Thursday, July 1, 2010


Laptop stolen.

Hate hate hate.
Pain pain pain.
Doom doom doom.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pockets Rock

Especially for school demos. Today's pocket check:
-wallet, cellphone, keys, USB stick
-3 screwdrivers (see DS, Ipod...)
-2 transformers
-1 Nintendo DS (broken, demo unit)
- Ipod (broken, demo unit)

After a certain point I might have confused the children as to whether I was talking about electricity or doing magic tricks.

Can't wait to get on the plane to foreign overseas country for the summer. If I get good enough cargo pants the security check alone could take days.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Woo, I am officially armed with two bird guides and three types of bird food. My mission is to learn how to tell sparrows apart. They all look the same to me, brown and tiny. Thanks to my biologist roomie, I can tell them apart by sound. But now it's time to squint closely at their tiny little heads and learn how to tell the little feather balls apart. Also - greater variety of birdseed = greater variety of birds? We shall see.

I think I just aged myself several decades buying a bird guide, bird seed, and gardening gloves at the supermarket. With coupons.

Monday, May 17, 2010

D'aww, my little electronic baby :D

I've been having a great time lately working on some electronics projects. It's too bad I can't double-major here or anything or else I'd get an electrical engineering degree too. Fun stuff. Then again, maybe I just like it because I haven't had to take too many courses about circuits and programming and all that, just the basics. In any case, I'm glad that I have the resources and people around to help me turn my crazy ideas into real projects.

This week, I made my very own circuitboard for my clock project so that I can finally move it off the breadboard. I've never made a board before so I was really excited. I used EAGLE, which is a pretty neat program. It has libraries full of parts in their actual size so you can play around with their position on the board and be relatively certain that they'll fit. Plus it mirrors everything so that when you transfer the image to the board everything is in the right place. It also makes sure that lines aren't too close or touching where they shouldn't be. After printing the design with a laser printer, it was out of printer and into the laminator! Then I spent the better part of an hour swishing it around with glee in ammonium etching fluid before it was ready. And ta-dah! My very own special board.

Monday, May 10, 2010

One Step Forward, Eighteen Thousand Steps Backwards

It was wonderful and somewhat surprising to see so many examples of girls and boys doing science together in this book. There are an equal amount of pictures and examples for both genders. I would have expected more genderized photographs and projects. I'm glad to have been wrong on that!

Right off the bat, we have this lovely picture of a Grade 9 class and their science projects, built from the instructions contained in the book. This includes a lens camera, an electric motor, a barometer, a sonometer, a convection current somethingorother, home-lighting, circuits, and an optical disk. How nice that (presumably) all of the students in that class got to learn from building something.

See? Everyone will go blind as they get older!

The progressive and inclusive attitude towards women that I found in this book made it all the more shocking when I found this doozy of a problem. It was stunning and horrifying to see this in a textbook, and a science textbook at that, of all things.

The caption reads, "A Fijian mother with her two children in front of their thatched cottage. What evidence can you find in this picture to suggest that life in a hot climate is very simple and that the people are unprogressive?"


The supporting block of text in the book that students can use to "help" solve this example is:

"In regions lying near the equator, the life of the native is equally simple. There, clothing is scanty and of light material; homes are simple and poorly constructed. Natives in these regions incline to be indolent and unprogressive. Why? In the very cold regions, the conditions are too hard and the resources too meagre to permit of progress, while in the tropics, living is too easy to stimulate activity."

Way to miss the real problem completely, authors. I hope that we've come a long, long way since then.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

SCIENCE (3) - Imma fail this unit

Err. Uhhh. Umm... No clue. That there is a pig.

Ooh! Combine, swatter, tractor, thingie, other thingie, and that thingamajig on the farm that they let me drive. Yeah.

Marquis! It's the Canadian miracle wheat that opened up the prairies! I wonder what we grow now.

Yikes this is hard.

SCIENCE (2) - Everyday Examples

Like any good science book, this one has lots of everyday applications that the students can relate to. Can you guess the mechanical principle from the examples given?


1. "[...] common examples are the oar of a rowboat and the potato-ricer."

2. " When we use a wringer, turn a door-knob, or draw water from a well with a windlass, we are doing work with the help of a _________________ ."

