Thursday, December 27, 2007


I have a lot of respect for individuals that are capable of creating endless amounts of nonsense. Hence, John Hodgman has become one of my favorite correspondents on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. After watching him as a correspondent, then becoming the "PC" on the Mac and PC ads, I found that he had actually written a book. If anyone is curious, his book is currently on my nightstand. The book is truly the work of a master. It is billed as a complete compendium of world knowledge, but acknowledges that all facts contained within are untrue. In effect, he wrote an almanac with entirely fabricated information. I am posting a clip of one of my favorite Hodgman pieces from The Daily Show. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I hope that everyone had a nice holiday and got to spend time with family and friends. Now that the previous statement has been made - on to the news!

I've said this many times in this blog - this is going to be interesting. Things just got interesting. It is possible that this post may become long and potentially sappy, but I'm just trying to grasp some of what has been swarming my brain for the last several weeks.

It is official - I am seeing someone. I had chosen to put the blog into hiatus until she was aware of it's existence and wanted to make sure that she didn't have a problem with me talking about her in a public forum. She is someone that I work with, indirectly, but is not a scientist (thankfully). She is a graduate student in the English department. She is very intelligent, shares my twisted sense of humor, is tall and just happens to be incredibly beautiful. We share similar taste in music, movies and even sports - more specifically we have a passion for baseball. I didn't know that someone existed that would be not just willing to, but actually suggest sitting in the living room while blaring Tool's Undertow while watching a muted Sportscenter and working on a crossword puzzle together as an evening event. She is the most amazing person that I have ever met and more than could have ever imagined. We've crammed so much time together into only a couple weeks of "dating", that it feels I have known her years and been together for at least several months.

Now, I'm going to get into a little bit of weirdness. Sometimes you really have to search for parallels and commonalities between people, other times they smack you right in the face. I am the older of two brothers, my uncle is the older of two brothers. I was born on his birthday. She was born on my Aunt's birthday (uncle's wife). But it doesn't stop here - my birthday is also her brother's birthday. This is just a single example that we discovered on our first date, but the parallels go so deep that it almost seems predestined. Our parents careers while we were being raised are another example - mothers were teachers (music/primary), fathers worked for the government (city/federal). She went to her mother's university, I went to my father's. I mentioned that our taste in music was similar - but liking the same seven year old mediocre song from a now widely despised band because of a single dull drum strike 3/4 of the way into the song - seriously? You can't make this stuff up.

Just a few weeks ago, I had been trying to force myself to get motivated. Trying to convince myself that my time in my current job would be worthwhile and beneficial to my future life. It had been almost a sensation of sleepwalking or just going through the motions at work and at home. Now, things seem to be changing quickly. I feel motivated. I feel alive. I am thinking about what I want to do in the future. I feel reassured about the path I have traveled. All of the stupid bullshit I've had to deal with from the past decade feels like a distant memory - means to an end, nothing more.

To answer the question that many of you may have been considering - Megan.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Although I am still on hiatus from the blog, I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. This blog will return on Wednesday and all will be revealed! I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I'm sure that some of you have been wondering what's been going on. Andrew seems to post regularly, is everything ok? Has he gotten so busy with work that he doesn't have time write anything anymore? Well, to assure everyone - everything is going well... very well. My current schedule has been keeping me from the computer, but I promise to return soon. I have been distracted and very tired for the last few days, but you're not going to hear me complain about it. Thanks for bearing with me everyone and check back soon for some exciting news in the very near future!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Apartment Pictures... Finally!

As promised (just not as timely), here are a few pics of my new apartment.

Pic #1 - Kitchen
Things to note: The woodwork, the dark marble countertops, the stainless steel appliances.
Pic #2 - Living Room
Things to note: My sweet new coffee table (an early Christmas gift from my parents - thanks!), the new big screen TV (which is not so big that it overpowers the room) and the blanket that displays my true allegiances.
Things to ignore: Exposed wiring from the walls (it's part of a surround system that I decided not to use, but haven't gotten around to taking care of) and also, the fact that I don't have a lamp shade on the lamp in the corner.
Pic #3 - Bathroom/Dressing room
Pic #4 - A glimpse into the walk-in closet. I just wanted everyone to know what was on display, front and center. Go Royals!

A final note - the bedroom is still pretty messy, so no pics of that for now - maybe later.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Party

Wednesday night my department had their holiday party. Normally, I dread these things, but this one turned out alright. The event was scheduled at the Webster House in downtown Kansas City. The Webster House was a 19th century school house that was renovated to accommodate a conversion to a restaurant. The building is incredibly exquisite and the food was amazing. It was a much higher class establishment than I had anticipated, despite the semi-formal attire requirement. The Webster House was not the reason that I dislike these (not simply social gatherings in general, but mainly academic related social gatherings) functions. It's the class separation that occurs. Typically, the professors (bosses) congregate with the professors. The graduate students gather with the graduate students. However, the difference at this particular function that managed to (somewhat) level the playing field - complimentary alcohol. While the air is still dense with pretentiousness, it's not quite as thick after a healthy treatment of imported beer or a few glasses of wine.

One of the highlights of the evening, however, was the use of my apartment building's limo service. Earlier in the day, a friend/colleague from my group had completed his dissertation defense (the grad student's final rite of passage that I will describe in a future post). One of the goals of the evening was to make sure that he was able to relax and be allowed to become lucid enough to begin to put the entire defense ordeal into a haze without the pressure of having to potentially drive home after the event. I invited my group to gather at my building prior to the holiday party and I would provide the transportation. I have to admit, it was pretty nice showing up at a semi-formal event in style... especially so when professors, who just parked down the block and walk to the front door, see a post doc and two grad students (and one spouse) arrive in a black stretch limo and be delivered right to the door. It did make for interesting conversation during the event, and guaranteed that the limo service will be used frequently in the future. What a great amenity for an apartment building.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Schrute-ism #2

I never smile if I can help it. Showing one's teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for it's life.

The Power of Prognostication

I believe that "eerie" is the word. My 11/30 post, entitled "Son of a...", unexpectedly became foreshadowing. I had mentioned that the warranty period for my Xbox360 was nearing it's end and that I could attempt to bring it's functionality to a close, in hopes of receiving a newer model with the HDMI output port. I decided against this, and ended up only turning it one one time since that post to watch a DVD. Last night, I felt like "enhancing my hand-eye coordination", so I fired up the 360. I loaded my previously saved game, then the screen flashed and went black. Hmmm... could be a power problem, could be the A/V cable connection. I check the cables and restart. Then, the dreaded "red circle of death" appears.
Normally, the lights around the power button are green on startup, but when the "red circle of death" appears, it means that there has been a (typically irreversible) hardware failure. After waiting overnight with no success at restarting the box, I reported the problem to tech support. I have to admit, the Xbox360 tech support was very easy to deal with (so far). They just asked if I had gone through the guides online to try to restart it (i.e. unplug all the cables, unhook the hard drive, etc). They told me that the problem was covered by the extended warranty, and set up the return/repair (or replace) procedure. Total time spent on the phone - less than ten minutes. Unfortunately, however, there is only a very slim chance that my system will be replaced with the newer model featuring the HDMI output port. I will be hoping for the best. For any family members expecting an HD-DVD demonstration over the holidays, it is not likely to happen. Will you settle for a ride in the limo?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top 5 Movies of 2007... So Far

I haven't been seeing many movies in the theater recently, but until I took a look at this list, I didn't realize how selective I had become. Of the 100 most popular titles of 2007, I have seen only seven. I seem to be less interested in movies. It may be because the quality of films has been dropping, or conversely, the quality of television shows has been increasing. I do believe that there is a link between these statements. With the increasing complexity of television shows (having multiple series featuring season long story arcs), I would presume that movie writers have been brought in to work on television projects. This shift, if it really has happened, could explain why TV programs have improved and decent movies seem to be few and far between. Of the movies that I have seen, there are enough good films that I can compile a Top 5 list. Honestly, I could swap any of 1-4 depending on my mood because they were all very entertaining.

First, here are the two movies, that didn't make the list because, frankly, they stunk:
Spider-Man 3 (so many reasons that it wasn't good)
Breach (boring - only movie in years that I actually dozed off "watching")

The Top 5 Movies of 2007

5. Hot Fuzz (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost do a buddy cop flick - hilarious)
4. 3:10 To Yuma (I don't like Westerns, but this movie rocked - would have been rated #1 if at some point in the film Christian Bale had said... "I'm Batman")
3. Live Free Or Die Hard (completely unrealistic, but every second was entertaining)
2. The Bourne Ultimatum (best of the series so far)
1. No Country For Old Men (see yesterday's post)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

No Country For Old Men

While I had my doubts about seeing The Golden Compass, I was confident that I would enjoy seeing No Country For Old Men. The Coen Brothers, Tommy Lee Jones, a violent movie about a hitman and stolen money - sounds like an entertaining film. And entertaining it was. For those of you with a dark sense of humor and the stomach to handle violence, No Country For Old Men is most definitely your kind of movie. I liked several of the Coen's previous movies: Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou, and of course, The Big Lebowski. Their movies have dialog driven storylines, with (typically) dark themes and are injected with a twisted sense of humor. They don't assume that their audiences are morons or have attentions spans so short that they need to deliver flashbacks to scenes that appeared earlier in the same film. For these reasons, the Coen's should be applauded. The thing that surprised me most about No Country For Old Men was the ending (which I will not reveal). I appreciated the fact that they left the audience with something to talk about. Too many films wrap everything up in a nice bow (Da Vinci Code)... and everyone forgets everything they just saw (Spider-Man 3). You will have much to ponder as the credits roll (and on your way home - or later still) and you will remember what happened. No Country For Old Men may top my list of top films of 2007... so far, which just might be my next post...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

How Much Are You Willing To Pay For Artwork?

