Not To Be Trusted With Knives











{March 12, 2008}   Happy Work-iversary to Me!

One year and one week and one day ago, I was unemployed and seriously wondering how I was going to continue to pay my rent, buy groceries, and basically, well, live.  I was filling out the necessary paperwork to postponing the onset of my massive student loan payments on the basis of abject poverty.  I was pouring over job posting after job posting, all of which I was either way over- or way underqualified for.  Then, one year and one week ago, I had a meeting.  Then, one year and three days ago, I was offered a job.  A job with a description that was pretty much written for me.  At a cool place, doing very cool work.  A job with a paycheque.  And benefits.  And pretty business cards.  And a swanky office with a view of the mountains.  A big girl job.

Happy workiversary to me.

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{March 10, 2008}   56% of Kevin Bac’n

Sometimes, it feels like all I ever do is sort through email. I have my Gmail account, and my work email account and yet another email account at UBC, since I’m teaching there this term. I also have a variety of other emails (hotmail, yahoo, another Gmail account) that I almost never check and you can even email me (beth) @ my domain that I don’t actually use yet (drbethsnow.com). My Monday mornings, especially since I’m not in the office on Fridays, range anywhere from 1 to 4 hours of dealing with email before I can do any real work. That’s kind of insane.

Also, it seems that while I get tonnes of email, much of it isn’t really important messages from people who have info I really need or who need info from me… rather, a lot of it is bac’n. “What’s bac’n?” you ask. Well, it’s not quite spam, because it’s not completely unsolicited emails from total randoms, but it’s not email that you really, truly need. It’s low priority stuff that clutters up the old inbox. E-newsletters. Stuff people send to listservs you are on. Canucks news releases. Notifications that you received a new message within Facebook/DM on Twitter/comment on your blog. Stuff you signed up for thinking “oh, wouldn’t it be convenient to be notified of that?” when really, no, no it wouldn’t. You get swamped with the stuff, making it difficult to see the real emails that require your attention.

So, this past week, I decided to keep track of how much of email is made up of actual, legitimate messages vs. how much is bac’n. Some of the more interesting findings:

  • I only received 321 emails messages last week. I really thought it would be higher than that¹.
  • Of those 321, only 8 (2.5%) were spam that snuck by my spam filters. I think that’s pretty good actually.
  • Of the 313 non-spam emails:

bac'n.jpg

That’s 56% bac’n, 44% real emails.

  • Looking at the data broken down by day, we can see that I got a lot of friggin bac’n on Thursday:

Also, I like graphs.

¹Granted, it’s totally possible that last week was not a good representation of a typical week.



{March 5, 2008}   Stress Hurts Your Brain

At work, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about addictions, trauma, violence, and mental health. And to be honest, it can be a really downer reading things like “Most violence against adult women is perpetrated by intimate partners” and “…past victimization increased the risk of a new rape incidence by a factor of seven and increased the risk of a new physical assault incidence by a factor of three,” and “…women who reported being raped in the preceding 12 month months averaged 2.9 rapes in the preceding 12 months…”1,2 all day long.

But the following sentence in a paper about the effects of stress on the brain that I was reading today made me smile:

Along with epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinepherine, glucocorticoids are essential for surviving acute physical stress (evading a predator, for example) but they may cause adverse effects when secretion is sustained such as when waiting to hear about a grant renewal.2, 3

Also making me smile in this paper were the use of the words: hippocampi (the plural of “hippocampus,” the structure in the brain that is involved in learning and memory) and Cushingoid (to describe people with Cushing’s syndrome, a disease in which individuals produce excessive amounts of glucocorticoids (a hormone we produce in response to stress).

Say them with me: Hippocampi.  Cushingoid.  Fun to say, right?

Oh yeah, and the moral of the story is stress hurts your brain.  So chill out already. =)
1All three of these quotations are from: Najavits, L., Weiss, R. D., & Shaw, S. (1997). The link between substance abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder in women. American Journal on Addictions, 6(4), 273-283.
2Emphasis added
3Sapolsky, R.M. (1996). Why stress is bad for your brain. Science, 273, 749-750.



Apparently Quirks & Quarks and I are not the only ones expressing displeasure with the federal government’s “manifest disregard for science

A recent issue of Nature contained an editorial that lambastes the Canadian government for such moves as eliminating the position of national science adviser, backing away from the Kyoto Accord, muzzling Environment Canada’s scientists and poor funding of science.  Kudos for calling it like it is, Nature.



