Friday, March 30, 2007


you can't say bomb on an airplane

the bomb calorimeter is more fun than the freeze drier! I am having that imposter feeling like I am a little kid imagining what being a scientist is like. everything is made up of energy in the form of chemical bonds. Breaking these bonds releases heat. This is the act of burning something. usually, not all the bonds are broken (imcomplete combustion) and so we have stuff left over (ash, sludge, whatever). the bomb calorimeter ensures this by surrouding your half gram of fish with 40 atmospheres of pure oxygen. the metal cylinder is an actual bomb with a fuse. you put this is water and light the fuse using electricity. there is a fantastic explosion inside the apparatus that you never get to see, and the bucket of water that surrounds the bomb starts to get hotter. how much hotter it gets determines how much energy was in your fish (after you correct for the burning of the fuse wire and some accessory acid production using titration). no the crazy part that makes you believe in human progress is not the fantastically smooth and beautifully machined bomb which can withstand the explosion (although it is terrible and beautiful) it is the jacket. in order to avoid the heat that is produced by the bomb and goes into the surrounding water simply dissipating, that water is surrounded by other water that is listening electronically to the temperature of the water adjacent to the bomb. when the bomb water gets hotter, the jacket water is heated to match the temperature rise exactly allowing the full heat of combustion to register as temperature increase in the known mass of water. engineering scientists are fantastically smart.

among my other foolish responsiblities, I am TAing Chordate Zoology. This means I get to help 19 year olds cut up a variety of animals that I never cut up myself because locating the spleen in a fish, turtle and mink is a bit of an archaic skill and Eli EEB was all about the sexy computers and genetics. We dissect minks as our highest mammal. This is because there is a fairly large mink-farming business. but once the farmers kill the minks and skin them, the rest of the mink is fairly useless. so these skinless minks are sold to biological supply companies who inject the arteries and veins with latex, pickle them in weak formalin and sell them to eager undergrads. given that these minks were farmed to have shiny pelts and not move around too much, they are very very fatty.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I am pleased that georgetown is in the final four. given that my father teaches there and senor beavis is an alumnus, rooting for them is very natural. I am displeased that the tournament went so smoothly by seeds. this means that I am roundly eliminated from everything while all those folks who stay with the seeds are trouncing me. springydog is here, despite the fact that she hates winnipeg with the white hot intensity of 1000 suns. it may be a coincidence that our snowpack has gone to zero during her visit, but i think it is a heat-island effect from her displeasure. You know it is spring in winnipeg when you can see the picnic tables again.

I have been playing with some impossibly cool machines at work including a freeze drier (I have resisted the urge to place some ice cream in it to see what happens). our homogenizer is a coffee grinder. it is a little surreal to put a freeze-dried arctic fish into a coffee grinder and hold the button down in the name of science.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


WPG=treacherous-name land

a short selection of last names from students I teach. It is a minefield.

Tkachuk, (no relation. I asked)



thanks to the wonders of myspace, I thought I would let you all have a listen to the strange and wonderful music of canada.

no fun
two knots is lots
the gorgon
thunderbirds are now! (actually from michigan)
c.r. avery

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

amazing new canadianisms:

A#1 best prairie canadianism ever: bunnyhug. it is a sasketchewanese expression for a pullover (no zipper!) with a hood and an attached pouch at the waist for both hands. So it appears to be a subclass of "hoodie" and a much nicer term. it's real. i swear. it is in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (yes, they sell that here). the colloquial etymology is that such a garmet is so warm and comfortable, it is like being hugged by a bunny. now, I'm not in saskatchewan, but I am adopting this term immediately, and I think you should do the same. It avoids the british connotations of white teenage thuggery of "hoodie." and I am not wearing said garments to look tough. if you are feel free to continue using "hoodie" with my blessing.

in our continuing attempt to list all 98 canadian words for hockey, we have "Ringette."
ringette, aka "hockey for girls" (no hitting) is played with a doughnut-shaped ring for a puck. Rather than being played with a hockey stick. it is played with a straight pole such as a broom handle. puckhandling is achieved by placing the pole inside the ring and skating. Because the puck is difficult to dislodge, it much be passed across all lines on the hockey rink as well as an extra "ringette line" that runs between the blue line and the circles.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

so I am going to tell you a funny story that is a long time coming. remember the duke lacrosse scandal? Of course you do. remember how engaged in it I was? Well, I was. And it turns out they didn't do it. unfortunately, I owe them an apology. Because the thing I knew but never told you all was that I had a sense throughout the whole thing about how easy it is for things to get blown out of proportion. and I didn't say anything. I was a member of the Yale heavyweight rowing team which got suspended for alcohol-related hazing in 2001. The problem was: we didn't do it. the team was cleared of all charges. No one hazed anyone. unfortunately, the administrative response was shoot-first and ask questions later. the team was suspended indefinitely on a hearsay report which of course made its way into the NYT (because NYT loves ivy league gossip), and every socially conscious person I knew looked down their nose at me for being the privileged, boorish jerk they had always suspected of rowers.