I came across an interesting article about an art auction this morning. To summarize, an anonymous bidder paid $57.2 million for a 3 1/4 inch tall, 5,000 year old sculpture. At first, it seems like a lot to pay for something of such small stature... but it is incredibly old, well preserved and quite intricate. The article got me thinking about how much money I am willing to spend on artwork to decorate my apartment. Obviously, I am entirely incapable of even considering spending within five orders of magnitude (that 10,000 times for the non-scientists) as this piece sold for. I would probably spend about $100 for a single piece of artwork.

Then my interest turns to how much money the anonymous bidder must possess. Let's just say for the sake of argument that my net worth is roughly $10k. If I am willing to spend about a hundred bucks for a piece of art, that would be 1% of my net worth. Again, for the sake of argument, let's assume that this bidder is also willing to spend only 1% of his/her net worth on any one item. These estimates would make this person a billionaire five times over. How do people get this much money? And how can I become like these people (in wealth, not necessarily anonymity)? The only thing that I am certain of, is the answer does not lie in academia.


Whenever I'm about to do something, I think... would an idiot do that? And if they would, I do not do that thing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

To See or Not To See...

The Golden Compass opens this week in theaters. I've seen the previews on TV for the last several weeks and I had simply dismissed the notion of paying to see it. It's quite possible that it relates to my dislike for the lead actress (Nicole Kidman), but the scenes with the giant polar bears look pretty impressive without having the appearance of being ridiculously fake since they are surely CG generated. I was still in the camp of not wanting anything to do with this film. Then, the Christian right speaks up and condemns the movie as being anti-Catholic (normally I can't stand Fox News reports, but this one was actually somewhat well done. They made an attempt at being objective - I know it's just about a movie, but I don't think it's too much to ask for the reporting of news to be politically neutral). Now I am becoming more interested in seeing the film because of the controversy. Is there really an anti-Catholic message? I'd have to see it to find out and the group that is recommending a ban has absolutely no intention of doing actually watching it themselves (What century is this anyway?).

It's still going to take a lot to overcome the fact that Nicole Kidman is in it though... After a trio of terrible movies, I vowed to not watch any of her future movies. What were the three movies that drove me to this, you ask? 1. Eyes Wide Shut - boring movie about characters that weren't worth watching... it was uncomfortable just to sit through. 2. This one is probably going to annoy/anger some people, but here goes anyway - Moulin Rouge - I don't mind the musical/movie crossover genre... oh wait, no, I despise the musical/movie crossover genre and this was one of the worst I'd ever seen. 3. The Others - The so-called twist ending was a waste because it was glaringly obvious from within the first five minutes of the movie. Apparently I gave up on her as an actress in 2001, and now, going back through here IMDB filmography, the only movie of hers that even half-liked was Malice - which wasn't even that good. Why do people like her? I just don't understand; all of her roles end up being over-acted, the movies she chooses to appear in aren't that good, and now I find out that she's married to a country music "star". What the hell? Yeah, I'm not seeing this movie - Nicole Kidman is charting waters previously only occupied by Denzel Washington (seriously, Crimson Tide is one of the worst films ever made) in my book.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Royals' Early Offseason

It seems that the Royals are trying to become a legitimate team in the off-season. A week ago they signed Japanese relief pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta in a move to expand their international presence. Then with today's signing of free agent Jose Guillen, they landed a decent power hitter for the middle of their lineup and the rumor is that they aren't done. They are reportedly going after the top Japanese free agent Hiroki Kuroda, and they've been mentioned to be making a run at Andruw Jones - another power hitting outfielder.

What would Royals fans have to complain about if their team managed to land multiple high-level talents in one off-season? I'm guessing it will go something like this... Guillen is going to be a problem in the dugout, he's a hothead, he's inconsistent and he's potentially going to be suspended after being named part of the steroid investigation. Jones is coming off of his worst season and maybe he's on the decline even though he should be in his prime. Kuroda was good in Japan, but his skills won't translate to U.S. major league ball.

Any free agent they do sign only has to show some sign of being helpful to another team to be trade bait. While signing free agents hasn't worked too well in the past for the Royals. But that was under the old management philosophy - sign free agents that are nearly drawing social security and maybe they can pull it together for one more season. Now they're going after free agents that are in the prime of their careers. It's a step in the right direction, but soon they're going to have to translate that to wins on the field. They improved by 7 games in 2007 over the 2006 season (GM Moore's first season), but it takes more than one season to prove a trend. Hopefully the 2008 season will show that they're becoming legitimate. In any regard, the buzz in KC is positive and I'm certainly looking forward to next season more with every signing.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Son of a...

The new TV has arrived! After rewiring my system and getting everything hooked up appropriately for HD, I made a disappointing discovery (hence the title of this post). There is no HDMI port on the back of my xbox360. How frustrating - I can only go up to 1080i output with my HD-DVD player (sarcasm). After a little checking, the HDMI port wasn't "standard" until Aug 2007 consoles. That is information that I would have liked to have had prior to purchasing the HDMI cable for that console. I can use the cable I purchased for the cable box, but it doesn't put out a 1080p signal, so what's the point? Somehow I have been "lucky" as I own one of the boxes from the first shipment (end of 2005) that hasn't destroyed itself. Maybe if I run the box 24-7, it'll crap out and I'll still be able to get the replacement system that has the HDMI port on the back. Hmmmm... I think that the warranty is set to expire at the end of the month - so I'd better hurry up and break it ( I won't actually do this, but I can talk about it, right?).

I'm sure that many of you don't understand what I'm talking about, so here's the quick synopsis... To get a "full" HD signal (1080p), you must first have a piece of equipment capable of outputting the appropriate signal, a piece of equipment capable of displaying the signal and a cable capable of carrying the correct signal between the two pieces of equipment. All three are required for the 1080p signal to work properly, and until I went to wire the system, I believed that I had them. I believed... incorrectly. Oh well, what the hell, it's still way better than standard definition. How did I survive before this?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blurg v. Blerg - The Decisive Answer

So, after another lengthy search, quite similar to the one in yesterday's post, the answer has presented itself. In episode 2 of season 2 of 30 Rock, there was a reference to the Liz's office furniture that was still unassembled. They show a one second clip of the furniture box with the manufacturer name of "blërg" - so technically, both Mike and myself were wrong. But at least there is closure on the subject and everyone will be able to sleep tonight.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Path of a Procrastinator

Fairly often I find myself just searching for something to do instead of what I should be doing (i.e. working, cleaning or whatever else needs to be done). Many times I will simply play a video game of some kind to, as I like to call it, keep my mind sharp (for puzzle type games) or maintain my hand-eye coordination (for action/shooter/sports games). At work, it's more difficult to play games, so often the digression will be through web surfing. I'm sure that nearly everyone does this, especially since I see that most people that comment on this site, do so during traditional work hours. I sense that I am not alone.

The path of procrastination that was taken today was a somewhat interesting one, one that deserves being shared. I always thought that the theme song for the TV show House was pretty interesting, and I assumed that it was written for the show. However, when the new video game, Assassin's Creed (which looks sweet, by the way), began using it, or something extremely similar to it - except it had a vocal part. So the goal was to find out about the song. A simple Wikpedia search, and I have found the page for the TV show House. Luckily, there's a header entitled "theme music" with information including the artist and song title (a British band called Massive Attack and the song is entitled "Teardrop" from 1998). A quick click onto the song title and there is plenty of information including it's usage on television - including the advertisement for the Assassin's Creed video game. Also, on this page, it mentions that there is a video and it contains a lip-syncing fetus. This I have to see, so I'm off to Yahoo Music. Luckily they have the video. This journey then ends with me discovering how to embed videos here in this blog, so as my gift to all of you, here is a music video containing a singing fetus. Enjoy and happy procrastinating!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Coming soon...

