Archive for August, 2008

Al Gore and some haze

Tonight Al Gore delivered a rushed, but great speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.  Why the rush?  Friend suggests maybe manbearpig was spotted nearby.  I’ve been following (loving) Al Gore since I took a climate class in Madison that required his Earth in the Balance book.  Of course he was also the first person I voted for when I was 18 during the 2000 election that Gore won, but lost.  There’s a good movie/documentary on the election called Unprecedented.  Then unless you’ve been living in a hole on mars, you probably know that Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar and he went on to win half of the Nobel Peace Prize along with the IPCC “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”  That other half of the prize went to the people who’s papers I read every day, people in Boulder who’s talks I attend, people I’ve met and had conversations with, the people I look up to in my field.  Heck, last year Gore came to Boulder and hung out with two of my PhD committee members to talk about the state of the cryosphere (frozen-sphere).   I have yet to meet Gore in person, but I continue to be inspired by his passion for the environment and his ability to communicate the urgency to the public.  With a new government taking over in January, we can count on something finally being done to phase out carbon-based fuels and rebuild our economy by allowing the smarty-pantses in the U.S. to solve these problems, and I know Al Gore will be there to see that it is done.

Tonight in Denver, a haze is supposed to be lifting after we woke up this morning on the front range to discover a thick haze had set in.  Wild fires west of here are responsible.  Air quality is poor, but at least I didn’t wake up to THIS weather warning:

(Mother Nature giving you the finger in the form of some well-placed convection.)

Lastly, I’d like to complain a bit about some brain fog that I’m suffering from.  Never mind, I can’t remember what I was going to say.  😉  I blame gluten!  Let’s hope the fog lifts like, tomorrow, ’cause if I don’t finish paper 2 of 3 by 1 September, I’ll be starting a slow death of strict deadlines for my PhD.

Oh, one more thing!  My cousin’s boyfriend Chris leaves for Afghanistan today (Army).  Let’s keep him and his buddies in our thoughts as we enjoy our 3 day weekend.


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OFAC and Sperm

Today’s post consists of two unrelated entries, but it was fun to put them both in the same title.

1.  Apparently there’s this office that’s a part of the US Treasury Department called OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  Today I found out that they are blocking my brother from his bank account.  My brother is living in Syria studying Arabic and kind of needs money to get by.  Not any large amounts of money, just enough to pay for his cheap rent, food, and his tutor.  Is that so much to ask?  It is.  To avoid making this entry google-able by certain government agencies who shouldn’t bother reading my blog, I’m going to avoid saying words that might trigger some government stalking (ours or theirs).  Our bank informed us that it was OFAC who put the block on the account.  They also believe it’s not just my brother, but all Americans living in t-states.  I’ll let you figure out what the “t” stands for, but Syria is kind of on a secondary list of t-states due to its close proximity to primary t-states.  We have no confirmation that this is taking place for all Americans abroad in these countries because there is no information available to us whatsoever.  There was no breaking news involving t-acts today.  There are no updates on the sanctions section of the OFAC website.  Why, under any circumstances, would our government keep our American citizens traveling abroad from accessing their own money?  That’s just asking for trouble.  My brother has $4 in his pocket (he’s been trying to use the ATM for a few days now with no luck) and we are hoping we can figure out a solution tomorrow.  Let’s hope no emergencies arise before we can get him the money he needs to survive there.  He’s not supposed to come home until December.  What has triggered this block for AMERICANs in t-states?  I don’t know.  I’m in contact with the em bassy (one word) to see if they have any information or if my brother should come see them.  My understanding is that they have pretty odd hours and are quite inaccessible.  We’ll figure this out, I’ll keep you posted.  Keep your ears open though, let me know if you have any ideas as to why this is happening.

2.  Michael Phelps at a VERY young age:

Notice the world record line.  🙂  Thanks Uncle Mike for forwarding this and thank you DNC for nicely filling the Olympic spot in our lives.  JOEBAMA 08!  Tomorrow night Al Gore speaks just a few miles from here while I watch on TV (Thanks for the late notice, Al).  I can’t wait!  What the heck will we all do next week?  Hmm… I’ll think of something.  (Did I mention I set my defense date for November????)

