a) the food is usually better b) I don’t actually have to cook it and c) I don’t have to deal with the aftermath. Tuesday night we went to our usual haunt, we hadn’t been for quite awhile. The evening just got off on the wrong foot. We walked in and the young woman waitressing had never heard of our reservation. The usually sparsely populated restaurant was already nearing capacity before we requested a table for eight. She pulled herself together (and some tables) and got us seated. Then another one of our faculty walked in, sat down to say hello and caught our waitress’s eye and said,

“When you get a chance another group is coming in momentarily there will be nine…”

The look on her face was absolutely classic - deer in the headlights. She managed to stammer out,


This is a small place, now full and she was alone and obviously new on the job. I looked up a moment later and saw her frantically calling for reinforcements.


Quite some time later we managed to get our appetizers and as I passed the plates around the table there was a sort of fracas at the other end of the table, of course at the time, no one would actually tell me what was going on. The next day in class as we were settling down, one of my colleagues said,

“So did anyone ever tell what happened at dinner?”


Apparently as my colleague went to pass the next plates around the table he revealed a very large cockroach in the classic dead bug pose one the plate underneath. This of course illicited a collective groan as about everyone around the table had been at dinner (in one of the two groups) and had obliviously eaten with gusto.


I guess I’ve learned to look at things relatively, especially after spending so much time in Kenya. So, I managed to rationalize this pretty quickly.

“My plate was “clean” when I got it. At least it wasn’t in my food…”


You delude yourself however you need to and you can get away with this as long as you don’t think about it too hard. On one of my previous trips to Kenya we were having a “nice” dinner at the Baringo Lodge while we hosted some visitors. Now I don’t know why this was supposed to be “nicer,” I would rather eat our cooks food any day of the week. My friend Boniface and I were at the end of the table and as I went to take a big bite of stew he grabbed my arm to stop me with the spoon halfway to my mouth. As my gaze settled on my spoon, my eyes got as big as saucers. The whole (rather large) soup spoon was taken up by a well marinated cockroach. Now if that had happened a few years ago you would have heard the shriek in Connecticut. As it were I managed to stifle the squawk, don’t as me how. Needless to say neither Boniface nor I were particularly interested in having any more stew. That is one of the few times I actually have left food I my plate in Africa and gladly went to bed hungry. Frankly I was pretty happy last year when the Lodge was closed and I wouldn’t have to risk finding any legs in my food. So now you better understand my ability to compartmentalize, “At least it wasn’t in my food,” on Tuesday night.   I think I’ve found a new restaurant to treat our guests, at least until I forget. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ok, Seriously?

So, I just had a vending machine attack. Yes, I know I don’t need chips, and I know my hips don’t need chips, but I had to have chips…


Fell off that wagon.


So I’m looking at the selection and what do I see:

Burger King Ketchup and French Fries Flavored Potato Snacks.


Seriously? A french fry flavored potato chip with faux ketchup? At that point shouldn’t you just go and get the french fries and enjoy the real thing?


Another example of the “flavored food” epidemic our cuisine seems to be going through. Right up there with the Clamato and Lime Flavored Budweiser that I saw in a convenience store on the way back from North Carolina.


In a word… Disgusting. 

Another Sign of (Eeeek) Adulthood?

Well most of you who know me well, also know that I’ve had graying hair since I turned sixteen. Thanks for those genes Dad (although most of my genes are really pretty good ☺). When I was younger I liked to use this as an excuse to dye my hair decidedly unnatural colors. Now I was never as daring as my more free spirited friend Mary, so I didn’t go for the Manic Panic electric blue, but the slightly more conservative Purple Passion. 

My Mother was a best less then pleased with this development. The first time I pulled the ultra violet treatment, was unfortunately just a few days before my Grandmother passed away. My Mother was as mad as a wet hen that I would be at the funeral with what could only be described as a “grape colored” head. Much to my amusement as we all stood in the receiving line at the funeral many of my Grandmother’s blue-haired and stylishly coiffed friends kept complementing my hair. Seeing that I was still an upstart teenager, every time I got one of these complements I had to waggle my eyebrows at my Mother (standing beside me) and point out that it really wasn’t so bad now was it? I swear you could almost see the steam coming out of her ears…

 About two weeks ago I got a bit nostalgic for my tendencies toward adventurous hair color, and I was more then overdue for a re-dye (we are talking two inches of roots here).