{February 12, 2008}   Publish or Perish. True Dat.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of writing of the I-would-like-to-keep-my-job variety. That’s how things go in the world of science – we spend a lot of time writing applicants for money to fund our projects, reports to tell our funders that we are spending their money wisely, and publishing our findings to (a) show our worth as scientists so that we may get jobs/promotions/more funds to do research and (b) actually move the field forward/make some kind of impact in the world. If I’m making (b) sound like a bit of an afterthought, it’s only because it kinda feels like a bit of an afterthought sometimes. The part where we publish in order to share our work with others so that what we learn through our work can be used to make the world better is supposed to be what it’s all about. But I can assure you that “publish or perish” isn’t the mantra of the academic because we’d just *die* if we didn’t get to share our work with the world.

Anyhoo, I’ve been doing lots of writing, and talking to other people who have been doing lots of writing2, and I remembered that I’ve been meaning to blog about this paper from the Annals of Improbable Research3. Highlights of the paper include:

Nominally, science involves discovering something new about the universe, but this is not really necessary. What is really necessary is a grant.

and

The real purpose of introductions, of course, is to cite your own work (e.g. Schulman et al. 1993a), the work of your advisor (e.g. Bregman, Schulman, & Tomisaka 1995), the work of your spouse (e.g. Cox, Schulman, & Bregman 1993), the work of a friend from college (e.g. Taylor, Morris, & Schulman 1993), or even the work of someone you have never met, as long as your name happens to be on the paper (e.g. Richmond et al. 1994).

and

Be sure to spend at least 50% of your time (i.e. 12 hours a day) typesetting the paper so that all the tables look nice

It’s funny because it’s true.

1OMG, Googling “publish or perish” led me to this site, where you can buy software called “Publish or Perish,” which is “designed to help individual academics to present their case for research impact to its best advantage.”
2Hi Jen! Hi Dan!
3Brought to you by the same people who granted me membership in the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists.

Photo by paperbackwriter. w00t for Creative Commons licenses!



{February 11, 2008}  

OK, just one more quick note on politics. In sharp contrast to the current government, Liberal leader Stephane Dion supports Vancouver’s safe injection site:

“If the science is telling you that an initiative like that is saving lives, we need to continue it.”

Hmm, actually paying attention to the research that has been done on this. What a novel idea!



{November 7, 2007}   Flu Shot Bribery

On my way to purchase a celebratory1 extra-hot-soy-mocha-with-whip yesterday, I walked past a grizzly scene in the hallway. People rolling up their sleeves to voluntarily be stabbed in the arm with a needle. A NEEDLE!!

Ya, so, they are trying to get people at my workplace to get the flu shot. Getting the flu shot at this hallway-based “clinic” will serve as your entry into a draw for:

  • Running Room gift certificates
  • a digital camera
  • an iPod
  • fancy pants treatment at Spa Utopia
  • a 3 hr charter sailboat trip2

This presents a conflict for me – a conflict between my desire for free stuff and my sheer terror of being stabbed with a needle. In this case, however, I’m coming down firmly on the side of “for the love of god, don’t stab me in the arm!!!” But it’s not just that I would like to avoid blubbering like a little baby, as I usually do when confronted with a needle, in front of co-workers. Generally speaking, I’m in favour of vaccines. I’ve had my MMR, tetanus and all those other delightful stabs in the arms that prevent much more painful conditions. But I’m not overly confident in the flu shot. The thing with the flu virus is, it mutates. A lot. And so every year when they design the flu vaccine, they try to predict what this year’s flu will be. Sometimes they get it right (or at least close), but other times, not so much. As a healthy, immune competent adult, I don’t feel it’s worth getting a needle, possibly getting the “flu-like symptoms” as a side effect3, all for a vaccine that might be against a strain of flu that doesn’t even exist.

What do you think? Do you get the flu shot? Would you if your workplace bribed you with fabulous prizes?

1Celebrating (a) finally, at 2:30 in the afternoon, getting through the backlog of email/snail mail I had upon returning from my trip and (b) being awarded 3 assists in my Sunday night hockey game, two of which I remember actually getting4.
2A three hour tour. A three hour tour.5
3They always make a point of saying that you can’t get the actual flu from the flu vaccine, since it’s not made from a live virus. But if you are getting “flu-like symptoms,” isn’t that pretty much just like having the flu?
4 In fairness, I got screwed out of an assist that I clearly made a few games ago that the ref didn’t record, so this just evens things up .
5Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Photo attribution: That photo of a big scary needle was stolen from this guy, from here. But it had a Creative Commons license on it, so it’s all good.



