Monday, March 30, 2009

Somebody deserves to be shot

Hunting season opened Saturday. This is the meanest, most irresponsible thing I have seen in a long time. The shaft of the arrow comes out under the wing, buried to the feathers in the breast. Hunters are not supposed to let animals get away like this. Snort.

Butterfly migration

It is finally spring, getting hotter, no more rain. The first of the new roses are blooming, all the glorious shades of green are in my garden. Even the grass is green (this month, it won't last). And for the past few weeks the butterflys are migrating. Little whirly tans insects flying north, as fast as a human can run, fluttering about 10 feet off the ground, undulating up and over the wall and the trees, north. At any given time in the warm afternoon, I can see a dozen or two, fluttering north. They don't fly in the cool morning, or in the windy late afternoon, maybe about 6 hours a day, flying north, not landing, not sipping water, just flying. What are these? They are painted ladies, relatives of the monarch butterflies that also migrate.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thank you, Mr. President

Last week the president issued a Memorandum on Scientific Integrity and sent it to all executive deparments and agencies. Neither suppress nor alter scientiic and technological findings in the process of formulating policy, he said. Make sure that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda, he said. You will remember that a number of our founding fathers were gentlemen scientists. I hope they are resting in peace again that our government is returning to a course where political appointees cannot twist their private agenda into public policy. As the government deals with climate change, species extinction, and scientific research, we require qualified individuals to guide us and a lack of censorship to find our way. Yes, the economy is very scary and I am literally worth a fraction of what I was two years ago, but because of this, our future is brighter and I have hope.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Flags at half staff over Marysville IL

It was a breezy and sunny weekend. Daffodils are up and tulips are trying, red buds on many trees wave against the blue sky. But a lot of people in this community didn't see any of that, probably couldn't see anything of beauty through the tears in their eyes. It was a terrible thing for a pastor of a growing, thriving congregation to be slain in front of his church family. All of the community were aghast at the atrocity. Businesses posted their sympathy on the fluorescent venue signs, the papers and TV news and radio stations carried the funeral, every church took donations for the young widow and the family. This good man fell in the line of duty serving his god, and it was a tragedy. How does someone turn as crazy as that? Remember the church in Texas 10 years ago who lost many people with a lot of other injuries? They sent their pastor up here to console the flock with 3 sermons yesterday. Don't ask, there are no answers.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Greetings from Chicago

It is cold and sunny here, after a weekend of rain and delayed arrivals. I am working PittCon, (Pittsburg Conference for historical reasons). This is a huge meeting, and yesterday was booth training and old home week for the sales staff and product managers who work the booths displaying our latest and greatest. This year, some 200 of us are working the show, down from 300 last year. We had the usual hours of blah blah blahblah training followed by dinner and lots of motivational rah-rah by high managers. They did a good job of making our part of the company sounding not as bad off as it could be. At least one of our competitors pulled out of this show altogether, which is where companies come to introduce new equipment and historically, at least, customers come to make buying decisions. It is apparent that the stimulus package will include a big $$$ for instrumentation, and the east coast account managers are reporting a deluge of requests for quotes from scientists expecting funding added to existing grants to arrive the end of April. Even a one-time influx of $$ would be most welcome. So it's all about keeping the game face on, moving the tire-kickers along and sniffing for customers with budget, and keeping the feet in shape for the long hours on the show floor. At least women are no longer expected to wear heels!

This comment deserves a separate post, not a footnote, but I am short on time so i will just say, THE PRESIDENT STATES NOW SCIENTIFIC POLICY WILL BE DETERMINED BY SCIENCE FIRST NOT PARTY POLICY FIRST. Now anyone who believes there won't still be an agenda would be naive, but policy can't deal with problems that policy refuses to acknowledge exist. Lots of bad news out there, but this is a return to how things should be.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Last year as the food riots hit Mexico after the cost of corn skyrocketed, it had already occurred to me how crazy it was to grow corn for ethanol. I never did think you would get more ethanol out of it than it took to produce the fertilizer and plow and harvest the crop and separate the oil from the corn. I have been watching as scientists struggle to cope with the cellulose and ferment grasses, sugar cane leaves and so forth to produce alcohol. Today I went to a start-up and learned about growing algae in ponds to process for biofuels. There is a lot of biology to manage, and then you have to deal with all the non-fuel components. One way to make it economically feasible to use algae for fuel is to also be able to harvest some high-value product such as a pigment or a dye. My chemist got a free lunch, I got an education. Stay tuned.