3. "The propellers that pull flying boats and aeroplanes through the air are ____________. Even the snowmobile, which travels swiftly over the deep snow that blocks other motor traffic, is propelled by an ___________."

4. " [...] the binder, the fanning-mill, the sheaf-loader, and the grain-separator."

Give up yet?

1. The lever
2. Wheel and axle
3. Air screws
4. Inclined plane

Aside from noticing how common, everyday examples have changed so much, it's also interesting to notice the change in language over the past 70 or so years, most noticeably the de-hyphenization of words such as door-knob.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I have a particular fondness for old looking books. The biggest secondhand store here has an entire shelf devoted to (sort of) old books, which is always fun to browse. Interestingly enough I've found several science books from the early and mid-1900s, which counts as old in Canada. It's really neat to look at how our views of the world have grown and changed over the years. The most recent book I picked up was an educational book for Grade 9 students published in 1938 simply titled SCIENCE, by T.W. Hunt, L.H.G. Clark, and J.R. Davidson. I love the visual style of the cover, I'm thinking this would make an awesome poster.

Another fun thing about old schoolbooks is the assortment of graffiti and ephemera that comes with them. This one includes a newspaper clipping about Queen Elizabeth, a page of handwriting practice (ugggh) and someone's daily schedule:
Mondays - AM: Geometry PM: Art
Tuesdays - AM: History PM: Languages
Wednesdays - AM: Health PM: Literature
Thursdays - AM: Algebra PM: French
Fridays- AM: Science PM: Arithmetic

Woo Fridays! I can't imagine having that schedule during high school. Even with my best efforts I still have trouble staying focused (ie, awake) for three hour lectures.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Now that I'm done exams, that leaves time for the finer things in life, like potlucks! We had a great one last week. For some reason, though, we spent an entire day cleaning the house before the party. Duhhh. Parties should be held at messy houses, not at clean ones, so that the cleaning afterwards is less redundant.

I had this brilliant plan to make a turkey, salad, casserole, and scalloped potatoes. It turns out that I own fewer pans than I thought. Thank goodness for my addiction to cake pans! I think my mom would call this a disaster. I call it awesome! New recipe - dinosaur potatoes. RrraaWWWWrrrrr!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dirty Pool

I'm used to finding religious pamphlets at work, at school, and flailed in my face as I walk down the street. But in my own bathroom? What the heck? I guess our newish roomie is really religious. Seriously though, the bathroom? Is nothing sacred?

This lackadaisical commercial attitude towards conversion really irks me. Buying little books to argue for you and leaving them around is just so lazy. Want to tell me what to believe? Want to tell me how to live my life? Either wait for me to ask your opinion, or at least have the decency to engage with me face-to-face. If you can't make a compelling argument for something on your own, maybe you should reconsider what you believe.

Time for new friends

I can't believe I had this conversation with one of my friends :(

Friend: "You're lucky, you don't have to worry about getting a job. You're a woman in a field with like no girls, so all the employers will be like yay!"
Me: "Seriously? Did you just say that?"
Friend: "Uhh, I think you're misinterpreting what I said! What I mean is that you're a smart woman and most women in engineering are dumb, like L."
Me: "...what? WHAT? We're probably just as dumb as guys in engineering. Speaking of which, your buddy R. is pretty thick and he has a nice engineering job."
Friend: "Yeah, but people expect guys to be dumb. When they see a smart girl they're all like WOAH and they hire you right away."
Me: "No... just.... no. We will have this conversation again when you are sober, and then I will hit you."


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Turnabout is fair play

When I started my degree, I thought that grad school would be the most terrifying thing ever. I just wanted to be done with tests and assignments and all that junk and get out in the real world where (supposedly) my hard work and merit would be recognized. Grad school was for smart people, real smart people, who could do the hardest things in the whole world and THEN write a book about it while beating off angry professors with meter sticks. Or something.

Now I'm feeling reassured (and excited!) that I'm in grad school, I can totally handle this, and I'm not going to have to "get a real job" and go work yet. Haaa.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Ugh, I need to buy more junk food, after running out of ice cream and Coke I'm cramming my face with rice crackers while I study. Stale artificial cheese flavoured rice crackers. Gross.