I had been waiting for the right deal to present itself. Cyber Monday provided it. In anticipation for purchasing a new television, I had been slowly upgrading a few electronic components. I had picked up the HD-DVD attachment for the xbox360 and had an HD cable box installed, even though I didn't have anything capable of displaying an HD image. Sunday, that will change, when my new 50" Sony Bravia 1080p HDTV is scheduled to arrive. I had also been holding out in posting photos of my new apartment until I replaced my old television. How embarrassing would it have been to show the world what my place looked like with an old 27" tube television sitting in the central location of my living space? Blerg.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post 50 - Part II

Yes, yes, this probably makes Post 50 - Part II more like Post 51, but whatever. There isn't really a new topic here, it's the continuation of yesterday's already long post - sans sports. So, here's more random thoughts about TV shows.

Long Running Shows Altering Their Theme Songs - Anyone notice that several shows have changed their theme songs? It's really the most pointless part of the program, but it's still noticeable. I think that most of the programs that have altered their theme songs have gotten worse than they were before. Nip/Tuck had the simple rhythmic music, but now it has lyrics and kinda sucks. CSI:NY (the best of the CSI series) decided to techno-up Baba O'Riley by The Who - which should not have been done. It's one thing to use a classic song as an intro, but why screw with it? I can understand having a band cover a classic song, but turning a classic rock song into a techno-ish song makes no sense.

NBC's Monday Night Line-up - Being the big sci-fi fan that I am, the Monday night line-up of Chuck, Heroes and Journeyman, couldn't get much better. All three shows are "serial" format (meaning each show builds on the one before it... for anyone that didn't know, for those that did know, I apologize for insulting your intelligence), which I tend to eat up. Chuck is a good mix of humor and action - the lead character works for the Nerd Herd at Buy More (an obvious fictional version of the Geek Squad, Best Buy's computer tech division) and accidentally downloaded the entire database of the U.S. government secrets into his brain. He now assists the CIA/NSA to use the info stored in his brain to thwart evil plots while attempting to maintain his normal life. How could anyone not find Chuck amusing when in the pilot episode he downloaded a virus from a porn site to shut down a computer attached to a bomb - porn saved the world - hilarious! Heroes is always entertaining and very dark. Individual heroes and villains cross paths through an intricately woven plot that takes an entire season to develop. There's something about a show that has every episode end in a cliffhanger that keeps me interested and wanting more. Heroes has taken the formula from the best show on television (Battlestar Galactica) and applied it to live action comic books. Journeyman is basically a reinvented Quantum Leap. The concept is the same, in that the main character travels through time and helps people. In this version, he visits someone from the past at their most critical junctures and has to try to help without damaging the timeline. If you thought Quantum Leap was good, then you'll probably like this one as well. Anyway, all three shows are well written and entertaining. It makes Mondays something to look forward to... or whatever day you end up watching the shows that you record on Monday nights. Ah, DVRs, what a brilliant invention. I could never go back to watching TV without it.

Battlestar Galactica: Razor - As mentioned earlier - Battlestar Galactica is the best show on television. For those of you who haven't seen it, you are really missing out. However, those that haven't seen the show, shouldn't start watching it with the 2 hour movie that aired on the weekend (called Razor), because it won't make any sense. Well, I suppose it would make sense, but it just wouldn't mean as much because the first time viewer wouldn't know any of the characters or any of the storylines that led up to this point. Razor tells the story about the battlestar, Pegasus, and it's journey between the time of the Cylon attack of the colonies until the point that it meets up with Galactica in the second season of the show. More or less, this movie just visualized the bits and pieces of the battlestar's story that was broken up across several episodes in the second season. Was Razor necessary? Not really, but I guess they decided that some new Battlestar episode needed to be aired to keep the viewers interested since the third season ended in March - and season four doesn't begin until March 08. WTF? A whole year off? You bastards! Of course, the third season ended with a cliffhanger, and they're making everyone wait a frackin' year to see the conclusion. But, if it takes them a year to figure out what they want to do with the season and it's even half as good as the previous seasons, it will still be the best show on television by a mile. I'm sure I'll talk more about Battlestar Galactica in the future, but for now I'd better stop, or I'll have to break this post up into a Part IIb for tomorrow. My best recommendation is to get out there and rent/buy a copy of season one and you'll be hooked by the time you're through the first half of the pilot episode. I can't even count how many people I've passed my copy of this series to and they always come back for more. That's right, I'm like a drug dealer - product of choice = Galactica. My best suggestion is, to please, watch it from the beginning - it will be much more enjoyable.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Post 50 - Part I

Note: I've chosen to break this up a little because it got a little lengthy. Part II will contain the non-sports related portion of this post.

Holy crap! This is the 50th post on this blog? It feels like I've only written, like, 47, maybe 48 posts... tops. My thanks are again extended to my loyal reader(s?) for continuing read these random ramblings.

After four straight days of being away from the lab, I think that I might be ready to do something related to work - it's a good thing because I have to hit the lab tomorrow. I managed to get a few things done around the apartment; wired my stereo system, unpacked the last few boxes - disposing of a bunch of worthless garbage, and watched a lot (A LOT) of TV. Here are my thoughts on several of the programs that I caught this weekend.

The Border War - The big KU/MU football game was Saturday night. The rivalry between Missouri and Kansas goes back to the pre-civil war era and is renewed every year in the form of college football. Typically, these two schools are rather mediocre and the only game that either team really gears up for is this one. This season, however, MU was #3 and KU was #2 (and undefeated) in the BCS rankings and 1 and 2 in the Big 12 North. Additionally, the game had been moved to Kansas City as a "neutral site" at Arrowhead Stadium and featured ESPN Gameday broadcasting from the stadium in the morning. I don't think that the game could be hyped any more than it was - and with due cause. Whichever team won would likely jump to the #1 ranking in the national polls and will face the Big 12 South winner for the Conference tournament and (assuming victory there) would play for the national title. Personally, I have no alliance to either of these teams. Having gone to Iowa State, which is also in the Big 12 North, I cannot, in good conscience, consider myself a fan of either school, even though both schools are within 100 miles of where I was raised. I chose to slightly favor KU for one reason - being an ISU fan, you are destined to despise Nebraska football. So, when KU scored 76 points against the Huskers they were granted instant respect from any Cyclone fan. Anything that adds to the Nebraska shame will put a smile on a Cyclone fan's face. The game itself was rather well played. Missouri dominated early and managed to hold on to secure the victory. The officials seemed determined to try to help KU back into the game, but MU was too tough and won 36-28. While I'm not really upset about KU losing, I do feel sorry for which ever buffet-style restaurant that KU coach Mangino decided to attend to drown his sorrows at the conclusion of the game. Anyway, MU then did move into the #1 ranking in the BCS and will face Oklahoma for the conference championship. That game, which is next Saturday (Dec 1) in San Antonio, is a rematch from earlier in the season where Oklahoma won 41-31. MU has their chance to avenge their only blemish on their season.

Chiefs/Raiders - What the hell are you doing, Herm? Seriously, what the hell are you doing? You call a timeout, then ask for a challenge that you had no chance of winning - which costs another timeout? You only get three timeouts in a half and you burned two without a second coming off of the game clock? What the hell are you doing? The Raiders are not a very good team, certainly not a team that should beat the Chiefs in KC. The running game for KC was impressive, possibly the best performance of the season - and it didn't feature a pro-bowl running back (LJ or Priest), but a rookie, Kolby Smith, making his first career start. He looked explosive but patient and made good cuts and finished with 150 yards and 2 TDs. He made a few mistakes (dropping screen passes), but that's too be expected and he certainly didn't cost them the game - that was all on the QB and the coaching staff. The passing game isn't looking good and Croyle appears lost - that again falls onto the coaching staff. Croyle clearly has the arm, but the coaches have to prep him better for games if they want to compete. The Chiefs aren't that far back in the standings, but the Chiefs' season is officially over, and I wouldn't be upset of Herm Edwards' term was over as well. I am a Chiefs fan and I will watch the remainder of the games this season, but that doesn't mean that I can't bitch about them. What the hell were you doing, Herm? Grrrr...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Vacation

I'm now into the second day of my vacation, and it's been great. I had my first Thanksgiving in the last decade that didn't include being in total discomfort because of forced over eating. Having just a single Thanksgiving dinner is a benefit of being single once again. I know many people that have to attend up to three different dinners on the same day. Pleasing all sets parents/family/friends on a single day can be painful on the stomach. However, there are sacrifices to be made to keep certain people apart from each other.

In the following image I am able to combine three things that I very much enjoy - technology (in that I'm posting the image online), photography and... pie! Please note that a nearly perfect ratio is present in the pie. If you can't tell, the layers are: Oreo crust, sliced bananas, banana pudding, chocolate pudding, whipped cream, shaved Hershey's chocolate and more sliced bananas. Mmmmm. Realistically, I just wanted to figure out how to upload images. Is there something better to post than an image of a pie?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Productivity in Bursts

Typically, there is a lot of waiting around during experiments so that I have time to read news, check the stock market, catch up on sports news, post here, etc. That was not the case during the first couple of days this week in the lab. I had another scheduled trip out to KU Tuesday, so Monday was all the prep work. There was enough to do that kept me on my feet the entire day, so productivity at work was not a problem. What I didn't expect, was for productivity to carry over into the evening. Now I have a stocked pantry (after a lengthy trip to the grocery store) and all of my books/DVDs unpacked and roughly organized. I dreaded making the first trip to the grocery store and I put it off as long as I could. It became a necessity when I was nominated to bring the dessert to the Thanksgiving dinner. For those of you wondering, I'm making my famous chocolate banana pie (I am choosing to refer to it as famous, only because it was requested by someone else, but I think that still counts. It is my favorite pie, so I don't need much of a reason to justify preparing it).