 “That it! I’m buying the Black Cherry dye!

I’m sick of having boring hair.”

 Um, right, can you guess how this turned out? My now, mostly gray, roots turned out bright (sparkly bright) purple (think neon sign) and the rest was dark brown in some spots and dark purple in others. I had failed to work the dye complete through my hair which is now much longer then I am used to. My head looked like a patchwork quilt, and not a nice one at that.

 You see, the bright purple factor would have been ok by itself – if only it was the same bright purple all over… The worst part was that I needed to actually wait a few weeks before trying to correct the problem as I didn’t want to over-dye my head and make my hair all fall out. That’s a solution that’s waaaaaay worse then the problem.

I have hence bought boring brown dye and employed the assistance of a friend to make sure I actually got the dye where it belongs and I am happy to report that I no longer look like a patchwork quilt (even I’m back to kinda boring…). 

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Humor in Science

So the rule is this whomever finds a new species is given the privilege of coming up with the name for that new species. The only catch being that the name must fit with in the standard system of binomial nomenclature originally developed by Carolus Linneaus. Many people who find themselves in this position name their species after famous individuals in their field of science, some choose names related to the place the items were discovered or the indigenous groups that live there, but others... they seek to revere or to ridicule (with a sense of humor). 

There are a few I just love:
The paleontologist who loved 70's punk who found a few new species of ancient trilobytes and named them: Sid viciousi and Johnny rotteni

Quentin Wheeler, an Entomologist at London's Museum of Natural History, and one of his students discovered several new species of Slime Mold Beetles. 
They had to use the already named genus Adathidium but chose the species names, 

are you ready for this.... 

A. vaderi
and even better... 

A. bushi, A. rumsfeldi, and A. cheneyi

What is even better is that although this, I'm sure, was intended as a slight it earned Wheeler a call from the President telling him he was honored (WHAT?). 

For more click here

Life, etc.

Life today is filled with annoying automated telephone systems, banks, and online registrations systems that refuse to function properly. I've wasted an entire morning on complete bullcrap. However I caught a few gems on the news this morning that cause me to pause and think... Since my life is pretty boring I thought I would share them. 

1. There was a story on this morning about how independent financial fraud investigator, Harry Markopolos tried for years to get the securities and exchange commission to investigate Bernard Madoff's investment schemes. Turns out Markopolos was right. Despite handing the SEC Madoff on a "Silver Platter" they dropped the ball and Madoff's giant pyramid scheme collapsed costing innocent investors $50 million . (See full story at: It seems the SEC more investing in its turf wars then doing their job.  Even after the collapse Markopolos is doggedly on Madoff's tail exposing that his scheme goes even farther then previously known. 

My question is this: Why isn't Markopolos running the SEC? 

2. The science fiction collection of Forrest Ackerman (coiner of the term "sci-fi") has died and his enormous collection of memorabilia is being auctioned off. This includes a signed first edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. 

I would about kill to get my paws on that book, but alas my bidding power is a bit below par for that one. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Snow! Yuck!

One of my best friends lives in Tennessee now, and is constantly wishing for a "real" snowstorm. My title is in direct response to her "Snow! Yay!" post of late. I am on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. I'm done with snow and can't wait to move away from it all. It seems we are getting more then our fair share of it this year. 

Not long after I arrived at work it began to snow. Despite the fact that they closed school early it still took 1.5 hours to get home. I also managed to go ass over teakettle trying to walk to my car. All of a sudden, plop! There I was sitting in the snow, much to my posterior's dismay. On the humorous side I did leave a sort of ridiculous half a snow angel (butt and legs only) for everyone else to admire or take as a warning (whichever) on their way to the car.

Spring please? Damn that groundhog anyway.