{October 24, 2007}   My Latest Publication

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my latest study!

paper

Click here to read the whole paper (.pdf).

Seriously, you want to read this paper. I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s even got pictures or, as we science-y types call them, “figures.”



{October 10, 2007}   Foot vs. Brain

In the battle between my injured foot and my brain’s adenosine receptors, the adenosine receptors reigned supreme. Faced with the choice of hobbling all the way to the Tim Horton’s on the other side of the building for an afternoon cup of coffee or resting my foot but forgoing my caffeine fix, there really was only one clear choice.



{September 14, 2007}   Brainlessness

The other day I was chatting with my sister and she said “Boys only get their brains after 30.”

A few days later at work, I came across this quotation:

“...a second major phase of brain growth that parallels the hormonal changes at puberty and extends into the mid-twenties. This second spurt is especially prominent in the frontal lobes, an area associated with planning, reasoning, and impulse control. Until this occurs, adolescents are not yet capable of exercising these processes consistently. “

So she was literally correct about boys not getting their brains until they are 30. Of course, the same would hold true for girls… I now plan to use this excuse for any stupid decision I have made up until now in my life. If I’d known this, I would have listed “my frontal lobes weren’t fully developed and thus my planning, reasoning and impulse control was not operational when I got married” on my divorce papers. I think it would hold up in court.

So, based on this scientific evidence, I’m now supposed to include “anyone under 30” on my list of “qualities which, if you possess them, will preclude my dating you” list. This list, which is growing rapidly, now includes1:

  • anyone named Dave (my ex) or Chris (my sister’s ex)
  • the British
  • boys who still live with their moms
  • Surrey trash
  • pretty boys
  • anyone under the age of 30

I have a rather hard time with those last two though.

So, does anyone know any ugly old guys that I can date?

1but is not limited to. I swear there were way more things on this list when I was talking to my sister, but I can’t remember what they were now.



So, I’m feeling much better today – my jaw is only a wee bit achy so I’m off the T3s which were making me all loopy and unable to type properly all day yesterday.

My adventure at the oral surgeon’s office started off with the unpleasant discovery that they lied to me about the cost. I was told that my insurance covered most of the cost, I just have to pay the specialist fees1 – they had gotten a pre-approval for the cost of what an extraction would be if I went to a regular dentist and for the deep sedation. They told me that since the sedation is through my extended health benefits, rather than dental benefits, I had to pay the $190 for that upfront (despite the insurance company pre-approving this, they said they “didn’t trust” that the insurance would actually pay for it), and then they would pay me it back once they got the money from my insurance company (as opposed to the rest of the cost, which is covered by the dental benefits and so they would just charge to my insurance directly, trusting insurance would cover it). But when I go to pay for my part of the fees, I notice on the receipt that they’ve charged me $375, not $190 as I’d been told. And when I asked them about it, they are like, “Oh no, the insurance covers all except $190, you have to pay that. But we charge you the full amount and then reimburse you the difference when we get it from them.” And so I’m like, “That’s not what I was told and, in fact, I have it written down on this piece of paper exactly what you guys told me and that was that sedation costs $190 and my insurance will cover it.” So they begrudging apologized that I “was given the wrong information” and so I told them that I supposed that it’s too late to do anything about it now, but they should make sure they aren’t giving people incorrect information like that, because $200 is a lot of money to suddenly be out of pocket.

Then I went and sat in the waiting room and caught up with Rachel, who I hadn’t seen in ages, and it was good that we had the chance to do that because I couldn’t talk much after the surgery (although the poor other guy in the waiting room sure got an earful about all my drama and our ensuing analysis of said drama). They finally called me to go into the surgery room and then I got to act like a big baby about the fact that they were going to be stabbing me with a needle. And putting a blood pressure cuff on me. I hate those, they make me feel so confined! And why, when you tell a nurse “I’m afraid of needles” do they always say “it’s not that bad. It’s just like a little bee sting”? Is this really supposed to make me feel better? I mean, seriously, am I supposed to say, “Oh good! Bee stings tickle!” So I say, “Um, I’m terrified of bee stings too. But thanks.” So she takes my blood pressure and that gets me all freaked out and then even putting the little heart rate monitor on my finger freaks me out, so they strap my arm with the blood pressure cuff on it to the arm of the chair “too keep the blood pressure cuff in place” (translation: “to keep you from flailing around, you big baby”) and by the time the surgeon comes in and puts the tourniquet on and tells me to open and close my hand to pump up my vein2, I’m literally curled up in a fetal-like position (except with one arm strapped to a chair and the other arm raised as I make feeble attempts to open and close my hand without totally passing out from the queasiness of it all and saying, “how long until I can be unconscious?” and “I promise I’ll be more compliant once I’m asleep!”

