Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Aaand we're off...

on our vacation travels. But before we go, here's a quick video of Quinn taking her first steps (oh, yes she is very much walking now).

This video is from early November, right after she figured out the whole walking thing. She's scooting around with much more assurance and speed these days.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Science: Especially When Inconvenient

Barack Obama roled out his science team this week:
"Because the truth is that promoting science isn't just about providing resources -- it's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient -- especially when it's inconvenient."
(Also this week UCS released recommendations for the president-elect and the new Congress for restoring scientific integrity.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ecuador Reading List

Laura Jean and I are heading off to Ecuador for 10 days right after Christmas (Quinn is staying with my parents). We're going as part of a Global Exchange trip to learn about environmental and social justice issues in that country - particularly involving disputes between Amazonian communities and foreign oil companies. Should be an interesting trip.

To prepare for the trip, I've been doing some reading on the issues and the country in general. (A good intro to the Chevron dispute is here; a defense of Chevron is here.) Here are some links:

Biodiversity and Conservation
Oil Company Disputes
Recent Ecuador Politics
[Updated 3/1/09]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


This is pretty impressive:

It kind of looks like it's been sped up, but of course, it hasn't. Saw this via an interesting NY Times article about Jessica Fridrich, the inventor of a common speedcubing method. I confess I've never solved a Rubik's Cube. Sure, I've picked them up and fiddled around, but I've never really thought it through (do I have to turn in my geek credentials now?). I'm pretty sure I would feel good about myself if I solved it in several hours, much less 10 seconds.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Top 8 in 08: Books

'Tis that time of year again to engage in the ultimate blog activity: making lists of stuff! Being a new parent greatly cuts back on the time available to consume popular culture -- this year I got most of my reading done in bits while riding the train to work. Here are my top eight books this year; click-through to read my goodreads review for each:
  1. The Yiddish Policeman's Union, by Michael Chabon
  2. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
  3. Dubliners, by James Joyce
  4. Coyotes, by Ted Conover
  5. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  6. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
  7. Peddling Prosperity, by Paul Krugman
  8. Speaking with the Angel, short story collection edited by Nick Hornby
I also wanted to give a shout-out for a book I haven't finished reading yet -- Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity. Co-written/edited by my friend Ari, it's a hybrid textbook/coffee table book packed with the latest science on a really interesting and timely topic.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sign of the Coming Apocalypse #4401

Snorkelers  exploring the coral reef at Green island
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 19% of all the world's coral reefs have died over the past few decades -- mostly due to climate change threats like acidification and rising sea temperatures. Although there are apparently some hopeful signs, climate change will continue to be bad news for corals unless significant emissions reductions happen.

So that sucks. Particularly because it turns out that corals are really fascinating. For example, corals usually grow asexually, but also reproduce sexually via massive, synchronized spawning events triggered by the lunar cycle (coral apparently have primitive photoreceptor eyes) that spread fertilized eggs over large distances to form new colonies.

Stuff like this makes me wish I knew the first thing about biology. Biology is kind of awesome.

Monday, December 08, 2008

51 Quarters

Fifty state quarters (plus a stand-in for D.C. which doesn't get its own) arranged in rough geographic order:

I started collecting them as soon as we moved somewhere that didn't have coin-operated washers and dryers. Yes, I am a dork.