Friday, April 30, 2010

Uhhh ...

... not much I can say about this one. So here's the link.


My first bad bit of news for the new year. I didn't win the election for Division Chair in one of my societies. Of course, that is not necessarily a bad thing, given the increased work load I would have experienced, but it does hinder a bit my ability to establish impact in my field. Getting elected would have shown that a majority (of those who vote at any rate) of my peers appreciate my efforts, enough to place me into positions of thankless and never-ending work.

I'll have to panhandle for some other position now I suppose. Anyone looking for an Associate Editor? Yeah, I'm a glutton for punishment.

I was for it ...

... but now I'm against it. We don't need more off-shore drilling if these sorts of things cannot be guaranteed to not happen. I cannot believe there are not more fail-safes on these rigs to prevent this exact thing. I mean honestly ... what part of 210,000 gallons of oil released a day into the ocean doesn't raise enough concerns to ensure that a FAIL-SAFE is put into place properly?

Read the following article ...

... today, about the tree that this little girl mentioned three times, and I've decided that I'm going to grab a new copy of Anne Frank's diary and read it again.

All of this ...

... over a phone?!?!


Bio-diversity: Why does no one seem to care?

Or at least, none of the people who can really effect the outcome of the problem?
But they clearly haven't worked too well. The problem, says Butchart, is that while there have been lots of plans on paper, "they have been inadequately targeted, implemented and funded". There are lots of protected areas, but they haven't been given enough money and are not in the most biologically important places. More than 80 per cent of governments have promised to tackle invasive alien species, but fewer than half have done anything.
The report can be found in the April 29, 2010 issue of Science (PDF, 9 pages). And what does the report say? The factors leading to loss of biodiversity continue to trend upward, with no promise of slowing down. The major factors? They are as follows:
The majority of indicators of pressures on biodiversity show increasing trends over recent decades, with increases in: (i) aggregate human consumption of the planet’s ecological assets; (ii) deposition of reactive nitrogen; (iii) number of alien species in Europe; (iv) proportion of fish stocks over-harvested; and (v) impact of climate change on European bird population trends. In no case was there a significant reduction in the rate of increase ...
They also mention habitat fragmentation and mentioned a pretty alarming trend there as well:
... 59% of large river systems are moderately or strongly fragmented by dams and reservoirs ...
Fifty-nine percent? Ouch!

So what is their conclusion?
Our results show that, despite a few encouraging achievements, efforts to address the loss of biodiversity need to be substantially strengthened, by reversing detrimental policies, fully integrating biodiversity into broad-scale landuse planning, incorporating its economic value adequately into decision making, and sufficiently targeting, funding and implementing policies that tackle biodiversity loss, among other measures. Sustained investment in coherent global biodiversity monitoring and indicators is essential to track and improve the effectiveness of these responses.
Let us hope that this report does not fall on deaf ears.

Stop the madness!

New Arizona anti-immigration law will impact MLB.
Take, for example, this scenario: An 18-year-old from Venezuela playing in the rookie league jumps in a friend’s car to head to the grocery store. The friend rolls through a stop sign. A police officer witnesses the infraction. The law, signed last week by Gov. Jan Brewer, requires that “where reasonable suspicion exists … a reasonable attempt shall be made … to determine the immigration status of the person.” The Venezuelan player, accordingly, is asked to furnish paperwork proving his legal residence, a new burden of proof under SB 1070. If he happens to have forgotten his passport and work visa at home, his friend would get a traffic ticket and the player would get significantly more.

“Under that scenario,” said Mike Philipsen, the communications advisor for the Arizona Senate Republicans, who drew up the bill, “he could be detained.”

In other words, hauled off to jail, even though he is in the United States legally.

“I’ve never seen anything like that in the United States, and Arizona is part of the United States,” Kansas City Royals designated hitter Jose Guillen said. “I hope police aren’t going to stop every dark-skinned person. It’s kind of like, wow, what’s going on.

“I was 17, 18. I’d forget things. Kids do.”
Here is my question, under pre-SB 1070 laws, at what point could there be an inquiry into the legal status of someone? Was it only after they committed (or were suspected of committing) a crime? Seems that would have been sufficient, no? This new law seems to go a bit over the top.

Just imagine, you're a tourist in some country and you leave your passport in your hotel room. You get stopped on the street for no apparent reason and get hauled off to jail because you're suspected of being in the country illegally. That would suck, no? Same difference with SB 1070 if you ask me. When I've traveled out of the country, I didn't always carry my passport with me. If it got stolen or was lost, I'd be screwed, so I kept it locked up back in my room.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It never ends ...

... so I was telling a friend that I was trying to finish up a lot of busy work this week, so I could hammer out this manuscript. I made mention of the fact that I KNEW, just KNEW, that once I finished my busy work, more would crop up.

So, I handled my two reviews and sent them off. Next day? Two more show up in my email. Fortunately, one is a re-submit of one I have already reviewed, so I'll take it on, but damn. Does anyone ASIDE FROM ME review manuscripts any longer?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ethanol is dead, long live butanol

BD: What about the production economics?