Sometimes I manage to impress myself with how much I am capable of getting done in one day. The ten hours in the lab completed nearly two entire days of work for a mere mortal. But then followed by dinner with the folks, grocery shopping and unpacking boxes. The boxes were somewhat of an afterthought - I had fallen asleep on the couch watching TV. The transition to sleeping in a bed didn't go as smoothly as anticipated, so I figured I should do something. All those boxes were already in the bedroom, why not start unloading them? Anyway, an hour later and I've got books and DVDs on the shelves and huge stack of empty boxes on the other side of the room - success!

Unfortunately, productive days, like this one, seem rather rare. I always get something done in any given day, but not like this. If every day was half as productive as this, I would be completely set at work, but also probably be half way into my grave. Productive bursts are nice when they happen, it would just be nice to transition into them without having to force motivation or be so stressed because of the mountain of tasks to complete. Maybe I enjoy being lazy a little too much. How can I call myself lazy after working "the streak"? It doesn't mean that those days were all productive - just look at my lab book - oh wait, it's way, way behind. I'm hoping for one productive burst to clean that and my lab bench up, then put away the rest of the stuff in the apartment, get my address changed on all of my bills, driver's license updated, take care of insurance stuff, banking, bills or any of the other hundred things that I need to finish/work on - oh yeah, some form of exercise would be nice also.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Yes, I took another day off! Mind you, the day off was a Saturday, but it still counts after "the streak". For all of you former Iowa Stater's that are no longer living in Ames, I can pass on the information that Ames is still there! The 18+ hour work day was well worth it to get to catch up with family and friends over the weekend. It's always nice to spend time with people that you don't get to see very often, the only down side is that it makes it much more difficult to leave... and then go back to work.

Every time I visit with my aunt and uncle, I am always motivated to get back in to options trading in the stock market. It would be nice to be less busy so that I could dedicate some time to something other than working in the lab. I find options trading enjoyable because you can get nearly instant gratification. Of course, you can get nearly instant devastation as well, but the risk involved is part of what makes it exciting. Ideally, you research what you are going to do so that you make the best decisions possible so that you end up going in to positions that are much more likely to go the correct direction. Maybe with the holiday coming up, I'll get a chance to do a little research. You did read that correctly, I'm actually going to take some more time off for the holiday - possibly even a four day weekend. What?

One more thing - chocolate covered walnuts are possibly the best thing I have ever tasted. Thank you Grandma!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Infamous 20-Hour Work Day

In graduate school, I once worked a 20-hour day, which I failed to accomplish last night... thankfully. Working a 20 hour day isn't necessarily the part of this story that is interesting. The day in question was about four years ago and my boss had asked me to change to a different project, one that had been tried by another graduate student (without success). The project involved isolating mitochondria from liver cells. To get the mitochondria, as you may have guessed, required me to have, in my possession, a fresh liver sample. Where might someone get a fresh liver sample? The answer: undergraduates. Well, actually, it's wasn't an undergrad liver, it was a pig liver obtained from the university meat lab. I had to go onto the "kill floor" and wait as the liver was extracted from the recently euthanized hog. No, the animal wasn't killed because of me, that was previously scheduled, but the livers are just disposed of, so these places don't mind giving away livers for research purposes.

I had no experience in working with any tissues prior to this and I had no idea what I was doing. I had a procedure from a research paper from 40 years ago as my guide and no one in my group could provide any guidance. Eventually, I plugged through the procedure to isolate the mitochondria and the initial testing to make sure that everything was OK before I headed home. This first isolation ended up taking 20 hours (7am to 3am the next morning). Here is where the humorous part of the story comes in. By the time that I was doing my last liver prep, I could do the same amount of work in about 4 hours (start at 8am and finish at noon). Experience makes all the difference. I was never particularly fond of doing this prep, but I only had to do the extraction once every six months. Slaughterhouses do not have a very friendly atmosphere and I wouldn't be upset if I never had to set foot in one again. I don't foresee any trips in the near future because I'm not working on a project that would require it. So, for the next year or so, I should be slaughterhouse free.

Completely random entertainment for the day - check out this video. It's an offshoot of the Mac/PC ads from TV, but this time it's a full length rap video (not starring the actors from the TV spots). It's quite humorous. Enjoy.

An Even Longer Day - Update Number 2

The day is finally over - 18.5 hours in total (at work, but I've been up for over 20 straight hours now). I will mention one hilarious side point before I head out for a couple hours of sleep. The ultrafuge almost did crap out on me tonight - within 15 minutes of me making a "joke" about it in the previous post. I finished the second of three runs on it, pulled out the rotor, then it made this crazy humming sound and shut itself off, then refused to come back on. I didn't even know it could turn itself off, but it did. After a few minutes of expletive laced comments directed at it, I managed to come up with an alternative method of completing my evenings tasks. For the hell of it, I tried to turn the ultrafuge back on right before I needed it for the third run (20 minutes later) and it was fine... as if nothing had happened earlier. I don't know what it's deal was, but it made the final run just fine, so whatever, I guess.
Anyway, it's time for some sleep. If I hurry, I might get home by 4 am. I think I might be a tad late in the morning, but it's probably justified. Good night!

An Even Longer Day - Update

I am now beginning hour number 17 for the day. Tiredness didn't really set in until about hour 15, so I'm actually doing quite well... and keeping sanity intact. A special thanks goes to for posting entire episodes of Chuck and Heroes. I had gotten a little bit behind the last couple weeks, but I'm managing to catch up on those two entertaining series in my down time. I may only have about 1 1/2 hours left... as long as the ultrafuge doesn't give me any unexpected vacuum problems (no one is expected to know what this means). I will probably fall short of my personal record of the 20 hour day back in grad school. Maybe I'll recount that day in tomorrow's post. But results are looking good tonight... so far. The long day continues. One more update will be on the way. Until then, back to Heroes!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Even Longer Day

I'm trying to get enough done this week so that I can take a trip back up to Ames to visit some friends and family. Unfortunately, to do that, I have to be far enough along in my work that I can get to the stopping point that makes the most sense. So... today has already been a long day, but it's not even close to done. It's been 11 hours in the lab and I'm about to start what would be equivalent to the next day's work. If I can plug through the work I need to finish tonight, I will get (as a reward) almost two more whole days away from the lab. What? Is that possible? Multiple days away from work in the same month?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Long Day

You know it's going to be a long day when you realize that you have to return to work after your "social" plans. I spent enough time today helping a colleague prep for a talk later in the week that it meant that I would have to come back to the lab to finish up my work after an evening at the pool hall. Tomorrow is another trip off campus so the work had to get done today. It's got to get done sometime, even if that means I'm in the lab until 1am.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chiefs' Rant

First, I have a quick extension from the previous post. I realized last night that I was missing one vital requirement for the new apartment... lighting. There are some provided fixtures in the apartment (entryway, kitchen, bathroom), but the living room and bedroom don't have anything. This did make setting up electronics and rearranging a little more challenging in those rooms after dark. I made due and did manage to get a lot done. So, on the list for today's trip to the store - lamps. Another day or two and I think that I'll be done putting stuff away... sweet!