The thing with me and needles is that I have to watch the needle go in. My imagination of how big the needle is, and my terror at not knowing the exact moment they are going to stab me, make me more of a basketcase than just watching it happen. So when I say, “I have to watch” and the surgeon literally turns my face away, saying “look at this lady over here,” I wanted to scream “you paternalistic bastard, I know myself and I have to watch”… but I restrained myself and left out the part about him being a paternalistic bastard. So the needle goes in fine and doesn’t hurt too bad and then he says, “This will feel like a cold drink being poured into your hand when I put the medicine in,” and I say, “Yup, that feels cold”, followed shortly by, “that feels really uncomfortable” and then the next thing I know is some vague feeling that something is going on in the bottom left side of my jaw and then they are telling me to wake up, it’s all over, get the hell out. OK, maybe they didn’t say “get the hell out.” It was more like, “we are taking you to the recovery area, be careful, you’ll be pretty wobbly.” So I stumble to the “recovery area,” which is literally a bench, and they bring Rachel in and she’s like “I can see why they insist on an escort, they really rush you out of here. You were only in there for 20 minutes.” And that had to include 10 minutes of blood pressure taking, needle stabbing and my being a big wussy baby. Then the nurse proceeds to explain a bunch of instructions to us and thank god Rachel was there for that because I was so doped up, I totally felt like I was extremely drunk and the only thing I remember was some vague comment about not having caffeine. Of course, even in a drug addled state, I pick up on the caffeine comment. At this point, I can’t feel my face, because of the local, but I notice that my hand, where they IV had been, was killing me and, despite the Dora the Explorer band-aid, is covered in dried blood. So I put some pressure on it with my opposite hand to try to lessen the pain a bit and that takes about all the brain power I have at the time.

We get a cab to the Shopper’s Drug Mart by my place so we can pick up my prescriptions and the pharmacist is like “There are several people ahead of you, it will be at least 15 minutes and Rachel is like, “She just had her wisdom teeth out, can’t you possible let us jump the line” and the pharmacist is like, “No. Besides you have 3 prescriptions.” And why the hell does it take so long to fill prescriptions? I mean, you have to count 8, 15 and 18 pills out big bottles and put them into little bottles. My 2 year old niece could do that! So anyway, Rachel decides to bring me home and she’ll come back for the drugs, ‘cuz it’s just a few blocks. I decide to buy some juice in Shopper’s ‘cuz the nurse said to try to get some sugar in me as soon as possible, since I wasn’t allowed to eat since midnight the night before. And as I take the change back from the cashier, I realize that my hand, with which I’d handed over my Shopper’s card and my cash to the cashier is covered in dried blood, from having used it to put pressure on my IV wound. It takes a minute for this to register as my brain is still all messed up on the sedation and I feel really bad for the poor cashier, and a bit surprised she didn’t say anything like, oh I don’t know, “Um, you are covered in blood.”

Anyway, Rachel gets me home and gets my drugs and I take my Tylenol 3, which was quite challenging because they said to take it when the local starts to wear off, which you will know is happening because your nose will feel tingly, but at this point your mouth and tongue are still frozen and I have trouble swallowing pills at the best of time. But, after several attempts, I manage to get the pill down somehow and spend the rest of the day in the following routine: take a T3, try to email or chat or read blogs but go all loopy, then get all drowsy and fall asleep on couch with laptop on lap, wake up when someone calls/texts/pings me on msn/google talk to see how I’m doing, feel better, watch something on the internets, notice my jaw is sore, realize that I was supposed to take another dose of T3 an hour ago, so then take another T3. And repeat. Always repeat. Oh yes, and rotating ice packs on my face – take one out of the freezer, strap it to my face, replace it with an alternate when it loses it’s coldness. For the entire day. During one of my less loopy phases, where I could actually figure out how to send an email, I emailed Rachel to find out what exactly they had said about caffeine, and it turned out that they said to just not have caffeine in my first drink. Which is a relief, since I was afraid they were going to have said, “don’t have caffeine for the next week”. Or something equally insane.

