Friday, June 27, 2008


Well, I arrived Tuesday night to begin my five week working vacation in Tucson, AZ. The first couple of days were typical baking hot June weather, but the monsoons seem to have come early so it's much cooler now. I'm really enjoying reacquainting myself with all of the lovely bugs and birds and plants, without suffering in the 100+ degree dry-as-a-bone weather.

This afternoon I'm going to do a few fills to the mushroom bodies of these cute little guys (above), Odontotaenius disjunctus, commonly known as bessbugs or patent leather beetles. They live together in little social colonies in logs, where they take care of each others' babies. They also talk to each other- the adults, larvae and pupae all make sounds! So they have a pretty cool lifestyle.

OK, back to work! (BTW, the top picture is one I made in Photoshop using a vintage photo I found on Flickr, some Victorian plant and hummingbird pictures, and various Photoshop brushes of flowers. I made it on the long plane ride to Tucson to pass the time :))

Monday, June 23, 2008

Knickknacks and eye candy

I am a collector of knickknacks. Not just any old crap, I'm actually choosy, believe it or not. My house is full of all sorts of little things: biological and geological artifacts, glass and metal pieces, art prints and vintage ephemera. And for 99%, I remember exactly where I got it and under what circumstances. Take the above shadow box, for example. The box itself is just an old silverware drawer that I bought at Polly Ann's Antique's in Mount Vernon Iowa during one of my visits to my parents. Mom and I visit that store every time I visit. The wierd orange piece of glass in the middle slot (that looks a bit like a bong, I know) was purchased at the same place at an earlier date. On either side of that piece are two pewter salt and pepper shakers that my grandma Taylor gave me when I was an undergraduate. On the top shelf, the quartz parrot was a gift from my friend Jen in elementary school, and the lacquer box was purchased after much haggling at a street market in St. Petersburg, Russia. The shell is the only thing that I can't recall where I got it- I just have so many shells laying around. So I guess my point is, I'm trying to rationalize my knicknack collecting by demonstrating that there is a memory attached to nearly every piece.

Remember the PBS program "Victory Garden" from the 80's? Well, mine is the Defeat Garden. It's totally taken over by weeds this year; I just haven't gotten up the steam to keep up with it like I should. One small surprise, however, is that a new and interesting flower has appeared (above). Mom looked it up and found that it is a Clustered Bellflower, Campanula glomerata. Just think, if I had been actively weeding this year, I might have pulled it!

Finally, I finished a piece of jewelry that I've been working on for awhile. The photo is from a picture I bought at the same antique store in Mount Vernon that I mentioned above, and is peering out of a glass window soldered onto a copper porthole. Dad helped me out with this, and now I know that some of my past soldering problems were due to not using the right solder and using kind of a cheapo soldering iron. He also showed me a lot of other little tricks, and the soldering on this necklace went more smoothly than anything else that I have worked on previously. So this was a good learning experience.

Anyway, the rest of the piece is a picture of a mosquito under a glass marble, all of which is set on a rusted piece of tin. I cut out the words "girl genius" from an old book and glued them on with Diamond glaze, and also added a patch of glitter and some glass beads. When everything was finished, I masked off the glass and copper and sealed everything with Krylon. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the results!

Well, today is the day that a lot of big things get wrapped up. My new Buick gets inspected and, if all goes well and it passes, WV registration and all of that fun stuff will be complete. This afternoon, I finish up the paperwork for transferring the mortgage over in my name, and the little brick house will be mine. It feels a little bit strange, I guess, and again, I'm wondering if and when everything is going to finally sink in?

Well, that's all for now. Into work for a bit to gather things for the upcoming trip.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Internet timewasters

i rock!!
Myspace Glitter Graphics

All of the little games and toys on teh internets can provide hours of entertainment. I made the above masterpiece using Blingee.