And now... back to the regularly scheduled post -

Being a Chiefs' fan, I feel obligated to watch the games. Unfortunately, watching the Chiefs' this season is a little like sitting in the chair at the dentist. Just sitting there is unpleasant and constantly anticipating the worst is the norm. The Chiefs' are managing just barely over two touchdowns a game, which makes non-existent the best descriptor for the team's offense. I don't like seeing players get booed by their own fans, but QB Damon Huard probably deserves it. It's difficult to have much faith in a player that has incredible difficulty in completing screen passes - WTF, you're only throwing the ball around ten yards total to an uncovered running back. The fans have been begging to have second-year man Brodie Croyle take over the reins. He's been plugged by the team as being their future leader, so get him out there and give him a shot. Huard isn't getting the job done and the Arrowhead crowds are letting him know it. That kind of pressure has to get into his head and surely effects his game performances. Croyle has a strong arm and seems to know how to find his receivers. When Huard went down in the second half, some fans cheered, probably not because they wanted him to be injured (I'd like to think that the KC fans show more class than to cheer when one of their own gets hurt), but because it forces the coaching staff to make the decision to go to Croyle. Because he lacks experience in the pros, he is expected to make mistakes... and he did make a few, but turning the team over to Croyle will give the fans some hope and provide some insights into how good Croyle can be. If he is the future of this club, then let him prove it. Herm Edwards (Chiefs' head coach) is, reportedly, going to sleep on the decision to stick with Croyle for the next game. I fear that the fans will revolt if Edwards decides to go back to Huard, but the next game is on the road against the Colts. So... do you let your young QB get pounded into the ground by Indianapolis, or put Huard back out there and save Croyle for the next home game? Either way, I think the Chiefs have to make the transition to prevent the uprising of the fans. How can Edwards not turn it over to Croyle?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Move

In case anyone was wondering, I have survived the move and am now composing my first entry in my new abode. I am sitting in and surrounded by relative squalor and disarray, but eventually my belongings will find their homes and the apartment will be livable. After beginning the arrangement process following getting everything into the new place, I'm finding that I may actually have more space than I had anticipated. I think that it's going to be more comfortable than I had originally expected... a nice discovery. There's still few more trips to the local Target/Walmart to be made, and then I might manage to acquire everything that I need to survive a (relatively) solitary life in the big city. This is getting expensive... but it's been enjoyable, actually getting to make decisions as to how my own home will look: organization, layout of furniture, decorations, etc. It's all a new process for me (you don't have much to decide in a dorm room, then being married, I had little influence on these matters) but my opinion is the only one that matters now! HAHA! Of course, if it looks ridiculous, then only I am to blame - but I'm not going to let that happen.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 46... Or the Day I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Streak

Just kidding- today officially marks the final day of the streak! Hell *bleepin'* yeah! It was a ridiculously busy day today, but the reward is nice - positive results in the lab completely justify the day off tomorrow. That's right, the streak will end at 46 *expletive* days. Tomorrow, the beginning of the great move. I picked up my keys to the new place! The keychain that they gave me had the number for the building's limo service. How freakin' cool is that! They also gave me a free T-shirt with the building's monogram on it. Or... I can look at the shirt as "free"... and I payed 700 bucks for the T-shirt and got free rent for the partial month. Whatever is funnier is what I will go with - so free rent it is! Hey, I have expensive taste in clothes (not really). Well... it's off to start packing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Academia vs Industry

As an offshoot of yesterday's post, I will outline the different career paths that the typical post-PhD scientific researcher can take.

The Academia Route - The most obvious route for the fresh-out-of-grad-school research scientist to take is to continue in academia to attempt to become a professor, or boss. To become a boss, you must first do a series of post consisting of 1-3 different stops, usually at different institutions, each consisting of 1-3 years. During this time (earlier described as the indentured servitude state), the post doc will be working to get as many publications as possible in an attempt to prove that they are a productive scientist. Ideally, the final post doc position will be working for a boss that will allow the scientist to take the project being worked on with them to their new position as boss somewhere else. Getting a job as boss is typically extremely difficult unless the scientist is near the top of his field in production and has good pedigree (quality of institution degree was received from and post doc positions at highly respectable institutions). Some scientists will send applications to 50-100+ schools hoping for a handful of interviews and maybe a job offer. Once the status of principal investigator is received, they have a couple of years to be recognized and retain funding from an agency outside of the institution (like the National Institute of Health (NIH) or National Science Foundation (NSF)). During this time, the scientist will be working in the lab, usually with a small group of underlings (1-3), to get enough data to justify to the institution and the funding agencies that you are capable of running their own laboratory. If an outside source of funding is acquired, then the boss status is held and the scientist will be up for "tenure" within a few years. Once tenure is achieved, then the scientist can sit back and let the "underlings" do all or most of the work, and the size of the group will usually increase to 3-6 depending on the amount of funding received. The more funding, the larger the group and with that, the more work will have to be done to justify keeping the funding.

If boss status is not achieved, there are other routes within academia that can be taken. There's the research associate route, which is essentially a permanent post doc position. Salary for the research associate is usually considerably higher than a post doc, but less than the bosses receive. The post-post doc status scientist is also qualified to teach at the university level without doing research. Jobs of this nature are typically not long term and compensation for these positions is usually quite low.

The Industry Route - The alternate route to the academic route is the industry (or private sector) route. Typically, to get into an industry job, the fresh-from-grad-school PhD can try to break directly into working for a company, or begin the academic route and do a post doc at a university before converting to the private sector. Some companies offer post doc (or equivalent) positions, while others have "entry level" positions that have PhD requirements.
The private sector scientist will have similar deadlines and production requirements, but publication record does not define the quality of work produced, as in academia... meaning that one paper per year is considered good in industry, where one paper per year in academia implies that nothing is being accomplished. Job security is the main concern in industry positions. In academia, once tenure has been reached, it is nearly impossible to be forced from the institution until retirement (barring scandal or complete lack of funding - both of which do occur). Biotech companies can be purchased and sold in the blink of an eye, and scientists can be forced out with little notice. What is the one thing that can make up for lower job security? That's right... money. Industry jobs can pay up to 2-3 times the academic job, and typically the stress level is much lower. Many industry jobs are similar to a non science job in that the schedules may be more like 9-5, 5 days a week, with potential to take vacations and have a "life", whereas the academic job may take 10+ hours per day, 6-7 days a week with "vacation days" (as described yesterday). Getting in to the industry positions can be tricky as most require "experience" and a PhD. Where do you get experience if you just got your degree? Working suck ass jobs and having no life for an unknown amount of time just might do it. Pay your dues and hope that you can get rewarded down the road. Once the industry job is under wraps, just hold on as long as you can... make your money, then get out.

Which type of job would I prefer to have? Hmmm... That doesn't take much thought, does it?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


As mentioned in Monday's post, I had originally planned to talk about TV today, however, something else will take it's place. The post today was inspired by an innocent question from an avid (avid should most likely be replaced with "obligated", but I like the idea of having avid readers... I find avid more amusing) reader of this blog. It is most likely true, that the non academic researcher is unaware of the general rules that academic researcher are expected to adhere to. I am willing to pass this information on to the general public in an effort so that people of my ilk will be recognized for their "diligent" work.

In academic research science there is an interesting quandary, which I will present here. As a short introduction, I will provide a few quick definitions to make things easier. In academic research there are several classes of individuals, all of which abide by a slightly different set rules and regulations.

Bosses - Also referred to as P.I.'s (principal investigator), the boss is the lead scientist that provide the funding for all of the "underlings" and serve as the mentor in the "group". The boss oversees the work done by the "group" and writes the grants used for acquiring funding. The boss also writes or at least rewrites the work presented for publication. An established boss, does no actual lab work and may not even know how most work is accomplished.

Group - Contains all the "underlings" and the boss. The typical group size is generally comprised of one boss and 3-6 "underlings".

Underlings - The workers that do all of the laboratory research and a considerable amount of the academic writing, with the exception of the grant proposal(s). All work is overseen by (and harshly criticized), by the boss. The "underlings" are made up of (in descending order in the food chain): Post docs, grad students, undergrads. Some groups may have alternative members, such as the "lab tech" that can fall above or below the post doc position depending on the degree that they have received (i.e. if lab tech has a master's degree, the post doc outranks the tech, but a tech with a PhD, could rank equal to, above or below the post doc position depending on how long they have been in the group). Other positions can be present in this category depending on the amount/difficulty of the work being performed within the group.

Post docs - (My current rank) Should be the most productive members of the group. They have already received their PhD, but are, generally, shortly out of school and still accustomed to the graduate student life - i.e. they are grad students that don't have classes, but are expected to work long hours. Post docs are paid in a similar manner to graduate students with one exception - grad students receive a stipend and their tuition is paid to the school by the boss, while post docs, basically, have the same base salary, but the tuition money is paid to them. Realistically, the boss is receiving a highly trained graduate student, without having to pay any more out of pocket than having a first year graduate student. Generally, post docs are considered to be extremely underpaid and are, more or less, in a state of indentured servitude, paying their dues until they get a real job. Generally, post docs stay for 1-3 years then move on to another post doc, or begin an actual career as a boss in another institution if they have a good enough publication record.

Graduate students - Working to receive a PhD. Grad students are generally doing work that the boss assigns for the first couple of years, then are allowed to expand (under tight supervision) during their final years. Grad students, like post docs, are generally overworked and underpaid. The length of term for grad students is generally 3-7 years depending on the degree they entered with (those coming in with a Master's degree could leave in as few as three years, but could take longer, those coming in with Bachelor's degrees will take 5-7 years to finish depending on motivation and indispensability - the better the student, the longer the boss will want to keep the student).

Undergrads - The bottom rung of the ladder. Typically, the undergrad does what the others in the group tell them to do... and do that poorly. Undergrads take a fair amount of time to train and tend to leave almost immediately after becoming useful. Depending on the amount of training, the undergrad can do anything from washing dishes, to providing basic prep work for other graduate students/post docs in the "group", or have their own independent project. Those with independent projects typically go on to graduate school sometimes in the same labs they worked in as undergrads. Those that leave and get real jobs are considered smarter than their peers, even though they will leave with a, technically, lower degree (i.e. they got out while they still could)

The question that was eluded to earlier is:
"Can I take a vacation?"