I write my last final (of this degree, at least...) tomorrow. I'm almost a little disappointed, since after that I'll have no more excuse to gorge myself on junk food :( It still hasn't quite sunk in that I'm actually graduating. Like, for realz. And probably with honours, too!

Holy unexpected, Batman!

I've come a long way. I wonder if I'll be radically different in another few years, or sameish.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Putting the work in work visa

I need a work visa for my exciting summer plans. Let's just say I'm going overseas to build cyborgs. Ok, so that's stretching a little, but I'm pretty sure it's Borg-related technology.

Anyhoo, it seems like the visa granting agency has decided to ensure that only the most qualified candidates make it overseas, by making it impossible for mere mortals to get over there.

First, they post the wrong address for the office on-line. Harrr. Got you, I left 3 hours early. Had to get extra passport-style photos taken by a guy who kept insisting that I "smile with my eyes" and put on makeup. Agh. Maybe I *like* looking like a disgruntled serial killer in my passport photos. Let me through to your country or else I smite you!

Then, they make sure not to actually provide, at any point, a checklist of application documents or any list to anything that remotely resembles a checklist. To make things more fun, they insist that only that country's government can tell you exactly what you need to apply. The government says that it delegates all duties and responsibilities for visas to the visa agency. Oy.

When I actually applied, the lady checking my documents (including passport! eek.) was just about to seal them all in an envelope (that can't be opened again until it gets to the government) and cash my $200 application fee. Just to check, I asked her if I had all the documents I needed in the application.
Then why the hell are you cashing my fee and mailing my definitely-to-be-rejected forms?
"Could you tell me which one I'm missing."
"No, I'm not authorized to do that."
OMGWTFBBQ? Ok, let's do this the hard way.
"Uhh... is it... a return ticket?"
"Is it my birth certificate?"
"Is it this form?"
".... didn't you basically just tell me which form I was missing?"

Here's hoping I actually had all the required documents, and that this goes through, or else my summer employment is going to be really sketchy.

Oh yeah, and my passport gets mailed back to me by courier, not by registered mail. By the same courier that recently decided not to deliver a parcel to me, but a note saying that all delivery attempts had failed and I was going to have to go to their depot to pick the package up. Except they never actually tried to deliver it, their first attempt consisted of giving me that note. So, a company that delivers failed delivery attempt notices is going to have my passport. Fantastic.

Current mood: Nervous.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


My brother either stole or ordered a bag of McD's pickles for me (I'm not sure which, and I'm not going to ask). Heck yeah. When we were kids we used to race to open our hamburgers to see who got the most pickles.

I am unofficially McDonald's pickle champion for life now. Or until I have a big grad BBQ, but I'm not sure I want to share.


I still maintain that I'm not impossibly hard to shop for, I just... covet different things than most people.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Great Moments of Science

Me: "Could you suggest some keywords that would help me find more relevant information on this subject?"
Instructor: "Yes, just do a quick Google search for penetration."
Me: !

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Happy lame grad to you, too!

I've been mulling about my iron ring ceremony lately. It's a ceremony where you make a professional obligation to adhere to good professional practice and be responsible. In Canada, nearly all practicing engineers wear an iron ring as a symbol of their commitment. I'm not much for fanfare but my family is absolutely fawning over my iron ring. Yet, I still have a bitter taste in my mouth about the whole thing.

The first thing that bothers me is that it's supposed to be "secret". We were only allowed so many guests to the ceremony, and everyone was supposed to pledge to refrain from divulging any details about the whole thing, lest we ruin the "spirit of the occasion" or something. Doesn't that strike you as odd? We're here pledging our commitment to public safety, honour, and good practice, but you can't watch. Everyone go away and let us be noble and dignified in secret.

Yet, at the same time, the handouts I received from my school before the presentation stressed the fact that the ceremony is not in fact secretive or private. They just, you know, insist that you vow not to ever tell anyone anything about it. Totally different.
Global News Vancouver on "secret" engineering ceremony.

Ok, so big deal, engineers want to have their (our?) own little treehouse club member initiation. Animal sacrifice optional. Big deal. So what bothers me? I'll let APEGGA describe it, from
"Like many established symbols, in recent years, the iron ring ceremony has come under criticism. It is viewed by some as sexist and by others as archaic. Some argue that the ceremony should be public. Others suggest it relies excessively on Judeo - Christian principles. Some feel that language should be changed to reflect current times by eliminating any reference to gender or to God. Others simply state that the overall tone is inappropriate for these enlightened times."

