Archive for the ‘work’ Category


At least there is if your real life involves deconvoluting the molecular weight of a protein from mass spectral data, and the instrument software can’t do it, because the post-doc who you’re helping has bought his protein from Bob’s Discount Protein Store, and there are too many interfering peaks.

Doing the algebra on a paper towel is, of course, essential.


Note: that’s Virginia as in “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I’m not aware of any movement in the state of Virginia to eliminate algebra instruction. Though there are some states (cough *Texas* cough) that have made Algebra 2 optional.



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England, the final wrap-up

So England gave us Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. Americans have been taking their shoes off in airports ever since. And I walked through Heathrow security in my shoes. Unbelievable.

Trip home was long and tedious (plane full of sick people, and crying baby, and turbulent weather), but not as long as it would have been if I hadn’t been the only person in my group alert enough before dawn to realize the driver from Cambridge was about to drop us all off at the wrong Heathrow terminal. I scored some brownie points with coworkers on that one!

E picked me up at the airport using my car, then later that afternoon we went to trade in her old car and pick up her new one. She did well in her purchase; it’s really nice and we both love the heated seats.

Some combination of jet lag and possibly a stomach bug picked up on the plane made yesterday a very long and unpleasant day. The cat kept me company while I napped.

I’ll close with a few last photos of scientific interest, not from the conference, but seen in my wandering around the university. They had a poster series on some railings about famous scientific discoveries by university alumni:





There was the historic Eagle pub, where Watson and Crick figured out DNA over some ale:


And finally, there was a shop with this giant mechanical clock-like thing in the window:

It was a really excellent trip. I’m very glad I went, but also glad to be back home now with my wife, and my cat, and American food. I’ve consumed enough oddly flavored mush on bread, and tea with milk, to last me for quite a while. 🙂

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England, where it’s still day 4

Conference wrapped up today. Gave my project spiel to the division head and managed to answer his questions well enough, despite being at my limit of biology knowledge. I suspect we were at his limit, too, which helped!

Stopped off briefly at a pub with coworkers, where I had half a pint of fizzy lemonade, before we all left quite early since we need to leave the hotel at 5:30 tomorrow morning to catch our flight back. 

May post more pictures when I get home and am not wrestling with poor wifi signal, but for now here’s a couple from today’s walk back, in the only bright sunshine we had all week. 

I’m really pleased with how much I’ve gotten to see, walking around. But no wonder I’m so tired by the end of each day – according to my phone app, I’ve averaged 5 miles of walking per day here! And today topped out at 6.6 miles. Don’t believe anyone who says the pub is “just around the corner.” 🙂

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England, still day 4

This morning’s walk went by a river, and past a duck who clearly expected me to feed it breakfast.      It went past an amusing juxtaposition of old and new signs. And it included a detour through a churchyard. Although the space was in the heart of the city and only about the size of a tennis court, it was an astonishingly quiet and isolated oasis, and a surprising combination of an overgrown, almost jungle-like garden, and a graveyard.      



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England, day 4

One of the standard questions I get from colleagues here is, “Have you been to this country before?” My standard answer is, “Once, 30 years ago. There was a big encampment to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Girl Guides, and I came with a small group of Girl Scouts. We camped for a week in Wiltshire.”

At this point I keep getting funny looks. But it’s not due to the Girl Guides reference, or the idea of camping. It’s a reaction to Wiltshire, which is evidently known as a rural area that might be near Wales or might be near Bristol, nobody seems terribly sure. Apparently my answer is analogous to saying, “I’ve been to the US once, 30 years ago, and went to Arkansas.” Nothing really wrong with it, but a highly unlikely choice for such a long trip. 

One of the things I’d dreaded about this trip was having to decipher British accents in noisy settings, since my hearing isn’t great after 20 years of occupational exposure to loud equipment. I am pleased to report that highly educated urban professionals have much clearer accents and use much less incomprehensible slang than rural teenage girls did 30 years ago!

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England, still day 3

Got a short walk through some college gardens at lunchtime. Note the life preserver, presumably in case drunken students decide to fling themselves into an algae-covered stream.


After the conference I walked over to King’s College Chapel for their Evensong service. Can’t take pictures in the Chapel, but here are some from the walk over and the outside.  I’ve cited Cambridge University Press in too many footnotes over the years not to photograph their bookshop sign!

Panoramic picture – it’s not really curved.

Random other church:

The service was sung by the “choral scholars” (male college students.) Two of them read the scripture passages, and listening to one of them ask the clergy before the service about how to pronounce “Nineveh” reminded me of all the times M has been reader in our church.

The service wasn’t as amazingly musical as the full choirs are reputed to be. But it was very good, and really fascinating to participate in such an old and somber form of worship experience. I could see some of the roots of my modern liberal Protestant faith, but also how much has changed.

I got a sandwich dinner after the service from the local Caffe Nero (ironic since there’s one back home that E loves, but I’ve never been to one.)

After that, my evening options seemed to be:

1) Walk damp slippery stone sidewalks while dodging many speeding bicyclists on the main road.

2) Walk damp slippery cobblestone alleys in the dark.

3) Walk a completely unlit path along the river.

4) Go to a pub.

5) Return to hotel, blog, take a hot shower, and go to bed early.

You can tell what I picked!

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England, day 3

Come join me for a long, rainy, early-morning walk through the University of Cambridge as I head to today’s conference sessions. Just watch out for the open storm drains. 


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