Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chocolate Banana Cake

These are pictures of a chocolate banana cake I made. It was actually a fairly mediocre cake, but it looks pretty.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Happy St. Patrick's Day! I just found out today that Libya is the only country that has a flag composed of one solid color--green. And Guy told me why--it's because Khadafi is obsessed with the color green. I thought he was just making that up until I Googled it. Weird.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here are some other things that are green:

Trees, limes, moss, emeralds, envy, lizards, frogs, grass, Ireland, leprechauns, aliens, cucumbers, peas, spinach, football field, army uniforms, shamrocks, an inexperienced person, money, street lights, seaweed, lettuce, mold, green tomatoes, green eyes,
turtles, parrots, green M&Ms, snakes, the Jolly Green Giant, Robin Hood, Soylent Green, green tea, olives, apples, jade, iguanas, grasshoppers, dragons, 7UP, caterpillars, crocodiles and cacti.

I think that about covers it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Neutrinos Are God?

There's a volunteer at work I like a lot--he's a Vietnam vet named Larry who owns an old blind cat named Stinky and he does metalwork (Larry, not Stinky). Today Larry came by the office and started talking about "neutrinos" which is something I'd never heard of before. As he was talking about them, I was sort of thinking in the back of my mind, "Neutrinos sound like God!" and then Larry said, "If you were so inclined, you might see a spiritual force there." I said, "Yeah, I do!" and then Larry shared that he is an "unordained Baptist minister." He's from a small town in Missouri and apparently they trained him how to be a minister "but not necessarily a good one." He said, "I'm so liberal, I think a lot of people are surprised that I'm a Southern Baptist" but I said, "Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist too, so you're in good company." Then he said he liked Rastafarians because "their concept of God is really intense" but he left before explaining.

From Wikipedia: A neutrino (Italian pronunciation: [neuˈtriːno], meaning "small neutral one"; English pronunciation: /njuːˈtriːnoʊ/) is an elementary particle that usually travels close to the speed of light, is electrically neutral, and is able to pass through ordinary matter almost unaffected. This makes neutrinos extremely difficult to detect. Neutrinos have a very small, but nonzero rest mass. They are denoted by the Greek letter ν (nu).

Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: neutrinos do not carry electric charge. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces which act on electrons. Neutrinos are affected only by a "weak" sub-atomic force of much shorter range than electromagnetism, and are therefore able to pass through great distances within matter without being affected by it. Neutrinos also interact gravitationally with other particles.

Neutrinos are created as a result of certain types of radioactive decay or nuclear reactions such as those that take place in the Sun, in nuclear reactors, or when cosmic rays hit atoms. There are three types, or "flavours", of neutrinos: electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos and tau neutrinos. Each type also has a corresponding antiparticle, called an antineutrino. Electron neutrinos (or antineutrinos) are generated whenever protons change into neutrons, or vice versa—the two forms of beta decay. Interactions involving neutrinos are mediated by the weak interaction.

Most neutrinos passing through the Earth emanate from the Sun. Every second, in the region of the Earth, about 65 billion (6.5×1010
) solar neutrinos pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the sun.[1]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled

O! M! G! This is my new favorite non-profit:

"Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled is a national nonprofit serving quadriplegic and other people with severe spinal cord injuries or mobility-impairments by providing highly trained monkeys to assist with daily activities.

"We raise and train these monkeys to act as live-in companions who, over the course of 20-30 years, will provide the gifts of independence, companionship, dignity and hope to the people they help."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spider Misinformation

One of my co-workers told me the other day that there are brown recluse spiders in Washington state and that they are extremely dangerous--that their bites "wither" your skin.

I sort of believed her because this particular co-worker seems down-to-earth and practical...but it still sounded fishy so I researched it online. I found a spider-themed website written by the "Curator of Arachnids" at the Burke Museum. (Nice work if you can get it!) Naturally her story turned out to be wholly false.

