July 6, 2008

Either my senses have recently become over-sensitive (maybe I’m pregnant) or some of the food I bought at the Stop-n-Shop is just plain disgusting. I bought a dozen ears of corn that smelled like fish and a head of garlic that smells like hot dogs. GROSS. very very gross. Straight from the grocery store to the home to the garbage can. I hate wasting food, but this stuff deserves an exception. Blech.

I’m usually pretty attentive when I select produce, but I was obviously in a rush with these selections. This store often has decent produce, especially given the fact that it is a major chain supermarket. These little stinkers made it past several lines of defenses to infiltrate this kitchen. Au revoir, except I hope I don’t see you again, smellies.


My buddy J. Matt studies sex allocation in hermaphroditic marine intertidal barnacles. In other words: How much should wet, salty, crusty she-males that live on the rocks invest in each of their naughty bits?

Barnacles are sessile (permanently fixed to a location, like a tree) crustaceans that maintain both male and female reproductive organs throughout the year, but they make their penises bigger in the fall when mating gets hot and heavy. But in addition to this seasonal change in the size of their trouser snake, barnacles can also sense features of their physical environment and use that information to change the dimensions of their John Thomas. If their neighborhood is crowded, they presumably needn’t invest much to fertilize their neighbors. When potential mates are distantly scattered, getting action can require quite a stretch. So barnacles make tiny tadgers when they’re rubbing against their consorts and lengthy dongs when their lovers are far.

The motion of the ocean can also affect how barnacles get it on. In protected coves, barnacle sex occurs unfettered by the destructive force of incoming waves. But when barnacles expose their Willies to crashing waves, they risk a fate I’d wish upon no functional male: breaking off the wang. Changing the length of the penis doesn’t necessarily mitigate this monstrous consequence, but making it sturdier at the base may help. Barnacles growing where the sex is ho-hum have a smaller diameter at the base of their schlong, while those growing where the sex is rough give it girth.

For a scientific description of this research, please read:

HOCH, J. (2008). Variation in penis morphology and mating ability in the acorn barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 359(2), 126-130. DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2008.03.002

For another bloggers take on this research:

Zelnio, K. Environment Shapes Barnacle Penis. Deep Sea News: June 17, 2008

Some of the euphemisms for male sex organs were inspired by the Monty Python Song:

“Isn’t Awfully Nice to Have a Penis”

Caterpillar Cloud

June 17, 2008

My undergraduate thesis, in Wordle Cloud form.

More Cephalopod

June 11, 2008

On my flight back from Seattle, the tv screen on the back of the seat in front of me kept replaying this video of Mark Bittman on NY TIMES. I have also heard from two people (independently) today that grilling octopus is worth a try.

I like Mark Bittman’s writing for the TIMES so far, and I am looking forward to reading this. As I stated in the last post, I am looking to reduce my intake of animals to balance out the last two weeks!


Yep. My lifestyle makes it easy to drop meat pretty quick, based on his suggestions. Nothing new.

Also, Erik from MMMMMmmmmm DONUT… suggests this Bittman vid at TED. Its great.

UPDATE UPDATE: a good companion article to the vid

Just got back from the west coast, where I got to enjoy a variety of good food.  One highlight was the restaurant Senor Moose in Ballard, WA which serves an amazing variety of authentic Mexican flavors.  Agave margaritas, salsa verde, salsa puya, marinated chipotles, esquites (corn with epazote herbs and cream, YUM).  I had slow simmered pork with zucchini and panela cheese.

I also had to hit up my favorite sushi place in Seattle, Shiro’s.  I ate crustaceans, echinoderms, cephalopods, and fish.  I had live sweet shrimp, which was brought out in two parts, the raw body, and the tempura fried head, antennae, and legs.  This was the first time I ever ate those parts of the shrimp before.  They were crispy and delicious.

I also had a tako salad. That was octopus tentacles with some yummy sprouts… and I can’t remember what else. Darn. I always go to Shiro’s when I am in Seattle.  I sit at the bar and ask them to feed me whatever they want.  Its always worked out well, I love that place.