the problem with the duke case was that I didn't want to circle the country club wagons. Yale rowers coming to the defence of duke lacrossemen was not a role I wanted any part of. I wanted to think of myself as different. I wanted to beleive that they were worse and should hang separate from me. but I, and my teammates, uniquely understood that situation.

some things were different, like we never had any strippers. but we had teammates with prep school backgrounds and drunken assault charges, just like duke. that doesn't mean I ever got one, but it does mean that I can't think of myself as part of an organization that was unilaterally better.

ultimately, we were both caught behaving in a less-than-upstanding manner, but not illegally, and were made to pay an enormous reputational penalty for that. and perhaps we deserved it. unfair things happen to people caught in bad situations all the time.

Friday, March 16, 2007

hooray for the demise of Duke. expected, but still sweet

The Australian Secret Intelligence Service is advertising for spies this week in The Economist. This prompts a series of questions:
1. why does australia need a secret intelligence service at all?
2. Is it really all that Secret if you are posting Want Ads for it?
3. why advertise a national position in an international magazine?
4. australian spies starting salaries are 80k, where do I sign up?

(dear ASIS, if you are reading this. you will probably reject my application. No worries! I understand)

Saturday, March 10, 2007


ice fishing!

there is a lot of standing around involved in ice fishing

"when you wife looks like this, you want to dive into an Icehole"

that's a burbot. also known as a ling cod. it is tremendously ugly.

that is some other guy's ice fishing shack.

Friday, March 09, 2007


games! stolen games!

if, by chance, you don't read laustintexas, I can't recommend these games enough. one is naming all 50 states as fast as you can. they other is naming as many UN sanctioned nations in 10 minutes. I think the country game is a lot more fun. careful, though. the game is suprisingly picky about spelling (No abbreviating the "Saint" in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and the use of articles (particularly involving the various congo states). But I did learn to spell azerbaijan and kyrgyzstan without flinching. I forgot Kazakhstan the first time through, naming only countries with inferior potassium.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Made a new kind of snow house over the weekend. (Yes it is cold enough to still be making snow houses. it has actually re-entered the "face-achingly cold" zone just for fun). Unlike the igloo, this was a quinzhee (Pronounced QUINN-zee). It is the simpler of the two snow house types, ou shovel snow into a huge pile, about the size of yourself. and pack it down. after waiting a couple of hours for it to settle, you scape out the inside to make room for yourself and others. it is less permanent than an igloo, but if you don't have block-making drifted snow, it is the way to go. I didn't sleep in this one, because I am a sissy who has to study OChem and didn't want to deal with the glycogen trough for the next 2 days.

Friday, March 02, 2007

I have been improvising foods recently due to lack of proper ingredients. I can now say with certainty that ham and mandarin orange pizza is pretty good. also using cucumber slices as a substitute for lettuce in ham and cheese sandwiches is also pretty good.

Highschool baseball season starts March 1 where I grew up. There has been no hint of melt here and we picked up and extra 8 inches of snow in the past week. winter is long. when puxatawny phil sees his shadow indicating 6 more weeks of winter, that would be very short in winnipeg.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

do Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jean-Sebastien Aubin's friends call them "J-S" or just hockey announcers? Is this a subtle form of cultural imperialism by anglicanizing their obviously french names?
Per-Johan Axellsen is called "P-J" by announcers too. or is this all part of the general informality of hockey that allows star players to give interviews in flannel shirts and ill-fitting toques?

ps. according to kyle, norway is much wealthier than sweden or finland thanks to North Sea gas money.

We tend to think of scandanavia as a unit. "The scandanavian model" for wellfare states is a good example. I was wondering why are Norwegians so underrepresented among Scandanavians in the NHL. Tommy Salo, Sammy Salo, Teemu Selanne, Antero nittimaki, Mika kiprusoff, Sako koivu, miko koivu, Oli Jokinen, Jussi Jokinen--all Fins. Henrik Lundqvuist, Kristian Huselius, Peter Forsberg, Matthias Ohlund, Nik lidstrom, the Sedin twins, P-J Axelsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg--all swedes. I could only find two Norwegian NHL players. Espen Knutsen, and Anders Myrvold. I had never heard of them either. so norway, what's the deal? There is certainly a large-scale correlation between regional income and professional athletic success. so is Norway that much wealthier than sweden and finland? The NHL game is much more physical than the international game. Are Norwegians soft as a people?

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