Yes. Excellent. Not only is it all of those things, but they are clearly aware of it, acknowledge it, and make no move to change any of this despite repeated pleas for inclusion by various new members of the profession. I felt incredibly uncomfortable during the ceremony when anything non-inclusive came up and was immediately prefaced with, more or less "Some of you may feel left out or offended, but you shouldn't be offended because that will ruin our vibe" It was like waving a giant "Yeah, so what? Suck it!" in the face of anyone who felt left out.

What are the arguments for preserving the tradition as is? One is that it's not a requirement to be a practicing engineer. Fair enough, they aren't preventing anyone from graduating or working because of any silly willy personal objections they might have to swearing an oath that they don't believe in, or anything. However, simply not barring anyone from participating in the ceremony is not the same thing as actively supporting and including everyone! Shouldn't it be their (our?) goal to welcome everyone into the profession, regardless of culture or gender? I've been accused of being oversensitive, but I really did feel during the ceremony as though the ceremony was really for Christian men, and the rest of us were just being allowed to participate so that we didn't throw a fuss.

Another argument I've heard is the, "It's tradition" bit. A lot of things are tradition. That doesn't hide what they really are. I realize that a 85 years or so is basically forever in Canadian history, but it's kind of a flash in the pan on a bigger scale. Societies, cultures, words and meanings change over time. I certainly understand the desire to preserve the meanings of the tradition, but I don't agree that it means that we have to keep the wording exactly the same. If it has a noble and honourable meaning, surely it can be conveyed equally well with a slightly different set of language. For example, I don't see how changing the words "son" or "man/men" to "children" or "people" in any way alters the deeper meaning of anything, unless the deeper meaning is "women can't be engineers". Likewise, I don't feel that promising something on your personal honour/integrity or to a higher power, if you believe in one, is any less of a commitment than promising something unto God the Creator, unless the meaning of that part of the ceremony is "I promise to believe in Jesus." In which case you should not be labelling your ceremony or group of people as representative of a certain more diverse population (engineers) or as inclusive.

Overall, the messages I got were:
"We aren't binding you to secrecy, just asking you not to tell anyone"
"We're inclusive, we just refuse to use language that includes people who aren't like us."
"Don't make a fuss."
So I really don't know what to say to people when they ask me how my graduation or iron ring ceremony was. There certainly is a lot of value in committing yourself to the betterment of society, yourself, and your profession. And I'm sure it can be very meaningful to be welcomed into a group of people that will support you in those goals. I'm just not feeling it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


With everyone gone this weekend, the cat has continuously been pestering me.
So I bought a bird feeder.

I'm going to hell for this. (but the cat is so happy!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hoppy Easter!

To celebrate the season, my mom sent me... wait, a weight loss video?
I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she copied the wrong link.
Then I'ma go eat more chocolate.


I forgot to tell my parents about the iron ring ceremony, haha. It's supposed to be super duper top secret but everyone can invite up to two friends or family members. Huh.

Anyway, I was milling about with some friends afterwards, who mentioned that they were really disappointed that I hadn't brought my parents. Confused, I asked them why. The response?

"I wanted to see what spawned you."


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I have sinned...

Must not buy clothes off internet. Must not buy clothes off internet.

Aw hell.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dear non-sciencey professor

I wanted to love you, I really did. But then, you did something unforgivable.
You said....
you said...
that the analytical engine was "just a really simple calculator".

I cry now.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Go big or go home

When I get an idea for something ridiculous, it's gotta happen.

I'm writing an essay about tampons for my science/environment/society class.

The instructor is an older, semi-retired male engineer that likes to spend our classes talking about himself, mostly. The only criteria he would divulge for the final essay were:
1. Must be about a non-technical subject
2. Must be about something the instructor finds interesting
3. Should not be about something the instructor knows about already
4. Should also not have been covered in a final essay by any of the students that have taken the course in the last 20 years he's been teaching it (or something like that).

As if 2 and 3 together weren't enough, sheesh. First I have to read minds, then I have to satisfy some sort of paradox.