The answer:
The theoretical answer - yes, I receive what are referred to as "vacation days", as well as "sick days" and something called "personal days". The general public receives vacation days, while academic subordinates or, underlings, receive "vacation days". Vacation days and "vacation days" however, differ in one regard, which will be explained in the next section.

The actual answer - not really, if things were going smoothly, then an underling could (potentially) get away for a few days, but things are not, so... no. Realistically, things are never truly going smoothly for anyone... ever. So, underlings can never justify a true vacation. This the explanation of "vacation days" versus vacation days. Yes, underlings receive the "days" but they aren't really allowed to use them. The exception, of course, is for the bosses, who can take and use their vacation whenever they please. During this time, the underlings are expected to work even harder in their absence. This, of course, does not happen.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Worn out

What the hell? About half way through my work day, it felt like I got hit by a truck. Well, not really like I got hit by a truck, but one minute I felt fine, then the next it was like I could barely move. It was like my brain was filled with goo and my eyes were extremely heavy and yawning was uncontrollable. I believe that the condition is called... the doldrums. I thought my motivation level was low before, but I managed to break through that barrier with ease. Eventually, I figured out that it was mostly food (or lack thereof) related, but the motivation level stayed pretty low throughout the rest of the day. I'm pretty sure that as this work streak has continued, that the quality of writing on this blog has been declining. Creativity is fleeting and it feels like I'm grasping for things to write about. So until the streak ends, I'll probably be blabbing on about things like TV and being tired at work. Blah, blah, blah blah blah. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, November 2, 2007


What are Fridays again? Aren't they supposed to be a good thing? I don't seem to quite remember. Right now, it pretty much just means its the last day of the week that I have interactions with my co-workers before the building gets extremely quiet. Here is an amusing conversation that I just had with a co-worker.

Co-worker: "You are going to go home this weekend, right?"
My first thought: "What's a weekend? I haven't actually had one in the last five weeks, why would this be different?"
What I actually said: "I'm not actually living here, I do go home at night. But I do have to come in to do a couple things on the weekend."
I continued: "I'm taking a couple days off next week to move."
Co-worker's reply: "That's a day off... moving?"
My reply: "It's a day off from here."

Wow, this is getting pretty sad... moving is a day off. Pretty pathetic.

On a different note, I did find this video clip amusing. Does Larry King actually know anything about his guests or does he just wing everything at this point. I probably would if I had King's job as long has he has. Does anyone even watch that show anymore?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 39 - Randomness

I have reached day 39 in the consecutive days worked streak, and let me say, it's getting old... and tiring. I didn't post anything yesterday because I couldn't come up with anything coherent to talk about. Today, I still don't have anything coherent to talk about, but I feel the need to write something, or eventually, the few people that are keeping up with this site, will probably stop looking in for updates, and I don't want that to happen. So, here's a couple random musings, and then I'll drop my "big news" that I mentioned a couple days ago.

I found it amusing to learn that yesterday, one local radio station has already begun it's 24 hour Christmas music theme. Doesn't it seem a little bit early to start that? I do actually like holiday music, but October seems a tad early to get "into the mood" for holiday cheer. I don't see how anyone can really get geared up for the actual event of Christmas if the buildup comes earlier and earlier every year. Christmas itself seems to lose much of its impact. I foresee that, eventually, radio stations will just have year round, non-stop holiday music. What happened to the times when the Christmas season didn't begin until after Thanksgiving? Now we're supposed to be getting excited before Halloween? When will the madness end?

I'm a big fan of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, and I've been watching them religiously for several years now. When Stephen Colbert announced a couple weeks ago that he was going to run for president (article), I thought that it was a great idea. Realistically, he's not really running for president, he just wanted to put his name on the ballot in his home state of South Carolina, with the goal of getting one delegate at the national convention. Colbert's plan was to run on both the republican and democratic tickets to help meet his goal. A national poll actually placed Colbert above of several "legitimate" candidates (Kucinich/Paul). When the deadline for filing passed this week, Colbert apparently didn't find the $35,000 filing fee required for the republican ticket worthwhile, so he just filed with the democratic party. Unfortunately, the S. Carolina dems didn't find him to be a "serious" candidate and are going to leave him off the ballot, effectively ending his "presidential bid". I find this to be incredibly disappointing, because the whole process is being taken too seriously. How important is the South Carolina primary anyway? As with the Christmas season starting too early, the political run up for the next election (still more than one year away) has already gotten extremely tiring. I'm already sick of all the candidates, now I'm supposed to get excited to vote in a primary in a couple months, then stay excited to vote in the election next November? Geez, no wonder people don't vote in this country. How many billion dollars is this costing America? WTF? The buildup for the 2012 election is probably starting next month... Maybe I should go ahead and get ready for that.

OK, here's the big news that I've been talking about - I'm moving into downtown KC next weekend. That's right, I'm going to be one of those movers and shakers that live in a giant apartment building right in the heart of the revitalized KC downtown district. I said that things were going to be interesting... well, if this doesn't end up being interesting for me, then I don't know what will. Plus, it cuts my commute down to work by about half - and it pretty much guarantees that my consecutive days worked streak will end. I'm taking a day next week to take care of stuff, yeah, you read that correctly. The streak will end!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

World Series Disappointment - Part II

As promised, today I will finish (well, possibly just continue, but most likely finish) what I began in Part I yesterday. The World Series, in my opinion, didn't live up to my expectations on the field or in coverage. In Part I, I talked about the announcing duo of Joe Buck and the moronic Tim McCarver as well as the lack of parity between the American and National Leagues. Today, I will wrap this up by covering Fox's advertising and Manny Ramirez and why they made the World Series nearly unwatchable.

3) Advertisements are (mostly) annoying in general, hence the reason I have a satellite receiver with DVR. I find that commercials can be clever... if viewed only a handful of times, but once you've seen a spot 8,000 times, it gets a tad on the annoying side. I think that some advertisers have realized this and make two different versions of the same ad and have them played randomly so that the viewer isn't watching the exact same ad during every break. This allows the viewer to see an ad, maybe, 9,000 times before it gets annoying. However, there are certain ads that become annoying on the first viewing, these include advertisements that are poorly made or contain vital flaws. The best example of this is the Farmer's Helppoint advertisement (click here to view the ad on YouTube) explaining how their insurance company will help you get to work after you've had an accident. I find many problems with this ad - a) she is living in what appears to be a nice house, surely she can book a rental car without having to go to this extreme measure to get to work, b) if you are standing on top of a moving garbage truck, why in God's name would you jump to another moving vehicle going the same direction, let alone a cement truck, especially one that is spinning at the time, c/d) Farmer's appears to be advocating car theft when she tries to steal the convertible, but since it's out of gas, a mounted police officer decides to help her (the criminal for attempted grand theft auto) and take her the rest of the way to work, and finally e) she is no longer in possession of her briefcase that she had in the first shot of the ad, wouldn't she have to go back to get it? If they decided to wrap the commercial in a humorous way, like she realizes that she forgot it and has to do the same thing to get back - the ad might have recovered (somewhat), but the ad company wasn't that clever. My point is, the ad is absolutely ridiculous with more holes than an entire John Woo movie - and that's just in a 30 second spot. Fox decides to play ads like this one during every break in the action, and when the games last up to four hours with the extended times between innings for post season games, the viewers end up seeing the same ads 100+ times during a four game stretch. Some ads get played once per break, like the two brothers Taco Bell ad - always, always get chili on your Nachos Belgrande - uh, no thanks, that looks disgusting, sorry. Seriously, Fox, mix it up a little, there have to be more than six companies willing to hock their crap during your baseball game.