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Teaching- The University Lecture

Last week I attended a pretty inspirational teaching workshop and I wanted to share some notes with you, since about 50% of my friends/family are teachers themselves.  This lecture was given by an anthropology professor here and the topic was on how to give a university lecture.  If you didn’t go to a university, let me inform you that professors lecture to rooms filled with 10 to 400 students.  My biggest lecture was to a room with 340 seats.  Here’s what he had to say:

Giving a lecture is all about enthusiasm.  You chose your profession for a reason, you’re passionate about it.  Let this shine through!  If you show them even for a second that your material isn’t worth learning, they’ll tune you out for the rest of the semester.  You WANT to be there, you want to share your passion for your subject matter.  Use your interpersonal skills while you lecture to make them love you.  Eye contact is key.  A lecture is a performance, it’s okay to choreograph a lecture if that’s what works best for you.  Students remember random events that take place as you’re lecturing.  If you screw up an experiment, they’ll remember that incident for years.  If you attach a story with emotional content to a lesson, they’ll remember it.  Spend as much time finding these stories and experiments as you do learning the actual material you’ll present.

Make 2-3 major points in a lecture, anything beyond this will be forgotten.

Learn to wait when you ask a question and no one seems to know the answer.  The uncomfortable silence will get the attention of some, so repeat the question and wait as long as it takes.

Don’t make exams the focus of your class.  Don’t teach for exams, teach for the class experience as a whole.  The more tests, the less engaged the students become.  Don’t dwell on the exams when you hand them back, it will bore those who got it right and annoy those who got it wrong.

Lastly, and most controversially, don’t put text on your power point slides or you simply become the narrator.  Slides are for pictures/tables/diagrams.  Don’t hide behind your power point.  Students should never have to ask you to go back so they can copy something down.

I’m still deciding how I will put this into play.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Mama Mia!

Two of my girlfriends and I made an attempt to see the movie Mama Mia back in July.  We went to a bar before hand for a quick margarita, only to realize that these margs were fabulously filled with several shots of alcohol.  Two sips in we were giggling uncontrollably and trying to mow down some chips and salsa to absorb the alcohol.  5 minutes before the movie was to begin, we stumbled across the street to the theater only to find that it was sold out!  Bummer!

Today we did a Mama Mia re-do.  We decided NOT to get drunk ahead of time and to try a Sunday matinee at the mall the next city up.  We arrived to find that not only was there no student discount, the 4:15 show was NOT considered a matinee and we paid $9.75 per ticket and $4.75 per small popcorn.  Ouch, this movie had better be good!

Mama Mia was possibly the corniest thing I’ve ever had to sit through.  I’m positive that a margarita would have helped matters.  I’m a huge musical fan.  I listen to soundtracks to Rent, Joseph, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Moulin Rouge, and Disney movies all day long at work while I bounce on my exercise ball and stare at my computer screen, but an entire soundtrack of Abba?  I just couldn’t get on board.  There were several oddities about this movie including some odd sexual suggestions, poor singers (Pierce Brosnan should stick to being James Bond), and men randomly taking their shirts off (okay, okay, I’ll forgive them for that).  Also, how is Colin Firth supposed to be the same age as Pierce and Stellan Skarsgard?  Wow,  just looked this up and Colin isn’t even 10 years younger than them.  Yikes!

Anyways, I’m giving Mama Mia a chance because I remember feeling similarly about Rent and Moulin Rouge when I first saw them (well, you forgive Moulin Rouge within about 5 minutes of the movie, Rent took a few more years).  It’s easy to go to a theater where people act on a stage and forgive them for randomly breaking  out in song, but for some reason it’s just more difficult to do when it’s in movie form.  Growing up I was in a few musicals myself (Joseph, Music Man, Cinderella, Wizard of Oz, probably others), so you’d think I’d be in my element sitting through Mama Mia.  I’ll let it sit with me for a few years and see if I can bring myself to become a fan.

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Must-have software for your organized life

My new laptop came this week and although I’ve only spent a day exploring it, I’ve found several must-haves for your old or new computer that I’d like to share with you.

1.  Vista Ultimate:  I have 4GB of ram, so I suspect that’s the reason Vista isn’t giving me any trouble yet.  It has more security warnings than I’m used to (Are you absolutely, positively, 100% sure that you want us to run firefox.exe?), but beyond that, I’m finding some slick advantages as I go along.  Navigating through folders is a bit different and I’m still getting used to it.  Otherwise, Vista happily took the 20-30 programs I’ve put on it and the only software it didn’t particularly love was an old version of Adobe Acrobat (6.0?), but it dealt with it.  Visually, this OS will please you, or maybe it’s my 17″ glossy wide screen.  🙂

2.  Google everything.  Google desktop, which automatically came with my computer, allows you to put little gadgets on a sidebar.  Mine includes a clock, a slow scroll of news headlines, a small calendar, a slideshow of nature pictures, and a cute little plant that seems to be growing and maybe will bloom some day.  All of this stays docked on the side of my computer and windows are able to go over it, so it doesn’t take up screen space when you’re working.