Anyway, I figure:
-he likes the environment
-he doesn't know anything about "feminine hygiene products", or knows very little
-none of my predominately male classmates will have chosen the topic in the past

Thus, if I write an essay/paper/assignment/thing about how the taboo surrounding menstruation hinders awareness of more environmentally friendly "feminine hygiene" products, I subsequently fulfill all of the above criteria. Right? Also, for bonus points, as a comparison I'm going to talk about the greenification of sex toys as the adult industry becomes more acceptable/less controversial.

Judging from the looks of horror on my classmates' faces when they heard my essay topic, this is going to be awesome.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dear classroom presenters: suck it.

Someone's been doing dirty business behind my back! They've been going to schools and telling the kids that engineering is REALLY HARD, and saying things like:
"You have to take more math than a math major." (not true)
"You have to write 600 tests every year." (the hell!?!)
"Everyone says that it's the hardest degree you can take." (I'm quite sure some of my classmates would find an English degree nearly impossible)
"If you don't have straight A+'s in math and science, you may as well not apply because you'll fail. And even people with 100% averages fail sometimes because it's too much work."

I don't know how the male students react, but some of my female mentorees have been sending me increasingly worried e-mails as of late, like "DO YOU SERIOUSLY HAVE TO TAKE 600 TESTS!!!!!" Some of them have been reconsidering their career choices (which is fine, I want to see them end up somewhere where they're happy, which I fully realize may not be engineering) because of these presentations. Isn't that the opposite of what you want to accomplish when you're presenting at a school?

I don't see the point of all this chest-thumping. The only explanation I can think of is that the engineering students want to stroke their egos and convince the high school students to worship them. I've noticed that some people even have that attitude on campus, and constantly need to complain to every other department about how their workload is impossible, the courses are the hardest ever, etc, etc.

Maybe the presenters just want to discourage mediocre students from getting their hopes up, and they figure that's the best way to do it. However, I don't see why they couldn't just talk about the admissions averages and then encourage C and D students to spend a year at college or something if they really want to go to university, then transfer in.

Maybe they're just joking and think that the high school students will catch on. Which is fair enough, but... from what I'm hearing, some of these kids don't have any idea what university is like, and trust its representatives to give a fair and honest description. I know I didn't have the foggiest idea about university/postsecondary until I got here. Some of my high school students honestly believed that there were 600 tests a year in engineering. I know that's ridiculous, I'm sure the presenters know that's ridiculous, but if the students don't know anyone in engineering or any university students, then what are they supposed to think?

I spent way too many years in a subpar school system that told the students that we weren't the "good schools, like the ones in (big city) ", we didn't have the good teachers, good enough resources, whatever. And you know what? It kind of stuck. Some of my teachers told me that I wouldn't be as prepared for university as kids from other schools (which was kind of true, but not to as severe of a degree as I thought), and even that I shouldn't go because I wouldn't be able to handle it.

That turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy for me. Whenever I ran into something I didn't immediately understand, I would start to panic and extrapolate everything into a catastrophe (which I can't blame on my high school teachers, only myself). Once, a professor told the class (in the third lecture, no less) that if we didn't understand a concept introduced that day, we should drop out of engineering because we would never be able to be engineers if we were that stupid. Guess who didn't understand the concept? Funnily enough, the administration told me that there was a rule that you can't drop out of engineering until after the first two weeks of class are over, because they have too many people that want to drop in that time to process the requests. Or something. I'm not sure if they were lying or not, but thanks, registrar's office, now I have a degree!

Anyway, I know the school presenters might seem like a trivial issue, but they're really frustrating me. I spend a lot of effort encouraging people to be excited about learning things and curious, and to consider career paths that they might not have considered otherwise. It's really disappointing to see other people coming in and discouraging high school students from something that could be really fulfilling for them, especially by calling it hard or even impossible. Should high school students freak out because something is going to be hard? No, but that's another post...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wherein I get the edits back...

It looks like more word salad from my group members...

