Congratulations Dr. McGill!

This morning I attended my lab-mate’s Ph.D Exit Seminar, where she discussed her research for the last five to seven years on Chromatin in maize as well as Transformation Efficiency. Now I am pleased to announce that she has now attained (besides a few formalities) the distinction of henceforth being known as M. Annie McGill, Ph.D.


In a reference to Top Gun, Annie is known in the lab as “Maverick,” which her mad Biolistic Transformation (“Gene Gun”) skills have earned her. Her office for years has been in the so-called “Danger Zone,” which has also been my office for the last two years. Along with another grad student in our lab who may be finishing his degree in a couple months, I also have a similarly-themed nickname. Can you guess which one is mine?

Dr. Annie, seen here removing her name placard, will be leaving in a month to go work for Monsanto in Connecticut, and she will be missed! The time that we spend together as grad students in the same program and lab, may sometimes seem long, and at other times too short. Congratulations again, Annie, today you’re Top Gun!


Boston Tea Party for the rich?

Regular readers know I don’t often write about political stuff on my blog. But Monday I got something pretty funny in my inbox. Mass-mailed to all UW-Madison students, the local Republican student club was advertising a local “Tea Party” on April 15th to protest… taxes. Here’s what their slogan was:

Enough raising our taxes.

Enough driving jobs from Wisconsin.

Enough altering our way of life.

Having just completed The Ms. and my taxes for last year, I can safely say that our own taxes have not been raised. Sure, the first-time homebuyer’s credit (w00t) will help us replace the dinosaur of a furnace that burned us at the bank this winter, but even if you cut that out we don’t have anything to complain about.

Nor do many others. Across the board, people are paying less taxes, even capital gains taxes. The only people who could complain about taxes are… those who are making more than $250,000 a year! Maybe I should crash their tea party so I can meet all the disgruntled rich heirs and heiresses?

Oh wait, given that I pay taxes, I have a job. And during that tea party I’ll be showing an undergrad how to do PCR, as part of that job. Dang, it could have been great. Why did they have to schedule it during the day when actual taxpayers are working?

UPDATE 2:30 pm: PZ Myers also posted about the ‘tea party’ – apparently the people planning the event are calling it “Tea Bagging.” Ummm… that already has a meaning. It involves a certain dangly bit of male anatomy and the mouth of a victim. Hey, next time look up what you are saying before you sound like nutbags. This news report is full of win.

Whoa – a weekend!

This marks my first real weekend in a while. Not counting the fact that this morning I have to go pollinate a few plants in the greenhouse, but after that it’s nothing but bees, ripping something out of our kitchen, and maybe a little stuff with our newly thawed-out back yard. In the words of Bill Watterson’s vision of a father: I love the crazy hedonism of weekends!

Professor Haro von Mogel?

This morning I taught my first class. My adviser skipped town this week to go to a big important meeting, and asked me to teach his plant breeding & biotechnology class for 50 minutes. I gave a lecture on flower biology, pollination methods, and how the former dictates the methods used to do the latter. I got to use some of my videos, and in the big crunch before the class, we got two more pollination methods videos near to completion! I expect that we’ll be uploading them about the end of the month.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the lecture, and while walking out of the room I thought, you know, I could see myself doing this on a regular basis in the future…

Happy Knew Year!

Not six, or twelve, or eighteen hours later due to the non-leap year years. Midnight, the New Year is upon us. Sure, we had a leap second added right before midnight, but all is well with celebrating the new year at the proper Sidereal timepoint. Y’all knew that part, didn’t you?

Resolutions for me? Write more, record again. Pretty simple. But resolutions are hackneyed. Instead, I would like to express a few New Year’s Wishes:

This year, I will pin down, clone, and confirm the identitiy of my gene, Sugary Enhancer.

This year, I will fully complete my video project and plan my next ambitious enterprise.

But there are a few things that I wish from the Universe – things I hope to find in the world this year:

A Jonathan Kozol of FOOD. I’ve been knee-deep in the writings of foodies, pop nutritionists, food revolutionists, and not one of them really comes from the perspective of poor people who cannot afford to shop like the culinary bourgeoise. Jonathan Kozol, who I met once in Davis, is a prime example of a true progressive, the likes of whom I have never found writing about food. He’ll actually get into the ghetto to figure out the problems. You cannot fix the American diet within the aisles of Whole Foods.

Some real political change. Barack Obama – you’ve got quite a task ahead of you and have made people believe in the political process again. Keep it rolling!

Welcome, 2009!

3 Cubed

Yes, today I am three to the third power years old. 27 times have I orbited our sun, since having taken my first breath.

Amongst my birthday loot I got a very unique shirt from my spouse. Fans of Red Dwarf will understand the significance of this: It is a beige shirt that says in bright orange: “Give Quiche a Chance”. She got it made at a local shop. I laughed and laughed when I saw it. Perfect!

Christmas in Wisconsin

This is the first year that Ariela and I are spending the Winter Holiday season away from our families. We decided to spend Christmas, Kitzmas, Squidmas, Festivus, and the Solstice in Madison to relax, keep warm, and save some money. Since We’ve been in Wisconsin, we’ve traveled five times to California, mostly for wedding-related business. Now that we have a house, finances are suddenly a big thing! Continue reading Christmas in Wisconsin

A Humanist Grace

In many places, when you have a large gathering of people for a fancy meal, it is often customary for someone to lead the group in a prayer, called “Divine Grace,” or just Grace. For those who are particularly religious, it is seen as a recognition that God was responsible for (but not obligated to providing) the meal they are about to eat. And indeed some such people will say grace before every meal.

This can sometimes be funny when it comes to what exactly constitutes a “meal” worthy of saying grace – does dessert count if you eat it afterward? How about a bag of cheetos in the afternoon? I once had a friend who would pause uttering casual expletives mid-sentence at the moment he sat down at the table to pray, and promptly resume when the private invocation had been completed! I also remember a dating show with a very awkward guy in red goggles who forgot to pray and had to excuse himself in the middle of eating his pie. Continue reading A Humanist Grace