I end up watching 2.5 movies and a bunch of clips of Stephen Colbert, catching up on most of my blogs and even watching an episode of good ole Young & the Restless. My friend Clayton brought me pudding in the evening, because I discovered that the pudding mix I bought to make for myself had gelatin3 in it and I’d somehow missed that when I read the ingredient list when I bought it and somehow noticed when I took it out of the cupboard to make it. I had taken a T3 just before Clayton got here and apparently I was in my loopy phase, but didn’t know it. I totally thought I was acting normal until he said, “You are on T3, aren’t you?” And I was like “Why? I am acting weird?” and he laughed “Yes.” But I really, totally didn’t think I was! The T3 seemed to make me act like I had ADHD or something – I’d be like “I really should write down that I just took that T3… hey, what is that shiny thing?” And I also didn’t notice that there was blood on the hand towel in my bathroom, which may have been from my IV wound, or possibly from when blood was dripping out of my mouth, but most certainly was not appropriate to have hanging on my towel rack when someone was over!

I took my other meds with my dinner (mango pudding), which is what the nurse had said to do. My other meds are an antibiotic, which apparently “should only be used for serious infections because infrequently there are severe, rarely fatal, intestinal problems,” (which seem like an odd choice for a prophylactic antibiotic) and a corticosteroid, which may decrease my immune response (which seems like an odd choice for someone who is trying not to get an infection) and may stunt my growth (which is an odd choice for someone who is clearly due for a growth spurt any day now). And I followed Ann-Oni Mouse’s advice and sprayed my gauze with Chloraseptic, which seemed to work well for killing pain and I’m hoping will contribute to infection prevention.
I took my last dose of T3 just before I headed to bed with Stephen Colbert, at about 12:30 am, figuring I would wake up about 5 hours later in need of another dose, but I slept right straight through until 11:30 am. And my jaw only had a dull ache, which seems to be the most prominent in my lower left side of my jaw, which is appropriate because that’s the only place I remember feeling anything happen during the surgery, so I’m guessing that was the most difficult one to get out. Anyway, since the pain is fairly minor, I haven’t even taken a single T3 today. I figure I’ll be careful about taking my other meds as scheduled (I set the alarm in my Palm Pilot to remind me when to take it and then record that I took it… I’m kind of like that guy in Memento), gently clean my teeth as my surgeon recommends and keep my fingers crossed that I don’t get any infections. My mother thinks I have inherited my father’s propensity to heal really fast. I think that time I accidentally stabbed myself with that needle contaminated with rat blood in the lab, I took on the rat’s super immune system capabilities4. Because we all know that super powers are gained by science lab mishaps.

I spent most of today sitting in the sun, either goofing around on the internet or talking on the phone (and then having my landlord make fun of the amount of times I used the word “like” in my conversation with Sarah… “not that I was listening in on your conversation, ” he says, “but I counted that you used the work “like” 75 times since you came outside on your phone. Stupid, really, that everyone uses the word “like” so much.”) Went for Frappuccinos with Kalev, who came to hang out a bit after he finished work and before the movie he was going to.

And to top off my crappy week, I did some laundry, during which I pulled the genius move of putting my bluetooth headset through the wash. Like I said, genius. I’m going to give it a few days to completely dry out before I try turning it on again. Which I’ve heard works for when you dump an entire bottle of water into your purse and soak the hell out of your cell phone5. But August 2007 Crapweek started last Saturday, so I figure that it’s scheduled to be over in 7 minutes6. And, so long as I still feel as good tomorrow as I do right now, I’m hitting the town with some friends tomorrow night. ‘cuz I so need a night on the town right now!

OK, probably time for little Bethy to take her med (need to check my notes to remember which one!) and hit the hay. Beth sleepy. Beth has comfy bed with soft, freshly laundered sheets in which to sleep.

OK, I just went to take my night time meds and discovered that I took the wrong med earlier today. I’m supposed to take my antibiotic three times a day (like morning, midway through the day, and night), and my steriod twice day (morning and night). But, for some unknown reason, I took my steroid in the middle of the day instead of my antibiotic. I think I can kiss that growth spurt goodbye.