"The human misery described by Hardin includes pollution, over population and the inability to acquire energy is argument suggests that each individual must collectively view the world as finite in order for sustainable development to succeed"

Filter the kelp through your brain a few more times, *then* send it to me, please.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A bit disappointed

I went to a panel discussion the other day hosted by a women's group on campus that's branched out to support people in non-traditional careers. So, there were lots of women in industry, and a male nurse. The panelists came from several different industries, which was really interesting to hear about. But, overall, I still have to say that I was a little bit disappointed.

Most of the panelists were strikingly normal. Not like that's bad or anything, in fact, it's really reassuring, but I was hoping for at least one participant who really stuck out, or walked their own way. (I think) All of the panelists were married, and most of them admitted moving out here because their husbands got jobs here. Most (all?) of them had children, and talked about how they arranged to get home in time to serve supper, and how family time was really important to them (which is also a great discussion topic). But I guess what I really wanted to see was someone who didn't have children and didn't feel the need to defend that, or someone whose husband stayed home with the kids, someone who made her husband move here for a job, had a husband that was responsible for the majority of housework and childcare, or something. Not like I expected that from all the panelists, but even one panelist who did something really, really different would have been neat.

Even the nurse was pretty gender conformist. He has an MBA and now manages a bunch of hospital staff. Which is great, but I would be more curious to talk to men in nursing that interact daily with the patients and aren't at a management level. How did their family react to their decision? Do people mistreat them because they don't feel that nursing is a "manly" enough profession? I have talked to some guy friends that were considering going into nursing but voiced those concerns, and it would be neat to hear from someone who took a somewhat less "acceptable" position.

Also, some of his comments rubbed me the wrong way. One of the participants asked him how he managed his work-life balance, and he (the MBA nurse) mentioned that it used to be really easy until his wife wanted to re-enter the workplace, and he wasn't sure he liked that because it would make things harder. Gee, really, balancing children and a career can be difficult? It was just irritating because it made it sound like he had never had to consider changing his work schedule or making accommodations for his kids before, like that was strictly his wife's problem.

And while it was really great that all of the panelists were happy with their careers and felt supported, what about a panelist that could discuss what they did when crap happened to them? I've had really interesting conversations with some of the participants (and one of the panelists, at a previous event, I think) about dealing with discrimination in the workplace appropriately, which is advice that I really value. However, the only advice that they really had was, "Work hard to show that you belong there and are competent, and don't talk about shoes a lot because guys don't want to hear that."

It seemed like everyone wanted to be super sunshiney and roses on the panel. I can't tell if there really are 8 or so of them in non-traditional careers, from many different backgrounds, that have never had a bad experience at work, or if they have and just wanted to sound optimistic, or if they think that they should just deal with whatever happens to them, or what.

To sum up my feelings about the discussion, I'm just a bit disappointed because I felt like the most radical person there. And, I suppose I was expecting more stories about people overcoming challenges and fighting against norms and expectations. I'll just have to stick to calling my grandma for inspiration :) Or I can call the other grandma and have her tell me to stop wasting my money on an education and start having babies already. Wooo.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Labmate Rats

My labmates were curious to see what was in the big plastic kit that I brought for the strawberry DNA demo, so naturally, I had to show them. Part of the demo involves eating a strip of PTC paper to see if you have the gene that can taste PTC bitterness, and oh, woe on you if you do. Out of pity for the children who can taste it, the kit also contains a big pile of candy.

Oddly, every single person in the lab could taste the paper (compared to 25% of the kids I gave it to). Apparently there's supposed to be about a 50/50 prevalence of the gene. This made us very curious and we had to experiment on everyone that came in the lab. And, oddly, they could taste it all too! We had to try a few professors as well to round out the bunch.

Our conclusion is that the ability to taste PTC makes you bitter, and engineers are bitter, therefore engineers can taste PTC. It might need a few revisions, but so far our supporting data is really strong!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And then your parents found a strawberry seed and poured your DNA on it!

Today was great, I pulled off the best science demo that I've done to date at a local Catholic school. The kids got to learn about DNA, chromosomes, and genes, and even got to test themselves for certain genes! Then we extracted DNA from a strawberry, which is fun and gooey, and it's also a good opportunity to learn about solubility.