4) The time has finally come for me to gripe about the man(child) that represents all that is wrong with professional athletes in the United States - Manny Ramirez. If you pay attention to baseball, or ever catch SportsCenter on ESPN, you have inevitably heard the popular phrase - "that's just Manny being Manny". For those that haven't heard that phrase, I will be kind enough to translate for you - "that's just Manny being a *expletive* dumbass". As a professional athlete and major league baseball player, who makes more than $17 million per year (over $140 million+ in his career already, and he's probably not retiring anytime soon) on a consistently competitive and World Series winning franchise, you should be expected to be somewhat of a role model. Here is a simple description of Manny - he's probably 25 pounds overweight from his previous playing days, he hasn't cut his hair in 2+ years, he's slow, he doesn't even attempt run hard on plays, his defense is sloppy and inconsistent, he constantly showboats and when he talks to the media he is "misinterpreted" - meaning, his team has to have a press conference to correct what he said or come up with alternate explanations for what he might have meant. Basically, he is everything you would want your children in little league to not be. Look to him as an example, and do the opposite. On the playing field, here are two examples of "Manny being Manny". Manny hits amazing walk-off game winning home run in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. Manny flips his bat and poses and watches his ball fly all the way out of the stadium before he even starts heading to first. It was an impressive feat, an impressive home run, but if this was a first year player standing at the plate, the opposing team would be beaning him with 95+ mph pitches the entire next game in retaliation for showboating. Now go to Game 4 of the ALCS, Red Sox are down 7-2, bases are empty - Manny hits another long home run followed by the same standing and celebrating at the plate as if he just hit a 6-run home run to win the game. Congrats dipshit, you just made the game 7-3, you're still down by 4, why are you celebrating? Where's the team mentality? Yes it's impressive that you can hit long home runs, but in that situation, there was no reason to show off, the team comes first. The second example comes from the World Series. For some completely unknown reason, Manny decides that it is cool to flip his helmet off while he's running the bases. He consciously, while running "full" speed, has to lift his hand to his helmet and push it off his head. It's just another example of being "showy" and trying to be "different" or "cute" or "stupid", and, more accurately, not putting the team first. The helmet flip wasn't a one time occurrence, this was every time he was on the base paths. Luckily, it did end up costing him (and Boston) in Game 3. As he is rounding third, he flips is helmet and as it falls, it catches him on the leg and breaks his stride slightly and ends up getting thrown out at the plate on a close play by Matt Holliday in left. Had he not done his ridiculous helmet flip, the play likely would have gone his way. Manny looked like a jackass, but it was just "Manny being Manny". Enough Manny, quit screwing around, it's not cute and it's not funny - be a professional ball player and not a professional douchebag.

Well, this concludes my World Series rant. I'll talk more about baseball as events unfold during the off-season, but for now, I'll have to settle for the NFL. (Sigh) Go Chiefs! On a completely different note, I think I'm going to have some big news coming up that isn't work related, but I'll hold off on that for now until things are finalized.

Monday, October 29, 2007

World Series Disappointment - Part I

I didn't really enjoy the World Series this year, and it doesn't have that much to do with the fact that the team I pulled for barely put up a fight (What the hell Rockies?). I found the Series frustrating, and almost unwatchable (well, at least unlistenable - more on that later) at times. The Rockies were over-matched at every level, top to bottom, everything from scouting to managerial decisions to players keeping their heads in the game (with the exception being Manny Ramirez - more on him later also). My disappointment in this season's final series really came down to these things: 1) Tim McCarver, 2) Lack of anything resembling parity between leagues, 3) Fox advertising and finally, 4) Manny Ramirez.

1) I really do think that Fox announcer, Tim McCarver, is the worst color man in baseball and possibly the dumbest person on television (well, excluding day time television, and political pundits). The man adds nothing productive, whatsoever, to the games. He just blathers on inning after inning about worthless, unintelligible nonsense. I don't think that co-announcer and play-by-play man, Joe Buck, is an idiot himself, but McCarver manages to pull the broadcasts down so far with his moronic comments that Buck has to spend entirely too much time making corrections and covering for his partner's idiocy. Buck has be going crazy at this point and just happy that the series is over. How can he stand that for 3-4 hours (and who knows how long before and after broadcasts)? Normally, it would just be preferable to simply, turn off the sound and just watch the game in silence, but the sounds of baseball really make the game more enjoyable, the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the sound enhances the feel of the game. One of the reasons that sports video games are so much fun is that if you don't like the announcer commentary, you can just shut it off. If it were possible, I would prefer that Fox cut off his microphone and let Buck do the broadcasts himself or even a commentary free feed of the broadcast than listen to McCarver for more than about eight seconds. I knew some people in KC that used to watch the TV broadcasts of the Chiefs games on mute and listen to the commentary from the radio - this doesn't really work in this situation - 1) there's a delay on satellite and it won't match up, and 2) ESPN radio has the same problem with their radio color guy - Joe Morgan - my second least favorite announcer. With Morgan, you can tell that he's an intelligent person and that he knows the game (he should because he played for quite a long time) but his commentary is dumbed down to such a low level you might think the average audience member is under the age of five. Baseball fans are not stupid, and I would appreciate an announcing team that doesn't pander to the least intelligent audience member.

2) Why does the National League appear to be so overmatched in comparison to the AL during World Series and All-Star Games and interleague series? It could have something to do with the salary discrepancy between teams in the non-salary cap style of management the league has adopted. Four of the top five teams in terms of salary are AL teams and six of the bottom seven teams are NL teams. In the World Series, the Red Sox combined player salary was 2.6 times (yeah, that's right, times) that of their counterpart's (Actually, the combined salaries of Manny, Ortiz, Schilling and Drew are more than the entire Rockies team). I wonder why the AL tends to win these games and the interleague games during the regular season. The Royals have a winning record in interleague games during the last two seasons and they finish well below .500 every season. Their team salary is greater than that of the Rockies by more than $10 million, but they have to face AL teams for nearly all of their games, hence the consistent losing record. If the Royals were in the NL, would they contend? Possibly, but I have no doubt that they'd have a much better chance. Anyway, the Rockies were probably overmatched on the field at so many positions most likely because the Red Sox will just buy the best available player to fill the position. They do have some home grown talent, but not like the small market teams. I foresee the Rockies improving with their young talent, but I would find it difficult to believe that any NL team can win a World Series, (without a salary cap) without spending their way to the top. So that would mean that the teams with the best chance of winning a World Series from the NL would be the clubs willing to shell out the big bucks. Teams like the Dodgers, Cubs and Mets, which happen to be teams that have been historically, consistently mismanaged or have been simply inept at winning when it matters. The NL will be facing the Red Sox or Yankees in just about every year for the next decade and there won't be anyone able to stop them.

I think that I'm going to take a break and cover the last two topics in tomorrow's post, so look for Part II then. As for now, my work day is now complete, so I'm going home. Consecutive day 36 is now in the books and the push for 40 continues. Good news though - I got a more positive result on the "side" project this morning and things are looking slightly more positive - it may be that the struggle will end soon. I will know on Wednesday if I get a free weekend, but I'm not holding my breath until I see a clear result. Oh yeah, and my weekend series - "The State of..." is being delayed until next weekend. I got a little behind in what I wanted to get done, but maybe that series will only appear on a bi-weekly basis. What the hell, it's my site, I'll put stuff up when I'm damn ready. Ha!

Friday, October 26, 2007


Unfortunately the title of this post does not pertain to work - as in fortune has turned my way and I will get my long deserved day(s) off (the verdict will be revealed later in the post because I don't know yet at this point in the day) - but actually is related to a fortune from a fortune cookie that I got on my last visit to Panda Express. I always liked Panda Express in the Memorial Union at ISU, but I was even happier when they started opening them up down in Kansas City. They have decent Chinese food and it's incredibly fast and not overpriced. There is one close to my current residence, and I picked up food from there after work the other day. Here is the amusing "fortune" that I received from my post meal cookie - "Only talented people get help from others". I'm not entirely sure what to make of this statement. Assuming that the grammar is correct, and that this was the intended message, then it can really only mean that people who are not talented refuse to ask others for help. But, the word talent, implies something that you are born with, something that comes from within. People with talent in something particular, shouldn't really need outside "help". My best guess is that something is lost in translation and it should read something like "All successful people get help from others". What happened to true fortune cookie fortunes anyway? At one time weren't fortune cookie fortunes a short glance into who or what you are or may become and not just some silly, possibly mistranslated statement?

Maybe the real questions should be - How did you manage to write this much crap about a seven word fortune? It's just an exercise in where my mind will take me given some kind of push. Today, the push was this fortune cookie, and I think I have amazed myself as to how much BS I can write about something so insignificant. Have I spent way too much time analyzing a stupid piece of paper from inside a not-so-good tasting cookie? The answer to that has to be a resounding... yes. But who cares? My brain is mush at this point, and I really don't want to think about work, so I'll waste my time on whatever I please. I should be finding out shortly if I will need to come in on the weekend to attempt to salvage this side project. But first, an amusing story...

Possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life revolves around a fortune, and I feel that the story needs to be immortalized in permanent record. A few years ago, in what has to be the best Chinese restaurant that I have ever gone to - the North Dragon, in Gladstone (a KC suburb), I was eating dinner with the entire family (parents, brother and now sister in law) since everyone was in town. After the meal, they bring fortune cookies as most Chinese places do, and my sister in law ( gets a fortune that she thinks is great. She's holding the fortune and talking about how she is going to keep it. Without any warning, my brother snatches the paper from her fingers and eats it. Yes, you read that, it's not a typo, he ate the fortune. For about a second everyone was just staring, processing what had just occurred, and then the laughing began and continued for the next five to ten minutes, constant, uproarious laughter - laughing so hard that you start crying and your stomach hurts, but you can't stop, so you're barely able to keep sitting on the restaurant chair, in pain, crying, trying to stop laughing, but cannot for the life of you just stop. That kind of laughing. I'm sure it was quite a sight for the other patrons of the restaurant. It is possible that I am lucky to be alive, surviving after laughing so hard for a long period of time. In fact to this day, just recounting that night in writing this post has made me laugh... out loud... during work. What possessed him to do that? Why would it even cross your mind to eat someone's fortune, not the cookie, the fortune? It really doesn't make any difference because it was damned funny (and it's probably better not knowing what actually goes on inside my brother's head).