1I figure if someone is going to be messing with my face, it’s really worth the extra money to go to the best of the best.
2For the record, just typing that out made me queasy.
3Since I’m a vegetarian, I don’t eat gelatin, which is made from horse hooves and cow bones. Ick.
4Lab rats seems to have ridiculous awesome immune systems.
5For the record, this was
not me.
6It was 11:53 pm on Friday night when I typed that.



{August 24, 2007}   Stephen Colbert In My Bed

I’m sitting in my bed as I type this. I recently bought some new sheets and they are sooooo soft. Sooooo comfy.

And since I have my laptop with me, I can watch Stephen Colbert clips in my warm, soft, comfy bed.

And recently there have been two clips in which Colbert refers to Canada. And, as all Canadians know, while we pretty much define our national identity as “hey, we aren’t Americans!”, we somehow still love it when American pop culture acknowledges our existence. “Hey, that character in that movie said ‘Montreal’!” “Hey, Wolverine is in Alberta!” So, as a good Canadian citizen, I now share with you two clips of Stephen Colbert talking about his northernly neighbour.

First up, “Smoking Pole: The Fight for Arctic Riches“:

Secondly, we have “Nailed ‘Em: Northern Border“:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch some more of Stephen Colbert in my bed until the drowsy stage of my latest dose of Tylenol 3 kicks in. Oh ya, I suppose I should mentioned that I did, in fact, survive my surgery and I’ve now been freed of four teeth and a heck of a lot of blood. I’ll tell ya all about it tomorrow – I kept meaning to blog about it earlier, but I’m all loopy on the meds and would forget that I meant to do it in the time it took me to open a new browser tab to open up Blogger. Or I’d fall asleep. Which I think I might do soon now, the drowsiness seems to be setting in.



…but there are two “I”s in “Team Icing.” I’m not sure what that means, but I’m putting it out there anyway.

Having just revived from the sugar-induced coma I entered yesterday as a result of just the sugar that was being absorbed through my skin by the end of a day which included preparing over 60 cups of icing, which we then put onto 150 cupcakes (not to mention baking a layer for actual wedding cake too!), I can now share with you, gentle blog reader, the adventure that was Team Cupcake.

As you know, my friend Erika is getting married this weekend. And weddings require cake, in this case, of the cup variety. Erika’s good friend and labmate, Linda, is making the wedding cake, and when I heard that she was to be making scores of cupcakes (for the eating) in addition to the actual wedding cake (for the ceremonial cutting and looking pretty), I offered to help out, as did some of Erika’s other friends. Thus was born: Team Cupcake! Go Team Cupcake!

In addition to Team Cupcake, there was Team Icing, a sub-team of Team Cupcake, consisting of Linda and I. Team Icing spent the day retrieving un-iced cupcakes from the bakery, perfecting the protocol1 for making icing, sending Linda’s sister to the store to procure us further supplies2, using this protocol to produce ridiculous amounts of said icing and preparing the facilities for large-scale assembly line cupcakery. Also, upon discovering that the ridiculous amounts of icing we had prepared were insufficient for our hyper-ridiculous number of cupcakes, we later whipped up another double batch during the cupcake assembly protocol, impressing our fellow Team Cupcake members with our domesticity and skill. Go Team Icing!

Of course, no event would be complete without me whipping out my digicam to take pictures of even the most mundane things, so now I give you a few pics of the day….

We used 4 lbs of butter…

<img src=”http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1296/1066096287_e142c7fa07_m.jpg” alt=”
This is just 1/2 lb. So picture this times 8.

… and 5 kg of icing sugar

<img src=”http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1052/1066095259_444c81cdbd_m.jpg” alt=”
Again, this is just a portion of the total used.
…to create over 60 cups of glorious white buttercream goodness…

<img src=”http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1172/1066962356_e88ca6e277_m.jpg” alt=”

…which then went onto assemble-line production of an effing large number of cupcakes, which were further garnished with hand-made icing decorations…

<img src=”http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1327/1066097961_42a7e6bfb6_m.jpg” alt=”

…and a good time was had by all!

So props to our fearless leader, Linda, the captain of Team Cupcake!

<img src=”http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1316/1066096513_0076c33004.jpg” alt=”

I’m very much looking forward to eating one of these cupcakes on Saturday!!

