Thursday, March 27, 2008


This is what Saturn looks like at 120x from the polluted atmospheric swamp that is the central valley. On really clear nights, like right after a rain, it looks a lot better. This is my first Saturn photo ever. Not outstanding, but recognizable, which is pretty great considering that all I did was hold my camera up to the eyepiece of the telescope. And that if I had a tall enough ladder I could cut blocks of polluted air right out of the sky and sell them on the black market. As what, I don't know. Star-blockers, I guess. Constellation simplifiers. Troubled by that annoying Milky Way thing? Just look through one of these!

Actually it is just sad, because pictures are so flat compared to the experience. It is easy to look at a photo--especially this one--and think, "Meh." But every single time I find Saturn in the telescope my first thought is, "Holy shit, that's freakin' Saturn!" I will keep banging this drum as hard and loud as I can: the difference between seeing something in a picture and seeing it for yourself is as vast as the gulfs of space.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Credit where it's overdue

I'm kind of an ass. Neil at microecos has been doing good work for practically ever and he frequently links to me and says nice things, and I've never returned the favor. Our meeting at SVP last year didn't produce so much as a ripple in the blogosphere, at least from my end. So I'm making up for it now by giving him the top space in my list of bio and paleo blogs (right sidebar), even above SV-POW! itself (for now).

Sorry dude.

If you're not Neil and also not on my sidebar but think you should be, let me know.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dr. Vector's EXPLODING BRAINS Breakfast Massacre

Inspired by TheBrummell's Bachelor Chow, I present the first of my Dude Food recipes: Dr. Vector's EXPLODING BRAINS Breakfast Massacre. I know you just saw the full name in the title, but it's fun to say, and you're at my mercy, so: Dr. Vector's EXPLODING BRAINS Breakfast Massacre.

Ingredients for Dr. Vector's EXPLODING BRAINS Breakfast Massacre

frozen tater tots
bear grease (or olive oil)
garlic salt
black pepper
Worchestershire sauce
picante sauce
barbeque sauce
horseradish sauce
HP brown sauce (if available)

Instructions for Dr. Vector's EXPLODING BRAINS Breakfast Massacre

1. Fry the bacon to taste. I like mine flexible, but some folks prefer crunchy and that is very much in the spirit of the dish. Set it aside.

2. Throw the frozen tater tots into the bacon grease. Supplement with olive oil if there's not enough grease to get the job done, and if the tub of bear grease in your coldhouse is empty (ya wuss). As the tater tots thaw out, they'll start to fall apart. If you're moving them around with a fork or a spatula, you'll notice that the little tater bits start falling off the end, like those little white balls out of cheap styrofoam. Now you should be able to use your cooking implement to bust 'em apart and make hash browns out of them (you can skip this step if you started out with some form of diced potatoes, Mr. Fancy Pants). Season with whatever you like and fry 'em up. I prefer garlic salt and plain black pepper, but it's a free range, so do what you like. When the hash browns are done, scrape them off and set them aside.

3. Scramble some eggs. I like mine with the usual, garlic salt and black pepper, and a liberal splash of Worchestershire sauce. When the eggs are nearly done, hit them with the cheese. Let the cheese melt a little, then turn the whole mess over a couple of times so everything gets good and intertwingled.

4. Now it's time to start building the breakfast Frankenstein. Pile the cheesy eggs and hashbrowns on a plate. Chop or crumble the bacon and mix it in. Now top liberally--nay, excessively, as if your condiment bottles have Ebola and are crashing and bleeding out--with picante sauce, barbeque sauce, and horseradish sauce, and mix it all up. I used Pace, Bull's Eye, and whatever was in the fridge, respectively. If I'd been in England, I would have added some HP brown sauce. That stuff is awesome.

5. Feed! You don't have to watch Reanimator, Dead Alive, Slither, or Planet Terror while you feast, but that's also very much in the spirit of the dish, and is officially condoned by the Vector Institute of Advanced Gastronomy by Rank Amateurs. Also, depending on your location and level of health, you may be able to save some time by just calling 911 before commencing gustation.

Why is it called Dr. Vector's EXPLODING BRAINS Breakfast Massacre? Because if you've done your job right--mainly by jacking up the condiment level in Step 4 to Ludicrous Speed--the resulting mess looks exactly like somebody blew a zombie's brains out all over your plate. And also because if anyone is watching you cook, their brains will probably explode during Step 4. And because when you get your first taste of the bacony eggy cheesy potatoey Worcestery picantey barbequey horseradishy peppery salty sweet spicy flavor supernova, your brain will also explode. Guaranteed or your money back.

But especially because I am a Tenacious D fan, for miles on to Zanzibar.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

im in ur tv, wokn wif dinesorz

Walking With Dinosaurs will be on the Discovery Channel on Easter Sunday. Same old animation, new talking head bits. I'm gonna be a talking head. So are some other Padianites--should be a Padianlabstravaganza. Watch it or die.

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A ring around the moon

There is something in the sky tonight that is a bit thicker than haze and a bit thinner than clouds, and it made an awesome halo around the setting sun, which I did not capture on pixels, and another awesome halo around the rising moon, which I did. However, capturing the halo meant leaving the shutter open for four seconds, which was enough time for every faulty pixel on my Nikon's five-year-old CCD to fire and junk up the image with noise. So right now it only looks good at very small size, so that's all I'm giving you. It will only take about 15 minutes in Photoshop or Gimp to clean it up, but that's more time than I can spend on it right now, so you'll just have to wait.

UPDATE: the cleaned up full version is here.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Double promo special

Gotta give a shout-out to my man Dave Hone, who is one of the geniuses behind Ask A Biologist, which celebrates its first anniversary today, and the sole genius behind Archosaur Musings. Stop by both and say hi for me.

The picture above is the proposed cover art for Dave's upcoming Nature-Science Secret Origins Super Team-Up, which I am leaking to you because I am also a little bit awesome.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Aetogate news

I'm temporarily hosting Aetogate while Mike Taylor celebrates his 40th birthday with a 3-day bacchanalia. If you would like to know what Aetogate is, go here. If anything big breaks in the next 72 hours, I'm on it.

UPDATE: New blog coverage. John Fleck has a link to Bill Parker's rebuttal of Spencer Lucas's report to the DCA. Why is this important? Lucas's long defense of his actions was heralded by some in the VP community as evidence that he was innocent and that we could all put this behind us. However, Lucas's statement is at odds with the facts in many places, as Parker's rebuttal demonstrates (with abundant documentation). All of us involved in this continue to urge you to look at all of the evidence (on both sides) and draw your own conclusions.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Got binoculars? Make some science.

This Saturday night a bright star in Taurus will be occulted (eclipsed) by the moons of the asteroid Eugenia. Yeah, that's right, the moons of an asteroid. If you didn't know asteroids had moons, check this out. Anyway, observers in the southern US and Mexico can help astronomers determine the positions of the moons by--get this--watching the star go off and on and noting the times. For this, even the largest telescopes on Earth are less useful than you are, as long as you have binoculars, a timekeeping device, and some idea of where you are. Details here, instructions and finder charts here (scroll down to the hideous yellow part).

The photo above shows the 53-km-long asteroid 243 Ida and its tiny, 1.4-km moon Dactyl. Stolen from Wikipedia.

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