Saturday, June 28, 2008

Changing Shades

I've succumbed to wearing a new brand of shades known as potential-posts. Few bloggers can seem to resist them. From what I gather, newish bloggers are particularly prone to not taking them off. Potential-posts come with special guilt-wipes for cleaning the film of opportunity lost off the lenses. Breaking out the guilt-wipes is to announce a sort of momentary lament. Hats off to anyone who puts it all out there, who never needs the guilt-wipes.

I'm still wrestling for balance with my potential-post shades, but sorry to say an incredible blogger -- and the person who, I realize in writing this, inspired me to blog -- is retiring his. He's a surgeon of all things who's the perfect prescription for anyone fresh from hospital. Feeling a little dazed and confused? Or how about just plain scared (as I was)? Go see Dr. Schwab. He's carried a highly successful -- and one might say pioneering -- blog for two years. During that time there has been a growing consensus that you don't read Dr. Schwab's savor them. The political rants, to boot. His strength of character comes through in each post, as touching and honest as an old family friend; I doubt he's ever needed the guilt-wipes. His archive remains at Surgeonsblog. Check it out...and go prepared to get hooked.

Whatever his new endeavors hold, I sure hope Dr. Schwab keeps his shades handy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pacific Northwest Visit

I've been remiss in posting much lately because the past several weeks have been pretty eventful. Aside from (accidentally) butchering my cat and playing catch-up at work, I'm now in full swing with literature searches, reading, and other prep for graduate studies this fall (hooray! woohoo!). Planning a cross-country move for September to boot. Busy isn't necessarily interesting, but I'll try to weed out the post-worthy.

For now, here are a few more pictures from my recent 12-day trip to the PacNW. I posted some on it here, too...

Progressive potties. Portland, OR airport.
...Just one more reason to love the Pacific Northwest.

These toilets have been at PDX for a while now, but this time I had my camera with me. As the flash went off in the stall, the recent indiscretions of a certain Republican politician came to mind. Prolly not such a good idea.

Mt. Rainier (left) floating over Safeco Field in downtown Seattle.
Mt. Hood (right) near Portland trying to hide.

...Within three days of arriving, I was criss-crossing Washington and Oregon getting in visits and views. Temps peaked in the upper 50's for the first several days. Bring on the cords, clouds, and rosy cheeks! I've missed it. Won't be much longer now.

The Columbia plateau, north-central Oregon.

This train depot is less than a mile from where I'll be spending my next two summers while conducting my graduate field research. Trains, trucks, and agriculture (including a burgeoning wine grape industry) dominate the landscape. Stay tuned for posts on drunken train-hopping.

The Columbia River curving West.
Oregon on the left, Washington on the right.

Driving back from a 5-day visit w/my graduate advisors at the research station, I stopped to take a short hike up from the river. It was the first real sunny day, but still with a chill -- perfect. The "short hike" to stretch my legs landed me on top of the Columbia Gorge, where the winds are quite something and the views are spectacular. You can see the white-caps on the river for most of the way up. Wind-surfing capital, indeed!

Some of these waves are as big as bugs... The VW kind.

Field cricket, Gryllus sp.

A wriggling field cricket in high winds atop the Columbia Gorge. Expleti -- er, exclamations of awe at the high winds were lost on my own ears. And then there were the gusts...I could barely keep my balance while taking this photo. All things considered, not a bad pic. But not my doing -- it's the new Ricoh!!

A gossamer-winged butterfly, family Lycaenidae
(subfam. Polyommatinae, "the blues")

This butterfly took a rest in a warm, protected and sleepy meadow of lupines atop the Columbia Gorge. Probably glad to find a substrate that's steady!

Niece Kya

I hope (but doubt) that my forthcoming graduate studies in entomology at OSU will allow an occasional moment with this 4-yr old little bug.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Butcher Mommy

A little out of context from my usual posts, but an extreme note of caution is in order for anyone with a cat and scissors: never trim a cat's tail with scissors. Never. I mean ever. Just put 'em down, and back away.