1Linda is also a scientist and in the lab you don’t have recipes, you have protocols. Like recipes, protocols are developed by trial and error and what works at any given time seems to differ from lab to lab (er, kitchen to kitchen) and from day to day.
1 we ran out of clear vanilla. Clear vanilla is the secret to this icing.



{July 18, 2007}   Adventures in Packaging

A few packages have made me go “WTF?” lately and so I thought I’d share them with you, gentle blog reader. First up, Veggie Patch Spinach Nuggets:

I was in the grocery store the other day, looking for some delicious and proteinaceous foodstuffs and as I was checking out which of the Yves Veggie pretend-meat items were on sale, I noticed a package of spinach nuggets that looked tasty. I started reading the packaging, as is the habit of the nutritional scientist (how many calories? how many grams of protein? are there any trans fat? for the love of all that is good in the world, tell me if there are any trans fats!!!) and saw a picture of the new – and, in my humble opinion, infuriating1 – American Food Pyramid. Being that I’m in Canada, I found this a little strange – shouldn’t it have Canada’s Food Guide on there? And then I read what was written next to it – it actually does talk about Canada’s Food Guide there. But that’s not a picture of Canada’s Food Guide!!! Canada’s Food Guide is a RAINBOW, people, a RAINBOW! What is up with that???

Next up, Reversaflex tabs.

In the cupboard where the stationery items live in in my office, there was a box of those clear plastic tabs you use to label hanging file folders… you know, like this kind of thing:

Photo courtesy of some random on Flickr.

In one of my “I’m going to be organized” moments, I decided to use them file away some of my papers in an orderly fashion2. I just printed up labels and stuck them on the tabs, but check out how the instructions suggest you deal with them:

A *typewriter*? Are you serious?? Or a *tapewriter*?? Do you remember those things? My parents had one and I thought it was sooo cool. Like when I was 5 years old. Sure, I found these in a supply cupboard and do not know how long they’ve been there so, in theory, they could have been produced in 1981, but I should point out that my program has only been in existence for like 4 years. And the organization in which my program is based for like 10. So really, they can’t be older than that3. And I’m pretty sure that typewriters and tapewriters were not prevalent in 1997.

And now, my favourite of the packages that made me go “WTF” this week. This one is from a lipgloss that my mom sent to me:

Hook up lip color? My *mom* sent me something called hook up lip color?? I can only conclude that she either did not read the packaging or she does not know what “hook up” means. Seeing as this is a woman who referred to S&M as M&M, I’m betting on the latter.

1infuriating because pretty much the only thing that people understood about the US Food Pyramid was that it’s big on the bottom and small on the top… so the groups on the bottom (Grains, Veggies & Fruits) are what you should have more of and the ones on the top (Meat, Milk, Oils) are what you should have less of. People couldn’t get their heads around portion sizes or figure out the specific numbers of servings from each group they should be getting or pretty much anything else about the damn thing, but at least they knew that you should eat more Veggies & Fruits than Meat. But in this latest incarnation of the Food Pyramid (as seen on the package above), they changed it so that the food groups run vertically instead of horizontally, with the (barely discernable differences in the) width of the groups representing which (unlabeled) groups you should have more of and which you should have less of. And the fact that the groups are each wider at the bottom means that some (unspecified) types of, say, Meats & Alternatives are better than other (also unspecified on the Pyramid) groups. And somehow you are supposed to get that from the unlabeled, different coloured slices in the Pyramid. Like I said, infuriating!
/rant

2As opposed to my usual method of throwing papers haphazardly on any available table, counter top or deskspace.

3unless, I suppose, they were somehow inherited from another organization, but that’s a pretty unlikely possibility



{July 17, 2007}   I’m a Member!

I know that you were jealous when I joined the Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique.

Well, be prepared to further exercise your jealousy muscles, as I am now a card-carrying member of:

The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists

You can view my personal page on the LFHCfS site at:

http://improbable.com/2007/07/13/beth-snow-joins-lfhcfs/

You’ll notice that I am now entitled to add the initials: “LFHCfS” after my name. Meaning that I’m now “BSc(Hons), MSc, PhD, LFHCfS”… that’s right, I have a name that is 8 letters long, followed by 19 other letters. Oh yes, I can feel your jealousy!

In celebration of this momentous acheivement, I give you pictures of my luxuriant flowing hair:



et cetera