The best part, though, was definitely the Q&A session afterwards. They were so curious, and the whole class was really attentive to the questions being asked so it grew into a great (and really long) discussion that blossomed out in many different directions. Some of the topics included:
-DNA testing
-gel electrophoresis
-goats that make spider silk
-genetic mutation
According to the teacher, the kids were so interested in the discussion that they insisted on spending all of their computer time this afternoon researching DNA and genetics! Wait, kids voluntarily and excitedly learning things? Win! They also asked me to send them the instructions for the demo so that they could try extracting DNA from their food at home. I predict an increase in fruit mortality.

The funny part of all this was, the kids hadn't even studied reproduction yet! It was obvious that some of them knew that things have sex and the babies get their traits, and other kids were totally out there. Did I mention I was at a Catholic school? This resulted in some interesting discussions.

Kid: "So... if I want to make a strawberry at home... do I just plant DNA?"
Me: "Well, seeds have DNA inside of them. Remember how we talked about how DNA is like a recipe? The seed reads the DNA, which gives it the instructions it needs to build the plant."
Kid: "So if I pour DNA on the seed, it will grow?"
Me: "The seed already contains all of the DNA the strawberry will need!"
Kid: "Do humans come from seeds?"
Me: "Yes, a different kid of seed."
Kid: "So, my parents poured my DNA on a seed and planted me?"
Teacher: "I think it's time for the next question..."
Other kid: "No, your parents both injected their DNA into you before you were born!"
Another kid, incredulously: "So... wait... this is why... if you have two different kinds of dog, and they have a baby, it doesn't look exactly like either parent, but it has traits from each? It gets some genes from each parent?"
Me: "Spot on!"

I'm curious as to -
A: How that one particular eleven/twelve year old has absolutely no concept of sex, or that humans don't grow in dirt.
B: What heredity makes so much more sense than.

Other interesting questions:
"If you get an organ from someone and you have their DNA in you, does that mean you're related?"
"If you get a blood transfusion, do you turn into someone else? Does their DNA show up at a crime scene, or does yours?" (for some reason, regardless of what demo I'm doing at a school, one kid ALWAYS asks me something about either committing a crime, or evading the police, hahaha)
"Could Jurassic park really happen?"
"If I put spider DNA in me, can I be Spiderman?" (VERY enthusiastically)
"Do you have to trade kidneys when you get a kidney transplant?"
"Do diseases show up in DNA? Why did the doctor want to test my blood so many times? "

The last one was actually the scariest question I had, she phrased it in such a way that I didn't see where it was leading, so I talked about a whole bunch of diseases that you can screen for and how. I hope I didn't scare the crap out of her and that she doesn't think that she's about to die or anything. Every time I go do these demos I get a bit better, but I always end up saying something regrettable, too. Hopefully the good parts stick around longer :)

(image: MyScienceBox)

Losing the little pieces

I haven't even made it to a quarter of a century and I'm already losing it. And by it, I mean, basically anything. I guess I'm more stressed out than I think because I seem to be losing track of small details. In the past few weeks, I have:
- lost my gloves (twice)
- lost, and subsequently found my wallet in a snowbank (that snowbank has great deposit security!)
-lost my mouse
And, the kicker:
-found a hairbrush I lost about 3 weeks ago in one of the lesser-used women's washrooms in my building. Next to my concealer. And my watch. The worst part is that I think I've only been missing the watch for a week! So I must have left it next to my other missing possessions WITHOUT EVEN NOTICING.

... it's time for me to retire, I think :D

Friday, March 12, 2010

In which I burn bras and corrupt children

Recently, I received a scholarship from the government for "furthering the advancement of women in non-traditional careers". I had a really great time working with the programs I was/am involved with, and it almost feels wrong to accept any money for volunteering. But, I figure if I can relax about money a bit and do what I enjoy doing, then I'll have a lot more energy to put into other things, like volunteering and science outreach.

Apparently, other people think that it's wrong for me to receive the scholarship, too, but for different reasons. I was sharing my excitement with some friends, while sitting in a larger group, and had someone tell me that it's crap that I get a scholarship just for being a woman (!), and that it's unfair to men to have scholarships that encourage women. After all, there's no rule saying that women can't be (insert profession), so they should just stop whining and start working harder. And if they aren't as good as the menfolk at (insert profession), then tough luck, they should just find something else to do.
(/insert profession)

You know, I get a little bit jealous when someone else gets a scholarship or other award, but I'm pretty good at keeping that to myself, and I don't feel the need to publicly shit on them afterwards. It baffles me that he can go on and on about how unfair it is for to discriminate against him by supporting programs that encourage women and minorities to pursue engineering, while he's about to graduate in a class that's about 15% female. And seriously, he could have just said, "Congratulations!", or even " (complete silence) ". So basically, I went from providing hands-on skill building, encouragement, and leadership development activities to young women, to being a radical feminist that hates and wants to destroy men, all in the span of one conversation. I guess perspective really is everything.