And now, the answers to the questions that are burning in everyone's minds - Will Dr. Skaff get to take a break this weekend and end his streak of 33 consecutive days worked? Will the new technique called the *sigh* Skaff Method have it's first successful test? Will this post ever end? Before the answers appear, I would like to say this - it's been a long week, I'm tired and I just wrote a long post about a fortune cookie. Actually, I'm just dragging this out for no particular reason but to see if this has actually built any drama. If this has worked, please let me know. So, without further ado... Oh yeah, and the weekend post "The State Of..." will continue with a careful look at the current state of the economy. It should be up by Sunday evening (I hope). And now... for the most humorous ending to the post I could come up with. No. No. Yes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Well, my Rockies/Red Sox prediction for Game 1 of the World Series was crap. For the Star Trek fans out there - "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a prognosticator". The Red Sox totally outplayed the Rockies in just about every category. Boston's hitters were pounding the ball to all fields. They weren't just getting hits, they were hammering the ball, and they just looked incredibly focused - even with the constant falling rain. Either the nine days of rest eliminated the momentum Colorado had, or Boston's momentum was just more powerful after finishing their tremendous comeback (after being down 3-1) in the ALCS. The thing that is most difficult to imagine is being one of the young Colorado pitchers with less than 50 innings of major league experience in their career and then facing Manny or Big Papi, in the World Series, the biggest stage of all for the baseball world. That has to be some pressure - possibly enough pressure to make you walk in three runs in one inning (Speier). So, do the Rockies have to win tonight to even have a chance in the series? No, but they will probably have to win all their games in Denver if they don't take Game 2. The playing field will be closer to level when the Sox have to bench one of their sluggers when the pitcher has to bat in the NL park, but right now, Boston just looks like a juggernaut. The pitching matchup for Game 2 doesn't look promising for Colorado. I still have my hopes up for Colorado, but they're going to have to score runs... and a lot of them. I will make a prediction today, but if I'm way off again, I'm going to stop. The Rockies will score some runs, but just not enough. I'm going to say that Boston will win 7-5... but I'm still pulling for the Rockies.

On the work front - the trip to KU was fine, I got done a little bit early and got to take care of some errands on the way back. That was nice. As I somewhat expected - the experiment that was being run back in my own lab was unsuccessful. Which means, I have tomorrow with a shot-in-the-dark, highly experimental, probably not going to work, but theoretically possible, experiment that would be a last ditch attempt to salvage the dream of a free weekend. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I really have my doubts. If my brain-child experiment works, I will take great joy in publishing the method along with the results. The technique would in all likelihood be named after me with a sarcastic sigh included in the title, as in "I used the*sigh* Skaff method" (accompanied with a bowed head), to which the reply would be simply a slow side to side head shake. Seriously, it will be laughed at by peers because it really is pushing the limits of plausibility. I would be proud to have that associated with me, that's the kind of thing that brings a smile to my face. Ah, humor.

Oh yeah... Go Rockies!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


My boss seems to think that my explanation of what's going on with my side project is valid. Basically, I bought myself two days to validate my hypothesis - and I'm actually going to pass that work off to my "underling" and let him shoulder the burden. If I'm right, then the project will stay with him and I'll just return to my supervisory role on that project (for a couple weeks, before he goes on to another lab). If my hunch is not right, then I'm probably back to square one and most likely here for the weekend... again. This time, I actually think that I might be right, so it is possible that I will be able to break my consecutive days worked streak after Friday (which would be day 33 for those of you that are counting).

What would I do with a free weekend? I'm having difficulties remembering even what I used to do with free weekends? Maybe I shouldn't be getting my hopes up, since things in science can turn south extremely fast... and with someone else doing some of the work, it can sour even faster. I'll just keep my fingers crossed that he doesn't destroy the lab while I'm out at KU tomorrow. Oh the other hand - if the lab were to be destroyed... Honestly, I haven't met a single researcher that hasn't had that glorious image at least once. But since I'll be out at KU, I will have most of a day out of my lab. However, I will be in someone else's lab in another city, which is different, but it's still work. I do like the trip out to KU, probably just because it's abnormal compared to a typical day in the lab - but much better than changing a flat tire on the side of the interstate, which I did describe as being a "good" time a few posts ago.

Well, enough about work. I'm off to check out Game 1 of the World Series with some friends. My prediction - if the Rockies beat Beckett tonight - the Rockies sleepwalk through the series and make quick work of the Sox in a four game sweep. My prediction for tonight's game Rockies win 6-4. Go Colorado!

Bonus: I did see this article posted on Yahoo!'s main page this afternoon about the top 25 action heroes and it's worth checking out (,,20153598,00.html). I definitely agree with the Number 1 choice. Great movie, great action.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Honored and Disgusted

This post will be about two very different topics, but I feel compelled to address both.

First off, I feel honored to have been mentioned and linked to in a post from my sister (in-law technically, but I consider her to be my sister anyway, especially because of how much crap as I've given her in the past), and I would like to welcome and thank those that followed the link from to see what is going on over here. I can now officially say that my posts are "well written" and "thought provoking" because someone else has actually said those things in print. Without the quotes, it would just be bragging, right? My list of compliments on this site now include "well written" and "thought provoking", for anyone that's keeping score. However, I beg to differ with her comment that her site is not either of those statements. I very much enjoy reading what Kim has to say and she has actually inspired me to follow in her virtual footsteps. I'm sure that everyone agrees that you do a great job, Kim. Keep it up!

The second topic, about being disgusted, is work related. Today is consecutive day number 30 in the lab and was incredibly frustrating. My "side" project has taken up so much of my time that now on Tuesday, I've already put in almost 30 hours of work this week (that's if you count Sunday on this week). My brain is a little strained working on now two full projects and managing a "rookie" graduate student on little sleep and not much relief on the horizon. My guard has slipped a little from feeling worn out, and I'm not entirely sure, but I may have actually told my boss to "shut up" this afternoon. The statement was directed to my coworker who was on one side of the door making a comment under his breath to me, but my boss had just walked out the door (still open) but had made the last audible statement. Of course he heard me say "shut up", and gave me an odd glance, but heard me laugh and I think he assumed that I wasn't talking to him. I would never say that to my boss and I think he knows that, and he didn't act any differently towards me during rest of the day, so he must have dismissed it. But it did lead to a little tension in my day, then a bunch of jokes with my coworker for the rest of the day. After I reached the ten hour mark in the work day, I think that I realized why one experiment may have failed and has given me an idea of where to go from here. So it might be that I turned the corner - and might get to take the weekend off... I just hope that my hunch is right, and I can turn this feeling of disgust into relief.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Baseball Please

Finally, the AL Championship Series is over so now we know who will be getting swept by the Colorado Rockies. It wasn't too surprising that the Red Sox managed to win once they sent the series back to Fenway. Of course, I wouldn't have guessed that the heroes of the last two games would be Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew. Now we just have to wait until Wednesday for the championship series to start. Normally, I favor the AL team in the World Series, but this year it's all Rockies. The Rockies (along with Tampa Bay) were part of the first expansion that happened in my lifetime, and I followed them from their inception. I've been to several games at Coors Fields and they've all been a blast, and I even have a Dante Bichette jersey around somewhere. I am interested to see how they will hold up against Boston in the Series especially after the eight day vacation they created for themselves by making quick work of the D-Backs. It will also be interesting to see what the media picks to talk about between these two teams, related to either on-field or off-field activities.

By far the best subplot of the Cleveland-Boston series was the story around the Indians hiring game five starter Josh Beckett's ex-girlfriend to sing the national anthem... during game five. The media ran with the story assuming that it was going to bother Beckett having his ex at the game singing the national anthem before the game and God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch. Best quote of the series: "I don't make those *expletive* decisions. Thanks for flying one of my friends to the game so she could watch it for free". For me it's funny for two reasons, one that he swore during the quote because it wasn't remotely necessary, and also because it is such a stupid idea that having her at the stadium would effect his performance. I'm sure that Beckett was mostly just tired of being asked about how it would effect his game but he showed that it made no difference, he came out, pitched great, almost started a fight and got another win (all hallmarks of a great start).

Anyway, the ALCS game seven from last night was about the only thing I got to watch this weekend because I spent the whole *expletive* weekend in the lab again. As you might have gathered, I'm getting somewhat burned out as today is consecutive day number 29... It's possible that after day 30 or so, the "*expletive*" will be replaced with the actual expletive. Most likely, no one would be offended, but I feel the need to censor myself a little bit. Plus I don't know who all is reading this for sure, and I wouldn't want someone to use foul language against me in a potential future political campaign or something. You never know.