iGoogle is also a must-have.  Maybe I’ve been living in a hole, but I usually create my own html home page with links that I use all of the time.  iGoogle is a home-page creator that takes just seconds to customize.  You can add a gadget that has your yahoo mail in a block that updates as you get new mail so you don’t actually have to go to the yahoo site to read it.  You can keep your Netflix Queue within your homepage.  Maybe you want CNN headlines, PhD Comics, and a clock that tics along.  If you are constantly Wikipedia-ing random information, put a wiki-search bar on your home page.  There’s fun slideshows you can include to keep your eyes happy, my favorite being the National Geographic photographs.  Weather gadgets show the current conditions, forecast, severe weather alerts, and even a radar (I’ll let you know if I have time to create a better one).  Penguins waddle across one of my boxes, occasionally running into each other and turning around.  I also included a google maps square so I can find directions in a matter of 1-2 clicks.   All of these customized gadgets appear on your own home page and you can see everything you need in one customized view.  Beyond your fun main page, you can create tabs that lead to more customized pages, maybe one for work links and another one for your favorite blogs.

3.  OneNote 2007:  OneNote is a place to organize your notes or random thoughts in your brain that need writing down before it flies out your ear and you never see it again.  It came with my Microsoft Office 2007 package (so it may already be sitting on your computer, unused).  If you are at all like me in that your life involves lots of pens and little notebooks sitting everywhere for jotting down things that come to mind that you know will leave it as soon as the next thought arrives, OneNote will be your new best friend.  If you are one of those people who goes to the grocery store and picks up 2 of the 5 things you were supposed to, then maybe you SHOULD become someone like me who writes things down.  I was previously using EverNote, which is a cute little program that allows you to jot things down and most importantly, create check-off lists (one of the great joys in my life is checking things off of a list).  OneNote seems to go beyond this though.

This week, on my mind I had several unrelated things such as:  make reservations and other arrangements for November wedding I’m in, attend teaching workshops, meet with advisor on paper edits, and find a mesoscale meteorology text book, which are just a few things I’ll use an as example.  If I were using EverNote, or simply jotting things down in Word like I used to, these random thoughts would all be listed one after the other in that order.  Really though, my random wedding plans belong in the “Personal Notebook” of notes (travel section, specifically), the teaching workshops belong in some sort of professional development notebook, my advisor’s comments and paper edits belong in my school notebook (then in the dissertation tab), and my text book choices can be filed under a notebook started for my new college I’ll be teaching at soon (then under the mesoscale tab).   OneNote allows you to categorize your life, that’s the first perk.  The second perk is that when I’m reading something online, for example, that I feel like clipping for later use, I just hit the window’s symbol and the ‘s’ key, and suddenly I can mouse a square around my clipping and file it away for later use.  I created a sample notebook page for wedding arrangements.  I gathered some clips of phone numbers for hotels, maps to the church, rehearsal dinner, hair place, and reception.  I could click and drag any of these clips wherever I wanted to on the page and if I wanted to type some thoughts in between these clippings, you just click where you want the text and start typing away.

4.  Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox:  Use Thunderbird to read your email (maybe equivalent to Outlook?) and use Firefox to surf the net (its simplicity compared to Microsoft Internet Explorer makes it run faster, the only reason to keep your IE around is to watch Netflix videos online).

5.  Zotero (play the tour in this link):  This is a reference collection/bibliography creator that will work directly from Firefox.  I was previously using EndNote (wow, that’s a lot of “notes”).  Zotero is FREE, unlike EndNote, and it is infinitely better, sorry EndNote.  Let’s say I’m writing a paper.  I start looking for books to reference, so I go to  I find a good book and up in your address bar, a little icon pops up.  You click on it, and BAM!, the book, it’s author, copyright info, number of pages, and such are all saved automatically in Zotero.  Maybe you want to file this book while you’re still thinking about it, so you click on “Zotero” on the bottom right corner of your internet browser and open up a filing system.  I put the book under “References for paper on Fred Flinstone” as well as “Books I should buy”.  Then you want to find a journal article on Fred, so you go to your local library page and find an article.  The little icon pops up in your address bar, you click on it, and your info is once again automatically saved.

You worry that maybe later you won’t have internet access, so you want to save the .pdf of the article for later use.  You save it and Zotero notes where it’s placed on your computer so you can just click on a link later (I haven’t used this feature yet, but it may actually save it in Zotero itself so you don’t have to create a folder for it on your computer).

