Saturday, March 25, 2006

A milestone

My email inbox, which just a few months ago had been at 850, is now empty. It's an oddly exhilarating feeling. It's very, very strange to see my inbox with no email messages listed in it whatsoever. But it's strange in a good way. So don't send me email and ruin it.

In other news, there were a few sparrows hanging out by our birdfeeders at home for the first time this spring. And the forsythia that I'm forcing in our kitchen will soon be in bloom. So at least it's spring inside, even it it's not exactly spring outside.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Convention on Biodiversity

The College of the Atlantic students and faculty attending the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity, and the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biosafety, continue to post many updates on their blog , where did my genes go?.

Some recent highlights include:

  1. COA student Kate Thompkins delivering a statement on genetic use restriction technologies at a working group meeting.

  2. A report from COA faculty member Doreen Stabinsky on the landless people's movement and bearing witness on Syngenta's illegal field trials.

  3. A similar report from COA student Elsie Flemings: The Struggle for Life and Land: a story of the Landless Workers Movement. Elsie's report has some excellent pictures.

Prince Update

A friend of mine pointed out that Prince has a new CD out that is apparently getting rather positive reviews.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Purple Rain-a-thon

I've been sitting at my desk working on tidying up email and catching up with correspondence and generally trying to get organized. I just realized that I've spent almost an hour straight listening to different versions of Prince's "Purple Rain." I've got a directory full of different versions, mostly live, and xmms was faithfully playing one after the other. Yikes. I like Prince. A lot. But maybe not that much.

Clearly it's time for a break. Time to change soundtracks and tasks: perhaps a Ferry Corsten mix while I file some old papers and notes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Phone

I got a new phone for my office today. It's very exciting. It has lots of buttons, and a small digital screen so I can see who's calling me. My old phone didn't have a screen, and it didn't have as many buttons as my new phone. This is definitely a big improvement. I doubt it will improve the quality of my phone calls, but I'm sure it will make my life more complete in some difficult to specify way.

"Spring" in Maine in March

By many standards, March isn't really a spring month in Maine. Although not as cold as January and February, March is still cold. And there aren't really flowers and it's at least a month until leaves start to appear on trees. But nevertheless, there are signs of spring.
  1. Our cats are spending more time sleeping on the bed or in a sunbeam by a window, and less time in front of the woodstove.

  2. Monster, the larger of our two cats, is spending more time sleeping by my feet, and less time sleeping tucked up next to my head.

  3. There were robins on campus today. They looked wet and cold, but they were there.

  4. I was driving home the other day around 6:30 and there was still a little bit of twilight in the sky.

  5. There's a rumor that crocuses are poking in a certain lawn downtown. The crocuses are considered rumor-worthy says a lot.

Spring is a long, gradual unfolding and it looks like the unfolding has begun.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Biosafety meeting in Brazil

Seven College of the Atlantic students and two faculty members are spending part of spring break at the biosafety negotiations that are occurring March 13-17 in Curitiba, Brazil. Specifically, they are attending and participating in the 3rd Biosafety Protocol negotiations (MOP3) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The trip is organized by Doreen Stabinsky, who teaches half time at COA and works half time for Greenpeace international on their genetic engineering campaign. The seven students going to the meeting all took a tutorial with Doreen during winter term.

The Biosafety Protocol is also known as Cartagena Protocol, as Cartagena, Columbia, is the city in which the final version of the protocol was negotiated. (Similariy, the more well known Kyoto protocol was agreed upon in Kyoto.) The Cartagena protocol is an international agreement on the handling, transfer, and use of genetically modified organisms.

The students and faculty will be posting to a blog that I helped set up, Where did my genes go? Doreen is already in Brazil. Most of the students will be arriving late Sunday. Check the blog frequently for updates from the meeting. At this blog you can also find some additional background information on the protocol in general, and the issues that will be under consideration at this meeting of the parties.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sabbatical (almost) over

Today was the last day of winter term. This means that my sabbatical is more or less over. We have two weeks of spring break, and then classes start again on the 27th. I'm super psyched for the two classes I'll be teaching in the spring -- Introduction to Chaos and Fractals, and Calculus IV -- but I'll miss having time to do reading and research like I've had the last couple of months.