This movie is on my list

I don't see a lot of movies, usually. First, I don't like to sit idle for 2-3 hours, especially if the movie is so-so. I get antsy and want to get up and do something that requires a little bit more brain power. Second, I don't like most run-of-the-mill dramas; I get plenty of drama in real life so when I watch a movie I want to escape from it. I want monsters and other worlds and magic spells and most of all, awesome special effects. "Wanted," with Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman, however, looks like just that movie, at least on the special effects end. It appears to be about a mystical group of assassins with extraordinary powers of shooting and driving fast and generally looking totally cool. Angelina Jolie looks absolutely otherworldly, as usual, although it probably wouldn't hurt if she would sit down and eat a cheeseburger once in awhile. She's starting to look awfully skeletal :(

Anyway, here's the movie trailer; it rocks!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy birthday to ME!

Well, I turned 37 just over a week ago, and used it as an excuse to order some things off of the internet and to buy a book at the local chain bookstore here in town. Both of my internet purchases arrived this week, yay!

Above is a beautiful handmade necklace from the Etsy shop of Ingrid Dijkers, a flying egg-shaped vessel with sparkles and a bird inside. On the inside surface is a quote, "the shell must break for the bird to fly." I though it was appropriate for starting a new stage in my life.

Next is a bit more lighthearted, a funny t-shirt mocking the "Teach the Controversy" argument of creationism/intelligent design advocates, who would like to make you think that there is actually some controversy over whether the diversity of life on earth is a result of evolution by natural selection of a result of a magic man in the sky saying "make it so." My shirt is in support of the ancient Egyptian belief that the sun is actually a ball of dung being pushed across the sky by dung beetles. This needs to be taught in astronomy class, obviously, to be fair to the Egyptians. The t-shirt was designed and purchased from Amorphia Apparel.

Finally, a bought a book from my Amazon wishlist, Semiprecious Salvage. It demonstrates techniques for making cool jewelry and other art out of metal and paper scraps and other discarded bits and pieces. And it's pretty to look at, too. I've been really interested in metalworking lately, but have found that I lack the skills to really make things stick together- hopefully this will help.

Until next birthday...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

One of his less endearing qualities

He's been getting about one bath a week due to this little habit. I wonder why Wizard does it but not Gouda? I don't think it's because Gouda's smarter...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Creepier than fiction

While visiting my brother recently I saw the movie Silent Hill, which turned out to be satisfyingly spooky. It's set in an abandoned coal town in West Virginia, and whenever the monsters start coming out the creepy mine sirens start going off, just like the ones that go off here in Morgantown at the power plant. The picture above is of the most kickass creepy monster in the movie, which was also involved in one of the most crazy gore scenes.

I love spooky monsters (I've been obsessed with the Alien movies forever), but I am always amazed by some of the real-life examples of creepy living things, which seem to be especially common among the invertebrates and in extreme habitats like the deep ocean. For example, check out these two anglerfish from a recently published book of deep sea photography, The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss:

Speaking of the Alien movies, what about the real-life Aliens among us, the parasitoid wasps? I'm glad these wasps are teeny tiny and prey on caterpillars, and not human-sized...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gone AWOL- again

Wow, I haven't posted in a month. A lot has been going on, but it just seems to complicated to put in writing sometimes. The big transition to "singleton" status is moving along and I'm still waiting with some trepidation for the big flood of despair and regret but it hasn't happened yet. So I seem to be holding up pretty well.

I leave for my 5-week working vacation in Tucson a week from today. I'm very much looking forward regroup and regain a sense of who I am. The mantra that I am working around is "girl genius," with kind of a steampunk sensibility. It's silly but I kind of need to lighten up a bit right now.

Work has been pretty kickass. One paper just published in Brain, Behavior and Evolution, two papers in press, one accepted pending revisions, one submitted and one needing just a couple more experiments before wrapping up. The picture above is from the published paper, showing neuroblasts (pink) in the mushroom bodies of a specialist scarab beetle larva (A), a generalist scarab beetle larva (B), a juvenile cockroach (C), and a generalist scarab beetle pupa (D). The overall finding is that generalist scarabs with larger mushroom bodies also have more neuroblasts producing more neurons, similar to what is observed in distantly related species such as cockroaches that also have large mushroom bodies.

Other activities include catching various tiny little flies and getting started on the Diptera project and actually thinking about a couple of grants. Busy, and loving it.

Geez, I need to post more often so I don't end up with these monthly manifestos.