Okay, now you’re ready to write your paper.  You’re typing in Word and at the end of the sentence, “Fred Flinstone was born in 10,000 B.C.,” you want to add a citation.  You have already downloaded the plug-in for Zotero into Word, so you simply insert the reference you want to cite and it sticks it at the end of the sentence and starts collecting these references alphabetically in the bibliography at the end of your paper.  You can tell it what formatting you’d like for citing and for the bibliography, so it is all done automatically.  Thus far with Zotero, I created a folder of all of the books that I physically own.  I created subcategories (text books, novels, non-fiction, guides, computer help) and then within the subcategories I created more categories (textbooks– weather, math, physics, chemistry, computers).  If there isn’t already a sharing feature, one is being developed.  I can then (someday) share this library with friends, say, in my research group who are looking for a book and rather than walk 5 blocks to the library, can see in seconds that I have it on my virtual shelf and can stop by my office and borrow it.  Really, just watch the demo/tour.  Your jaw will drop.  This is a researcher’s dream!

Lastly, I hope you will find the irony in the fact that I’m writing this on my old laptop because my new laptop can’t deal with the 1Mbps of wireless internet that my apartment complex offers.  Monday I’m investing in my own cable internet, I hope.  Timing is poor because 26,000 undergraduates just moved back to Boulder and will be needing Comcast’s services as well.  Frankly, I’m tired of wasting hours of my life trying to load webpages.

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Damage from Tropical Storm Eduardo

Wind damage from Eduardo … devastating!

Thanks to my dad for forwarding this to me.  🙂

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New computer coming this week!

The anticipation of the arrival of my new laptop this coming week is pretty intense.  My heart jumps at the thought of my new, shiny screen in its 17″ wideness.

I don’t actually NEED a new laptop.  My current 3.5 year old Dell Latitude D600 is fully functioning and I’ve recently updated it (more ram, bigger hard drive).  The main problem with the current laptop is that it’s warranty is gone, so if anything goes seriously wrong with it, it becomes a pile of junk and I’m without a personal computer to do work on (this is my computer for work and fun).  Another issue is the size of my current laptop and the amount of squinting and slouching that is required to read what is on the screen.  I sit on this thing up to 14 hours a day and I’m sick of trying so hard to read what I type!  I also have serious issues with my wireless connections.  I swear, no matter where I am or how close to the wireless hub I get, I just can’t load a webpage in a comfortable amount of time.  I’m hoping a new computer with a better wireless card will solve this problem.  One last complaint is that it starts to overheat after being on for a few hours and is almost unusable at home during the summer due to the heat it puts out.

Old computer:

The REAL reason I’m getting a new laptop is that if I’m going to lose my CU student status in December, I am going to cash in on my student benefits before I leave!  The software that I use to create figures and do calculations for my research is super expensive, but as a CU student, I get it for $20 per license (a new computer requires a new license).  Also, I just bought Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 (or something like that) for $79 as a student.  I’m pretty confident that buying this computer prematurely will save me several hundred dollars worth of software in the end.  Plus, the idea of a shiny, new, HUGE, midnight blue Dell Inspiron 1720 is just too tempting.  I watch a lot of Netflix DVDs and I can’t WAIT to watch them on an HD quality, wide, glossy screen, top of the line sound card, and my very own laptop remote control!  (Yes, I do realize you can watch DVDs on a TV, but when you live in an apt complex with paper thin walls and have respect your neighbors, you learn to opt for the headphone when watching late night movies. )

I caught Dell with a sale where you save a certain amount of money on the computer (Dell may always have a sale, I don’t know), but then I did a simple google search “Dell coupon” and up popped a 30% off coupon that I could use on top of the Dell sale.  I ended up saving a little over $700 off the final price, so I’m getting the best of all of the features for a reasonable price.  I also opted for the 4 year warranty with accident protection.  The great thing about Dell is the minute you have an issue with your computer you can contact them via their website and within 24 hours there’s usually someone at your door with brand new parts replacing things for you.  This 4 year warranty guarantees that this computer will be in the best shape possible for 4 years.  My current computer had nearly every part on it replaced at one time or another, all free (after paying for the warranty when you buy the computer initially), all low hassle.

One major flaw with the new computer is that it has to come with Windows Vista rather than XP pro.  I did some research because I was planning on repartitioning it immediately and installing XP, but it turns out that there aren’t all of the necessary drivers for this computer for XP, so things wouldn’t work properly.  I’ll be making the transition from XP to Vista and to the new Microsoft Office 2007 while trying to finish my dissertation.  If this becomes too distracting, I may have to keep my old laptop at work for professional use for the time being.

New Computer.

Now I just have to find a backpack that this huge guy will fit in and wait patiently for its arrival.

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