Here's an excerpt. I especially love the foot-long "camel spider" in Iraq who runs at 25 miles an hour, screaming like a banshee. Ha ha! Yeah, you gotta watch out for those:

Myths, Misconceptions, and Superstitions About Spiders

Rod Crawford, Curator of Arachnids, Burke Museum

As the only spider specialist in a large metropolitan area, I get many spider inquiries from the general public. Since I'm mentioned on the Internet as a spider specialist, some of the public inquiries come from distant places. When I lecture on spiders, adult and child audiences always have questions and comments. So do casual acquaintances when they learn that I work with spiders.

These people's concerns come from a widespread and surprisingly uniform set of assumptions and "general knowledge" about spiders. And almost all of this widespread information about spiders is false!

I don't really expect that this document, by itself, will make much headway against the flood of spider misinformation. However, I hope that those curious about spiders who find their way here will absorb enough information to ask me some new questions instead of the same old ones. I can hope, can't I? green spider, Leucauge venusta

Opinions expressed here are not necessarily endorsed by the Burke Museum or the University of Washington, but are entirely my own, founded on 39 years experience working with spiders and misinformed humans. Note also that I use "myth" here as a convenient catchall term for any kind of widely believed misinformation about spiders.

Just Plain Weird Stories

From: The Spider Myths Site at

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: Strange Piece of Paradise

On a recommendation at Elliott Bay Bookstore, I just finished reading this book, and I think it's one of the best books I've ever read. I'm just going to put the blurb from the back in my post, because I can't do a better job than that of describing it. I like her writing style and it's just such an interesting blend of psychology and introspection and Oregon legal history and lots of other stuff all intertwined in an extremely readable way. You really get drawn into it. Anyone who enjoys true crime would especially like this book:

In the summer of 1977, Terri Jentz and her Yale roommate, Shayna Weiss, make a cross-country bike trip. They pitch a tent in the desert of central Oregon. As they are sleeping, a man in a pickup truck deliberately runs over the tent. He then attacks them with an ax. The horrific crime is reported in newspapers across the country. No one is ever arrested. Both women survive, but Shayna suffers from amnesia, while Terri is left alone with memories of the attack. Their friendship is shattered.

Fifteen years later, Terri returns to the small town where she was nearly murdered, on the first of many visits she will make “to solve the crime that would solve me.” And she makes an extraordinary discovery: the violence of that night is as present for the community as it is for her. Slowly, her extensive interviews with the townspeople yield a terrifying revelation: many say they know who did it, and he is living freely in their midst. Terri then sets out to discover the truth about the crime and its aftermath, and to come to terms with the wounds that broke her life into a before and an after. Ultimately she finds herself face-to-face with the alleged axman.

Powerful, eloquent, and paced like the most riveting of thrillers, Strange Piece of Paradise is the electrifying account of Terri’s investigation into the mystery of her near murder. A startling profile of a psychopath, a sweeping reflection on violence and the myth of American individualism, and a moving record of a brave inner journey from violence to hope, this searing, unforgettable work is certain to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Parable of the Pie

Once upon a time, there was a very sick girl. A man in town heard about the sick girl and decided to visit her, hoping to cheer her up.

He visited her every day for a week and his visits made her happy. One day, as he was leaving the sick girl's house, he noticed a man waiting for him on the sidewalk outside.

"I'm the sick girl's brother," said the man. "Thank you for visiting my sister! As a way to express my gratitude, I have brought you a piece of pie." And he handed the visitor a delicious piece of apple pie.

For the rest of the month, every time the man would leave the sick girl's house, her brother was standing there, waiting to hand him a delicious piece of pie.

But one day, as he was leaving, the brother was standing in the same place--with no pie.

"Where's my damn pie?" asked the good Samaritan, angrily.

The brother was taken aback. "I'm sorry," he said, "I ran out of apples. But as soon as I have some more, I will bake another pie. In the meantime, I want to thank you very much for visiting my sister."

"What? That's not good enough! I want pie! Where's my pie?" yelled the man, and he punched the other guy in the face.

The girl's brother ran away in fright and was never seen again.

Moral of the story: If someone hands you a piece of pie, enjoy the pie. But don't expect pie every time.