Otherwise, you may find that the tip of the tail is easily snipped -- no matter how careful you think you're being. In the case of a cat who, oh say, has tail feces you're trying to cut out, snipping the tail tip is unbelievably easy to do. You and the cat may not even register it...until the blood comes. Crazy...amounts...of blood. You now have feces and blood to deal with, to say nothing of a possible medical emergency. Tail-bleeding may stop after 10-15 minutes, only to restart later with a vengeance whereupon the tail whips about, as tails tend to, splattering blood everywhere and across everything/everyone. It may appear there is no stopping the bleeding, whereupon you immediately transport your cat to the emergency vet hospital, oh say late on a Friday night. Once there, you discover that surgery is needed. Surprise! Yep, surgery. The tail is a continuation of the spine, and as such has vertebrae; when the skin on the tip of the tail is, uh, accidentally removed, it becomes necessary to free up loose skin to close the wound by surgically removing the terminal vertebra. Makes sense. At least according to the emergency vet, who, as far you're concerned at this moment, is God.

Listening to God -- er, the emergency vet -- you can either pay $1100 (in addition to the big fat bill for walking through the front door) for her to perform the surgery, or wait a few hours until morning for your local vet to do it at 1/3 the cost. You may choose to wait, and return home in the wee hours of the morning with a dopey, angry, crying cat. Your home is covered in dried blood from floor, to walls, to furniture. Your cat is wailing. You are beyond guilty. All things considered, you may become physically sick. But this is no time to rest, or clean, or throw up because you need to stay up and carefully watch/console your thrashing, drugged cat. He/she could remove the tail bandage, thus causing another horror-movie round of bleeding.

So don't pick up scissors for shave jobs. That's all I'm sayin'. And if you wait to see your local vet, they may disagree with the need for surgery and advise two weeks of bandaging, antibiotics, and pain meds. Hence, a less severe tail-snipping incident leads to "merely" the above followed by an uncomfortable, bandaged, and club-tailed kitty. And for you: a lot of blood-cleaning and time off from work to make sure your cat-who-ejects-cones does not remove his wrappings.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day!!

My dad, his wife, Karen, and I spent Father's Day this weekend scorpion hunting and later viewing all things celestial in the Tucson night sky. Starizona is a Tucson telescope business that offers star parties several times a week. My many questions had instant answers, complete with physics and chemistry details. After seeing the Hercules Globular cluster and the rings around Saturn, I can see why Dad is hooked. He is even considering buying a scope -- one that's almost large enough for me to crawl inside.

In spite of a very bright moon -- which we also viewed in all its pock-marked glory -- we also had good views of Jupiter (and four of its moons), Vega and two of the stars (Altair and Deneb) which make up the summer triangle, and a white dwarf star.

The Hercules Globular Cluster

Dad and Karen recently moved from the very place I stand poised to return to... Wierd how life works. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Graduate Research: First Glimpse

The first few days have passed at the agricultural research station where my graduate field studies will take place. Though I don’t officially start grad school until fall, I set aside time during my current visit to the PacNW for a site visit to learn more about my project and meet (be assessed by) the third co-advisor of my committee.

An immature stonefly, order Plecoptera

I spent some time in the lab sorting aquatic invertebrates we collected, a component which may or may not be a part of my research project. My project is still pretty loosely defined. It’s partially up to me to clarify some of the questions with my interests -- an endeavor more easily stated than done. I lack my bearings in the aquatic stuff, so more lit. searches and lots of reading await me .

The research station is East of the Columbia Gorge and only a few miles from the river as the crow flies, I would estimate. The agricultural fields are mostly round given the widespread use of center-pivot irrigation here. Everyone is so nice, even the teenagers. I can't get over it. (I have been in Phoenix for several years after all.)