BuMx: Using our process, a 100 MGy corn ethanol will make 80 Mgy of biobutanol, but every fuel molecule will have 25 percent more energy, so its a balance. Also, with 16 percent butanol, you are getting higher concentrations of a higher energy molecule, so you are getting real improvements in fuel economy and efficiency.
Butanol vs. Ethanol (Infrastructure)

And I will readily admit to being a bit biased. I've already said I think our best bet would be to focus on butanol and scrap the entire ethanol talk.

I want ...

... N8. Sexy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To screen or not to screen

So in my copious spare time, I've been approached to co-write a metagenomics grant. We have the RFA and we have our system (rhizosphere). Now comes the fun part. Sketching out years 1 through 5, experimental design, and budget. If we're successful (we need to get past the "Letter of Intent" stage first), we hope to fund a post-doc to run with this project. I'm thinking that we start off with a good 16S rDNA deep sequencing run or two to establish the major players in our system, and follow that up with a metagenomic sequencing run. I favor the shotgun approach, just sequence everything we come up with and take it from there. I know other folks like the screening approach and only going for things that they think will be beneficial to know about. Off the top of my head, I can't think of an easy screen for our system, and while it'll be a lot of extraneous info to mine (and a more expensive proposition) I think it'll be worth it. From there, I hope to move us into transcriptomics which I think has the benefits of metagenomics while also giving us "real time" data on how the organisms are responding to environmental conditions.

Should be fun. Now I have a couple of days to put my letter of intent together.


1. Good! So a Navy SEAL punched a terrorist, and the first SEAL was up for charges of not stopping it. Big whoop. Good news is, the tribunal wasn't phased. The only thing he should have been charged with IMNSHO is not letting the low-life get punched more! RIP Scott Helvenston.

2. Really Arizona? Really? If you wanted to be the laughingstock of the US, kudos. You earned it!

3. NEWSFLASH! The Sun is hot. Like, totally hot.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Relax ...

... too many deadlines. Too much self-inflicted anxiety, too much, too much, too much. But not enough blogging. I'll get to it eventually. I hope. :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I just love when ...

... in the beginning of your paper you talk about processes A & B and how they can negatively impact the environment, then you perform biological assays to measure A & B and show that in this particular instance, they don't amount to much ... but then you have to go on and say "Well, despite showing that there is almost nothing here, we went ahead and quantified just how much of the genes which encode for processes A & B were present anyways."

I mean, as if it makes any damn difference. Well, I suppose that's what I need to figure out now ... where COULD it make a difference? Maybe if we tweaked environmental condition X, and/or Y, and/or Z? I suppose I'm in a somewhat interesting position because while processes A & B don't appear to be going on at any high rate, the genes which are responsible are found in fairly high abundance. Why? In at least one case I have no idea, but I'll be damn sure to pull something out of my butt before all this is said and done.

This is why I hate projects that I walk into when half of the data has already been collected and they want me to get one of those "quick pubs". No doubt it'll go in somewhere, but it's not really what I wanted to be futzing with.

And to compound the fun ... another review showed up in my mailbox yesterday! Just two attachments ... not even text in the body of the email they were delivered in. Fortunately for them, I didn't just delete the email ... which I usually do when nothing but an attachment from a person I don't know shows up in my email box.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Just received this in my email today:
Dirt! The Movie is coming to you on PBS - Tuesday, April 20th at 10pm!
Check it out if you can.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You know what's a pain in the rear?

Buying flowers. DO. NOT. LIKE.

ETA: And by "DO. NOT. LIKE." I mean "thrilled with the response they generated". Lesson learned ... don't sweat the specifics and go with the flow.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Thursday, April 08, 2010

What's wrong with me?

Why, when I'm trying to finish a manuscript, did I accept two manuscripts to review? Could I really be this desperate to put off writing?

On the plus side, I received a promotion last week. Woo hoo! What does it mean? It means I'm now eligible for international travel, and can submit proposals for agency post-doc lines. Doesn't mean I'll get either, but it's nice to know I can throw my hat into the ring now.

ETA: One review down. One more to go (fortunately it's a resubmit).

Day three ...

... of work in the field.

Today, I found out that I'm pretty much immune to fire ant bites. Didn't exactly set out to test that theory, but I managed to step onto a mound when collecting soil samples. Had ants covering my leg up to my knee by the time I realized it, had a few bites and stings but they haven't welted up yet (6 hours later) and I doubt they're going to at this point.

I do have a nice bruise underneath my ribcage, and blisters on both hands though. With the lack of rain those soils were dry and compact!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Thursday Funny

Thursday Video

Honestly ...

... what were these people thinking?
They had given him the trip as a graduation present. Anne Rucker told she knew about the reported violence in Mexico, but she thought her son would be safe in such a populated tourist area.
They're killing people in Mexico in BROAD DAYLIGHT! What made you think a crowd of people would make things any safer?


Stay out of Mexico.