Fuzzy Morning Midterms

I had the nicest thought the other morning, around 8:13 AM or so. The thought was, "Awesome, this stoichiometry problem has all of the co-efficients equal to one! I guess they must have wanted to take it easy on us."

Haaa. Seriously, brain... Ethane != C8H2.

It's funny how even the simplest things (relatively speaking, I've known how to solve these types of problems for, oh, 7 years?) turn into rocket surgery early enough in the day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I did it!

I got my grad pics taken wearing a pirate hat! Ahahaha. Now all I have to do is sneak them past whoever approves the final framed thing with all the pictures of my graduating class in it and I'll be a legend.

Friday, March 5, 2010

We have a winner.

I've received a lot of strange/creepy/awkward/unwanted pick-up lines, and thought I was at the point where they don't faze me. I was wrong.

"Sex is like war. Nobody loses, but nobody really wins either. But, it can still be fun!"

Dear Sir:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Riddle of the Day

"Using these modifications a 13.5% reduction in energy is lost through the ceiling."

I wonder if some day I'll be the TA grading group reports like this and silently sobbing. Screw the silently part, I like to bitch out loud.

So close.

I woke up this morning convinced that I was going to go make myself a peanut butter and ground beef sandwich. Almost.

I need to graduate so I can sleep again.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dinosaur troubles

Following my usual tradition, I drew a dinosaur on the midterm I wrote today. This time it was even almost relevant, because the test had a very open-ended "bonus question" and I figured dinosaur content would be appropriate. Apparently, I neglected to pay attention to the clock and the professor neglected to mention that the exam was over. I must have been writing into the start of the next class, because their professor came over to ask me if I was done (aka shoo me the hell out of there) and saw me drawing dinosaurs playing frisbee. Look, it was important, ok?

This is an interdisciplinary class and I'm not telling anyone that I'm a graduating engineer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Engineer Writing

I understand that the point of review is to catch mistakes, and that written work is not perfect or even excellent in the first draft. I still think I'm entitled to a good laugh at some of the stuff I've been editing lately. All of these people are native English speakers who have presumably passed a few writing classes to get here.

"When the world is viewed as a finite world, the actions of places such as Canada and China will affect the rest of the world"
So if I just change my perspective, our actions will no longer influence the rest of the world...

"The solution to this, and a possible way to create sustainable development, as Hardin says, “a finite world can support only a finite population; therefore, population growth must eventually equal zero,” is to consider that population growth must be stopped."
The solution is that population growth must equal zero by population growth being stopped.

"The rational evaluation of one’s financial options to purifying or just disposing of the waste into the commons suggests that, as long as one had unrestricted access to the common, it is inevitable that one will always reach the conclusion that decontamination is not ‘worth’ it."
Using "one" instead of the pronoun that you really wanted to use is halfway to writing a formal report, but it sounds so terribly awkward.

"In an attempt to place a monetary value on environmental decisions, society has created legislation to impose temperance on acts like the disposal of waste products environmental regulations have been created."

"Which, as a result, limits one’s access to a previously unregulated common; this time on a basis of financial means using pecuniary methods to coerce the polluters to decided that it is ‘worth’ it."
Semicolons and a thesaurus do not a well-written report make. As a friend put it, "Your right to shift-F7 has been revoked."

"[...] due to result of each individual not understanding that sum of everyone’s wasteful contributions will have on entire finite world as a whole."
That word... it starts with t... 3 letters long... what is it again?

At least it's entertainingly bad.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

This town has too much winter.

"Great day to have a skating party, it's only -10! Weather's great, you sure lucked out."

The concept of 4 seasons is misleading, really we just get 8 months of winter with a brief transition to sanity.
I tend to veer off on tangents. Pick your tangent from the menu on the right.