Center-pivot irrigation

One night was spent at the home of one of my co-advisor and his spouse: lovely and large, it's perched on the grassy banks of the Columbia River. Windows everywhere boast an unobstructed view…It was exquisite. I’d met the other two advisors previously. This third one is a character! Self-described as terse, I believe he is really a sheep (or perhaps joker?) in wolf’s clothing. An excellent scientist and all-around great person, too. All my advisors are amazing. I am so lucky. Now, about all those non-entomology courses they’re having me take… ;)

One of my advisors demonstrating how to sample for aquatic insects

Living in the student housing at the research station and visiting field sites quenched my wanderlust for roaming this past week. It rears up each spring, a remnant from temp/seasonal wildlife work. Guess old habits die hard. Come early September, I'll get another dose of it before classes begin... And I can hardly wait. For now, back to AZ.

Field housing... "Roughing it"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Seattle Marineros

Seattle Waterfront

I'm visiting the Pacific Northwest, and was treated to a Mariners game yesterday (belated birthday gift from my best friend -- thx Beck!). Safeco field honored Latin American beisbol on our chosen game day. Free hats were given out that read "Marineros".

The Mariners had been on a loosing streak, but I told my gramps: I'm in town, their luck is about to turn... :) And it sure did! After being stomped by the Detroit Tigers in four previous games, the Mariners won 5-0. Reed scored a homerun, Johjima stole home successfully during a double fumble by the catcher, and the ninth was a no-hit closing by J.J. Putz to complete the shut out. All the players I remember are now retired or traded (Wilson, Martinez, Griffey, Moyer, etc.). Including, too, hall of famer inductee-to-be Dave Niehaus. So I really look forward to learning the players again once I move to Oregon for school this fall. Guess I should get acquainted with college sports, too... Jeesh, even my surgeon knows more about the Beavers than I.

Safeco Field's retractable roof closing

The rain and chilly weather hit the week I arrived, but no complaints from me. Bring it on! I have 105-degree heat and bland blue skies awaiting me back in Arizona.

Before the game we visited Pike Place Market. One of my favorite vendors is Old Seattle Paperworks (downstairs). I love skimming their historic reprints of Portland and Seattle during the late 19th/early 20th centuries, before paved roads and dams changed the landscape. Coming from a long line of Pac NW farmers and loggers, it's pretty neat to think my great, great grandparents walked those streets.

The annual market festival was taking place, so there were several mini-parades and lots more people than usual. Becky and I got piroshkies at the Russian bakery and then meandered through the crowded market. Everyone was in a good mood, in spite of the intermittent rain and sun breaks.

Becky and I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast near downtown the night before. Capitol Hill Guest House -- it was beautiful. We awoke at least one guest with our giggling (they told us later it was a pleasant, early morning sound). I'm just glad we didn't get kicked out; best friends since 9, we often regress to devilish antics. Beck treated me to dinner at my favorite Seattle restaurant, Elliott's Oyster House. Their clam chowder is award-winning, and in my humble opinion challenged only by a small Irish pub in Ocean Shores. I also tried my first taste of creme brulee. Wowee! I'm not a fan of custard-like things, but was so impressed I plan to learn and perfect it over the summer. It requires torching the top to caramelize the sugars. You can also broil it, but I shall use fire (fire! fire!). I hope you're up for another experimental dish, Jack. {Picture: Becky found a nice nook!}

Before leaving the city, we had a quick visit with my cousin who attends the University of Washington. Ryan is in his sophmore year excels in all the courses I detested: physics...calculus... Eck. More power to him!

Unfortunately, I did develop the flu last night upon returning to my Mom's near Portland. I'm downing shots of Airborne, but even my eyelids feel achey. All I want to do is rest -- which is good, because tomorrow I head out to the Columbia Gorge area to satiate my inner hobo. I'll spend 5 days getting acquainted with my future field sites, meet the third member of my graduate committee, and maybe even slip into some hip waders to collect my first bit of data... I'm hoping for some good invert shots, too.