I went a little overboard with eating out, but I really enjoyed a lot of it.  I also went overboard with eating animal, and I am looking to get into eating a lot of vegetable matter now that late spring and summer produce are coming on the scene!


May 28, 2008

Later today I’ll be meeting up with my friend and we’re going to a genomics seminar. Academic science seminars are famous for being a place for naps because they happen late in the afternoon, after your coffee crash, after lunch, after a full day of bench work or staring at a computer screen. The coffee and cookies outside the seminar room do their best to perk you up, but usually they just set you up for a bigger crash. You enter the seminar room, the air is stifling, the room is hot, the lights are low, and the monotone voice and delivery of data are boring…. boring…. boring…. Actually, that last part doesn’t even need to be true. It can be hard to stay alert and awake in the most dynamic presentations on topics of great interest.

For example, I once fell asleep in a seminar given by one of my academic heros. I’d had breakfast with him earlier that morning, and we had a great conversation about each other’s research. He’s pretty well-known in the ecology and evolution field and his work is multidisciplinary, so his talk attracted a large audience that packed the seminar room. I ended up sitting in the back row, against the wall. The seminar started, and it was engaging, but not enough to combat the somniferous facets of the environment. At some point in the lecture, I fell asleep, my head fell backwards and CRACKED against the wall! It instantly woke me up, along with other people that had apparently fallen asleep, and it was loud enough that several people in the room turned around to look in my direction. Embarassing.

But you really can’t be too embarrassed. The phenomenon is pretty general. So general, in fact, that my friend Wendy wrote a song about it called “Seminarcolepsy”. She is quite deft in the art of science pop songcraft, and the lyrics of her song describe the phenomenon much better than I have here. Enjoy!

Cephalopoda, originally uploaded by Arenamontanus.

Sometimes a good thing is hard to improve upon.

Hierarchical classification schemes for living things go way back in Western throught, evolving from Aristotle’s Scala Naturae to Carolus Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae in the 1700s. Later, phylogenetic trees were used to represent the evolutionary relationships among organisms and like many concepts in evolution, their use dates to Darwin’s time. In fact, Darwin scrawled something of a phylogenetic tree in his notebooks and published a tree in the Origin of Species. Read the rest of this entry »

Speaking of vermicomposting, this is my favorite song by the Aquabats, “Worms Make Dirt!” and here is a silly video with some sweet MS Paint and sock puppetry set to that music.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod

I compost my food with worms, which I then feed to my pet box turtle. This week I got an invitation to post my worm bin on the map of vermicomposters around the world.  Haven’t added a picture yet, but there are some good ones on there, like this one:

If you compost with worms, check out these links: add yourself to the map or join the Ning ! These sites will also take you to more information on composting with worms… there’s a lot out there.

Right now I am composting with a species of worm that isn’t a very efficient composter. I’m not sure what species it is, but it is not the Eisenia fetida that is commonly used for composting. The worms are much larger, and they don’t reach the high densities that the E. fetida can achieve. We’ve also been having a problem with fruit flies in our bin (and in our house). The worm bin got moved to the porch, I recently split it into two bins, and now they are both sitting next to the bucket of Starbucks (R) coffee grounds that serve as growth media for Oyster* Mushrooms (currently on their third crop)! The Oyster mushrooms came from spores and media from Fungi Perfecti. We got an enokitake kit from them that sprouted a lovely crop in December.

Enokitake in December

This weekend I’ll be picking up home brew from my friends house. Steam Beer! The kit came from Karp’s Home Brew.

Also, I am thinking about making Birch/Sassafras Beer. I’m looking at recipes from the usual suspect: Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons. Do you have a birch beer recipe to share? Leave a comment!

A while back I made a cooking show that caught the attention of Darin Bresnitz, who works for the Food Network. While I didn’t end up with my own cooking show (still holding out hope on that one!), I did make a new internet friend!

Darin is producing segments for a show on food network called “Ask Aida”.  The idea is to get people to submit questions (and entertaining video questions) about what’s got them stumped in the kitchen.  Sounds like a fun idea. Check out the official word on the show from Darin (scroll down to comments) and find out how to submit your own video to the Food Network.