I'm in the midst of doing some major re-organizing in my office. The amount of paper I've accumulated is stunning. I've done a lot of filing and a lot of recycling. There's still much to be done.

It snowed about an inch or so last night. It looked very nice, but by morning it had turned to rain and the snow had entirely washed away.

This might be my most boring blog entry yet.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Back in Maine

I've returned to Maine, and I'm very glad to be back. I'm always a little bit sad to leave Santa Fe, as it's such an ideal work environment. But it's great to be back home, even if it's colder than I want it to be. I went for a run yesterday, and a short hike today. But were good, but chillier than Santa Fe.

For dinner today I cooked some kidney beans with an Indian spice blend that I bought at an Indian grocery store when I was in Berkeley. Tasty and pleasantly spicy. Yesterday I made pasta with a portobello mushroom sauce and a wilted spinach salad. Yummy. I like traveling, but when on the road I miss being able to cook.

For reasons I don't understand, I've had the Police song, "Message in a bottle", playing in my head much of the evening. It's recently been replaced with Prince's "Raspberry Beret."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Leaving Santa Fe

Tomorrow I leave Santa Fe and return to Maine. I've been in Santa Fe for around three weeks, and it's been a great visit. The Santa Fe Institute is a great place. I got a lot done while here and had a good time seeing some friends and colleagues and just being in Santa Fe.

Preparations for the Complex Systems Summer School in Beijing are going well. We're close to having all the speakers arranged, and I think we have a really good line-up. Today we made most of the decisions about which students we'll accept. It was difficult; there are around four applicants for each slot. The applicants were very impressive. Emails will go out to students sometime next week. We're going to wait until all the decisions for school in Santa Fe have been made.

The last week I've gotten a fair amount of writing done. Mostly I've just been writing up extensive notes on some projects that are still in their early stages. I've been trying of late to write more and organize research projects. I find that due to my teaching and administration load, I end up repeatedly picking up and putting down projects. I think if I try to write-up preliminary results more, it'll help me get back into a project when I've been away from it for a while. Too often I spend a lot of time just trying to figure out where I was when I last worked on something. Also, writing is a really good way of clarifying one's thoughts. Sometimes writing makes me realize how little I understand about a topic. But other times -- and this was the case this week -- writing things up helps me to realize that I actually have made a lot of progress.

It rained a little bit tonight, which is good, because it's been an amazingly dry winter in New Mexico. Santa Fe is incredible when it rains -- the hills smell wonderful. The rain brings out the pinon and juniper and it's pretty awesome. This time tomorrow I'll be back in Maine, where it snowed a few inches today. I'm looking forward to experiencing some winter, but I hope this isn't one of those years when spring doesn't arrive until mid-May.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I was at the grocery store today standing in line. The person in front of me had a few items. The cashier rang them up and told him the total. The man then seemed surprised. He fumbles around and very slowly reaches for his wallet. Eventually he takes out a debit card and pays.

I know this is unkind and impatient, but why not start reaching for your wallet or money before the cashier is done ringing you up? It's not as if it's suddenly going to be free so you won't need to pay. You've been to the store before, right? So you should know how this works by now. Don't look stunned when it's time to get out some money. Well, it's ok if you look stunned. I really don't care. But don't take forever. I've got things to do and I'd rather not wait while you move in slow motion trying to find what pocket your wallet is in.

A similar frustration occurs when someone in front of me is paying in cash. Then the total comes to, say, $15.07. A good time to pay with that crisp twenty dollar bill that you got from the ATM, right? Wrong. All of a sudden time stops while I watch the person in front of me look in every compartment in her bag/purse/sachel trying to find seven cents so she avoids the indignity of being handed $4.93. Again, why not have your change handy? Or, why not just take the 93 cents? It won't kill you.